Friday, October 30, 2009

Catholic News Service article

There's a new article from Catholic News Service, "Catholic officials laud agreement to end Honduran crisis," which is not bad, except for two serious errors.

It states that many countries of the world refused to recognize the "interim" government. I believe that NO country in the world recognized the de facto regime of Micheletti even though, I believe, the US, Israel, and Taiwan continued to have ambassadors in the country.

But, more seriously, the article repeats the unproven assertion that, when Zelaya called for poll on having a ballot question in November on whether to call for a national Constitutional Assembly (the Constituyente), this was done so that reelection of the president for a second term would be permitted. This is unproven.

Yet, what is most interesting now is that, according to a recent poll, 55% of those polled think the constitution should be amended to allow for re-election. In addition, there has been growing interest in a "Constituyente" - a Constitutional Assembly - growing among the people. Even though Zelaya agrees in the current accord to drop the call for a constitutional assembly, I wonder whether this might be an issue for which the civil society, especially those connected to the Resistance to the coup, will continue to press. The coup, I think, signified a break down of the Honduran constitutional order and so something must be done.

Also of note: in an effort to begin a process of reconciliation, a number of diocesan Caritas offices has begun to hold public forums, not to argue or to dialogue but to listen to the people. There may be other efforts to ease the intense polarization that Honduras has experienced this year, even before the coup. But I hope efforts also address the polarization that can be found at the heart of Honduras where there is great economic disparity as well as racism and classism that make many of the poor feel inferior and that keep them from participating in their society.
The end may be near

There are reports – even a phone call from a priest friend – that an agreement has been reached that will result in the restitution of Zelaya to the presidency under very strict conditions. I pray and hope that this is not just another report that proves to be mere speculation.

There is great desire for a resolution among people here. The real work for justice must get firmly back on track. I do think that the coup had at least one good result here – many Hondurans have mobilized to do something for their country.

Since Wednesday noon, I’ve been at the meeting of people from three municipalities where Caritas Santa Rosa has projects. It has been exciting to hear them speak of their successes in organizing, in confronting local corruption, in learning new agricultural methods. But there are problems: the usual ones of people not taking responsibility in some programs, intransigence of some political leaders. But the political situation has cast a shadow on some efforts and a drought in October has made it difficult for the farmers. There are concerns about losses in the bean harvest and there may be delays in the planting of the second crop of corn because of the dry soil.

A highlight of the meeting was the cultural night on Thursday. A little girl sang her song to the mountains – an ecological plea. There was a ridiculous and – for me – a gut-splittingly funny game as well as a too long skit about drunkenness. But there were two acts that were outstanding.

The first was a skit called the Guaimuras dialogue – about the OAS dialogue that fell apart about a week ago.

It began with a mimicking of the crazy and spooky music that has preceded all the government press conferences during the past four months. Then all the actors walked onto the “stage” and sat at a table. Oscar Arias was there to negotiate, but Zelaya and Micheletti were seated at opposite sides of the small table.

I wish that I could understand colloquial Spanish better and that I was acquainted with more of the eccentricities of public figures, but I joined all present laughing hysterically as “Micheletti” began his discourse addressing all of us as “¡Hijos mios! My children.” He talked about waiting for Santos and repeated the mantra “The elections are coming, are coming.” He ended proclaiming “¡Viva Honduras! Long live Honduras!”

“Zelaya” was more long-winded but, complete with cowboy hat, he regaled the crowd and provoked laughter (from people who are very sympathetic to his restitution). He began, “Micheletti, my friend,” and, to fits of laughter, spoke of the “Calvary” he was going through.

“Arias” asked the two parties for their solution: “Micheletti” said, “The elections go forward,” and “Zelaya” called for his immediate restitution.

