Executive Director visits Northern California raising awareness of human rights issues
Left to Right: Audrey Denney, Diane Paulsell, Kathy Veit, Glen Mitchel, Doug Mouncey, Noah Bullock, Beth Hershenhart  Not Pictured: Amy Denney Zuniga

Left to Right: Audrey Denney, Diane Paulsell, Kathy Veit, Glen Mitchel, Doug Mouncey, Noah Bullock, Beth Hershenhart  Not Pictured: Amy Denney Zuniga


Executive Director Noah Bullock spoke about Cristosal and human rights issues in several northern California cities last week. Highlights included Noah’s participation in the Dialogue on Immigration Policy and Human Rights at Stanford University, and his messages to several Cristosal Board of Directors members’ churches. Board Vice President Audrey Denney’s home church, Bidwell Presbyterian Church in Chico, California, hosted a human rights seminar. The Bidwell and Chico community was largely responsible for raising money for the new Cristosal website. Noah expressed thanks, and addressed the relevance of human rights work in today’s world.

Cristosal is “inspired by people who are committed to a vision of how things ought to be,” Noah said. He credited people of faith with championing the idea of human rights from the very beginning. He traced that beginning to the Golden Rule, saying both are “fundamentally concerned about how we treat the other.” The idea of basic human rights has always been “a conviction; a faith statement,” said Noah. Even during the logic-based Enlightenment, when human rights theory first emerged, “they never really found a rationale argument for it,” he said. Instead, Noah said, “the issue of fundamental human equality… was actually just something we believe.”

After World War II, Noah said the beliefs around human rights became laws. He said the World War II generation “thought the origin of that terrible conflict was indifference to how people were treated in other countries.” As a result, Noah said, that generation worked to ensure that “the foundations of…peace…be rooted in fundamental respect for human dignity…among people from all nations.”

Noah concluded by explaining that “human rights is not just a charitable thing. It's not just a moral thing. It's a security thing.” He said, “I'm fundamentally concerned about how you are treated…because if they're able to violate you, sooner or later, someone could violate my rights and dignity.”

During his time in California, Noah also attended a Board of Directors meeting at board member Amy Denney Zuniga’s Grace Episcopal Church in St. Helena. The people of Grace Church generously hosted the board members during their stay. Noah also visited board member Kathy Veit’s church, All Saints’ Palo Alto, as well as St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Davis, Christ Church Los Altos, the Diocese of El Camino Real, and the Church of the Epiphany.

Everywhere he went, Noah spoke up for the equality and dignity of all human beings. “My concern for the other is what I believe could keep us all safe,” he said.

Audrey Denney
Honoring the 25th Anniversary of the Peace Accords, Cristosal and Partners Discuss the Current Need to Address Forced Displacement by Violence
Cristosal's Davíd Morales, former Human Rights Ombudsman, presents on forced displacement by violence from a human rights perspective and data collected by the Working Group On Forced Displacement by Violence, the largest database of cases in the region. (Photo courtesy of Luis Enrique Garcia and the Universidad Tecnológica de El Salvador).

Cristosal's Davíd Morales, former Human Rights Ombudsman, presents on forced displacement by violence from a human rights perspective and data collected by the Working Group On Forced Displacement by Violence, the largest database of cases in the region. (Photo courtesy of Luis Enrique Garcia and the Universidad Tecnológica de El Salvador).

Commemorating today’s 25th anniversary of the Salvadoran Peace Accords, on Friday the 13th, the Civil Society Working Group on Forced Displacement by Violence presented their report “Internal Displacement by Violence and Organized Crime In El Salvador: 2016”. Before a full amphitheater at the Universidad Tecnológica de El Salvador, Cristosal’s Davíd Morales, former Human Rights Ombudsman, presented the report and explained its significance. He highlighted that after attending to over 1000 different individuals, the Working Group could definitively say that internal displacement was a real phenomenon in the country and it was in El Salvador’s best interest to develop a solution.

The cases attended to by organizations in the Working Group make up the largest database on forced displacement by violence in the Northern Triangle region of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. While the numbers do not represent the total number of cases of forced displacement in the country (Crisis Watch estimates there were 324,000 in 2015), they do provide solid evidence that there is a problem and shed light on some of its dynamics.

