Walking With Christians for Peace in El Salvador
by Kim Redigan
In late June, a group of eight students and two adults from U of D Jesuit High School, including JustPeace members, joined CRISPAZ (Christians for Peace in El Salvador) for an eight-day delegation to El Salvador. Grounded in solidarity, accompaniment, human rights, nonviolence, solid social analysis and theological reflection, CRISPAZ offers an intense program that connects history to present day issues, including migration, neoliberal economics, and environmental issues.
The delegation celebrated mass at the crypt of Oscar Romero and spent time at Divine Providence where he was martyred; prayed at the site where the churchwomen were killed; visited the Monument of Truth and Memory where the names of the murdered and disappeared are etched; reflected on El Salvador’s deep history at Museum of the World and Image; and visited the UCA (the University of Central America) where the Jesuits and their housekeeper, Elba, and her daughter, Celina, were killed.
The most important learning occurred in the stories and lived experiences that were so generously shared with the delegation. There are no words to communicate the heartbreak of the father from COFAMIDE (the Committee of Family Members of Migrants Who Have Died or Disappeared) whose beloved son went missing years ago as he fled
north to escape the gangs in his neighborhood or the horrific stories of torture and war shared by the Delegates of the Word and community elders in the village of Papaturro where the delegation was offered hospitality for three days. The U of D group also spent time with the inspiring Sr. Peggy O’Neal, Director of Suchitoto’s Art Center for Peace, met with community members involved in educational and economic microloan projects with Programa Velasco in San Salvador along with local artisans whose work support community medical needs, and spent an afternoon with their Jesuit high school peers at Externado San Jose.
Spending time in Papaturro, an organized community that came together in a Honduran refugee camp during with war, was a highlight. This is a deeply connected base community that leans heavily into worship and scripture and committee work, a community that has worked closely with CRISPAZ. It was good to learn how this small village in El Salvador is taking on water privatization, women’s rights, and youth leadership. It was good to sit at the feet of others and learn.
The following poem was written by PCM board member, UDJ teacher, and JustPeace moderator, Kim Redigan, when asked to reflect on Papaturro and love:
What does love look like in El Papaturro?
Love looks like Julie's wise eyes and resistance-weathered hands pulling back the faded towel that hugs the day's tortillas.
Love looks like Jessica - Papaturro president - serving plantain and clipping pink barrettes in little Lesly's hair before women's work in nearby Suchitoto.
Love looks like hand-on-hips Lesly, third-generation muchacha strong, correcting my Spanish and smudging my shades.
In El Papaturro . . .
Love is after-dinner rosary whispered softly behind thin walls.
Love is Francisco - Delegate of the Word - man of revolutionary faith drawing strength from the Psalms.
Love is trauma too mute to speak and love is trauma that finds her voice in story.
Love is late-night basketball and co-ed soccer and dancing in the dark after shared papusas.
Love is old women in black lace veils praying to the Virgin to protect the torn holy feet of those who travel north.
Love is old men in crisp white shirts with sun-wrinkled skin who are tabernacles of fierce and sacred stories.
Love looks like chicks being born in the morning and a cow being slaughtered at night and Julia's reminder that life is a circle.
Love is Julia's faraway eyes when she speaks of children disappeared by hunger and war and crushing oppression.
Love is a forfeited bed, a swimming hole, a cup of black Salvadoran coffee served with pan and avocado.
Love is the journey of mothers with babies on back over rocky paths and raging rivers under a canopy of bombs.
Love is the scrape of a plastic chairs as we gather in circle under the cool of trees to have our hearts broken.
Love is an organized community - a community where water rights are fought for and youth are empowered and women raise chickens, and children and money. A community where the future is built on thick solidarity forged in the fire of war and resistance and return.
A history of bodies broken and blood poured out.
Love is a community where resurrection born in a refugee camp is as sure and strong as maize.
To be in El Papaturro is to kneel before Real Presence.
See www.crispaz.org for more information.