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Local youth learn about violent history in El Salvador on pilgrimage

From left: Mary Sawyer, of St. Matthew’s, Moravia, Molly Allyn, St. James’, Skaneateles, Chuck Stewart, St. James’, Francesca Rescigno, Zion, Rome descend from the hill where some of the women and children were said to have been massacred in El Mozote.

From left: Mary Sawyer, of St. Matthew’s, Moravia, Molly Allyn, St. James’, Skaneateles, Chuck Stewart, St. James’, Francesca Rescigno, Zion, Rome descend from the hill where some of the women and children were said to have been massacred in El Mozote. Lynette Wilson

“It made me feel like I wanted to do more for them … It opened my eyes to suffering and showed me that there are ways that we can help,” she said, adding that afterward she began to feel called to the priesthood and to the work of bridging the gaps between communities and countries. “It made me want to stand for something, for people, to lead communities of faith and teach the gospel.” “I’m excited to see where [the girls] take this experience later in life,” she said.

A four-hour drive from San Salvador, the town of El Mozote is located in Morazán, a department, or “state,” in El Salvador’s northeast held by rebels during the latter years of the civil war. El Mozote remained neutral during the war, and its citizens were told that they’d be safe as long as they didn’t align themselves with the rebels. In the end, that’s not what happened.

When the soldiers first arrived in El Mozote in 1981, explained local guide Estella Lopez Chica, they separated the men from the woman and the children, killing the men first.

Soldiers raped the women and girls before killing them, and small children and infants were later found hanging in the branches of a mangrove tree, their throats slit, said Lopez.

The guide’s mother survived the massacre, she said, because she was away from town selling goods at nearby market the day the soldiers arrived. The account is based on the sole survivor’s testimony.

“Today was really powerful, I was getting really emotional, just to know that someone could do that to another person,” said Molly Allyn, 15, of St. James Episcopal Church in Skaneateles.

Traveling together in this environment, where everything is very serious, you get to know a different side to people, she said.

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