For instance, a new finding from the report is that victims of internal forced displacement who want to flee the country haven’t been able to leave by their own means and have sought help from different civil society organization. The report also identifies that while there are organizations that attend to victims of violence, there are no institutions that specialize in attending to victims of forced displacement.

“There are not special programs for the attentions of forced displacement,” Davíd emphasized. “There are no institutions that specialize in this type of violence nor the capacities to offer this attention.”

Davíd insisted on the grave importance of considering the relationship between the different phenomena saying, “There is a direct relationship between violence, irregular migration and displacement. We have to pay attention to the dynamic these phenomena have in reality.”

You can find the report in Spanish here.

En el marco de la conmemoración de los 25 años de firmas de los Acuerdos de Paz en El Salvador, las organizaciones miembros de la Mesa de Sociedad Civil contra el desplazamiento forzado por violencia y crimen organizado, presentaron el pasado viernes 13 de enero el informe “Desplazamiento interno por violencia y crimen organizado en El Salvador 2016”.  David Morales, representante de Cristosal en la Mesa, fue el responsable de presentar el informe de la Mesa. Desde el inicio resaltó que la presencia de un gran número de asistentes manifiesta que el desplazamiento interno es una realidad del país y que el interés por solucionarlo es real. 

El informe representa el universo de casos que han podido atender las organizaciones de sociedad civil, la base de casos más grande en el Triángulo Norte de El Salvador, Honduras y Guatemala. Las cifras expuestas en el informe no demuestran la totalidad de casos de desplazamiento forzado que existen dentro del país, solo demuestran una fracción de ellos, con los cuales se pretende resaltar que el fenómeno de desplazamiento forzado existe, que hay víctimas y las dimensiones del problema.

Del universo de personas atendidas por la Mesa el 54% son personas que ya se habían desplazado, pero el 46% no lo habían hecho antes. Un nuevo aspecto que se logró percibir gracias a las nuevas herramientas de captura es que la victimas de desplazamiento interno necesitan modalidades para salir del país, y que estas personas han buscado apoyo en las organizaciones porque por sus propios medios no han logrado salir. En este espacio también se reflexionó sobre la necesidad de tener atención a víctimas de desplazamiento forzado; existen algunas instituciones que atienden víctimas de violencia, pero no hay instituciones especializadas para víctimas de desplazamiento forzadas.

“No hay programas especializados de atención a víctimas de desplazamiento forzado. No hay instituciones especializadas para este tipo de violencia y no hay capacidades instaladas de atención”.

Así mismo Morales insistió que es de suma importancia tomar en cuenta las relaciones que existen entre los diferentes fenómenos, por lo cual insistió “La relación entre violencia, migración irregular masiva y desplazamiento es una relación directa. Hay que reflexionar sobre la dinámica que tienen estos fenómenos en la realidad”.

Puede encontrar el ensayo aqui.

James Lochhead
2016 Presenation on Forced Displacement by Violence and Organized Crime

Commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Salvadoran Peace Accords, Cristosal and the Working Group on Forced Displacement by Violence will present their 2016 Report on Internal Displacement by Violence and Organized Crime.

The presentation will begin at 3:00pm, Friday the 13th in the Peace Auditorium, in the Francisco Morazán at the Universidad Tecnológica de El Salvador. Calle Manuel José Arce.

We invite you to consult the agenda (Spanish) for more information.

James Lochhead
Developing Competencies On LGBT+ Issues
Alex Golcher facilitating a workshop on gender violence related to LGBT+ human rights abuses

Alex Golcher facilitating a workshop on gender violence related to LGBT+ human rights abuses

Collaborating with the Salvadoran LGBT+ population to address gender-based violence and human rights abuses requires that Cristosal's staff develop the necessary competencies to professionally interact with LGBT+ persons without replicating the cultural violence found in the everyday status quo.

On Wednesday, December 6th, Alex Golcher and Cristosal’s Center for Research and Learning facilitated an all-staff workshop to better understand the unique needs of LGBT+ victims of rights abuses and the relationship between gender, sexuality and violence.

Through an interactive discussion, the workshop focused on three learning objectives of:

  • Building fluency in definitions and terms to reinforce an appreciation that sexual orientation does not necessarily coincide with gender identity or expression

  • Learning tools and best practices for engaging with transgender persons such as soliciting and using their preferred pronoun (he, she, they, them, etc.)

