La Victoria is a district of the city of Lima that is “on the other side of the tracks” in every sentiment that this holds. It is a part of the city that is filled with drugs, crime and violence. There you can find knock-offs and hot goods of every size and shape. You’ll meet the local witch doctor and the pimp. It is home to gangs, teenage mothers and child labor. The people of the community are broken, hopeless and hurting. When asked why things are so bad in their neighborhood they will tell you that things have always been this way and will always be this way. They truly believe that the rest of the city hates them and wishes they would be erased from the map. After being here for several months and watching the events as the unfold I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t some truth about how the rest of the city feels about La Victoria.
There are two hot spots within La Victoria Gammarrah and La Parada. Theses huge markets are full of people selling from the streets and sidewalks. They are overcrowded, unsafe and unsanitary in many ways. It is in these markets that much of the violence begins and grows. For this reason much of the city hates and is ashamed of La Victoria. However the whole city still comes to Gammarrah and La Parada to do all their shopping. Even if the city doesn’t acknowledge it they depend on La Victoria and the low prices which can be found there.
In October of 2012 the Mayor of Lima ordered that the market at La Parada be shut down. The government created a new market place on the outskirts of the city which they directed the vendors towards. The vendors feared they would loose business no longer being in the heart of the city. The new market has much higher rent which many vendors could not afford and there was not enough space for them all. The city erupted. The police began forcing people out of the market at gun point. The police fired upon the people, and they in turn rioted. Four people were killed and more than 70 were arrested. The issue of the closing of the market then went to the courts. The Judge decided that the closing of the market was premature and unlawful. The vendors began moving back into La Parada. The issue has been in the courts and a point of contention ever since.
Sunday the police came in and announced the closing of La Parada. The large gates that surround the market district have been closed and a large police presence posted at the doors. Right now there are more than 200 people trapped within this market. I do not know what the outcome of these events will be, if things will come to a peaceful resolution. However, please join me in praying for La Victoria. We pray for the government officials, the mayor, the police and the judges of the city. We pray for the people stuck with La Parada and for their families. We pray for the oppressed and beaten down people of La Victoria, those who are without hope.
As some of you know in Lima we have a mercy house Castillo Fuerte, where I work. The Mercy House is in La Victoria and is not far from the markets of La Parada and Gammarah. This community needs the love and mercy which comes only from the Lord. At Castillo Fuerte we care for the children who spend their time on the streets. We reach out to the broken community showing them that someone does care about them. We spend our time sitting and talking with the teenage mom encouraging her to have hope for the future. We provide the little baby with a much needed tuberculosis test and the old man with a blood pressure and diabetes check. We bring people the love and mercy of our Savior by simple walking along side them just as He did. We care for the physical, earthly, dirty needs of these people just as Christ first healed our sicknesses and then forgave our sins. While all of this uncertainty is taking place in La Victoria please keep the safety of our children, their families, the Mercy House and the missionaries in your prayers.
Heavenly Father, God of all concord, it is Your gracious will that Your children on earth live together in harmony and peace. Defeat the plans of all those who would stir up violence and strife, destroy the weapons of those who delight in violence and bloodshed, and, according to Your will, end the conflicts in La Parada. Teach the people of Lima and us to examine our hearts that we may recognize our own inclination toward envy, malice, hatred and enmity. Help us all, by Your Word and Spirit, to search our hearts and to root out the evil that would lead to strife and discord, so that in our lives we may be at peace with all people. Fill us with the zeal for the work of Your Church and the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which alone can bring that peace which is beyond all understanding; Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.