In one of the more poignant stories of the Old Testament, the mother of Moses is faced with a terrible decision. The command of Pharoah is that all male children be killed. For a little while, his mother is able to hide him. But it comes to a point that she no longer can protect her son. Desperate to find a way to help him survive, she places him in a basket and releases him into the Nile.
As I’ve been in El Salvador this week, this is a story that I’ve heard a Lutheran pastor here use to try to explain why children in Central America are making the dangerous journey across the border into the United States. In many cases, mothers and fathers are making the terrible decision to release their children to travel to the United States simply because like the mother of Moses, they want their children to live.
There are estimates of 12-14 homicides every day here in El Salvador. In the past month, a ten year old boy was decapitated on his way to school. He was killed by a gang because his school was in the territory of a rival gang. A teenager with special needs (a Special Olympian who excelled in the shot put) was killed by a young gang member as part of a rite of initiation.
In the small Lutheran church where we worshipped on Sunday, we prayed for two teenage boys who were being harassed at school to join gangs. They were sent to live with relatives. Other children aren’t fortunate enough to have relatives with whom to stay, and some drop out of school completely out of fear.
Though the situation in El Salvador and the rest of Central America is dire, it is not hopeless. On Monday morning we heard Angel Ibarra, the Vice Minister of the Environment (a Lutheran), describe his country as a critically ill patient, close to death. However, he said, by knowing he has the support of others the patient still has hope.
As long as there are others listening there is hope.
In the meantime, children are coming. Some will be sent back. But they will try again …and again… for as long as mothers and fathers desire life for their children.
It’s a story at least as old as Moses and his mother.