WASHINGTON (ABP) — A Baptist peacemaker who lobbied Congress to stop U.S. funding of El Salvador's 1980-1992 civil war has died following a brief battle with cancer.
Amparo Lopez Palacios, 69, discovered only weeks before her Nov. 14 death that she was suffering from advanced lung cancer. She died peacefully at a Washington hospice surrounded by her husband and three children.
With her husband, Edgar, Palacios led the Permanent Commission of the National Debate for Peace in El Salvador, a non-governmental organization that worked to stop fighting between the nation's right-wing military government and a coalition of left-wing groups called the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN).
She fled El Salvador in 1989 under U.N. troop protection and moved to Washington, where she lobbied Congress to end aid to a Salvadoran military that killed tens of thousands of civilians through death squads that terrorized the countryside for a dozen years.
Infamous acts of the war included the March 1980 assassination of Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was shot through the heart while celebrating mass two months after asking President Jimmy Carter to cease military aid to El Salvador, and three American nuns and a laywoman raped and murdered that December.
As executive director of the Washington office of Debate for Peace, Amparo Palacios lobbied members of Congress to end the United States' role as a silent partner to El Salvador's military. U.S. aid finally ended after a National Guard death squad killed six Jesuit priests in 1989.
Palacios' husband is now associate pastor of Christian education at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington and a missionary pastor for the Latino community. Calvary's senior pastor, Amy Butler, remembered her as a "brave, courageous voice for justice," a "trusted friend" and the "funniest person at the party."
The Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America released a statement saying Palacios' untimely death "leaves a huge hole in the Baptist peacemaking community."
"Her lifelong work for peace rooted in justice took her from the war-torn streets of El Salvador to the halls of the U.S. Congress where she advocated tirelessly for policies that would support the safety and healing of the Salvadorian people," the group said. "Her deep personal gentleness belied the immense violence she had experienced throughout her life."
The BPFNA remembered Palacios as "a friend to all who struggled" and called her life "a lasting witness to all of us who would work for peace."
Miguel De La Torre, associate professor of social ethics at Iliff School of Theology, called her life "a cause for celebration."
"In the midst of satanic forces that devoured the lives of Salvadorians during the 1980s, she lived the Gospel message," said De La Torre, an ordained Baptist minister. "Not only did she fearlessly stand against the thugs of El Salvador, but also the powers and principalities in D.C. who provided the resources to the forces of death."
"The life she lived is a testimony to the liberating good news," De La Torre said. "May she be an example to all of us."
Since 1996 Palacios had been a family support worker at the Family Place, a drop-in center that serves expectant parents and families with small children.
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.