Letter of Salvadoran Ecumenical Movement

A call from the religious community to work for a better future in El Salvador:

Pastoral Letter from the Historic Churches

(La letra original en español aquí).


San Salvador, 3 September 2007

The people are forsaken and scattered.
“When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
Matthew 9:36

Pastoral Letter from the Historic Churches

To: All Salvadorans of good will
To: The three powers of the Salvadoran state: the executive, legislative and judicial branches
To: Churches throughout the world
To: Accredited Governments and Diplomatic Corps
To: The United Nations, the Organization of the American States, international organizations, and international solidarity groups

From this small country, the home of the prophet Oscar Arnulfo Romero, as historic Christian churches and Christian-ecumenical groups, we send this message to world-wide churches and religions and to men and women of good will, greeting you in our faith in the One God.

We name this letter, “Alert in El Salvador,” because we live from one crisis to the next, from one emergency to the next — emergencies caused by natural, political, economic and social phenomena. In light of all these emergencies and crises, our recommendation is “Be alert.” “Alert,” an expression of security, means to be awake, with attentive ears and a clear mind that can glimpse and distinguish the danger that is threatening us and denounce this sin, without forgetting that we also are called to proclaim the Good News of abundant and true life (Matthew 25:46 and Romans 1:17).

In the fifteen years that have passed since the Peace Accords, unjust life conditions persist due to a poor distribution of wealth. The country does not have adequate food and social security. The [United Nations] Millennium Development Goals cannot be accomplished; on the contrary, a generalized deepening of poverty exists. The government has totally abandoned agriculture and industry. Instead, a disproportionate increase in informal commerce is taking place. The principle source of sustenance comes from family “remittances;” almost three million Salvadorans have emigrated to the United States and other parts of the world. Our youth are victims of the violence that is worsening in our country. This violence embraces all classes and sectors of society. Institutionalized violence also facilitates organized crime, gangs, corruption and impunity. Indebtedness and low income continue among most social classes. When social and environmental groups protest, they are repressed and taken as political prisoners under the guise of “terrorists.” They are only people who are defending their right to live. [Note of translator: This last example refers to an incident that took place in July 2007 when 14 people were detained in Suchitoto as they protested the commercialization of water.]

The current situation alarms us: the constitutional process and state institutions have been violated. Principal elements of the right have distorted the constitution and universal jurisprudence with the approval of laws and reforms to the Penal Code in Article 348 by increasing penalties in a disproportionate manner to exact fear. We are concerned that, in cases of legitimate protests by different social sectors, they have responded with the measures of a totalitarian court. These laws transgress basic human, civil and environmental rights and are closing democratic spaces. The institutional system and current government function from a base of corruption, lies, violence and polarization that brings with it a high deterioration of the ethical and moral basis in their institutions, legality and, in general, of society as a whole.

We are alarmed above all that, when faced with public protest, the Salvadoran State uses the mechanism of counter-reaction by hardening the laws. More than discourse or public campaigns, the crisis in which we are living demands state politics that resolve problems with responsibility. This requires a serious and resolute inquiry on the part of the State and Government in order to lessen the different problems that are afflicting the Salvadoran people.

Our God of Life cannot agree with a State whose relationship with its citizens represents a dangerous political polarization that can lead to a larger confrontation and worsening of intolerance in the country. Jesus demands us to denounce the enormous suffering in which our people live. He shows us the profound love that holds us and calls us to raise our voices with force to give a message of hope. He inspires us to engage in joined, ecumenical action — peaceful but also energetic action — to confront this structural problem, because hardening laws and persecuting Salvadorans is not the way to solve these problems.

Again we must remind ourselves of Jesus’ words, “We are not created for the law but the law is created for us.” Our proposed mission is to change all conditions that violate people’s lives and to build relationships on the basis of truth, honesty, justice, responsibility and human solidarity. The sentiment of compassion and solidarity that Jesus had for his people is the same one that moves us today for ours, who are forsaken and scattered. We must build new relations where National Unity becomes a necessary and immediate process, because to do so is an ethical and evangelical mandate, God’s Justice with God’s people. For this reason, in the name of the God of Life, we ask Salvadorans — men and women — to make the decision with faith and without fear to bring about the Christian utopia and be with us in God’s reign (Isaiah 32:1-8).

