The SHARE Blog

Still seeking “a strong and lasting peace”

January 18, 2013

This 16th of January, we commemorate 21 years since the signing of the Peace Accords.  After 12 years of armed conflict, Salvadorans finally arrived at an agreement between the two parties, and ended a war that originated from social injustice, repression, and lack of personal liberties.  The consequences of this war included more than 75,000 people assassinated, thousands of people disappeared, children orphaned, refugees and displaced persons, and much destruction.

1992 Peace Accords_Chapultepec

Signing of the 1992 Peace Accords in Chapultepec, Mexico.

The signing of the Accords brought many important advances in the democratization of the country, such as the disbanding of the repressive forces, reduction of the armed forces, and the creation of new institutions like the Human Rights Ombudsman and the National Civil Police, among others.  However, the same cannot be said in terms of the economic situation.  El Salvador continues as one of the countries with the highest levels of economic inequality, where a small group of families receive more than half the country’s income, while the majority of the population lacks the resources to meet their basic needs.  The lack of economic opportunities has greatly influenced Salvadorans’ decisions to immigrate to the United States.  The Social Economic Forum created by the Peace Accords to address these issues produced no results.

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Radio Victoria Broadcasts for the People, despite Threats

January 17, 2013

The National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining in El Salvador (the Mesa) needs international support in order to make demands of the affected populations of El Salvador heard by policy-makers. Please help us support the fight against mining by signing this petitionThe petition calls on the Milwaukee-based mining company Commerce Group (1) to cease further mining pursuits in San Sebastian, El Salvador, (2) to take responsibility for the environmental contamination, and (3) to drop its court case against the Salvadoran government under CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement).

Radio Victoria's programming coordinator sat down with Drew Theological school students and SHARE's Sarah Hall (left) to talk about the Radio's history and presence in the anti-mining struggle.

Radio Victoria’s programming coordinator sat down with Drew Theological school students and SHARE’s Sarah Hall (left) to talk about the Radio’s history and presence in the anti-mining struggle.

With Canadian mining company Pacific Rim threatening to invade El Salvador’s countryside, Radio Victoria wants to bring awareness to Salvadorans about the potentially fatal effects of mining. Radio Victoria, a member organization of the Mesa, broadcasts to the rural communities surrounding Ciudad Victoria within the Cabañas region, using their presence to spread awareness on a global level.

On Tuesday, January 15th, students from the Drew Theological School delegation met with Radio Victoria’s programming coordinator to discuss the beginnings of Radio Victoria and its current role in society. According to the coordinator, refugees founded Radio Victoria upon their return to Santa Marta in 1987 after fleeing to Honduras during the war.

Because many guerrilla fighters occupied Santa Marta, there were rumors surrounding the community that these members of Ciudad Victoria were “people of a different kind”, and therefore unworthy of having their city rebuilt. To dispel these rumors and bring a voice to the marginalized rural populations, members of the community created Radio Victoria and made their first broadcast on June 15, 1993. According to the programming coordinator, “it was a magical experience to hear family and friends send out their messages”.

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Youth Leaders Arrested

January 14, 2013

Police showed up dressed in all black, pulling young people out of community centers to arrest "suspected gang members". Photo from The Guardian: Sri Lanka

Police showed up dressed in all black, pulling young people out of community centers to arrest “suspected gang members”. Photo from The Guardian: Sri Lanka

For six youth leaders from the economically poor community of El Progreso 3 in northeastern San Salvador, they did not have the opportunity to spend the holidays playing games or eating pastries with their families; no, they were spent in an overcrowded jail in inhumane conditions.

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Reflecting the Martyrs: HWR Delegation 2012

January 10, 2013

A reflection on the Honoring Women Religious Delegation from the Sisters of St. Joseph in Boston, MA., after their return from El Salvador in December 2012:

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In Chalatenango on a procession to the martyrs’ grave site. (Lois Connors, middle right)

On the 32nd anniversary of the martyrdom of Ita Ford, Maura Clarke, Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan, SHARE and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) led a delegation to El Salvador. The theme was “Honoring Religious Women” who have dedicated their lives to peace and justice in El Salvador and in our world. Sisters Lois Connors and Claire Morrissey as well as CSJ Associates Judy Swett and Mary Rita Weschler were privileged to join in this delegation. From November 29 to December 6, 2012 they journeyed to El Salvador to retrace the route of the martyrs, visit nearby communities, participate in a forum on women’s issues, and hold a special event honoring women religious who continue the work for peace and justice across the world. They met with Salvadoran women religious and theologians working with those at the margins, and reflected together on hopes for our Church and its future. Lois, Claire, Judy, and Mary Rita are eager to reflect on their experience with others and plan to do that over the next few months. Their comments below are the beginning of this sharing. 

