Friday 24 March 2017

International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims

On 21 December 2010, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 24 March as the International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims.

The purpose of the Day is to:

- Honour the memory of victims of gross and systematic human rights violations and promote the importance of the right to truth and justice;
- Pay tribute to those who have devoted their lives to, and lost their lives in, the struggle to promote and protect human rights for all;
- Recognize, in particular, the important work and values of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, of El Salvador, who was assasinated on 24 March 1980, after denouncing violations of the human rights of the most vulnerable populations and defending the principles of protecting lives, promoting human dignity and opposition to all forms of violence. (literally via)

Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez (1917-1980) was the fourth Archbishop of San Salvador. He spoke out "against poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture" and was assassinated while offering Mass in the chapel of a cancer hospital in 1980 - one year after the Revolutionary Government Junta came to power. A sniper from a right-wing death squad shot him in the heart. Three years before, his friend Rutilio Grande, a Jesuit priest who created self-reliance groups among the poor, was assassinated (via and via).
"When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead I thought, 'If they have killed him for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path'". Oscar Romero
Romero was the "voice of those witout voice", the "most outspoken voice against the death squad slaughter", a priest who told the poor to seek justice in this world and not to wait for the next. His assassination plunged El Salvador into a civil war that left 80.000 dead and 8.000 disappeared. Little was done to investigate his murder, details went to grave with him and thousands of others who were killed (via and via).
"For me, though, Archbishop Oscar Romero is not just the greatest bishop in Christian history, he is one of the greatest human beings in history — right up there with the likes of Jeremiah and Isaiah, Francis and Clare, Mahatma Gandhi and Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, Thich Nhat Hanh and Archbishop Tutu. Oscar Romero is the epitome of what it means to be a Christian — a prophet of peace, justice and nonviolence.
And that’s precisely the problem. That’s why he was killed. That’s why so many church authorities ignore him, resent him, even hate him." John Dear
In 2015, Pope Francis declared Romero a martyr for his faith (via). What Óscar Romero and Pope Francis very much have in common is the philosophy of liberation theology which says that the Gospel contains a preference for the poor and that the Church has the duty to work for political, economic and spiritual change. This theology is not appreciated by conservatives in the Catholic Church who regarded the pro-poor movement as a Marxist Trojan horse and spent more than three decades blocking Romero's path to sainthood (via).
"For centuries, the Church had been telling the poor that their sufferings were God’s will, but now young priests were coming to rural areas to tell them that an unjust political and economic system, not God, was to blame for their miserable condition. God wanted them to live decent lives in this world, before they went to Heaven. The church was there to help them. It was a radical change, a revolution. The poor now had religious support to organize and defend themselves against the landowners, the oligarchy, the wealthiest people in one of the most unequal regions in the world, and against their repressive military apparatus." Carlos Dada
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photographs via and via