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

Impact of state repression? Kashmir's 65% people prefer independence: Cambridge study

By Rajiv Shah 
Even as the Government of India’s controversial move to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) into two union territories is not only refusing to down die but has acquired international dimensions, a recent study, published by the Cambridge University Press, has claimed “pro-independence attitudes” among that 65% of Kashmiris, warning, this sentiment worsens when the state machinery resorts “repressive violence”.

Congress' anti-democratic laws led to Modi govt's 'Constitutional' changes: Scholars

Counterview Desk
A large number of academics* said to be belonging to several Indian and international institutions, even as taking strong exception to the Narendra Modi government's alleged move to amend the Constitution through "illegitimate" means, have taken strong exception to their colleagues in academia who we have become "all too accustomed to adopting a calculated silence in the face of such indignities."

Dholera 'inundated': Gujarat govt tries selling low lying area as top smart city site

Counterview Desk
Even as the Dholera Special Investment Region Regional Development Authority (DSIRDA) of the Gujarat government was busy organising a junket for Gujarat-based journalists for the area sought to be sold as an ideal special investment region (SIR) for industrialists, well-known farmers' activist Sagar Rabari has wondered why no investor has so far agreed to put in money in an area situated in Ahmedabad district along the Gulf of Khambhat.

Kashmir normal? Schoolboys, teenagers being arbitrarily picked up, detained: Report

Counterview Desk
A four-person team, consisting of Jean Dr├Ęze, well-known development economist; Kavita Krishnan, who is with the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist); Maimoona Mollah of the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA); and Vimal Bhai of the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), back from a five-day fact-finding mission (August 9-13) from Kashmir, has said that people they spoke to “expressed their pain, anger, and sense of betrayal against the Government of India.”
In a report, “Kashmir Caged”, released along with a short eight-minute film, they said, the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, dissolution of the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), and bifurcating it into two Union Territories, is not being supported by anyone they met, except for BJP spokesperson on Kashmir affairs Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo, who claimed 46% vote share in J&K.
Excerpts from the report: When our flight landed, and the airlines staff announced that passeng…

Quit India Movement 'betrayal' and dubious role of Hindu Mahasabha, RSS leaders

By Shamsul Islam*
After the recent guillotine of Article 370, Hindutva ideologue Ram Madhav, while celebrating the occasion stated that it was honouring of the sacrifices of Dr Shyam Prasad Mukherjee and thousands others who laid down their lives for its removal. It is to be noted that Dr Mukherjee was a cadre of RSS and was groomed into a Hindutva leader by another Hindutva icon, VD Savarkar.

Kashmir kayoed, bhakts 'jubilant': Much like crowds when Hitler purged Jews, Catholics

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
August 12, 2019 was the great festival of Eid al-Adha (incidentally, for Jews, Christians and Muslims – the sacrifice of Abraham is a very significant one); for the people of Kashmir however, this year Eid was a sad day indeed, what with the lockdown and communications blockade!

Modi's Gujarati mind? Why govt move to 'sell-off' defence PSUs isn't in national interest

By Sandeep Pandey*
The Standing Committee on Defence, 2017-18, of the 16th Lok Sabha highlights the idea of Buy Indian-IDDM (Indigenously Designed Developed and Manufactured). The Committee expressed concern over the import content of equipments produced and developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Ordnance Factories (OFs) and defence Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) because of the dependence it creates for military hardware on foreign suppliers.

Central Gujarat effluent channel 'releasing' highly polluted industrial wastewater: PM told

Counterview Desk
Senior environmentalists of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS), Vadodara, Rohit Prajapati and Krishnakant, in an open letter to the Prime Minister, the Gujarat chief minister, the Gujarat chief secretary, and senior Government of India and Gujarat government officials dealing with environment, pollution and climate change have said that the authorities’ response their pleas to take action against the leakages and flow of polluted wastewater from the effluent channels of Central Gujarat industrial areas has met with complete inertia.

Modi's Kashmir move meant to 'solidify' Hindu majoritarianism, 'demonize' Muslims

By Battini Rao*
The parliament of India on August 6 put its stamp of approval on bills abrogating article 370 and downgrading the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) to two union territories. When the representatives of the people of India were deciding the fate of the state, the people of J&K were forced into collective house arrests.

Hindus to be 'sent' to Kashmir? Despite Israeli settlements, peace eludes the region

By Anand K Sahay*
Curfew, news and communications blackout, transportation shut-down... News reports from Kashmir are worrying. So are the views relayed through the media, especially television. Old-fashioned repression seems to be consorting comfortably with expressions of concern “for our Kashmiri brethren”. We are looking at Orwell’s 1984 in the making.