Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ita Maura and EMU

I spent the last week or so with a delegation from Eastern Michigan University. The group was a little different than what we are generally used to in that they were traveling as part of a university course studying Poverty, Health and Human Rights. The group was also distinct in that it hosted a more general sampling of the U.S. For a 'perfect storm' of logistical reasons, it was easily the most challenging delegation I have been a part of. They were a gritty-honest cross section of the U.S. Diverse, not only demographically, but also in perspective and life experience. They personified our vast capacity for understanding and compassion, as well as solipsistic disregard. They were nothing if not real. Thank you.

The group spent four days in the community of Ita Maura. Ita Maura is an organized community that relocated from a refugee camp in Mesa Grande, Honduras to Chalatenango during the war. The name of their community honors Ita Ford and Maura Clarke, two of the four US Churchwomen that were killed by Salvadoran death squads in the early years of the civil war. More recently, the community is recovering from the deaths of two community youth who were gunned down in April. Although violence is part of the Salvadoran national reality (average 10 murders per day), it is generally concentrated geographically. Lately, however, there has been a rise in violent crimes in previously untouched, rural areas. As these deaths are rarely investigated, there is growing sentiment, as well as evidence, that the violence is politically motivated and effectively the current manifestation of Salvador government's history of repression and indifference to human rights.

I have been blessed in the past four years to have experienced, on multiple occasions, the beauty and generosity of Salvadoran hospitality, but even my overdeveloped cynicism was overwhelmed by the gracious humility with which we were welcomed into their homes and their lives.

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