“It was a humbling experience to come to a church of martyrs and stand on Holy Ground in solidarity with a people of strong committed faith.” -Lois

“I was eager to touch the solid ground of the men and women of El Salvador…I desired to ‘widen my tent’. That has been realized. The colorful environment, the joy and welcoming spirit of all whom I encountered touched me! I have a new mosaic etched in my mind.” -Claire

“The entire program and process was liberating! The women and men I met on the camino shared their testimonies of the organized repression and oppression … having been inspired and challenged I will work and continue to ‘speak truth to power’!” -Judy

“The ‘preferential option for the poor’ has never made so much sense to me, and likely, never will. What a gift to be away, and to return with a fuller heart and a wider perspective. How grateful I am for all of this!” -Mary Rita


ADVOCACY ALERT! Petitions Against Mining in El Salvador

January 9, 2013

We challenge you to stretch your activist muscles now that those hazy holidays have come to a close by signing two petitions, one for organizations to sign and the other for individuals, to fight against metal mining in El Salvador.

Protesters at the anti-mining  march in Sensuntepeque in October 2012

Protesters at the anti-mining march in Sensuntepeque in October 2012

As the debate around mining in the Salvadoran National Assembly heats up, the National Roundtable against Metallic Mining in El Salvador (the Mesa) is calling for international support as they struggle to protect environmental and natural resources. As the Mesa declared, “If [the] government really cares about guaranteeing sustainability and improving the quality of life for the population, instead of looking for a superficial solution […], it should promote a ban on metallic mining through a new Mining Law that explicitly reflects the profound socio-environmental crisis we are suffering in El Salvador.”

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Celebrating 2012!

December 30, 2012

Donors like you make change possible, here are just a few highlights of what we accomplished together in 2012:

  • More than 200 leaders from over 100 communities received emergency preparedness trainings this spring. Last October, communities with these trainings experienced almost no loss of life.
  •  400 families received mosquito nets to protect them from malaria and dengue. The prevalence of both diseases increased dramatically in the months following the floods.
  • Provided livestock feed for 154 members of the Mujeres Ganaderas Cooperative. The floods washed away the grass and leaves that cows normally eat, this support kept the cattle alive in the months following the flood.
  • Supplies and training for women to start their own organic vegetable gardens and micro loans for women to start small agricultural businesses.
  •  67 high school students continued their education and developed their leadership skills through organizing cleaning brigades, literacy circles, and holidays in their communities.
  •  Supported the organization of 25 rural women’s groups to advocate for the Food Sovereignty Law at a national level with a focus on gender equality.
  •  Hundreds of rural women received trainings, workshops, and guidance to step into leadership roles in their communities, municipalities, and lead a rural women’s movement at the national level.
  • Trained 160 city officials, police chiefs, hospital workers, and other service providers about the Law for a Life Free of Violence Against Women to respond more affectively to victims of violence.
  •  Lawyers are preparing the case of the El Calabozo Massacre and two cases of torture to present to the Attorney General’s office and following up on 6 cases of forced disappearance      
  • 5 Regional Assemblies were organized to energize more than 500 family members to continue pressuring the government for truth and reparations and develop a support network for families who lost their loved ones.
  • Facilitated presentations and dialogue on human rights violations in El Salvador at SalvadoranUniversities, rural community gatherings, Churches, High schools, and journalist conventions.
     
  •  Brought more than 170 people on a life-changing journey to El Salvador from the U.S.

“My eyes are opened to a larger reality of evil and oppression. My heart is open to a peoples’ pain and suffering.  In a new and profound way I realize what I do and how I live in the USA is connected to the people of El Salvador.” – 2012 delegate

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Reflections of El Salvador

December 21, 2012

 Written by Sister Theresa Saetta, RSM of her time in El Salvador during the Honoring Women Religious Delegation.

While the scenes of assassination have been transformed into memorials, chapels, and a rose garden in El Salvador, the memories of the people who knew, loved, evangelized with, and were saved by the men and women martyrs remains startlingly fresh and immediate.  Each day of our pilgrimage brought us ever closer to the women martyrs, Ita, Maura, Dorothy and Jean, as well as Oscar Romero, the Jesuits of the University of Central America, and their housekeeper and her daughter, Elba and Celina.

