San Salvador, May 24 (efe-epa).- El Salvador’s government led Sunday a day of prayer in which mainly evangelical churches took part, decreed by the country’s president, to call for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This day, many began their prayers early, others will end late, at night. Others have been praying for several days” and “millions of us will join them,” Nayib Bukele posted on his social media pages.
He said that the initiative was being undertaken for “the health of our nation and of all humanity” and added that “those who do not wish to pray, do not do so. We will pray for you and for the health of your families.”
Photographs of government employees praying in some parts of the country, including military and police officials, were posted on the presidency’s official Twitter account.
Several people expressed support for the measure on social media and evangelical churches, which broadcast their meetings on television and radio, also responded to the president’s call.
Pastor Edgar Bertrand Jr., one of the most influential in the country, told EFE that “it is never or should never be the president who calls for prayer,” but said he was grateful for “fresh leadership.”
“I am delighted that in middle of the political agenda, of this back and forth that nobody understands, they have set aside a moment to pray,” the religious leader added.
This service follows several weeks of confrontation between the Bukele government and the Congress and Supreme Court, whom he accuses of not allowing him to take the measures needed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Bertrand recalled that this was not the first time a president had made a call for prayer. Former President Salvador Sanchez Ceren (2009-2014) had also done so in the midst of a crisis over gang violence.
Religious events were also held from Saturday, as EFE saw, in La Tiendona, the country’s main wholesale market, where vendors and people loading merchandise joined in prayer without keeping much distance from each other.
“We have done our part and we have to cry out for God to do his part,” said the evangelical pastor Juan Melgar, who expressed support for Bukele’s call.
On the other hand, some human rights activists criticized the use of religious beliefs to boost the government’s image.
“The manipulation of religion for political purposes is a reprehensible practice. Instrumentalization of faith and hope to maintain popular acceptance,” Celia Medrano, of the human rights organization Cristosal, wrote on social media.
El Salvador has recorded 1,915 confirmed cases, 35 deaths and 1,397 patients suspected of being infected with the virus. EFE-EPA