I was born in El Salvador, six years after the war ended, so those who had decided to leave during the war were already gone. For me, it was normal that a great part of my extended family lived outside of the country. As a kid, I never really questioned why they had left. Maybe it was because I had never met another Salvadoran who didn’t have family outside the country. I even remember one time at school, when the teacher asked how many students had any family living abroad. All hands went up, including mine.
El Salvador for me is love, is family, is belonging. It is home, and it will always be. I have a loving family, and a safe home. However, as I grew older, I began to understand why so many people had left. The war was terribly hard for everyone. It is estimated that more than 25% of the population migrated or fled during the country's civil war. It lasted 12 years, and when peace accords were signed in 1992, many were hopeful that violence would cease, and that maybe, some could come back home. Sadly, the post-war situation has not been any different, nor any better. El Salvador is considered the world's deadliest country outside a war zone, and it is estimated that around 3 million Salvadorans live outside El Salvador.
My experience of living in a conflict-filled country with mass immigration numbers has broadened my perspective on refugees and conflict. First, I believe that it does not matter if the conflict is political or religious; those who suffer the most are the ones who least deserve it. The middle and lower classes, children, those whose voices are ignored. Second, it has taught me that those who leave go through a hard and painful experience. Leaving home, your family, all the life you’ve known to become a refugee is never an easy choice. Somalian author, Warsan Shire, represents that pain in her poem, “Home”:
“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark, you only run for the border, when you see the whole city running as well . . . you only leave home when home won’t let you stay. . . . You have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land. . . . No one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear saying- leave, run away from me now, I don’t know what I’ve become, but I know that anywhere is safer than here”.
I see Shire's words embodied in the pain of Syrians, Somalis, Iranians, Sudanese, Congolese, Colombians, and in Salvadorans. The strength and courage to start over, to demand a second chance, requires an exceptional amount of bravery. “You would do the same if there was a horrible war in your country”, expresses a Syrian father after crossing the Aegean Sea in an inflatable boat. As a Christian, and as a human, I feel not only called but obligated to help those involved in the refugee crisis. I feel the need to raise awareness and to support and get involved in local and global initiatives. I may never completely understand what is like to be a refugee, but I do not need to go through what they’ve been through to have empathy and to understand that it could be me, or you, on that boat.
When I came to Trinity to study International Development, I was fascinated by the amount of initiatives taking place on our campus. From missions trips to student-led NGO’s, it is certain that TWU seeks to contribute to a more just world as we are expected as Christians to act against injustice. In my first year, I became a member of the Social Justice Club. I started co-leading the club in my second year. One of the goals of the club is to be a space where ideas like TRAC can be shared and can flourish. Emilio, the co-leader of the club, had been praying with me for guidance to decide which issue the Social Justice Club should focus on for the semester. In October, we scheduled a meeting for Jordan to share about his experience in the Middle East. This was the first time that I heard Jordan’s testimony and the first time he shared “his crazy idea”, which now we refer to as the Trinity Refugee Awareness Campaign.
My role in TRAC is to be one of the Social Justice Club liaisons. TRAC and the SJC have formed a partnership regarding volunteering opportunities, meaning that members of the SJC will have easier access to those. The SJC has been a great source of support for TRAC; each one of the club members has helped in the planning and organizing of the Kick-Off event. The SJC will continue to work in more initiatives, and it will also continue to support TRAC as it grows and develops.
I look back to October last year, and I feel so blessed to have the opportunity of sharing with such an amazing group of people on the TRAC team. Moreover, I feel so blessed to be part of an initiative that addresses the refugee crisis directly. The support we have received is overwhelming, and we appreciate the advice and words of encouragement. I look forward to seeing what the Lord has prepared for our vision and how TRAC will continue to grow.
I truly believe that there is hope and that we cannot ignore the cries for help. My heart is filled with admiration for the bravery of the 22 million refugees around the world. Leaving home is hard, but so is starting over. Luckily, we can help to make that process a little easier. The Lord calls us to action, not to stay silent: "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). My hope is that with TRAC, my personal life and my career, I can work to provide support, love and justice to those who find themselves among darkness.
With hope and faith,