Thirty years ago, Brother James Miller, FSC, a Christian Brother and U.S. missionary, was killed in Huehuetenango, Guatemala, on February 13, 1982. Brother James/Santiago, born in 1944, was raised on a central Wisconsin farm but spent many years in Central America.
His death was one of about 200,000 killed in Guatemala in the second half of the twentieth century, largely by government forces. Scores of indigenous villages were destroyed and many innocent men, women, and children were killed by Guatemalan government troops. These included a good number of catechists as well as Catholic priests and religious and several Protestant leaders. The bishop who led a church based investigation of the killings, Monseñor Juan Gerardi, was killed two days after he publicly released the report.
Brother James worked and taught for many years in Nicaragua. Later he served in the Christian Brothers’ school in Huehuetenago, Guatemala, where the brothers had also opened a center for the education of the indigenous, La Casa Indigena.
Brother Santiago was killed while repairing a wall on the grounds of the Casa Indigena, almost certainly by right-wing death squads.
As I read his story, he was another victim of the indiscriminate violence by right-wing and government forces in Guatemala. He could not in any way be considered a leftist or an agitator. He seems to have been fairly conservative and “a-political,” but committed to the well-being of the poor. He is another one of the victims of the violence perpetrated against the poor and the church in Guatemala in the last half of the twentieth century