El Salvador - (North America)

Information about El Salvador

San Salvador
21040 square kilometres
Roman Catholic 75%, Prot (est.) 22%
Christian (%)
Protestant (%)
Reformed (%)

The country was conquered by the Spaniards in the early 16th century. A relatively long period (1524-1547) was required to impose Spanish rule on the 168 Indian communities. Scant attention was paid to the country because it lacked precious metals. During the colonial reign it belonged to Guatemala. Through a fierce struggle the country gained independence from Spain in the early 19th century (1811-1821). Eventually, it also succeeded in establishing a separate Salvadorian diocese (1822, fully recognized in 1842). Toward the end of the century El Salvador was governed by Liberals who sought to promote, in their own interests, the economic development of the country: coffee became the main item of export. In particular, the doors were opened to Protestant groups from North America. Salvadorans live in poverty, and in recent decades the country has been ruled by repressive regimes. The conflicts deteriorated in 1980 into a civil war which lasted for several years with thousands of victims. Missionary efforts started in 1540 when the military conquest was about to be completed. In the following centuries the church was close to the colonial power. During the struggle for independence several Creole priests were among the revolutionaries. Under the Liberal regime the RCath Church lost many of its privileges, but the church and the oligarchic government remained mutually supportive. The constitution of 1871 declared freedom of press, education, and religion, but Roman Catholicism continued to be recognized as the official religion of the country. The Second Vatican Council brought farreaching changes. The church committed itself more and more to the cause of the poor and thus became the target of repressive violence. Many priests, catechists, and simple believers were killed, notably the Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar A. Romero, who was shot while celebrating mass (March 24, 1980). Protestantism came to the country in the wake of Liberalism. The Misión Centroamericana, founded by the dispensationalist C. I. Scofield in Texas, began work in 1896 and quickly gained ground in the country. Today the Central American Mission has 176 congr in the central and western parts of the country, mainly led by indigenous pastors. Several other churches followed. In 1904 Pentecostalism was introduced to the country by the missionary Frederick Mebius, in 1911 Baptists started work, and from 1930 the Assemblies of God began to expand. The Panama Congress of 1916, organized by Prot mission agencies in the USA, assigned El Salvador to the Bapt (Northern Branch), with the result that Reformed and Presb missions concentrated their effort on other countries. Their presence in the country is therefore of recent date.


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