The wonderful thing about showing people around the ecumenical centre is that I get to learn new things. Yesterday Ana Vilanueva from the World YWCA told the group of women I was showing around about the cross pictured here and I realised that the true story of Maria Christina Gomez made the rather general "this is a cross from El Slavador with a woman on it..." seem pretty tame.
Ana was with the delegation from the WCC which recieved the cross in the early 1990s and she also spoke movingly of the incredible solidarity work that women from the churches around the world had understaken at the time to make sure that women in prison in El Salvador not be forgotten.
Her telling the story made me realise how very poor our oral traditions ar in the West we forget to even pass on some of the most passionate stories. Interestingly it's a story about women too that has been forgotten, a relatively recent one at that.
I'll add more to this post in coming days but here's an extract from Wikipedia:
A member of Emmanuel Baptist church in San Salvador, Gómez was a national leader both of Baptist women and in the teachers' union. She was a founder of the National Coordination of Salvadoran Women (CONAMUS), an organization of women founded in 1986. Since then, CONAMUS has addressed the issues which directly affect poor women in El Salvador, including domestic violence and rape, economic survival, lack of political participation, and social inequality. In 1989 CONAMUS opened a clinic to respond to women who were victims of domestic violence and rape.
According to witnesses, heavily armed men dressed in civilian clothing forced Gómez into a car when she returned from the John F. Kennedy School in Ilopango. An hour later, she was pushed alive from a car, in front of hundreds of witnesses near a cemetery in Antigua Cuscatian, on the outskirts of San Salvador. Four shots were fired at her and she died immediately.
On examination, her body showed signs of torture and burns most likely caused by chemicals such as acid. The murdered teacher had been taken from an area that was the operational base for the Salvadoran Air Force. General Juan Rafael Bustillo, the then head of the Salvadoran Air Force, has been implicated in the murder. The National Association of Salvadoran Educators (ANDES) has stated that Bustillo had publicly threatened Gomez on previous occasions.
Full article here.