Our Mission & Approach
Cristosal is a human rights organization working to advance human rights in Central America through rights-based research, learning, and programming.
We come alongside victims of violence to provide protection when they need it most, repair the lingering effects of human rights violations, and build human rights environments to create conditions where peace is possible.
What We Do
Research & Learning
Equipping human rights leaders with knowledge and tools for action.
Protecting people displaced by violence.
Repairing the lingering effects of rights violations.
Building environments where peace is possible.
Northern Triangle of Central America Strategy
Cristosal operates throughout the Northern Triangle of Central America. In addition to El Salvador, we work in Guatemala and Honduras to:
- Monitor forced displacement by violence
- Pilot models for humanitarian, psychosocial, and legal assistance to victims of human rights violations
- Pilot models for sustainable, community-based victim protection and assistance
Cristosal was born in 2000 as a collaboration between Episcopal clergy in the United States and El Salvador. The Very Reverend Richard Bower, who had recently retired as the Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Syracuse, and The Right Reverend Martin Barahona, who was consecrated in 1992 as the first Salvadoran bishop of the Anglican Episcopal Church of El Salvador, came together to form Cristosal. Bower and Barahona had become friends when both were working in the Episcopal Church in Panama during the 1980s.
The organization started as a way for individuals and churches from North America to share relationships and resources with the Church of El Salvador. Inspired by the Church’s focus on justice and rights in post-civil war El Salvador, Cristosal opened a human rights office. Cristosal also began to facilitate communication as the Church developed a voice on national issues.
In 2010, Noah Bullock became Cristosal's first in-country Executive Director. Since then, Cristosal has grown from two to over fifty employees in El Salvador, gained nonprofit status independent of the Church, earned grant funding from institutional partners like USAID, pioneered models for cross-cultural learning, and become a leader in human rights-based development and a resource for policy-makers worldwide. Today, Cristosal is expanding its forced displacement monitoring system and sustainable, community-based models for victim protection and assistance into Guatemala and Honduras.
Board of Directors
The Right Rev. Thomas C. Ely
The Right Rev. Greg Rickel
Gail Wheeler Rolfe
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Cristosal's mission?
Cristosal’s mission is to advance human rights in Central America through rights-based programming, research, and learning. We believe all people are inherently equal in rights and dignity. We take a human rights approach to all our work, guided by internationally recognized human rights principles and standards.
Is Cristosal a non-profit?
Cristosal is a nongovernmental organization with nonprofit 501(c)(3) status in the United States.
Where is Cristosal based?
Cristosal is headquartered in El Salvador and also works in Guatemala and Honduras. We have no paid staff in the United States.
What programs does Cristosal operate?
Cristosal operates three main programs:
- Victim Protection and Advocacy We provide emergency protection and legal assistance to families displaced by violence, collect data on forced displacement, collaborate with state institutions to protect victims, and advocate regionally and internationally. Our strategic litigation unit is currently leading the legal team representing victims of the El Mozote massacre.
- Community Development Through the Citizen Formation School, we bring together community members and municipal workers for diploma courses in conflict transformation, project design, and entrepreneurship.
- Center for Research and Learning We conduct original research on human rights issues. Our Global School provides experiential learning seminars on important human rights issues for North and Central Americans.
Who does Cristosal serve?
Cristosal works on behalf of victims of current and historic human rights violations in Central America.
The Northern Triangle of Central America—El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras—is one of the most violent regions of the world. An unprecedented humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the region, as thousands of families are forcibly displaced by violence committed by gangs, criminal organizations, and government forces. In 2016, El Salvador was second only to Syria in the per capita level of internal displacement by violence.
Today’s human rights crisis follows a pattern of unprosecuted crimes. Human rights violations committed during El Salvador’s civil war in the 1980s were protected under a post-war amnesty law until a recent Supreme Court decision opened the door to providing justice. Now Cristosal is leading the legal team representing victims of the 1981 El Mozote massacre, where more than 1,000 civilians were massacred. It’s considered one of the largest unprosecuted war crimes in the world.
Where does Cristosal get its funding?
Cristosal receives programmatic grant funding from the United States Agency on International Development, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Open Society Foundations, CAMMINA, and others.
We depend on unrestricted gifts from individuals and faith communities, including the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee and many Episcopal parishes and dioceses, to fund our core operations. This funding is critical for helping us maintain independence from any single funding source. It enables us to respond quickly to crises as they arise.
How big is the annual budget?
In 2016, our budget was about $500,000. In 2017, our annual budget is more than $1.5 million.
How can I get involved?
Can I visit El Salvador? Is it safe?
Cristosal has 15 years of experience safely hosting groups of North Americans in El Salvador. If Global School participants abide by Cristosal’s security guidelines, it is very unlikely that you will be affected by any type of crime or incident, including petty theft. Most people find El Salvador to be a beautiful country and Salvadorans to be inspiring and extraordinarily welcoming hosts.