“Why would any parent bid farewell to a child and send him/her off alone into the unknown? It is a complicated story,” writes Marion McInturff of Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Vienna, Virginia. Her article posted Nov. 26, 2014 to FairfaxTimes.com integrated experience and research after returning from El Salvador last summer as a delegate from the ELCA Metro D.C. Synod visiting members and neighbors of the Salvadoran Lutheran Synod who share Companion Synod ties.
“At the time of this writing, two buses of children are arriving in San Salvador every Tuesday and Friday from Mexico, approximately 350 children. Soon the U.S. will be sending plane-loads of children back to their country of origin,” McInturff writes. “The Salvadoran government is scrambling to find ways to deal with this influx. From January to July of this year 47% of the children who fled have returned to El Salvador, more boys than girls. Many children are not heard from again. For those who are sent back the trauma of the journey and the fear of retaliation by the gangs will have a major impact on them. The mothers who come back with their children will also desperately need support. Food and clothing as well as medical and psychological assistance are necessary. The crisis from the Salvadoran viewpoint is overwhelming.”
In San Salvador, words of a U.S. bishop speaking on child emigration stayed with McInturff. “What we can do,” she heard, “is put real faces on these children. They are human beings caught in a situation over which they have no control.”
A middle school child in El Salvador is being bullied at school. His older brother comes forward to defend him. The bully is a gang member and threatens the brother with his life. The mother sends off her son to protect him.
A ten-year old boy lives in a gang identified neighborhood but has to cross into the territory of another gang to attend school. He is decapitated by the rival gang.
A university student from a rural community begins to cry when asked what he will be doing in ten years. ‘Life is so hard here,’ he says. His brother had just left for the U.S. after being threatened by a gang.
These are a few of the testimonies McInturff recounts in her article. She turned again to the bishop’s words: “In the end, we need to stress humanity and the rights of all.”