Posts Tagged ‘Testimony’

First Round Elections Delegate Reflection

February 26, 2014

The following reflection was written by Cathy Lester, a first round elections observer, and representative for Meta Peace Team.  Cathy lives in Grayling, Michigan.  She writes a blog for the Traverse City Record-Eagle website.  You can read some of her other posts here.

Cathy Lester on the right.

Cathy Lester on the right.

A lot of the election procedure in El Salvador is a result of elections having seen so much fraud and corruption in the past. Along with my fellow monitors, I found it fascinating to see how each stage was a counter to a specific abuse.

Problem: Voters were unable to get to the polls to vote. Solution: This year saw “residential voting,” whereby polling stations were set up in every municipality and village so campesinos (country people) could get there. This may not sound like a big thing to Americans, but ask yourself: if Kingsley, Grawn and Acme were up in steep mountains without bus service, how many people from there would walk to Traverse City to vote?

Problem: People voting more than once, and/or people from neighboring countries being paid to come in and vote as Salvadorans. Solution: Everyone had to vote in their specific neighborhood, and they had to have their National ID card. At each polling station, voters had to go to a designated table. The urban center my group was monitoring had 69 tables with their own voting booths. Each table had a list of 500 voters. The voter showed their ID, found their name on the list, and an official put a stamp by their name. Voters have to dip their thumb into a pot of indelible ink AFTER voting, so officials inspected people’s hands beforehand. One guy who’d been working had to dust his hands off on his pants twice or thrice before the officials were satisfied he didn’t have any ink on them. Only after all that did the voter get their mitts on a ballot paper. The officials were really suspicious of one woman with a stain on her index finger. Eventually they smelled her finger and finally let her have a ballot. I asked if the ink had a particular smell. Yes. Could I smell it? Yes, but be careful. The “careful” came a second too late as I got a noseful of pungent, stinging smelling salts!

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Falling in Love: A SHARE/VMM Volunteer Reflection

December 9, 2013

This is a reflection written by Katy Stader, the Delegations Coordinator for SHARE, and whose position is also funded by VMM (Volunteer Missionary Movement), an organization that supports volunteers to accompany the people of Latin America in their process of development and fight for justice. 

I have fallen in love. I am head over heels, knee deep, someone-please-pinch-me, in love with El Salvador. However, my relationship with El Salvador has not played out like a romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan, instead it has challenged my emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual self. I have hiked mountains, made hundreds of tortillas, been threatened by gang members, interacted with priests, farmers, preschoolers, mayors, doctors, the homeless, waded through floods, slept in hammocks, drank corn coffee, played futbol in the rain, hugged mothers with missing sons, held newborns plagued with disease, jumped off buses, danced salsa, and much more. Sometimes I really do have to pinch myself as a reminder that this is my life.

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Rosibel, whom I consider to be my Salvadoran mother, is forever telling me to take deep, intentional breaths. She is my Salvadoran Thich Nhat Hahn. “Hay que cerrar los ojos, pero bien bien pegaditos, e imaginar tu lugar tranquilo…You have to close your eyes, but really really close them, and imagine your relaxing space,” she tells me, whenever I run off to visit her in Chalatenango and to escape the chaos of San Salvador. “But my happy place is here, “I explain.  “That is because you are loved here,”  Rosi always says.

My love relationship with El Salvador is real.  It is tangible. It is life-giving. And it is something I will carry in my heart with me always. But my service in El Salvador as a volunteer missioner is in its final stretch.  Once back from a (much needed!) holiday break in December, I will only have six months left. And just like the end of any love relationship, I will be emotional, uncertain and looking for comfort.

I need to remember Rosi´s advice.  I need to take more deep breaths. I need to trust that wherever life takes me, I can fall in love and be loved in return.  


