The SHARE Blog

Theater for Social Change in Chalatenango

September 20, 2011

On September 10th 2011, the annual Youth Encounter was held in San Antonio Los Ranchos,  Chalatenango, a part of the SHARE-CCR Youth Leadership Development Project that provides high school scholarships for 16 youth leaders. Around 50 young people came together to laugh, learn, and connect with other young leaders. The agenda was lively, interactive and youth-led. 

 Although the content was serious and focused on youth development and organizing in Chalatenango, a fun spin on education and awareness was presented: education for social change through theater.

 In the first play, a young man wants to get involved and do something meaningful and important.  His opportunity comes, and he visits the home of two women in his community to sign them up for a literacy circle.  The younger woman is immediately convinced and excited.  The older woman resists, saying, “What do I need to learn to read and write for?  I’m old!,” “I have too much housework to do.  I can’t just leave to go off to meetings,” and “My husband won’t let me.” 

As the conversation between the young man and two women continues, young people in the audience are given the tools and arguments to get people in their community involved in the literacy circle.  These are the reasons they’ll hear for why people don’t want to participate, and now they have ways to respond.   The theater piece is engaging, interesting, funny, and a creative way to get young people involved, explain the importance of the literacy program, and give them the tools to organize people in their communities Read More »

Loving La Joya: Niña Juana’s Story

September 19, 2011

La Joya is a small community of thirteen families in the municipality of El Paisnal. The majority of the families are originally from the area, repopulating the community in 1993 after the demobilization of guerrilla combatants that came with the signing of the Peace Accords.  The road into La Joya is full of butterflies this time of year, attracted to the community by the seemingly endless, brightly colored blooms of the flowers most families have in their front yards. It is a joyful welcome to this organized, rural community. 

 La Joya is blessed by its small size. Each family has a big-enough plot of land for their home and sufficient land to plant their fields, while the community has land for the community center and communal coffee farms.  Niña Juana jokes that they only drink coffee grown in the community; since they grow, roast and grind it themselves, it tastes just the way they like it, not bitter like the store-bought instant coffee you find in many rural communities.  “I love La Joya,” Niña Juana shares.  “It’s organized, it’s small, and we all get along.  It’s safe, and quiet.”

 The community is located near a natural spring.  Through a community-built water system, mostly constructed with PVC pipes and rather ancient looking wire, they and five other communities in the area have safe drinking water. Along the northern edge of the community runs the Rio Sucio, a river unfortunately true to its name: highly contaminated with industrial waste, the water is unsuitable for humans, cattle and crops alike. This community will be key in UCRES’ organizing about environmental protection and advocacy efforts to clean up this river.

 While she loves her community, Niña Juana laments that, like most rural communities in El Salvador, “there’s no work here.  People have to leave the community to find paid work.”  Read More »

How Do You Begin to Forgive? A Reflection on Reconciliation

September 13, 2011

“How can forgiveness begin when those who are responsible for these crimes have been granted impunity by the Amnesty Law? Bishop Chavez said that in order for peace to come, the Salvadoran people should seek truth and justice with the intention of purifying the memory of those who were killed or disappeared.”

Bishop Rosa Chávez also told us that in order to bring about change in El Salvador, we must change our own reality, and first bring about change in our own country. Near the end of the meeting, he left us with some powerful words: “We are one human family. We are saved or lost together, that is the only path.”

The following reflection on meeting Monseñor Rosa Chavez was written by Anna Kincaid, a member of Good Shepard Parish in Shawnee, KS, who participated in a SHARE delegation this June.

While in El Salvador, the Good Shepherd delegation from Shawnee, Kansas had the opportunity to meet with the Auxiliary Bishop of San Salvador, Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chávez.  Just before meeting with him, our delegation had visited the Monument to Memory and Truth.  We heard the stories of two women who had several family members’ names on the wall who were killed during the civil conflict.  Again, in the meeting with the bishop, the pain from the war that the Salvadoran people still feel was reinforced because he mainly spoke about the process of reconciliation following the war. 

Read More »

The Salvadoran Supreme Court Favors Impunity

September 6, 2011

This past Wednesday, the 24th of August, ten magistrates of the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the nine soldiers involved in the assassination of Jesuit priests and two of their staff members. A Spanish judge required that the soldiers be tried as the primary perpetrators of these crimes, which have shaken the Salvadoran and international communities. The ruling granted the soldiers unrestricted freedom and makes clear that INTERPOL can not capture them without an order from the highest court of El Salvador.

The Court argued that INTERPOL’s red alert is only to locate suspects and does not involve an order of capture for the purpose of extradition. In addition, the Court mentioned that it had not received any official requests on the part of the Spanish government to capture and extradite the suspected soldiers, thus the Court granted them unrestricted freedom, ignoring international conventions signed by El Salvador. Once again, victims of crimes against humanity – such as the assassination of Monsignor Romero, the Jesuit priests, the El Mozote and El Sumpul massacres, and the thousands of “disappeared” during the armed conflict (El Salvador’s Civil War, 1980-1992) – in addition to their families, have been deprived of their right to fair and full justice.

