Lutheran-led peace march prompts some Salvadoran gangs to halt violence

(Photo: LWF / Adriana Castañeda)Bishop Medardo E. Gómez Soto (R), seen here with Honduran pastor Rev. Martin Girón, invited churches in Latin America and the Caribbean for prayers of solidarity as the Salvadoran Lutheran Church's Pastoral Initiative for Life and Peace program appeals for peace in El Salvador in October 2015.

Some Salvadoran gangs responsible for widespread violence have announced a cessation of violence following a peace march organized by the Salvadoran Lutheran Church in the capital San Salvador.

"Yes to peace, God bless El Salvador, yes to the desired peace," were the slogans as thousands joined the ILS Pastoral Initiative for Life and Peace, the Lutheran World Federation reports.

The church had invited sister churches worldwide to pray together as it conducted the march on Oct. 27.

Salvadoran Lutheran Church Bishop Medardo E. Gómez Soto said the Central American country faces immense difficulty due to the widespread violence that pervades.

"I want to inform you that the violence has grown so great that it is affecting the life of the nation and is causing other problems such as migration, economic troubles and even mental stress, and other consequences that Salvadorans are living through," he wrote.

Churches belonging to the Lutheran World Federation responded by thanking God and the worldwide community for the support it received as the amount of violence decreased.

It is hoped the gangs' commitment will inspire others to follow suit, the LWF reported.

Part of the Lutheran church's work is peace building initiatives and public advocacy aimed at ending the violence.

The global Lutheran communion's support for the Salvadoran church and others affected by similar violence in the region includes a 2012 public statement by the LWF's main governing body, its council.

The council has urged regional governments to "hear the cries of their people" and to protect human rights.

Some 5,000 people are murdered in El Salvador each year, making it one of the most unsafe nations that is not at war.

In October it was reported that on one day alone, at least 220 people were killed. Much of the violence is gang related.

"We want to make a loud scream and cry to stop all the violence that is agitating the country," Gomez declared. "We will present our cry to our country, officials, gang members and everyone to stop the bloodshed."

Marchers converged on the Monument to the Divine Savior of the World, streaming from Cuscatlán Park, Redondel Masferrer and the Monument to the Constitution. They included members of all churches and society at large.

During the event, a pastoral statement was read calling on all those groups terrorizing communities to immediately cease the violence and crime.

"Stop the recruitment of children especially. Stop all threats against families, communities, neighborhoods, settlements, townships, and forced eviction. Allow the free transit of people across the country," the Lutheran bishop urged.

Peace requires justice in the form of jobs, education and healthcare, the bishop noted. "Violence is a big business and the beneficiaries do not accept any peace process."

Copyright © 2015 Ecumenical News