Skip to main content

Why India needs to emulate Oscar Romero as untruth, injustice, divisiveness "gain ground"

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*
On October 14, 2018, Pope Francis canonised Archbishop Oscar Romero. In his homily during the ceremony, the Holy Father lauded Romero for leaving "the security of the world, even his own safety, in order to live his life according to the Gospel, close to the poor and to his people, with a heart drawn to Jesus and his brothers and sisters".
He went on to add, "Let us ask for the grace always to leave things behind for love of the Lord: to leave behind wealth, the yearning for status and power, structures that are no longer adequate for proclaiming the Gospel, those weights that slow down our mission, the strings that tie us to the world".
Pope Francis has constantly upheld St. Oscar Romero as someone to be emulated. Speaking to the Bishops of Central America in Panama on January 24, 2019, he described the murdered Archbishop of San Salvador as, “no human resources manager”. Rather he was, “a father, a friend, and a brother. He can serve as a yardstick”.
Archbishop Oscar Romero was brutally gunned down on March 24, 1980, while celebrating the Eucharist in San Salvador. He was a fiercely outspoken critic of his Government, the military and of the right-wing elements of his country, for their continued oppression and exploitation of the poor.
There has never been any doubt about who was responsible for his death. He took sides with the poor, the marginalised and the victims of injustices. His martyrdom made him a ‘Saint’ for millions of these. It was estimated that more than 250,000 were present at his funeral as a sign of gratitude to the man who did so much for them and whom they deeply loved.
As a young priest and even in his early years as a bishop, Romero was regarded as 'conservative'. He was afraid to rock the boat and preferred to maintain the 'status quo'. He never wanted to be on the wrong side of the powerful of El Salvador.
Fr Rutilio Grande, a Jesuit, was a good friend of Romero. Grande left no stone unturned to highlight the plight of the poor and the oppressed and to make their struggles his own.
Unlike Romero, Grande did not hesitate to take up cudgels against the powerful and other vested interests. On March 12, 1977, Grande was killed by the regime. Just three weeks earlier, Romero was appointed Archbishop of San Salvador.
Grande’s death came as a terrible shock to Romero. Presiding over the funeral Mass, Romero said, “The government should not consider a priest who takes a stand for social justice as a politician or a subversive element when he is fulfilling his mission in the politics of the common good.”
He also said openly and emphatically, “Anyone who attacks one of my priests, attacks me. If they killed Rutilio for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path”. The death of his dear friend was a turning point in the life of Romero. From that day onwards, he wholeheartedly worked for the rights of the poor, until his own murder, three years later.
On December 21, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly, in a fitting tribute to Oscar Romero proclaimed March 24 as the International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims. The purpose of this day is to:
  • Honour the memory of victims of gross and systematic human rights violations and promote the importance of the right to truth and justice;
  • Pay tribute to those who have devoted their lives to, and lost their lives in the struggle to promote and protect human rights for all;
  • Recognise, in particular, the important work and values of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero of El Salvador, who was assassinated on 24 March 24,1980, after denouncing violations of the human rights of the most vulnerable populations and defending the principles of protecting lives, promoting human dignity and opposition to all forms of violence.
India and the rest of the world desperately need to emulate Oscar Romero. Untruth and injustice, divisiveness and discrimination gains more ground in many countries. Several political, business and even so-called ‘religious’ leaders use hate, jingoism and xenophobia to nurture their lust for power and greed for wealth.
Truth and justice in several countries of the world are totally disregarded. Hardly any attention is paid to the victims of crime and violence – particularly the institutionalised ones. The poor continue to be the victims of unjust structures everywhere. Human rights defenders are denigrated, hounded and even killed.
On the day when we celebrate the memory of this great saint, let his challenging words on his own reality, a few days before his assassination, awaken us to respond to our context today:
"The church in Latin America has much to say about humanity. It looks at the sad picture portrayed by the Puebla conference: faces of landless peasants mistreated and killed by the forces of power, faces of labourers arbitrarily dismissed and without a living wage for their families, faces of the elderly, faces of outcasts, faces of slum dwellers, faces of poor children who from infancy begin to feel the cruel sting of social injustice. For them, it seems, there is no future – no school, no high school, no university. By what right have we catalouged persons as first-class persons or second-class persons? In the theology of human nature there is only one class: children of God."
St Oscar Romero was truly a prophet: worthy of emulation in our broken world.
---
*Indian human rights activist. Contact: cedricprakash@gmail.com

Comments

TRENDING

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Contempt of court? UP CM taking 'personal vendetta' against Dr Kafeel Khan: Activists

Counterview Desk
Demanding that the Uttar Pradesh government immediately release well-known paediatrician Dr Kafeel Khan, a group of more than 100 academicians, activists, researchers, doctors and lawyers have said in an open letter that he is being “targeted at the behest of the chief minister”, wondering, “When is an act of challenging the government a threat under the National Security Act (NSA)?”

A locked up offer? Govt of India 'not serious' in involving NGOs: IIM-A survey

By Rajiv Shah
Was the Government of India serious when it asked 92,000 civil society organizations (CSOs) in early April to “assist” state governments and district administrations in taking care of food, shelter and other needs of migrant workers, known to have been affected by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’ sudden 21-day lockdown in order to “combat” the spread of Covid-19 virus, announced on March 24?

Gujarat link of controversial US doctor who 'forced' WHO quiz Trump's wonder drug

By Rajiv Shah
A top American doctor, Sapan Sharankishor Desai, born and raised in the “affluent” North Shore (Chicago) region of Illinois by Indian parents, at one point of time involved in NGO activity through the Desai Foundation dedicated to “improving” the lives of the impoverished in Gujarat, is in the eyes of a major international storm following his paper in a “Lancet” questioning Donald Trump-promoted drug hydroxychloroquine.

Will Govt of India, ICMR end 'perverse' practice of extracting profits from ill-health?

By Asmita Verma, Surabhi Agarwal, Bobby Ramakant*
The Epidemics Act, 1897 gives the central and state governments authority to impose any regulations which may be necessary to contain the outbreak of a disease. Some state governments such as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhatisgarh have already used this power to bring private healthcare facilities in their state under government control.

Dalits in India, Blacks in US suffer 'similar' humiliation: Macwan drafts letter to Trump

Counterview Desk
Well-known human rights activist Martin Macwan, recipient of the prestigious Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Award in 2000, has drafted an open letter to US President Donald Trump following the disturbing turn of events with the murder of George Floyd, leading to widespread protests in the US. He has sought signatures of concerned citizens before sending it to Trump.

Savarkar 'opposed' Bhagat Singh's, Netaji's dream of India, supported British war efforts

By Shamsul Islam*
In a shocking development, the student wing of the RSS put the busts of martyrs Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose with Savarkar's on one pedestal at the University of Delhi late in the night on August 20, 2019. Bhagat Singh sacrificed his life for a socialist-democratic-secular republic and Netaji raised Azad Hind Fauj (INA) consisting of people of all religions and regions for armed liberation of India.

'Violation' of migrant workers' human rights: Legal notice to IIM-A director, govt babus

By Our Representative
Taking strong exception to the police action against protesting migrant workers off the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) on May 18, senior Gujarat High Court advocate Anandvardhan Yagnik, in a legal notice to the IIM-A director "on their behalf" has said that the workers had only been seeking to to go back to their home states, Jharkhand and West Bengal, for the last more than 20 days because they were not paid their “earned wages because of the lockdown.”