Fall 2022 newsletter
Larry Parr, El Salvador
Greetings from El Salvador.
In our recent Mission Assembly, our missioners decided on a new mission focus for Maryknoll Lay Missioners. This new cross-cutting focus is nonviolence and involves prevention, intervention, restoration and reconciliation. Nonviolence is highly relevant to the people of El Salvador, who have lived through many years of trauma caused by violence. All of our ministries in El Salvador in some way involve nonviolence and working for a more just, inclusive and compassionate world.
The people of El Salvador have endured through a long history of violence and trauma, including civil war, massacres of civilians, state oppression and high levels of gang violence. This especially has affected people from rural areas and marginalized communities. The scars from all of this trauma can affect the ways people live in community, and often fear controls how people relate to their society.
Young people continue to grow up in an environment of violence and trauma that creates feelings of alienation and isolation. Many of the young people in our programs have lost parents, siblings, grandparents and other family members to violence. They have been caught in a war between gangs and the military and feel targeted just for being a young person from a marginalized community. This, combined with a lack of opportunities to work or study, has caused young people to often feel they don’t have the support they need to reach their goals.
One of the ways we strive to work for nonviolence is by building and fostering community. Jesus calls us to love one another and work for the common good of our brothers and sisters. Community helps give young people support and fosters values such as solidarity, fraternity, trust, service and love. It is also a way to combat the fear and alienation that is caused by violence and can foster a new culture of peace.
Our ministry in Las Delicias strives to create community and accompany young people in their journey for a better future. The goal is to mentor future leaders who can support one another to reach their personal goals as well as to help transform their community. We don’t just provide scholarships but offer tutoring, academic formation, spiritual reflection and workshops such as alternatives to violence, life planning and professional development.
The idea is to create an environment that provides support and understanding, so that these amazing young people can be agents of transformation for nonviolence. They attempt to build community and give back by helping the next generation of students. By working together, our young people can help break cycles of violence and poverty and build a culture of fraternity, solidarity and peace.
Our scholarship students continually teach me what it means to live in community. One of the students, who is a freshman in high school, has been struggling in school. This young man has a dream of becoming a doctor, but he doesn’t have a lot of support from his family. His mother told him not study after 9 p.m. because it keeps her awake. No one from his family showed up to his school to receive his grades and talk to his teachers. When he finally got his grades, he found that he was failing two classes. In many ways he feels alone and that it will be very hard for him to reach his goals.
Despite all of this, the young man continues to work hard. He is being tutored by other scholarship students as well as university student at the Jesuit university.
At our last meeting, he shared with the group that his teachers have given him an extra credit project to help raise his grades. Eight scholarship students stayed behind for over three hours to help him finish his project. All of the other students are busy and have their own problems but gave up their time to help someone else.
For me, this small act of love is what nonviolence is all about. It shows that solidarity and love can conquer fear and violence. These small acts of loving your neighbor can help transform hate into love and violence into peace. Together these young people can build a new culture of inclusivity and peace that can transform our world.
Please consider making a special gift to Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ “Walk With Us” campaign, which raises money for the recruitment, training and ongoing support of all of us lay missioners. We can only “walk with” the people here because you are “walking with” us. Thanks to matching gifts, every $100 given to the campaign in effect becomes $150. To donate ONLINE, click the “Walk With Us” button below. Thank you so much for your generosity!