Today marks the 26th anniversary of the rape and murder of four American churchwomen -- Sister Ita Ford, Sister Maura Clarke, Sister Dorothy Kazel, and lay missioner Jean Donovan. 26 years ago today, nine months after the assassination of archbishop Oscar Romero, the women were captured, raped, tortured, and brutally murdered by members of the U.S. trained and financially supported Salvadoran armed forces. They joined the ranks of the martyrs of El Salvador's bloody civil war.
Today I also received a copy of an appeal for the support of a project the churchwomen would have supported. Oscar Romero University is threatened with closure, and needs the support of persons around the globe. Here is the appeal from Peace International, sponsor of the university:
Dear Friends and Followers of Oscar Romero,
We are writing to you because we are facing the threatened closure of the Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero University, the only rural university serving the poor of northern El Salvador.
We founded the Monseñor Oscar Romero University in 1993, one year after the signing of the peace accords in El Salvador. We named it for the slain archbishop in fulfillment of his prophecy:
“If they kill me I will rise again
in the people of El Salvador....”
The Oscar Romero University, located in a formerly conflictive zone in Chalatenango Province, now enrolls over 900 students and has graduated 360 new professionals. Its aim is to break the cycle of poverty through education. Most Romero students are the first in their families to attend school beyond fifth or sixth grade.
Problems at the University came to our attention last March, when the Rector abruptly canceled the commemoration of the 26th anniversary of Romero’s martyrdom and barred the community from celebrating mass there. We have been dismayed since then to discover that some University administrators have strayed from Romero’s vision. We have uncovered evidence of misappropriation of University resources, including the alleged diversion of funds to a small group of directors. These funds come from students and their families who scrimp and sacrifice on incomes of less than $2 a day in order to pursue their dream of a college education.
We have obtained the assistance of the Human Rights Commission of the Archdiocese of San Salvador. We are also cooperating with local law enforcement to investigate the extent of the problem and to prosecute those who have violated the law. We have met with the Ministry of Education to request their support to end the corruption and help us realign the University with its original mission. However, the Ministry of Education has indicated that the irresponsibility of these administrators could lead to serious sanctions, including possible closure of the University.
We need your help – as members of the international community -- to keep the university open. Please support our efforts to build a transparent and democratic institution that honors the legacy of Oscar Romero.
Read how you can help, by writing letters and making donations at the Peace International website.