It is impossible to forgive and to forget without knowing the truth about what has happened. It has been twenty years since the Jesuit priests’ case was first heard in Salvadoran courts, but the legal procedure has been heavily tampered with and has left many doubts, in addition to failing to try the masterminds behind the crimes – even in the wake of the Spanish courts’ search for justice. Instead, those responsible for executing the law and justice in our country have yet again voted in favor of the criminals without regard to international law and treaties

Read More »

A Summer of Transformation

September 2, 2011

This reflection was written by Bethany Logberg, SHARE Sistering Accompaniment Coordinator

What we know as summer in the U.S. draws to a close as students begin the school year once again. Here in El Salvador we have come to the close of the “summer delegation season,”  always the busiest time of the year for delegation leaders.

Over the past two and a half months, four delegations visited El Salvador, comprised mainly of youth encountering this country with its poignant mixture of sorrow, joy, rage, divisions,  and indomitable hope for the first time. I had the blessing of accompanying them as they met Salvadorans who spoke out for justice during the war, who speak for justice today, and who are working in their communities for opportunities and leadership amongst youth and women, and  for agricultural practices more in harmony with the earth and local needs. Salvadorans like Madre Guadalupe, a member of the Committee of the Family Members of the Disappeared, whose husband was brutally killed, and who continually accompanied others in the search for their disappeared and imprisoned loved ones during the war and has never stopped the search for truth and justice, and like Joscelyn, a teenager who helps prevent teen pregnancy in her community by educating young women about their sexual and reproductive health rights – a topic usually closed to discussion.  We were constantly challenged to think how we would follow Monseñor Romero’s example and stand for life in our small every day decisions, from what we eat to how we treat others.

Towards the end of each delegation, we spent two to three nights in a rural community in the groups sistering region – a time to interact directly with community members and host families, join into peoples´ daily lives, and learn about the community. This summer, communities offered delegation some of the most incredible welcomes I have ever seen. I will try to offer a snapshot of a few of the arrivals. Read More »

Delegate Reflection: A Mother’s Testimony

September 1, 2011

This reflection was written by Sophia Goodfriend who participated in a SHARE delegation this past February with the Northwest School in Seattle, WA.

I found the dignity and respect, yet profound struggle behind each person I met in El Salvador striking. Despite the unimaginable horrors many have lived, they still carry themselves with incredible self-respect and never fail to treat those around them with the same importance. Take for example Alicia, a woman who came to share with us her story as we gathered in Parque Cuscatlan to learn about a monument erected by The Committee of the Family Members of the Disappeared and various other organizations. These N.G.O.s along with other Human Rights groups inaugurated the 45 x 8 ft. plaques inscribed with the names of the dead or disappeared during the Civil War without funds or support from the central government.

  A tiny old woman, Alicia came obviously dressed up for the occasion. Her poise and dignity alone was noteworthy. Then she began to speak, quietly at first, but with time her voice grew louder as she recounted the way in which she lost the first three of her five children in the Civil War. She described the screams she uttered when she was shoved up against the wall of her own house, with a gun pointed at her face. She could do nothing but look on, helpless, as soldiers took two of her sons and one daughter and forced them into the back of a truck in the dead of night. She spoke of the weeks she spent traveling the country, going from jail to jail searching for her children with no avail. Listening to this small and frail old woman in her nice clothes tell such a painfully true story with such profound composure and dignity was an experience so compelling no words could do justice to the emotions it provoked within me. Alicia deserved more respect than we could ever give her.

However, what is even more striking is that Alicia’s story is by no means unheard of. There is quite literally no one in El Salvador whose life was not affected directly by the Civil War. Alicia’s story was just one, one out of the millions of equally tragic stories that live within the Salvadoran people. It was the Salvadoran people, each of whom held such a tragic story of profound suffering behind their incredible kindness and evident vivacity that so expanded my world view, but first blew it apart.

Salvadoran Military Officers May Face Justice for the 1989 Massacre of the UCA Jesuits

August 24, 2011

“The murder of the Jesuit Priests and their employees is one of the most abominable and unfortunate crimes of this era, that joins a long list of murders and violent massacres making the armed conflict one of the darkest periods in our country… Truth is the essential prelude to national reconciliation.” Excerpt from a press release made in the name of dozens of civil society organizations, including families of the disappeared, after former Salvadoran military officers sought refuge in a military base to avoid extradition to Spain.

In the early hours of 16 November 1989, US-trained members of the Salvadoran armed forces entered the University of Central America and the Jesuit residence there, brutally murdering the six Jesuit Priests and two women.

