Reflections on Romero

International Women's Day
World Day of Prayer
Heat and Dust and Wind
Spring and Snow
Women's History Month
World Water Day
March Madness
Marches in El Salvador
Marches in the United States
Rutilio Grande
Oscar Romero
Holy Week

Today is the anniversary of the founding of our sister church and sister church community in El Salvador.  It is not an accident that the anniversary for Los Héroes en la Fe is the same as the anniversary of Archbishop Oscar Romero's assassination. The people who struggled and suffered during El Salvador's civil conflict, who were refugees in their own homeland, who on March 24, 1996 walked up the hill and planted a church and a community named after Heroes in the Faith, dreamt of a community and a society that would live in peace and work for justice. That dream has been challenged over 22 years of joys and sorrows. The struggle to realize that dream continues. 

Photo contributed by community member
After setting off fireworks well before dawn, the community gathered around the church, dipping small French breads into cups of warm chuco (a creamy beverage made with morro, beans and pumpkin seeds) and broadcasting anthems from the struggle over giant speakers.  Later, folks from the community made their way to Divina Providencia, the hospital compound in San Salvador where Monseñor lived in a small house and was assassinated while saying mass in the chapel.  Although Romero served in the Roman Catholic Church, his life and work inspire people of all faith traditions - including the Lutherans who named their church Heroes of the Faith and claimed March 24th as their founding date.  From the little hospital, thousands of faithful pilgrims marched to the cathedral.  No matter how heavy the burdens are for families and communities, the experience of marching in love  with thousands of faithful people is powerful.

"Let us not forget: we are a pilgrim church, subject to misunderstanding, to persecution, but a church that walks serene, because it bears the force of love.”   Oscar Romero

During his short tenure as Archbishop, Romero found himself moved to march with the people as they called out acts of injustice, resisted oppression, called for societal change, and searched for peace.  For taking action, the people were persecuted.  For taking action, the churches were persecuted.  For taking action, Romero was killed.  

Those who, in the biblical phrase, would save their lives—that is, those who want to get along, who don’t want commitments, who don’t want to get into problems, who want to stay outside of a situation that demands the involvement of all of us—they will lose their lives. What a terrible thing to have lived quite comfortably, with no suffering, not getting involved in problems, quite tranquil, quite settled, with good connections politically, economically, socially—lacking nothing, having everything. To what good? They will lose their lives.”   Oscar Romero

Mural (Oscar Romero and Rutilio Grande)
and civil activists portrayed in El Paisnal
On March 24, 2018, thirty-eight years after a bullet ended Romero's life, pilgrims march.  Led by high school students, young people in the United States march to call for societal change, to call for their government to protect their lives and value peace over violence.  Families in California walk in the footsteps of grieving families and communities from across the nation to cry out against injustice, to resist oppression, and to proclaim that Black Lives Matter.  

“The church must suffer for speaking the truth, for pointing out sin, for uprooting sin. No one wants to have a sore spot touched, and therefore a society with so many sores twitches when someone has the courage to touch it and say: “You have to treat that. You have to get rid of that. Believe in Christ. Be converted.”   Oscar Romero

The month of March in El Salvador began with elections.  We remember horrific acts of violence and oppression which were perpetrated against citizens who marched and fought to end voter suppression in El Salvador and in the United States over the course of history.  Today, questions surrounding the suppression of citizens' ability to exercise their constitutional right to vote in both countries are validly raised.  In El Salvador, societal frustration with the political parties was expressed in thousands of messages written on ballots intentionally cast as null votes.

Counting election votes
The month of March in El Salvador, as in the United States, has been a month focused on women.  This year, Women's Sunday and the World Day of Prayer were celebrated together, with a focus on supporting women's enterprises in Suriname with prayer and money gifts.  In Los Héroes, women from the community did dramatic readings, playing the parts of women from different walks of life in Suriname.  They raised $6.50 as an offering of support.

World Day of Prayer banne
Yesterday, we turned on the radio and heard our Salvadoran pastor give a lengthy interview about water sustainability in El Salvador.  This is his area of expertise (aside from pastoring in Los Héroes).  He is part of a social action team focused on water rights.  Protection of water resources was a theme in this year's elections.  Marching to the legislature, marching to the Supreme Court, marching on the banks of rivers prone to flooding, marching near the cane fields protesting the use of toxins, marching in opposition to mining interests:  these are common practice as those who work to protect water from the greedy clutches of private enterprises seek a public voice.

Water is a universal right.  Protect it.
Yesterday, three of us women from Los Héroes marched in a women's march in Tonaca.  We bumped into the parade preparations on our way to do something else.  The leaders handed us pink t-shirts and asked us to join.  The group marched with decorated bucket drums and shakers made from Pringles cans.  Staff from the local clinic (including one male doctor - the only male in the entire parade) carried home-made posters about vaginal health and urinary health for women.  We walked to the central park where local women leaders spoke about different themes.  One of the nurses did a 10-minute interactive tutorial on vaginosis.  When the national Women's Anthem was played, the grandmothers clapped and danced.  The highlight of the event was a lengthy drama about the life of Prudencia Ayala, a strong activist for women's rights in El Salvador during the 1920's and 1930's.  Her story is fascinating (and worthy of a blog post all it's own).

Local nurse teaching at the Women's March

Women celebrating themselves!
Next week is Holy Week.  Faithful Christians will walk through the streets of their communities, carrying images of Christ bearing the cross.  These will be the final marches of the month.  I hope, in whatever ways we live, work, walk, speak, and act to promote peace and justice in our own communities, and in whatever ways we or our churches suffer criticism or consequence for living out God's call to seek justice, we can be encouraged by the words and example of those who are doing likewise, and by our brother and saint Oscar Romero.

"For the church, the many abuses of human life, liberty, and dignity are a heartfelt suffering. The church, entrusted with the earth’s glory, believes that in each person is the Creator’s image and that everyone who tramples it offends God. As holy defender of God’s rights and of his images, the church must cry out. It takes as spittle in its face, as lashes on its back, as the cross in its passion, all that human beings suffer, even though they be unbelievers. They suffer as God’s images. There is no dichotomy between man and God’s image. Whoever tortures a human being, whoever abuses a human being, whoever outrages a human being abuses God’s image, and the church takes as its own that cross, that martyrdom.” 


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