A GEOGRAPHER’s thirst for facts took Dan Morrice to Chile to find out how 33 miners had managed to stay alive after 700,000 tonnes of rock collapsed over the San José mine in August 2010. The fall buried them for 69 days.
The men had ten bottles of water and three days’ emergency rations between them, which allowed for a teaspoon of tuna per man per day. They not only survived, but proved to have been a well-organised brotherhood held together by José Henriquez. He saw the ordeal as a test that God would lead them through; and told the press that the hero was Jesus Christ.
Asking a geographer’s questions leads Morrice, a teacher, to ponder spiritual ones. How do you maintain hope when prayers don’t get answered; when the world is at war in your backyard and the story isn’t destined to have a happy ending?
That takes him to the Middle East, where his many encounters lead him to conclude that a peacemaker is not someone who negotiates between warring parties, but one who “brings a deep healing and wholeness into people’s lives, until the old feelings of hatred are overwhelmed by new desires to love” .
He delves into football hooliganism, and profiles peacemakers such as the Revd Dave Jeal, with a history of violence before a Damascene conversion. Pondering Jesus as “the source of peace” leads him to walk 500 miles from Egypt to Jerusalem, following in his footsteps, and with, finally, “one lesson to learn in the loneliness laboratory of the desert”.
ALAMYJorge Galleguillos, one of rescued miners in Chile, returns to the scene in October 2020
It was about divine presence, of which the Chilean miners had spoken. Was it more than a warm feeling that people of faith naïvely attributed to the existence of God? So it proved to be: “In the moment when I sought the presence of God, it seemed he turned up.”
Morrice writes in a consciously terse style, sometimes isolating words and sentences for dramatic effect and employing the kind of over-the-shoulder remarks beloved of documentary presenters striding ahead of the camera. It is a very compelling story, which the author tells “not as an expert or an academic but simply as a witness”.
Finding the Peacemakers: A journey of faith from the mines of Chile to the deserts of the Middle East
Hodder & Stoughton £14.99
Church Times Bookshop £13.50