El Salvador's Prelates Urge Peace

Respond to Increased Violence in Country

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SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador, NOV. 25, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Let good overcome evil, is the message sent out by the bishops of El Salvador amid a wave of increased gang activity in this country.

«There are those who kill to steal; there are those who kill out of revenge,» the prelates wrote in a pastoral letter released Monday.

«[T]here are those who kill by mandate,» it continued, «there are those who kill under the effect of alcohol or drugs; there are those who kill almost always with firearms that circulate virtually without control; there are those who kill in cold blood; there are those who kill with added barbarity and total impunity; and some say that there are even those who kill as a method of social cleansing.»

As of October, more than 3,000 people had been killed in this country, according to the National Civil Police.

Last year, 2,184 murders were reported in this country of just over 6.5 million inhabitants.

The authorities attribute the majority of cases to the «maras,» youth gangs, that were formed by Central Americans illegally residing in the United States, who were later returned to their home countries.

According to the police, some 20,000 gang members are active in El Salvador, and they are responsible for 55% of the homicides.

«Do we have to be resigned in the face of violence?» ask the bishops in the letter entitled «Do Not Allow Yourself to Be Overcome by Evil.»

Not condemned

«Perhaps,» continues the letter, «what is most serious is that we have accustomed ourselves to regard violence as something inevitable, and that we are condemned to coexist with it.»

The letter urges the country to «overcome evil with good.» The bishops write that one way to do that is «to analyze the grave and complex phenomenon of gangs.»

«This serious problem is the result of many factors,» continues the letter. «A focus must be adopted that gives priority to prevention, rehabilitation and social insertion as we have already requested.»

Another positive action is to control the sale of firearms. «Permissive legislation and the free sale of instruments of death must be the object of profound examination,» the bishops write.

«Indispensable to overcoming evil with good,» states the letter, «is the contribution of the family, the school, the means of social communication of Christians and of those, themselves, who are directly involved in violent actions.»

The letter continues: «The family is the heart of the homeland and that is why it should receive all the support of the state so that it will be able to fulfill its irreplaceable mission of being the main school of human, civic and spiritual values.

«How can a peaceful society be built when so many families live in subhuman conditions or suffer the drama of violence, disintegration and the absence of one or both parents?»

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