Today marks the 29th anniversary of the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero. It is interesting to note that on February 17, 1980, Romero wrote to President Jimmy Carter making the following appeal: “Prohibit all U.S. military assistance to the Salvadoran government. Guarantee that the US government will not intervene, directly or indirectly, by military, economic, diplomatic, or other pressures, to influence the direction of the destiny of the Salvadoran people.” A little over a month later Romero was shot and killed by an assassin while he celebrated the Eucharist. In 1993, the UN Truth Commission Report established that Major Roberto D’Aubuisson, a graduate of the School of the Americas (Assassins), ordered Romero’s assassination.
As we concluded the vigil today at the White House for the “100 Days Campaign to Close Guantanamo,” I offered the following words of Archbishop Romero: “My life has been threatened many times. I have to confess that as a Christian, I do not believe in death without resurrection. if they kill me, I will rise again in the Salvadoran people…As a shepherd, I am obliged to by divine law to give my life for those I love, for the entire Salvadoran people, including those Salvadorans who threaten to assassinate me. If they should go as far as to carry out their threats, I want you to know that I now offer my blood to god for justice and the resurrection of El Salvador…My death will be for the liberation of my people and a testimony of hope for the future.A bishop will die, but the church of God, which is the people, will never perish.”
I also read an excerpt taken from Romero’s homily at the Cathedral in San Salvador, the day before he was murdered: “I would like to appeal in a special way to the men of the Army, and in particular to the troops of the National Guard, the Police, and the garrisons. Brothers, you belong to our own people. You kill your own brother peasants; and in the face of an order to kill that is given by a man, the law of God should prevail that says: “Do not kill!” No soldier is obliged to obey an order counter to the law of God. No one has to comply with an immoral law. It is time now that you recover your conscience and obey its dictates rather than the command of sin.
The Church, the defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of the dignity of the human person, cannot remain silent before so much abomination. We want the government to seriously consider that reforms mean nothing when they come bathed in so much blood. Therefore, in the name of God, and in the name of this long-suffering people, whose laments rise to heaven every day more tumultuous, I beseech you, I beg you, I command you in the name of God: “Cease the repression!”
Romero’s plea to the Salvadoran military, it seems to me, can be expanded as an appeal to all soldiers and people worldwide. If we truly recognize God as creator of us all, then we should see each person as a child of God and as a brother and sister. Thus, we can make this plea to US government officials, soldiers, intelligence agents and military contractors, including those stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo: “Brothers and sisters, you belong to God’s global family, the human family. You kill and torture your own bothers and sisters. In the face of an order to kill and torture that is given by a man, the law of God prevails that says: “Love one another” and “do not kill.” No one is obliged to obey an order counter to the law of God. No one has to comply with an immoral law. It is time now that you recover your conscience and obey its dictates rather than the command of sin. Therefore, in the name of the victims of war, torture and military occupation, in the name of God: “Cease the warmaking, cease the torture, cease the killing, cease the repression!”
Let us pray and work for an immediate end to US warmaking and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Let us pray and work for the immediate closing of Guantanamo where some 45 prisoners are presently on a hunger-strike, 25 of whom are on a critical list. Let us pray and work for the immediate closing of Bagram US Air Base in Afghanistan where over 600 prisoners are being held without any rights and subject to brutal treatment and coercive interrogation.
Let us pray and work for an end to all US military intervention everywhere.
Let us pray and work for an end to US military assistance and training to countries that repress and kill, including Israel and Colombia.
Let us pray and work for the immediate disarmament and abolition of all nuclear weapons and every other kind of weapon, on earth and in space. Let us pray and work for the creation of the Beloved Community, where all life and creation is revered as sacred. Oscar Romero, pray for us! Oscar Romero–Presente!!!
With love and gratitude, Art Laffin