Sunday, September 22, 2013

A JustFaith Trip to El Salvador: 'History Taking Root'

We were told that El Salvador is doing 50% better than all of the countries around the world and 50% worse than all of the countries around the world - when it comes to poverty, violence, education, health care, and access to resources. We also learned that 90% of all of the drinking water in El Salvador is contaminated, therefore to have clean drinking water, people, if they can afford it, need to drink bottled water. Many people in El Salvador do not have this luxury.
Mike and Rosie Shawver participated in an international immersion trip cosponsored by JustFaith Ministries and Maryknoll Lay Misionaries this past summer. The Friends Across Borders program offers opportunities for people of faith and conscience to travel to Cambodia, El Salvador and Kenya. The Shawvers were part of a delegation that visited El Salvador in August.

Rosie recorded her experiences in a series of posts in her Catholic in the City blog.  Here are some excerpts.

El Salvador
Mike and I arrived to El Salvador on Friday, August 2nd. Once the tires of the plane hit the tarmac tears started to form in my eyes. I had arrived. Looking out the airplane windows I saw endless green, beauty, and serenity. It was hard for me to fully imagine the bloodshed that had occurred in such a gorgeous place during the Salvadorian civil war.

Prior to going to El Salvador - I knew all of the history intellectually. But while I was there the history took root in my very being. I felt and saw the struggle between those who have everything they need and those who are struggling to survive. I understood why people revolted against their own government in a much more palpable way. Honestly, I still saw suppression, extortion, corruption, and felt the presence of violence, although I never once felt afraid or threatened. What about hope? Yes, I did see and feel that presence also - this is what I hope my future blogs will be about.    Read the full post
Santiago Nonualco 
On Saturday, August 3rd, we visited the site of where four church women - two Maryknoll Sisters, one Ursline sister and a lay missioner - Jean Donovan, were martyred in Santiago Nonualco. One of the things that struck me most was that we met a priest, Fr. John, who was on site the day the women were found dead. This same priest had also carried Romero's casket just nine months prior to the women dying. Fr. John's living testimony was moving and passionate. These women were his friends.

Prior to their brutal murders all of these women had several chances to leave El Salvador, but they did not. They felt a deep calling to stay present and accompany those whom were suffering from the effects of the civil war. It made me question what would I do if I felt threatened because of the ministry I was doing?  Read full post

Water, Gang Violence, Parque Cuscatlán and El Rosario Church
Just outside El Rosario is Plaza Libertad. During the civil war on October 29th, 1979 there was a massacre in this plaza - campesinos (people from the country) were peacefully protesting the oppression of the government in the plaza and the military opened fire. People ran for cover in El Rosario Church. Those running into the church brought bodies with them in hope of either burying them or attempting to resuscitate them. Once the church was full the doors were shut. You can still see bullet holes in the church doors.

One thing that struck me while we were in El Salvador was the prominence of guns. Outside of every store - big or small, outside of churches, and sometimes even homes, every one had a security guard with a gun. Coming from a place in California where violence is not in my face all of the time, this was hard for me to see and be around. Are the guns used for intimidation? Security? Or perhaps a subtle reminder of the blood of the war and a reflection of who truly is in charge? I don't know. The civil war ended 20 years ago, but I still think the effects of the war, in the living memory of those who are there, is still very real. I am unsure of what Salvadorians think about the presence of guns everywhere, but I know that for me it was jarring and something I could not ignore.   Read full post

Rosie and Mike were involved in many social justice activities during their time in Albuquerque.  They now reside in the Los Angeles area.  Rosie is planning to add more reflections from the trip to El Salvador.  Check in the Catholic in the City blog for new posts.

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