Thursday, March 03, 2011

What I've been up to

February was a busy month, mostly working with the diocesan office of Cáritas, meeting with organizations and with staff about projects for this year.

Communion ministers training

I did, though, have a chance to work one morning with about forty Dulce Nombre parishioners, half of whom are in the two year formation program to be commissioned next year as extraordinary ministers of communion. Yes, it's a two year program. They take being communion ministers very seriously

I was asked to review the order of the Mass. I wasn’t going to talk at them and so I decided to use a sort of puzzle with four groups working together to put the parts in order. It worked very well.

This has been one of the challenges I have here – designing learning processes that are active since most of the people have six years of education or less. It has also been a lot of fun.

Diocesan Social Ministry Assembly

Monday and Tuesday of this week I was at the Diocesan Social Ministry assembly. The attendance was disappointing – there was representation of only 14 of the 43 parishes in the diocese. I don’t know what happened.

Much of the time was taken with discussion of the work of the diocese. But there were a few very interesting moments.

The Constitutional Convention

There was some talk of the constitutional convention (Asamblea Nacional Constituyente) which is being advocated by the Resistance. In the conversation these are some of the thoughts which emerged:
  • The problem of Honduras will not be solved with the constitutional assembly.
  • It is important not to lose the horizonte, the horizon, while calling for a constitutional convention, which is a cry for the refounding of the country.
  • The refounding of the country is a process - not of two years, but of twenty or thirty years. That’s why it’s better to work for a new constitution than to resort to violence.


A concern that came up was the increasing crime in our region and throughout the country. I wrote about an incident of a killing in the parish a few weeks ago. A related problem is the growth of drug-trafficking.

But now it appears that the government is going to do something – but I’m not sure it’s all that good. President Lobo announced this week that he is going to send the military out to assist the police. They are already out there. I have seen soldiers with the Transit Police on the roads, where the police stop cars at random, ask for drivers’ licenses and car registration. Occasionally vehicles are searched.

The US is also going to involve itself in this, joint military exercises with the Honduran military and will provide aid to efforts against drug trafficking and organized crime. Some are talking about a Plan Honduras in the style of Plan Colombia which has hardly worked for Colombia.

But one problem is that some police are corrupt and many more are inefficient.

Some police look the other way when a crime is committed if the perpetrators are people with power. Some look for bribes.

Some don’t really care about crime when it doesn’t affect them or people with economic or political power. There is also, at times, a reluctance by the police to get involved.

In at least one case, when someone had made an official complaint of a crime naming the perpetrators, police have been known to say, “Why don’t you kill him yourself?” “Mátalo usted.

I’ve also heard a report a few years ago that someone called the police in Santa Rosa when there was an intruder in her house. The police asked her if she had a gun to shoot him!

Pastoral Ministry at work

Tuesday afternoon the participants shared what they are dong in their parishes. The wide variety of activities was impressive.

Some people are trying to address the problem of alcoholism with helping establish Alcoholic Anonymous groups and promoting dry laws that would prohibit the sale of alcohol (especially moonshine) in their villages. Others are working on environmental issues with educational programs, rubbish collection and recycling programs, reforestation, and efforts to enforce logging laws. Others are promoting workshops at the parish level on Catholic Social Teaching as well as training in political advocacy. There are parish agricultural efforts promoting family gardens, making and use of silos, workshops on natural medicine and making organic fertilizers. Then there are visits to the sick, to prisoners, and in one area a house for returning migrants.

It’s impressive what is done.

I had to leave before the planning for the year, because I had to get to a meeting in San Salvador. I look forward to see what they hope to do this year.


But I will remember our experience on Tuesday night when we watched the film Gandhi.

I had forgotten how Gandhi’s message of resistance to evil nonviolently based in spiritual values comes across very strongly in the film.

I had also forgotten how the film shows Gandhi’s responses to injustice in very creative ways that challenge authorities. In one scene Gandhi in South Africa, in the face of the police, is inviting people to join him in burning their pass-cards. His responses to the police chief elicited quiet laughter from the participants in the assembly. After Gandhi was beaten and struck to the ground, Gandhi keeps gathering up the passes to throw them in the fire. In response he is beaten. His courage was greeted with quiet laughter, delighted as he refused to give in.

At other points in the movie there were similar responses. I think many of those present caught the creative power of Gandhi’s nonviolent resistance as a type of moral jujitsu. Their laughter was one of recognition of the need to respond to oppression and violence and of Gandhi’s courageous and creative responses.

But one person said it all, in a phrase I love, “Es completo.” He's got it all together.

I think Gandhi was about refounding India. He did it by promoting swaraj (self-rule), independence, equality of all (even the untouchable), the importance of a constructive program of self-development, and a deep spirituality.

I’m glad we watched the movie. I wish we had time to discuss it, but there will be other times to do that. My hope is that the power of Gandhian resistance to evil becomes better known here, as people seek to re-found the country.

1 comment:

shari said...

John, I use that same system to walk people through the parts of the mass - I have them pasted to color coded 3x5's. Separate colors for the 2 major and 2 minor divisions of the mass at least gives them a hint about where to begin! It also begins teaching the proper names for the parts of the mass. Used to use it with altar servers, too.