When I was growing up and I became aware of the news of the world, I developed a deep admiration for the Catholic priests, nuns, and lay people in the Philippines and in Latin America who were speaking out against the authoritarian governments in their countries during the 1970s and 1980s. I would read in the San Jose Mercury News and in magazines how these Catholics would speak out for the poor and indigenous people, and they would risk their lives to call out the human rights abuses of the military and security forces.
Though I had never heard of Sister Dianna Ortiz until I read her obituary last week, Sister Ortiz represents the courage of those Catholics who spoke out for democracy against both right wing and left wing authoritarian regimes.
After making her final vows as an Ursuline nun, Sister Dianna Ortiz became a missionary in Guatemala in 1987 and dedicated herself to teaching the Mayan children of San Miguel Acatan. This simple decision would place Dianna in the heart of unforeseen and incredible danger and alter the course of her life.
In Guatemala, while working with people who had been victimized by one of the most oppressive regimes of Latin America, she received warning to stop her work and to leave the country. She did not heed the warning. As a result, on November 2, 1989, she was abducted and forced to endure unspeakable horrors of torture.
While under torture Sr. Dianna made a promise to those whose screams of pain she heard: “If I survive, I will never forget you. I will tell the world what I have seen and heard.”
In 2007 Sister Dianna came to New Zealand to share her story. She spoke out for the plight of torture victims for the rest of her life.