Pope Francis is the most beloved admired spiritual leader of the time. This month (March 2014), he completes one year of his Papacy. Pope Francis, who conform himself with common man and tortured ones in words and deeds, becomes a wonder to the world. He knows better than anyone the actual condition of South Central America where anarchy, conflicts and poverty prevailing, since he is hailing from Argentina.
It is the Latin American Countries who made Samba dance and Football a passion to the world. Though they are enriched with natural and mineral resources including petrol, political anarchy, overuse and sale of intoxicants and educational backwardness made them poor countries in the globe.
It was in 1990 I met Marcelina from El Salvador. El Salvador is the least and most populous country in the Central America. Marcelina who found it difficult to speak a single English word was a Spanish speaking refugee in United States of America. He reached Texas City in US, walking thousands of miles and changing many vehicles crossing Mexican border. In those days when visa rules were not so strict, people who come this way were often deployed to work in agrarian sector as refugees. In those days the number of refugees including Marcelina was 7 Million (Now it has increased to 12 million).
Marcelina came to the Institute where I studied, to study the subject ‘Micro Industries’ with the help of an interpreter. He was living nearby my hostel. Since there were only a few foreigners in the 150 acres huge campus, the intimacy between us was very in depth and harmonious. Every day morning when I go class room Marcelina used to smile at me. Then it turned to ‘Hola’, the Spanish form of ‘Hallo’. Gradually I tried to know him more closely. But getting the help of an interpreter was really a difficult task. Times went by, one day I found Marcelina singing a beautiful song and playing guitar. I was really wondered at the beauty of voice and skill at playing guitar, of someone who found often mute and casual at dress. Though I was a big zero in music I felt great admiration to him. It was only then I rushed at him to appreciate, I came to see tears rolling down from his eyes. Probably, it was one of the rarest occasions I have ever felt language a Himalayan barrier.
At any cost I decided to talk to him next day. Somehow I convinced my teacher Garry Woodrugh who was getting ready to go his home at Atlanta, and brought him to Marcelina. There, before us Marcelina opened up his mind in Spanish.
Central Amercian countries which have got resemblance in climate to tropical climate were once nicknamed as ‘Banana Republics’. The countries which produce banana, pineapple, coffee, mango and even our tapioca were the fruit market of America. In those days El Salvador was a vassal kingdom of America. Mainly a few families were in control of the country with the help of military. Coffee was the main crop and El Salvador, the poor country was the ‘Coffee Land’ of North American countries.
Marcelina’s small family was consisted of wife and two children. Marcelina had been working as the leader of coffee workers in secret. In those days labor movements were very less, since the leaders will be stamped as Advocates of sectarianism and Communists and eventually imprisoned, if caught. Typical leadership qualities of a labor leader were visible throughout the talk of Marcelina, who was very healthy and handsome at his early forties, then.
No coffee was given to labors regardless of their hard work in the estates. Like others they too had to buy from market paying huge price. This originated unrest among labors and their families. As a result, one day they broke the estate storehouse and stole away coffee. As everywhere, there was also a group of people who were the allies of ruling party. Following night the military and police surrounded Marcelina’s home and brutally injured him. His 14 years old daughter was viciously raped many times and killed. Military translated this incident as a warning and punishment to the convicts. The cruelty towards tortured and afflicted shows same face everywhere.
It is to note that the incident was happened in a country where 100% of its population is Christians and majority is Catholic. However Marcelina fully trusted upon his Christian faith. In that barbarous night itself military left him alone in a far place. After journeying miles and miles, covering Guatemala and Mexico he reached Texas in United States.
The meaning of Marcelina’s song was,
“I know a Christ who shares friendship with people who lay at wayside, who cleans city in the early morning and people who work hard in the field. Christ is crying with those who are crying and rejoicing with those who are rejoicing. If this Christ is truly living my sadness will turn to joy”- A song with an in depth meaning!
The Nazareth Manifesto of Christ, which Jesus proclaimed at the very outset of His public ministry, found in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 4: 16-21 cf. Isaiah 61:1-2) has to read in parallel with this incident.
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Pope Francis who shows love to orphans and poor who lives in street, who offer Holy Mass with ordinary workers in the Vatican City, who wholeheartedly embraces his friend, whom he found at the wayside and received him at his official escort vehicle, is truly a hope of many Marcelinas.
One year after my meeting with Marcelina (1991) with the help of US government his wife and son were found in neighboring country Guatemala and US gave them refuge.
How great is the faith of Marcelina who found his Savior and Liberator in Christ in the most difficult times of trouble and pain in his life? How great is he comparing to us, who doubts at faith even in small things and rift with god?
It may be the result of the prayer of many Marcelinas, Pope Francis at Vatican shedding the rays of change. For with God nothing is impossible!.. (Luke 1:37).
Pope Francis with a severely disfigured man in St. Peter's Square.Photo: EPA