Last year, Salvadoran Bishop Oscar Romero was declared a saint by Pope Francis. Comunidades de Fe Organizadas para Accion (COFOA) is answering the call of Bishop Romero, fighting injustice on many fronts—organizing to build a culture and practice where people are determining their own priorities, seeking partnership, and holding officials accountable for the common good. Our goal is to have the organizing presence needed to address critical environmental and violence issues in El Salvador and other Central American countries.
Ordinary people experience their own power when they are able to negotiate successfully for the issues important in their local communities. After a three-year battle, nine communities in Usulutan are finally seeing construction of the $1 million bridge over Rio Roldan. “It is important for us today that the mayor and president have put their names on the cornerstone, along with the community. It signifies the results of all the meetings and work that we have done to hold ourselves and our government accountable,” says Fr. Antonio Lopez. Collectively, COFOA communities have secured $9 million in public improvements and services. Projects include repairing parks, roads, and bridges; organizing anti-violence demonstrations; and securing community police, and local water, health and education services.
“My family has not had water for three months. We pay $20 per month, but we have no water. This is not right,” says Jose Reyes, from Santa Maria Ostuma. Jose’s experience is all -too common in El Salvador, where 90% of the rivers are contaminated and most corporations dump toxic waste into waterways. COFOA has gathered hundreds of people in small groups after church services and in community meetings to discuss this life-and-death issue. COFOA is bringing thousands of leaders into the national fight led by Archbishop Alas and church groups across the country to prevent the privatization of water. “We are marching for a constitutional amendment that makes water a basic human right. Because the government is not working for us, we have to build the power to make these changes,” says Jose.
While mounting effective local efforts for violence prevention and access to safe water, COFOA is expanding its organizing reach across the country to build the power needed to make national change. A close ally of Bishop Romero, Fr. Octavio Cruz has invited COFOA to provide training for clergy and lay leaders of 180 parishes in the Archdiocese of San Salvador. COFOA’s goal in 2019 is to have a significant presence in six departments, ability to access half the national legislators, and work in collaboration with other faith groups to secure a national water law.
“… Organizing has had a very big impact on me … it has helped me to develop myself socially and personally … we have achieved many amazing things that we would have never imagined.” -Lucila Solano, Santa Teresa, El Salvador