El Salvador’s violent gang members are finding God in prison | The Economist


El Salvador is one of the deadliest
places on earth the tiny Central American country is in
the grip of a war among rival gangs and the police Successive governments have
attempted to control the gangs using force cracking down in the streets and
filling the prison’s Last year more than 10 people were
murdered every day Gangsters tattoo their allegiance on
their skin membership is for life In El Salvador they say the only way to leave
the gang is in a body bag those who attempt to leave face social stigma and the threat of execution from other gang members or the police Rehabilitation programs are practically non-existent but in the capital city, San Salvador, a
religious group is trying to help the gangsters swap the gang for God “If God
could change someone like me … someone that has done so many wrong things, why
not change all these other men” When Wilfredo Gomez was growing up El Salvador was in the midst of a bloody civil war that left one in sixty
Salvadorians dead and one in four displaced In 1987 Gomez, like hundreds of thousands
of others, fled to the United States On the streets of Los Angeles he found a
home with the gangs “Once I got into the hood… I decided to join the gang and I
had to find a way to survive to make money to eat, so I used to sell heroin” Gomez joined 18th Street, named after the area in LA where most of the gang members
lived They fought for territory with a rival Salvadorian gang ms-13 “A lot of my
friends that I grew up with and that… joined the gang almost at the same time
they were killed during that war” It wasn’t long before he had a run-in with
the police and was put behind bars ” I got busted for selling narcotics to survive
and using that at the same time” In a bid to reduce gang violence the Clinton
administration in 1996 passed the law that meant immigrants convicted of
crimes with a prison sentence of more than a year would be deported “I remember
my mom mentioning, ‘eh you need to be… careful, they deporting people now… be smart, stay away from trouble” Thousands of gang members were sent back
to El Salvador including many members of ms-13 and 18th Street who took their brutal battle for the streets with them The number of
deported soon rivaled the size of El Salvador sixteen thousand strong police After almost 20 years in the US half of which was in prison
Gomez saw deportation as his ticket to freedom “The one thing I wanted the
most was to be free… “Three days later I was on the plane on my way back over here” Just three months after he arrived he was back in prison
serving ten years for stealing a security guards machine gun “I remember going into prison
and they’d just had a massacre… …the smell of blood was still in there
I’m talking about 150 persons in one cell… …had sleep there, shower there, go to the
bathroom there” From his crowded prison cell Gomez found an unlikely salvation “The Christian people they asked to pray for me… …so I told the guy, ‘ok pray for
me and then leave’… …Something happened… …It’s like whine like a little kid” The prayers
had a profound effect on Gomez “I had spent nearly 16 years of my life in
prison and all along I knew that… …I needed help but I didn’t know
who to run to… …I had no family… …the guy that was praying
for me ask me if I wanted to receive Jesus… …and I told him yes” After joining the church
Gomez began to convert other gangsters to evangelical Christianity In 2016
he helped persuade the prison director to establish a separate area where
religious inmates could live and pray in peace away from other gang members this was an attractive proposition and hundreds of prisoners followed Gomez Some were genuine converts others just wanted better prison conditions “I have never seen so many guys being
impacted by the gospel… … guys all tatted from their face,
singing praises to the Lord… …when I first joined the church it… was about a hundred men in there
and little by little that 100 was multiplying …now it’s over nine hundred
It’s something happening, I mean, gang members… …don’t change just like that” In early 2017 Gomez was given parole in San Salvador he feared that if he left
prison he would fall back into the gang On the outside there are few prospects
for anyone linked to the gang to earn money legitimately “To my surprise there
was someone waiting at the door… … a Christian… … and they had heard about me
through a guy that had parole before me… … and he had told them that I
was one of the leaders in prison with that Christian movement
so they brought me here to this church …they made food for me
celebrating my freedom… …that was big for me” Since leaving prison Gomez has helped
other newly released gang members find refuge in a tiny Church in San Salvador The inmates who convert inside prison struggle to stay away from the gang once
released only seven former gangsters of church members on the outside the rest find their way back to the gang Those who do join the church have a tough
existence They have no money
no prospects and no place in society “Being an ex gang member here in El Salvador… …and facing society’s rejection is the
biggest obstacle that I faced so far” “yes I made wrong choices, I made my
mistakes but you have made yours… maybe my mistakes is that I put ink on me
maybe your mistake was that you cheated on your husband maybe my mistake
was that once upon a time I took a life either way there are mistakes
maybe mine are bigger than yours but i’m still a human These men once devoted to
gangs now claim to be devoted to the church In many ways the church is
similar to the gang both have strict rules, a hierarchy and
demand obedience Solving El Salvador’s gang problem will take more than
converting a handful of gangsters to Christianity The question facing El
Salvador in the long term isn’t whether an individual gang member can change but
whether society will create the conditions that mean they can leave the
gang for good

