The SHARE Blog

Delegate Spotlight: Melanie

February 14, 2015

Our blog series, Delegate Spotlight, feature past participants from SHARE’s major delegations. A delegate is someone who travels with a group (delegation) to El Salvador to learn about the history, politics, and people to better accompany the Salvadoran people. Interested in becoming a SHARE delegate? Check out our major delegation page for information on the upcoming Romero Delegation in March!  – See more at:

Spotlight on: Rev. Melanie Oommen, Associate Minister, First Congregational United Church of Christ in Eugene, Oregon

Major Delegation Experience:  Fall delegation with the LCWR, I believe it was November 2012 . . . but I would need to check those dates!

Why did you decide to participate in SHARE’s major delegation? The congregation I served has been in partnership with a small fishing community in El Salvador since 2008, and I have journeyed to be with that community many times in these past few years.  When I saw the invitation to participate in this delegation with SHARE and LCWR, I felt called to connect ecumenically, historically and in a broader geographical way with the context of El Salvador.  I first traveled to El Salvador with a CISPES delegation in 1991, just before the Peace Accords were signed and didn’t return until 2008.  The SHARE trip gave me the opportunity to see the growth and the challenges of this beautiful and broken nation, and to travel with courageous women religious, many of whom have had a long history of justice-making in Latin America. Read More »

Action Alert: TPS and DACA

February 12, 2015

With the cool January temperatures came a group of Drew University theological students to El Salvador and their numerous questions and passions, many of which touched on immigration. Through various experiences and meetings they were able to learn about the different factors that push people to emigrate from El Salvador. With more clarity, many then asked what can they do to help Salvadorans in the US? And many ideas sprung from a meeting with ConMigrantes, a conglomerate of governmental and non-governmental institutions working to provide services to Salvadoran migrants in the exterior and Salvadoran deportees back in the country. And so, we would like to share our ideas with you.

In recent months there have been many changes in immigration policy in the United States and because Salvadorans are the third largest migrant group in the US, it is inevitable for us to shed light on these changes. Many Salvadoran community members living in the United States will be affected by these changes that are either now in effect or will soon come into effect this year. The following are helpful opportunities, our Salvadoran brothers and sisters can take advantage of to relieve their immigration status, and YOU can support and even help expand these important opportunities!

It is important to acknowledge that these changes in immigration policy are the result of incessant advocacy efforts from the undocumented community and their allies in the United States who have become their own advocates. This is much needed relief for sure but nonetheless, there is much more work to be done. Read More »

SHARE (Your) Inspiration: Marisol Gonzalez

February 6, 2015

In the News: Updates from January 2015

February 4, 2015

There has been quite a lot going on in the past few weeks here in El Salvador. To get caught up on things, check out these short summaries and follow the links for the full news stories! 

US Aid to Central America

President Obama submitted a $1 billion dollar proposal as part of the 2016 budget to congress that will go towards the goals of the Alliance of Progress. This plan, aimed at the three countries of the “Northern Triangle”: El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, promises to provide opportunities to the population that is most prone to forced migration  to the United States.  Funds will be restricted to  the following sectors: international trade infrastructure, education, human capital projects, employment opportunities, and security and justice accessibility.


“Second Truce” Rumors

Yet again, rumors have been circulating about  the possibility of the government signing onto a second truce with leaders from the major factions of the gangs in El Salvador. With the murder rate in January 2015 averaging 11 murders daily, many religious leaders are pressing for further action.  Both the Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church are (as known by the public) conducting “informal” talks with the gang leaders. Neither clergy can act on the State’s nor the gangs’ behalf to give legitimacy to these discussions. However, church leaders are prioritizing the safety of Salvadorans.  Even an informal agreement would provide a great deal of assurance and peace of mind among the Salvadoran population.


Read More »

High Levels of Forced Displacement Threaten “Peace”

February 2, 2015

Forced Displacement is a phenomenon from which the Salvadoran population has suffered for decades. During the 1980s, hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee from their homes to escape the violence of the Salvadoran military. Today, an estimated 130,000 Salvadorans are displaced around the country due to gang violence. In the wake of the commemoration of 23 years since the signing of the Peace Accords that ended the Armed Conflict on January 16th, 1992, many have taken the time to reflect on whether or not Salvadorans are living in peace today.


Celia Medrano, Projects Manager at Cristosal, meets with the Drew Delegation

At the beginning of January, SHARE’s delegation from Drew Theological Seminary met with Foundation Cristosal, a human rights and community development organization working to provide resources for victims of forced displacement. Upon hearing the news of the thousands of children arriving at the US-Mexico border this summer, Cristosal began preliminary research concerning the topic of forced displacement in El Salvador. They soon realized that this part of the Salvadoran population has very minimal access to resources that would assist them in their search of security.  Those who have been displaced as a result of gang violence make up only about 2.1% of the national population. Though this percentage may seem small, it is higher than that of Colombians who were displaced during the Colombian armed conflict. Read More »

Drew Delegation: A Photo Essay

January 21, 2015

Today, we say Adios to the delegation from Drew Theological Seminary! They were truly a wonderful group to accompany throughout the country of El Salvador. Enjoy the following pictures and quotes that were heard along the way.