We firmly commit ourselves to continue walking with and joining in the clamor of the poor, which shapes itself into public protest, warning those who flaunt the economic and political power in this country that there will be no possible reconciliation if the source of these ills is not eliminated (as the history of the world has shown). The hour has arrived to place the interests of the nation above those of individuals, groups and sectors, while at the same time giving up economic, political and religious patronage (Ephesians 4:3-4).

Finally, we ask the God of Life to give us the strength to respond coherently from our Faith and as committed Christians to continue to sow seeds of hope amongst ourselves and with those who will some day rest their hopes in ours. Let us work for consensus and action from all existing, productive and organized groups, becoming salt and light in this country for the construction of a society that is based on values of the Kingdom of God and that sustains a true democracy and a dignified life in better social, economic, and political conditions.

Our Pastoral Call:

(1) To the Salvadoran people: to sponsor a true coming together as a nation, making possible understanding among brothers and sisters and children of God (Isaiah 44:1-5) and forming a foundation for constructing a broad social movement of National Unity.

(2) To the academic and scientific sectors: to have a more active role in the discussion of, analysis of, and proposals for the direction that this country should follow to find alternatives to the crisis.

(3) To productive forces and to big business: to put forward policies that reactivate the productive base through the payment of taxes, so that all Salvadorans and, above all, young Salvadorans can find their future within our borders and not in far-off lands.

(4) To the political parties: to change the positions of confrontation and move to a responsible posture, proposing policies of the State that will contribute to providing direction to the country in development, socio-economic justice and social coexistence.

(5) To the powers of the state: to maintain executive, legislative and judicial independence, facilitate citizen participation by creating civic and democratic opportunities within the institutional framework so that Salvadorans might construct a better future.

(6) To all churches and religions of the country: to take on God’s compassionate love by actively accompanying this process of national consent where, in a preferential manner, our most poor and needy brothers and sisters will be the principal focus of a plan for a democratic and just country.

(7) To governments of the world, the United Nations, the Organization of American States, international organizations, the churches of the world, international solidarity, and our friends: We ask for your backing in solidarity to support in a definitive fashion the construction of a democratic model that will be a guarantee of peace with justice in El Salvador.


Movimiento Ecuménico Salvadoreño


Anonymous said…
«A las fuerzas productivas y a la gran empresa, proponer políticas de reactivación de la base productiva y cumplir con el pago de sus tributos, para que todas las y los salvadoreños y especialmente los jóvenes, encuentren su futuro dentro de nuestras fronteras»

Does this make any sense?

A. To propose policies that will re-power the productive sector. Well, duh! Isn't this what they do pretty much every day? Claim for less bureaucracy, better courts, more security? Does the Church have to tell private enterprise to become more productive? Aren't they already profit-seeking businesses looking to expand, increase revenue, increase profit? Isn't this like asking a drowning man to swim?

B. Does paying more tax ensure that young people stay within our borders? Well, let's see. In Cuba, you basically tribute your entire labor to the government, and it in exchange pays you about $27 a month. Do people wish to stay there?

People will stick around if there are jobs (and jobs are not created through higher taxation) and if their families are not in danger.

Methinks the Diocese's message to the productive sector is a lefty platitude. Not much content, there, sadly.
Hodad said…
....."want to make money in El Salvador, open a church"......,

this comment has been said too many times not to make sense
seen it for the past 30 years, at least the evangelicals feed you and give you a few clothes, unlike the catholics giving nothing but taking your pesos for their golden facades...
you may have to clap a bit and dance, but at least they[evangelicals] will feed you
Anonymous said…
lol...people in el salvador have just got to figure it out. it's the only way they'll ever have a chance. i mean, people can theorically exist without government, and in many ways they do, not just in el salvador but around the world; but governments cannot exist without people to support them. so the point here is really a message to all salvadorans, living in ES and abroad, figure things out and your lives together wherever it is that you reside.
Anonymous said…
Hodad: "at least the evangelicals feed you and give you a few clothes, unlike the catholics giving nothing but taking your pesos for their golden facades..."

I was on an academic panel recently. The organizer, who literally wrote "THE BOOK" on Salvador in the 80s, stated that both the Catholic and Protestant churches have been drifting toward the right. I felt compelled to e-mail her afterwards, pointing out that Medardo Gomez and the Lutherans have been doing some great things in terms of human rights. Naturally, she agreed and explained she did not have time to go into that much detail.

And no, I am not just saying this becuase this is luterano.blogspot.com!