Top Protestant and Catholic leaders met last week with Secretary of State Vance to ask for stronger U.S. government action to protect human rights of church leaders in El Salvador.
Although violations of human rights have been a long-standing problem in the Latin American nation, the visit of the churchmen was specifically prompted by murders of church workers and by a threat made on June 20 by a Salvadorian terrorist group called the White Warriors' Union to kill any Jesuits who remain in El Salvador after July 20. The 47 Jesuits now working in El Salvador have pledged to remain at their posts.
Jesuits have been in the forefront in recent years of efforts to arouse and mobilize poor Salvadorian peasants to fight for land reform and economic justice.
The American church delegation, which included the president of the National Council of Churches as well as high level Catholic leaders asked the Department of State to consider withholding the appointment of an ambassador to El Salvador as part of this country's formal protest of rights violations there.
Violence against the church in the overwhelmingly Catholic country has escalated sharply in recent months. The Jewsuit-run Catholic University has been bombed six times eight foreign-born priests were forcibly expelled and seven others have been refused re-entry permits, two priests have been killed and three others tortured. This record lends gravity to the death threats against the 47 Jesuits.
In Rome the Jesuit superior general, the Rev. Pedro Arrupe, appealed personally to the El Salvador president, Carolos Romero, to protect my Jesuit brothers. . . Do not permit innocent blood to stain once again the generous Salvadorian nation." the Jesuit chief pleased.
The church visitor to Secretary Vance said they were "pleased" with the concern shown by the Department of State over the Salvadorian situation. "They share the concerns of the church people," reported one of the visitors, Tom Quigley, adviser for Latin American Affairs of the U.S. Catholic Conference.
Congressional hearings by a sub-committee on international organizations have been set for next Thursday-one day following the expiration of the warning by the terrorists against the Jesuits - on the problems of the church in El Salvador.