A Pilgrim's Journey
Roger Bergman
Justice and Peace Studies

A journal on the experience of traveling to El Salvador on the 20th Anniversary of the deaths of the UCA Martyrs

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Roger BergmanSometime in 1980 I was knocked off-balance by an article in the Catholic Worker newspaper about a massacre at the Rio Sumpul in El Salvador.  Some 600 campesinos, including many children, were savagely murdered by combined Salvadoran and Honduran troops, trained and equipped by my own government.  I wrote and published a little poem about the massacre.  During our pilgrimage/retreat/seminar in mid-October twenty-nine years later, we stopped as we crossed the Rio Sumpul and tried to imagine that massacre so as to “remember” it, although none of us had been present when it actually happened.  I read my poem to the group:

Sumpul, River of Infants

Downstream from El Salvador, a Honduran fisherman
pulled in his nets.  The day’s catch
was five small bodies, bloated, discolored
and stabbed through from front to back –
bayonets, he thought.  His legs gave way

as if to a storm.  He cried out to Jesus
to take his eyes, his heart, the hands
that pulled in the nets.  He who called many
back from the dead and the children to him
out of love, out of pity, must also save these.

The fisherman rose to his work.  Tenderly
he untangled flesh from cord and weed
and asked the river to take them back,
upstream with the hope of new life if it could
or else further downstream from El Salvador.

Shortly after our return, I had the privilege of writing the Daily Reflection for Creighton’s online ministry for November 16, the 20th anniversary of the assassinations of six Jesuits and their two companions at the University of Central America in San Salvador.  Here is the link to that reflection: http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Archive/2009/111609.html

A visit to El Salvador such as a dozen Creighton colleagues and I made in October is a powerful reminder that the cross did not originally appear in 24-carat gold.  We do Jesus no honor by such misremembering.


Roger C. Bergman
Justice and Peace Studies Program
College of Arts and Sciences

Creighton University

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