I spent two days in jail earlier this week.
I was accompanying Sister Pat Farrell in a workshop on Alternatives to Violence in the jail in Gracias, Lempira. We started with 15 and ended with 11 on the two day workshop.
The workshop uses lots of activities to help all the participants discover the resources they have – especially within themselves – to deal creatively and nonviolently to conflict.
The room we use was not immune to noise and didn’t have enough privacy, but I think it went very well.
There were a number of things that surprised me, not least being the range of men participating - university-educated and functionally illiterate, young and old (though most were in the twenties and thirties), some serving sentences and others waiting for the investigation needed before they are brought to trial.
I never asked why they were there since this would be an invasion of their privacy in a place where they are continually deprived of privacy.
The participants were chosen by the two education directors in the prison, mostly for their leadership skills. Some were clearly leaders and Pat and I hoped they will continue with the workshops so that they can help with ongoing workshops in the prison.
I was humbled several times by the honesty of several participants as well as by some of the stories shared. I noted how some of them had suffered childhood without parents or in abusive situations.
But most of all, I felt very blessed to be able to be with them.
“I was in prison and you visited me,” states the Son of Man in Matthew 25:36. But I felt that I was visited by Christ by being there.
Pat wants to have more in the future and has asked me to help. I’m looking forward to this way of serving those at the margins.