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Group Travels to El Salvador to Honor Slain Jesuits

November 24, 2009 – Georgetown faculty, staff and university leaders traveled to El Salvador this month to honor the six Jesuits slain two decades ago and the thousands of others who died during the war there.

On November 16, 1989, soldiers stormed the Central American University in San Salvador and tortured and killed 12 Jesuits who were teaching there. The assassinations ultimately ended U.S. support for the Salvadoran army and government, which in turn helped force an end to the 12-year conflict in 1992.

The group visited sites where memories of Jesuit priests and Catholic nuns assaulted or assassinated by the Salvadoran army still linger.

Lives on the Line

Rev. Philip Boroughs, S.J., vice president for mission and ministry, was one of the 12 Georgetown delegates on the trip.

“These women and men so believed in the Gospel and for caring for vulnerable communities that they put their lives on the line to bear witness,” said Boroughs.

Like the early Christian martyrs, Boroughs said, the 75,000 people killed in the civil war were assassinated because of their religious beliefs.

Hope for the Future

Today, El Salvador is still struggling to recover from the economic and political devastation wrought by the war. But the Georgetown group saw firsthand the optimism of those working toward their nation’s recovery.

Kathleen Maas Weigert, executive director of the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service, was another of the Georgetown delegates.

“It was a real lesson about how much work must be done if we want a more just society,” said Maas Weigert. “They have a very long road ahead of them, but we heard from people we met that the important thing is that someone is listening and someone cares.”

Promoting Recovery

Georgetown is committed to helping with the nation’s continued recovery. The Campus Ministry’s Magis Immersion and Justice Program runs an alternative spring break program, which allows students to spend their spring break in El Salvador working on public works projects. Through this program, students build relationships and become familiar issues affecting the area’s poor population.

Student affairs vice president Todd Olson co-organized the trip with Boroughs and Maas Weigert. He said the visit has helped him see more opportunities for Georgetown to strengthen its academic and service relationship with Salvadorans.

“The partnerships we can build are promising,” he said. “There is already a strong presence of other Jesuit universities and groups, so by collaborating with them, we can give our students opportunities to study and learn more about social justice in El Salvador.”

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