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The XXIII Ecological Walk 2023 had as its motto “The Common House calls for Environmental Justice”. This is done every year within the framework of World Environment Day.  It is being coordinated by the Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation of El Salvador (JPIC-El Salvador) together with other social and religious organizations.

The Walk was developed in the context of El Salvador’s “State of Exception”, which has brought greater security at the expense of the systematic violation of human rights. In addition, this Regime has allowed the criminalization and imprisonment of community leaders such as the five peasants from the Community of Santa Marta and that of Manuel Gámez Morales, son of Vidalina Morales, environmental leader from the Department of Cabañas, in the north of El Salvador.

On June 2, at the Church of the Holy Rosary, located in the historic center of San Salvador, the Pastoral Letter addressed to the President of the Republic was presented at a Press Conference and which letter will be delivered to the President. The letter highlights the current problems and illuminates them in the light of the Gospel.  These problems include: the lack of good nutrition, health, access to drinking water and quality education; extreme poverty and social inequality.  The Pastoral Letter also denounces the construction of urban projects, the construction of the eighth dams on the Sensunapán River, the contamination of the Lempa River due to the Cerro Blanco Mine in Guatemala, and the over-use of pesticides.  Furthermore, the Pastoral Letter demands that the Government ratifies the Law Against Metallic Mining, the general law governing the management of the water resources and its adherence to the Escazú Agreement, which guarantees the protection of defenders of human rights and the environment.

On June 6, 2023, at the conclusion of the Ecumenical Prayer and with the assistance of hundreds of people, the XXIII Ecological Walk began. The participants included Franciscan Friars, members of the Secular Franciscan Order, Franciscan Youth, the Conference of Religious of El Salvador (CONFRES), lay people, seminarians, priests, Mons. Elías Samuel Bolaños Avelar, SDB, Bishop of Zacatecoluca as well as the historic churches, peasant organizations, and various other collective entities that defend Mother Earth.

Throughout the Ecological Walk, the voices of the poor, women, and peasants were heard.   This represented a sign of the times for El Salvador, where ecological conversion is preached and the people are summoned to a non-violent struggle – just like during the time of Saint Monsignor Oscar Romero – to defend the poor and their right to life.

Upon reaching the Presidential House, the Pastoral Letter addressed to the President of the Republic was delivered.  What followed next was an artistic representation of the demands articulated in that letter.

Vidalina Morales summed up the spirit of that day by asserting that, the ecological Walk was an expression of the collective defense of the Earth and her common goods. “What will be the future of Salvadorans?” she asked.  “We need justice. We continue to fight, because we are men and women full of hope and love. We walk and fight together with the communities because we believe and dream of a different world, where there is no contamination. We have a great responsibility to demand justice and freedom. They can build many prisons, but they cannot imprison freedom and the thousands and thousands of social fighters”.

Br. Roberto Carlos Gutiérrez Vílchez, OFM

San Salvador, El Salvador