WASHINGTON (July 7, 1998) -- After 36 years of civil war, Guatemala is returning to peace. But it is a slow and painful process, as the April slaying of Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi in his Guatemala home attests. His murder is evidence of how the conflicts that caused the war continue to erupt in the lives of innocent people.
"Approach of Dawn," a new hour-long documentary from the Catholic Communication Campaign (CCC), tells the powerful story of three Guatemalan women whose lives were shattered by the war and shows their determination to heal the scars of that long struggle. The documentary will be fed to NBC-TV affiliates on July 30, 1998.
Bishop Gerardi's murder two days after he released a landmark report on atrocities committed during the war shows the ongoing difficulty for those working for human rights in Guatemala. Atrocities were widespread: The Guatemala Archdiocese Human Rights Office has documented more than 600 massacres during the war years and estimates that the war, which ended in 1996, claimed more than 140,000 lives.
But for many Guatemalans, there is hope that healing and reconciliation will replace violence and death. In the documentary, Guatemala Bishop Gerardo Flores prays at a funeral Mass, "This [violence] cannot continue -- an 'eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth' -- this is not the language of a Christian. Today we have heard that Christ's words are that we pardon, that we build, that we don't allow hate and vengeance to dominate."
Women suffered some of the worst persecution during the war, but as "Approach of Dawn," demonstrates, women are leading efforts for a just and humane Guatemala. "I believe in the future we will have the opportunity to struggle for the dignity and rights of women," Rigoberta Menchú, a Guatemalan Mayan who received the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize, says in the film, "and that the example of our tortured mothers will live for many years in our memory."
The documentary takes viewers into the lives and communities of three women: Adela, a widow and refugee from her home town; Justina, who travels the countryside as an advocate of human rights; and Francisca, another widow who discovers Mayan traditions that strengthen her as she works to build her future -- and her country's. Hope, perseverance, spirituality, faith -- all are revealed in the this beautiful and compelling film.
"Approach of Dawn" was produced, written and directed by Gayla Jamison, the award-winning creator of such films as "Living in Ybor City" and "Scraps of Life." The documentary is the U.S. Catholic Conference's entry in the interfaith "Horizons of the Spirit" series for the 1998-99 season.
Videotapes of "Approach of Dawn," including a study guide, are available from Maryknoll World Productions at 1-800-227-8523.