CRISPAZ in El Salvador and Laudato Si By Marycate O'Sullivan


This May, I will be participating in a service trip to El Salvador through the CRISPAZ organization. CRISPAZ, or the Christians for Peace in El Salvador, is a faith based organization that is dedicated to building bridges of solidarity between the church of the poor and the marginalized communities in El Salvador and communities within the US and other countries. The mission of this organization is to promote students with personal, spiritual, and social transformation through solidarity and mutual accompaniment with the people of El Salvador. They strive together for peace, justice, and human liberation in El Salvador. This service trip through CRISPAZ is a fully immersive experience that is rooted in education on the lives, histories, and hopes of the Salvadorian people, service, social justice, and community.

In order to prepare for this trip, my service group has been learning about the country of El Salvador as well as the CRISPAZ organization. In order to successfully immerse ourselves with the people of El Salvador it is crucial for us to be aware of their history and roots. The CRISPAZ organization has been functioning since 1984 as a presented plan to the churches of El Salvador providing refuge to the people displaced from rural areas by the war, through the solidarity and presence of US citizens. This organization has studied the situations in El Salvador since its beginnings, shortly after the assassination of Archbishop Romero which prompted civil war. The organization kept a low profile in the face of the government repression and operated under the names Christian Educational Seminars and Christian Volunteers. Currently, CRISPAZ continues to host over two dozen groups a year that visit El Salvador, walking with the church and non-violent communities in "a non-violent process of mutual accompaniment and human liberation continuing to promote justice in hope that future generations can one day celebrate it" (CRISPAZ.org).

El Salvador ISP Group 2019

Troubles in El Salvador

Within the 12 year span from 1980-1992, about 75,000 Salvadorians were killed in a civil war between the left side guerrillas and the right side government leaders, who make up the ARENA party. The 12 years of violence were fueled by the 1980 assassination of Archbishop Óscar Romero that sparked the conflict and launched the country into a civil war. Around 250,000 attended the Archbishop's funeral. There, 42 were killed and 200 wounded from snipers launched by the ARENA that attacked the crowd. In response to this, the five major leftist revolutionary organizations merged to form the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). The FMLN fielded a guerrilla army to oppose government and right-wing forces. In 1980, the rape and murder of four American churchwomen caused international outrage, although the violence of the government party continued through the years. In November 16 1989, the ARENA party entered the campus of the University of Central America and dragged six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter from their beds and murdered them.

The war between the guerrillas and government forces continued throughout the 1980's to produce systematic human rights violations, subjecting civilians to torture, mutilation, forced disappearance, extrajudicial killing and mass rape. Large numbers of innocent Salvadorans were killed by massacres, executions, landmines and indiscriminate bombings.

Archbishop Óscar Romero

Óscar Romero was a Roman Catholic priest who was later elected to be Archbishop of San Salvador. Archbishop Romero witnessed numerous violations of human rights and began a ministry speaking out on behalf of the poor and victims of the country's civil war. His political activism was denounced by the Roman Catholic Church and the government of El Salvador. In 1980, he was assassinated by gunshot while consecrating the Eucharist during mass. His death finally provoked international outcry for human rights reform in El Salvador, leading to the organization of groups such as CRISPAZ.

Archbishop Óscar Romero acted as the voice for the people of El Salvador, speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves. He ministered his attention to the most poor and marginalized. He spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations, and torture.

Romero (1989)

The film, Romero (1989) depicts the story of Archbishop Romero, who organized peaceful protests against the violent government military and spoke out for the rights of the Salvadorian people. These actions eventually cost him his life to the government ARENA party.

Laudato Si

In 2015, Pope Francis released the encyclical letter, Laudato Si, as an appeal to all in order to encourage protection of the environment and all of creation. Laudato Si is translated to mean "Praise be to you". This means that Pope Francis is praising God for all of his creation. Through this letter, the Pope is taking a leading role to defend all of creation by speaking out about the destruction and harm that is progressively damaging the earth and all living things. In order to express these problems, Pope Francis focuses on the importance of relationships we have with the environment and also on the relationships we have with the others around us. As we pollute and damage the environment, the poor are becoming directly affected because they have no means of finding clean water or moving elsewhere. It is our job as brothers and sisters in this world to come together in order to support one another. Pope Francis states, "In the present condition of global society, where injustices abound and growing numbers of people are deprived of basic human rights and considered expendable, the principle of the common good immediately becomes a summons to solidarity and a preferential option for the poorest of our brothers and sisters" (Pope Francis, 97). Pope Francis is calling to all people, not only Catholics, in an effort to come together through solidarity in order to act now so that changes can be made to decrease the detrimental effects our actions are having on the environment. Pope Francis is expressing that every single person must be involved in coming together in order to create any sort of change for the good of our future.

