Being the Church in the Face of State Violence: Lessons from Latin America
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.