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Delegates carry a banner of the martyrs of Chalatenango to the cemetery where Ita and Maura are buried.

Nothing, except a personal lived experience of those days of repression in El Salvador, could have prepared one for the events described so vividly and painfully by the eye witnesses or first responders who met with us there.  In the very chapel where Archbishop Oscar Romero was murdered, during a prayer of reflection on his life, each one of us stood and spoke a word describing Romero.  Words like: Courageous, Martyr, Bishop of the Marginalized, Conversion, Evangelizer, committed to the Poor, began pouring forth like a waterfall, a litany of a life lived on the edge, on purpose, just like Jesus.

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“They Were Exposed to the Face of God”: HWR Delegation Reflections

December 17, 2012


Perspectives on the Gang Truce Part 3: Rehabilitated Gang Member Giovanni

December 14, 2012

Gang member on the 100th day of the truce, April 2012. Photo from BBC

This is the third blog post in a three part series discussing a truce that began between El Salvador´s main gangs, the MS 13 and 18th Street gangs, in March of 2012. The homicide rate in El Salvador dropped from an average of 14 a day to 5, and has continued at this level for just over six months now. This fall, the Passionist Social Service (SSPAS) and the Foundation for the Study and Application of the Law (FESPAD) hosted a forum on the opportunities and challenges the truce provides for creating a sustainable peace process. Raúl Mijango, one of the mediators of the truce, and Geovanni Morales, Coordinator of SSPAS´ Reinsertion Program, offered two perspectives on the truth. In this third entry of the series, Geovanni discusses the truce. 

Geovanni, a gang member who has gone through rehabilitation processes with SSPAS and now coordinates their reinsertion program, does not share Mijango´s optimism. ¨I am neither in favor of nor against the truce. ¨ Geovanni iterated that he did not get to where he is today because of the truce, but because SSPAS opened a space for rehabilitation and insertion, a place where he could be accepted and supported.

Youth living in poor urban areas face a high level of repression and discrimination from the police, military and broader society. Gang members, especially those with tattoos, encounter an even deeper stigma and extremely limited opportunities for employment.

Geovanni asserts that because de-escalating their involvement in violent gang related activities means distancing themselves from the deep level of support, understanding, and acceptance from their fellow gang members, and because of the societal discrimination that gang members face whether or not they are active in their gangs, having a support system is essential for youth that want to transform their lives. Otherwise they face hostility from both the gang that has been their family and from society. ¨I have wanted to distance myself from all of the violence that I have lived and seen. When I started to work with re-insertion, fellow gang members started to say ¨this guy´s gone soft.¨

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Court Orders Government to Investigate El Mozote Massacre


The Salvadoran military systematically assassinated over 800 men, women, and children in the massacre

On Monday, December 10th, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a long awaited ruling on the El Mozote massacre case. The Court condemned the government as responsible for the massacre, for this violation of life. As part of the ruling, the Court ordered the Salvadoran government to investigate those responsible for the El Mozote massacre, citing that the 1993 amnesty law does not cover war crimes that occurred during the civil war.

Throughout the war, the government repeatedly committed acts of extreme cruelty and violence, and the El Mozote massacre was undoubtedly one of the most brutal. On December 11th, 1981, Salvadoran armed forces entered El Mozote and the surrounding villages. They then rounded up, separated, and systematically killed nearly 1,000 men, women, and children. Only one survived. Over half of the victims were children. The massacre is just one war atrocity among many for which the Salvadoran government is responsible as the state implemented its policy of terror against its people; it remains burned into the collective Salvadoran memory as the most horrific violation against human life.

Up until recently, national Salvadoran courts refused to investigate the killings, using the 1993 amnesty law to avoid responsibility for the long list of human rights they so cruelly violated in December 1981. Because of this impunity, human rights organizations like Tutela Legal took the case to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and then to the Inter-American Court in 2011. However, Monday’s ruling is encouraging in the fight for truth, justice, and reparations for the crimes committed. Among other things, the Inter-American Court ordered the Salvadoran government to enact the following remedial measures:

i) continue compiling a Register of Victims and Relatives of Victims of the massacre  
ii) perform investigations of the events,  
iii) ensure that the Amnesty Law does not represent an obstacle to investigations,  
iv) investigate the conduct of officials who obstructed the investigation

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