Sunday, November 27, 2011

Doctor Paul Farmer

Doctor Paul Edward Farmer was born in 1959.  He was the second of six children; he grew up in the mill town of North Adams, Massachusetts.  In 1966, the family moved to Alabama and later relocated to Florida in 1971.  They were so poor that they lived in a bus that his father had purchased in auction.  There, as a young boy, he picked fruit with Haitian migrant workers and was probably influenced by that experience.  The extent of the economic deprivation that he felt growing up helped him understand what it means to be without, and may have inspired him to devote his life's energy to those in need.

Farmer is widely known for his remarkable and unrelenting service to the people of Haiti, driven by his desire to provide good quality health care and assistance to the impoverished people of that country.  In addition, he has been a strong advocate for Haiti in the international arena and has been particularly critical of what he sees as America's plan for fixing the nation's enfeebled economy. 


In order to have a clearer understanding of the economic and political forces that have come to shape present-day Haiti, it is important to have an historic perspective of this beleaguered country.  Hispaniola was colonized by Christopher Columbus' brother, Bartolomeo, for Spain in 1496.  He established the capital at Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) on the eastern side of the island.  In 1697, the Treaty of Ryswick ceded France dominion over the western half of the island – present day Haiti.   During the eighteenth century, Haiti operated as a slave colony and a leading port of call for slave ships.  By the latter part of that century, nearly one out of every three slaves, who arrived in Haiti, died within a few years of reaching the colony.

In 1791, a revolt began against French domination.  This revolt was led by François-Dominique Toussaint L'Ouverture (May 20, 1743 – April 7, 1803).   Toussaint led enslaved blacks in a long struggle for independence over the French colonizers; ultimately, his movement abolished slavery, and secured "native" control over the Haitian colony.  In 1797, following his victory, L'Ouverture expelled the French commissioner Léger-Félicité Sonthonax, as well as the British army; freed the slaves in neighboring Santo Domingo, and wrote a Constitution naming himself governor-for-life.

Between the years 1800 and 1802, Toussaint L'Ouverture - translated from the French, his name literally means "all saints" or "all souls opening" - tried to rebuild the collapsed economy of Haiti and reestablish commercial contacts with the United States and Britain.  His rule permitted the colony a taste of freedom which, after his death in exile, was gradually undermined during the successive reigns of a series of despots.  His last words were to his son in France, "My boy, you will one day go back to St. Domingo; forget that France murdered your father."

In 1804, the independent state of Haiti was formed and it was declared as a safe haven for runaway slaves.  It is important to note here that the United States government refused to recognize Haiti's independence.  Sadly, the native population of Haiti is no longer extant; they were eliminated as a result of the Spanish domination that preceded the arrival of the French.

In 1825, King Charles X of France recognized the independence of the country only on condition that an indemnity of 150 million Francs - approximately one-half million dollars - be paid and that an agreement be reached regarding a reduction of import and export taxes placed on French goods; this arrangement was tantamount to extortion. These repayments continued until after World War II.  The effect of this agreement was devastating to the Haitian economy in that it represented a mass transfer of wealth from the poor indigenous people of Haiti to wealthy foreigners. 

From 1915 through 1934, Haiti was occupied by the U.S. military. The United States occupation of Haiti began on July 28, 1915, when 330 US Marines landed at Port-au-Prince as directed by President Woodrow Wilson.  They were dispatched to the island with the express purpose of protecting U.S. corporate interests.  It ended on August 1, 1934, during the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt.


Farmer first traveled to Haiti in 1983 while it was under the harsh dictatorship of the Duvalier family.  At that time, it was considered to be the poorest country in the western world.  Baby Doc Duvalier who was "President for Life" fled the country in 1986.  The first attempt at democratic elections was undertaken the following year; the fragile nature of this movement towards democracy was made apparent by the fact that a massacre took place at one of the polling stations. 

In 1990, Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide ran for President and on Dec 16, 1990 he won sixty-seven percent of the popular vote.  He was a catholic priest who was an avid proponent of liberation theology and believed strongly in the, "preferential option for the poor," reminiscent of the work and mission of Father Romero of El Salvador.  He voiced opposition to the policies of Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan, President of the United States.  As a consequence, President Bush, who succeeded Reagan, funded Aristide's opposition and cut off aid.  The paramilitary group Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH) rose to prominence and staged a coup on September, 1991 that left one thousand dead.  Aristide ultimately returned to power in 1994.