100 thoughts on “El Salvador’s violent gang members are finding God in prison | The Economist

  1. i was a fool, but it was not my fault. I have found him and he has saved me. TRUE GLORY IS ALWAYS IN YAHWEH AND HIS SON JESUS CHRIST.

  2. Praise God for the freedom He gives…He can and will keep these brothers if they continue to look to Him. Praying for all because all things are possible with Him who died for each and every precious soul

  3. Jesus can save anyone!! Pray for Salvador, Honduras…etc. We can see Jesus hands working in each country. Religion can’t save but Jesus can save!!!!

  4. I hope this narrator repents ….as your maker call all humans sinners violators of his moral laws…the bible is a revalation….God does not care about your mortal body . As it it's in the process of dying God wants your soul .
    …that is why he sent his son Jesus christ…to pay for all your Sins ……..pride is sin .. all evil is Sin …humans are born sinners…being an atheist is a sin… advise from x atheist

  5. Of course, the narrator, still in darkness and unbelief, got it totally wrong: it is not religion or "a church;" It is an experience of the person of Jesus.

  6. I was crying the all time watching because the devil is a liar I’m glad God is letting the devil know that his time of using those guys is over now it’s Gods time

  7. Oh my God is amazing , this truly touched my heart . I’m so happy these men found God ❤️ God is good !!! Look how they praise God 😍 truly amazing

  8. Jesus dies NOT demand obedience. We love Him because of His incredible love for us that He died for us we CHOOSE to love Him

  9. There is power in JESUS. to heal and transform lives. The only one who says if you seek me you will find me His love is for the whole world Call on Him and He will answer you

  10. Men this only My lord god can do 🇮🇱🙏 mi Dios de Israel sólo el lo puede hacer Jesús que tu santo espíritu llene sus vida Yahweh I love you shalom brothers peleemos la batalla de la fe 🙏🇮🇱 our savior is coming for us

  11. Praise be to Jesus who sets the captives free for whom the Son sets free is free indeed!
    And to whoever narrated this video, you are no exception, you need Jesus as well…you stated that just a handful of Christians are not the answer for the dilemma that faces El Salvador but you are wrong according to the good news of Jesus Christ. It begins with each individual as they believe in and yield their lives to Christ. These are those who will proclaim their freedom to other captives and on it goes. This is THE answer for El Salvador and the entire world. THis is why Jesus came and there is NO other way as Jesus proclaimed, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life".

  12. WE GREW UP FIST FIGHTING FOR FUN AND IT'S NOT LIKE THAT ANYMORE A KNIFE OR GUN IS A COWARD UNSURE OF HIS PICKED VICTIM OR HE WOULD GO FACE UP TO THE MAN AND TELL HIM I DON'T LIKE OR I HATE YOU GRAB ON I'LL DECIDE WHEN YOU ARE GONNA BE TURNED LOOSE EXCERT THE FIRST TO HITS VICTIM WILL BE ENABLED BY THE FORCE AND FAITH IN THE HEART NEVER ATTACK ANYONE YOU KNOW YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO DESTROY

  13. 8:28 maybe your mistake was cheating on your husband maybe my mistake was taking someone's life LOL that's a big ass mistake

  14. I would love to raise money for these men and what they are doing! I am an illustrator and want to do a project for it. Can anyone help me find any way of contacting them and making this happen?

  15. Well, what the narrator says in the end is sad. Jesus is the only way, society will never mend itself in a world fallen in sin. Socialism < Jesus.

  16. WITH JESUS/YESHUA THERE IS NOTHING IMPOSIBLE.!!! LETS PRAY THAT PRESIDENT BUKELE HELPS THESE YOUNG MEN. WE WILL BE PRAYING FOR ALL OF YOU. THANK YOU FOR THESE DOCUMENTARY. THERE IS NOTHING IMPOSIBLE FOR GOD!! JUST REMEMBER THAT.

  17. Forgiven just because a priest said so. What a load of bullshit, preying on people with nowhere to turn by saying they are forgiven.

