The 14th anniversary.
Sunday, 11/16/03 - 12:07 pm.

I do remember my sister had a similar poster to this one on her wall, when she lived here. I practically grew up with it on the opposite wall to my bed.

Yes, I went to the vigil, and it was wonderful. We came back home early, we only attended the light procession and the mass.

I was giving Irene a ride, but I couldn't find her (her cell phone's battery died)...I had to call Carmen (because I saw Victor and Angie and they told they'd seen Irene with Carmen and pastoral gang), and right then Irene appeared. I hated calling Carmen, I didn't want to, because again, she came all "oh, you're such a wuss" on me, when I told her I was already leaving (it was around 10:30 pm). I should've laughed at them, for being in the parking lot instead of taking part of the celebration (this is not a mourning for their death, it's a celebration of theirs lives, and it was), but I said nothing.

I want to be a guide to one of those "international community" visitors one day. They just seem so friendly and nice and so open to other than the "american [capitalist] way of life". The undeniable look of foreigners...blond heads speaking english everywhere, opposed to the dark spanish-speaking latinamerican look. I supposed most of them were from the United States, the mister on stage sent regards to the "international community" from other countries, like France (that usually come to work with local communities, forsaken by the neoliberalist government). It was really nice, they were even with their children, singing songs, and very into it.

Everything was very touching. I almost break down myself, whenever I picture the soldiers breaking into the UCA to murder the jesuits and the two women. The whole scene is horrible to describe. I saw my brother knelt, holding his head in his hands, and I knew he was crying. There's a particular jesuit he admires so much, and he's said how much he regrets not being able to shake his hands (although he was like 14 when this happened). Seriously, it's hard not to cry when you get to know who they really were.

One thing that made me sad and disappointed, is that, in spite of the number people that showed up, only a few in this country truly care about this. On the way home, the bars were crowded, and the music was loud. I bet they don't even know it was the 14th anniversary. The newspapers won't say a word about what happened last night. The "official truth" (both from this government and from the USA's) won't encourage people to remember war crimes, to avoid "opening painful wounds" (that have ALWAYS been open, really) and because it's an "obstacle".

Men of life: The martyrs of the UCA
by Jon Sobrino (Written Dec. 1989)

You all know that six Jesuits were assassinated 18 days ago. It was my community, so my whole community, even two women who asked them to spend the night at the house because they were afraid of bombings -- they were all murdered.

I was in Thailand at the time, that's why I am alive. But I will not tell you my own personal experience, although maybe I can say that now I understand better the sorrow, the indignation, the outrage of hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans whose sons or fathers or brothers or mothers have been killed.

These six Jesuits were men of hope, men of life, not men of death. So that's why I will try to say a few words, positive words to bring hope to you, and also to ask from you solidarity towards the Jesuits, but more basically toward the Salvadoran people. (...)

I would say first of all that these six Jesuits were human beings. Now you might think one takes that for granted, but that's one thing I've learned in El Salvador -- not to take that for granted -- that we are human beings.

Maybe you might think that this is a very small compliment, no? to glorious martyrs, to say that they were human beings. But they lived in the reality of El Salvador, and that's important in the sense of what a human being is. If we don't live in the real reality, it seems redundant, no? -- we are not human beings. We are something else.

They incarnated themselves in Salvadoran reality. Words don't communicate Salvadoran reality because it is so absolutely different and distant from your reality that it would be very difficult for you to understand.

What is reality in El Salvador? Poverty. The poverty in El Salvador is not the exception, or the anecdote. Poverty is reality -- 80-85 percent of Salvadorans live, survive, in poverty. They are not like myself and yourself -- those who take life for granted. All of you and myself take life for granted -- the minimum of eating and clothing, the minimum of education...

Who are those who do not take these things for granted? The poor.

The majorities are poor people. Poverty in El Salvador -- also in Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras and Chad, in the world -- poverty, and unfortunately this is no rhetoric, means being close to death. Life is the task. Surviving is the task, not getting a degree.

And as you might know, or remember, in El Salvador as in many other countries of Latin America, the poor people decided simply to live. Your politicians and government say they wanted to bring about a revolution. These people simply wanted to live, to have enough bread and so on. And they organized and they exercised those human rights which again you take for granted.

And when they organized in popular movements, they were killed -- by the hundreds and by the thousands. That's what happened. That's the basic reality of El Salvador. (....)