Before the devastating effect of the recent earthquake, the Haitian economy was already in terrible shape.  By the year 2000, the entire budget for Haiti, with a population of eight million people, was less than the budget of Cambridge, Massachusetts, a city of 100,000 individuals.


Farmer graduated from Harvard Medical School with an ancillary PhD degree in anthropology.  He worked in Haiti for eight months out of every year without pay, serving peasants who had lost their land as a result of the construction of a hydroelectric dam.  For the remaining four months of each year, he worked in Boston living in a church sanctuary.  He was briefly expelled from Haiti during the reign of the military junta, but managed to sneak back into the country by bribing government officials.  In 1994, Jimmy Carter was dispatched by President Bill Clinton to try to persuade the junta to abdicate their pernicious rule of the country.  

The tireless energy of Farmer on behalf of the people of Haiti has earned him the affectionate title of the, "poor people's doctor."  In 1999, he also worked at the Brigham and Women's hospital in Boston and was the Professor of Medicine and Medical Anthropology at Harvard Medical School.

Farmer's primary concern and professional interest lies in the realm of the relationship between economic inequality and infectious disease.  In his mind, many of the premature deaths that occur throughout the world from uncontrolled infectious diseases are a direct result of the mal-distribution of medical technologies.  He is never reluctant to fault the rich countries for their failure to address this issue on a global scale, especially his home country, the United States.

On account of his strong commitment to the service of those in need and his passion to do whatever he can to counter the dire effects of poverty, he has created a remarkable community referred to as Partners in Health (PIH) in Zammi Lasante.  This complex includes a woman's clinic, a general hospital, an Anglican Church, a kitchen that prepares meals for 2,000 people daily and a treatment center for Tuberculosis (TB).  This medical center possesses two laboratories and an ambulatory clinic that serves hundreds of people.  One million peasant farmers - in a country of eight million -depend upon this facility.  The per capita income of the average Haitian is about one dollar per day.  Twenty-five percent of Haitians die before the age of 40.  Farmer is so committed to the health and well-being of the people of Haiti that no one is turned away.  In addition, PIH helps build schools, water systems and manages a vaccination program with the goals of vaccinating all children, reducing malnutrition and decreasing infant mortality. 


In 1993, Farmer was awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant of $220,000 for his efforts.  He donated the entire sum to PIH.  The following is an excerpt of his acceptance speech on receiving this grant: "The individuals who are living in dire poverty throughout the world may well exceed one billion in number.  The suffering, starvation and premature death that is a consequence of this poverty is unconscionable in a world where the wealthiest nations enjoy an abundance and have ready access to a multiplicity of resources that are denied to so many of their fellow humans.  In many regards, the scale of this suffering is due to a lack of access to an adequate food supply, appropriate medical technology, education and basic information."


 Dr. Paul Farmer has dedicated his life to demonstrate that these horrific conditions can be effectively ameliorated, if not entirely eliminated, by making available to everyone what is currently available only to some.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Homelessness in America

A recent report indicated that there are currently 40,000 homeless in New York City.  This is a staggering statistic – this number is equivalent to the entire population of a small town.  Given the harsh winters in New York, this is a very disturbing reality.  New York is by no means unique in this regard.  The following table shows homelessness statistics for the entire nation as of 2009.  Please keep in mind the fact that present economic situation has worsened considerably and these numbers are more than likely elevated.

In addition, there are many millions of individuals at a greater risk for homelessness as the following table indicates

Note – These data are taken from the National Report on Homelessness from the National Alliance to End Homelessness

The horrific state of homelessness impacts men, women, children, the old and the young, the mentally ill and even the handicapped.  There are, in fact, whole families that are homeless.  It is not uncommon for families to be homeless in which the head of the household is employed.  In my mind, there is no justifiable reason for anyone to be homeless in America; the suffering that is endured by so many is wholly unnecessary.  Consider the extent of the waste evident in the federal budget especially in regards to military expenditures and the ludicrous concessions made to corporations with the help of the legions of lobbyists paid exorbitant sums to extricate concessions from an essentially apathetic Congress.  Consider the vast transfer of public wealth to private hands that has transpired within the last thirty years.  Consider the corruption that is so evident within local governments.  These are governments that often pander to wealth and find all manner of rationales to ignore the plight of so many of their citizens.

