26th anniversary of the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador

On Monday, the world commemorated the 26th anniversary of the murders of six Jesuit priests and their housekeeper and her daughter at the UCA in San Salvador. The murders were ordered by the Salvadoran high command in response to an offensive launched by the FMLN earlier in the month. The Jesuits were not the only pro-peace advocates targeted by the government in November but their deaths shocked the world, even many of those who had been sympathetic to the military and Salvadoran government.

Reflections on the Martyrs from Jesuits provides some details as to how their deaths affected younger Jesuits in-training in 1989. One Jesuit who I spoke to here at Scranton and who was in Rome at the time retold a story about how several of the Jesuits around him in the Vatican assumed that the Jesuits were murdered by the FMLN. They just had no clue as to the reality of El Salvador at that time.

I remember sitting in my guidance counselor's office at Regis in NYC when I first heard the news of the Jesuits' deaths. In many ways, it was a life changing moment for me. Their deaths, as well as that of Sr. Maura Clarke who was from my neighborhood, aroused my interest in El Salvador and Central America. I learned more about the country during my remaining years of high school and then in college at Fairfield.

Even then, I chose to study abroad in Argentina during my junior year. I loved learning about and traveling in Latin America. Fortunately, for me, I was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study in El Salvador following graduation from Fairfield in 1996. And the rest is somewhat history.

I am giving a talk this afternoon on the University of Scranton campus entitled "IDPs, Asylees, Refugees, Migrants: What's the Difference?" Tomorrow I have telephonic testimony in an asylum case related to an individual who fled El Salvador. I am reminded of how many Salvadorans and Guatemalans were denied asylum in the US during the 1980s because of politics. They fled governments we were supporting so therefore it would look bad on our country if we then granted them asylum in large numbers. On the other hand, if you came from Nicaragua the threshold for asylum was much lower. We just didn't like their government and anything we could do to make them look even worse was okay with us. Then on Friday, I'll be discussing recent developments in Central America as Freedom House prepares its next Freedom in the World Report.

Finally, I just watched an advance copy of Blood in the Backyard. The film should be available next year and I highly recommend it.