I don't have better words to communicate to you what Salvadoran reality is. Isaiah says that the Suffering Servant -- he, or she, or it -- had no human figure, and that's the Salvadoran people. Poverty is ugly, it doesn't look beautiful. And when these people get killed, and tortured -- it is a people without human face.

Of the Servant of God it is said that those who pass by turn their heads away so as not to look at him face-to-face. Because in a way it is nauseating -- to confront ourself with that humanity without human face. I also think that we turn our heads away because, if you look really face-to-face at the crucified peoples of this world, the question is obvious if we have a heart of flesh and not a heart of stone. Are we somehow responsible for that? What have we done?

Of the Servant it is said that he was called impious. What are Salvadorans called, those who do something for the poor, and some of the poor themselves -- you know, communists, Marxists. Well, that's the modern word for impious.

Of the Servant it is said that he was buried among sinners, in other words, that not even in death did he have the minimum of dignity. You know how some of the Salvadoran people die -- beheaded, tortured, without dignity. Some of them disappear, not even their corpses are found. So this wonderful western democratic civilization dares to do what so-called primitive people never dared to do -- to hide the corpse. At times they are found in clandestine cemeteries, no dignity in that.

Of the Servant of God it is said that he was killed without announcing a word. Well, this is not exactly true in El Salvador today, but if people speak up for [the poor], well you know what happens to those who speak up for them. But basically it's true. We don't even know the names of the 70,000 Salvadoran people who have been assassinated. They pronounce no word.

Of the Servant it is said that nobody defended his cause. Again, this is not exactly true. There are groups around the world, also in the United States, who try to support the poor, but in general, the world doesn't care about the poor. You know that.

So why do I say this? Because this is in biblical language the Salvadoran reality. And in this Salvadoran reality, these six Jesuits wanted to be human beings. And they reacted as human beings.

You have read the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan found a wounded man in the way and he was moved to compassion, to mercy, and he helped the wounded man. It's very interesting that no reason is given as to why he did that. Did he do that to fulfill the great command? No. Why, then? Because that's the primary human reaction to anybody in need.

What these Jesuits saw was not just a wounded man, but a whole people wounded on the street. And they tried simply to help them. Now, why? In order to fulfill the commands of the general congregation? Well, I would say no. I hope they did, but that's not the main reason. A wounded one on the street, on our way, is the first and last question that is asked to us.

Well, okay, we should take care of wounded people, but you know we are university people. We are not supposed to do those things. We have better things to do, or things which in the long run will help those people -- usually it doesn't, no? (...)

This reaction of mercy and compassion is, I hope, to be human. And I don't take that for granted. It's not easy to be human. Maybe it's easier to be a Jesuit, or a Christian, or a university professor, because we know the rules of the game, basically. But it's not easy to be human, to consider, really, compassion and mercy as that which is first and that which is last.

Being university people, they used words and concepts to describe the type of mercy which is needed in El Salvador today -- and that's justice. Justice is love for the majority of oppressed people. That's justice.

And they used the language of radically transforming structures, and at times they even used the language of revolution, which means revolving things [turning things around].

My last comment about these Jesuits being, above all, human beings, is how they suffered the destiny of many Salvadorans. And you know the destiny of many Salvadorans, the 70,000 people that were killed.

Archbishop Romero, who was a great Salvadoran and also suffered the destiny of Salvadorans, said several times words which I will never forget. He said, I am happy that priests are being assassinated in this country, because it would be very sad that in a country in which so many Salvadorans, so many human beings, are assassinated, priests, the symbols of the church, weren't being assassinated.

Secondly, they believed in God. And I would say it is not so easy to believe in God. To have purely civil religion may be easy. You accept some beliefs and go to church -- this might be relatively easy. But to believe in God, and especially the God of Jesus Christ, and more specifically in the God we liberation theologians write about -- the God of life...

To believe in God in a world of death, where death is not rhetorical but is the every day reality, is not easy. And these people believed in God. That's why I am so thankful to them. I have asked myself how each of them, each of the six, believed in God, and of course I have no answer. (...)

What does he say there about who a believer is? Two things. One is clear. No matter how tough, you have to do justice. And that's what these people did. They were reminded every day that that's what God wanted from them because they saw injustice every day.

