An update from Lael C Melville, PsyD, a 2016 M.Div. candidate and president of the Perkins Black Seminarians Association, who also is blogging at “Following the Passion of the Cross to El Salvador”:
Each morning a faithful few (Dr. Recinos, Edwin, David, Billy and myself) leave at 6 a.m. for our morning run. What a blessed peaceful time to reiterate old stories and share new stories while simultaneously creating a story in the moment to be told at a later time.
Today was no different then the other days that we have been in El Salvador … full of adventure. Today’s adventure took us to: Mister Coffee coffeehouse, tour the Museum UCA and Metropolitan Cathedral (burial site of Monsignor Romero), visit to the Romero Foundation (legal organization that pursues social justice), lunch back at the hotel, and visit to The Passionist Foundation (an organization that responds to gang violence through education, job training, social intervention, housing, etc.). These site visits and lectures remind me that the problems inherent in the human condition can be solved through the ultimate reality, a relationship with Jesus Christ.
The problems or challenges here in El Salvador are much like those of most of the world. One such problem is violence. Father Antonio, head of the Passionist Foundation, described violence as the source of conflict. He further described violence in terms of: illness or the inability to get appropriate medical treatment; lack of expressed love in a culture that is predominately machismo; discrimination (based on gender or ethnicity); and lack of food (Father Antonio, The Passionist Foundation Lecture, March 11, 2014).
To respond to the problem of violence Father Antonio has created a social service program. This dynamic program responds to an array of gang-related scenarios. One of the goals of this program might be to improve the lives of those who have been impacted by violence.
By contrast, the Romero Foundation responds to the problem of violence through the legal system. This organization provides legal support for social justice issues such as reparation for families of missing persons kidnapped and murdered during the civil war.
Finally, the Metropolitan Cathedral is the burial site for Monsignor Oscar Romero, who responded to the problem of violence through his role as archbishop. His pursuit of social justice cost him his life.
Each of these agencies and person has a common component. That component is Jesus Christ or an affiliation with the Catholic Church. This affiliation usually includes a belief or acknowledgement of Christ as Savior and the Bible as the word of God. The Christian faith tradition often includes going to church, participating in prayer and a celebration of the eucharist (communion).
In summation, perhaps the best response to violence in El Salvador and around the world is our faith in Jesus Christ. This faith reaches from God to human beings. It can teach us how to respond to violence. The programs mentioned in this writing and Monsignor Oscar Romero are evidence of the power and impact of the Christian faith tradition’s response to violence. Christian faith is the constant in these examples. It allows these agencies and a person(s) to become more than a response to violence; Jesus Christ becomes the hope that comes with a 6 a.m. day.