The wave of violence and murder in El Salvador continues unabated. La Prensa has the latest statistics: 3043 murders between January and October of 2005, compared with 2184 in the same period the year before. 80 percent of the murders were committed with firearms, and there are some 450,000 firearms in the hands of the citizenry. The government continues to assert that at least 60 percent of the murders are gang-related, but no one really knows.
Faced with this epidemic of violence and grief, the Roman Catholic bishops of El Salvador issued a pastoral letter entitled "No te dejes vencer por el mal" (Do not let evil defeat you). The letter calls for efforts by all levels of society to confront the violence. The bishops called for dealing with gang violence through rehabilitation and reintegration of gang members into society, called for control of the ready availability of firearms, called for support of families, and called for reform of the judicial system to regain its credibility with the populace.
Here is a short excerpt:
The youth also are disturbed because violence seizes hold of all young lives. Furthermore, owing to the poverty and lack of opportunities -- that are another form of violence -- many young people see their dreams cut short of finishing their studies or getting a job with dignity; their frustration manifests itself, in no few cases, in the phenomena of drug addiction and juvenile violence. Perhaps the most worrisome is that many of the young -- boys and girls -- have lost the feeling of life and walk the streets and plazas without hope.
As people of faith, we are convinced that this dramatic reality can be transformed if each and every one of us assumes, with valor and clarity, our responsibilities: the authorities, the churches, the family, the school, the political leaders, the civil society, the media, etc. [Any errors in translation are mine.]