Saturday, November 10, 2012

Those poor miserable people

 "No son pobrecitos, sino completos y constructores del futuro."   

It’s always great to be with people who are competent and committed.

On Friday I was in Gracias, Lempira, for a meeting with people involved in social organizations who were taking part in Caritas Santa Rosa’s program of Political Participation. They came from many parts of the diocese – some traveling as long as 6 hours. There were many young people and the group was almost equally divided between men and women.

It was a great cross-section of the people involved in social change here in western Honduras.

There were young people who were leaders in youth groups in their parishes. Some participants were involved in organizations dealing with environmental threats and other organizing efforts. There were also members of municipal transparency commissions, which are mandated by the Honduran law of Transparency, which offers a way for independent social organizations to work together to be watchdogs in regard to the governmental processes in their municipalities.

They were a great group to work with.

I spent about three hours with them on transformation of conflicts. I have had the opportunity to participate in the series of workshops with Caritas National of Transformation of conflicts and the construction of peace.

It was only an introduction to the themes. Since this was a group that was very participative, I could only do about half of what I intended to do.

At the end of my workshop I encouraged them to recover the stories of people and groups in Honduras who had made significant social changes nonviolently. I am convinced that recalling stories of nonviolent social change is one way to help people develop the powers of imagination needed for real peacemaking.

As I closed I recalled how often people in the US ask me about people. Some people, I think, expect me to talk about all those poor, needy people – the pobrecitos, as we might say in Spanish.

But I really want people to know people like the ones I worked with in Gracias. The best word to describe them is almost impossible to translate from Spanish. They are completos. My guess is that the best translation would be people who have their act together.

Sure, they’re not perfect (and some of them might drive me crazy if I spent a lot of time with them.) But they are capable people who are doing something to help construct a new Honduras. This new Honduras might only be happening in a youth group in a remote village in southern Intibucá or in a small group that is fighting to prevent handing over land or water resources to foreign companies who will use them for their own profit. Others might be trying to make sure that their municipal governments are not misusing public funds.

But these efforts are part of a wider effort that I see happening in various parts of Honduras. Caritas of the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán and ERIC-SJ, the Jesuit-sponsored group in El Progreso, have been training people in schools of democracy and participation, so that they can work with others to promote social change in a democratic way.

When I see these efforts, I begin to have hope – not for overnight social change, but for serious efforts to change the oppressive system here in Honduras.

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