And the second point, to walk with God in history. How is that possible in this history of ours? I imagine it is difficult in secularized countries, but believe me it is much more difficult in the Third World.

I think these people did [walk with God in history]. And I think they were supported in their faith to be able to walk with God in history by the faith of others. Not by theology, though they were theologians. Not by the teaching of the church, although they knew it. But by the real faith of other people, of Archbishop Romero, of the four North American sisters, which by the way is the best and greatest gift of this country to El Salvador, and by the faith of the poor.

So I think these people were really believers -- they believed in God.

Third, they were Jesuits. Not the pious type, not the spiritual type. They were not of those who thought that the Society of Jesus was the best thing on the earth, or those who were eager to read the latest news from the Vatican Curia on how wonderful our Father General is, no, though they were not against that. I think they were Jesuits because they were Ignatians, and you know you always have to make a distinction, eh? You can be a Christian and not follow Jesus of Nazareth, no? You can be a Marxist and not follow Marx. You can be Jesuitical and not be an Ignatian. (...)

There is also the Meditation of Two Standards, when Ignatius (of Loyola) says, if you live poverty with Christian spirit, that will lead you to humiliations and to humility, and from then on to all virtues. So Ignatius in the 16th century, without knowing too much about sociology or economics, had that insight, that there is something in the world of the poor which leads you to good things.

But if you start with wealth -- that's why I shouldn't congratulate the United States for being a wealthy country -- really, honestly. I know at times we do; we congratulate people because they are very wealthy. But Ignatius had this insight, that if you start with wealth, that leads to honors and pride. (...)

They were Ignatian and they were Jesuits of this world. The general congregation (when all Jesuits of the world get together) in 1975 said something astounding, really unbelievable -- that the vocation of Jesuits today should be to service faith and to promote justice. How many discussions have happened around the world, and in universities, to try to accept this!. How often people have asked me, well, what can be done by justice?

Well, people like those who were killed lived that before the general congregation said it, and when the next general congregation in 1983 [met, it] told us that you have to do that as an option for the poor. Well, that of course, is scandal, huh? Is it possible for a Jesuit to make an option for the poor? Is it possible for a university to make an option for the poor? Well, it is necessary.

We have to make an option for the poor because that is what Jesus of Nazareth did. It's not just something which people working in pastoral work in the parishes are supposed to do, take care of the poor. Everything we do, as Christians, I think as human beings, should be an option for the poor.

These people were Jesuits, and they also illustrate something that the general congregation in 1975 said -- we will not put in practice our mission of service to faith and promotion of justice without paying a price. The words were clear and the price is clear.

The killing of these Jesuits is a culmination of many faithful years of almost daily attacks from the press. It is difficult for those of you who have not been in El Salvador to understand the types of things that were said against these Jesuits, daily attacks in the press, by the armed forces, on television.

Fr. Montes, who received an award on Capitol Hill, of all places, a month ago, because of his work for human rights, was accused publicly in the papers by the armed forces, by the ARENA party, of being a terrorist. Fr. Ellacur�a innumerable times has been called a terrorist, a criminal, and so on.

And together with those verbal attacks were physical attacks. Can you imagine if here at this beautiful campus of Georgetown University at 2:00 in the morning a bomb would explode at your computer center, in the library, the administration building, a printing house -- well, things like that have happened on 15 occasions at our university since 1976. Last time, July 22, a bomb partially destroyed the printing house.

In February 1980 our house was heavily machine-gunned at night, then in October, twice, within a period of three days, the 24th and the 27th, then again in 1983 a bomb was placed in our house.

A price has to be paid to be a Jesuit, a Christian and a human being.

My last word is that they were university people. Fr. Ellacur�a was exceptionally brilliant. He developed a new idea for a university, and a new idea of a Christian university. I will say something -- I hope you don't take it badly -- the starting point for us when we thought about a Christian university was the option for the poor...

In a country like El Salvador, if we only train students, if we only produce professionals, administrators or lawyers, or economists, what do we do? If we only do that, we reinforce an unjust world, and unjust structures. If we only do that, the university is contributing to evil, to sin.

That was the beginning of the idea of a new university. If we should run a university as Jesuits and as Christians, then we have to re-think what a university is, to see what good it produces, that at least counterbalances the evil, and hopefully, produces more good than evil.

