Monday, November 29, 2010

Busy weeks

Tomorrow I head to El Salvador for a meeting on one of Caritas’ projects. I will take advantage of the trip to visit friends in Suchitoto, El Salvador, for a day or two.

This past week I was in Pinalejo, Santa Bárbara, for two Catholic Social Teaching workshops – the third diocesan workshop and the second for the two deaneries in the department of Santa Bárbara.

The diocesan workshop went well – even though it was planned the Friday before and I was basically the person in charge of the whole workshop. I only gave one presentation, but I had to arrange and re-arrange the schedule when presenters didn’t show up at the time we’d planned.

I felt a little sad as the workshop ended since I’ve been with many of these folks for the three workshops as well as the workshops in their deaneries. I will get to the workshops in some of the deaneries and so will have a chance to see them again. But I really liked working with these people. I found them very attentive, very faith-filled, and very devoted to their ministries. And, as I’ve noted before, I have found them very capable of sharing the material in their deaneries.

The way back from the workshop went faster than before since they are doing some repair work on the major highway here – mostly filling in the potholes.

The next day I headed out with those who had been working with the infant and maternal health program in Caritas for an excursion in Guatemala. It was the most spectacular waterpark I’ve seen (since I’ve only been to one before here in Central America and never gone to one in the US).

On the way back vehicles were being stopped by the police and all identification cards checked. It was late – about 9:30 pm – but I was somewhat surprised. The police official in charge came in and then gave a speech saying that this was to provide security for the people and that, as the person in charge of the region, he would see that there was security here.

I found this quite strange. There is a lot of drug-trafficking through this area, but all the people on a bus had to get out of the bus to have their IDs checked and they checked all our IDs on the bus. But the police did what looked like a perfunctory check on the natural gas tanker in front of us.

Such is the state of security here. This is especially so in the context of a major conflict in the coastal department of Colón where there is a major conflict between campesino communities seeking land and one of the richest men in the country, Miguel Facussé. The conflict has left six campesinos dead – at the hands of Facussé’s security forces. The story is that there was a confrontation, but that is contested.

The minister of security is claiming that the campesinos are armed and that some people are being trained in Nicaragua to overthrow the Honduran government with arms.

All this seems absurd to me – a repeat of the charges of “communist” infiltration that has beset this region for more than fifty years. (I’m reading Dan Koeppel’s Banana which documents how similar charges were used to overthrow a democratically elected government in Guatemala in the 1950.)

What are we facing? At the very least – ungovernability. At the worst, signs of more repression to come.

But in the midst of these we must preserve hope.

My hope is not in the government, but rather my hope is nurtured by the people I work with in the rural villages and in the diocesan and deanery workshops. People of faith – very poor bur committed and willing to give their time and their lives to preach and live the Good News.

They give me hope.

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