I was fortunate to spend most of this year living and working in San Salvador. While there, I spent much time at the UCA, and I remember finding myself one day alone in the rose garden, a site where a horrific act took place 25 years ago, but now it is a place of peace, reflection and remembering. I remember pausing to read the names of the six Jesuits and their two companions etched onto a stone overlooking the flowers and reflecting on all the lives and powerful influences their sacrifice had touched and the rippling effect and legacy of theirs that have been felt all over the world.
At the same time I thought about all those names that aren’t etched on walls, or remembered in such ways. People who, too, lost their lives to horrific social injustices, but we will never be able to completely identify or honor to the same extent in El Salvador and around the world. The way the martyrs are honored is powerful and moving, and they deserve all these accolades for their great witness, bravery and sacrifice that they receive. But how do we also continue to honor all those whom names the world will never know? I think about my friends from Arcatao, who lost so many loved ones at the massacre at Rio Sumpul. Or Rosa, who works with community members to help identify remains of bodies found in hopes that one might be her disappeared parents. How do we never forget, never become numb to numbers or lose sight of the faces and personal relationships behind statistics? How, in the spirit of Monseñor Romero, do we continue being voices of these people who were taken from us? I think about the tragedy of losing these eight UCA martyrs, and how can we continue to honor the thousands of other martyrs we may never know by name.
The commemorative events surrounding the anniversary of the UCA martyrs, especially this 25th year, continue to remind and to ground me that while we do this to remember that their great sacrifice was not in vain, let us stay motivated and awake to keep fighting and to keep continuing their work and message, so that the equally powerful sacrifice of so many others lost in similar acts of violence is also not forgotten or in vain.