"Continuing the violence, making the life of the poor more difficult cannot be justified by any motive whatsoever and so we are moved to launch a renewed and forceful cry for peace and harmony."
"Be Ye Reconciled With God"
Statement of Episcopal Conference of El Salvador
January 18, 1900
For more than a decade the Catholic Bishops of the United States have supported the efforts of the Salvadoran bishops to defend human life and human rights to pursue social justice and to replace violence and war with dialogue and negotiations.
The recent brutal Violations of human rights and renewed conflict as well as new urgency and opportunities for peace lead our Committee to reaffirm the policies adopted by the bishops of the United States and the positions previously advocated by the U.S. Catholic Conference including the following directions for U.S. policy:
- There is no real military solution to the fundamental conflicts which continue to divide the Salvadoran nation. Their roots are in the continuing denial of basic human dignity and human rights for so many Salvadorans. Any lasting solution must address the need for greater Justice and development within El Salvador.
- We stand with the Church and bishops of El Salvador in their opposition to the pervasive violence that haunts their society and their condemnation of the violence of both right and left in El Salvador. We strongly support their call for all factions to turn from the path of violence and war to dialogue and negotiations. We support their past efforts to initiate dialogue and we believe that the Bishops of El Salvador have provided essential leadership for reconciliation and for peace with justice in their divided nation.
- A major concern is the increasing militarization of Salvadoran society specially the role and power of the armed forces, which have grown from a force of less than 10,000 to almost 50,000 and the continuing armed activity of the FMLN, including their recent offensive and its human costs. The large amounts of military assistance pouring into El Salvador have not led to a decisive military advantage for either side, while the military conflict and the diversion of resources have undermined efforts to meet the pressing human needs of the Salvadoran people. Increasingly sophisticated and powerful weapons have escalated the violence and its human toll, especially the use of air power in the cities and countryside.
- The Conference urges that the United States, because of its alliance with and support of the Salvadoran government, strongly, effectively and creatively support genuine respect for human rights and work to end the conflict through dialogue and negotiations. Specifically the USCC supports:
a. Active and creative U.S. support for a negotiated settlement. The Bishops strongly support the call of the Church in Central America and the plan of the Central American Presidents for peace through dialogue and negotiations. U.S. support for negotiations must go beyond words; it must be active, creative and persistent. We urge consideration of the appointment of an experienced high level Presidential envoy to actively advance the peace process by encouraging and supporting renewed negotiations to end the conflict. We welcome the recent initiatives of the Central American residents and the proposals to involve the United Nations to renew and advance the peace process. We are hopeful the pledges of both the Salvadoran government and the FMLN will mean the prompt initiation of real negotiations with an active and helpful participation for the U.N. and the Church. The principal objective of U.S. policy should be an end to the violence and repression through a negotiated settlement which respects the principles of human rights, democracy social justice and self determination. We should seek to build active international support for a negotiated end to the war.
b. Efforts to secure an end to all military assistance from outside to every faction In El Salvador (i.e. an end to military assistance to El Salvador from the U.S. and Its allies and an end to military assistance for the guerrillas from the Soviet Union, Cuba, Nicaragua and their allies). The U.S. and Its allies should continue to use the improving relationship with the Soviet Union to pursue this objective.
c. If this priority objective --a universal cutoff of military aid --cannot be secured, despite serious efforts to do so. We urge that any U.S. request for military assistance should be considered and strictly conditioned on the basis of two fundamental criteria: 1) genuine respect for human rights and 2) the good faith pursuit of diplomacy, dialogue and negotiations to end the war. These criteria should apply not only to the government and military of El Salvador, but to the activities of the U .S. as well. The U .S. must send the clearest possible signal to the Salvadoran government and military that the failure to effectively protect human rights and pursue a negotiated end to the war means a halt to U.S. military aid. The conditions must be clear and the consequences for failure to meet them must be real and concrete, i.e. the withholding some or all of U.S. military assistance. The process of monitoring compliance must be credible and timely involving both the executive and legislative branches of government. This approach led the Conference to support efforts last November to withhold a portion of U .S. assistance in the aftermath of the murder of the Jesuits and is the reason for continuing to support efforts to review, limit and condition U.S. military aid in the Congress.
d. We continue to support legislative and administrative efforts to provide legal status in this country for Salvadorans fleeing the violence and repression in El Salvador.
e. We support efforts to improve and expand humanitarian assistance to people in need in El Salvador through generous and creative cooperation between religious, humantarian and public agencies in the U .S. and El Salvador.
- In addition while these broader objectives are pursued the U.S. must use its significant influence with the elected government of El Salvador and its military forces to insist on the following:
a. An end to the harassment threats and intimidation against the Catholic Church, other religious communities and religious workers.
b. The effective investigation and prosecution of all those responsible for brutal violations of human rights, especially those who planned, authorized and carried out the murder of the Jesuits and their co-workers among other outstanding crimes.
c. Renewed respect and protection for the work of religious and international humanitarian assistance and relief organizations in the exercise of their proper role in helping the Salvadoran people in this time of increased need and difficulty.
Fundamentally the Conference seeks a negotiated solution which brings a just peace and replaces military arms from outside that fuel the violence with economic and social assistance that El Salvador so desparately needs to address the fundamental causes of the conflict.