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Bringing peace, burying bones

Posted on March 2nd, 2010

One of our sessions included a field-trip to the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation (FAFG).  Our entire time here everything we learn seems to connect in some way to the years of violence Guatemala has experienced.  Over 200,000 people have died or disappeared in the conflict and despite the signing of the peace accords in 1996, peace is still a hope more than a reality.

One way that peace is being pursued in this country is by shedding light on what has passed during the violence.  Stories are being told and lives shared.  The FAFG is working to help families discover and bury their dead loved ones.  A family can come to the FAFG and say that they think their relative was killed and buried in a certain spot.  The FAFG will use their technology to discover if there is a body there.  Then once they get a court order they can exhume the body, identify it, discover how the person died, and return it to the family to be laid to rest.  This gives the family the opportunity to properly mourn their dead, as many of them did not have the chance at the time.

We took a tour of FAFG’s facilities and saw their storage rooms.  The room was filled from floor to ceiling with boxes, each containing a skeleton and evidence, representing a person with a history and a family and a life lost in a pointless violence.  Despite, these seemingly hopeless boxes that filled the place, there is hope!  These people are being remembered and that alone can bring peace and relief from sorrow to the communities they left behind.  As a biology major interested in bringing peace and healing, this was a touching place, I hope to be able to use my knowledge to bless others as the FAFG does.

-Bethany Johnson