No greater love – tribute to Luis Espinal

Tonight, 25 years ago,  on the eve of Holy Week, Luis Espinal, a priest and passionate advocate for the poor, was brutally murdered in the back streets of La Paz.  In a twist of dark irony, he was returning that night from a cinema which was showing a film "The pitiless."

Luis Espinal had dedicated his life to films, television and press about social justice and had frequently joined protests against the Bolivian authorities including the 1977 hunger strike, which brought down the Banzer dictatorship.

For the authorities that he had challenged over many years, he had spoken out once to often.

He is someone I had never heard of until I got to Cochabamba, but is well-loved here in Bolivia. On the same day as Archbishop Romero was murdered in El Salvador, 75,000 people attended his funeral in La Paz.

To commemorate his life, there is a whole programme of activities over a week here in Cochabamba including films, talks and music discussing contemporary issues of social justice in Bolivia that Luis Espinal would have been passionate about if he was still alive.

In the programme, there is the following quote by Luis Espinal on the subject of prudence, words that he embodied in his life:

"There is a imperceptible line between prudence and cowardice.
We call on prudence for the sake of safety and laziness,
We call on prudence in order not to compromise ourselves,
in order not to risk anything personal.

We think that with age prudence grows,
without realising that conformism grows at the same time.

We all talk of prudence, Lord
But not a prudence that is yours,
which in vain we search for in your gospels.

Jesus Christ, we give you thanks
because you were not prudent
or diplomatic
You did not stay silent in order to escape the cross.

You challenged the powerful,
knowing that you risked your life.
Those that killed you, they were prudent.

Do not let us be so prudent that we become content with everything.
Your word wounds, like a sword with two sides."


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