Peacebuilding en Las Américas – 

Healing Salvadoran War Survivors

During El Salvador’s twelve year “Dirty War,” approximately 75,000 people were murdered, an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 disappeared and thousands were separated from their families.

When the disappearances began, many women came together to demand the truth behind missing relatives, forming the organization CoMadres (Committee of Mothers and Relatives of the Disappeared, Assassinated and Political Prisoners of El Salvador) with the support of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

Many CoMadres members faced unspeakable trauma: witnessing loved ones tortured and killed, or living with the crippling uncertainty of whether their missing family members were alive or dead.

Despite 25 years of advocacy and demands for justice, the scars left from unhealed traumas of war plague Salvadoran society, and the government provides few resources to help communities heal.

“They talk about what happened to them as if it occurred yesterday. Their trauma is still very raw,” explained Monica Maher, PLA Coordinator. Often living in small, impoverished communities, CoMadres members have been physically isolated as well as systematically ignored.

In early 2014, PLA partnered with Co-Madres to offer members training in AVP.

“We are in solidarity with them so we can look for alternatives that help them search for peace, as much inside themselves as in their families, organizations, churches, and country,” said Salomon Medina, AVP Coordinator for El Salvador. “This all brings us to a process that includes justice, forgiveness, reconciliation, and individual and collective wellbeing.”

“They have shown a tremendous maturity and capacity to reinvent themselves, to be resilient…We contribute to their ability to talk, to rediscover their ability to raise their voices against individual and structural violence and the injustices and problems that occur each day,” said Medina.

This article was featured in the Friends Peace Teams’ Fall/Winter 2017-2018 edition of PeaceWays.

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