Salvadorans Discuss Violent History and Hope for Peace

No ‘tengo esperanza ‘, ‘I don’t have hope’ responded a 77 year-old Salvadoran woman to a question of about her hopes for the future of El Salvador.  An ex-advocate and activist, Berta started a women’s organization in hopes for change after the Civil War here in El Salvador - but it no longer exists. She shares similar hopeless sentiments with others in El Salvador, sentiments that are products of broken lives, broken hearts, and broken people.  Berta has lived through losing three close family members including her husband, her daughter and her son who all died fighting against injustice. She shared her story to an assembly of students and volunteers here at Centro de Inercambio and Solidaridad (CIS). Her speech was contrasting highlight of the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Peace Accords, which took place in January 16, 1992, marking the end of 12 years of armed conflict.

On a national level, another event taking place in memory of the signing of the Peace Accords 20th anniversary was an apology given by Mauricio Funes, the President of El Salvador, on behalf of the Nation for the massacre of Mozote (a municipality of the department of Morazon), which occurred in 1981.  An  apology didn’t seem to suffice for many brutally killed, including 140 children.  The Civil War may have ended, but the people of El Salvador, Mozote, and individuals like Berta, are still hurting. They are still looking for peace.

Twenty years removed from the signing of the Peace Accords, a younger generation and I, discuss the idea of peace in the English and Social justice class I facilitate at CIS.  Many of the youth here lack understanding of their history even though it is recent in El Salvador’s past. The Massacre of Mozote has only just begun to be publicized this year. This generation, though sheltered from the past, recognizes an unrest that remains in El Salvador due to human rights abuses, inequalities, economic instability, gangs, and the highest violence rate in all of Central America. Not much seems to have changed in regards to peace for this country.  ‘The Peace Accords are just some good ideas on paper, we continue to fight many injustices here in El Salvador, we are still at war’, declared a student who shared a similar disposition with Berta. After 5 months here I have also felt an overwhelming sense of hopelessness at times, and  have struggled with the idea of peace as a reality in El Salvador. In moments of complete doubt and  attitudes of indifference or apathy,  I remind myself, I know it’s possible.  I hold fast to the biblical education I have received. Jesus offers an alternative to this hopelessness, not only for his historical moment but for all historical moments, like this one today for El Salvador. Jesus was someone that lived out peaceful solutions of non-violence, equity and right relationships. I recognize there are many obstacles, and that peace is not a one time event, rather a process, a process we all must be involved in and strive for. The students are right, peace cannot be achieved by putting hope in a list of reform policies on a piece of paper. Peace can be achieved through people. We ended our class brainstorming ideas of how to make reparation and peace practical in our lives through generosity and right relationships. They expressed hopes they had for their children, families, communities, and their country. I hoped with them.  I hoped Berta will live to see a better El Salvador. I hope our discussion will be seeds for change. And, I hope, my words don’t just remain as hopes on paper as well. I hope.

Written by: Natalie Musche