David and Nancy Slinde Speaking at their "Sending Service"

Monday, March 19, 2012

El Salvador Reflections March

Following is an interesting statement from a blogger featured on Tim’s Blog one year ago. The occasion was the recognition in 2011 of the 19th anniversary of the signing of the peace accords ending the civil war.

“Unfortunately we still do not have what we can call a stable, long-lasting peace, but there is reason to celebrate, as now we have a good opportunity to try for it.”

Victor, a psychologist and well-known young blogger, comments in his blog Alta hora de la noche that the people of El Salvador do not have a collective awareness of what peace means, as they have never experienced it. He states that the very concept of peace is stained with blood. It seems, he adds, that egotistical behaviour is the “natural state” of Salvadorans who, thanks to a social and cultural system that favours the strong and the powerful, consider the agreement to be a sign of weakness. In his opinion, building a culture of peace, especially among adults, appears to be an impossible task. But it is a task worth doing, he states, each one fighting the battle, from his own trench.”

Our frequent trips to El Salvador exposed us to many stories of atrocities that the authorities committed on the powerless. Simple rural people were gunned down for sport, city protesters gunned down for gathering or an entire village of 30,000 indigenous gunned down to steal their lands. It sounds so far away until you try to put it in perspective and compare the subhuman treatment of our government on the American Indian. The stealing of lands, starvation, massacres of villagers are the same stories but in a different place, time and politics, but the same injustice.

The scars on the hearts of the Salvadorans and others of Central American from the former atrocities are only 20 to 30 years old. 80,000 people died or disappeared. Mothers now nearing the end of their lives still wait for their sons to return. Old women wait for their young husbands to come home. Those seeking closure have the names of their loved ones included on the monument to the Dead and Disappeared in San Salvador.

Our area of Usulut├ín and San Miguel were sites of military conflict with arms smuggled into the country by the rebels (FMLN) from boats anchored along the coast. Our driver Alex pointed out the different places his family lived to avoid his being abducted by the military; when he was 12 he was sent to the US (another complex story). His family’s last home on the way to Puerto Parada became a bivouac area for the military. That’s all Alex would share and few others would share with us their personal stories of pain and hurt. Therefore the issue of peace, internal peace, is very complex and necessary in order to have peaceful citizens.

After the Peace Accords were signed, the conflict continued on a more intellectual level. Now 20 years later, former freedom fighters and foreign financed NGO’s continue to strive for justice. But the need of the individual Salvadoran is to find peace. If Victor is right, only outside forces can help them break loose from their cultural heritage of seeing peace as weakness and to embrace peace for their inner souls, for their families and for a stronger peaceful community and country.

David y Nancy