The SHARE Blog

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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Honoring Women Religious: Our Journey in Photos

December 3, 2012

The women of the LCWR are honored during the Patron Saint Festivals in El Puerto De Libertad. Members of the Women’s Center in La Libertad included images of Ita, Maura, Dorothy, and Jean in the mural they are painting on the side of the women’s center.


The Cumbia music was too good to resist. Women Religious take a dance break at the Puerto de La Libertad.


Women Religious in front of the chapel built on the site where the four church women were found. We celebrated mass there with the community on December 2nd, the 32 anniversary of their death.


Sister Claire Morrissey, CSJ receives an award honoring her work at the chapel.

HWR Dec. Delegation First Photos

December 2, 2012



65 delegates. 6 days. Two missing suitcases. Celebrating life, togetherness, justice, and the people of El Salvador, past and present.

Please, check out the short slideshow to share in a few moments from the past two days!

Celebrating Solidarity: The History of SHARE and the University Lutheran Chapel

December 1, 2012

In 1981, Eileen Purcell, a community organizer working with Catholic Social Service of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, made a presentation to the Lectionary Group meeting at the University Lutheran Chapel. Eileen had been invited by Reverend Gus Schultz to share her work with Central American refugees and the findings of her 1980  fact-finding trip to El Salvador. Archbishop Romero of San Salvador, El Salvador had been assassinated while saying mass on March 24, 1980, 4 US Church women had been raped and killed by the US sponsored military in December, and thousands of Salvadorans were killed or suffering persecution and fleeing the country seeking refuge. Many who reached San Francisco turned to the Catholic Church for help. The Archdiocese in San Francisco was turning a bright light on the situation. Catholic Social Service was committed to building effective services and advocacy for the refugees in our midst while at the same time addressing the root causes of the exodus.  Included in that Lectionary Group was Reverend Gustav Schultz, Pastor at University Lutheran Chapel.  Also included were several other future key players in the Sanctuary Movement.

 Eileen Purcell presented the Lectionary Group  with the startling facts of Salvadoran brothers and sisters; Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Pastors, Nuns, and more importantly thousands and thousands of people – peasant farmers, women, men, children, who were being slaughtered in a brutal civil war that raged with no end in sight in the very small country of El Salvador.  That day the Lectionary Group heard of how the war arrived violently and destructively taking away any chance of safe ground within El Salvador.  Those who spoke out against the impunity were killed or disappeared or fled for their lives.  Many were arriving in the U.S. with no where to go.  They wandered through the desert and through the cities traumatized and seeking safety.

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Why are you going to El Salvador? And why is your union letting you go?

November 29, 2012

Today, more than 50 Women Religious will travel to El Salvador to honor the memory of Ita Ford, Maura Clarke, Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan, who were martyred in El Salvador 32 years ago.

Guest blog by Eileen Purcell, former Executive Director of SHARE El Salvador.

Thirty two years ago, I met Jean Donovan on the steps of San Jose de la Montana – the minor seminary and Archdiocesan headquarters of the Catholic church in San Salvador.  I had  traveled to El Salvador as part of a San Francisco Archdiocesan delegation to document the human rights atrocities convulsing El Salvador.  In 1980 alone, human rights experts estimated  1,000 deaths per month (33 per day)) at the hands of the Salvadoran military and death squads, causing  a vast  exodus of refugees, many of whom came to San Francisco.  An additional 25,000 persons were “disappeared.” This state violence was supported and financed by the United States government.  It led to the  assassination Archbishop Oscar Romero in March of 1980 and the rape and killing of  Jean Donovan along with Ita Ford, MM, Maura Clarke, MM,  and Dorothy Kazel, UR on December 2, 1980, just a few months after our meeting.  Their deaths galvanized world opinion and solidarity with the people of El Salvador. 

The trip represented a turning point in my life:  I witnessed unthinkable human rights atrocities  and sweeping state-sponsored violence funded by my country. I   placed my hands and heart in the open wounds  of men, women and children who shared  stories of torture, loss, and despair.  At the same time, I  experienced the extraordinary faith, organization and resilience of a people, “a resurrection people living Good Friday.” Hope grounded in solidarity and action overcame fear.

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Delegates to Remember Martyred Jesuits

November 21, 2012

“A fight against impunity implies a long term struggle. If one remains firm in one’s position, a well-rooted seed will take hold and the consciousness of new generations, new professionals, will change as well.” — Jesuit Father José María Tojiera

For twenty three years, individuals, non-government organizations, and international groups have been fighting for justice for six Jesuit priests assassinated at the Jose Simeón Cañas University of Central America (UCA).As the Jesuit University in El Salvador and as one of the centers of liberation theology, the UCA played an active role in speaking out for human rights during the Civil War. For this reason, six Jesuits in residence, including the rector of the University, were murdered along with their housekeeper and her daughter in 1989.  

During the Honoring Women Religious Delegation we will visit the museum at the UCA, built to pay homage to those eight martyrs and other Christian martyrs of the Civil War in El Salvador. We will also see the Rose Garden, where the Jesuits were found, now a memorial garden, and the Chapel, where they are buried.

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