Hi! Our names are Nicole and Vilma Santamaría. We both live in El Salvador.
Vilma is a teacher, sociologist, and mother. Nicole is her youngest daughter, and was born on the same day that civil war broke out here in El Salvador. Vilma was a student at the National University during the war and a follower of the Liberation Theology that Monseñor Romero preached.
Nicole is an intersex woman, a faith leader and is a well-known activist for Women Human Rights Defender and LGBTI Human Rights Defender. On October 29th 2013, she traveled to Washington, DC to address the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States. She denounced the Salvadoran state for impunity of hate crimes against the LGBTI community. For this reason, her life is constantly under threat, and she has survived two attacks against her life.
Vilma was raised Catholic and raised Nicole and her other children in the Catholic faith. Nicole grew up studying in the Jesuit school in El Salvador, which helped to build in her a strong sense of social justice and a belief that we see God in the faces of the people who suffer most.
Since 2010, we have been members of the Anglican Church because we found an open and compassionate community in an Anglican parish. We also saw coherence between the message of God and the support that our Anglican community gives to the LGBTI community and other marginalized people.
We are traveling to World Meeting of Families to be with the Catholic community that nourished our faith. We want to be with other Catholics who have an inclusive and respectful idea of what family means and to share our reality with other Catholic families who are not familiar with our experience.
We want to tell Pope Francis that in El Salvador people who are different are suffering from hate. This hate means discrimination and violations of people’s human rights. LGBTI people are suffering persecution and extermination of their very lives. We want to ask Pope Francis to give a public speech supporting those who are different–people who are born intersex like Nicole, or who are trans, gay, lesbian, or bisexual. All of us are the reflection of God and all of us are the perfect creation of God.
We survived the war in El Salvador, but Nicole’s life is still at risk because of her status as an intersex person. As a mother, Vilma is concerned for the life of Nicole and for many others who do not have a family because their religion told them that their children are sick or are an abomination. Many people justify their hate and violence by quoting the Bible. But the Lord loves all his children. We need compassion and kindness for others to build the Lord’s kingdom on earth and to build the peace we need in our societies.
Nothing is hidden or strange from the Lord’s sights. “Truly, You have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I give You thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works.” (Psalm 139: 13-14)