To learn more about Salvadoran Pastors Ruth and Alex Orantes, and for information about contributing to support their ministries in El Salvador, please visit

Friday, March 30, 2007

Death of Maria Julia Hernandez, Salvadoran Human Rights Advocate

Almost immediately following our wonderful visit with Maria Silvia Guillen to learn about her work as a human rights attorney in El Salvador, we received news of the death of her friend and another leading Salvadoran figure in human rights advocacy -- Maria Julia Hernandez. As director of Tutela Legal, a human rights group sponsored by the Roman Catholic Church, Maria Julia Hernandez gathered evidence of massacres, interviewed survivors, and exposed abuses and atrocities committed by wartime death squads. She died this morning, Friday, March 30th, of a heart attack.

We received the following email this afternoon from Tara at SHARE:

I'm sorry to have to share the news with you today that Maria Julia Hernandez passed away early this morning. I don't know if CBC had ever met with Maria Julia, but I'm sure you know her story. And I'm thinking that Ron and Maria Julia may have been fellow SHARE board members in the late 1990's.

Tara also forwarded Maria Silvia's personal reflections about Maria Julia Hernandez:

Aqui estoy compartiendo con ustedes mi profundo sentimento de tristeza y de esperanza, pues nuestra querida MARIA JUILA HERNANDEZ, esa mujer ejemplar, tan cercana a Monsenor Romero, tan en el comino que el nos senalo, tan cercana al dolor y la pobreza de nuestra poblacion, fallecio hace unas horas; como era de esperarse, hasta en el momenta de su muerte, fue tan cercana a lo que ella creia, a lo que amaba; muere en el mes de Monsenor Romero, de Rutilio, de Rufina, de tantos y tantos acontecimientos fundamentals para la vida de las y los salvadorenos que creemos en la justicia, en la paz, en la reconciliacion. Ahora lo que nos queda, es sequir su ejemplo, tenerla siempre entre nosotras/os como la foraleza, la sabiduria y la nobleza que siempre fue; lo gue nos queda es seguir en nuestra lucha, con la tenacidad y la esperanza con la que ella trabajaba. (Maria Silvia Guillen / Directora de FESPAD)

For more, read the L.A. Times obituary, which quotes Maria Silvia Guillen as saying: "
[Maria Julia's] death is a huge loss for those of us who work in human rights and it leaves us with the continuing responsibility."

Important News from Shekina

We received the following email from Susy Fuentes on behalf of our friends at Shekina in Santa Ana.

Dearest Friends,

We hope our Good God has kept you all safe, healthy and happy. Wherever you are at this time, please receive warm greetings from your friends at Shekina.

Pastor Ruth asked to share with you some good news and some bad ones. The good one is that our Fifteen Anniversary is right behind the corner and we would love to celebrate it with all our friends and family. So you know that if you could make arrangements to physically join us, we will be very happy to have you here. We know that our hearts and minds are always together, but it will be nice to have you here, at your other home. You will receive an official invitation soon.

Now, Not all is happiness and celebration in our lives. We just experienced a terrible situation last weekend. Early on Saturday morning, some thieves broke into our church and stole our sound system. As you may recall and maybe some of you had seen it, we had to put some internal defenses on the windows because of this situation. Well, somehow this people found another way to get into the church building through the main entrance. Remember the "vitrales" (color glasses) on the main door. They broke them, cut the door and entered. Once there, they cut the locks and open the church. The security at the neighborhood called a lady that lives almost in front of the church and this lady called one of our members. So by 5.30am on Saturday, Pastor Ruth got there with the police but they could not find anything. We think it must have been a team working together because of all the things that they did to enter. Apparently they climbed the wall at the back and jumped into the church using a small water pump that we have there.

We felt so sad and frustrated for this because you all know our dreams. We do not have extra funds, all we are saving is to continue with our project. The equipment was a donation from two our members that are in the United State, working hard to support the church. Pastor Ruth talked to all of us on Sunday and tried to raise our spirits. She was right when she said that we should not feel anger for this people because it is the evil that is using them to put us down. We are not willing to let that happen. However, we must do something to protect our church. This is why, we would like to inform you that in order to do that we will need to use some of the funds that we already have for the community center to build a higher wall around the church with an electric fence on top. It does not sound right, because we want people to see us and feel welcome but we can not afford to keep loosing the gifts that our sisters and brothers provide us with their hard work. Some of these funds came from you, as you share our dreams and want to be part of it. Therefore, we consider that it is necessary that you know about this.

If we are able to protect the church, we could then concentrate in the other project. We thank our Lord for your constant support and care. We would like you to know that we have faith that this just a bump in the road that will not stop us. We will continue working hard toward the completion of the project.

