Tony Sheen has returned from his pilgrimage to El Salvador! He writes:
I have just returned to England and have been inspired by many people we have met. El Salvador is a beautiful country with warm friendly people.
The horrors of the civil war in the 1980s and the atrocities of the death squads has scarred a generation. Many of the army perpetrators guilty of planning these murders have yet to be brought to justice. I have heard personal testimonies from people who witnessed these events and visited sacred places where many of our twentieth century Christian martyrs, including Oscar Romero, were murdered. El Salvador still has huge inequalities between rich and poor. Most of the country’s wealth is owned by approximately five rich families.
I have been challenged to look at the world and the injustices and reflect on my own reality in line with the gospel. To engage in a “see, judge and act theology.” I live in the world as a committed Catholic and Christian. However, as someone who could afford to pay £3000 for two places on the Romero Trust Pilgrimage, am I closer to the rich or the poor in the world in my lifestyle? (Even if our morning showers were cold!)
However, there are many signs of hope for the future. It would be wonderful to meet some inspiring people and projects supported by both the Romero Trust and CAFOD. People living the gospel and working alongside the poor. People such as Sister Cruz and the wonderful project of hope “Fe Algeria Education programme”, run by the Poor Clare sisters in a very violent area called La Chacra.
The project is working with parents who have experienced years of violence and murder within their community. The school provides a safe place for the children to learn, away from the violent streets.
I will never forget Anna Julio, an elderly grandmother from the community who struggled to walk but gave an emotional speech saying:
“Thank you for your support. I pray to God it will continue. Our people are poor, but very hardworking. We are so moved that there are people in the world like you who care. We know you are not rich but give from what you have and that you do not have money spare. Thank you.”
The Poor Clare Sisters’ project is financially supported by CAFOD and The Romero Trust.
During my visit, I was lucky enough to meet the CAFOD connect 2 community in Puentecitos, who pray for CAFOD supporters they met in England every Thursday! I recommend parishes think about joining a community in the developing world through Connect2. To find out more, go to http://www.cafod.org.uk/Fundraise/Fundraising-ideas/Connect2.
I have seen some of the chickens in a poor community near Puentecitos, which were funded through CAFOD world gifts and help provide eggs for the community run bakery. I encourage you to buy CAFOD world gifts this Christmas and recommend them to others too. See http://www.cafod.org.uk/Fundraise/Fundraising-ideas/World-Gifts.
There are also challenges within the Church on how they address the unexplained closure of the Human Rights Office. I will support any initiatives from the Romero Trust to ensure the Church is a champion for human rights in El Salvador. Keep up to date with their work at http://www.romerotrust.org.uk/.
I look forward to the official canonisation of Oscar Romero and the Martyrs of El Salvador!
Read all of Tony’s diary of his pilgrimage to El Salvador: https://cafodwestminster.wordpress.com/tag/tonypilgrimage/.