“We shouldn’t talk about Monsenor Romero. We should talk like Monsenor Romero. We should act like Monsenor Romero.” Sister Noehmy from Pequeña Comunidad



“Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all. Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. It is right and it is duty.” Monseñor Oscar Romero



“Food Sovereignty is the basic human right to access to clean food and water.” Kristi Van Nostran

Read More »

Guitars Against Guns

January 14, 2015


Guillermo with the Drew Delegation

During the Salvadoran Armed Conflict, not everyone fought the power of the military by taking up AK-47s. Some took to the streets in protest, others served as popular teachers and nurses.  One young man, Guillermo Cuellar, used his guitar to confront the oppression.  Cuellar wrote the songs for the Salvadoran Popular Mass commissioned by Monseñor Oscar Romero. Last night, SHARE’s delegations from Drew Theological Seminary had the privilege of sitting down with the great musician to not only enjoy his melodic voice, but also to hear his powerful testimony.  

One day at mass, Monseñor called me out in front of the entire congregation, “Why don’t you write a song for our Patron Saint, the Divine Savior of the World.” What could I say at that moment? “Sorry, Monseñor Romero, that is too large of task for me, I’m only 20 years old!” Of course I couldn’t say that, so I nodded my head politely, ensuring that Monseñor would have the song he requested as soon as the creative energy came to me.

A year later, I still didn’t have anything. It dawned on me that I had yet to write a Gloria song for the popular mass I was composing at the time. Maybe I could make those songs one in the same.  All of a sudden, the song started coming to me:

“¡Gloria al Señor, gloria al Señor!
¡Gloria al Patrón
de nuestra tierra: El Salvador!
No hay redención de otro señor.
Sólo un Patrón: ¡nuestro Divino Salvador!”
(Glory to God, Glory to God!
Glory to the patron
of our land: El Salvador!
There is no redemption in any other god.
Just one patron: Our Divine Savior!)

I surprised myself, and thought, “Hey! That’s pretty good! Let’s see where this goes…” Verse after verse kept coming to me. By the time the fourth and last verse came to me, I was excited and scribbling away. It practically wrote itself:

“Pero los dioses del poder y del dinero
se oponen a que haya transfiguración.
Por eso ahora vos, Señor, sos el primero
en levantar tu brazo contra la opresión.”
(But the gods of power and money
oppose the transfiguration.
And for that, now, God, you are the first
to raise your arm against the oppression.)

Salvador de Mundo Statue; photo cred:

I was so pleased with myself. However, I knew that Monseñor came from a more conservative background, and I wasn’t sure how he would respond to the image of God lifting his fist against oppression. Nevertheless, I kept it in there. Don’t get me wrong, I did my research. I had an argument prepared to defend that verse. Have you noticed that the monument, Salvador del Mundo, in San Salvador has it’s arm raised? Well, it does. I was pretty convinced by just that fact alone, but I knew I should look to the Bible for anything that may help my case. Quickly, I found Isaiah 10:1-4, which says the following:

“Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches? Nothing will remain but to cringe among the captives or fall among the slain. Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised.”

“And there you have it,” I thought to myself. There is my Biblical defense. It was time to turn the song into Monseñor Romero.

I will never forget the day that I gave him that song. Arriving at his office at 9am on March 21, 1980, I encountered throngs of people waiting to meet with Monseñor. I spent three hours waiting my turn to speak with the beloved and extremely popular, that particular day, archbishop. Lunch time came around, and Monseñor left his office to go eat. I squeezed my way through dozens of people just to hand him my song. When the paper hit his hands, he took a moment to read it, nodded his head, folded the paper up, a stuck it in his pocket for safe keeping.

“Well, he must not have read it. Because if he had, I couldn’t imagine him nodding,” I decided. Well, I concluded it best to talk to him about the song when perhaps he was less busy. My plan was to go to his office again on Monday. But, for those of you who know your Salvadoran history, you’ve already figured out how this story ends. I never did get to talk to Monseñor Romero about my song. Monday March 24, 1980, an unknown assassin pulled up to the chapel at Divina Providencia to murder our prophetic voice.

That same year, I was forced to flee the country for what would be 13 years. A few years into that exile in Mexico, a friend came to me with a tape of Monseñor Romero’s last homily, you know, the one that sealed his fate. I had never been able to bring myself to listen to it. My friend convinced me to play the tape because Monseñor mentioned my song. “What? Will I finally be able to know what he thought of it,” I nervously pondered to myself.

And, there it was. In the middle of the mass, he mentioned my song, but not just the song. He addressed the last verse.

“This is a good song, but the last verse, yes, the last verse is the best part.”

I finally knew what Monseñor thought of my song years after his passing. For the first time, I knew that the entire popular mass was “Monseñor approved.”

Guillermo Cuellar didn’t mean for his songs to become as widely known as they are today.  With his guitar, he was able to respond to the guns of the armed conflict. Little did he know that his words would out live the guns, bullets, and bombs of the military. When faced with adversity, may we all turn to non-violent ways to confront our own oppressors. The power of the arts is timeless and cannot easily be destroyed. May Guillermo’s songs continue to be sung and inspire the next generation world-wide to use their guitars against today’s guns.

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