"We have seen a scenario of war in which we thought we were dying". Interview with Angelo Rangel, Dehonian layman and social activist of the San Miguel Arcángel del Cementerio parish in Caracas-Venezuela.
In the last few days a strong armed conflict has broken out in Cota 905 in Caracas, a location served by the Dehonians in Venezuela. The confrontation has been between the criminal gangs that control the area and the police and military forces. The security forces suddenly burst into the area last Thursday, July 8, and this has unleashed a strong confrontation. Local families have survived through this situation, amidst bullets and grenades. To this day, the tension and fear in the population continue.
Good afternoon Angelo, and thank you for accepting the invitation. We want to know your experience, since you have lived the conflicting situation in the neighbourhood. How do you feel?
Thank you for the invitation and fortunately I feel fine. The situation has been one of war. The conflict arises between police and organized criminal gangs. We have seen a war scenario in which we thought we would die. The bullets and bombs were constant. In addition to that, the electrical system was suspended, along with the increase of noise. We lived in a real scenario of noise and terror. Evidently, fear and uncertainty arose. The question was: why do I have to live in this situation? Our immediate concern was the family, to find security and check if everyone was well and at home. To this day we feel fear. We have no tranquility or peace. It is a very hard situation, of silence, of sadness and we hope it will end.
What role has the Dehonian presence played in the parish of San Miguel in Caracas?
In this type of situation, we can only turn to God. In this search for God, the Dehonians have offered accompaniment and closeness. We have had to move within the same city. Now, it is no longer only the drama of the Venezuelan who has to leave the country, but we are also forced to escape from one sector to another, trying to save our lives. The presence of the Dehonians has helped us a lot, they have received us in their homes to shelter us. It has not only been the welcome and the physical space, but also the food, the word of encouragement, the prayer that transmits the certainty that God is with us. As the Word of God says “where sin abounds, God’s grace abounds all the more” and that is the experience we have lived. We can say that in spite of all this reality, we have much to be grateful for his presence, his accompaniment and today more than ever we are convinced that the love of the Sacred Heart is present in these critical moments.
What lights do you glimpse within this reality of shadows and darkness?
Right now, it is a plain of ruins. It seems that, if we sow, nothing will grow up. But I am convinced that many fruits will emerge. There is a community full of hard-working, generous people, women, children, elderly people with a lot of wisdom. There are many things we can rebuild: stairs, houses, sidewalks, but the real challenge will be ethics, the heart, the forgiveness and reconciliation in the midst of all this. I am convinced it will be possible. I constantly receive messages from people who ask me: What can we do? For example, due to the reality of uncertainty and fear it is impossible to go out to buy food, many neighbours are without food in their homes. This has led to solidarity among them, they share their food with the nearby people and are attentive to how others are doing. This is our San Miguel neighborhood, the Cemetery and the Cota 905. This is not evil. Evil makes a lot of noise, but gestures of kindness are not usually seen. I am convinced that the fruitful tree of the community will bear much fruit. I will provide plenty of seeds to continue to be sown in this path of reconstruction of our community.
Thank you very much for the words of encouragement and hope that you have given us. We hope to continue walking together in the construction of the Kingdom of God in the midst of these difficult realities, in which we have to repair so many hearts of children, young people and families with the closeness that we Dehonians can offer them.