When I heard of the deaths of the Salvadoran Jesuits and their colleagues, I felt gratitude for their witness and awe at their faith and love. Over time I came to believe that they died trying to promote a dialogue of reconciliation between the warring parties in their war-scarred country.
Hearing of their deaths, a group of Jesuits and lay colleagues gathered in prayer. We were moved to make a plan of civil disobedience. With our provincial's permission we crossed police lines onto the Salvadoran Embassy in Manhattan demanding to speak to a representative. We were taken into custody and booked — happy and joyful to express our sign of solidarity.
Later at a liturgy at St. Ignatius Parish in Manhattan attended by Jesuits and many friends of the Society of Jesus, I again experienced a profound joy that our whole Society was taking a giant step forward in our service of the poor and commitment to Gospel justice. I marveled at the depth of commitment I sensed in the face of such a tragedy.
Today I wonder about our commitment to the poor and to the dialogue of reconciliation for which our brothers and sisters died 25 years ago. Our conflicts are now more complex, more diffuse, more global. I wonder, for example, what dialogue means in a world that seems not to have the will, competence or even structures for dialogue. What does inter-religious dialogue mean or how can it be done in a world even more divided and violent precisely in the name of religion?
What do the lives and deaths of our martyrs mean for us today? Where and how must we give our lives? These are creative and challenging questions — ones we can ask with courage and gratitude because of their witness.