Oscar Romero, pictured shortly before he was killed

Yesterday, Pope Francis presided over a ceremony in which Archbishop Oscar Romero was canonised, to great rejoicing from thousands of Salvadorans and other Latin Americans who already consider Romero a saint.

Canonisation does not mean much to most evangelicals, since we are an egalitarian group, who believe that we have free access to pray direct to God and don’t need the departed to intercede for us.  Moreover, we believe that we are all saints.  But we do have people we consider worthy of respect and emulation for their lives and character, though with few exceptions we prefer to keep these roles for Protestants rather than Roman Catholics.

San Romero, however, is one of these exceptions, whom we may laud for his courage in speaking out against extra-judicial oppression of priests and the poor in his country.  At a time when politics in El Salvador was heavily polarised between the left and the right, death squads would routinely attack, torture or murder priests, nuns and civilians who put themselves on the side of the poor, and in his regular radio broadcasts Romero would denounce the latest incidents, which would also be listed in the diocesan newspaper.  Reflecting later on the death of his close friend the priest Rutilio Grande, Romero observed: When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead I thought, “If they have killed him for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path.”

These days El Salvador may have changed, but there are many of our fellow believers who need a Romero.  Recent crackdowns on independent churches in China have meant that millions of believers are unable to worship together in freedom.  Hindu nationalism threatens the lives of millions more in India.  And throughout the Middle East the remaining Christians who have not yet been displaced have no hope of a peaceful future.

Open Doors continues to advocate for the oppressed church through its World Watch List.  Let each of us stand up with Archbishop Romero to advocate for our brothers and sisters who are poor, marginalised and oppressed.  Support the work of Open Doors, engage with your MP, encourage local believers whom you know.  Let’s let our persecuted family know that we haven’t forgotten them.