Humanity in Mourning, March 16, 2019
from Brian Rude in El Salvador
Friday’s Islamophobic, white-supremacy, Trump/Breivik-idolizing, massacre in New Zealand is beyond comprehension, albeit no longer so surprising, tragically. In our horror, our shock, our grief, the world–the “human” world–is brought together. Such tragedy brings us together in mourning, in sympathy, in rage, in pain, in solidarity.
The Christchurch victims’ names, photos and life-stories are being circulated around the globe, as they should be. We humans must humanize such inhumanity. Muslims globally are being consoled, supported, protected, as they should be. We global neighbours must stand together, side-by-side.
Then there’s El Salvador . . .
. . . where 50+ homicides (per week) is good news. A few days ago, a friend, a Lutheran lawyer from Wisconsin, now semi-retired in El Salvador, blogged gun violence in El Salvador into context: www.elsalvadorperspectives.com/2019/03/better-news…
There is no anti-gun violence campaign happening here. Who is concerned about gun violence in El Salvador? Who knows, or cares, where all these guns come from? Who wonders why too many seem to have one, or five? Is anyone concerned about all that ammunition, always available, so that those guns are always loaded? Who wonders why they are so effective at killing off this nation’s youth, young men, and too many women? Is there a money-trail El Salvador should be following? A power-trail? Why is no one following these trails?
Here, even going to worship on Sunday morning too often means not only celebrating a birthday or two, but consoling the family of that week’s murdered son / brother / father / cousin / uncle / friend. A couple Sundays ago, it meant consoling the three sisters–could be triplets, about 20 years of age–who had just buried their third murdered brother. They and their mother were somewhat relieved, believe it or not, to have finally found and identified his mutilated corpse. But then last Sunday there was yet another young man to mourn, so our sympathy shifted, too soon. CBC wasn’t here. CNN wasn’t here. Not even Fox News was here. No bloggers are mourning.
There are so many homicides that you really have to have known the person, or their family, to know about a homicide at all. There is no time or space for all these homicides to be included in the news. So, they just fade into the endless, nameless statistics. But here, even statistics grew stale, years and years ago. Who cares any more how many homicides there are each day, each week, each year?
But who in El Salvador doesn’t have the inside, personal story on far too many of these murders? Maybe it’s not 50 in one place, as it was in the 1980s. Well, 50 was a relatively mini-massacre in El Salvador in the 1980s–and those genocidal murderers are now members of parliament, or ambassadors, or political analysts. Some of them are formulating an amnesty law for themselves to replace the amnesty law struck down by the Supreme Court 2-1/2 years ago . . . they are eager to ensure ongoing impunity for themselves, while laying the blame for today’s violence on the nation’s youth, out of its historical context. The youth being blamed, probably correctly, are especially those who are gang-related, but this scapegoat phenomenon is far too general.
Where is Nuremberg? Where is The Hague? Is “The North” too complicit to be calling for justice?
El Salvador has almost 5,000 youth in prison on marijuana charges. El Salvador has a couple dozen young women serving sentences of 30 years for miscarriages / stillbirths.
Justice truly is warped.
Most youth, miraculously, are survivors, however many frights they may have been through, and however insecure they might feel. Of a regular houseful of housemates, two have been murdered, as well as several brothers. But a couple times each week, I am left wondering about those still living. Housemates may “disappear” for a couple days. Though I’m not their father, nor uncle, still I feel responsible for them. They have unpredictable schedules, whether work, health, study, or social. Communication is unreliable. Their cell phones are stolen, broken, lost, stuck without charge, without a signal, etc., etc., with troubling frequency. Public transportation, especially after dark (6 p.m.), is most unpredictable, mostly non-existent, besides being risky. Some may manage to catch a taxi home, hoping I’ll be home to pay the fare. Some may have partied too hard to be able to communicate–who wouldn’t when faced with murder almost constantly, their own or that of a brother or a friend? I try to communicate with their family about my concern, but that’s not always easy, or even possible.
We in El Salvador join the world in mourning the tragic murders of our Muslim sisters and brothers in New Zealand. We join the world in standing in solidarity with our sisters and brothers of the Muslim faith.
Please join us in mourning our murdered sisters and brothers in El Salvador. Please join us in standing in solidarity with those at risk in this violent nation.