  18. God bless you pastor! God will give you strength and courage and the blessings to keep going. God is good and Jesus's blood covers all our sins no matter if they are as red as a scarlet red they will atoned and forgiven and God will bring forth peace to those who have no hope. Never give up Pastor no matter what! Benediciones

  19. Torch of Christ ministries went there and preached and souls were saved in the prison. God bless Philip Blair and all people who are sharing God's love and forgiveness.

  20. the problems with human beings are not social, or because conditions the goverment has to adjust.. ITS SIN! and only God can change that.

  21. PRAY GOD SOULS, SOULS GOING TO HEAVEN, THANK YOU GOD – AND THANK FOR THE PEOPLE THAT GOES THERE TO BRING THE GOSPEL.

  22. Seeing this people cry at 4:20 really amazes me how Jesus can turn lifes of humans from non sense to Eternity life …. its just Amazing .. Praise
    Be to The Lord of Lords Jesus Christ .

  23. Father God we lift up all out brothers your sons with Prayer & fasting by the blood of Jesus Christ Father please send your Angels to protect them from the snares of the devils we rebuke you Satan coward by the blood of Jesus Christ from Nazareth Amen

  24. I think all those guys were allways basically good people. It is the economics of the country that forces people to do things they really do not want to do. They have tried to address these problems in the past. But the forces against them are far to strong. The Church has the power to change the whole country if these people do his will.

  25. No hay duda
    Dios es Dios para pecadores mas que para Santos ya que mando' a su hijo
    A salvar lo que se habia perdido
    Y dejo' 99 ovejas y se fue' buscar la que se habia perdido.
    Ese es nuestro Dios.
    Dios tenga misericordia de las que aun
    Estan extraviadas.
    Dios bendiga este ministerio.

  26. Fight the good fight of faith keep your heart ❤ and eyes on jesus Christ brothers he's the only thing standing between us and hell fire choose life choose Jesus the life Giver

  27. Last year this guy Will, was my coworker in a call center and he used to speak about Jesus in an amazing way, now that I found this video, its easy to understand why he used to speak about Jesús. he was a really good person.

  28. In our seeking for truth let us remember the truth about the biblical Sabbath is the test of the mark of the beast. Come out of her my people. Read the great controversy.

  29. Mathuerw 15 24 25 this CHAPTERS of The bible and LOOK IT OVER DANAEL 12 REVELATION 3 the Angel sed TO THE 7 churches repinet or the Lord will come up and judge YOU

  30. The conclusion didnt touch the main point. They still think the society is what makes the change. They dont realize that it is the Holy Spirit the worked in them that made them change.

  31. Hey every body hate you guys but. In JESUS WE HAVE REDEMPTION..please be the best of you and will see the difference in your life. GOD BLESS EL SALVADOR AND CENTROAMERICA"

  32. Hey amigo en todo lugar te odian pero en Jesucristo hay redención hace lo mejor de vos y veras diferencia en tu vida..DIOS BENDIGA EL SALVADOR Y CENTROAMÉRICA"

  33. This really touched my heart. Thank's everyone for the kind and positive comments. Let's keep these young men in our prayer's and pray that they survive the street's and they never stop loving god and themselves….🙏🙏🙏🙏

  34. I'm happy for them…deep down everybody wants better for there lives….hardened men just don't cry for no reason…Jesus Christ is no joke

  35. Big Daddy makes people like this . Some of these people don't have a choice cause this is how there country is Run by Big Daddy. Stop the corrupted life style.

  36. Nobody buys their change. God can change anyone’s life but we know thousands of people saying God had changed their life but still walking the same path they were before God changed them. This gang people will do anything to convince people they have changed to find their way out and go back to where they were picked up from. This is nothing but a put up show!!!! Time will tell! Coward Clowns don’t convince me.. I’m sorry but their shows are not true

  37. Culd you guy do another video, shoeing the new era of my El Salvador. Please…. #nayibBukelePresident

  38. This is completely false! Stop scaring the people ! Yes there's violence ! Yes there's areas where you should not go! But there's beautiful places to visit!

  39. Something happen I stared crying like a little kid ! This is true . The same thing happens to me every time some body from church come,s and talks to me about GOD word . I can't help my self and I'll star crying & I don't know why . I spoke to a pastor from church and he told me that that's the HOLY Spirit .

  40. All praise-Honor & glory to Jesus!

    Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come.
    2 Corinthians 5:17

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