- December 1st, 2015 -
4 in the morning at Boston’s Logan Airport may seem like an odd time and place to reflect on gratitude and significance of what has come to be known as “Giving Tuesday” but as I head out of the country again it seems completely apropos.
I am on my way to El Salvador for the December 2nd commemoration ceremonies and related IPM activities held in conjunction with the 35th Anniversary of the martyrdom of four North American Churchwomen—Maura Clark, Jean Donovan, Ita Ford, and Dorothy Kazel—murdered by a Salvadoran junta that was backed with significant financial and logistical support from the USA.
Despite the profound tragedy of their murder, the families of the Dorothy, Ita, Jean, and Maura quickly learned, their sacrifice was not in vein. Their deaths shed new light on the United States’ longstanding policy of backing dictatorial regimes across Latin America at the expense of representative democracy and human rights. These were not “gun-toting” Sisters as Alexander Haig proclaimed on behalf of incoming the Reagan Administration. Quite the contrary: they were deeply spiritual women who chose to say in El Salvador even after the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero knowing that their lives were at risk but confident that this was a risk their faith required of them—to be willing to lay down their lives for their friends.
While the deaths of four North American women—just as the martyrdom of six Jesuits their housekeeper and her daughter nine years later—should not overshadow the more than 75,000 Salvadoran lives lost during the 80’s, they both drew heightened international attention to the wars carried out in our name.
Moreover, they galvanized the actions of IPM and so may other organizations and individuals whose sense of solidarity was honed during that tumultuous decade. Many of us—I know I was one of those—found that our faith was in direct conflict with US Foreign Policy as we sought to shape and effective and integral response to the cry of the people rising up throughout our hemisphere.
A vivid mural depicting their sacrifice in art and poetry is being reinstalled in Zaragoza this month through the support of IPM and our local Partners as a reminder that while the vast majority of us will never be martyred, each of us is called to live out our role in the world in a uniquely transformative way.
For me, reading the writings and biographies of the martyred churchwoman, particularly Dorothy and Jean from my hometown Cleveland’s Diocesan mission team, were watershed moments. Thirty-five years later, their witness continues to inspire thousands of us who could imagine ourselves in their shoes—murdered simply for siding with those on the margins of our societies.
Today, the sacrifice of these four remarkable women, Oscar Romero, and all the Salvadoran martyrs continues to inspire a new generation of Latin and North American citizens who know that the struggle for justice and peace continues.
In Armenia, El Zaite, Mejicanos, Zaragoza and countless other places, IPM Partners and friends live out the witness of Dorothy, Ita, Jean, and Maura in a manner that reflects their passion for life and their commitment to accompany the poorest of the poor in their quest for liberation.
For this I continue to be grateful and remain inspired. For the hundreds of you who have travelled with IPM to this remarkable country, I know the sense of inspiration and gratitude is the same. Knowing that more than four decades since our founding, IPM continues to embody accompaniment, solidarity, and trust with our Salvadoran Partners is a gift for which we all should be deeply thankful.
There are countless organizations we can support this Giving Tuesday and many who join with IPM in the important work of cultivating justice, peace, and hope in El Salvador, India, Kenya, Nepal, Nicaragua, and so many other countries around the world.
Please know how grateful we are for your work with us as IPM”s continues to immerse, inspire, and invest in all those who seek to live out our common Abrahamic call to act justly, love mercifully, and walk humbly with our God.
Joseph F. Cistone
December 1, 2015