In the spring of 2009, I had the life-changing opportunity to study abroad in El Salvador at the UCA through Casa de la Solidaridad. Three days a week, I took classes such as Liberation Theology, Philosophy of Suffering and Solidarity and History of the Salvadoran Civil War. I spent two days a week in an impoverished urban community populated by families forced to flee from the countryside during the 1980s. The lives, the memory and the voices of the Jesuit martyrs were everywhere, permeating my classes and my time among the Salvadorans.
As I learned about the horrors of the civil war, as a U.S. citizen I couldn’t help but feel responsible for the part my country took in financing, arming, training and ultimately prolonging the conflict. Yet even before I knew my guilt, I was forgiven by my Salvadoran friends. The UCA martyrs to me represent the spirit of a people of hope amidst the deepest of suffering.
As I have returned to the states, I feel the presence of my friends and of the Jesuit martyrs accompanying me daily, challenging me to speak the truth, to forgive and to be aware that each of my actions can lead to freedom or to oppression. What I buy, who I associate with, how I mother my son — I have learned that in each of these I have tremendous power and a tremendous responsibility to honor the sacrifice of the martyrs and the daily sacrifices of the Salvadoran people.
The hope displayed by the Salvadorans, made manifest through the martyrs and through Romero, is a modern day example of the resurrection: life coming from the darkest depths of death, hope rising when there should only be despair.