Sunday, November 22, 2009

Who rules in Honduras?

Since about two weeks ago the country has become more militarized, with more police and military throughout the country.

Last Wednesday friends came to visit from Gracias and told me that there were at least two armed military on every bridge between Gracias and Santa Rosa. A friend who traveled from the San Pedro Sula airport to Santa Rosa de Copán at 1 am on Friday mentioned that they passed 20 checkpoints. (I think the number may be an exaggeration.) But I have seen more police and a good number of soldiers at the checkpoint outside of town by the road to Gracias. There are often transit police there but the presence of the military is new. Yet Sunday, returning from Dulce Nombre, as the bus passed the checkpoint I saw something I haven’t seen since El Salvador in the early 1990s – a machine gun on the top of a pick up truck.

Some are afraid and, I believe, sowing fear by the presence of so many troops. There are others who are fearful for the situation. One parish in the diocese canceled its evening Mass on election day because of concerns that there might be violence - between partisans of the two major parties!

But there was a very different message this Sunday in the village of Candelaria in the parish of Dulce Nombre. Over 1000 gathered on the lawn outside the church for the parish Mass for the feast of Christ the King. Their faith tells them something different. As they sang as a response to the prayers of petition, “May Jesus reign, may His heart rule – in our county, on our soil.”

To make it clear who should rule in Honduras, Padre Efraín Romero, the pastor of Dulce Nombre and the director of the diocesan Caritas office, gave an impassioned twenty minute homily, broadcast on the diocesan radio station. Here are some excerpts:
This is a time of both joy and sorrow. It is a joy to work together with all of you seeking the people’s liberation, a liberation which Jesus gives us, liberation from sin.

But this joy has been turned into sadness with the situation we have in our country which is for me a pity, a shame. I feel very ashamed to have politicians of the type we have here in Honduras…

Cowardice cannot blind [us to] the essence of the structure of sin which is concealed within, which does not liberate but oppresses, which leads to more illiteracy, hospitals without medicine, teachers who don’t give classes, school without teachers. This is very sad….

Celebrating this Eucharist signifies for me to say to the Lord that you are the king and only you have the words of eternal life.
He then noted how it is easy for priests and pastoral workers to become comfortable and accommodate themselves to injustice and fail to denounce it. (Interestingly this was also a concern that surfaced at the diocesan assembly two weeks ago.)

Recalling that Christ is our peace, Padre Efraín, he continued:
Christ denounced sin offering his life, shedding his blood.
There have been many deaths, but these people have not had weapons…
We must ask the Lord that we may resist with peace.

Many people have struggled, been provoked to take up arms, but these Hondurans have not done it . They are us….We will not take up arms – we must not do this. If any of you are thinking of this, you must not do it for any reason at all.

We must make the battle as Mohandas Gandhi did, as Jesus Christ did – without weapons….

We must ask the Lord to illumine each one of us, all the people who make decisions in our country….
He then noted that, within the area of the parish, some people have being buying cedulas (i.d. cards) for 200 Lempiras (about $11). Representatives of one of the traditional parties is buying the cedulas and holding them for six days and because of this the person won't be able to vote.

But then he returned to the struggle, the conflict.
Don’t let yourselves be deceived…. Our enemy ought to be not another person, but the devil…. Our enemies ought not to be any person but the forces of evil which poison some hearts and through them there is the shedding of blood, there’s exploitation….

We must ask the Lord that the combat not be against persons but against the forces of evil. Now. If it’s against the forces of evil, Jesus has already conquered sin… Jesus has crushed the enemy And if the enemy is already crushed, the people has to crush the structure of injustice – because all Hondurans deserve a better destiny….

Ask the Lord to give the light, the light of truth – to the People, for he is the way the truth and the life. If Jesus is the life, no one has permission to kill – no one!
Then he made an appeal to the armed forces and military, reminiscent of Salvadoran archbishop Romero’s appeal the day before he was killed and echoed in the July 2 statement of the Santa Rosa Diocesan Pastoral Council: “No one ought to obey an order to kill.”

He repeated this appeal to any civilians who might be armed: “No one ought to obey an order to kill.”

