Area Presbyterians work in Guatemala for human rights


The Presbytery of Baltimore and its longtime executive presbyter, the Rev. Herbert D. Valentine, are catalysts in the growing human rights involvement of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Guatemala.

They have called for investigations of the torture and murder of several church members there and are protesting terrorist threats against dozens of others.

Over the last five years, about 30 Presbyterian ministers and lay people from Maryland have made annual visits to Guatemala, assisting with projects to aid the poor and developing what is now a formal partnership with the Kaqchiquel Presbytery in the Central American nation, Mr. Valentine said.

Among the church members they worked with in Guatemala, he said, was the Rev. Manuel Saquic Vasquez, a Mayan Presbyterian whose stabbed and acid-burned body was found in a shallow grave July 7.

Mr. Saquic, coordinator of the Kaqchiquel Presbytery's human rights office, had been seeking an investigation by the Guatemalan government into the death of another Presbyterian and the kidnapping and beating of a staff member.

A paramilitary group called Jaguar Justiciero, or "Jaguar of Justice," was suspected in the atrocities.

Members of Mr. Saquic's family, who have received death threats, are the first beneficiaries of a "Martyrs' Fund" created this year by the 207th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church to assist relatives of clergy killed because of their ministry.

The fund was established at the urging of Mr. Valentine, a former moderator of the denomination.

The intimidation of Guatemalan church workers continues, he said, but so will the efforts by the Presbytery of Baltimore to counteract it.

This fall, three more lay volunteers from Maryland will travel to the Kaqchiquel Presbytery as part of the partnership. He said the partnership's goal is to provide such "basic rights" as "free speech, drinkable water, education for their kids."

On Aug. 9, another Mayan Presbyterian was slain, he said.

The World Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches and the Lutheran World Federation have joined the Presbyterians in publicizing the violence and demanding corrective action.

Information: 433-2012.

Zionist program: Raphael Danziger, director of research and information for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and editor of its newsletter, Near East Report, will give a free, public lecture at 8 p.m. Friday at Beth Shalom Synagogue, 2020 Liberty Road in Taylorsville.

It is sponsored by the Baltimore Zionist District.

Information: 602-1200.

War dead remembered: Retired Maryland Episcopal Bishop David K. Leighton Sr., a combat veteran of World War II, will preside at an ecumenical service at 4 p.m. tomorrow in the Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation, 4 E. University Parkway, commemorating the war's end a half-century ago and honoring those who died in it.

The Rev. Kingsley Smith, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Towson and a retired Navy chaplain, will preach. A color guard from the Parkville Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars will present the flag during the singing of the National Anthem.

Information: 823-3588.

Jewish center: Ceremonies marking the opening of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Jewish Student Center at Goucher College will begin at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in Stimson Hall on the Towson campus.

Information: 653-0222.

Women's issues: A round-the-clock, eight-day series of services -- scheduled to coincide with the United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing -- will begin with the 8:30 a.m. Mass on Monday in the chapel of St. Margaret's Roman Catholic Church, 141 Hickory Ave. in Bel Air.

The themes of the continuous worship, which will conclude with the 8:30 a.m. Mass on Sept. 11, are "Fundamental Equality and Dignity of Women, Preservation of the Family, Sanctity of Life, Defense of the Catholic Church and the Intention of the Holy Father [Pope John Paul II]."

Information: 879-8872 or 879-3325.

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