Saturday, March 15, 2008

Prophets and a prophetic church

On Friday, March 14, the diocese sponsored a Stations of the Cross in the streets of Santa Rosa with a strong justice message. I could only stay for eleven stations since I had to go to San Pedro Sula to meet the group coming from St. Thomas Aquinas for Holy Week.

Several thousand people walked the streets of Santa Rosa, mostly from the countryside, recalling that “The passion, the suffering of the people is the passion of Christ.” Not only is Jesus identified with the suffering but the poor are reminded that their suffering reflects the suffering of Christ. A song which was sung a few times, from Nicaragua, says “Christ, identify with us; be in solidarity with us, the oppressed, and not with the oppressor.”

The first station, Jesus is condemned to death, was a strong indictment of the three powers of the state which “condemn” the people to injustice and poverty, through corruption, bribes and failure to seek justice.

At the second station, Jesus carries his cross, the excessive increases in the cost of basic food stuffs was noted. In words that reflect the Gospels, the meditation noted that “They [the political and economic powers] only give us crumbs…. They treat us like mules, to carry their burdens; they don’t lift a finger to help.”

The third station, Jesus falls the first time, was very pointed. The people fall in the face of the anti-values of foreign culture. With pointed references to US fast food and US fashions, the meditation spoke of how the people are made to feel that their culture is inadequate, that they are “indios brutos” – stupid Indians. And so they look to adopt costumes from the North. People are tempted to leaver behind their culture and even their food, looking for “Mexican avocados,” instead of local fruit and vegetables. (An old woman next to me, mumbled that that’s the truth.)

Other stations treated abuse of women, migration, lack of land reform, and other major issues. It was a very moving experience.

The prophecy of the stations is reflected in a recent action of the bishop.

Last Monday, March 10, Bishop Luis Santos and several others testified before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Washington, DC, about the mining situation in Honduras. The Honduran government has permitted mining concessions for 30% of the Honduran territory and which gives the companies unlimited access to water with minimum environmental protection and extremely low taxes.

Nearby in San Andrés, a Canadian-Honduran company has an open pit gold mine which uses the dangerous procedure of cyanide leeching to separate out the gold. A few years ago, under a different management, the mine released over 300 gallons of cyanide into the River Lara which provides the drinking water for Santa Rosa.

But there is concern that the contamination continues. “In December 2006” the bishop stated in an internet periodical, “samples were again taken and the results demonstrated the presence of metals: aluminum, copper, iron, and manganese above the international norms and the mean PH of the water of 8.6 to 8.8”

“Obviously this shows the companies’ lack of seriousness and responsibility, since they ought to foresee these cases and have alternative solutions which contaminate less.”

“We have approached the authorities… and we have had no answer to our denunciations of the violations of the rights of the environment and the right to life,” the bishop noted.
Therefore the bishop and the civic organization, Alianza Cívica para la Democracia – the Civic Alliance for Democracy, approached the Inter-American Court.

I spoke with the bishop and he told me that he believes that this will help resolve the dilemma of mining. He has accompanied the people in opposition to open pit mining for at least three years and been defamed and even physically threatened.

It is a blessing to have such a bishop committed to the defense of life, the poor, and the environment.

But there is another side of the bishop – his great hospitality. He offered to drive two hours to San Pedro Sula to bring the spring break delegation from St. Thomas from the airport to Santa Rosa. He couldn't make it because he was meeting with the President of the country, but sent two cars to get us. He also invited us to dinner on Sunday with him.

Prophecy and hospitality – what a great combination in a bishop, in any person.

1 comment:

Brad said...

Great report John, wish I could have been there. You continue to be a consistent model of Christ and source of encouragement to my work and life - Brad