Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Rio Sumpul Massacre

Several major corrections have been made to this article. I had the wrong date for the Sumpul River massacre. I also confused the Sumpul River massacre with the Lempa River massacre on March 17, 1981. 

Thirty-five years ago, on May 14, 1980, hundreds of Salvadorans fleeing the Salvadoran army tried to cross the Sumpul River to seek safety in Honduras. But they found themselves being fired on by the Salvadoran military as well as the Honduran military.

Many died, victims of the military – shot or drowned. There was also another massacre of fleeing Salvadorans on March 17, 1981, at the Lempa River.

There were, however, any number of heroes in the face of the Lempa River massacre – including the Hondurans who welcomes them. But two US people of faith – Father Beto (Earl) Gallagher, O.F.M. Cap., and Yvonne Dilling  rescued many people, swimming in the waters, evading the fire coming from both sides of the river.

A hero, of the Sumpul River massacre, was Padre Fausto Milla, a Honduran priest, who refused to be silenced and passed the word on to the world, despite the denials of the governments.

Many perished; others survived, traumatized; some went to refugee camps in Honduras and then returned to El Salvador in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They are also heroes, people who refused to give in to oppressive governments, to violent repression, and to threats.

Padre Beto
But today I think of Padre Beto whom I never met but whose stories I have heard from many Hondurans, stories of a man of faith who loved the people and risked his life for them

I think of Yvonne Dilling whose book, In Search of Refuge, I read many years ago.

And I think of Padre Fausto, whose Masses I often attended when I lived in Santa Rosa and who is still a voice for justice and liberation.

They are a few of the great cloud of witnesses who show us what the Reign of God might be.

I have written many times in this blog about Padre Fausto. A translation of an article on his life can be found here.

I wrote a bit about Padre Beto at the end of this blog entry.

Here are two articles on the massacre – in the New York Times and in this blog entry.

Here is a short video on the Sumpul River massacre:

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