  • Providing a conceptual framework that connects the gender based violence experienced by women and LGBT+ persons as both being rooted in, and enabled by heteronormativity, the notion that heterosexuality is the only normal and natural expression of sexuality

Learn more about the Center for Research and Learning here and our research on LGBT+ rights issues, including the report, Religious Freedom and LGBTI People: Guide for Dialogue on Human Rights in El Salvador

James Lochhead
A Letter from the Director for #GivingTuesday

Dear friends,

This political season has generated great anxiety for many, both within the United States and abroad. Now during this time of transition, it is critically important that we take actions as a global community, affirming our commitment to creating a world in which the rights of all people are respected.

This year, El Salvador is again predicted to be the most violent country in the world not-at-war. As a result, as Kirk Semple wrote last Saturday in the New York Times, we are witnessing a pressing refugee crisis emerging out of Central America’s Northern Triangle. Unprecedented violence is driving entire families abroad seeking protection, many of them to the United States’ southern border. Between 2010-2015 alone, the number of Salvadoran asylum applications world-wide has increased over 500% (UNHCR).

As one Central American migrant said, “you don’t migrate now in search of the American dream… you go for your life.”

Cristosal is one of the few organizations providing direct assistance to migrants and refugees fleeing violence in Central America. Our staff works with families to not only guarantee their safety, but provide legal advocacy and help create a national protection system capable of attending to victims’ needs.

This #GivingTuesday, we ask you to take action and affirm your support for the rights of those most vulnerable in our hemisphere.

Cristosal works with families and institutions to create real protection options for migrants and refugees in Central America. We also work at the global level; Cristosal partcipated in conversations with the UN to develop a Global Compact that can comprehensively address the needs of refugees in our hemisphere. A key pillar of the Compact also calls for us all to work together and combat xenophobia in all its forms, including rhetoric that would diminish the rights of the very families we serve.

Now, more than ever, we need your prayers and support. Please make your gift today and affirm your commitment to protecting the rights of migrants and refugees fleeing violence in our hemisphere.

Thank you,

Noah Bullock

Executive Director

Hannah Perls
Nowhere To Go: New Documentary from Noah Bullock and Global Eyes Media on Communities Created by Displaced Families in El Salvador

When the poor are forced to flee their homes from violence, where do they go?

El Milagro de Dios is a 20 minute documentary by Noah Bullock, Doriana Hammond and Jeff Hammond that follows families from one of the over 2,000 impromptu communities in El Salvador.  
It tells the stories of people like Veronica who fled her home with her family after the gangs shot her and murdered her sister. Unable to afford rent anywhere else, they moved onto an abandoned coffee farm with 600 other families.

“Yeah I miss it because we had a great house,” her mom says. “In the house there is a phone, electricity and a ceramic floor. There is plenty of running water, seven rooms, dry space to hang clothes and a garden. I Lost my house, lost my children. I lost everything… everything. They killed my daughter, and this one they almost killed. I had to flee from there to save my life, right?”

With the lack of employment options, these settlements are the only affordable option for 2,000,000 people like Veronica in El Salvador.

There is no public policy to provide basic services like electricity, running water and sewage to these communities.The government’s lack of response places communities in a very vulnerable position and the loss of a home translates into difficulties in accessing other basic human rights including work, education, healthcare and security.

Cristosal recognizes that the 324,000 people displaced from their homes need a safe place to live. In 2017, our Community Development Program will evolve to work with communities and victims to create more secure options to resettle families in El Salvador who were forced to flee violence.

We encourage you to not only watch this documentary, but share it! In viewing the film, you raise your awareness. Watching it with a loved one or as a community event in your parish creates a conversation that can lead to group action. For some tips on getting people together, check out these organizing materials.

James Lochhead
Expanding the Narrow "Tough on Crime" Focus to Policies and Programs for Victims of Violence

Salvadoran Vice President Oscar Ortiz this month downplayed Amnesty International’s recent report “Home Sweet Home? Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador’s role in a deepening refugee crisis” which highlights the role the Governments of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala play in deepening the refugee crisis in the region.

The report echoes findings from the  Narrative Report on Forced Displacement in El Salvador (Here in Spanish) Cristosal released earlier this year including:

  • The Salvadoran State’s inability to protect citizens from violence
  • The lack of policies and programs for assisting victims
  • Abuse of force by authorities as a major cause of displacement

Amnesty’s report highlights Andres' story (not his real name) of torture at the hands of security forces in a seemingly desperate attempt to demonstrate control by forcing a confession of his participation in a shoot-out.