Grieving, in solidarity,
Rev. Brian Rude, DD
Report 2017 Synod Brian Rude ‘Continuing the Mission’
Report 2016 Synod Brian Rude ‘Closed Doors – Opening Doors’
Report 2015.Synod.Brian Rude ‘Is There a Way Forward?’
Life is full of stories; everyday is full of stories. Some get told. Too many don’t. I’m feeling the urge to change that . . . just a little.
Canadian facebook friends–and beyond, I’m sure–are wallowing in thankfulness and gratitude . . . as am I . . . as well we should be. Let us count the reasons . . .
And yet . . .
I find myself pondering the incarnation (as I often do . . . but isn’t it a bit early for incarnation? . . . )
It may be because I just finished reading “The City of Joy”. (now there are some wild examples of gratitude, the most unlikely gratitude–over 500 pages of them).
I sometimes consider my life, my ministry, to be a mini-brush with incarnation, a mini-, marginal-following of Jesus, as per Phil 2:5-8.
Here’s a mini-example: I don’t dine and feast as sumptuously as my friends in (m)any of those endless mouth-watering facebook postings (though with the many self-declared chefs experimenting with inspiration and gratitude in my kitchen (“you have SO MANY ingredients!”), we come oh so very close). They even shame me into the odd foray into the culiinary arts.
But getting back to incarnation . . . Even having spent more than 2,000 days over the past two decades in sub-human Salvadoran prisons, ever seeking to humanize those hellish places, those infernal spaces, in some miniscule measure, I still can’t imagine the hellish conditions of daily life and death in the slums of Calcutta, into which several Jesus-like, incarnation-inspired, incarnational individuals joyfully immersed themselves, as “The City of Joy” bears faithful and inspiring witness.
I have considered showing up at the maximum-security–minimun-humanity–prison in El Salvador, insisting that I be imprisoned and subjected to the same inhuman, life-trampling conditions suffered without respite by other children of God, other siblings of Jesus. What would the administrative response be? What would the inmate response be? What if all the members of our IPAZ (Ecumenical Pastors for Peace) team were to take on such an incarnational challenge? Not forever, of course, just until basic United Nations-acceptable measures for humane treatment of inmates were met.
That might be a step toward incarnation, of emptying of self, of accompanying God’s people at the basest human level . . . s step toward being a Jesus-follower.
And I wouldn’t be surprised if I should encounter the same level of joy, the same pervasive thanksgiving, that filled “The City of Joy”, as I have in each of the 2,000 mini-immersions I’ve experienced to date. Not because they enjoy abundance, or all too often anything at all, or even anything approaching health, but mostly because they have each other–not even Jesus, since most in Calcutta are other than Christian–and life itself, if only just a tiny spark of it, for all-too-fleeting moments.
Now wouldn’t that kind of incarnational immersion, and all that grace celebrated face-to-face, be a marvel, something really worth giving thanks for, something truly worthy of a Canadian Thanksgiving festival?
Well, for now, maybe I’ll just stick to incarnation-lite . . . hate to give up my enchanting home and garden, my vibrant social life, my mobility, my health and healthcare . . . you know, all the amenities . . . and giving thanks for all those “blessings” that most of God’s children can’t even imagine, let alone rejoice over, let alone thank God for.
OK, now I’m off to find some turkey,
Another Victory for El Salvador
Imagine El Salvador–especially its legislators–voting unanimously about anything. In El Salvador, even air and water are contentious and divisive issues all too often. Yet, yesterday, the legislative assembly passed an anti-mining law, unanimously.
There was a time when Canada was considered by Salvadorans to be their friend, thanks especially to Canada’s generous reception of refugees and asylum seekers during El Salvador’s civil conflict, 1980-1992. In recent years, due to aggressive, deceptive (persistent media campaigns promoting “green” mining, then “responsible” mining) and destructive gold-mining exploration in El Salvador by Canada’s Pacific Rim–later Canada’s / Australia’s Oceana Gold–that privileged standing has slipped to a tragic extent.
Following are two victory stories for El Salvador, in spite of Canada and its obsession with the mining industry. These battles, fought heroically, mostly by Salvadorans–some who paid with their lives–did receive support from some Canadians. Thanks to: Mining Watch Canada; Kairos Canada; Luther College, Regina student delegations and many others for your solidarity with El Salvador in its struggle against Canadian / Australian mining.
The struggle is not over. Salvadoran water is still at risk due to Canadian mining in Honduras and Guatemala. Borders do not keep out contaminated water, nor do they prevent depletion of critical water resources.