It is for this crime that 20 former members of the Salvadoran Armed Forces have been indicted by a Spanish court. While the international press has reported that nine of the twenty named in the Interpol Red Alert have “turned themselves in,” there is no such clarity as to their legal status in El Salvador. While President Funes argues that they are in custody, the police have reported the contrary to Interpol, and the Defense Minister has preferred silence. It is now up to the Supreme Court to decide whether the nine men are, in fact, in custody, and if so, what to do with them next.

Detained, or Under Protection?
According to an El Faro report, the nine former military men sought refuge at the military base on Sunday August 7th at the same time that the police were dispatched to detain them:  “The order for their capture had reached the hands of the Salvadoran police on Thursday the 4th. No one in the government, not even Funes, has been able to explain why they took so long to carry out the detentions.” 

This detention would be the first step in a chain of events leading to an extradition to Spain.  Once in detention, the formal extradition process begins under an agreement made between El Salvador and Spain in 1998.  Once the accused are in official custody, the Salvadoran Supreme Court must then name Judge to oversee the extradition process to Spain.

However, the Salvadoran Supreme Court has now met on three consecutive days and has been unable to make a decision regarding the case.

Two of the twenty people identified in the Interpol Red Alert have been identified as living in the United States; one is currently in federal custody for unrelated charges.

Demanding Justice

Facing this situation, families of the disappeared, church leaders and members of civil society gathered this morning, August 24th, in front of the former National Guard base, where it is widely believed these nine war criminals remain. Amongst chants of “They took them alive, We want them alive!” and “Neither forgive nor forget, Justice for the Guilty!” people came to demand justice. Watch a thirty-second clip of the sit-in here.

Mothers of the disappeared held posters with the faces and names of their children and others held photos of the six slain Jesuits and two women. This is the second in what may become ongoing sit-ins; last week, people gathered in front of the Supreme Court to demand the extradition of those responsible for these horrendous crimes. The next target may be President Funes himself; as commander-in-chief, he has the power to order the military to hand over the nine men to the police.

Related Articles:
Accused in Killing of Jesuits Arrested in US
Remembering the Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador, by Dean Brackley

Accused in Killing of Jesuits Arrested in US

According to the Boston Globe, federal agents arrested former Salvadoran military colonel Inocente Orlando Montano on unrelated charges this week. He is one of the twenty former military members accused of the murder of the six UCA Jesuits and two women in 1989. Now in custody, Spanish officials can request his extradition to Spain to face trial. He has been living in the US for 10 years.

From the Globe:
He was discovered in Massachusetts by the Center for Justice and Accountability, a San Francisco-based human rights organization that in 2008 filed suit against the 20 defendants in Spain, leading to the new indictments in May.

“We are pleased that US authorities finally acted and arrested Montano, even though the action was only related to immigration fraud,’’ Almudena Bernabeu, a lawyer for the center, said in a statement. “This arrest gives Spanish authorities an opportunity to formally request Montano’s extradition, which, if the US observes, would once and for all result in a trial and justice for this terrible crime.’’

Read the complete article here.

Read more about the Jesuits and the case against their killers.

Remembering Saul Solorzano, legendary community leader

August 20, 2011

SHARE announces the loss of our dear brother and compañero Saul Solorzano, President of CARECEN DC. Saul has been part of SHARE’s work for many years. In the 1980’s Saul worked with SHARE in the GOING HOME Campaign accompanying refugees to repatriate from Mesa Grande Refugee Camp in Honduras. Saul was a champion in defending the refugees from El Salvador and Central America during the years of the war as well as the current immigration reform. Saul and CARECEN have also partnered with SHARE in responding to natural disasters in El Salvador. He was a great community leader who dedicated his life to justice for his community. 

Please join Saul’s memorial Facebook page SaulSolorzano Presente. SHARE is gathering information to honor the memory, life and work of Saul for his wife, young daughter and the future generations to ensure his many contributions are not forgotten. Any pictures, stories, condolences, etc would be greatly appreciated as we collect information to honor Saul Solorzano.

CARECEN DC’s statement on the loss of Saul

Washington Post Obituary


Sphere Project Launches Disaster Response Guidelines

August 3, 2011

Last week the Sphere Project, a SHARE partner, took the exciting step of launching its new manual related to respecting human rights while responding to disasters. The manual establishes minimum standards to be upheld during the response to natural disasters or armed conflict.

The manual was unveiled on Wednesday, July 27 at a crowded event in San Salvador. Over 115 invited participants attended and they represented a wide range of both pubic and private institutions. Attending groups included the Ministry of Health, the police force, both international and domestic NGOs, human rights attorneys, and members of the Salvadoran legislature.

The program included word of welcome from Isabel Hernández, who is both the Director of SHARE’s Field Office in El Salvador and a member of Sphere’s Coordinating Committee. Read More »

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