“He said the soldiers poured bottles of water into his mouth and nose, put his head in a puddle, stuffed sand into his mouth, jumped on his stomach, then kicked, punched and threatened to kill him unless he confessed.”

Vice President Ortiz responded to the report saying, “We read these reports with caution and pay a great deal of attention to each observation and assessment,” but that the problem of displacement and the consequent migration to other countries isn’t a principle problem compared to their focus on combating gang activities.

Cristosal Chief Program Officer, Celia Medrano publicly responded with warnings of the futility of any security plan that neglects a response to victims and called the government’s response “cynical and irresponsible.” Cristosal continues to assert that a security plan must place victims at the center of policies and programs.

To learn more about how Cristosal works to strengthen protections for victims of violence, check out our different programs.

Cristosal Program Officer Celia Medrano is asking Salvadoran Vice President Oscar Ortiz to focus on policies and programs for victims of violence and not just the suppression of gangs.

Cristosal Program Officer Celia Medrano is asking Salvadoran Vice President Oscar Ortiz to focus on policies and programs for victims of violence and not just the suppression of gangs.

James Lochhead
Former Human Rights Ombudsman Davíd Morales Joins Cristosal

We are very pleased to welcome Davíd Morales to Cristosal!!

Davíd brings an impressive 25 years of experience working as a human rights lawyer, including his time as the Salvadoran Ombudsman for Human between 2013 and 2016. He will be assisting in the expansion of the Observatory on Forced Displacement by Violence into Honduras and Guatemala.

During his tenure as Ombudsman, David was a strong advocate for victims of forced displacement. Thanks to his leadership, the Ombudsman’s office worked closely with Cristosal to release the first report (Here In Spanish) by the government of El Salvador recognizing forced displacement by violence.

Cristosal recently hired former Human Rights Ombudsman David Morales, shown here with Chief Program Officer Celia Medrano at the presentation of the first report by a Salvadoran Government Institution on forced displacement.

Cristosal recently hired former Human Rights Ombudsman David Morales, shown here with Chief Program Officer Celia Medrano at the presentation of the first report by a Salvadoran Government Institution on forced displacement.

He looks forward to continuing to focus the Salvadoran Government on establishing policies and procedures for victims of violence commenting,

"Civil Society and our organizations can offer support to victims... but in the end it is the state that needs to assume this role. Cristosal has taken on the task of changing public policies so that the state takes up the responsibility to defend the human rights of victims of violence.

My dream would be that these the state eventually fulfills its obligations to families; that they fulfill their responsibilities in a way that truly assists and protects victims that have been abandoned."

Interested in getting some hands-on training in migration and forced displacement from Cristosal staff? Consider joining us for a week in El Salvador through our Global School.

James Lochhead
Cristosal Welcomes Scott Pentzer - Our New Resident Scholar - To Our Board

A native of Northern California, Scott Pentzer completed undergraduate and graduate work in Latin American Studies at Georgetown and Tulane universities. Scott has studied, volunteered, and worked in Mexico, Peru, and Costa Rica where he directed study abroad programs for the Associated Colleges of the Midwest from 2004-2009. Scott currently serves as the Associate Dean for Global Education at Tulane and is a member of St. George’s Episcopal Church in New Orleans.

James Lochhead
Audrey Denney Joins Cristosal's Board of Directors! Our Communication Guru Has Arrived

We are excited to welcome Audrey Denney and her contagious enthusiasm to Cristosal's Board of Directors. We have her to thank for this beautiful website and can't wait to see all the innovative ideas she will contribute in the work ahead. 

Audrey is passionate about human rights and working toward a world where everyone can claim their rights.  Her history with El Salvador began in 2007 when she was a volunteer for Cristosal in Usulután working on agriculture and development projects.  

Audrey receiving a lesson in organic farming as a volunteer with Cristosal in Usulutan.

Audrey receiving a lesson in organic farming as a volunteer with Cristosal in Usulutan.

Audrey has worked in agricultural education for her whole career. She earned her Bachelors and Masters of Science degrees in Agricultural Education at California State University, Chico.  She has a passion for education and taught agriculture at California State University, Chico for six years.  She has done long-term development work overseas on two occasions working with small holder farmers in Latin America and West Africa.

