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On Sunday, November 16, Creighton University hosted a Salvadoran dinner and film to inform and honor the Jesuits martyred in 1989 during the war in El Salvador. Before the film, everyone was provided a homemade Salvadoran meal by a family who owns a local restaurant here in Omaha that consisted of pupusas and tamales. The film focused specifically on the six martyred Jesuits, the housekeeper and her daughter. The Jesuits saw their mission as converting Salvadorans to become Europeans Catholics, but upon arriving and experiencing El Salvador and the people they found a new mission: to unify faith in God with justice for the people. During this time of war, the church did its best to help and support the people. Unfortunately, the church suffered the same destiny as the poor.
Oscar Romero, a well-known bishop of the Catholic Church in El Salvador who was assassinated while giving mass, said earlier in his life that he did not fear death. He believed that if he died, he would be resurrected in the people. It takes a brave person to stay in a position of authority in the face of danger. The same goes for the martyred Jesuits. Many others fled and went into hiding when they heard that people were being killed, but these Jesuits held their ground. They had not done anything wrong and had nothing to hide, so they felt there was no need to leave. This is similar to Jean Donovan’s theory, an young American adult volunteer who was killed in El Salvador along with three Salvadoran nuns. She knew it was dangerous to go back to El Salvador, but she had to go back. She felt the need in her heart. In 1990, many Salvadoran students joined the military academy to help their country fight the communists, especially since the university was a definite target of the communists. They’d sing chants full of specific threats or “goals” such as, “We’re ready to kill heaps of terrorists.” Needless to say, peace wasn’t easy.
One point brought up in my psychology class was the fact that to punish people who kill people, we kill those people. It seems a bit backwards and odd. Some may justify this by saying that if you kill the killers, than they will no longer be. But then what does that make you? A killer? Or a peacemaker? A war was definitely not wanted by everyone. Though wars are hoped to end in peace, many realized that at the end of this war, there would no longer be suffering, but instead there would be something worse: death.
One student in particular named Espinoza came to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to be trained to fight in the conflict. The U.S. spent a total of $15 million under the Reagan Administration on the El Salvador war to help the people fight the guerrillas who were against the Salvadoran government. The methods these newly trained soldiers used on the FMLN guerrillas were cruel. They burned their already dead bodies and shouted phrases like “May Buddha keep you company in hell.” It is understood why these soldiers were so upset by these rebels, but they seemed to have been using just as cruel methods to fight back as had been used on them. Unfortunately, a group of these U.S. trained soldiers were responsible for death of the Jesuit martyrs. Espinoza was a witness to the murders of the Jesuits. He remembers the men being ordered to tell the Jesuits to come out onto the front lawn. They were then ordered to murder them. They were given specific orders as we find out that the Jesuits were purposefully shot in the head as if to shoot out the brain or the control center of these Jesuits, as Jon Cortina explained. Cortina was good friends with the Jesuit martyrs. In fact, he lived with them. By the grace of God, he was not murdered because he was out of town during this tragic event. Knowing this makes it all the more special to be a part of the Cortina Community, a group of students who strives to live in Cortina and the other Jesuits’ footsteps by giving back to the community through service and social justice. The two women, the housekeeper and her daughter, were also killed, perhaps so there would be no surviving witnesses. They were brutally shot and died holding each other on the kitchen floor.
After the film and during discussion, one audience member shared her vision with us. She asked us, “Where does our faith meet reality?” It is great to talk about all of these injustices, but what are we going to do about it? She believes that in all of the classes we take, we need to think about the poorest of the poor and what we can do to help them, even if it is just a math class. Though this vision would not be easy to accomplish, we have to remember that peace isn’t easy. It is an incredible thing to know that we still honor the UCA/Jesuit Martyrs in 2014.
As we near the 25th anniversary of the murder of the Jesuit/UCA Martyrs, there are numerous events on campus to inform students of history behind this tragic day. In the 1981 film titled El Salvador: Another Vietnam, I learned core similarities between the war in El Salvador and the Vietnam War. Because the film was made before 1989, the Jesuit martyrs were still alive, but this film provided a solid background and understanding of why the murder would occur in the near future. Dr. Tom Kelly also further explained concepts that were brought up in the film.
One key similarity between the two wars was the use of the counterinsurgency method. This is when both combatants and their supporters, which includes innocent, unarmed people, are killed alike. Dr. Kelly compared this to the saying, “If you drain the pond, the fish will die.” Though we are not proud of it, the U.S. used this method during the Vietnam and El Salvador wars.
