My heart is heavy today for the people of El Salvador. Throughout the day I have been checking news sources and following the blogs of some of the International Election Observers and am saddened by the reports of corruption and threats of violence. The lengths to which people and parties will go to win an election are horrifying. There are reports that some businesses are trying to influence their employees to vote for a particular candidate, with some employers requiring employees to take a picture of their ballot to prove they voted the “right” way in order to keep their jobs. Some voters have been offered $60 (more than a week’s wage) if they take a picture of their ballot with their cell phones and send it to party officials. There have been reports of people voting multiple times and parties bussing in people from nearby Nicaragua to cast votes. One voting center was flooded out, ruining boxes of ballots. Interestingly, this is El Salvador’s dry season so one wonders how such flooding could happen. The polls will close shortly, and there is great concern about the violence that may erupt from the losing party. The Salvadorans are fearful and many have reported that they are getting off the streets and locking themselves in their homes when the polls close tonight.
My trip to El Salvador was a transforming experience. I am still trying to process all that I saw and heard while I was there, but I will tell you that I am not the same person I was before the trip. Just a few short months ago I knew next to nothing about the country. Oh sure, I could identify it on a map, and I knew that there had been a war there in the 80s, but that’s about it. Unaffected and unaware, I was in “my own little world.” But after meeting the Salvadoran people, seeing both sadness and hope in their eyes, and hearing their stories of anguish (and resiliency!), I was changed. I have a new and inexplicable passion for people that I would have never dreamed possible. I can no longer sit idly by in “my own little world,” but must work toward calling an end to injustice, not just in El Salvador, but throughout the world.
As my group met with Salvadorans throughout our trip, one of the questions we asked each person was “What do you want us to take back to our country?” And the answer we heard repeatedly was “Please share our stories.” And so I am doing just that. Please continue to pray with me for the people of El Salvador.