The witness of four churchwomen

Friday, December 2, will mark the 25th anniversary of the slaying of four American churchwomen, Ita Ford, Maura Clarke, Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan, by Salvadoran security forces. Eight months after the Salvadoran military had murdered archbishop Oscar Romero, it again struck out against religious workers serving the poor in El Salvador. has a feature article about the murders and their legacy. Here is an excerpt:
The murders came amid a civil war sparked by years of economic exploitation and government repression. The U.S.-backed Salvadoran military, which was protecting wealthy landowning families and fighting a leftist guerrilla movement, regarded church workers like Ita Ford as subversives, because they sided with the poor. As a result, suspicion immediately fell upon the nation's security forces and its notorious paramilitary death squads.

That year, 1980, already had been remarkably violent. Archbishop Oscar Romero - whose impassioned calls for justice had drawn Ita Ford to El Salvador - was shot and killed in March at the altar of a San Salvador chapel while celebrating Mass.

And just as the Salvadoran people rallied around their martyred archbishop, many American church activists would come to identify with the four churchwomen and their brand of liberation theology - which emphasized the need for the Catholic Church to stand by the poor.