“Father Tamayo” was then introduced to applause and loud cheers. He proceeded to thank Radio Globo, Radio Progreso, and Radio Santa Rosa (our diocesan radio station), especially its Saturday program “Dando el Clavo” – getting to the point, or hitting the nail on the head – which has been a major source of critical discussion here for many years. We broke into laughter again when he said “We have not slept well,” presumably because of the military’s noise-making outside the Brazilian embassy.

“Zelaya” proceeded to ask "Micheletti" to "lay aside his weapons,” and to get us out of the Hotel Maya where there is not even any water. (This was a direct reference to the hotel the participants had been put up into the first night which was without water but with plenty of cockroaches; they got a better hotel the second night. The other references was to the Brazilian embassy where ZElaya has been holed up since Septemebr 28. Maybe Mel will be able to get a new place to sleep too.)

Then, with a quite good double entendre, “Zelaya” said, “I will continue with Alba because I can’t divorce myself from her, even if I commit adultery.” (ALBA is the name of the alliance of Latin American nations including Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador, that Honduras joined last year – with the support of both Zelaya and Micheletti; but Alba is also a woman’s name.) The crowd broke up – but I had to ask someone later to explain what was so funny!

Then, “Arias” asked the two parties to embrace and they hugged across the table. The crowd broke up in laughter and, perhaps, in hope – and then we woke up to the news that a solution is at hand.

As they say here – Primero Dios – God first – or, less literally, “God willing.”

The dialogue with Zelaya (in white cowboy hat), Padre Tamayo, a woman, Micheletti (in red cap), and Arias.
Seated at the far right, behind them is Mario de Mezapa, the Honduran singer.

The night ended with a short concert by a famous Honduran singer, Mario de Mezape, who is one of the singers of the resistance. His songs and remarks were laced with references to the political crisis – very critical of Micheletti as well as of Bush and Obama. He ended with a stirring ten minute song about the 1954 Banana strike. You can download it from a resistance site. It was an inspiration, even though I only got half the lyrics.

It’s been a good interchange – but both a sign and challenge that the struggle for justice and real participation is long and won’t be solved by the restitution of Zelaya nor with elections. They are only temporary palliatives as the people of Honduras face the greater challenge to organize and work together for a country where there is greater justice and less economic disparity.

revised 2:30 pm

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Letter to the archbishop from a Honduran

I am somewhat reluctant to post this letter to Cardinal Rodríguez from a Honduran who, I think, is a school teacher in Santa Barbara. I disagree with some of the author’s statements but I think the letter expresses some of the concerns of those opposed to the coup and is respectful, but strong. But this morning some people from local Caritas projects attending a meeting to interchange experiences were talking with Padre Fausto Milla. The conversation turned to the position of the Cardinal and Padre Fausto recommended this letter. I had translated it for my own use. But I think it is worth sharing.

Letter to the archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras
by Alex Rivera

Don Oscar Andrés Rodríguez, despite what you have been saying, it still pleases me to greet you.

Look. Many of those I know affirm that I am an atheist, without taking the time to analyze the term – of course –since we would enter into an other debate which belongs to theologians like you. I am stating this because this is the perception that people have of a person who, like me, doesn’t belong to any church, who does not pray as you teach, who doesn’t make the sign of the cross, who doesn’t contribute to any congregation, nor do I do what I do in the name of God. Despite this I grew up visiting a Protestant church until I was twelve years old, when for the first time I observed that the rich of my town (Santa Barbara) were sitting in the first pew and our family, headed by an intercity bus “chauffer,” who was my father, settled into the last pew. I learned from that, because one time, very much ill at ease, I took a liking to be near the little girl who was singing with an angelic voice and with whom, being 12, I was in love. The pastor scolded me, “Sit down there in the back because the brother P will soon be coming.” At that age I understood that the Jesus whom they spoke of in Sunday school was different from what had become clear in the actions of Christians, of the “brothers” whom we were meeting every three times [a week?] in that building, in which I never encountered a true brother.

