WASHINGTON (CNS) — For weeks, Salvadoran bishops have remained largely silent about the deaths of a little girl and her father, both natives of El Salvador, who drowned in the Rio Grande River in late June trying to cross the border from Mexico into the United States. But a heartfelt letter issued July 21 shows the two have been clearly on the minds of the Catholic bishops of the country as they used the pair’s death to express sorrow over the fate of migrants and their suffering.
The photo of the nearly 2-year-old Valeria clinging to her father, Oscar Martinez Ramirez, 25, lifeless on the banks of the Rio Grande, is “evidence of the painful drama of migration,” said a statement issued by the Salvadoran bishops’ conference.
“This young father and his little daughter symbolize the countless number of our brothers and sisters who suffer inhumane situations including, in some cases, death,” said the statement, which also was read at a news conference July 21 by Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador in the country’s metropolitan cathedral.
The image of the father and daughter, they wrote, is “a silent and heartbreaking cry that moves us deeply.”
Using the plight of the Martinez family, they called attention to the mistreatment of migrants, particularly children. They offered solidarity to Salvadorans making the immigration journey and those who have already made it and are worried about being deported, and they spoke against the causes that have forced their fellow Salvadorans to flee: violence, lack of opportunities at home, corruption.
They said they were concerned with the situation that hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans living in the United States are currently in, including facing expulsion or being trapped at the border “in deplorable conditions.”
“Their suffering is painful to us, particularly, the cry of children in detention centers, separated from their parents,” the letter said and warned that “this situation can cause irreparable psychological damage.”
God mandates that one must not violate in the rights of the stranger, they wrote, pointing to Deuteronomy 24:17: “You shall not deprive the resident alien or the orphan of justice, nor take the clothing of a widow as pledge.”
They said they wanted to encourage Salvadorans in fear of not being able to stay in United States to commit themselves to fight for their rights and not to be solely spectators.
“The active participation of each of you with the institutions that defend your rights is essential,” they wrote. “Let us constantly invoke God and, together with him, we can all fight for the defense of your rights.”
But they also seemed to cast blame on past administrations in the country for the plight of Salvadorans forced to leave and said that corruption “has had a very serious impact,” by diverting resources that should have been used all along to help the economic situation of many citizens living in extreme poverty.
They also said El Salvador must treat migrants well.
“Our country must be sensitive and fair, always ensuring the good of the migrant,” they said. “In no way can it violate the rights of migrants who arrive at our borders (by) preventing their passage in our territory. May God bless those who give a hand to migrants and … through the Queen of Peace and St. Oscar Romero, may God protect our migrant brothers and bless us all.”
In a time of crisis CatholicPhilly.com keeps the information flowing
During the current coronavirus crisis, you can help CatholicPhilly.com deliver the kind of news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live ― every day.
Budgets are tight at this time, and CatholicPhilly's is no different than those of most families. We make sure your donation in any amount will go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103