The war began when there was a group that disagreed with the Salvadoran government. There were people who supported the government, and there were those against it. Those against it were called guerrillas, or rebels. These guerrillas had no mercy on anyone associated with the government. They destroyed anything and anyone in their path. Similar to the rebels in Vietnam, they started in the sky and bombed people overhead from planes. Then, they came to the ground as groundtroopers and shot anything they saw.
In the film, college students just leaving class fell facedown on the ground to beg for mercy and not be harmed. Some even played dead. These attacks were much more severe than drive-by shootings. They were thorough, well thought out plans of murder, mutilation and destruction. Though some families were able to flee to Honduras, the remaining families were undoubtedly massacred. The guerrillas used tactics to get you to leave before killing you. One way, according to Dr. Kelly, was to take your child and cut his or her arm off in hopes that this traumatic experience would cause you to leave or join their side. To this day, there are still Salvadorans with only one arm. In one case, 136 bodies were found in a church, and 120 of them were children. But that is not the most depressing part. These children did not die of gunshot wounds, but of machete wounds. One woman from the film teared up as she retold the story of what happened to her son. He worked in agricultural business, a job completely unaffiliated with supporting or going against the government, yet he was taken by guerillas to the top of a mountain and cut into pieces. Needless to say, these deaths were highly gruesome.
Seeing these images from the film reminded me of the Holocaust. The limp lifeless bodies just piled like packages really helped me understand and have much empathy toward the devastating and plain evil nature of this war. Under President Carter, the U.S. eventually sent help to El Salvador and from 1971 to 1981 to train El Salvador soldiers. From 1980 to 1981, the U.S. sent more money to El Salvador than they had ever received in the past. Unfortunately, the money was not put fully to good use as the U.S. intended. Because the Salvadoran military officers received 1 million dollars a day from the U.S. during the war, they basically gave the guerillas weapons because as long as the war continued, the officers would keep getting money from the U.S. When a country is not financially secure, money-hungry actions such as this are bound to occur.
Though the Vietnam War did not exactly match the outcome of the war in El Salvador, the film and Dr. Kelly’s explanations show that even a couple of similarities, like the counterinsurgency method and no mercy fighting style, can be a red flag that any country is going down a fatal path.
For more information about the 25th anniversary of the Jesuit/UCA Martyrs, visit http://blogs.creighton.edu/jesuitjustice/
The second presentation I attended at the Business, Faith and the Common Good Symposium was given by a representative from Grameen Bank. Grameen Bank in Omaha opened in 2009. Erika Arguello has a history of dealing with harsh experiences and overcoming obstacles, but she uses this to inspire and help others struggling with similar situations. Grameen Bank is a way for low-income individuals to make a living by taking out loans. This bank also offers financial knowledge to help its customers manage their money. Ms. Arguello spoke little English herself because most of her customers cannot speak English. Though there are multiple locations of Grameen Bank, such as in California, Washington, and Minnesota, the majority of the people from Omaha who use this bank are Latina women. Ms. Arguello talked about how passionate she was about her job and about how much she truly loved to travel to help others outside of Omaha. This presentation was actually one of the few times she had to use her public speaking skills and though she was admitted that she was nervous, I personally thought she did a superb job. I even got to practice my Spanish speaking skills by asking her a question in Spanish during the question and answer session after her presentation.
The focus of the presentation was a video in which a man by the name of Muhammad Yunus from Bangladesh spoke eloquently about helping the poor and less fortunate. He talked about social responsibility and how producing something as simple as yogurt can help fix the issue of malnourishment of children in Bangladesh. If two cups of yogurt are given to a child once a week for one year, that is equivalent to giving that child their full health back, because the yogurt contains all the nutrients that a child needs. He also spoke about how charity is when you give money, but it only has “one life” because once you give it away it is gone. But with a business, like Grameen Bank, it recycles that money, and puts it to work to develop a business for the less fortunate and continuously provides for them. He mentioned that first of all, it is important to realize there is nothing wrong with the poor, but there is something wrong with the framework of society because it does not allow the poor to thrive. And to do so, we need to engage in social business, but not to make a profit. We need to do so with the right intentions, to help the less fortunate. His last words of inspiration were as follows, “The world is run by ideas not theories. We made the rules, so we can change them. Don’t be a slave of your own rules.” In other words, he wants us to not restrict ourselves in the methods or ideas we have to help the poor, even if they are not as popular as other ideas like charity or do not seem as good as other ideas. If we start small and are successful with that small business, we can always grow larger. But it is harder to start big and have to downsize because our ideas were too far-fetched and not well thought out or supported.
