Five members of the Fordham community were in El Salvador this weekend to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the murder of six Jesuit priests and two citizens at the University of Central America (UCA).
Fordham College at Rose Hill juniors Craig Small and Alexandra DeBlock, and FCRH seniors Sarika Mathur and Stephen McGowan, joined Melissa Alvarenga, associate coordinator for service learning at Fordham’s Dorothy Day Center for Service and Justice, for a four-day event on Nov. 13-16 on the UCA campus in San Salvador.
The event drew hundreds of international visitors from universities, faith communities and grassroots organizations to honor the six Jesuit martyrs as well as the tens of thousands of civilians who died during the civil wars in El Salvador in the 1980s and 1990s.
In the early morning of Nov. 16, 1989, Ignacio Ellacuria, S.J., Segundo Montes, S.J., Ignacio Martin-Baro, S.J., Joaquin Lopez y Lopez, S.J., Juan Ramon Moreno, S.J., and Amado Lopez, S.J., were shot to death when members of the Salvadoran military entered their residence at the UCA in San Salvador. Their housekeeper and her daughter were also killed while they slept. The Jesuits were considered to be “subversives” by the Salvadoran government for their outspokenness and activism against the policies which oppressed the country’s poor.
“We [traveled]there to remember the martyrs as well as that point in history, and to share the experiences with other members of the Fordham community when we return,” said Alvarenga, whose family comes from El Salvador. “We are very fortunate to have university wide support, including the support of Father McShane.”
The delegation was sponsored by Fordham’s Office of Mission and Ministry. Funding for the trip was raised through donations from the Fordham community.
The Association of Jesuit Schools and Universities (AJCU) has encouraged each of the 28 American Jesuit universities to send delegates. It sponsored two of the UCA events – a reception in honor of Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Ma.) and a breakfast for all U.S. delegations.
The Fordham delegation hopes to raise awareness about social injustices and to discuss Jesuit education as “justice education,” noted Alvarenga.
The Jesuits were six of an estimated 70,000 victims who died in El Salvador’s civil war. Their death brought international attention to the atrocities of the Salvadorian Government and eventually led to negotiations to end the fighting.