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2 March 2023

Olivia, an indigenous human rights defender from Guatemala

As for ourselves, save us by your hand, and come to my help for I am alone and have no one but you, Lord.

Esther 4:17 

Esther faces a daunting task. A young Jewish orphan, brought up in Persia by her uncle, she chooses to risk her life to save her people. Today we listen to her prayer, as she turns to the Lord, trusting that he will be faithful and once again help the downtrodden.

Olivia, a Mayan community leader in modern-day Guatemala, also faces a great challenge. In 1968, her grandparents were brutally forced out of their homes. The entire community of Chicoyogüito was uprooted. The Guatemalan army wanted their land to build a military training centre.

“When the armed forces arrived, they began to shoot, and people were beaten,” explains Olivia. “People began to flee, and some fell into the river. Siblings were separated. Over 200 families were evicted."

Although Guatemala is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for people defending the environment, Olivia is determined to return to her ancestral land. “We are the children and grandchildren of Chicoyogüito. We must fight for our parents, our grandparents, our Mother Earth… For me, this project is about achieving justice – to achieve justice and fight for our territory. I want leaders and judges to respect our word as indigenous people, as human beings.”

Like Esther and Olivia, we too can respond to injustice and oppression by making courageous choices and standing up for what is right. Let’s pray today for the strength to do so.

Lent prayer

God of the oppressed,
increase our faith and courage
so that, filled with your strength,
we may work for truth and justice.


Many human rights defenders face criminalisation, harassment and violence in return for their work protecting their communities and our world. Stand in solidarity with those who are persecuted today. 

Human rights defenders

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