Bishop Medardo Gómez of the Salvadoran Lutheran Church is recognized as a passionate advocate for the rights of the poor and those living in the margins of society. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for his work to end the Salvadoran Civil War (1979-1992) and bring peace to his country.
Last week we featured his recent visit to the Washington, D.C. area at the invitation of the Metro DC ELCA synod, a Companion Synod to the Salvadoran Lutheran Synod. In between his packed schedule, he spoke with LIRS’s Grassroots Mobilization Intern, Tia Upchurch-Freelove, on insights into how he became an activist priest and the role of the Church in promoting social justice.
Tia Upchurch-Freelove (TUF): How did you become involved in advocating for the Salvadoran people during the Salvadoran Civil War?
Bishop Medardo Gómez (MG): The national reality in the country converts its citizens and forces them to respond to the situation, and I believe that every man or women has this calling to change the situation of injustice that exists in a country. In addition to being a citizen of a country, being a pastor also carries with it a special obligation to be concerned about what is happening to people. The church should concern itself with people’s well-being. You can’t be a pastor without concerning yourself with what is causing people’s pain and suffering, and without trying to do something about the causes for that pain and suffering. The Catholic martyr, Archbishop Romero, said once, “The people are my prophet.” For that reason, I responded, spoke up, defended people’s human rights, and as a pastor, I risked my life for the well-being of the people. And I also feel that God’s spirit guides men and women who are church leaders.
TUF: What role did your church have in this advocacy for peace?
MG: When God intervenes, God gives you courage for all sorts of situations, including the possibility of martyrdom. But if God’s plan does not include martyrdom for you, God will provide everything else you need to defend the cause. And part of the prophetic commitment is not to just assume that commitment personally, but to involve the entire church. What I can say, in the case of the Lutheran Church of El Salvador, is it is not just me as the Bishop, but the entire church; our entire church is prophetic. We work on behalf of peace and justice and we work to provide every human being a dignified life.
We can all take example from Bishop Medardo Gómez and the Salvadoran Lutheran Church’s commitment to working for peace and justice. As we continue to stand for welcome and promote the God-given dignity of all our brothers and sisters, let us remember and be inspired by the courageous actions that are being taken every day by fellow Lutherans in faraway places like El Salvador.