Saturday, May 12, 2012

Constructing peace and Mothers Day

This past week I spent with 27 other staff members of Caritas throughout Honduras in a construction of peace workshop, led by a facilitator from Caritas Colombia, Rosa Inés.

Rosa Inés

This approach is not merely conflict resolution but is basically a process of transformation of conflicts. Resolving a conflict may still leave behind the conditions that may generate other conflicts. How to respond to conflicts so that the way is open to a peaceful and just society.

We did a lot of group work, analyzing five different types of conflicts – family, community, worker-boss, youth, women’s place.

Marcial presenting the mapping of the community of a family conflict

Central to this approach is not merely dealing with the conflict but working on the relations between people, seeking to create a culture, a society, where there is real peace, with justice and equity. It means breaking accustomed ways of looking at  events and of dealing with conflict.

What I like most is that this approach goes beyond the black and white, either/or way of looking at situations. It demands “moral imagination”, as John Paul Lederach, who has inspired and led much of this work, has written.

A tree of commitments during morning prayer

The workshop has inspired me to try to begin something, not only in Caritas, but also in the parish of Dulce Nombre. I talked with Padre Efraín of Dulce Nombre about this on Saturday afternoon. More on this later.

I was moved by the work, just beginning, of one Caritas worker with youth in the north of Honduras. With a killing shortly beforehand, with the entrance of armed youth from other barrios to buy drugs. The worker lives in the community and has been working with the church for years. I marvel at his courage.

In a very different way I was moved by the story the facilitator told of a child who was recruited by paramilitaries and made to kill someone as a rite of initiation. By killing a person in cold blood the paramilitaries planned to make him more open to mass killing. The man to be killed was kneeling before the child who was somewhat reluctant to kill. But the child remembered a song that he had learned in religious education – “Kill the devil” which included stomping on the “devil” like you might stomp on an ant. And so he saw the victim as a devil and went ahead and killed him, hearing this song in his head. What a sad commentary on what unconscious messages we sometimes send in our teaching and raising of children.

During the workshop, listening to people I became aware of another way to look at the violence here in Honduras.

What happens when a family member is killed? In some cases the family says we’ll take the law in our own hands since the law does nothing, neither the police nor the public prosecutors will follow up. This is one cause for the violence. The breakdown of the juridical and police systems are really part of the reasons why there is so much violence between families. The structures do not work and in may ways work against peace – especially considering violence done by police or permitted by police. (In this, I am thinking of the complicity of the police in killings of civilians in Bajo Aguan and the failure of the police to respond to drug violence, because they are often receiving monthly gifts from the drug forces.)

A lot needs to be done, especially in terms of structural changes. There is a lot that can be done at the grassroots but often something more needs to be done.

When the legal framework doesn’t work, what way is there to deal with the problems, especially when there is inequality of the actors involved. Our facilitator share the case of women fasting to get a law to compensate victims in Mexico. Their actions arise from the moral reserve of the people, as Rosa Inés called it.

The workshop gave me much to reflect on and to try to implement in Caritas, the parish, and in my personal life.

Mothers Day
This Sunday Honduras, as most of the world, celebrates Mothers’ Day.

On the way back I picked up some people looking for a ride. One was a teacher in a PROHECO school, teaching all six primary grades. PROHECO schools do not always get the best teachers and are sometimes politicized, dependent on party affiliations. But they are often the only school a community might have.

We talked a bit about mother’s day, since she had arranged a celebration in her school. She’ll be celebrating with here two daughters and with her grandmother who is ninety-seven and still active, making tortillas every day. The grandmother has over 400 nietos, she told me, meaning grandchildren and great-grandchildren, I think. Many will arrive to celebrate with her.

I let her off a few kilometers before San Juan Intibucá, marveling at this woman and her family.

During the Caritas Honduras workshop we had a celebration of the mothers present on Wednesday night. There were prayers and the choosing of a Caritas Mother, and the singing of a special song for mothers. Neither I nor the Colombian facilitator knew the words, but everyone else sang heartily. I was quite surprised.

Mothers at the Caritas workshop

Saturday, while in El Zapote de Santa Rosa for a church zone meeting, I dropped in on the Mothers Day celebration by the Maestro en Casa program. The room was decorated and the students had prepared songs, dances, and skits.

Mothers and children in El Zapote de Santa Rosa

The role of mothers is important here, even though it is a society where women’s equality is a struggle. At times it seems to be just a sentimental feast. But it could be a way for people to begin to work together for women’s equality.


More photos of the workshop can be found at

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