Audrey has been working as a learning designer at Vivayic since 2015.  She manages projects and crafts experiential learning experiences for groups like the World Bank, the American Farm Bureau, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

James Lochhead
We're hiring! Global School Coordinator & Executive Associate positions open.

Global School Coordinator

We are looking to hire a Global School Coordinator, who will plan and design the curriculum for the Center for Research and Learning's Human Rights Seminars. Interested candidates should send their resume, cover letter, and two recommendation letters to jmrikkers@cristosal.org. Download the complete job description here.

Executive Associate

Description: The Executive Associate (EA) provides administrative, record keeping, logistical and communication support to the Executive Director (ED). The EA can expect to gain personal, hands-on experience and skills related to non-profit management, especially program development and coalition-building as they relate to human rights issues in Central America.

Send resumes or CV in English or Spanish along with a cover letter explaining your interest in this position and at least two reference letters from people who can address your experience and skills in relation to this position to asistencia.admin@cristosal.org by 5:00 pm November 4.

Audrey Denney
The Reverend Juan Maria Acosta, 1942 – 2016

Together we mourn the passing and celebrate the life of the Rev. Juan Maria Acosta, member of the Cristosal board for six years, and ardent supporter of Hispanic mission and service.

Eternal rest grant to Juan, O Lord. Let light perpetual shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercies of God, rest in peace. Amen.

You can read the full obituary, written by Cristosal Board Vice President the Rev. George Woodward III, here:

Audrey Denney
Testimonial Report on Youth Displaced by Violence – English Summary Now Available

In June, the Working Group on Forced Displacement released a testimonial report on forced displacement (Spanish) in El Salvador, focusing on the stories of families of children, youth, and adolescents who are forced to lives this reality every day. Some of these testimonies have been summarized and translated, and are now available online in English.

The following is a reflection from Corie Welch, a volunteer translator for Cristosal. Corie is currently a senior at Clark University studying International Development and Social Change, with a concentration in Latin American Studies.

I first became interested in learning about El Salvador when I was sixteen. Upon my return from visiting San Salvador with Cristosal, I started to continue learning about the country as best as I could on my own. Now, I study International Development and Social Change with a concentration in Latin American Studies at Clark University where, I’ve focused the majority of my independent research on learning more about El Salvador. So, when it comes to keeping myself updated on the situation in country, I like to think that I am relatively informed. Because gangs have become a prevalent subject in Salvadoran news, I’ve researched the impact of gang violence on development, geography, immigration, public policy and more. I was excited to read this report because I’m always interested in learning more about the situation in El Salvador. The report provided me with a new perspective, and in my opinion, the most important perspective, on gang violence; the report gave me insight into the lives of people who live through this terror every day.

The report provides a comprehensive breakdown of gang activity in El Salvador that includes personal testimonies from Salvadoran citizens. These testimonies are raw and eye opening to the experiences that people have undergone since the growth of gangs in the country. For me, the testimonies were heartbreaking as people explained what it actually is like to live in El Salvador right now. I am grateful for the opportunity to have read these testimonies to humanize the research that I have been conducting. As a student, I read articles and journals filled with statistics on the level of violence in the country. I can track the number of murders occurring each month or look at graphs that show the increased level of Salvadoran children coming to the US illegally, but this type of research distances me from the human side of this crisis. I feel that it helped to remind me that real people with families and dreams and fears are forced to live in an unsafe environment because of the increased prevalence of gang violence.

Evin Wolverton
La Mesa De Sociedad Civil Publica Informe Testimonial De Gente Desplazada Internalmente En El Salvador

El martes pasado la Mesa Contra Desplazamiento Forzado de Sociedad Civil compartió su informe testimonial incluyendo 15 testimonios enfocados en jóvenes, niñez, y adolescentes desplazados forzosamente por violencia en El Salvador.

El informe expone, por testimonios narrativos, el contexto de violencia actual que enfrenta la niñez, adolescencia y juventud en zonas donde el crimen organizado tiene un control extendido en todos los ámbitos de la vida y sus familias. También se destaca la desintegración familiar como consecuencia del desplazamiento forzado, los obstáculos que tienen las familias para acceder a la justicia, y los abusos de autoridad por parte de miembros del ejército como por policías.

Haz click aquí para leer el Informe testimonial sobre desplazamiento forzado completo en español.

Evin Wolverton