from El Salvador
The Work of a Modern Day Disciple
Marta Benevides of El Salvador is a world recognized Peace Maker from El Salvador. As an activist for human rights, peace and justice she has worked for many decades to support the struggle of the indigenous people. She has addressed the scorched earth policy, lived through the era of death squads, and helped the martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero with his work there in El Salvador, the most violent of all countries in the South America. She was present when he was assassinated there, in the Cathedral in San Salvador.
Marta Benavides is one of the surviving activists from the original group of human rights and peace advocates who began their work during the 1970s and the rising climate of repression. A leader of an ecumenical revolution focused on bringing peace to her country, the ordained pastor who chose “to live and not die for the revolution” has been bringing people at all levels – politics, the arts, law enforcement, agriculture and food security, environment, religion and labor – together to defend human rights and develop a culture of peace.
During the early 1980s, Benavides was head of the Ecumenical Committee for Humanitarian Aid, a group sponsored by her close friend Archbishop Oscar Romero to support victims of violence. With the committee, she established the first refugee centers for people displaced by the violence. Almost two years after Romero’s assassination, Benavides went into exile and worked for the next decade from Mexico and the United States to bring an end to the war in her home country. With Ecumenical Ministries for Development and Peace, she developed programs to promote understanding and reconciliation among peoples and groups and end intra- and inter-family violence. She also built networks of international solidarity for a negotiated peaceful political solution to the conflict in El Salvador.
In 1992 after the peace accords were signed, Benavides returned home and founded the International Institute for Cooperation Amongst Peoples, also known as the Institute for the 23rd Century, which promotes the values of a culture of peace through a variety of programs. She established community training centers and continues to travel throughout the country conducting workshops on, among other topics, sustainable agriculture, human rights and the prevention of community and family violence, particularly violence against women and children. Her efforts have led to extensive collaboration with the United Nations, the World Council of Churches, secular and ecumenical networks and numerous other partners, and in 2005 she was one of the 1,000 women nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Benavides has dedicated her life to rebuilding communities devastated by war and has brought renewal, both figurative and literal, to formerly scorched earth.
Marta has created a museum where people go to enjoy the artifacts of the people, the land, and their cultural history. It is called, Aha, because when you go there and see something lovely, one often times says, Aha.
From the abyss of death and dread
I choose life, not death.
Her father told her: “Tita,
See the frog! be active, move, dance.
Do what you know! Be like that.”Aha!
What sacred ritual must occur?
What spirits must come
to heal, to bestow love that can provide
the sweet vibration of freedom, peace, and justice?
“I just want you to love us,” she said, her hand cold in mine. Aha!
We who are masters of twitter,
we tweet exchanging pixels.
We chat while our future perches
precariously on the rim of forgetfulness.
“But I say no. I refuse connection to heartbreaking cleverness.” Aha!
Yesterday, grinning with greed and need
they launched a missile to the moon.
Fascinated by good but concentrating on dark.
Is no hope left? Only death and loss?
“But no! I choose, life, not death! “Aha.
And so with Marta whose hand I hold
I wait. Something must happen. I turn my back on secrets
and the abyss of secretiveness,
The fetish of darkness, the current rage.
On building frayed fences I turn my back. Aha.
Not inspiring, this wound on Grandmother Moon
And so I know! I /we must give form to love
From a center moving outward from my heart
to El Salvador where green hills and glowing mountains
transfer the tick-tock of time into the timeless.
And so-I insist, I am insanely conscious of love.
I concentrate on love, all is love, and you Marta, are love. Aha.