Honouring the Martyrs of El Salvador (1980 – 1991)

Fr Ciarán O’Nualláin OFM shares the powerful testimonies of parish catechists killed during the civil war in El Salvador along with his own experiences.

Aid to the Church in Need – MIRROR

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We have all heard of the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero; what is not so well known is the martyrdom of thousands of simple peasants, mothers and fathers of families, rural
workers and catechists who were vilified and murdered on account of their faith between 1980 and 1991.

The Franciscans of the province of Central America are gathering testimonies about the martyrs of the civil war there.

In order to gather, examine and evaluate the many hundreds of accounts, the Franciscans
had to establish a special centre in 2004. We are supporting its work with a contribution. Time is pressing, however, as the work has to be completed while the widows, children and friends of these
martyrs are still with us.

The words of these martyrs bear testimony to their love of Christ.  Shortly before her death, Gumercinda Chicas said to her killers,

‘God will forgive you for what you are doing to us. For we are innocent, and you do not know
what you are doing.’

As for young Julio Hernandez Barahona, he prayed:

‘Father, into your hands I commend my life. Do with me what you will.’

To his mother he said

‘Mama, I am not afraid. I am ready.’

And the catechist Ana Carmen Sanchez was also fully conscious of the danger:

‘I will not hide the Bible; it is the word of God, and if they come and
kill me because of it, then I will be dying in a just cause. Christ himself died for the
truth.’

Similarly, for Rufino Ramirez Hernandez it was quite clear:

‘Even if they kill me, they won’t find any weapons on me. My only weapon is the Bible.’

Equally steadfast was Luis Umana Najarro:

‘The Lord knows what I am doing. I am working with Caritas, taking food to the poor, proclaiming the Gospel, teaching the Word of God in the parishes. If they regard that as a crime, then let them think so. But I will not give up this work on that account, as long as I live.’

And again, Armando Oscar Flores has a lesson for us all when he says,

‘There is a time for everything. There is a time to laugh, to weep, to sing. So there is no
room for excuses when it is time to follow the Lord.’

Now is the time to make the witness of these disciples of Christ visible and fruitful.

Category: Justice
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Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need is a registered charity dedicated to the support of persecuted and poverty-stricken Christians.

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