After the video, Ms. Arguello spoke specifically about the Grameen Bank in Omaha. She gave the following scenario: If I person wants a loan, then Ms. Arguello, searches for at least four other ladies who also want to a loan. Through this process, there are no papers or identification required, a concept most banks would not allow, but rather Ms. Arguello comes to each lady’s house and helps them fill out an application. Grameen Bank has a partnership with Wells Fargo. This means that if the ladies do not have a bank account or are unable to use one, Ms. Arguello personally helps them set one up, even though she admitted this is not a job requirement. She simply does it because she cares so deeply for these ladies and remembers similar struggles from her past life. In her words, “discipline, unity, and hard work is the recipe for success.” Ms. Arguello also gave an example of how she was able to help a woman get a loan without her having a social security number, but the only reason this was possible was because she had good credit. Ms. Arguello not only helps people get loans but offers solutions on how to develop strategies to pay back the loans. Many of the customers do not know how to manage their money, so this is a skill she focuses on teaching to as many people as possible. She also is willing to help them have transportation to get to the bank or, as seen in a previous example, she is willing to go to the home of the customer. It was evident that Ms. Arguello worked above and beyond her job requirements, and I am so happy I was able to be present for her presentation.
At the Business, Faith, and the Common Good Symposium, I listened to Dr. Kim Lamberty, the co-founder and president of a company called Just Haiti. Never having been to a Business Symposium, I had no idea what to expect. When I saw many people in business suits, I felt out of place because I had just come from class and had my backpack with me ready to take notes. But upon entering the room in which Dr. Lamberty spoke, I was reassured at the sight of a few children with their parents listening to the presentation. I felt that Dr. Lamberty had a calming aura about her, and it was evident that she had an immense amount of passion for her work. After the presentation, I met a Creighton representative from the Center for Service and Justice and explained to him how much I enjoyed hearing this first speaker. I was highly impressed by the idea that after her speech, students in the audience asked questions as well as the well-dressed adults. It was great to see how much the audience had paid attention to the program and had enough curiosity to inquire about it.
The premise of the Just Haiti company is to allow individuals in Haiti to earn money for a living. So, Just Haiti, a fair trade coffee company, trains Haitians in the coffee making process where they then sell their coffee to others. Most of the consumers are from the U.S. because after the coffee is made, it is imported to the U.S. The reason the coffee is as expensive as it is is because it is the main source of income for the Haitians to make a living. Dr. Lamberty keeps in contact with the coffee growers by talking to them in person and by phone. Unfortunately, most of them do not have email or electricity and are illiterate, which gives us as U.S. consumers all the more reason to buy coffee from them so they can make a better life. She believes this company will allow Haitians to “become a part of God’s abundance” and “artisans of their own destiny” because they make the coffee that provides them with a living.
Dr. Lamberty also talked about how one does not work in the fair trade business to get rich. They do it to include the poor in the global economy. She also talked about the difference between fair trade certification and organic certification. The latter is extremely expensive. Though it gives your company a stellar reputation, most Haitians cannot afford to get this certification that will only last 2 years. So with the limited income they receive, it makes sense why they would not spend it on a 2 year certification, but instead on their kids and family. However, Just Haiti is a fair trade member because of Dr. Lamberty’s membership. It is difficult to become a member of fair trade, and she remembers having to write a 13 page paper. Becoming a member does not give you certification, but it does allow you to have fair trade branding represented by a symbol.
Here is a little background provided about how long it takes to process coffee. First ripe beans must be picked. This process occurs in several waves. The “good ones” (healthy ones) are put in water and the bad ones are disposed of for compost. The healthy beans are put through a machine which removes pulp. They are then left to ferment for a day and over the course of 2 weeks, the beans are washed and dried on a patio. The skin is peeled and the beans are sorted, removing any sticks, rocks, twigs from being washed or dried on the patio and any defective beans. These bags of beans are then brought to Port-au-Prince completing the process. In total, this process takes a minimum of 6 weeks and can be as long as 3 months. This process occurs 3 times a year for a total of 3 shipments. The biggest threat to the coffee making business is climate change. The only solution Just Haiti has for this is to teach the coffee growers how to grow it in hotter environments. The earthquake and hurricane in Haiti caused them to lose their food crops but fortunately not the coffee.
