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Arul Raja, S.J., International Visiting Jesuit Fellow

To be Re-awakened to my Human Vocation

Rev. A. Maria Arul Raja, S.J. is an International Visiting Jesuit Fellow at Holy Cross for the 2012-2013 academic year. He hails from Chennai, India, where he is director of Studies in the Theologate at Vidyajyoti College's Arul Kadal Centre and supervisor of Doctoral Studies at the Institute of Dialogue with Cultures and Religions at Loyola College in Chennai. Focused on subaltern studies and theologies of the oppressed, his research has used the experience of the exclusion of the Dalit, the lowest caste of people in India, to consider ways of building communities that break down discriminatory hierarchies. At Holy Cross, he is teaching a Religious Studies course on Theologies of the Oppressed.


     The quality of at least an adequate response to human vocation, perhaps, could be assessed with the criterion of the growing consistency between one's mind-set and daily action. Perhaps this is the acid-test for assessing who one is and where one is heading towards. It is against this backdrop that I place the lives of the people murdered in El Salvador during the 1980s by state terrorism in collusion with local land-grabbers and international profit-mongers.

     The memory of some of the people like the murdered Archbishop, the religious, the priests, or office bearers among the strugglers is perpetuated through various symbols. These people, at least, had the 'spiritual' or 'ideological literacy' to foresee their possible violent death through the idioms of 'honorable martyrdom.' No doubt, these slain leaders seemed to have had the intellectual honesty to make some compatibility between their daily perception and daily practice. In this way they could be said to have lived out their human vocation in tune with the heartbeat of the divine.

Recordatorio de las hermans de Maryknoll,
asesinadas el 2 de diciembre de 1980

© Ron Jarret, Chemistry

     What about the ordinary folks whose lives were taken for granted, labour exploited, pain unacknowledged, and death ignored? A large number of those ruthlessly murdered is relegated into oblivion. Is there a salvific effect born out of such cruel and anonymous murders of the ordinary folks behind the veil of historical black-out? What is the meaning of the human vocation of those murdered but not even enumerated as part of the ritual of statistical collectivity? Along these thoughts my encounter with the reality of El Salvador in 2013 was one of deep silence from which I like to reflect on my human vocation with the following realms of my life in 2013: Perceptive Intervention and Prophetic Articulation.


     Why do the people throw their lots with arms-wielding guerrillas at a particular moment? Why do they opt for evangelical trances at another moment? Are the so-called liberators (like the FMLN) consistently the genuine liberators at all times? If so, how? If not, why not? What are the elements of "fears" that could propel the traditional oligarchic oppressive elements to do justice to one and all? If 'faith-that-does-justice' does not work, is it wrong to work out a 'fear-that-does-justice'? How is hope generated where apparently there is the absence of hopefulness? What is the role of the 'unaccounted death' of such 'orphaned humans' in my life as a human person?

     Even personal reflections on such questions could be part of my perceptive intervention to begin with. An attempt at identifying the conflicts and situations of asymmetry of power could lead anyone to locate and name the systemic evils, structural sins and organized violence. In this exercise of rightly naming which are constructive aspects and which are destructive elements one has to be trained from the 'locations of the defeated people' in every conflict situation.


     How to effectively create mortal fear in the minds of the super powers? As an Indian, how could I make the Indian Government effectively apologize for the ruthless genocide of more than 100,000 Tamils in the neighbouring Sri Lanka in 2009 in collaboration with the Sri Lankan Army? What are the appropriate locations for constructing criteria for justice? How could the Church and the Indian Government compensate 'the Dalits' for dehumanizing them for centuries as untouchables? What is the role of the USA in El Salvador then and now? How to undo the damage perpetrated on the innocent people of El Salvador during the 1980s?

Campo en las afueras de San Salvador
donde fueron violadas y asesinadas las hermans de Maryknoll

© Cynthia Stone, Spanish

     Even the informal discussions on such matters could be the starting point for one's prophetic articulation. This spontaneous act of speaking it out could be sometimes counted as 'subversive' acts of 'treason' trading upon the 'sovereignty' of one's own 'country.' With these pretentious gestures, the local powers spread their wings of unethical alliance with all the atrocious powers across the globe. Calling reality by its true name and the simple act of speaking it out embarrasses those of the higher powers benefitting from traditional structures like militarism, casteism, or neo-colonial structures. But my human vocation does not have the luxury of distancing myself from the struggles of the disempowered people. This solidarity is possible only with frequent and deliberate gestures of physically placing myself with them. And my journey to El Salvador is a modest attempt to do so even with the heavy amount of money spent on me.

vol. 10 (2013)
vol. 10 (2013)
© 2013 · fósforo
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