Tuesday, December 02, 2014

December 2: The Martyrs of El Salvador

I repeat this every year. This year, I finally heard the story mentioned on NPR, in an announcement about a news story about the murders.  I missed that story, but no matter.

This is from Memory of Fire: Volume III, Century of the Wind, by Eduardo Galeano, tr. Cedric Balfrage, Pantheon, 1988.

"ARCHBISHOP Romero offers her a chair. Marianela prefers to talk standing up. She always comes for others, but this time Marianela comes for herself. Marianela Garda Vilas, attorney for the tortured and disappeared of EI Sal-vador, does not come this time to ask the archbishop's solidarity with one of the victims of D' Aubuisson, Captain Torch, who burns your body with a blowtorch, or of some other military horror specialist. Marianela doesn't come to ask help for anyone else's investigation or denunciation. This time she has something personal to say to him. As mildly as she can, she tells him that the police have kid-napped her, bound, beat, humiliated, stripped her-and that they raped her. She tells it without tears or agitation, with her usual calm, but Archbishop Romero has never before heard in Marianela's voice these vibrations of hatred, echoes of disgust, calls for vengeance. When Marianela finishes, the archbishop, astounded, falls silent too.

"After a long silence, he begins to tell her that the church does not hate or have enemies, that every infamy and every action against God forms part of a divine order, that criminals are also our brothers and must be prayed for, that one must forgive one's persecutors, one must accept pain, one must. . . Suddenly, Archbishop Romero stops.

"He lowers his glance, buries his head in his hands. He shakes his head, denying it all, and says: 'No, I don't want to know.'

" 'I don't want to know,' he says, and his voice cracks.

"Archbishop Romero, who always gives advice and comfort, is weeping like a child without mother or home. Archbishop Romero, who always gives assurances, the tranquilizing assurance of a neutral God who knows all and embraces all-Archbishop Romero doubts.

"Romero weeps and doubts and Marianela strokes his head."

"THERE are so many deaths everywhere that it is incredible.

"The 'death squadron' strikes in so many poor homes. A family of seven, including three small children, was machine gunned to death in a nearby town just last week. It is a daily thing- death and bodies found everywhere, many decomposing or attacked by animals because no one can touch them until they are seen by a coroner. It is an atmosphere of death.

"The organized, as they call the left, are made up of some of those simple courageous, suffering farmers. In the Pastoral de Asistencia [pastoral Assistance] work that Ita began in Chatelango, one comes in contact with so many poor refugees-women and children especially, who have lost husbands, brothers, fathers.

"It has become an ordinary daily happening. Two lovely young women were cut into pieces by machetes in a community nearby where so many of the people have been killed. The brave mother of one of these young women is also the mother-in-law of the other and she was here with us taking refuge. We are trying to help the refugees-bringing them to shelters and getting food to places where it is desperately needed. "Archbishop Romero [murdered while he said Mass in San Salvador on March 23] and all the martyrs of this little violent land must be interceding for a new day for Salvador.

"I am beginning to see death in a new way, dearest Katie. For all these precious men, women, children struggling in just laying down their lives as victims, it is surely a passageway to life or, better, a change of life. . . .

"I don't know what tomorrow will bring. I am at peace here and searching-trying to learn what the Lord is asking. Ita is a beautiful, faith-filled young woman. I am learning much from her. At this point, I would hope to be able to go on, God willing. . . . This seems what he is asking of me at this moment. The work is really what Archbishop Romero called "acompanamiento" [accompanying the people], as well as searching for ways to bring help.

"Write to me soon. Know that I love you and pray for you daily. Keep us in your heart and prayers, especially the poor forsaken people."--Maura Clarke

Maura Clarke was a Maryknoll sister working with the poor in EI Salvador when she wrote this letter in October 1980. On December 2 of that year, Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, Jean Donovan and Dorothy Kazel were brutally murdered.

Karen Armstrong says we, not religion, are responsible for the terrorism that engulfs the Middle East and threatens us, even at some remove.  She is right.  We ignore that lesson at our peril, and at the peril of the world.

Keep awake.  This is is the First week of Advent.

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