Local View: U.S. supported death, destruction in El Salvador
We awoke each morning to the sound of grinding corn; our host, a widow, was making her daily tortillas. I was reminded of the Lord's Prayer: "give us this day our daily bread."
My roommate and I slept on cots on the dirt floor of our host's newly constructed cinder-block house, built with funds from a European country after the devastation of the war. I was glad for the daylight so that I could see the cockroaches in the outhouse; otherwise, at night, in the dark, with no electricity, we feared sitting on one. From there, I would make my way to the back of the house to the only running water, an outdoor faucet, and pour a bucket of cool water over my head for my daily "shower."
I was part of a delegation from our Duluth congregation on a sister-parish visit to a village in El Salvador at the 18th anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romaro, who was gunned down by the military while conducting Mass. The bullet pierced his heart, and his blood mingled with the blood of Christ that spilled as he fell. We viewed the bullet hole in his priest's robe that still hangs in his small and modest apartment; he had refused the lavish home the wealthy establishment provided its archbishop. He spoke out for the poor and marginalized, and so they killed him.
We visited the site of the slaying of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter. The military dragged them from their beds in the night. A rose garden is planted in the ground that was soaked with their blood. Those priests had preached a gospel of liberation.
We visited the site of the shallow graves of the four American Catholic sisters who were brutally raped and murdered by the military. Those sisters had served the poor.
This was a time when the Church was the Church.
We prayed daily in the ruins of the church bombed by the military. We saw women and children with missing limbs, people who had happened upon buried landmines planted by the military. We surveyed dead fields the village once depended on for growing food, fields destroyed by chemicals and fire bombs from the military. We listened to the story of a woman who witnessed her mother strung up by her wrists by the military, her abdomen slashed open, and her fetus falling to the ground.
On our last day, we picnicked on a lovely bank of the Sumpul River, the site of a bloody massacre when the military came with helicopters and murdered 300 (some say 600) civilians who were attempting to cross the river to neighboring Honduras for refuge.
All this death and destruction was by a military our government supported with advisors and hundreds of millions of dollars.
My Lyft driver on the way to the airport in L.A. this past February had come from El Salvador with his family in the aftermath of the war. His grandparents had owned a farm there, and he and I shared stories of happy summers on our grandparents' farms while growing up. His family started a restaurant when they came to the United States.
President Donald Trump has suspended financial aid to El Salvador and neighboring countries because "they're not doing enough" to help their people and to prevent them from coming to the U.S. Perhaps if we were not in the business of death and destruction in other parts of the world, people like my Lyft driver might be happy to stay in their own countries.
The Rev. David Tryggestad of Duluth is a retired pastor.