God bless you all, please send our regards to your family and church members.

With all our love, in Jesus Christ...

Susy Fuentes
Shekina Baptist Church
Santa Ana, El Salvador

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Salvadoran Guest and Remembering Archbishop Romero

On the 27th anniversary of Archbishop Oscar Romero's martyrdom this past weekend, we were privileged to host Maria Silvia Guillen, a Salvadoran human rights attorney (more) , and Tara Carr-Lemke, director of SHARE's office in Washington DC, for a gathering of about 30 old and new friends from the Philadelphia area.

The evening was a great opportunity for networking with others who share a commitment to solidarity with the Salvadoran community. After sharing a meal, Maria Silvia offered reflections on Romero's enduring legacy and the continuing work for justice in El Salvador. She also told us about her busy schedule during this visit coordinated by the SHARE Foundation which included participation in the "Christian Peace Witness for Iraq" that took place in Washington last week, visits in congressional offices, meetings with Salvadoran community members in DC and New York, an appointment with Bob Edgar of the National Council of Churches, a meeting at the United Nations, and more. In Philadelphia, Maria Silvia spoke with several groups -- Latino/a law students at Villanova, students at the Lutheran Seminary, and a regional gathering of Franciscan sisters.

On Sunday morning at Central Baptist Church, three members of the upcoming youth delegation to El Salvador led the congregation in a litany of remembrance for Romero and a call to commitment to work for peace in our world. We also honored the memory of Rufina Amaya and celebrated her persistence in speaking truth and seeking justice.

Oscar Romero: A litany of remembrance and a call to commitment
(based on resources from the SHARE Foundation)

Leader: Oscar Romero looked into the faces of suffering people living in pervasive, extreme poverty in El Salvador and said, “In these faces we ought to recognize the suffering features of Christ, who questions us and challenges us.”

ALL: For the times we have closed our eyes to the faces of those who are suffering, for the times we refused to recognize the presence of the divine there calling to us, for our resistance to the challenges and questions they pose to us, we ask for mercy.

Leader: Romero has reminded us that we have “not always given full importance to what was really going on in the world.”

ALL: For the times that we have not given full importance to the conditions of our world, to injustice, to violence and its causes, for the times we have been distracted, too busy, indifferent, or uncaring, we ask for mercy.

Leader: Romero calls us to work for peace and justice. As he said, “Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all. Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity.”

ALL: For the times we prefer war to peace, for our failure to identify with the innocent victims on all sides of conflict, for the fear that keeps us from fully living peaceful lives in the face of the world’s many conflicts, we ask the mercy of our God.

Leader: Today, as in Archbishop Romero’s time, we are challenged to bear witness to peace in our world, ending the violence of wars that destroy lives, degrade the human person, and fuel hatred.

ALL: Loving Creator, look with mercy upon your people, for we are human and overwhelmed by the many difficult challenges we now face in our world. Help us to become instruments of peace in our world, to confront political violence and its causes, and to root out injustice and hatred. AMEN.

God's Politics: Evangelicals and the El Mozote Massacre

Ryan Beiler, web editor for Sojourners/Call to Renewal, has posted his reflections about Rufina Amaya and the El Mozote massacre. Here's an excerpt:

One detail that has always struck me about El Mozote is that the villagers had been told that because they were evangelicals - generally perceived as apolitical, and not liberation theology-inspired "subversivos" - they would be spared. That they were massacred anyway is a stark reminder that apolitical piety is no protection from the principalities and powers. Though innocent farmers, they were, in Guillermoprieto's words, "simply fodder in one of the last battles of the Cold War."

The lesson for Christians seeking to love our neighbors as ourselves is that we are inextricably linked to the policies and actions of our government, and are vulnerable to their consequences whether we choose to engage them or not. So, whether the issue is military aid to Latin America, the war in Iraq, or violence in our own neighborhoods, let us engage those powers, with Christ as our model of sacrificial love; rejecting both the violence of Zealots and the superficial public piety of Pharisees.

For the entire article, go to God's Politics, a blog by Jim Wallis and others. The site is sponsored by Beliefnet and Sojourners.

Thank you to Kristy for sharing this with us.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Sad News of Rufina Amaya's Death

Rufina Amaya, sole survivor of the infamous massacre at El Mozote in December 1981 and a woman who dared to speak about the atrocities committed against her people, died this week on March 6th.

The five Central Baptist women who traveled to El Salvador in May 2006 were privileged to meet Rufina and interview her in El Mozote. Photo by Linda Panetta 5/06.

There are numerous sources to learn more about her life, her courage, and her witness. See Mark Danner's 1993 article in the New Yorker magazine on-line at The Truth of El Mozote.