Inconsistency was the one word which was not in my vocabulary at that time, but I was understanding it in practice; since then I continue admiring Jesus but for all that I was seeking him in the church I never encountered him there. I sought in the street, in the place where I encountered friends who were much more in solidarity, more transparent, honest and human than those I knew in that church building, and with them we began to be Christians without mentioning Jesus, without any dogma other than being [oneself] and being with the other, the others to live outside ourselves; later I read a Mayan phrase which made me understand more closely what Jesus taught me as a child; I am you and you are me. In the street we shared, we enjoyed, we were able to offer our lives for our friends in our group. My God, in theory is the same are yours, Don Oscar, although I don’t believe what you say about him, because you have not been able to do what Jesus preached, as he is the prophet according to the little black book you read.

Jesus identified with the poor, he was born in a manger, he road a donkey, he was the son of a carpenter, he questioned Caesar and the Pharisees (white-washed temples), and he forgave “sinners,” “prostitutes,” and he made himself their companion, those transformed good-for-nothings.

Jesus preached sharing, the multiplication of the loaves, he defended justice and made it known that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdoms.” What he questioned has the same characteristics as a crude capitalism which you now defend.

It grieves us to see how religious leaders such as you, Evelio Reyes, Misael Argeñal and many others, take up political positions which move away from the pursuit of the common good and of justice. We have not seen you declare yourself opposed to the homicidal invasion of Iraq by the gringos for many years. But you have declared yourself time and time again against Hugo Chávez, an indigenous person like me and like you, who now, through the recovery of petroleum in his country and beginning to walk a more human path, has raised his voice in the name of those “shit eaters” who never had been able to challenge all the injustice of the country [coming] from the north against our peoples.

Now, in your statements, your words do not signify a posture that is conciliatory or just, since if they had these characteristics you would have spoken about not justifying the perpetrators of the coup, about permitting Zelaya to complete his term of office, who would consult the people in order to bring about a fourth ballot box in which we who are poor will manifest our discontent with the political and economic oligarchy which have governed us, and you would have taken a stand with the poor and not with the rich “who betray [the poor] for a pair of sandals.”

Another thing. I want to comment that, regarding President Mel, I try to be objective. It has been a government with many blunders, poor management of funds of the ERP [Program for the Eradication of Poverty] or which were not invested in the structural causes of poverty (which you never openly denounced). One speaks about corruption, publicity shows, at times, for some a worn-out populism, etc., etc., but many of us Honduran men and women consider that if we compare him with Callejas, Azcona, Reina, Flores, and Maduro, governments you supported, there is a significant difference because he began to come close to a proposal which – up to this time theoretical – is directed to greater participation of those of us who do not earn our living with a tie or a cassock, but with our hard work which is modest but dignified.

Because of this, the poor follow Mel, because they have found in him what you lack, identification with the sectors of society which have been historically marginalized.

At this time, I do not defend only Mel but that historical possibility – which is beginning to be constructed – that we, the poor, have a voice in the search for dignity, a process which grieves the rich and those who act according to their interests.

We cannot have “shepherds” [literally, “pastors] like you who forget the poor and appear in the society pages with a plastic smile accompanying Baby Showers, Graduations, Birthdays, Parties of “Filth,” since while all of you pose for the camera and enjoy the delicatessen dishes , many of your countrymen and women go to bed without even a tortilla in the “belly.”

Why speak of dialogue and reconciliation now that the oligarchy has managed to polarize our society? Why don’t you speak against the closed circle of the mass media and the monopoly of the means of communication? Why don’t you advocate for the campesino, teacher, union member and your lay people who are beaten by a servile army of this “little country” which you believe belongs to you [which you believe you own]?

Why don’t you speak up for the refusal there is to consult the people? Why, if it is coherent with your discourse on respecting the Constitution of the Republic, do you now permit and tolerate this little group, the violent, one more time?

