The tragic murder of six Jesuit priests, their cook and the cook’s daughter in El Salvador during the Civil War occurred Nov. 19, 1989—25 years ago.
Four soldiers broke into the priests’ residence at night. They also kidnapped the housekeeper and her daughter. The victims were murdered outside on the grounds of the University of Central America.
Salvadoran President Alfredo Cristiani, who was part of a brutal “Arena” party, never followed through with his claim that the military officials would face justice. These Jesuits were major influences on society.
The Rev. Richard Malloy, S.J., acting director of Campus Ministries and University chaplain, wrote an article published Nov. 8, 1990 titled “Where Our Aid Goes in El Salvador.” Malloy described the event and the consequences in the following year.
“[Today,] It would be like killing the president of Georgetown, the president of Fordham, the president of Santa Clara, the president of St. Louis University,” Malloy said.
Students at The University can learn about El Salvador’s Civil War. Grace Scarpello, a junior theology major, began to study the martyrs during her sophomore year.
“We learned a lot about Archbishop Oscar Romero and his influence with the church,” Scarpello said. “I just got a general overview of how the Catholic Church got involved with stopping the bloodshed and how innocent people were being killed.”
Romero was a strong advocate for the oppressed in El Salvador. The people looked to him and the Roman Catholic Church. Eventually the Farbundo Marti National Liberation (FMLN) guerrilla group was formed. There were several factors that led to impoverished Salvadorans forming the group. Reasons include 5 percent of the population controlling 95 percent of the wealth and governmental military pressure.
Even though the fighting has ceased, El Salvador is still suffering from the aftereffects, especially Salvadorians who were young at the time.
“A lot of children during the Civil War were taken from their homes and then basically made into child soldiers,” Scarpello said. “There are people suffering today from not having their family around.”
Most students at The University were born after November 16, 1989. Malloy compared this to his ability to know about events that transpired 25 years before he went to college. It is fair to expect that a significant portion of students will be unfamiliar with the material; however, issues that happened previously do not need to be forgotten simply because they are in the past.
“There are a lot of ways in which we have to make people aware of our justice in our world today and how we have to work for immigration reform, fair minimal wage, everyone getting health care, something about student loans and the injustice of students being placed under such debt burden early in life,” Malloy said. “These are issues we have to speak out about.”
The University will commemorate the martyrs from Nov. 18-23.