Those countries, and countries around the world, continue to struggle for their right to God’s universal gift of abundant and clean water, without which life cannot be lived abundantly.
Celebrating in solidarity with our Salvadoran sisters and brothers,
Rev. Brian Rude, DD,
World AIDS Day
For 23 years, I have had the honour and privilege of accompanying persons living with HIV. I was called and inspired first by a university professor, a Salvadoran Lutheran friend and colleague in an age when no-one else could be entrusted with such a dark and very personal secret, especially in El Salvador.
In spite of almost a quarter-century of such accompaniment, I am still struck by surprises, as I was a couple weeks ago, during our bi-weekly meeting with the HIV mutual support group at Rosales Public Hospital in San Salvador. The physician who was going to address only the male members of this group on themes such as prostate and testicular cancer had been delayed. We had an hour to fill, so we improvised. Each participant was given a slip of paper with one of four different words on it. The four groups of 6 or 7 persons each were to discuss the word which they shared. My group had the word / theme “alegría” . . . joy. One by one, we told the others in our small group what gave us most joy. Then one representative from each group offered a summary of what had been discussed to the plenary group.
The man beside me, about 50 years of age, had no trouble convincing us of his joy. It shone from his eyes, it emanated through his energetic body language, it flowed through his passionate words. The rest of us, however, took a double-take, not quite believing what we were hearing. This man was joyful about being HIV-positive. Yes, you read that right–joyful about being HIV-positive. He was even grateful for having become infected with HIV, and subsequently diagnosed, about 10 years earlier (unlike in the 90s, when each member’s wake / funeral / burial followed closely upon their diagnosis and entrance into this HIV support group). How could this be, we all wondered? Well, life pre-HIV for this friend had not been much to be joyful about–no friends, no social life, only isolation and loneliness. But then, with HIV, it was like he’d been given an entry pass and membership into this support group, this very supportive group, which surrounded us. For the first time in his life, he felt like he belonged. For the first time in his life, he had friends, genuine, supportive friends.
He was eager to be the one to address the entire group with a summary, which ended up being mostly a focus on–a repeat of–what he had already shared with us in the small group. It was not simply a report, but rather a pouring out of thankfulness to these couple dozen men whom he knew were his friends, and whom he had the joy of meeting with every two weeks. We had become like his own family.
The other side of this, of course, cannot but fill one with great sadness. How is it possible that any human being must suffer such loneliness and isolation that membership in a group of HIV-positive persons is the only way of belonging, of finding friendship and support? This is a terrible judgment on society, of humanity. May all of life be a support group, with or without HIV.
Tomorrow we celebrate a worship service, forum and social gathering with this support group at Rosales Public Hospital–a morning always filled with rich nutrition for mind, spirit, soul and body . . . and, God knows, perhaps yet another joyful, life-giving surprise.
Still surprised by joy,
December 1, 2016
Prison bars, then and now
Twenty-seven years ago
“they thought they took it all from us”
Today, it is proclaimed
“they took nothing from us”
those twenty-seven intense years ago,
still so vivid, so now
they dragged us
two young Salvadoran women and me
along with the subversive cross
from Resurrection Lutheran Church
in San Salvador
scant kilometres from the campus of the Jesuit massacre
scant hours after that tragedy
and another dozen faithful from the clinic
they dragged us behind bars
blind-folded and hand-cuffed
interrogated us repeatedly in that dank, dark dungeon
suspected us of being fmln sympathizers
on the side of truth
on the side of life
on the side of freedom
giving voice to the voiceless
Now . . . twenty-seven not-so-long years later
they don’t allow us behind bars
muzzled and straitjacketed
suspected of not being fmln sympathizers
still on the side of truth
still on the side of life
still on the side of freedom
still giving voice to the voiceless
a listening ear to the unheard
a conversation with those abandoned
a smile for those beaten down
a loving hug to the trampled
many, if not most
still human beings
always human beings
always children of God
loved by God
Matthew 25:41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was . . . in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you . . . in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
15 – 16 November 2016
Archived items and messages:
El Salvador – Lutheran Theological Seminary practicum 2014 – a reflection by Jon Eriksson
Bishop’s Report from El Salvador – August, 2013 – Report.El Salvador.2013
news release Rude – In Mission with El Salvador – Brian Rude