Gustavo Parajón, a true Christian peacemaker, dedicated his life to putting his faith into action with intelligence and compassion.”
President Jimmy Carter in an endorsement from the back cover of Healing the World
Since the founding of our publishing house in 2007, Daniel L. Buttry has been one of the leading figures in our community of authors embodying our mission: “Good media builds healthy communities.” In fact, 15 years ago, Dan wrote our very first book, Interfaith Heroes, plus a number of others over the years. (You can learn more about Dan’s work by visiting his Amazon Author Page or the homepage where he shares lots of resources about his work among what he likes to call Global Peace Warriors.)
One of those interfaith heroes Dan always commended to his readers was Gustavo Parajón. Dan knew him. Dan talked about him in classes and retreats. Dan even wrote a short online profile of Parajón.
Why? Because, before his death in 2011, Parajón demonstrated in many ways his fearless commitment to helping the world’s most vulnerable people—often risking his own life in the process.
In fact, he was such an inspiring figure that more than a short profile was needed to ensure that his legacy of care for the world’s most vulnerable would continue. So, Daniel Buttry became the catalyst in bringing together a truly worldwide network of peacemakers who continue to be inspired by Parajón’s example. As a veteran author himself, Dan collaborated in the research and writing of Parajón’s biography, which we anticipate will be widely read across the United States, Latin America and also in the UK. (Why in the UK? Parajón was better known there than in the US because of the supportive friendship extended to him by the musical community including U2’s Bono, who encouraged Parajón’s work over the years.)
Where did Gustavo Parajón come from?
Gustavo Parajón was born in Nicaragua where his father was the founding pastor of the First Baptist Church of Managua. Young Gustavo would accompany his father on evangelistic trips into the rural areas where he witnessed the severe health needs of the poor campesinos. Those childhood experiences ignited a calling to become a doctor, leading him to medical school in the U.S. where he met his wife Joan.
In 1965, the Parajóns were commissioned as American Baptist missionaries to Nicaragua. Parajón worked at the Baptist Hospital in Managua as well as served as pastor for the church his father had founded. In addition, Gustavo founded PROVADENIC, a network of health clinics in the underserved rural areas. PROVADENIC trained local people to provide health care for common treatable illnesses as well as to teach prevention of those illnesses.
Why is Gustavo Parajón famous?
In 1972 a massive earthquake devastated Nicaragua, especially the capital city of Managua. Over 10,000 people were killed, and many more injured and left homeless. Parajón mobilized the Protestant churches to form CEPAD (Evangelical Committee for Aid and Development) to coordinate and provide relief for the earthquake victims. CEPAD’s role as coordinator of the international disaster response brought Parajón into national prominence.
As the immediate needs for relief diminished CEPAD continued to play a role of bringing together the faith communities for leadership training and the amelioration of poverty.
In the 1970s, war also was tearing through Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. The leftist Sandinista revolution toppled the dictatorship of Anastasio Samoza in 1979. Shortly thereafter with the support of newly elected U.S. President Ronald Reagan, elements of Samoza’s old National Guard gathered together as a force known informally as the Contras.
The Contras launched a long war of attrition that often targeted civilians and the social infrastructure. PROVADENIC clinics were attacked, and health workers were assassinated. A parallel war broke out in the eastern and southern parts of Nicaragua involving the indigenous people—the English-speaking Miskitos, Ramas, and Sumos as well as the Creoles. They felt marginalized by the Spanish-speaking central government and began an insurgency that kept its distance from the Contras but added to the strain on the Sandinista government and army.
Gustavo Parajón assisted in mediation between warring groups. Because of his willingness to work with the Sandinistas in meeting the needs of the Nicaraugan populace, Parajón was criticized by Christian conservatives in the U.S., and CEPAD was accused of being a Communist organization. But within Nicaragua he was noted as a person of integrity and compassion toward all people.
In 1987 Parajón joined with a group of Nicaraguan Moravian Church leaders and the U.S. Mennonite John Paul Lederach to form a group that mediated between the Sandinista government and indigenous Contra groups in eastern Nicaragua. After an extensive process of going back and forth between the two sides and hosting a series of direct talks, they succeeded in establishing the first cease-fire. The success of this process stimulated a more comprehensive initiative organized by Costa Rican President Óscar Arias to peacefully resolve all of the wars in Central America.
Through these years, Gustavo Parajón’s reconciliation work inspired peacemakers around the world. Following the establishment of the Peace Plan mediated by President Arias, Parajón was selected as a person-at-large trusted by all sides to be on the Nicaraguan National Reconciliation Commission, which also included Catholic Cardinal Obando y Bravo. He worked to establish local reconciliation commissions that aided in the demobilization of soldiers from both sides. The local commissions helped ex-combatants return to their home communities where they sometimes lived next to their former enemies.
Gustavo Parajón’s lessons continue to teach peacemakers today
Parajón established the training procedures to equip the local reconciliation commissions for their work, often using the Bible as their only resource for how to find the ways to peace on the ground.
Parajón’s peacemaking work resulted in honors from the American Baptist Churches, the Baptist World Alliance and the Central American Parliament, among others. When Parajón received the distinguished Francisco Morazán medallion from the Central American Parliament both Sandinistas and former Contras gathered to honor him for his reconciliation work.
During Nicaragua’s 150th Anniversary celebration Dr. Parajón was presented the Sesquicentennial Medallion as an Outstanding Citizen of Managua.
He was a medical doctor who not only healed individual bodies but brought healing to the Nicaraguan society.
Gustavo Parajón exemplified the famous Micah text perhaps more than anyone I ever knew—to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.” This doctor who could heal a nation, this pastor who could lovingly shape all who came near him, and this prophet who always, eloquently, and consistently spoke the truth to power; was one of the greatest unsung heroes of faith and justice on a global scale while transforming countless local communities. This wonderful book beautifully sings the most lovely songs and stories of this man who would always turn everything back to Christ who was his abiding hero. Please everyone, this book is a must read if you want to know what it really means to follow Jesus in times just like we are in right now!”
Jim Wallis, Inaugural Chair and Director of the Center for Faith and Justice at Georgetown University
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This book is ideal for individual inspiration and for small-group discussion.