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Bree’s Beat

Saint for social justice

Bree Bailey | Contributor

Bree Bailey“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18 (NIV)

The anointing spoken about in Luke has not disappeared in the modern age. Saint Oscar Romero realized this when he was faced with a life-changing decision, whether to turn a blind eye to the injustice in his country or face death for speaking out.

In 1977, when Romero became archbishop in the capital of El Salvador, San Salvador, the nation was saturated with fear and violence. An elite few controlled the resources and political power of this country while most lived in extreme poverty and injustice.

Throughout the first years of his new position, Romero attempted to stay out of politics and simply focus preaching the word. However, as his congregation came to him with stories of abuse and his own dear friend was slaughtered for standing up to the oppression, Romero’s eyes were opened. He realized preaching God’s word while doing nothing for his people was complete hypocrisy.

“The word of God is like the light of the sun; it illuminates beautiful things but also things which we would rather not see,” Romero said.

After this realization, he used his sermons to explicitly speak out against the corruption running rampant throughout the nation. In a time period where most information was strictly filtered by the government, his sermons went on public radio for all to hear.

Romero challenged those in power to stop persecuting those around them and take a stand for justice. He specifically spoke to those who were killing commoners at the order of the elite.

“The peasants you kill are your own brothers and sisters, when a man tells you to kill, remember God’s words ‘Thou shalt not kill,’’’ Romero said. “In the name of God and in the name of this suffering people, I beg you, I beseech you, I order you in the name of God, stop the repression!”

As could be expected, it was not long before Romero began receiving death threats for his audacity. Although he knew these threats were legitimate, his conscience would not allow him to back down. He continued to speak out for the poor and oppressed and shared their overlooked testimonies in his sermons.

On Mar. 24, 1980, Romero was celebrating Mass when he was suddenly shot and killed. Romero was full aware of the risks he was taking though.

“As a Christian, I do not believe in death without resurrection, if they kill me, I will rise again in the people of el Salvador,” Romero said. “A bishop may die but the church of God, which is the people, will never die.”

Last month, on Oct. 14, Archbishop Oscar Romero became a saint under the authority of Pope Francis. His story inspires many today who dedicate their lives to empowerment and justice.

Issues of oppression and violence are just as prevalent here in the United States as in El Salvador, though they manifest in different forms.  One way you as an individual can take a stand is following Romero’s example and facing the ugly face of politics. We cannot sit back and expect the issues we are passionate about to simply figure themselves out. It is our duty as Christians to use our freedoms to be a voice for the voiceless.

Beyond simply being a voice, we are also called to be the hands and feet of Christ. By the Hand Club for Kids is doing just that in the most impoverished areas of Chicago. In these places, gunshots rattle off as background noise while gangs are viewed as the greatest form of protection. Children live in a constant limbo unsure of what the next moment will hold. This ministry is an after-school program that assists students with academics as well as providing them with love and opportunities beyond what they would deem possible.

As Managing Director of Operations for By The Hand Club For Kids Anwar Smith mentioned in chapel, Chicago is not that far away. You can volunteer to help with tutoring, serving meals or just playing with kids. We cannot ignore the vulnerable around us. Look to Romero’s example and that of our savior as you pray and seek out ways to take action in your own community.

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