Commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the Jesuit Martyrs of the UCA

jesuit-martyrs-poster-draft-2-2A Reflection by Loriana Harkey

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 toMartyrs-Prayer-Card-Back-copy-772x1030 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.

“El Salvador: Another Vietnam,” A Reflection by Loriana Harkey

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 Start of a New Year

Welcome to our new and continuing members of the Cortina Community! After a busy start to the year full of new student orientation and the beginning of classes, we couldn’t be more excited for the year to come.

Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 11.22.09 AMOur first community meeting of the year was the annual Community Partner Bash where students learned who their community partner for the semester would be and met their fellow Formation Group members and leaders. Cortinians are eager to go to their service sites and learn about the Omaha community.

Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 11.22.53 AM The following weekend was the Cortina Fall Retreat, held at Carol Joy Holling Camp, for a time of learning, reflection, relationship-building and plenty of fun.

Students learned about Fr. Jon Cortina and were given a glimpse into his life of faith and service. In addition, we were privileged enough to see the premiere of a film made by Nico Sandi, second-year RA in Deglman, called “Faith That Does Justice,” which tells about the Jesuit martyrs tragedy in El Salvador that occurred 25 years ago. The incident shocked the world and spurred Fr. Cortina to fight injustice during a time of civil war in the country and for the rest of his life.

Cortinians also heard informative and inspirational talks from Ken Reed-Bouley, director of the Creighton Center for Service and Justice; Kyle Lierk, director of Campus Ministry at Creighton; and Dr. Faith Kurtyka, assistant professor of English at Creighton University, who all gave greater insight into the Cortina Community and how it will challenge students to think and to grow during their time in the community. We thank them for taking the time to speak to us, and we are looking forward to discussing and reflecting on what they shared with us as we continue to learn about ourselves and our world during the year.

In these first two weeks, we faced our fears, thought about our own beliefs, met new people, and shared laughter with wonderful people.

Here’s to the start of a life-giving year.

Wednesday’s “What’s Going on in the World?”

Here are some important things that are going on in our big, wide world:

Aljazeera reports on the 17 soldiers beheaded by the Taliban.

Children are “taught to hate, so they hate.” In Israel, the escalated violence amongst youths has made the schools begin to confront ingrained stereotypes and violent attitudes and actions. Read the story here.

In El Salvador, with the help of the Catholic Church, there was recently a “Gang’s Truce,”:
Read about it here.
Listen to a former gang member talk about the Truce.

Vladamir Putin has claimed that he “works like a galley slave.” 
The Guardian has some thoughts on his self-given title.
The Feminist Musicians have something to say.
Check out the Atlantic Wire’s photo coverage of the Pussy Riot.

Venezeula’s  refinery blast left 48 dead and many more injured.
The BBC updates us on the situation.
Time reports on how this may be an effect Hugo Chavez’s re-election.

Mexico begins to revamp its judicial system.

Did you read Edward Said’s Orientalism? Pankaj Mishra’s new book about Eastern intellectualism will broaden the view of the development of the East. “Mishra is no mean polemicist, but he is also an intellectual historian who can skilfully paint in background, simplify boldly to open up broad perspectives on the past, and popularise without condescension…overall it gives a voice to characters often ignored by western historians and makes an eloquent contribution to the “west versus the rest” debate.” -Ben Shephard

There is a whole lot more happening in the world. What have we missed? What are important headlines you want to bring to readers’ attention?