El Salvador Trip Gives Students Social Justice View
March 23, 2011 – The site in El Salvador where assassins gunned down six Jesuits in 1989 for their opposition to war and support for social justice got a visit from seven Georgetown students and two staff members during spring break earlier this month.
“We wanted to expose students to social justice problems and opportunities through the Catholic lens,” says Rev. Patrick Rogers, S.J., director of campus ministry on the main campus. “We were especially interested in facilitating student experiences in developing nations.”
The students, who visited El Salvador from March 5 to March 12, talked to people in the country about why the Jesuits were slain and what got the priests into trouble with the government.
They also visited the site where assassins killed El Salvador Bishop Óscar Romero in 1980 while he celebrated Mass at a small hospital chapel.
The day before he was killed Romero had pleaded with Salvadoran soldiers as Christians to stop carrying out the government's repression and violation of human rights.
“The trip to El Salvador changed my perspective on service,” says Katherine Meister (C’11). “While we [were] down there our job [was] to listen to people’s stories – their struggles, their hopes, their ideas. This new perspective on service has opened my eyes to the real meaning of ‘men and women for others.’”
Meister was excited to return to Santa Monica – the village in San Vincente that Georgetown has a sister relationship with and which she visited last year. She says the people there are “wonderful” and welcomed the group into their homes as if they were family member.
During that visit Meister spoke with her 2010 host family and met with the community’s council.
“It was an incredibly powerful experience to accompany these people in their daily lives and returning to Santa Monica felt like coming home,” says Meister, a co-leader of the trip.
“The people of El Salvador want to make change and have many ideas about how to accomplish it,” she adds. “They need us to raise awareness about their struggles and try to stop the injustice being done. Social justice work must be done through international solidarity and accompaniment.”
The students also met with representatives from the Association for the Development of El Salvador and anti-mining activists.
When the students and Rogers returned to campus, they continued to meet for meals and Mass. They are also continuing their efforts to raise funds for the people of El Salvador.
“Magis, the Ignatian ideal of more, asks people to 'go deeper' and pay more attention to their feelings, experiences and significant relationships with others and with God,” Rogers says. “This trip and others put this into practice through developing relationships with our partners in developing countries.”