The Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits have seen many tragedies as well as successes. One of their most recent tragedies occurred in Central America. Six Jesuit priests along with other staff members were killed, these killings were caused by the governments of more than one country.
The Jesuit order was started by St. Ignatious Loyola. He worked as a mercenary but was forced into bed when a cannonball shattered the bone in his leg. After a long recovery he started the order of the Jesuits. The Jesuits believe in finding God in all things.
In 1540 Pope Paul II made the Jesuits an actual order in the Christian religion. This new order became famous for blending into the society they are trying to convert. This is a dangerous thing to do. They travel into a potentially dangerous area unarmed. They bring the tools they need to convert the people and pray for the best.
This does not always work though. There have been many martyrs over the years, the most recent being in Central America in the small country of San Salvador. The country was in the middle of a bloody civil war. It began in the late 1970 s when a radical organization related to guerrilla movements came to power.
In 1980 Archbishop Oscar Romero was shot at the altar. He voiced dislike towards the policies of government in El Salvador. After he became archbishop his good friend Fr. Rutillo Grande, who taught liberation theology, was murdered by a military death-squad. The death-squad was under control of the El Salvadorian Government. This affected his preaching. In the beginning he was not backed by anyone in words, not even the church, but was followed nationwide by the poor of San Salvador.
His fight for human rights ended up crossing borders and was heard internationally. He is quoted as saying Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. 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. It is right and it is duty. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. This all posed as a threat to the government. On March 24, 1980 Romero was celebrating mass. While he was preparing the Eucharist he was shot in the chest, killing him instantly. Romero is claimed as yet another Jesuit Martyr.
This set El Salvador into a full-scale civil war. During this civil war the more than 70,000 Salvadorians were killed. In March of 1988 after numerous reforms the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance, known as ARENA, came to power. Lead by Alfredo Christiani it won easily, but only forty-seven percent of the voters turned out. This man was in charge for murdering the six Jesuit priests, their maid and her daughter in 1989. The country, at the time, was in a civil war.
The men who killed Oscar Romero and the soldiers involved in the killings of six priests graduated from The School of Americas. The school is funded by the United States to teach the people to defend themselves. This school has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers. Many of whom are involved in drug trade and killing of innocent people. The school itself is located in the United States in Georgia. There are numerous sites on the Internet protesting this school. These sites have copies of manuals in which they show that the school teaches counter insurgence, drug busting and self-defense. These lessons have been used to go against government in various scandals. These scandals include the killing of over nine-hundred civilians in December of 1981. This attack was not an accident but planned out much like the My Lai slaughter in Vietnam by American soldiers. The US was accused of trying to cover up the 1981 killing but failed.
There reason for trying to cover up the killings is that groups that make the attempt to shut down The School of the Americas would have sound basis for its closing. The Government still insists that there is no wrong doings in training soldiers.
The most current martyrs of El Salvador happened in the University of Central America. The names of the martyrs were Ignacio Ellacuria, Segundo Montes, Ignacio Martin-Baro, Joaquin Lopez, Juan Ramon Moreno and Amando Lopez. Their housekeeper, Elba Ramos, and her daughter Celia Marisela Ramos, were murdered as well. The reason given for their killing was that they were speaking out against the oppressive socioeconomic structure of the Salvadorian society. The killings were inhumane. Some of the victims were raped and tortured before the killing.
The Jesuits who were killed were the heads of the University of Central America. Their goal was obviously to teach the people of San Salvador but they were teaching liberation theology. Liberation Theology is the teaching of a group of people to free themselves without violence. Liberation theology fights by doing things like protesting, boycotts and moving away from the oppressors. This was a major threat to the leaders of the newly established government. They are already fighting against guerrillas, they do not want ideas of rebellion in the minds of the peasants. Among these martyrs there were six other schools which contained documents on liberation theology. The other schools were also searched. There was no one killed in the intrusion.
Two men were found guilty in the killings of the Jesuits. Throughout the trial the military threatened the investigators of the trial. Even though they were threatened, the five-member jury found Colonel Guillermo Alfredo Benavides Moreno guilty of ordering the deaths of the Jesuit priests. Lieutenant Yusshy Rene Mendoza Vallecillos was found guilty of Celina Mariceth Ramos, the housekeeper s daughter.
In addition to the two guilty verdicts there was also a number of innocent verdicts passed. The verdicts were passed to two other lieutenants and five soldiers.
Four of the soldiers actually admitted to carrying out the execution-style slayings. The fifth soldier, who deserted the military after the killing, was tried in absentia. This shows the weakness of the government system of the time.
The United States threatened the San Salvador government. They said that they would halt aid to El Salvador if President Alfredo Cristiani failed to bring the killers to justice, purge the army and security forces of those responsible for human rights abuses and to end the use of helicopter gunships and ground attack aircraft against residential neighborhoods. It was then suggested that the president was unable to control the death squads involved in the killings of innocent people.
This highly political case the killers were brought to a certain degree of justice. This whole thing boils down to the dangers of working in war torn countries. Even through the good nature of the Jesuits, they were killed in a large-scale political battle.
The Jesuits in El Salvador were at risk by even entering the war torn country, but they knew their goal and the risks involved. They increased the risk by teaching what they believed. They tried to free the oppressed and the government fought back with a violent quick attack. Archbishop Romero did not die in vain, his teachings were heard worldwide. He actually was nominated for a Nobel peace prize for his ideas on Liberation theology.
Arch Bishop Romero s death was a defamation of the Catholic Church, he was shot while celebrating mass, if a statement was meant to be made it was made then. The one shot that killed him was heard around the world, to paraphrase an old statement, caused a bloody civil war that had not been resolved until recently.
These deaths were all due to a lack of control of the government of El Salvador and the mistake of the training of rebels by the Unite states. They risked their lives for the better of the oppressed people. But either way you look at it, they wouldn t have to be there if the country was in control and in order.