A small citron tree, it is the sacred symbol of Yary Mirì, the Avà Guaranì community with which a group of the Focolare Movement in Paraguay came in contact. The story of a friendship which resulted in concrete and important actions.

Guaranì Project in Paraguay 1“Scholars estimate that from 3000 BC, populations from the Southeast Asian continent arrived here. Among them were also the Guaranì people, composed of many ethnic groups that through the centuries spread to the Caribbean up to the southernmost tip of the continent,” explained Diana Durán, a Paraguayan sociologist and scholar of the aborigines of America. The meeting with a small community of the Avà Guaranì and Mbya ethnic groups came about two years ago, when a big flood of the Paraguay river forced the indigenous group of 33 families (115 members) to abandon the unsteady settlement on the banks of the river where they used to live by gathering wastes from the dumpsite nearby.

“At the start we tried to help them with clothing, food, medicine, and healthcare, like the hospitalisation of a diabetic patient, intervening with one of them who had gunshot wounds, renting mobile toilettes when they were sent away to a desert area, or when, after a storm we collected tents and drinking water… and yet we saw that these actions were still insufficient. They needed a piece of land, that could give them shelter and security.

After a long search, a suitable lot was found: 5.5 hectares at 4.5 km from the city of Ita, with a school and medical dispensary close by. All was surrounded by greens and above all, with the possibility to cultivate a community orchard for their self-support and the space to build a facility for educational courses. The challenge now is to find the finances to buy the land.

We knocked on many doors – Diana recounts. A qualified person helped us to obtain the juridical status as an Indigenous Community, so they would be entitled ownership of the property.  Furthermore, a friend of the Mennonite Community offered to advance the payment of the land, which seemed impossible for us to do. We undertook, with our Avà friends, to pay back the money by instalment.”

Guaranì Project in Paraguay 2God has looked on us with special love», the head of the community, Bernardo Benítez, said. It was a God who they regard as the “First and Foremost God,” whose main command is mutual love.  He is present in the daily acts and gave this land, a sacred place to protect and where we can build fraternal relationships.

“Standing by the Yary Mirì community also means suffering – Dian affirmed – due to the discrimination they suffer because of ancestral prejudices, and  the misery they live in. But it is a joy to acknowledge and share the community and solidarity values they have conserved through the centuries, besides the love and trust that has been established between us and them. Today we are not alone but have the support of many friends, two associations linked to the Focolare (Unipar and Yvy Porà) that support the development of the community orchard), two bishops, some officers from financial institutions, two Mennonite Christians and the Indigeneous Pastoral. We obtained four scholarships in Educational Sciences for their leader and three youths. They themselves chose that faculty ‘because our people need education,’ they said.”

“I am now writing a book on the history of their community – Diana Durán concluded – not only as a denunciation and to give a voice to those who have no say, but as an obligation to them for what they have suffered and what we owe to them. I consider it a step towards universal brotherhood, our Ideal.”

Source (article & photos): focolare.org

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