Last week, Bishop Medardo Gómez of the Salvadoran Lutheran Church (Iglesia Luterana Salvadoreña) concluded a visit to Washington, D.C. We were honored to have him speak with us on the push factors that lead Salvadorans to find a new life beyond their country and how we can keep Central American families together.
Bishop Gómez became the first Lutheran bishop of El Salvador in 1986. His church serves the poorest communities in the country and is committed to promoting social justice. During the Salvadoran Civil War (1979-1992), Bishop Gómez spoke out against the repression of Salvadorans and advocated for a negotiated end. The Salvadoran Lutheran Church provided humanitarian assistance to those suffering due to political persecution. A peaceful end to the war was eventually negotiated and in 1992 Bishop Gómez was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and received the World Justice & Peace Award for his “commitment to the Salvadoran people and actions to create a just society.”
We were honored to have Bishop Gómez speak with us during his visit. The Bishop described the push factors that lead Salvadorans to travel to the United States for a better life. These factors include environmental and social issues caused by changing international economic interactions. The poverty and desperation that results leads to increased violence. The Salvadoran Lutheran Church has reacted to this reality by taking measures to provide support to children and families. Bishop Gómez said:
“We have to remember that before being delinquents, young people are sons and daughters of God… One thing we are doing in our church is giving children a sense of purpose in life. We are receiving a lot of help from our partners in the United States and are able to offer some scholarships to kids. If children are studying, they have some sense that they are going to have a better future, and they won’t feel the need to get involved in crime.”
He went on to call on advocates in the United States to act on behalf of their brothers and sisters in El Salvador and support initiatives to eliminate poverty and keep Central American families together. All of us have the power to do this and change injustice, he said:
“I believe that every man or women has the calling to change the situation of injustice that exists in a country…God gives you courage for all sorts of situations.”
Let us take Bishop Gómez’s inspirational words and create understanding for why people are pushed from their homes and walk with those who are now rebuilding their lives in this country.