Father Ignacio Maria Doñoro’s life changed some 20 years ago when he saw children die from malnutrition in the mountains of Panchimalco, San Salvador. Some of these little ones were sold for organ trafficking.
In Bogota, Colombia, he saw many minors wandering in the streets, drugging themselves with glue. He came across children who earned money to eat by filling their mouths with gasoline, to then set fire to it and thus provide a little “entertainment” at stop lights, to be “rewarded” with a few coins.
Aware of these situations of extreme moral and material misery, this Spanish priest found he had no other option than to request leave of absence as Military Chaplain and found the Nazareth Home in Puerto Maldonado, Peru, to live poor among the poor.
In this interview with ZENIT, Father Doñoro says he sees Jesus in every child he takes care of daily. Children come to the Home from very disparate situations, but with, he says, a common denominator: they are crucified children. Without help and very few resources, this priest spends himself taking the message of redemption to a place in the world plagued by human trafficking.
Now, unless there is a miracle, Father Doñoro will have to close this Work due to lack of resources – something terrible, as these children will return to the mines as slaves or to brothels as a prize for pederasts.
ZENIT: What have you in the Amazonian jungle of Peru?
Father Doñoro: Puerto Maldonado, capital of the Madre de Dios region, with more than 300,000 inhabitants, is one of the places of the world with the greatest problem of trafficking of minors. The family system is virtually non-existent. Couples come together with no real bond other than momentary living together, and they part for any reason.
People bring boys and girls from the poorest areas of Cuzco, promising them “a better life.” When they arrive at Puerto Maldonado they take them to the illegal mines. In the main, the children are the fruit of rapes; they are conceived amid intense violence, alcohol and drugs.
People kill the children as payment to the earth. They believe that, if they sacrifice a child, “Mother Earth” will give them more gold. Or, people abandon them because they are the fruit of undesired relations or of other fathers. They use the boys and girls as slaves in the mines or as sexual attraction in brothels. It’s the threshold of hell.
ZENIT: Why did you decide to found the Nazareth Home?
Father Doñoro: I had so many doubts …The decision wasn’t easy. Cardinal Robert Sarah, being Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, read the project of the Nazareth Home. He called me to Rome. No sooner had I entered his office, he was very direct: “This is exactly what the Holy Father is asking for.” God was asking me. There was no more thinking to be done.
ZENIT: Who are the beneficiaries of this Work?
Father Doñoro: The crucified children. This house is their last hope. I opened Nazareth Home on January 1, 2011. During the year 2011, Nazareth Home sheltered transitorily a total of 23 children. During the year 2012, we sheltered 52 children, and in the year 2013, 93 children passed through Nazareth Home. All the children are transitory, that is, no matter how happy they live in Nazareth House, we believe that belonging to a family is an inalienable right. Once a child has recovered, working with the family, we always find an aunt, a grandmother or older sister who takes charge of the minor with all the guarantees.
The children stayonly the necessary time, until their situation of moral or material abandonment is resolved. When they arrive at Nazareth Home, in addition to giving them a great welcome, I always embrace them and say the same thing: “That’s over, my child, no one will ever hurt you again, it’s over.”
Snatching them from death is already a great step. Then we have to work to put right their legal situation: register them in the Civil Register, get their birth certificate and then their DNA. Then a child exists [legally]; they cannot traffic with him. Undergoing medical analysis, some are hospitalized. Little by little they are given schooling. The wounds of their soul begin to heal, until they feel as though they are in a normal family. Being a family, united by the blood of Christ and by the same vocation of love, the youngsters leave the house in a natural way: to get married, for reasons of work. We are not an institution that makes them leave when they become of age. They are part of the family forever.
ZENIT: How is life in the Home?
Father Doñoro: We are a family, a real family, not born of the flesh but of the blood of Christ himself. It’s not a “center” or an “institution.” We do not try to have the children block their memories or fantasize about their past, as if it had not happened. “It” did happen. A saying that guides Nazareth Home is: “Forgiveness reconciles us with ourselves, it frees us.” “One learns to love by loving.” If the Child Jesus lived in Palestine two thousand years ago, He, who is present in these children, now lives in the new Nazareth Home of Puerto Maldonado. God does not want such a hell on earth. We are His hands, His eyes.
ZENIT: Do you have some type of help?
Father Doñoro: We live from the meagre donations of the SOS Children’s Associations and help from the population of Puerto Maldonado. It’s the poor who help the poor. We don’t receive any help from the Apostolic Vicariate, that is, from the Church, or from the State. There is no religious Congregation supporting us, no diocese. It’s the poor who know what it is to be hungry or to be unable to pay for medication and to await death with resignation. They are the ones who support the Nazareth Home.
ZENIT: What would you say to someone reading this interview?
Father Doñoro: It would be terrible to close this Work, which is saving the life of so many children, simply because of lack of economic and human resources. If I close the Nazareth Home these children will go to a hell on earth. It’s not that they won’t go to school or suffer hunger, but that they will take them again to the mines as slaves, to the brothels as prize for pederasts; they will be crucified again.[Translation by ZENIT]