Today is the anniversary of the murder of 6 Jesuits, their housekeper and her 15 year old daughter at the University of Central America in San Salvador.
Ignacio Ellacuría, S.J., Ignacio Martín-Baró, S.J., Segundo Montes, S.J., Juan Ramón Moreno, S.J., Joaquín López y López, S.J., Amando López, S.J., Elba Ramos, and Celina Ramos were murdered after 20 armed men stormed the house between 2 and 3 a.m. on November 16, 1989. Four of the bodies were dragged outside the house as a witness and a warning to others of the sheer barbarity that had been unleashed upon the country. And as Joseph O’Hare, S.J., noted in a memorial mass, the 8 joined a host of other, less-publicized victims of the war:
We mourn not only for them, but for all the victims of this wasteful war that for more than 10 years has bled a tiny, tortured country. We mourn for the 70,000 people of El Salvador who have died in this war and the hundreds of thousands who have been displaced by the fighting.
These words from the 32nd General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, while addressed to Jesuits, seem to me to speak more broadly to all Christians, and certainly reflect the devotion of the martyrs of San Salvador:
“What is it to be a companion of Jesus today? It is to engage, under the standard of the cross, in the crucial struggle of our time: the struggle for faith and that struggle for justice which it includes. … Thus, the way to faith and the way to justice are inseparable ways. It is up this undivided road, this steep road, that the pilgrim church must travel and toil (“Jesuits Today.” Declaration on Jesuit Identity of the 32nd General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, 1975)
Struggles for that union of faith and justice take many forms, of course, in different places and times–the pilgrim church still toils up that steep road. And we do well to remember that we are accompanied by a cloud of witnesses, men and women whose persistence in speaking the truth have cost them their lives. So let us remember with gratitude and humility the lives of all whose persistence and courage and faith put them in the lead up that road, and let us pray for–and never forget–the countless innocents who get caught in the crossfire of the principalities and powers.