Yesterday someone took shots at a friend and pastor. The Rt. Rev. Martín Barahona, Anglican Bishop of El Salvador was the victim of the violence which plagues his country. Thankfully the would-be-killer’s bullets missed the Bishop. Sadly his driver Francisco is in the hospital.
Shots fired at a Bishop resound specifically this week. On Saturday I will make my fifth pilgrimage to the country of El Salvador, and on Wednesday March 24 the Church will mark the 30th anniversary of the martyrdom of Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero. Romero dared to demand that the repression of the poor cease. From the pulpit, and in ministry with the people, he declared that Jesus and the Church stood with the oppressed. On March 24, 1980, Romero was celebrating Eucharist at the little hospital chapel near his house when he was gunned down. 30 years later violence has threatened another pastor.
A few years ago, I happened to be in the country for the 15th anniversary of Bishop Barahona’s installation as Bishop. The affair was simple: a mass in the small church that serves as a cathedral. The extra wine was not in an expensive silver flagon, but a reused plastic coke bottle. The highlight was a slideshow showing the Bishop standing with people from every imaginable walk of life. The poor, gang bosses, politicians, diplomats, youth. The heads of El Salvador’s Catholic and Lutheran Churches were in the congregation, along with the local rabbi and Imam. Bishop Barahona is not one for grand declarations, but his pastoring is prophetic. The community touched by his ministry defies every imaginable boundary.
Today’s violence seems to be random. I spent a good deal of the afternoon on the phone speaking with people in El Salvador. No plot has been uncovered. There were no threatening letters, and no pattern of violence. The reality is that violence is part of the social fabric of El Salvador. As my friend Amy said today, “This is a country with a lot of wounds.” The civil war ended 18 years ago, but El Salvador still suffers from the effects, a country working out its PTSD. Luckily the violence almost never affects visitors from North America, and the Church in El Salvador takes every possible precaution to care for us.
Romero once said:
“I will not tire of declaring that if we really want an effective
end to violence we must remove the violence that lies at the root
of all violence: structural violence, social injustice, exclusion
of citizens from the management of the country, repression. All
this is what constitutes the primal cause, from which the rest
flows naturally.” -Archbishop Oscar Romero
So we will go to El Salvador. We will remember Romero and stand with our brother Martín. We do so because Jesus stood, and calls his followers to stand together, against the systemic violence of our world.