Seventeen years ago, U.N. peace accords marked the end of a brutal civil war in El Salvador. Save for the comments from Bono in U2’s in Bullet the Blue Sky, much of the world, including most of the United States citizens, like myself, were completely ignorant to the Salvadoran crisis and USA’s involvement. The Salvadoran Civil War (1980–1992) was a conflict between the military-led government of El Salvador and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), a coalition or umbrella organization of five left-wing militias. This civil war was the second longest civil war in Latin America after the Guatemalan Civil War. The United States government (through Reagan’s war against communism) supported the right-wing Salvadoran military government. The war ended in the early 1990’s. Some 75,000 people (men, women, and children) were killed during the conflict.
At war's end, the Commission on the Truth for El Salvador registered more than 22,000 complaints of political violence in El Salvador, between January 1980 and July 1991 — 60 percent about summary killing, 25 percent about kidnapping, 20 percent about torture — most attribute almost 85 percent of the violence to right-wing State agents, private paramilitary groups, and the death squads. The Salvadoran armed forces were accused in 60 per cent of the complaints, the security forces in 25 percent, military escorts and civil defense units in 20 percent of complaints, and the death squads in more than 10 percent of complaints, and the FMLN in only 5 percent of complaints. On March 15, 1993, the commission published its report From Madness to Hope: the 12-year war in El Salvador. The Commission attributed the assassination of Archbishop Óscar Romero to the death squads, as well as the deaths of the victims of the El Mozote Massacre. The murders of six Jesuit priests in November 1989 were attributed to the Armed Forces of El Salvador. The extra judicial executions of mayors and members of the government were attributed to FMLN guerrilla militias. Five days after the commission issued its report the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador approved an amnesty law covering all the violent events of the war.
Filmmaker, Jamie Moffet, recently directed a documentary titled Return to El Salvador which investigates the effects of the civil war on modern Salvadorans and their struggles since the end of the war. Narrated by Martin Sheen and endorsed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the film provides a rare glimpse into how the lives and decisions of North Americans are directly tied to those of this wonderful, but struggling, Central American country.
Later this week, I will actually be returning to El Salvador (and Honduras) to once again partner with Mike Schadt and SOS Ministries. I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends and anticipate a wonderful week of ministry, service, and fellowship. The first time I went to El Salvador (about 6 years ago), I must admit, in a typical globally-ignorant United States kind of way, I was quite naive to the heartache of the Salvadoran people in the wake of the civil war and and recent natural disasters, such as the 2001 earthquake. My understanding and appreciated of the Salvadoran suffering has increased through the recent years and, as I listened to a recent Steve Brown, Etc. show (w/ Jamie Moffet) and have watched blurbs from the Return to El Salvador documentary, I have renewed excitement and fervor for the needed ministry amongst the wonderful people of El Salvador.
Check out the film and get to know our neighboring Central Americans a bit better…
This is the entire, uncut first seven minutes of Return to El Salvador. This sequence will introduce one of the many Salvadoran faces you'll get to know over the course of the film, and a brief introduction into the past 40 years of rocky Salvadoran history.