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They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
one nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.
O house of Jacob, come,
let us walk in the light of the Lord!

---from Isaiah 2, First Sunday of Advent.

Since December 2, 1980, I have never heard these words from Isaiah in the same way. On that dreadful day, our Sister Dorothy Kazel was murdered along with Jean Donovan and Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford by members of the Salvadoran military in El Salvador. Military, by the way, trained and equipped by the United States government.

Once the utter shock and fog of grief began to dissipate a little, a second shock immediately followed: This same horror—violence, torture, death—stalked and affected thousands of other nameless victims in El Salvador. I had heard this for years and had read about it in our newspapers, and over time I was numbed to the fact—until we learned of the events of December 2nd 1980. Dorothy put a face on those people which I finally saw, and gave them a voice that I finally heard.

I wish I could say that news of the deaths of these American missionaries turned the mind and actions of our nation against the policies that fostered such terror. I wish I could say there were now more pruning hooks and plowshares than weapons of war in the world, but I can’t. It seems as if God’s Kingdom is still far off, no nearer than it was on December 2nd, 1980.

So I keep praying, hoping, acting to bring what change I can. Every Advent is a reminder that what we hope for is unseen, but our hope is one that is sure and certain that the Kingdom will come in God’s good time, and “one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.”

Sister Elaine Berkopec