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Warriors of God - La Gotera Jail

Warriors of God - La Gotera Jail

For more than 20 years, the country of El Salvador face an endemic violence related to gang activity. There are between 10,000 and 70,000 active members in a country of just 7 million people. While a new Assembly was elected in 2018, the political class, all political parties combined, has so far only promoted measures increasingly repressive, without removing the gangs.

As a result, the prisons have filled up, exploding their capacity of reception, while the public programs of rehabilitation are almost non-existent. Only some evangelical churches welcome those seeking to break with their past lives, even if their action is not always well accepted by the public forces and the rulers.

Conversions to Evangelical Protestantism are usually done in prison. One of them, located in San Francisco de Gotera, in the north-east of the country, reveals the extent of the phenomenon: the 1,500 prisoners sentenced for their activities in the gang Barrio 18, are now all fervent Christians evangelizers.

According to the prison director, half of the prisoners are serving a sentence of more than 30 years (and a quarter more than 50 years). They are therefore unlikely to be granted an early exit thanks to their good behavior. Conversions are based on true faith: their only opportunity is this "encounter with Jesus," which leads them to repentance, the possibility of receiving forgiveness with a rebirth to consecrate their lives to Jesus. It is also the possibility of finding an inner peace, as a way out to their inner liberation while accepting the conditions of their material existence.
Religion also provides a coercive framework, with the respect of an authority, a God whose omnipotence becomes indisputable, just like the world order and its authorities. It serves to regain control of the space from 2016.

At the same time, the "extraordinary measures" were put in place. El Salvador had the highest homicide rate in the world. Highly contested by international institutions, these measures completely isolated the prisons where gang members were imprisoned. The goal was to break the chain of command between the incarcerated leaders and their base in the neighborhoods. Today, extraordinary measures have begun to be taken in La Gotera Prison. Because the prison, as an evangelist jail, no longer represents a danger. But as religion took power, politics measures seems to hold back.