My life's energies for the past three decades have been defined by a man who stood up for justice in the face of terrible odds: Monsenor Oscar Romero of El Salvador. From Romero I learned about the grave injustices heaped
upon Latin America by my country. Through Romero I found my voice; and learned that standing up for justice can bring serious consequences.This March 16-25 I will be traveling to El Salvador to honor the 33rd anniversary of the martyrdom of San Romero de las Americas. I go to El Salvador to renew my own commitment to justice and to carry forward Romero's legacy of speaking truth to power. I will ask the government of El Salvador to stop sending troops to the School of the Americas.
I invite you to join me on a memorable journey that will break open your heart and place you in the center of our efforts of citizen diplomacy. Six countries have announced their withdrawal from the SOA. Now it's time for El Salvador to follow the dignified example of its neighbors. This tiny nation lost tens of thousands of lives - among them, MonseÃ±or Romero - at the hands of graduates of this school. U.S. militarization is unfortunately not a thing of the past in Central America, as brazenly illustrated by the 2009 SOA graduate-led military coup in Honduras and the rise of several SOA graduates within the security apparatus in El Salvador.
Thirty years ago I took voice of Romero's last homily to the top of a hundred- foot pine tree, located in the middle of Ft. Benning. With two friends, I scaled the pine tree with a tape player and speakers in my hand, right outside the barracks where troops from El Salvador were being trained by the US Army. As I reached the tree top, I hit the play button, and out of the skies came these words:
I would like to make a special appeal to the members of the army ........ Brothers, each one of you is one of us.. The peasants you kill are your own brothers and sisters. ..In the name of God, in the name of our tormented people whose cries rise up to heaven, I beseech you, I beg you, I command you, stop the repression!
What followed was a sacred moment. Soldiers poured out of the barracks, looking into the night, unable to see us, but hearing the words of a prophet coming from the heavens. Soon we were found, beaten, stripped, searched and sent to jail. But Romero had the final word. This action shined a light on this future site of the SOA and sowed a seed that later blossomed into the SOA Watch movement.
I hope that you will consider joining me on this Romero Legacy Delegation. In addition to participating in commemoration events for MonseÃ±or Romero and meeting with officials of the Salvadoran government, we will be learning about new initiatives and challenges of the FMLN-led government. We'll also be visiting communities who are standing up for justice against the environmental ravages of corporate mining and hearing from groups who are building creative alternatives to gangs. We will visit many sacred sites, such as the home of Romero, the four US churchwomen, the six Jesuit priests all murdered by SOA graduates in the 1980's.
If you would like to apply for the delegation you may click here for an application form. If you have further questions, feel free to contact our Latin America Liaison Lisa Sullivan by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Delegation co-coordinator Mary Anne Perrone by phone at 734-996-9390
It would be a privilege to share this sacred journey with you.
Father Roy Bourgeois