Human Rights in El Salvador 2013

Eight SMU students, led by Perkins School of Theology Professor Harold J. Recinos and Embrey Human Rights Program Coordinator Sherry Aikman, are in El Salvador through Jan 16. The group is looking at human rights atrocities that have occurred in the Central American country during the last 40 years, including the El Mozote massacre, the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the Zona Rosa guerrilla attack, the rape and murder of three American nuns and a missionary, unlawful civilian killings by security forces, forced prostitution, child labor and more. “They’ll also be focused on issues of national reconciliation, truth commissions and healing,” says Embrey Human Rights Program Director Rick Halperin.

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El Mozote: We must never forget

The memorial to the villagers represents that entire families lost their lives in the massacre.

An update from Emily, a junior majoring in human rights and political science:

Woke up to a beautiful morning in the mountains of Morazan, El Salvador. Today is the day that we visited the site of El Mozote, where in December of 1981, around 1,000 men, women, and children of the village were massacred by the Atlacatl Battalion army in the span of three days.

It’s an eerie feeling to see so much beauty in contrast with the atrocities of the past. Only one women, Rufina Amaya, managed to escape the massacre, and she is the only voice that brought true testimony to the killings of El Mozote. Without her witness, the memory of those who lost their lives would entirely be forgotten.

I went on Dr. Halperin’s trip to Poland in the winter of 2010 to visit Holocaust memorials, death camps, and mass graves, so this was not my first experience to a killing site. However, no matter how many places I visit, the impact on my heart remains the same.

The names of every man, woman, and child who was murdered.

I have not been able to comprehend how someone would be able to take the lives of innocent people, nor do I think I will ever understand.

One thing that I do know is that the memory of those who died must live on. We must never forget.

There is now a monument at El Mozote, in addition to the memorial to the victims, to recognize the struggle to uphold human rights around the globe. Statues commemorating international human rights patriots encircle the monument.

Monument to peace and human rights.

The faces of Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Pope John Paul II, and Martin Luther King Jr. look over the mountainsides of El Salvador. Their voices, along with the teachings of Archbishop Oscar Romero, inspired revolutions of social change and emphasized the importance of human rights, and their messages live on to this day.

I cannot believe that my journey in El Salvador will soon be coming to an end, but I cannot wait to return home and share my experiences with my friends, family, and the SMU community.

Dr. Harold Recinos and Governor Ventura of Morazan leading the way.

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