Church-led peace march brings cessation of violence in El Salvador

Bishop Medardo E. Gómez Soto (middle), seen here at the 2013 LAC church leadership conference in Nicaragua, invited churches in Latin America and the Caribbean for prayers of solidarity as the Salvadoran Lutheran Church's Pastoral Initiative for Life and Peace program appeals for peace in El Salvador. Photo: LWF/Hellen Ríos

Salvadoran Lutheran Church leads peace initiative

(LWI) - Some Salvadoran gangs responsible for much of the country’s widespread violence have announced a cessation of violence following a peace march organized by the Salvadoran Lutheran Church (ILS) in the capital San Salvador.

“Yes to peace, God bless El Salvador, yes to the desired peace,” were the slogans as thousands joined the ILS Pastoral Initiative for Life and Peace (IPAZ). The church had invited sister churches worldwide to pray together as it conducted the march on 27 October.

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) member church responded by thanking God and the worldwide community for its support as the reduction in violence became the reality. It is hoped the gangs’ commitment will inspire others to follow suit.

Bishop Medardo E. Gómez Soto said the Central American country faces a difficult situation because of the widespread violence. Part of the Lutheran church’s work is peace building initiatives and public advocacy aimed at ending the violence. The global Lutheran communion’s solidarity with the Salvadoran church and others affected by similar violence in the region includes a 2012 public statement by the LWF Council urging governments there to “hear the cries of their people” and protect human rights.

“I want to inform you that the violence has grown so great that it is affecting the life of the nation and is causing other problems such as migration, economic troubles and even mental stress, and other consequences that Salvadorans are living through,” Gomez wrote.

Some 5,000 people are murdered in the country every year, making it one of the deadliest nations that is not at war. In October it was reported that on one day alone, at least 220 people were killed. Much of the violence is gang related.

"We want to make a loud scream and cry to stop all the violence that is agitating the country,” Gomez declared. “We will present our cry to our country, officials, gang members and everyone to stop the bloodshed.” 

Marchers converged on the Monument to the Divine Savior of the World, streaming from Cuscatlán Park, Redondel Masferrer and the Monument to the Constitution. They included members of all churches and society at large.

Threat to children, families and communities

During the event, a pastoral statement was read calling on all those groups terrorizing communities to immediately cease the violence and crime.

“Stop the recruitment of children especially. Stop all threats against families, communities, neighborhoods, settlements, townships, and forced eviction. Allow the free transit of people across the country,” the Lutheran bishop urged.

All LWF member churches in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region were invited to join in prayer on the day or during the week, and in solidarity ask God to bring peace to the people of El Salvador. They were urged to encourage their leaders to help rebuild and heal the wounds that the violence is leaving.

Peace requires justice in the form of jobs, education and healthcare, the bishop noted. “Violence is a big business and the beneficiaries do not accept any peace process.”

LWF area secretary for LAC, Rev. Dr Patricia Cuyatti noted that while “peace is costly to build and achieve, church leaders in El Salvador are moved by the spirituality of justice, to realize it.” There are thousands of persons around the globe praying together and accompanying the IPAZ initiative, she added.


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