We believe that the Christian university is possible if this university tells the truth about our reality in a way which is appropriate to the university, so analyzing it, but [always based in] reality, reality. Through any of our courses, we have to bring to the fore the Salvadoran reality, and that is so painful. [There are] people who know everything about Napoleon or St. Augustine for theologians, but do not know how many people starve every day in their country -- this basic fact of every day reality, of Salvadoran reality, they don't know.

So we thought that through each of the courses, Salvadoran reality should come to the fore. In our research, our idea was to investigate, seriously, academically, the root causes of the situation in El Salvador and to offer alternative models in the economy, education, health, housing, so that life will be possible in the country by the turn of the century for five million Salvadorans. That was our ideal of research.

So I don't do research on whatever. It is not me who decides what I'm going to investigate. It is reality which demands what should be investigated. And then the social projection, when we try to project the university directly to the majorities, to the poor through our publications, public statements, and so on -- that's what they tried to do.

Besides that, as you know in this world of ours, it is not only that the university or high school or whatever has to promote knowledge in the presence of ignorance. If that would be the only problem, the solution would be easy. We have to promote knowledge in the presence of life. In the world, there is a gigantic cover-up so that we don't see reality as it is, and as I usually say to my friends, Watergate and Irangate are minor cover-ups compared to the cover-up we exercise towards the whole world, to the Third World, so that people in your country and in Europe don't know effectively that there is a Third World.

So knowledge is very important, but to develop knowledge is not just to overcome ignorance, but to fight for life. I say this because that is why these people were killed.

Fr. Ellacur�a said once, the university should be the intellectual voice of those who have no voice. It should be the reason of those who have reason, but don't have the opportunity to show it. So we try to be a university for the poor.

Why were they killed? Not because they were communists or Marxists or anything like that, but because they did these things. And if you do this, you touch the idols, no? Idols exist in reality. In our countries, and I think in the world, but certainly in our countries, the main problem is not stated as faith and unbelief, existence or non-existence of God. That's a problem in itself, but the main problem is not that, [rather] it's true divinity versus the idols.

Idols exist in realities which give death, which demand victims in order to survive. If this country wants to keep the standard of living that it has, you know what is happening in Chad and in Zimbabwe, no? The idols demand by necessity victims in order to survive.

Now if you touch the idols, if you unmask them, then you get killed, and that's what happened to these Jesuits.

The third point is, what is their message to us. First, we recall the Ignatian Meditation on Sin. As you might remember, Ignatius tells us at the end that when we are reflecting on our own sin, to kneel before the cross, the crucified Christ. There you see him dying on the cross for our sins, and Ignatius says to ask yourself three questions: what have I done for him, what do I do for him, what am I going to do for him?

Ellacur�a transformed these three questions. Let's put ourselves in the presence of the crucified peoples of the world, which again are not the anecdote, not the exception, are not a minority, but the majority, and let's ask ourselves these three questions: what have we done so that these people are on the cross? what are we doing now and what are we going to do to bring them down from the cross?

That's the question, the challenge of these men and so many other people to us.

In the way of a positive message -- I always end with this, because I am convinced of this -- the good news. (I think the moment in this history of ours in which there is no good news, then Christianity is over). The good news of these Jesuits is that they show us it is possible to live as a human being in this world -- hard, difficult, but possible.

My very last word is -- I haven't talked personally, you know, I haven't shown my feelings -- but I ask myself, thinking of going back to El Salvador, or even if I don't go back to El Salvador, let's be honest, is there any hope for a country like El Salvador? How much more news of war, of atrocities? You know, the poor of the world have everything against them, by definition. Governments, oligarchies, the wealthy, the armies, most of the political parties, very often the churches, at times the universities, at times the theologians. Really, the poor have against them almost everything.

So, is there hope for El Salvador? Is there hope for those of us, really for you -- does it make sense to go on working for El Salvador, for Guatemala, or South Africa? Well, I don't have a conceptual answer, but I want to end with this word. When I see a great love on earth, people who really love other people, when the American sisters, Archbishop Romero, and Jesuits, without being able to give a reason, [show us this great love], then I still have hope, and I still try to work and give the best of myself.

What they want to do with us Jesuits now is to silence us, that's what they want to do. They have killed these people, they might investigate, but what they want is that we don't go on, that we don't try to continue what these people did. But if we don't, then we are really buried.

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