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El Mozote: Seeking Justice in Spite of the Amnesty Law

December 6, 2011

December 11th, 2011 marks the 30th anniversary of the El Mozote massacre – one of the largest, most brutal massacres in Latin America. As part of the military’s scorched earth campaign to remove any possible source of supplies for the guerrilla by killing entire rural villages, members of the armed forces entered El Mozote and the surrounding villages in December of 1981, rounding up, separating, and systematically killing men, women, and children. Through investigations including exhumations and testimonies, Tutela Legal, the San Salvador Archdiocese’s human rights office has identified 819 individuals killed in the massacre – over half under the age of twelve.

Thanks to Rufina Amaya’s tireless efforts to tell her story, as the sole survivor of the massacre, international news coverage, several rounds of exhumations of human remains, and the work of human rights organizations like Tutela Legal, the massacre can no longer be denied. El Mozote has become a well-known symbol of the brutality of the armed forces during the war.

 

The Salvadoran government, however, has not taken actions to investigate or bring to trial the intellectual and material authors of these brutal murders. To the contrary, since the peace accords, the army and government have paid homage to Colonel Domingo Monterrosa, a key leader in the massacre, on numerous occasions. As Gisela León of the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) stated in a recent interview, “The massacre of El Mozote represents the absolute impunity that all cases from the conflict are in.” Efforts at truth-telling and investigation, necessary elements in reaching reconciliation, have come solely from civil society.

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Why the Four US Churchwomen are Important Today

December 15, 2010

On December 5th, St John Francis Regis, a long-time SHARE sister in Kansas City, MO, hosted a prayer service in commemoration of the four US churchwomen killed in El Salvador 30 years ago.  Over 200 people attended a service that included processions, prayers and a powerful reflection by Sr. Mary McGlone. You can read the story about the event on a local newspaper’s website.

Father Tom Holder reflects on the date:I believe there are several reasons why the commemoration is still important today. There is still work to be done and we need to remember the commitment and courage of the four churchwomen to give us strength to do the hard work of justice. We need to make sure the younger generation has a sense of the real history of the region and the ability our country has to influence things, both in good and bad ways. In the Kansas City area, there are growing numbers of Salvadoran immigrants. They are here because they still suffer hardship and persecution. We need to hear the stories so that we can continue to be in solidarity with the people of El Salvador. The four churchwomen teach us the importance of putting a face on the issues. They inspire us by their example and call us to see the people of El Salvador as our brothers and sisters.


Lessons of a Mango Tree

July 7, 2009

Below is an essay written by Cretin-Derham Hall High School teacher and SHARE delegate, Ellie Roscher. The essay was originally published in Alive Magazine.

Lessons of a Mango Tree: Belief in New Life

The summer after my first year of teaching, I found myself sitting under a mango tree in the middle of El Salvador with a student named Sam. We sat on a bench together in a beautiful garden, looking at an intricate mural in an exotic country, yet the mood was somber and heavy.

Sam broke the silence we were sharing by whispering, “I do not understand, I cannot fathom how one person could ever kill a child.” I hoped he was not looking for his teacher to offer wisdom, because I had none. The world has the potential to be horrendously ugly.

In late July, 16 high school juniors, my two best co-worker friends and I left Minnesota to study the civil war in El Salvador. It was one of those trips that did enough filling to keep me full for quite some time. It was a journey that reinforced the idea that joy and sorrow come from the same well in our hearts. Our overscheduled lives of controlled routine were given up for guttural laughter and soul crushing tears within 10 minutes of each other. We sweated harder and experienced deeper joy and hurt in those 10 days than we had in the previous year of our formerly guarded, air-conditioned lives.

There is a part of the human spirit that knows that all humans have inherent worth and dignity. That part of the human spirit will always cry out for freedom, land, food, water, love and life. In the 1970s, a few families owned most of the land in El Salvador, and the people rose up out of their desperation. With the support of liberation theology and the Jesuit order, the guerillas went to war with the government in hopes of gaining more land, rights and power for the people….Continue reading “Lessons of a Mango Tree.”

