Saturday, July 15, 2006

Felipe and Mary Barreda

Felipe and Mary Barreda were already married for thirty years. They raised six children and had fifteen grandchildren. In the 70’s, the couple joined the Cursillo movement and became leaders of the Basic Ecclesial Community in their hometown, where they lived in service to the poor out of Christian charity.

During those times, it was hard to live a Christian life in Nicaragua based on the Gospels. The Basic Ecclesial Communities were often suspected with political implications. But the only activities of the Community was to bring families together to reflect on the scripture and help them live Christian lives.

Before Christmas in 1982, Felipe and Mary volunteered to work in a coffee plantation. Picking coffee would not be construed as a Christian witness, but the risk and meaning of this work were clearly understood by the Barredas. In a letter to her friend, she wrote, “The opportunity to go and pick coffee will be converted into health, clothing, homes and roads and food. For this, I am going to pick coffeewith all love and enthusiasm of which I am capable. Please understand that in every grain that I cut, every bean that I pick, every one of your faces will be present, the faces of your children, and even the faces of those that I don’t know. . . .We wish to ask yoyu to be present with God this Christmastime with a smile, with greater care for your children. Wherever I may be, I’ll be thinking of you in these moments. I love you all very much.”

On December 28, the farm where they were working were attacked by the Contra rebels. The Barredas and other farmers were kidnapped, and the coffee harvests were destroyed.

The Barredas were marched into a camp in Honduras, where they were subjected to beatings and torture. Mary was repeatedly raped. The Barredas were forced to declare themselves as communists, but they responded with prayers and protestations of their Christian faith. On January 7, 1983, Felipe and Mary were executed.
In their funeral in the cathedral of Esteli, five thousand people attended. The couple were acclaimed as Christian martyrs who laid down their lives in faithfulness to the Gospel and their commitment to God and their neighbour.


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