The state of homelessness is evidence of the seemingly pervasive cultural indifference to the living conditions of those less fortunate.  This is a troubling aspect of American life.  It need not be the case, however.  This nation is woefully out of balance.  What is required is a sense of urgency in meeting the needs of those who are in crisis.  What is needed is a serious reevaluation of what we, as a people, collectively regards as important and worthy of immediate attention.  In my mind, to ignore those who suffer unnecessarily is to effectively undermine the future.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Role of Government

The nation is currently politically polarized.  The essence of this schism is the perceived role of government.  The Democrats have as their central thesis the idea that government needs to be directly involved in meeting the material needs of all of its citizens; while, the Republicans take the position that government's primary function is the security of its people and should not be involved in any other aspect of the lives of its people.

The theoretical divide between the parties is immense; however, in practical terms there is not much difference between them in that the leadership of both parties is wholly dependent upon the financial largesse provided by special interests that, for the most part, represent the wealthy, i.e. the corporate class.

The current ideas regarding the role of government are for this reason terribly flawed. They do not work, for neither viewpoint is grounded upon the unerring commitment to ethical and moral principles.  This is the core of the dilemma not only within the borders of the United States, but also in human societies in general.  It is the mindless pursuit of national self interest, geopolitical-inspired policies, empire building and a blind and a myopic view of national sovereignty that has led to exorbitant military budgets, the stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction and ultimately war.  It is militarism that thwarts and often negates human progress; it is the unbounded use of violence to achieve selfish ends that undermines our collective humanity.

I propose a radically different reason d'être for government.  In my mind, the motivating force in government needs to be the global eradication of all the inequities that thwart human progress.  Billions of the world's people are suffering needlessly from abject poverty, preventable diseases, avoidable hunger, environmental degradation and political oppression.  It is completely unacceptable that the fate of so many human beings is dependent upon their place of origin.  These inequities are especially aggravated by the siphoning off of so much of the global wealth towards military expenditures, corporate welfare and by the apparent insensitivity of the affluent class to the plight of the world's people including those who live within their own countries. 
There is no real reason why humans cannot collectively create a better world for their own species and, likewise, accommodate and sustain the wondrous diversity of life on the planet.  We are in desperate need of a new paradigm to frame human existence.  Currently, so much of public policy throughout the world is driven by crazed and, often times, delusional thinking.  There is, however, a definite path towards collective sanity.

The primary incentive for change is the unavoidable reality that if the global status quo remains intact, the future for humanity is particularly grim.  Short term thinking and analysis especially from the sole perspective of profit and loss has already shown itself to be inadequate and disastrous.  At this juncture, it seems quite obvious that beneficial change will be in the hands of future generations.  There are numerous signs that a significant proportion of the younger generation has become acutely aware of the fragility of the environment and the severe plight of those less fortunate.  They have many tools available to them in terms of information about the world they live in provided by the Internet and they are highly connected with each other globally through the wonder of what is referred to as "social networking."  Significant and lasting change is, by its nature, cumbersome and slow, for it must work its way through the hearts and minds of the population.  As we have seen on numerous occasions, reform imposed from above is not necessarily the best approach.

There is a deep-seated and persistent hunger that manifests itself globally; this hunger is for a more equitable, just, peaceful and saner world.  There are many communities throughout the planet that are working towards this goal in innumerable ways.  These organizations are clearly growing in size and number and they are becoming more and more interconnected.  If this trend continues, it offers significant hope for meaningful change, for it may ultimately expand the idea of family beyond the rigid boundaries of genetic affiliation to encompass all of humanity.  

Monday, November 7, 2011

The White Rose

Within repressive regimes that do not rule at the behest of the general population, any opposition to the policies and beliefs as espoused by their leaders is necessarily seen as a threat to power.  Resistance in such cases is treated with unquestioning brutality, and terror is, by necessity, the tool that is used to retain control. 

In spite of the unrestrained application of collective punishment exacted by the Third Reich during the brief but disastrous reign of Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany, there were still instances of overt resistance by those courageous enough to stand up to the extreme brutality and repression.  The story of the White Rose exemplifies astounding courage, integrity and inherent optimism about human nature and humanity.