And he urged a different type of struggle: “We must use the arms of faith – take up the weapons of faith – prayer, fasting, and charity. We must ask God to transform us – each of us – that he transform me…”

Concluding, he asked all present and all those listening on the radio to take time to pray, asking the Lord to transform us – in the depths of our hearts, asking the Lord for our conversion, for the conversion of those who have decisions in this country, for our family’s conversion and the conversion of the departmental and municipal authorities. “Pray that Christ guide our thoughts.”

He asked all of us to bow our heads in prayer, asking for conversion. He concluded by leading the congregation in a popular hymn which reflects the popular religiosity of the people, but took on a deeper meaning: Señor, yo quiero ser un verdadero adorador – Lord, I want to be a true adorer.

The Mass continued and concluded with a ceremony for the delegates of the Word who lead Sunday celebrations in the 45 villages in the parish. Close to 100 men and women were given small crosses to wear, as signs of their commitment to preach the Word in their villages.

It was a moving day. I was close to tears during the homily. One thought went through my mind toward the end of the homily. Before Mass I had been going around meeting with many of the pastoral workers in the parish, talking with some of the kids I had met while visiting their villages, and seeing so many people – some of whom had walked several hours to get to the site of the Mass.

What I found myself thinking – as a type of mantra – was: “These people deserve more.” Only when I listened to the tape I had made of the homily did I realize that Padre Efraín had said the same.

Yes, these people deserve more.

Who rules Honduras? And for whom is Honduras ruled?

My prayer is that the Kingdom of God, the Reign of God, may begin to rule here – a Kingdom which is, in the words of the liturgy today, a Kingdom of justice, love, and peace.

Of course, I don’t expect the Kingdom to come in its fullness here on earth. We await another Kingdom. But Catholic teaching calls us to look for and work so that the signs, the glimpses, of this Kingdom may be seen and experienced here on earth – especially by the poor.

"Your Kingdom come."
Luke 11:2

"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God."
Luke 6: 20

corrected November 23 2009, 8:45 pm


Anonymous said...

Situations like Honduras trouble me deeply, Brother John.

The people have been tremendously brave in facing the god of this world. A number have died or been beaten or shot or jailed for it. Comandante Vaquero has been pretty brave, too. He's gambled his future and maybe even his life for the principle of the rule of law.

The last few days, Radio Globo and Channel 36 have both been off the air. Radio Progreso never seems to have news when I tune in. Tiempo seems to be steering away from politics. We're almost in total darkness about what's actually going on. The reign of lies is rampant.

It's not too dissimilar from the situation in Judea around the time of Jesus. The Romans ruled through Herod and his clan. The Americans rule through Facusse and Micheletti.

I am finding it harder to understand God as a God of love when poor people give the little they have for justice and in kindness to others, and there are no visible consequences for lying by the rulers.

Usually, I just pray for truth. I figure that if the truth comes out, bright and clear enough to penetrate even the foggy eyes of the morally blind, that people will eventually get around to doing the right thing.

But I like your prayer better.

May the love and justice of peace of the Good Shepherd take away the iron scepter of the bad shepherds, and may the Kingdom of Heaven rule in Honduras today and ever after.


John (Juan) Donaghy said...

Honduras is living through a Calvary - not just the coup, but the continuing economic crisis. Last week Padre Efraín was working with some campesinos in Santa Barbara to prevent their lands from being repossessed by the bank that had lent them money.
What sustains me is my ongoing contact with the people in the countryside. (I'd like to move out there some year. Santa Rosa is good and I have great neighbors, but there's something about the people in the campo, the countryside.)
A few years ago when I taught a class in Catholic Social Thought at Iowa State, I ended the class with John Sobrino's WHERE IS GOD? EARTHQUAKE, BARBARITY, AND HOPE, which is a hard but hopeful work. I am planning to read it again. I think you might find it helpful as we continue to face the forces of evil.
But remember, Calvary was not the end - not matter what Pilate or Herod thought!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Brother John. I've put it on my list of books.

As for the analogy to Calvary... Jesus was immortal, while nations are not. Not to mention that Honduras could spend many years in the tomb, so to speak.

I do think that something tremendously important has been accomplished by the resistance: the hypocrisy of the United States, and its complicity in a system of brutality for commercial gain has been fully exposed. People throughout Latin America have been warned.

But COHA has obtained evidence that confirms that the bases the US is obtaining in Colombia are intended for use in intervening into states that don't toe the American line. So, we could be facing a regional conflict in the near future. Our military seems to have left civilian control. If not, civilian leadership has left moral control.