On International Day of the Disappeared, CAFOD’s Clare Dixon shares the story of people who worked at the height of the conflict in El Salvador to make sure people killed by death squads did not just disappear without a trace. Sadly, some of the details of this story are distressing.
The first time I visited El Salvador in 1981 the country was plunged in a brutal civil war. Thousands of ordinary men and women were being targeted by the army and death squads, just for demanding their basic human rights, a decent wage, and freedom of speech. Nobody ventured out after dark for fear of being arrested or just snatched off the streets and I felt an overwhelming sense of fear and dread.
Archbishop Romero, the “voice of the voiceless” who had espoused and defended the cause of the poor and oppressed, had been shot dead as he said Mass in 1980. A year later I was visiting El Salvador to meet with members of his Archdiocese who, with the support of CAFOD, had set up a human rights office. Its task was to provide legal aid to help and comfort the countless victims of violence who had nowhere else to turn when their loved ones had “disappeared” after being captured by the death squads.
Isabel Marsh, who is currently on placement at St Cassian’s Centre, reflects on her time in El Salvador before she embarks on her fundraising journey 0 the Colchester half marathon.
Less than 12 hours after arriving in El Salvador, our group set off for the University of Central America (UCA) to meet with one of CAFOD’s partners. The UCA is a private university, meaning they are able to charge fees for students (but there are several scholarships and bursaries available) and are not reliant on government funding. This has meant the University has more autonomy and does not need to follow the views of the government, providing it with an independent and non-biased voice.
We were led to the Social Outreach Vice-Rectorate, for our meeting with Omar Serrano, the Vice-Rector. We spent the morning with Omar and his colleague Eduardo. Omar shared with us about El Salvador – its history; politics; society and social norms and economy.
CAFOD volunteer, Aleks Adamczyk, shares about the time she spent with the Mary Barreda Association in Nicaragua. Aleks is currently completing the Step into the Gap programme at St Mary’s Academy Blackpool.
How did the torture and killing of a married couple lead to eight thousand Nicaraguan children, teenagers and women being helped every year to stay safe, free from violence and exploitation?
Inspired by Mary Barreda and her husband Felipe, who during their lives responded to God’s call to serve the most vulnerable people in their community, the Mary Barreda Association was founded almost 30 years ago by three women who have carried on this legacy.
CAFOD Step into the Gap volunteer Ciara Hogan shares her experiences of arriving in El Salvador, meeting CAFOD’s partners and seeing inspiring, creative projects.
Our first few days in Central America have been absolutely incredible. In the short time we’ve been here we have already experienced so many different people and places, each giving us so much to think about and reflect on.
Some of our Connect2 Brazil friends look back on 2017 and share how they are preparing for Christmas in their communities.
News from our partner MDF and the community of St. Joseph the Worker Pastoral Area
Jenilda – Vila Prudente Cultural Centre in the St Joseph the Worker Pastoral Area
“At the Vila Prudente Cultural Centre (CCVP) this year we organised different workshops with the children. Each month we had a different area of focus. From solidarity, to the family, the environment, which included a visit to the recycling cooperative. We worked on children’s rights and empowerment, Black History month against racism and discrimination, and in December we will celebrate the arrival of baby Jesus with a children’s concert.
Our Connect2 Brazil narrator Neti has worked tirelessly for 10 years to help the occupants of Maua to demand their right to decent housing. Now she needs your help.
Hello CAFOD friends. I am Neti. I visited some of you in the past. I would like to ask you to pray for all of us here in the Mauá Community. We are going through some really tough times; our rights are being violated. We in the Mauá community, have spent 10 years living in this building which we have cleaned, looked after and made a home for 237 families. For years, we have been negotiating for the acquisition of this building for social housing for an affordable rent. Now we are at risk of eviction. We have not been offered an alternative. We will have to leave our homes and live in the street. I am counting on you and your prayers.”