Before Hitler's rise to power in 1933, the German economy was in a terrible condition in part due to the draconian measures imposed as a result of the Treaty of Versailles following Germany's defeat in World War I.  For that reason, communism posed a possible threat to the status quo, for it offered an alternative economic model.  It was that threat that contributed to Hitler's rise to power.  Fascism and communism lie at opposite poles of the political spectrum.  Hitler's appeal was in part due to his declarations of the greatness and the superiority of the German people, and his promise to bring security and economic prosperity to them.  So strong was the anti-Bolshevist sentiment that twenty million Soviet citizens died as a result of Hitler's war.


At the university in Munich, Germany between 1942 and 1943, students had thrown hundreds of leaflets from the balcony into the school's vast entrance hall.  They also did direct mailings of these documents to many of the residences of Germany's major cities.  They were subsequently arrested for taking part in what we would regard as an expression of a fundamental democratic right and responsibility i.e. the airing of grievances.  The main players in this action were Hans Fritz Scholl (25), Sophia Magdalena Scholl (22) and Christopher Hermann Probst (24).  Others who were subsequently arrested were Willi Graf, Professor Kurt Huber and Alexander Schmorell.  Ultimately, they were all executed. 

The members of the White Rose were not naive; they understood the likely consequences of their actions - concentration camp or death.  They were idealistic young university students who saw the abysmal future that lie ahead of them if the policies of the Third Reich should continue to prevail; this prospect so horrified them that they felt compelled to act. 

The White Rose was the brainchild of Hans Scholl.  In many ways his views were informed by his father's influence who felt that the, "First concern of any German should not be military victory over Bolshevism, but the defeat of National Socialism."   National Socialism was the political party that espoused fascism as the substantive basis of its social and political agenda.

Hans and his sister Sophie grew up as normal children when Hitler had taken control of the government.  Hans was fifteen and his sister was twelve years old.  It was a time when Hitler's mesmerizing oratory about the greatness of the German people and the noble and great future that was ahead under his guiding hand was heard by the vast majority of the German people.  This had a remarkable impact on young and receptive minds.  Hans and Sophie joined the Hitler Youth.  At that time, they did not understand their father's serious reservations concerning National Socialism. 

This youthful attraction to patriotic fervor, however, quickly faded.  Hans' feelings about the rightness of Germany's "awakening," went through a remarkable transformation.   According to his sister Inge,  "…At this time he was honored with a very special assignment.  He was chosen to be the flag bearer when his troop attended the Party Rally in Nuremberg.  His joy was great.  But when he returned, we could not believe our eyes.  He looked tired and showed signs of a great disappointment.  We did not expect any explanation from him, but gradually we found out that the image and model of the Hitler Youth which had been impressed on him there was totally different from his own ideal.  The official view demanded discipline and conformity down to the last detail, including personal life, while he would have wanted every boy to follow his own bent and give free play to his talents.  The individual should enrich the life of the group with his own contribution of imagination and ideas.  In Nuremberg, however, everything was directed according to a set pattern.  Rebellion was stirring in Hans' mind."

These revelations planted the beginnings of doubt and mistrust.  His feelings rapidly spread to his siblings.  Their doubts were substantiated when they got the news of the existence of concentration camps.  In a state of profound moral confusion, the Scholl children went to their father,  seeking  some kind of resolution.  When he was asked, "Father, what is a concentration camp?" he answered, "That is war.  War in the midst of peace and within our own people.  War against human happiness and the freedom of its children.  It is a frightful crime." 

Feeling discouraged by the attitudes of their contemporaries, Hans and his close friends took consolation in an organization of young people called the Jungenschaft that existed in various German cities.  Within this group they could exercise their idealistic and romantic notions.  Ultimately, these groups became outlawed by the State, for they did not conform to party principles.  The disturbing events that surrounded him provoked Hans into an inquiry into philosophical principles.  He read the works of Plato, Pascal, Socrates and other philosophers in an attempt to find meaning amid the chaos that surrounded him.


Eventually the time had come to move on to higher education.  Hans had plans to go into medicine; this took him to the university in Munich.  It was while he was in school that war finally broke out.  As a result, he was subsequently inducted into a company of Medics, and soon took part in the French campaign.  There he lived the life of a half-soldier and half-student.  In this position, he witnessed the strangle hold that the Nazi doctrine exerted on his countrymen.  He found this terribly disquieting.

Hans and his fellow colleagues had discovered a philosophy professor by the name of Kurt Huber, who had a profound impact on them.  According to Huber, the Nazi regime was, "not only trampling on the divine order, but also attempting to annihilate God himself."  Professor Huber eventually joined the White Rose and was eventually executed by the State.

