As Archbishop of El Salvador, Oscar Romero was chosen in order to avoid interference from the church in the coming political unrest. Because Romero saw the plight of the poor and down-trodden and the brutality and disregard for human dignity and life by the government; he realized that the church should and could be a beacon of hope and a companion to the oppressed. The civil war in El Salvador had awful effects on the population, lasting 12 years beginning the year Romero was assassinated. Civilians were killed in the streets, and people were left destitute, homeless and starving. There is a theology that attempts to explain the world without assuming much more than very basic Catholic teachings. This was the theology that Romero promoted, and perhaps died for, dating back to the 1950s, it has come to its fullest print expression in the book A Theology of Liberation by Gustavo Gutierrez.
[...] Because he openly supported the common people, the oppressed and the poor of El Salvador, Romero was considered by the government and the right wing groups of the country at best a nuisance, and at worst a real threat in need of elimination. The civil war officially began in 1980, the year the Romero was assassinated. El Salvador remained in a state of civil war until 1992. Romero knew that assassination was a possibility, but he drew strength from the people. [...]
[...] Liberation theology calls people to stand beside and support the lowest of the low of humanity, not only because of what Jesus says in the Bible, but because we are all human, equal in the eyes of God, and all possesing the divine spark. According to Vatican II, there are several basic human rights that are innate in everyone, not simply a select few living in western developed countries (whose wealth is at least partially created and sustained on the backs of the poor laborers from Latin America working for large international coporations). [...]
[...] Liberation theology seeks to take Christian principles like charity, community and compassion and apply them to the entire community as a way to conduct one's life on almost every level. Presummably this could be done within a Capitalist framework or system, but since Gutierrez and others were creating a new theology, they decided to philosophically draw on Marxism and not Capitalism. The oppression and poverty found throughout Latin America was seen by the liberation theologians and their sympathisers as caused primarily by foreign corporations and an upper class that was driven by greed with no regard for the plight of the masses (Schall 40-1). [...]
[...] It is using a theology that puts God on the side of the oppressed, comforting them in their suffering, even suffering with them, so that people know that they are not alone in their struggle, and that there is hope for the future and for justice. The 'poor' do not exist as an act of destiny; their existence is not politically neutral or ethically innocent The poverty of the poor is not therefore an appeal for generous action, but a demand for the construction of a different social order (Gutierrez quoted in Quade 19). [...]
[...] All those who make it their own will experience the profound joy of knowing that at their side are brothers and sisters who without reservations made this dimension an irreplaceable part of their Christian lives (Schmitz quoted by Gutierrez 124). This is the joy that Romero felt from the people of El Salvador, and what he has become to be recognized for; a leader who stood up for his people and would not quit, even in the face of death. During his time as Archbishop, Romero felt an obligation to adhere to the documents created at Medellín, which meant that his sympathies often swayed more in the direction of the liberation theologians and a significant percentage of the population. [...]
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