Being the Church in the Face of State Violence: Lessons from Latin America
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During the Cold War, both Chile and El Salvador experienced times of extensive state violence, including the torture and disappearance of many of their own citizens. Ignacio Ellacuría, a Jesuit priest and liberation theologian, acted as a prophetic voice during the Salvadoran Civil War. I will examine his theology as a narrative of structural sin, redeemed through liberation, with the Church acting as a "historical sacrament." William Cavanaugh, an American theologian, assessed the use of torture in Chile as a tactic which tears apart both individual and social bodies. While the state uses torture to rend the society, and nationalism to bind atomized individuals to itself, he sees the re-membering of the Church in the Eucharist as the proper response to state violence. Through these authors, we see a Church that takes seriously its concern for the poor (in body and spirit) and we learn to seek unity that distinguishes the Church from the world as a space of faith, hope, and love.