Sophie soon joined him at the University.  Her parents were growing terribly anxious about not only the political climate but the safety of their children.  Their fears were not unjustified, for within six weeks of Sophie's arrival in Munich, the first leaflets were distributed.

The following is a brief excerpt from this first leaflet, "…by means of gradual, treacherous, systemic abuse, the system has put every man into a spiritual prison.  Only now, finding himself lying in fetters, has he become aware of his fate…"  Three additional leaflets were distributed before those who were responsible for their creation, and distribution were discovered, arrested and eventually tried.


According to the trial documents surrounding the indictments of the members of the White Rose as they called themselves, "In the summer of 1942 the so-called Leaflets of the White Rose were distributed through the mails.  These seditious pamphlets contained attacks on National Socialism and on its cultural-political policies in particular; further, they contain statements concerning the alleged murder of the Jews and alleged forced deportation of the Poles.  In addition, the leaflets contained the demand to 'obstruct the continued functioning of the atheistic war machine by passive resistance, before it is too late and before the last of the German cities, like Cologne, become heaps of ruins and German youth had bled to death for the hubris of a sub-human.'" 


Needless to say, all the members of the White Rose and their "accomplices" who were arrested were given the death sentence.  It is a human tragedy of no small proportion, especially since what was described so vividly in the leaflets has been shown to be true.  Similarly, the dire predictions regarding the fate of Germany if the policies established by the National Socialists were to continue unobstructed all became reality in a very short time.  In spite of the tragic ending, these individuals demonstrated a selfless adherence to what they felt was right and displayed a remarkably courageous and non-violent opposition to what they knew to be terribly wrong; this is truly inspiring.  It is the kind of behavior that adds credence to the nobility and dignity of the human species.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Father Romero

Oscar Arnulfo Romero Galdamez, Archbishop of San Salvador, was born on August 15, 1917 in Ciudad Barrios.  He was assassinated on March 24, 1980 in the midst of celebrating mass.  During the last three years of his life, he devoted himself tirelessly to the service of the poor and oppressed.  This was a significant departure from his earlier career in the priesthood.  He was at that time a different person; he was severe in manner and his spirituality was focused upon the institution of the church, its teachings and dogma.  He did not have any quarrel with the repressive policies of his government.

At that time, the government of San Salvador was under the directorship of General Molina, who led an ultra-conservative right wing government.   Molina was so confident that Father Romero was a man he could deal with that he promoted his candidacy for the office of Archbishop.  The Vatican chose Romero over the apparently more radical Bishop Rivera y Damas.  The radical transformation that would later take hold in Romero's mind would ultimately arouse the concern of the Salvadoran government, the U.S. State Department and the Vatican, for he became an eloquent and charismatic spokesman for the people, especially the downtrodden.

In the final months of his life, his passion for social justice, encapsulated within his pastoral messages, was heard directly throughout Central America, Columbia, Venezuela, Argentina and Uruguay.  His letters and homilies, continue to be translated to this day.


On February 3, 1977, Oscar Romero, Bishop of Santiago De Maria, was appointed Archbishop of San Salvador.  This was a crucial appointment for Romero, for the country was in the midst of a wave of government-sponsored repression spawned by an attempt to enact some modest land reform measures.  Molina came to power in 1972 as a result of an election that was considered by many to be fraudulent.  At first, Molina attempted to placate the reformists by approving the First Project for Agrarian Transformation.

Prior to Molina's election, the Legislative Assembly attempted to appeal to the growing demand for land reform from the people of San Salvador by  convening the National Agrarian Reform Congress. At that time, the majority of arable land was in the hands of a small population of wealthy individuals – a pattern that could be found throughout the region.  The goal of land reform was to break the land down into smaller parcels and redistribute it so that a far greater proportion of the population could own and work the land.  The congress included representatives from the government, the opposition, labor, and business groups. The delegates determined that landholdings above a certain size could be expropriated under the nation's constitution; this was a definitive call for expropriation. Although the work of this congress was only to make recommendations, it made the wealthy land owners particularly anxious, especially given the fact that in 1970, the Chilean people democratically elected Salvador Allende, an avowed communist, as their president. 

