Since 2010, March 24 has marked the International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims. The date was chosen because on 24 March 1980, the courageous Archbishop of El Salvador, Oscar Arnulfo Romero, was assassinated.

Archbishop Oscar Romero spoke out for the poorest communities during a period of terrible violence in El Salvador. His weekly sermons were broadcast on radio to the whole nation. In his broadcast on 23 March 1980, Romero ordered the army to stop killing people:

“In the name of God, and in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I beg you, I implore you, I order you, in the name of God, stop the repression!”

The next day, a shot killed Romero as he said Mass. A UN report later found that Major Roberto D’Aubuisson had ordered Romero’s death.

With the devastating events in Ukraine at the forefront of our minds, his demand for peace is all too relevant.

As we reflect on the Archbishop’s inspirational life, we hear the call once again to denounce human rights violations of the most vulnerable people, protect life, promote human dignity and stand in opposition to all forms of violence.

Oscar Romero said:

“I will not tire of declaring that if we really want an effective end to violence we must remove the violence that lies at the root of all violence: structural violence, social injustice, exclusion of citizens from the management of the country, repression. All this is what constitutes the primal cause, from which the rest flows naturally.”

This is truly at the heart of Cord’s vision. We work to make peace a reality in places where people don’t have the freedom to exercise their rights. For example, in Burundi, our work focuses on the most marginalised in a society blighted by poverty. These include returning refugees who fled the country during recent violent outbreaks. They face stigma and exclusion. Their land and homes have often been taken by other members of the community. In the last few years, they have suffered further discrimination due to the false assumption that they are spreading coronavirus.

“Peace is the product of justice and love.”

The love that you express in your prayers and donations mean that we can work for justice and peace in this challenging situation. We are helping people to find a secure income, to access psychological support, to find peaceful resolutions to their problems and to meet the specific needs of the most vulnerable. The most vulnerable include women, children and the disabled. It is these most vulnerable groups who are being empowered to be change agents for peace in their communities. Could there be a more beautiful expression of peacebuilding? That the most oppressed and vulnerable, in the most difficult circumstances, are the very people who are rising up to bring stability and cohesion to their towns and villages.

Archbishop Oscar Romero’s life came to an end 42 years ago today, but his vision, his mission, his God given ministry lives on:

“You can tell the people that if they succeed in killing me, that I forgive and bless those who do it. Hopefully, they will realize they are wasting their time. A bishop will die, but the church of God, which is the people, will never perish.”