Sunday, November 18, 2012

Churches unite in peace initiative

A wide coalition of El Salvador's churches came together Saturday to launch the Pastoral Initiative for Life and Peace.    Bishops and pastors from the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Assembly of God, and other protestant and evangelical churches came together to indicate their collective agreement to use their role as pastors of Christian churches to advocate for a culture of peace in El Salvador.   The clergy see the current gang truce as a true opening where an opportunity for peace exists.

The truce has lowered the average daily homicide rate from 14 to 5.3 in the country.    Catholic bishop Fabio Colindres, who was involved with brokering the truce, delivered a sermon focusing on the biblical call for the faithful to be peacemakers.   He also rejected those who view the gang truce with suspicion or as something unreal.   Colindres and the leaders of the other Christian churches called on the government and all sectors of Salvadoran society to commit themselves to this process.

One of the other mediators of the truce was Raúl Mijango.   The SHARE Foundation blog quotes a recent presentation from Mijango about the scope of the effort which needs to occur:

In order for this process to move forward, Mijango sees it as essential to create conditions for broad societal transformations. These changes should include reforming the penitentiary system to change the current sub-human conditions, providing opportunities for youth to participate productively in society, and addressing poverty through support for development and entrepreneurial projects. Mijango called on society to move from doubt and criticism to taking an active role in creating peace. “This is a problem for all of us. Let’s address it.”
Danielle Mackey notes in an article one of the possible proposals for part of the solution:
 The lasting effectiveness of the truce may also depend on the success of several proposals unveiled at the conference. The Passionist Social Service distributed a proposal for an alternative to the Anti-Gang Law, which they call the Special Law for Withdrawl and Rehabilitation of Members of Gangs and Criminal Organizations. It would allow gang members who have been processed for a felony to clear their records if they will choose to leave the gang, and would destine some State resources to rehabilitation programs. The proposal points out that Article 27 of the Salvadoran Constitution establishes rehabilitation of delinquents as a responsibility of the government. The proposal also suggests the creation of the National Institute for Gang Rehabilitation, which by legislative decree would have the responsibility of coordinating and overseeing the various rehabilitation efforts that could surface under this proposed law.
The churches have broad influence in El Salvador.   The real question, as several speakers noted Saturday morning, was how to change good intentions into concrete actions.



Catholic Bishop Fabio Colindres speaks to the crowd.

Lutheran bishop Medardo Gomez signs the pastoral initiative.

Catholic Bishop Fabio Colindres meets with the
Minister of Public Security,
David Munguía Payés prior to the event.

The event took place in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral.



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