2014 Stanford Delegation

2014 Stanford Delegation
Stanford Delegation in the UCA Chapel

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

En nuestras manos

Today was a day of powerful personal connections. In the morning, our group had the privilege of meeting with Ana Ortiz, the sister of Octavio Ortiz, a Salvadoran priest who denounced the government's crimes against humanity during El Salvador's civil war. Ortiz preached a system-changing brand of Catholicism known as Liberation Theology: Instead of simply accepting unjust events or evils in the world as the "will of God," liberation theology blames human suffering on the actions of men. Consequently, relief from these hardships can be achieved in the here and now, in this world, when we fight for social justice and human rights. This is the struggle that Ortiz inspired in his congregation. This is why he was branded "subversive."

In 1979, a mere four years into the priesthood, Ortiz was brutally gunned down by the military guard, who then proceeded to roll their tank over his body. Like many "subversives" or people who protested against the government, Ortiz was first offered safe passage out of the country in exchange for cooperation with the government. Showing true solidarity with the plight of the Salvadoran people, Ortiz refused to comply: his conscience could not be bought. It was this compromiso to truth, justice, and peace that cost Ortiz his life.

Learning about Ortiz's lucha today helped framed the context for one of the greatest milestone of our group travels, visiting the site of Archbishop Oscar Romero's assassination. Romero's life and work during the civil war have come to embody the very struggle for social justice of Salvadoran people. He was more than a national hero; Romero brought hope, and his memory continues to inspire a culture of resilience in the face of adversity today. For many, Oscar Romero is the most tangible definition of liberation theology in action.

Today, our group had the distinct honor of visiting the very church where Romero was martyred. A Carmelite nun, Mercedes Amador, offered us a tour of the grounds and a historical recount of the day of Romero's assassination. However, she made the experience truly memorable and thought-provoking by challenging us to connect to Romero's mission and to continue his struggle. We each chose a word that we felt described Romero: Paz. Justicia. Corage. Valiente. Forming a circle around the altar where Romero was shot as he gave mass that fateful day March 24, 1980, we repeated our word-- this time charged with the mission of bringing that word to life in our own lives. Being in that church, standing around Romero's very altar, I couldn't help but feel moved by the power of that moment. Mercedes reminded us of our own agency in bringing about change: Like Romero, we can effect transformative change now, without waiting on magic bullet top-down solutions. The sentiment was something I hope I never forget (so much so that I asked her to write it down so that I could transcribe it and translate it roughly to share here):

"La transformación de nuestros pueblos y nuestra sociedad está en nuestras manos. No en las de Obama, ni en las de Funes; sino en mis manos y en las pequeñas decisiones de cada dia donde yo actué con justicia, paz y solidaridad."

"The transformation of our people and our society is in our hands. Not in those of Obama, nor those of Funes. Rather, change is brought about through my hands and the small decisions I make each day in which I act with justice, peace, and solidarity."

-Araceli Y. Flores

1 comment:

  1. wonderful piece, I've really enjoyed following the blog this week...traveling mercies home to all.