One question from the audience really resonated with me. Someone asked about how Just Haiti would help Haiti move toward more of a first world country way-of-life and away from the third world country lifestyle. Dr. Lamberty answered honestly. Their goal is not to make Haiti a first world country, but to give them what they want. And what they want is not to become members of the middle class of U.S. citizens. What they want is their “traditional way of life with dignity” as Dr. Lamberty said. They want to be able to live in their country and do it with pride. And this is something Just Haiti can help with. During the discussion, Dr. Lamberty discussed how charity is not a long-term solution to poverty. It will always be there, but the poor cannot have successfully lives while being dependent on others to obtain resources to live. After 70 years of extensive charity in Haiti, the country is still struggling. It is Dr. Lamberty’s mission to help them be able to support their own destinies, and Just Haiti, is just a start.
Hello there Cortina-folk.
THANK YOU for the rich discussion tonight. I think that these are issues near and dear to each one of us in different ways and I think it is important to acknowledge the frustration and fear that we might feel when we talk about them.
(These could be physical enemies or people who pose a threat to my way of seeing the world).
do that work.
A really startling thing has been happening around me in the past couple of weeks.
Perhaps it has always been going on, but being in Cortina, for a second year, constantly surrounded by hopeful discussion and work towards human dignity for all, has really illuminated this issue for me.
Perhaps it is because I hate the hypocrisy within myself so much that hypocrisy becomes for me the most heinous kind of action to observe in the world around me.
I’m sure someone will read this as SUPER preachy, obnoxious, and prying, and you should know that I’m totally open for discussion. Please come talk to me about this if it strikes any sort of chord with your soul, whether a pleasant one or not.
But I am going to say this now, because this issue has really become frustrating and confusing for me, and I want to say something about it to all of you, and maybe someone who agrees with me and wants to preach to the choir will read it, and I will make a new friend. On the other hand, maybe someone who totally disagrees with me will have the respect and courage for me to talk to me about it, and I will see something new from the opposite side that I never saw before. Or maybe I won’t, and we will agree to disagree. Hopefully we would be able to respect each other as people, outside of what we think of each others’ ideologies.
That last paragraph I wrote is coming from the best possible version of myself. I regularly become annoyed with people who do not see the world the same way I do, and only in my wildest dreams could I perfectly live up to the ideal I set for myself there. AHHH!!! This illustrates so perfectly the very thing that I needed to verbalize, and please know that it means I trust and respect all of you A LOT to be actually submitting this to the blog.
HERE’S THE ACTUAL POINT OF THIS BLOG POST:
The reactions to the Creightonian editorial letter from the Macklemore protestors, and a ton of Facebook comments that random ultra-conservative blog posts get when my friends post them to Facebook, just look like a complete lack of coherence in claims for tolerance and actual treatment of those different than us.
If we claim that we are fighting for the equality and dignity of all people, how does that give us any right to treat those who seem to oppose us in our “fight” as any less than whole people?
When racist, sexist, homophobic opinions are found by those around me, either on the Internet or elsewhere, they are thrown down with such fervor that the line between the opinion and the person who holds it is lost.
I wholeheartedly disagree with the Macklemore letter-writers’ opinion on gay marriage, and I want to make that clear, because any vagueness on my part would make you question my motives for writing this. But when a very diplomatic and well-written letter calling into question Creighton’s support of an artist on moral grounds was published by the Creightonian, some of the people that I love and respect, and most of the time agree with, responded in mean, spiteful, and personally insulting ways. Of equal importance, in my opinion, was the way that those students’ right to write about and publish their opinion was dangerously questioned and slammed down. Whenever a change is being implemented in society, there are going to be a wide range of opinions about it. Some may be blatantly wrong. Personally, again, I disagree with what they were asking Creighton for and why they were asking it, and I know that some super hypocritical stuff was found on that guy’s Twitter. But I’m not here to talk about that.
