El Salvador: Violence Comes to the City

Amid harassment of some church workers, evangelicals are doing their best to steer clear of politics.
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Amid harassment of some church workers, evangelicals are doing their best to steer clear of politics.

In a memo outlining the current crisis in El Salvador, Peter Clark, director of World Relief’s work in that country, told of an incident in which the young daughter of the ministry’s cleaning woman noticed the dead body of a rebel soldier in the street near their house. Rigor mortis had peeled the man’s lip up, exposing his teeth. Unfamiliar with such a scene, the child asked her mother, “Why is that man smiling?”

Death and violence in El Salvador is an old story; some 70,000 have died in the last 10 years of civil war between Salvadorian government forces and rebel guerrillas. But until recently, the war was limited by and large to remote areas. With the rebels’ latest military offensive, violence came to the city, giving a whole new sector of the country’s population a chance to experience firsthand the fallout from that nation’s political and military stalemate.

The violence, accompanied by an atmosphere of fear and suspicion, is taking its toll even among those not hit by bullets. According to Ana Cecilia de Santana, a surgeon and coordinator of the social service arm for Salvadorian Nazarenes, the greatest medical need—apart from blood and plasma for the wounded—is the tranquilizer Valium.

Harassment Of Church Workers

Tranquility is a rare commodity in El Salvador, as the believing community has discovered. In some cases, evangelicals have been caught in the crossfire. According to Clark, a woman who served as president of a church’s missionary society was killed, and one Nazarene church took a direct hit from a bomb.

Some segments of the church—generally the more politically active Catholics and mainline Christians—have ...

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