Two American nuns working in a troubled region of Guatemala have been missing since Friday along with a Guatemalan priest and seminarian, the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids, Mich., reported yesterday.
A State Department spokesman said the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala had notified the government there that Dominican Sisters Jean Reimer and Helen Lavalley had not returned to their home in the village of Acatenango after attending a church meeting in the resort town of Panajachel last week.
Several priests and other church workers have been kidnaped and killed in Guatemala, reportedly by rightist death squads who accuse church activists of having ties to the leftist guerrillas fighting to overthrow the Guatemalan government.
An American priest, the Rev. Stanley Rother, was killed on July 28 in the town of Santiago Atitlan, across Lake Atitlan from Panajachel where the two American sisters were last seen by their colleagues. Mennonite missionary John Troyer was murdered Sept. 13 in Chimaltenango, in the same province where the two American nuns live.
American business executive Clifford Bevens was kidnaped by guerrillas and killed in July when the military raided a rebel hideout.
Sister Theresa Houlihan, superior of the Dominican sisters in Grand Rapids, stressed in a telephone interview that the two missing nuns had not been involved in any political activities. She said Reimer, who has been working in Guatemala for 11 years, and Lavalley, who has been there one year, did religious education work and distributed food donated by Caritas.
Houlihan said the two nuns had left Panajachel Friday with the Rev. Jose Velasquez and a seminarian to return to their home.
In December of last year, three American nuns and one lay worker were kidnaped and killed in nearby El Salvador, where rightist paramilitary groups also have accused church workers of collaborating with leftist guerrillas.