Thursday, February 10, 2011

A town traumatized

I’ve been in a meeting all week with representatives of six diocesan Caritas offices who work on participation and governability projects financed by Caritas Norway.

But Thursday morning was different. I had tried several times to reach Padre Efraín Romero, whom I work with in Caritas Santa Rosa and in the parish of Dulce Nombre. Finally he initiated a chat with me on Facebook, but with some bad news.

He was in Dulce Nombre and about to go to the town of Dolores for a funeral of Francisco, a twenty-year old young man who had been shot and killed. He also told me that Mauro, a young man who works with a parish agriculture project, had also been shot.

I decided to go the funeral. I’m glad I went. It is important to accompany the people in times of grief.

When I arrived Padre Efraín had not arrived and they had not yet moved the body to the church. So I went to visit with Mauro. He and Francisco had been traveling at about 6 am 11 am on Wednesday on a motorcycle on the road to from the village of Candelaria. All of a sudden two masked men came out and shot them. A bullet passed through Mauro’s lower left arm, missing the bone. He seems to have fallen off the motorcycle and is badly scraped all over his body. The driver got three bullets in the chest; finally losing control of the motorcycle, they hit a pole and were thrown over a barbed wire fence. But Mauro was not killed as was his companion and friend, but suffered multiple scrapes and cuts on his body. And the killers did not rob anything!

ADDITION: Francisco worked for a cellphone company and was returning from San Agustin. He probably had a significant amount of cash from the sales of cards but the assailants did not rob him. People from the outskirts of Candelaria who had heard the shots came. Police later came and Mauro was taken to the hospital, treated, and released.

After visiting with Mauro, I went outside the church and waited while the casket arrived. Many people were in tears as they carried the bodies into the church. The church was filled with people from Dolores and other nearby villages. There were quite a few young people.

Salvador, one of the pastoral workers in Dolores, welcomed people and remarked that the Mass is in one sense an act of solidarity with the grieving family.

Padre Efraín’s homily covered a wide variety of concerns. Not only did he seek to comfort the family and friends, he called on those gather in the church – and the authorities – to really respect life, noting the increasing number of violent deaths, especially of young people. He noted the ungovernability of the country and the failure of the government to protect the people. People here do not have much expectation that the police will investigate the crime and arrest anyone. Nevertheless, Padre Efraín called for justice but he also warned against vengeance – which is the cause of so much violence. We must replace the lex talionis – an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth – with the law of love.

I stayed around a little after Mass but didn’t go to the cemetery. One young man I spoke with expressed his grief at the loss of such a young man.

I have read and heard of the increasing violence in Honduras. (In the list of cities with the highest percentages of violent deaths, San Pedro Sula, Honduras, is number three and the capital, Tegucigalpa, is number six.) I had seen the coffin of the delegate of the Word who had been killed in November. But this violence touched me more – especially since I know and have worked with Mauro.

Violence is all around, but it touches the poor much more.

As I listened to Mauro's relatives, I sensed some resignation, a sense that the country is being victimized by violence. But my hope is that these people will find ways out.

So, I returned to Santa Rosa, to the meeting of people working on empowering people to take responsability for the present and future of the country. But we are meeting in a simple guest house, with plenty of food, insulated to a degree from the pain. Many of the people involved in this project do work directly with the poor and marginalized, but it's not easy to remember them when people are talking objectives, budgets, and plans of action.


Mary said...

Hi John, thanks for sharing this story. Your comment about being insulated for your meetings struck a note with me. Yesterday I was in a meeting about forming a policy for safeguarding children from abuse. One of the Kenyans I worked with warned us of the danger of focusing too much on policy and forgetting the raw pain and deep wounds of those affected by abuse. We hope for compassion and faith in spite of the frustration and apathy.

Anonymous said...

Just as Jesus was the Lamb of God, so everyone who really follows Him also becomes a lamb.

But one must ask, "Lord, how many sacrifices do you need?"

Honduras has suffered far too much violence and death. Thank heaven that the life of Mauro was spared. May his shattered peace be restored. And may Francisco's family somehow find comfort.


John (Juan) Donaghy said...

A Spanish TV program that features the program that Mauro works in is at