Palm Sunday, Oscar Romero, and LGBT Human Rights in El Salvador

Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, when we remember Jesus’ suffering and passion, in anticipation of the great victory of Easter.   This date, March 24th, also is the 33rd anniversary of the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, who was murdered by a military gunman while saying Mass at a hospital chapel.  Archbishop Romero had been an outspoken supporter of human rights in El Salvador, during a time of great repression and unrest that became a terribly bloody civil war.

Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry make presentations at the first conference on LGBT human rights in El Salvador.
Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry make presentations at the first conference on LGBT human rights in El Salvador.

Peace exists now in El Salvador, but that nation is once again involved in a great human rights struggle, this time concerning LGBT issues.  A week and a half ago,  I had the great privilege to travel to El Salvador with New Ways Ministry’s Co-Founder, Sister Jeannine Gramick, where both of us participated in that country’s first national conference on LGBT human rights.  We made presentations there on the topic of “Religious Communities as Promoters of Human Rights,” speaking about how the Catholic Church’s human rights and social justice traditions compel Catholics to work to make sure that equality and justice exist for LGBT people.

It was a great honor to participate in this program, and to witness the courage and fortitude of LGBT people and allies who are daily faced with threats of violence if they dare to live openly and honestly about their identities.  The conference, entitled “Happiness and Sexual Diversity as Human Rights,” was sponsored by ALDES, an organization which works for human rights for LGBT Salvadorans both from inside that country and from the United States.   Speakers on the program came from both countries, representing legal, political, religious, and human rights backgrounds.

One of the most amazing things about the conference is that it took place on the campus of the University of Central America, in San Salvador, the capital.  This is a Catholic school, run by the Jesuits–the same place where six Jesuits and their two housekeepers were assassinated during the civil war.   Omar Serrano, the school’s vice-rector for social outreach warmly welcomed the over 300 participants to this revered Catholic institution.

Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte (center) with Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo.
Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte (center) with Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo.

On the eve of the conference’s opening, the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, the Honorable Mari Carmen Aponte, hosted a reception for Salvadoran and United States conference presenters at the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador.  Ambassador Aponte, who has written forcefully about the importance of LGBT rights in El Salvador, pledged her support for the conference and for continuing the dialogue between the U.S. and El Salvador on this matter.

Bondings 2.0 will provide further coverage of this important event, but it seemed appropriate to mark it on this day which commemorates the value of redemptive suffering.  The civil war is over in El Salvador,  but a new struggle for human rights and questions of sexual and gender identity have now taken center stage.  May the witness of Archbishop Oscar Romero, and all the Salvadoran martyrs, guide this new struggle peacefully.  May people of faith in El Salvador be as courageous and passionate in speaking up for LGBT equality as Archbishop Romero was in speaking up for the human rights of all people.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

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16 thoughts on “Palm Sunday, Oscar Romero, and LGBT Human Rights in El Salvador

  1. Diana Rawlings, ASC March 24, 2013 / 9:54 am

    A:hover { COLOR: red } A { COLOR: #0088cc; TEXT-DECORATION: none } P { MARGIN-TOP: 0px; MARGIN-BOTTOM: 0px }

    This is wonderful! I had no idea this was happening. God bless you Frank and Jeannine! Diana  

  2. Rachel Fitzgerald March 24, 2013 / 10:12 am

    thanks for a just-in-time post –we will use this for today’s prayer initiating this week of weeks

  3. Duane Arnold March 24, 2013 / 11:33 pm

    On this day of commemoration I thought you might enjoy seeing a music video that we have produced honoring Oscar Romero.  It is part of a new CD release. The singer is a deacon, Michael Glen Bell, and the film maker is Owen Thomas. The Project is the subject of a wonderful article in Canada’s Catholic Register http://www.catholicregister.org/arts/movie-news/item/15749-video-brings-awful-memories-flooding-back

    Go to http://www.TheMartyrsProject.com to view the video. Feel free to use it on your site, review the album or video, or blog about The Project.  If you do, let us know so we can put a link on ours. If you are interested in a story on The Project, please get back to us. We are located in Indianapolis. You can follow us on Twitter @martyrsproject.

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