Quick to Listen/Episode 89 | 41 min

How Gang Brutality and US Immigration Policies Threaten El Salvador’s Christians

Will the end of temporary protected status cut off funding for churches in one of the world’s most violent countries?
How Gang Brutality and US Immigration Policies Threaten El Salvador’s Christians
Image: John Moore / Getty Images

In 2001, a 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck El Salvador, killing nearly 1,000 people. In the wake of the humanitarian disaster triggered by the natural disaster, the United States welcomed nearly 200,000 Salvadorans to live and work legally. (Undocumented Salvadorans already in America could also apply for status.) For more than 15 years, this population has existed under temporary protected status. This week, the Trump administration announced that this program will end in fall 2019.

“We’re in 2018, 17 years on, and the country has in fact largely recovered from the earthquakes. The Trump administration at least on that point is absolutely correct,” said Stephen Offutt, an associate professor of development studies at Asbury Theological Seminary. “What’s not been taken into account is the fact that El Salvador is still a dangerous place.”

While Salvadorian churches at times offer the only options for gang members hoping to leave that life behind, “that’s not the whole story,” said Offutt. Instead, as CT reported last year, pastors and other religious leaders have been kidnapped or extorted by the gangs.

“One of the reasons I respect pastors in these communities so much is because they stay there,” he said.

Offutt joined associate digital media producer Morgan Lee and guest host, managing editor Andy Olsen, to discuss how US immigration policies may defund Salvadorean churches, the intensity of the violence in the country, and how pastors instruct their congregations to interact with gangs.

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