Saturday, December 03, 2011

Poverty in Honduras and more

The 2011 Social Panorama of Latin America, a recent report from CEPAL, a United Nations agency for Latin America, reported that there has been a decrease in economic poverty across Latin America, except for two countries – Mexico and Honduras.

In the last ten years Honduras has become poorer – its poverty rate growing by 1.7 percentage points to 67.4% of the population living in poverty. The rate of extreme poverty has risen by 1 percentage point to 41.8%. Though the report doesn’t have figures for some countries (e.g., Nicaragua), the percentage of poverty in Honduras is the highest of those reported. more than double the regional rate of poverty (31.4%) and more than three times the rate of those living in extreme poverty throughout Latin America (12.3%).

Transparency International also recently issued a report on corruption. Surprisingly Honduras is only the sixth most corrupt nation in the Americas.

A few weeks ago Honduras was noted for having the highest per capita homicide rate in the world.

This comes to no surprise to me, as I contemplate the reality around me.

But statistics normally don’t touch the heart. Nor do they cause unrest or movement  for social change.

So what is important is to put a face to the reality.

children, Luis Alonso and Juventina in Piedras Coloradas

Friday and Saturday I was at the evaluation and planning meeting  for the parish of Dulce Nombre de María. 

On Saturday morning the beatitudes from Luke’s Gospel went thought my mind as I lay in bed in Dulce Nombre – delaying getting up in the morning cold. “Blessed are you who are poor, yours is the Kingdom of God.”

All of a sudden it struck me. The people here are the poor and God’s Kingdom is theirs. If I want to find the Reign of God, I need to look around me and listen to them.

The parish uses a tool for evaluation (FODA, in Spanish) which lists Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats. Each sector of the parish brought in its evaluation and a group synthesized them. One sector noted the extreme poverty of some of the parish’s pastoral workers. These people who give their time and energy to living their faith and serving the community experience extreme poverty.

The parish has a few programs to help them, but their needs are great and many of them continue serving year after year.

Saturday was also the feast of St. Francis Xavier, the great Jesuit missionary to India and the Far East.  In a letter to St. Ignatius, his friend and the founder of the Jesuits, he noted:
…I have begun to realize that the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. I have found in these children the seeds of spiritual greatness and have no doubt that if there were teachers to train them in Christian ways, they would become excellent Christians.

St. Francis Xavier is speaking from is culture and the situation of the non-Christian people in India whom he was meeting. But I believe he was on the mark when he noted that there are seeds of spiritual greatness in these people and that the kingdom of God belongs to them.

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