Church in Guatemala Reuniting Families Separated by War

Former Guerrilla Had Not Seen His Parents for 15 Years

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GUATEMALA CITY, AUG. 25, 2002 .- The Catholic Church in Guatemala succeeded in reuniting a young man with his parents after a 15-year separation caused by the civil war.

Apolonio Castro Cos was 15 when he enlisted in one of the four factions that made up the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unit, which has now become a political party. He never thought that he would be separated for so long from his parents, Juan Castro and Narcisa Cos.

The reunion took place in the 15th of October Community, which serves former refugees and is run by the Human Rights Office of the Guatemala Archdiocese. The community is located in Escuintla, about 70 kilometers (43 miles) south of the capital.

The human rights office sponsors a project to find children who disappeared during the armed conflict. The decades-long war, whose death toll has been estimated at 200,000, formally ended in 1996.

«I am really happy and proud of having found my family, whom I had not seen for 15 years,» said Castro Cos, the former guerrilla fighter explained. «I thought they were dead because of the difficult war situation.»

«I was never able to communicate with my family or send them a message that I was alive because it was dangerous and they could suffer reprisals knowing that I was involved in the guerrilla movement,» he said. The 30-year-old also is married and has two children.

According to Manuel Domínguez, a sociologist with the human rights office, the preparation of the meeting was planned for quite a while, «because it is necessary to create the conditions so that the impact won’t be so strong.»

Domínguez said that Castro Cos’ reunion with his parents is the first organized by the archdiocese. Another 60 reunions are scheduled, he said.

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