Between 1980 and 1991, El Salvador was engulfed in a civil war in which thousands of civilians were killed, tortured, or suffered other severe human rights abuses. Among those that were routinely tortured and killed, often because of spurious allegations that they assisted leftist guerilla insurgents, were priests and nuns, lay church workers, union leaders, land reform workers and students. The Salvadoran military was often implicated in these actions.
On the evening of December 2, 1980, Sister Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan went to the airport near San Salvador, El Salvador to meet Sister Ita Ford and Sister Maura Clarke who were returning from Nicaragua, where they had attended a meeting of the Maryknoll Order. They were followed when they left the airport by National Guardsmen in the military jeep. They were stopped interrogated and then the men following orders sexually assaulted and killed them. Early in the morning of December 3, 1980, people from a nearby village found the bodies of the four churchwomen.
In 1980 before his assassination, Archbishop Oscar Romero founded Tutela Legal to give legal assistance to poor Salvadorans. Archbishop José Luis Escobar of San Salvador, the nation's capital, ordered the closure of Tutela Legal on Sept. 30 without notifying staff beforehand. The closure puts at risk the repository of testimony, documentation and photographs for some 50,000 crimes, including massacres, political killings and cases of torture and disappearances during the civil war that ended in 1994. Documentation of Romero's assassination in 1980 are among the records in the now-closed archive, as is the documentation of the 1989 murders of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter at José Simeón Cañas Central American University in San Salvador. (Source NCR, “Shuttering of Salvadoran legal aid office ‘especially worrisome”)
In December of each year it has been our tradition to pause and remember the courage of these women. On Friday, December 6 the Dominican Sisters of Houston, Maryknoll and Pax Christi will pause to remember the four churchwomen and the other women, men and children who were killed during the civil wars in El Salvador and other Central American countries. Nicolas Avelar will provide an update on current events including the upcoming presidential elections and the closure of the Human Rights Office.
Friday, December 6, 7 p.m.
Dominican Center for Spirituality
6501 Almeda Rd
Houston TX 77021