By Rosa Crump
In January of 2018, I was blessed to be able to go on a CBF-sponsored mission experience to El Salvador.
In the months preceding the trip and during its duration, I was under the guidance of CBF field personnel Greg and Sue Smith. One of the excursions on this journey was to the area known as Perquín, and on the outskirts of this municipality is a small canton known as El Mozote.
Presently, this canton is made up of a small chapel, a few tiny rows of houses leading into the town square, and a bunch of tourist vendor carts. In addition, there are two monuments – one in the town square that is somewhat small and contains a list of over 1,000 names and another, larger monument located on a hill about a mile outside of the town proper. This second monument, known as the El Mozote Peace Monument, stands about three stories tall and also has life sized statues of four famous leaders in the fight for world peace: Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, and Mahatma Gandhi. In the center of these four figures is a larger-than-life statue of Jesus Christ.
The reason behind choosing El Mozote as the site for the Peace and Reconciliation Monument, a figure that celebrates the end of a civil war in El Salvador that lasted almost exactly twenty years, is that El Mozote was the site of the worst violation of civil rights that were committed during that war. It was in El Mozote, in December of 1981, that over 1,000 men, women and children were ruthlessly slaughtered by the government military, as a warning to surrounding cantons of what would occur if they were to assist the guerilla revolutionary fighters. The entire town and inhabitants from surrounding communities were rounded up and massacred over a three day period, and only one woman survived. If it was not for that one woman, El Mozote was a canton that would have been wiped off the map with possibly no one the wiser.
As I stood there with my group, staring at the monument that marks an area where the worst possible violations of human rights occurred, I found myself both angry and resolute.
As a person who hopes to do work with justice and peacebuilding, I became further convicted to make sure that injustices like those in El Mozote are stopped. I was angry at the injustice, and angry at the forgiveness that was required in order to attain the peace treaty that ended the civil war. I asked myself how it was possible that such evils could be stopped when the perpetrators of such actions had to be allowed to get away with it.
My feelings were complicated, to say the least.
Even months later, I am still struggling with understanding all of them. What I did know was that, however injustice can be fought, I wanted to be a part of it. The only problem was that I had no idea what I should do. In my confusion, I turned to Greg Smith and asked him what the first step was in getting such a project off the ground.
His answer was a word I was very familiar with after seven years working in public service as a library assistant: “Partnerships.”
In the context of our discussion, I informed Dr. Smith that the issue then became how to find people to partner with; after all, there are a lot of people and organizations trying to get stuff done, and how can one tell who is legitimate and who is out for secondary gain? Dr. Smith told me that I would have to “find [my] people.” He urged me that if a project idea struck me, that I should contact groups like CBF to find out if there were already mission projects in the trajectory I was interested in. If not, he informed me, they could point me toward people and organizations that could help get me started.
Peace is a short, but heavy, word.
As I sat there on the steps that lead up to the Peace and Reconciliation Monument, I could not help but marvel at the amount of sacrifice and hard work that goes into establishing such an idea. Those four people immortalized in those statues went a long way toward helping further such a cause, but they did not do it alone, and their work still is not done.
At some point, those leaders had to “find their people” to share the burden of their vision of true peace. And now, with a new day and new injustices and new visions, it is time for my generation to do the same.
Rosa Crump is a CBF Leadership Scholar attending Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond in Richmond, Va., pursuing an M.Div. with a concentration in justice and peacebuilding. She is an active member at Bruington Baptist Church and works often with various volunteer-run community ministries.