Making a stand: Oscar Romero
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To consider Oscar Romero, a modern Christian martyr, and the Christian motivation for campaigning for justice.
Preparation and materials
- You will need a leader and two children to read the parts of a rich leader and a poor farmer.
- You will also need a map of the world or a globe to show the children where Central America is and a more detailed map of the region to show them where El Salvador is.
- You may like to light a candle to act as a focus during the ‘Time for reflection’ part of the assembly.
- Have available recordings of Misa Criolla and Misa Flamenca (Philips, 1989, and others), settings of the mass with a Latin American flavour, and the means to play them at the end of the assembly.
Leader 'It's not fair!' How many times have you said that to your friends, your family or your teachers?
In some parts of the world, people think this with a serious sense of injustice all the time, but are too frightened to say anything. That is because they are not free to live their lives as they want. It is hard for us to imagine this because we are free to live our lives as we choose.
Next, we are going to hear about what it was like in El Salvador in Central America in the 1970s.
Use the globe and/or maps to show where Central America and El Salvador are.
There was a cruel government that ruled by fear and violence.
Introduce your first character – a rich leader within the government.
Rich Ruler I am one of the richest people in El Salvador. People have to do what I say or else.
Leader He/she was rich, powerful and a bully. He/she got whatever he/she wanted by terrorizing anyone who tried to stand in his/her way. People like this kept all the wealth of the country for themselves and their families.
Because of this greedy group of people, everyone else in El Salvador was very poor.
Introduce your second character – a poor farmer.
Poor Farmer It's very hard to make a living for my family on my small farm. I would like to complain to my landlord about the very high rent, but I am frightened he will throw me out and then I would have nothing.
Leader Oscar Romero was a Catholic priest in El Salvador. At first he just got on with his job, but he began to see that many aspects of life there were very unfair for most of the people. Some of them turned to Oscar for help and he started to devote his life to working with them. In 1977, he was made Archbishop of San Salvador. This made him a very well-known and influential person.
Poor Farmer Please help us to be paid fairly and have a better life. We are so poor nobody will listen to us or help us. Some of us have tried to speak out, but soldiers were sent to our homes by the government and we were told to be quiet.
Leader Oscar Romero began to speak out about the unfairness. He was beginning to make himself unpopular.
Rich Ruler Mind your own business. You should stick to teaching people about religion. Church and politics don't go together! If you don't stop interfering, you'll regret it.
Leader Oscar Romero disagreed – he believed that, as a Christian, he should work to help the poor and make it known that they were being bullied and frightened by those in government. When he read the teachings of Jesus in the Bible, he was convinced that this was the right thing to do. As a Christian, he could not stand by in silence. It gave him the courage to make a stand.
On Sunday 24 March 1980, Archbishop Romero was in church celebrating mass. There were large crowds of people who had come to listen to him speak. His words inspired courage and gave hope to those who were sad or suffering.
What happened next was to shock and horrify everyone. During the service, a gunman fired a single shot from the doorway of the church down the aisle at Archbishop Romero and killed him.
He had known that his life was in danger, but he continued to make a stand and speak out against injustice. He made the greatest sacrifice of all, giving his own life in the service of others. The reports of his death were broadcast around the world. Christians remember him as a martyr, a person who sacrificed his life for his beliefs, to help others.
The following words were spoken by Oscar Romero only moments before his death. They represent the belief he lived and died by:
We know that every effort to better society, especially when injustice and sin are so ingrained, is an effort that God blesses, that God wants, that God demands of us.
Time for reflection
Leader Let us quietly think about those people who have given their lives in order to help others.
Light the candle, if using.
Think about ways in which you could help others – in small ways and bigger ways, perhaps.
Read the words spoken by Oscar Romero just before his death once again, if you wish.
Key Stage 1
1. Starting with the children's own experiences, explore what they think is fair or unfair.
2. Explore ways in which we, in our homes and at school, help to make things better for each other.
Key Stage 2
1. Oscar Romero was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1981 – the ultimate award for those who do remarkable work to bring about peace in the world. Ask the children, if they could choose, who would they nominate for this prize?
2. Oscar Romero has been called a martyr. This means that he sacrificed his life for his beliefs, for others. Discuss with pupils whether or not they think it was a waste of a good life.
3. The Christian organization Christian Aid has used as its campaigning slogan the phrase, 'We believe in life before death'. What is meant by this?
Misa Criolla and Misa Flamenca