Marta Benavides of El Salvador
Marta Benavides of El Salvador is one of the surviving activists from the original group of human rights and peace advocates who began their work during the 1970s and the rising climate of repression. A leader of an ecumenical revolution focused on bringing peace to her country, the ordained pastor who chose “to live and not die for the revolution” has been bringing people at all levels – politics, the arts, law enforcement, agriculture and food security, environment, religion and labor – together to defend human rights and develop a culture of peace.
During the early 1980s, Benavides was head of the Ecumenical Committee for Humanitarian Aid, a group sponsored by her close friend Archbishop Oscar Romero to support victims of violence. With the committee, she established the first refugee centers for people displaced by the violence. Almost two years after Romero’s assassination, Benavides went into exile and worked for the next decade from Mexico and the United States to bring an end to the war in her home country. With Ecumenical Ministries for Development and Peace, she developed programs to promote understanding and reconciliation among peoples and groups and end intra- and inter-family violence. She also built networks of international solidarity for a negotiated peaceful political solution to the conflict in El Salvador.
In 1992 after the peace accords were signed, Benavides returned home and founded the International Institute for Cooperation Amongst Peoples, also known as the Institute for the 23rd Century, which promotes the values of a culture of peace through a variety of programs. She established community training centers and continues to travel throughout the country conducting workshops on, among other topics, sustainable agriculture, human rights and the prevention of community and family violence, particularly violence against women and children. Her efforts have led to extensive collaboration with the United Nations, the World Council of Churches, secular and ecumenical networks and numerous other partners, and in 2005 she was one of the 1,000 women nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Benavides has dedicated her life to rebuilding communities devastated by war and has brought renewal, both figurative and literal, to formerly scorched earth.
Benavides was a Woman PeaceMaker in 2009.