The year 1968 was a dramatic one, all over the world.
In 1968, the president of Peru was deposed in a military coup. His successor lasted several years until he was also deposed during a military coup. During this unstable time period, many political groups, both on the left and the right, struggled for control of the government and the support of the Peruvian people.
In 1970, Communist Party of Peru broke up into multiple factions because of internal disagreements over how to bring communism to the country. One of those factions took their inspiration from a quote by the leader of the first Communist Party of Peru, who predicted that “Marxism-Leninism will open a shining path to revolution.”
Most people do not think of revolution as a desirable thing; eighteenth-century American colonists spent decades trying to avoid one. But as history has shown, typically the only way that a country will accept communism is when it is shoved down their throats through starvation, violence, and revolution.
The leader and members of this Peruvian faction, true followers of Marx and Lenin, thought that sounded like the perfect approach. Hoping to follow in the glorious footsteps of Stalinist Russia, Mao Zedong’s China, and the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia, they used that quote and gave the name “Shining Path” to their group of communist guerrillas. Their word choice is certainly ironic, since everything about their subsequent actions would be better described as dark and cruel, not shining and light.
Shining Path organized bombings and assassinations to destabilize the Peruvian government. It used intimidation and violence to recruit members from rural areas. It killed peasants, elected officials, trade union organizers, and even members of rival communist groups—anyone who got in the way of its anticipated glorious revolution. It is not surprising that the Communist Party of Peru today even distances itself from the past actions of Shining Path.
Michal Tomaszek was born in communist Poland in 1960, and his father died when he was only nine years old. After Michal graduated from high school, he recognized God’s call to become a priest in the Conventual Franciscan order. That meant he not only completed a five-year novitiate with the order, but he also studied theology and philosophy before his ordination in 1987. Zbigniew Adam Strzalkowski was born in 1958, also in Poland, and he too recognized a vocation to the priesthood and to the Conventual Franciscans. He completed his theological and philosophical studies and was ordained a priest in 1986.