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Thursday, March 24, 2011

“Nobody can kill the voice of justice:” Romero lives


Today marks 31 years since Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated while giving mass in El Salvador’s capital.  And Salvadoreans everywhere do not forget.  Joining the throngs of marchers making their way through San Salvador’s main thoroughfares are Salvadoreans in Canada, the US, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Australia and many other places with exile communities, all of us celebrating Romero’s life and courage.  Indeed, few Salvadoreans have so singularly captivated the collective consciousness of their people.  Few have provided the moral strength to an entire generation to stand up and say ¡ya basta! in the face of state repression.


Archbishop Romero was in many ways quintessentially representative of his people’s struggle for human rights.  Like most Salvadoreans, he was reserved, humble, and conservative in his personal and family life.  And like many who braved bullets, disappearance, and torture for speaking out, it took being personally touched by state terror to decide finally to “choose sides.”  In Romero’s case, it was the shameless murder of his close friend Father Rutilio Grande and two parishioners by state-supported death squads, that tipped the scale.  This atrocity, one of many during that time, marked Archbishop Romero’s explicit and public preferential option for the poor.


Given a Salvadorean oligarchy that employed the government and military (and death squads, in a cruel attempt at obfuscation) as its private instruments, Romero’s tragic fate and enduring legacy were sealed from the moment he channelled through the pulpit the voice of the voiceless.  His unprecedented scathing denunciations of the Salvadorean elite and its military watchdogs shattered the hubris of those in power already busy trying to quell a de facto popular insurgency.  That his cold-blooded murder was authored by military men institutionally linked to the state laid bare to the world El Salvador’s dictatorship.  It was a defining moment for El Salvador – a moment Salvadoreans and their friends will never forget.


This March 24th (and everyday) let’s remember Archbishop Romero as he would want us to remember him – with the humility and resolve required to continue the struggle for justice everywhere.


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