In this way, the world, and the quality of life of the poorest, are cared for, with a sense of solidarity which is at the same time aware that we live in a common home which God has entrusted to us.” (Pope Francis, 232)


The CRISPAZ organization and Laudato Si both relate to the Catholic Social Teaching of Solidarity. Laudato Si supports this social teaching because Pope Francis calls us together to support one another in a shared interest of respect and dignity for all people, as well as efforts to change the negative influences we have had on the environment. Pope Francis discusses how people are deprived of their own basic human rights, speaking out and calling upon others to recognize the common good of solidarity in order to support the people in need. Similarly, CRISPAZ acts in accordance with this principle because it is within the organizations mission to incorporate solidarity between both the people of El Salvador and US citizens. Through this organization, one is given the opportunity to be one for and with others by immersing completely in the culture and being among the people there who may need accompaniment, ultimately supporting justice for all of God's creation.

Pope Francis discusses the limitations of our current world in that we are consumed with progress and technological advancements. Pope Francis addresses this aspect negatively as he believes it “cannot be equated with the progress of humanity and history and the way to a better future lies elsewhere” (Pope Francis, 71). Pope Francis is alluding to the difficulty to pause and reflect upon meaning and depth in life because of the constant flood of new monotonous technology. Pope Francis encourages us to move forward in a cultural revolution, away from the constant need for material items and new technological advancements in order to slow down and recover the values and important issues overshadowed by advancements. We are starting to lose touch with physical and personal connections with others. Everything is now based on your updated status you have on a social media platform instead of real expressed feelings. It is clear that we will not be able to attain a happy future if we are only consumed with material items. This obsession with technological advancement is only creating problems within our environment, contributing to water pollution, climate change from greenhouse gases, and the loss of biodiversity due to the destruction of forests. Pope Francis makes it clear that we must stray away from the constant need for material items and start to become more aware of the world around us in order to make a substantial difference.

“Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.” (Pope Francis. 91)

Care for God's Creation

The CRISPAZ organization and Laudato Si both relate to the Catholic Social Teaching of Care For God's Creation. Laudato Si supports this social teaching through Pope Francis' plea to the world that we need to act now. It is extremely crucial for everyone to start to care for God's creations all around us in order to provide a better future. Laudato Si focuses more on care for the environment because God gifted it to us and we should protect it. Although, our negative actions towards the environment are also affecting people. When we harm the environment, we are just as much harming others and ourselves because everything is interconnected to some degree. This principle is also incorporated within the CRISPAZ organization through the opportunities to go to El Salvador and be with the people in an immersion experience. All people deserve equal respect; no one person is more valuable than another. This organization lives by this principle, expressing that everybody has and deserves their own basic human rights. As humans in this world, it is part of our common good to care for both the environment and the people around us. Through complete immersion and truly embodying the people and the culture of El Salvador, CRISPAZ is providing non-violent justice and empowerment for the marginalized.

Pope Francis expresses the importance of caring for the most vulnerable members of our world, the poor. The poor rely and are largely dependent on natural resources such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. Pope Francis informs us that these limited resources are affected by climate change, due to increased warming, brought about by greenhouse gases, and pollution by the majority of the world. The changing climate causes animals and plants to have difficulty adapting. This then causes them to migrate, ultimately affecting the livelihood of the poor. The poor have limited resources due to the destructive habits of people in higher socioeconomic statuses. The people causing environmental problems are able to use different resources or change locations if need be but the poor have no other financial means which can enable them to adapt to climate change, or face natural disasters. Pope Francis states, "Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded.” (Pope Francis, 25). The poor are suffering due to the irresponsible habits that the world has grown too comfortable with, it is our job to take responsibility for these actions and help the vulnerable.

“The economy accepts every advance in technology with a view to profit, without concern for its potentially negative impact on human beings.” (Pope Francis, 109)

Option for the Poor and Vulnerable

The CRISPAZ organization and Laudato Si both relate to the Catholic Social Teaching of Option for the Poor and Vulnerable. Laudato Si supports this social teaching because Pope Francis makes his concern clear about the poor and the outcast who are all part of God's creation. Laudato Si focuses on the negative effects that environmental change and destruction has on the lives of these people. Pope Francis states, "We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it". (Pope Francis, 139). The poor are affected by our carelessness first and it is important to break the divisions of the rich and poor and provide unwavering support. This principle is also apparent in the CRISPAZ organization. By hosting nearly two dozen groups a year visiting El Salvador, they express their mission of walking with the church of the poor and marginalized communities. CRISPAZ supports the poor and vulnerable affected by violence, hardship, and financial instability within the country.


Pope Francis. 2015. Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home [Encyclical].

El Salvador. (n.d). Retrieved from https://cja.org/where-we-work/el-salvador/

Address of His Holiness Pope Francis To Participants At the International Conference Marking the 3rd Anniversary of the Encyclical. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2018/july/documents/papa-francesco_20180706_terzoanniversario-laudatosi.html

CRISPAZ- Christians for Peace in El Salvador. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.crispaz.org/info pages/about us.html


Created with images by Kai Pilger - "untitled image" • Ashwin Vaswani - "untitled image"

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