*Illustration by Meghan Hanson.

– Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator


“Take off the ‘Cold War’ glasses concerning Latin America”

April 1, 2009

Below is an article written by Ollie Jefferson, one of 19 members of the National Lawyers Guild that participated as a delegate in SHARE’s Election Observation Mission. The article, published in the Star Telegram, talks about her experience observing the Presidential Elections in March.

Joined by other members of the National Lawyers Guild, I was part of a delegation of international election observers who went to El Salvador to witness its March 15 presidential elections.

The delegation was sponsored by the SHARE Foundation, which has programs in El Salvador designed to meet basic human needs and build long-term solutions to poverty and social injustice.

Our participation, independent of the U.S. government, was an effort to see whether the elections were fair. While I have had hundreds of Salvadorans as clients and empathize with what they have suffered, my participation as a certified presidential electoral observer required objectivity. Read More »


“Election observer in El Salvador, a recession-proof spring break job”

March 31, 2009

Below is an article written by a Georgetown University student and SHARE Election Observation Delegate, Sarah Stodder, for her university’s newspaper on her experience in El Salvador. Sarah is a member of the Georgetown Magis Group, a SHARE youth partnering group.

Last Tuesday, I spent my morning in the noisy, sunlit streets of San Salvador and the night in Georgetown’s comparatively glacial climate. But the drop in temperature has actually been the easiest thing to get used to since my return. Not so easy have been my brief encounters with people I know, those friendly but slightly awkward and unfulfilling moments on the way to class when neither person has the time or desire to stop and talk. Each conversation follows a similar outline: “How was break?” One-word response. “Yours?” One-word response. Off to class.

I’ve been struggling to find a word for my break. Through Campus Ministry’s Magis Immersion and Justice Program, I spent ten days in El Salvador with nine other Georgetown students and three staff members. We visited impoverished and marginalized communities—places many Salvadorans themselves don’t see—where people showed us their living conditions and explained the situation in their country. We also served as International Election Observers for El Salvador’s March 15th presidential election.

Passing friends in a hurry, all the words I want to use—sobering, life-changing, uplifting—seem too heavy for a five-second conversation….

To read the rest of Sarah Stodder’s article, click here.

To read another article on the Georgetown Magis Group’s trip, click here.

– Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator


Unimaginable Pain and Exquisite Beauty

February 20, 2009

The following post is a testimony by Lisa Dennison, a parishioner at St. Patrick’s Church in Seattle, WA, of her trip to El Salvador last summer through SHARE.

Unimaginable Pain and Exquisite Beauty

“Sin abounds, but grace abounds even more.” These words from Dean Brackley, SJ, of the UCA (University of Central America) perfectly describe my experience in El Salvador with our delegation this past June. It was a place of unimaginable pain and exquisite beauty.

I had been praying for an opportunity to leave my comfort zone – and our God answered my prayer abundantly. Intense heat, intense stories, and intense faith were things I experienced, and like all pilgrims, I could not remain unchanged by the reality that was set before me. Read More »


Josh from Shawnee, KS on Learning in El Salvador

September 8, 2008

As many Good Shepherd parishioners know, our parish has had a sistering relationship with a Salvadoran community, El Buen Pastor for over 20 years. Through this we send support, both financial and spiritual, to the people of the community as well as delegations of local parishioners to El Salvador to experience what it is like living in a small, impoverished, rural community in the Salvadoran countryside and grow in brotherhood with a community so far away. Just recently I was one of the delegates who traveled to El Salvador and got to experience the country — everything from the heart-warming welcome of the Salvadoran people, to the grim reality of the mass poverty and violence that plagues the country. Looking back on this, I realize that this experience has changed my life, and the only thing left for me to do is speak to those who have not gone to El Salvador about the experience I had with our brothers and sisters in El Buen Pastor. Read More »


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