The churches, the gangs, and the truce
|At Passionist Social Services, St. Francis de Assisi parish, Mejicanos|
Writing in Christian Century, Paul Jeffrey has an article titled simply "Truce" which looks at the role of various priests and churches in the now-collapsed gang truce and other violence prevention initiatives in El Salvador. Here's an excerpt:
Life may get more difficult soon in Mejicanos. At the beginning of this year, the national legislature approved a packet of new laws strengthening the powers of police and prosecutors in the fight against gangs. Government officials told police officers—who wear ski masks when patrolling neighborhoods with gangs—that they need not worry about being second-guessed when they use their weapons to shoot gang members.
Bodies of executed gang members started to appear along roadsides, reminding many of the social cleansing carried out by death squads in decades past.
In Mejicanos the Passionist priests aren’t easily scared off. They took charge of the St. Francis church in 1979, immediately following the martyrdom of two priests serving the parish. Although Father Rodríguez is gone, other members of the order remain. “It doesn’t make sense to remember someone crucified 2,000 years ago if we don’t accompany those who are crucified today,” said San Martin.
Although the latest renewal of mano dura seems to be backed by many in San Salvador, some activists suggest such popular support constitutes an indictment of the church’s failure to do its job.
“The church preaches what people want to hear, which is hope for personal salvation and forgiveness for their sins, not the sins of others,” said Baptist pastor Arevalo. “The church responds to a religious market that doesn’t demand a call to forgive our enemies or work for peace even at the cost of our lives. The market demands a vindictive god, a repressive god, so that’s what the church offers.”Read the rest of the article here.