On February 28 thirty years ago, hundreds of campesinos, fleeing the Salvadoran army, were killed in and near Tenango and Guadalupe in the municipality of Suchitoto, El Salvador.
This was but one of the massacres experienced by the Salvadoran people during and before the civil war, a war in which Salvadoran government forces were aided by the US government, up to one million dollars a day during the 1980s.
I have spoken with some of the survivors of the massacre, people I knew when I worked with and visiting the parish of Suchitoto.
What stuck me was one story that shows the faith of the people and helps us connect their suffering with the suffering of Christ, something we might do during this Lent.
In the evening before the massacre, there were, according to one eyewitness, about 900 people gathered together for a celebration of the Word. They had come fleeing from Palo Grande, Platanares, and Chaparral and were quite afraid. As they met, they reflected that Christ had struggled and suffered. “He had to flee from one place to another because he was being persecuted. So we too have to walk here afflicted, persecuted. If not, we’ll all have to die and the revolution will not go forward.” With these words they felt comforted.
The next morning as they were fleeing up a hill the army attacked them. The hill was covered with people, suffering, as a witness said, their Way of the Cross.
As we live this Lent, in prayer, repentance, and fasting, let’s remember all those who have suffered from oppressive regimes, especially those regimes which have received aid from the US.
Lord, have mercy on us and our nation.