Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Weekender: Martyrs of El Salvador

“The Weekender” is our feature where every weekend we hope to highlight a short film, movie or documentary pertaining to the Americas.

On March 23rd the late Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero was beatified during an official ceremony attended by some 260,000 people in San Salvador. The outspoken human rights defender was murdered in March 1980 while officiating mass at a military hospital. Sadly, Romero wasn’t the only religious figure killed on the cusp of El Salvador’s civil war.

Nearly six months after Romero’s death four U.S. churchwomen – nuns Ita Ford, Maura Clarke, Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan – were brutally raped, tortured and murdered by National Guard soldiers allegedly on orders from their superiors. Much like the aftermath of the death of Romero, the killed women were slandered and labeled as communist sympathizers and revolutionaries.  They also shared another unfortunate parallel in that the masterminds behind their deaths have yet to be brought to justice.  Yet while a strong campaign has advocated sainthood for Romero no such push for canonization is behind the murdered nuns and lay worker. National Catholic Reporter columnist Heidi Schlumpf wrote last February that this should not be the case:
The Catholic Church's process for declaring someone is a saint can be costly and requires support from an organized group, most often a religious order -- which explains why so many founders and foundresses have been canonized over the centuries. It also explains why the church has so few lay saints.
But the lack of an official stamp of sainthood has not stopped Catholics from honoring the four churchwomen of El Salvador. Books have been written about them, those involved in justice work pray for their intercession, and young Catholics already choose their names as their confirmation names.
Below the page break is a November 2014 video from The New York Times’ Retro Report series that looked at the horrible murderers of Ford, Clarke, Kazel and Donovan. The analysis provides more details behind their deaths, the role played by the U.S. government to defend the Salvadoran military and the cover-up by officials from the Central American country.

(Note: the video may be Not Safe for Work due to several strong scenes of victims of violence).

Prologue: a U.S. immigration appeals court ruled last March that former Salvadoran defense minister Gen. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova can be deported since he “affirmatively and knowingly shielded subordinates from the consequences of their acts and promoted a culture of tolerance for human rights abuses.” Vides Casanova was sent back to El Salvador last month where he faces no warrant for his arrest and no restrictions on his movements.

YouTube Source – The New York Times

Online Sources – Fox News Latino, euronews, The New York Times, CNN

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