This is not an isolated event. Sometimes, when we live in the bubble of a Midwestern, justice-focused, liberal arts university, we forget just how much of the world of ideas lives outside this bubble. It’s been increasingly common for people I love (on BOTH sides of the polarized political spectrum), as well as generally fantastic websites like Upworthy, to use the Internet to post an article, blog, or piece of art made by someone of a very different worldview than their own, and then absolutely vilify that person for stating their opinion. Obviously, many of the people who comment on it are also shocked at the “backwardness” or racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. of the original writer. While I do think it is totally appropriate and necessary to discuss and even debate controversial and emotionally-charged topics that are often the focus of these articles, we cannot claim to be in support of human dignity and equal treatment when we dehumanize the people behind the opinions. It’s a matter of consistency, as well as just common decency (something that is increasingly lost in our social-media-crazed, politically polarized world).
People! We seriously don’t have to be a part of this craziness! We can be different. We can start something within our community where we don’t just have respectful discussions within our community, but have actually well-thought-out and respectful answers to opinions we don’t agree with. Diplomatic and sincerely kind but educated and strong. Isn’t that who we want to be in the end? There’s a balance there, and it hangs delicately. That’s certainly who I am hoping and trying to become. Because a world full of people like that is a world that’s actually going to move in a positive direction.
This has been a really strange summer for me, I’ve been taking two semesters of a really time-consuming class (general physics), and so I’ve had to put more effort into staying on a schedule in the summer than ever before. This leads me to constantly have to plan meals, when I will make them, and when I will shop for them. It’s a good thing; I feel like a real grown-up because I’m getting way better at cooking for myself and doing it efficiently.
But it’s also been really, really, really, really confusing. I’ve had little time to spend with my friends and family in comparison to previous summers, and I’ve been increasingly noticing an alarming thing in myself. I have a really strong conviction, that was cultivated and honed even more during my year in Cortina, that if I am aware of something bad in the world, it is my obligation and duty to do what is in my power to change that. This led to my becoming a hardcore vegetarian for most of 2013, and since I began that, I still haven’t had a bite of meat. It also led to the strengthening of an already existing disgust with the consumerism that dictates our country and others. Towards the end of this past spring semester, I became increasingly convinced that I should actually just live in this purist monk, raw local vegan, never-buy-another-material-object-I-don’t-absolutely-need-to-survive type of existence, where I spend all of my extra time building friendships with people no one else notices. And to tell you the truth, that is the ultimate destination that I would really like to reach, because I’m gonna make money in the job that I want to do, and I would love to be able to give a high percentage of it to people who need it more than I do, and use my time and abilities to change the world :P. But somehow, in my fervor to become this person, I realized that it was not only causing me to feel insanely guilty about things none of my friends felt the same for doing, but it was also causing me to insanely judge everyone around me. I was unconsciously holding everyone else in the world to the same impossibly high standard I had set for myself. (If you’re a Christian too, this just honestly might sound like the familiar “No one is righteous, not even one” refrain).
After some brutal external processing with one of my close friends who went through Cortina with me, plenty of Bible and book reading, and prayer, I realized that I was acting exactly like the Pharisees that Jesus rebukes, like, every time he sees them. The Pharisees were known for following the law to the tiniest letter and being very “upright” in terms of their to-do lists. They were also known for turning up their noses at everyone else. My THL 100 teacher didn’t spend too much time on the Pharisees, but if you ever read the gospels, they are very hard to ignore. It’s blatantly obvious that they have gotten their priorities completely wrong. Everyone (all the normal sinners Jesus hangs out with) dislikes them. They don’t actually love anyone, and they seem like they do everything out of a despairing sense of guilt. It’s a terrible and immature religion to dedicate one’s life to.
My current confusion stems from needing to know where I should draw the lines in my own life. What guideline should I stick to, at my current level of maturity, so that I am encouraging myself to act lovingly, and not judgmentally out of my own guilt? Does it mean continuing to attempt and fail at being a vegan, or maybe taking a chill pill, eating some butter with my family and friends, and being cool with just not eating meat/fish/poultry for now? Does it mean wearing the same three shirts all week, all month, or does it mean maybe being ok with buying a couple new things to fit the new body that I have from eating veggies instead of chicken fingers? I’m still not sure about these things, but I am certain that it means wholeheartedly loving the people I am already surrounded with before going out and finding new people to “love”. I am certain that it means having a humble heart about the issues that I have been informed on, and not being so caught up in what everyone else is doing, when I have enough to work on in my own life.
Oh Cortina. I’m so excited to have a whole ‘nuther year to be a part of you and become the person I’m designed to be.