When Molina was elected – the legitimacy of his election was held in serious doubt -, the dramatic changes proposed by the National Agrarian Reform Congress were essentially abandoned and replaced by proposals that were, in fact, small and not terribly significant.  Nevertheless, the ruling oligarchy felt pressure from the landowners and ultimately cancelled the project entirely on October 19, 1976.  This was soon followed by violent repression.  A significant aspect of the government's reaction was the persecution of the church.

Molina was eventually replaced by General Romero who assumed power on July 1, 1977, and immediately dispensed with any attempt at agrarian reform and openly backed the financial and agribusiness interests.  His regime was marked by harsh repression against those who pushed for reform.  This period was also marked by the rise of the infamous death squads that led to the "disappearances" of great numbers of people.  On November 25, 1977, the Law of Defense and Guarantee of Public Order was passed.  This law legitimized the arbitrary imprisonment of opponents, the use of torture and the suppression of public meetings. 


The event that marked Father Romero's transformation, which he personally viewed as a conversion, was the assassination of Father Grande along with his two companions as he was on his way to celebrate mass.  This event represented an attack on the pastoral approach of the church with its preference for the poor, for Father Grande had been a key figure in the movement for apostolic renewal in the archdiocese – a proponent for the application of Vatican II to the Salvadoran church.

The Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, or Vatican II, was the twenty-first Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church. It opened under Pope John XXIII on October 11, 1962.  At that time the Catholic Church was faced with a world in a state of flux where dramatic social, cultural and economic changes were occurring throughout human societies.  Pope John made it clear that it was time for the church to adapt to the new world.  As a result, Christians outside the church were encouraged to send observers to the Council.  This unprecedented action was met by universal approval.

Following the disturbing news of the assassination of Father Grande, Romero began to speak out eloquently for the poor and against repression.  He once stated that, "These days I have to walk the roads gathering up dead friends, listening to widows and orphans, and trying to spread hope."


We will examine in some detail the contents of three of his pastoral letters that provide clear insights into his thinking.  The first pastoral letter entitled, The Easter Church was written on April 10, 1977.  It was essentially Romero's way of introducing himself to his people.  In this letter, he embraced Liberation Theology that was inspired by the conclusions reached by Vatican II.  In it, he quotes from a meeting of the bishops of Latin America in 1968.  "We are on the threshold of a new epoch in the history of our continent.  It appears to be a time full of zeal for full emancipation, of liberation from every form of servitude, of personal maturity, and of collective integration.  The church cannot be indifferent when faced with a muted cry that pours from the throats of millions of men, asking their pastors for a liberation that reaches them from nowhere else."  He goes on to say, "Hence, when preaching liberation and associating ourselves with those who are working and suffering for it, the Church is certainly not willing to restrict her mission only to the religious field and dissociate herself from man's temporal problems."  This represents a significant statement with powerful political implications, and obviously posed a significant threat to the established order.

The second pastoral letter entitled, The Church, the Body of Christ in History deals essentially with what Romero perceives to be the church's contemporary mission.  In it he states, "The church looks upon the world with new eyes, it will raise questions about what is sinful in the world, and it will also allow itself to be questioned by the world as to what is sinful in the church."  He goes on further to state, "This preference of Jesus for the poor stands out throughout the gospel.  It was for them that he worked his cures and exorcisms; he lived and ate with them; he united himself with, defended and encouraged all those who, in his day, were on the margin of society, whether for social or for religious reasons: sinners, publicans, prostitutes, Samaritans, lepers.  This choice of Jesus to be with those who are marginalized is the sign that he gives to confirm the content of what he preaches: that the kingdom of God is at hand."  With this statement, Romero clearly establishes his affinity for the poor and marginalized, and proclaims an activist mission.  This kind of declaration was particularly disturbing to those in power.

Finally, in his third pastoral letter entitled, The Church and Popular Political Organizations, Romero clearly aligns himself with political organizations seeking social justice; these were the same organizations that were under attack by the security apparatus of the State.  In this missive, he unambiguously states that, "We want simply, in this section, to restate the right to organize and to denounce the violation of that right in our country."  Furthermore, he denounces the use of violence, especially against those who seek to organize in response to the repressive policies of government.  He also takes issue with violent conflict between various campesino groups clearly taking a stand for peace and against violence regardless of the perpetrators.


The power of his ideas resonated not only with the poor of San Salvador but throughout the region.  He was perceived as a real threat to the established order and was ultimately silenced for his activism.  His words, however, still live on, and his message continues to resonate within the hearts and minds of those who suffer at the hands of the powerful.