Who is your Jesus? Remember that that name is like Judas’, who handed over the Messiah for a few silver coins? Will it be the case that Herod is reborn in all of you, or does it call you softly in your ears? Tell me, I want to hear it (to read it). Let us speak together – or better – I am the one who never met Jesus, but if it is the same Jesus as you preach, from this time forward I will stop searching for him, since [that Jesus] doesn’t interest me.

Greetings from [martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar] Romero, [martyred Argentinian bishop Enrique] Angelelli, [Father Guadalupe] Carney, [martyred Salvadoran Jesuit] Rutilio Grande, [martyred Jesuit rector of the UCA, the Jesuit university in El Salvador, Ignacio] Ellacuría, Silvia, [martyred Guatemalan bishop Juan] Gerardi and many lay men and women whom I meet in the mountains, speaking to the poor of a certain Jesus, the Galilean, and some of whom, by their deaths, have endowed us with an example of dignity and commitment of the true Jesus.

A hug and a kiss, not like Judas’, but like those of a person who lives here in Santa Barbara, who has always worked shaking hands with my own, the poor. I would like us to hear each others’ voices and hopefully one day look each other in the eyes.

I hope that you don’t consider my sincerity a lack of respect. I cannot bow my head, nor silence my voice before a person who, for me, is just one more citizen of my country.


The original in Spanish can be found at the blog Hibueras.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The hermeneutical priority of the poor

Do the poor know the reality better?

Years ago I read a good article by Monika Hellwig, “Good News to the Poor: Do They Understand It Better?” Though I cannot remember the details of the article, it struck a chord in me.

Today’s’s quote from Edward Said reminded me of that question.
Even if one is not an actual immigrant or expatriate, it is still possible to think as one, to imagine and investigate in spite of barriers, and always to move away from the centralizing authorities towards the margins, where you see things that are usually lost on minds that have never traveled beyond the conventional and comfortable.
Said's quote reminded me of three statements of two Honduran leaders:

Last week, Catholic News Service had an interview with Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez. Defending his position against charges of being a supporter of the coup, he noted “it all depends upon the sunglasses people have ... or the reading glasses."

In July, Cardinal Rodriguez was interviewed by the Spanish newspaper El Mundo. He was asked his reaction to the international community and its opposition to the coup.
What happened with the international community is what the Psalm says: “It has eyes but doesn’t see; ears, but doesn’t see; tongues but doesn’t speak." Sadly they have not wanted to see the reality no what was happening here.”
Earlier this month, de facto president Roberto Micheletti chided the visitors from the Organization of American States:
"You don't know the truth or don't want to know it… You don't want to know what happened before 28 June."

But what do the poor see and experience?

I remember Jack Jezreel, founder of JustFAITH, speaking about the blinders that wealth gives us. He told the story of a time in his life when he lived in Florida. He woke up in his air-conditioned apartment, went to work in his air-conditioned car, worked in the comfort of an air-conditioned office, and may even had the chance to work out or play tennis in an air-conditioned gym. The poor in the same town would obviously experience the weather differently – but perhaps more really.

In some ways the poor – relieved of the defenses of wealth and power – experience in carne propio - in their own flesh the realities of this world. And so I value their input.

I have been away for three weeks but tomorrow CARITAS of the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán is having an interchange among the groups that Caritas works with here. I am looking forward to hearing their stories and getting a chance to talk with them. That I think will help me more than reading newspapers or surfing the internet (though there are some good folks there sharing the stories of the poor and marginalized in Honduras and trying to throw some light on the crisis).

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The root of war is fear

The week after he read the Honduran Bishops’ Conference statement on national television and radio on Saturday, July 4, Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez gave at least four interviews, explaining his position. Since that time he has been relatively silent in the press and even in Honduras. My guess is that he had many responsibilities in his work as president of Caritas International.

His recent interview for an article by Catholic News Service, "Cardinal says this might be last chance for Honduras to make changes," is quite revealing, though it seems to repeat much of what he said in the interviews in July. But what bothers me is the fear that I read beneath his comments. It was also intriguing to read his comments about Bishop Luis Alfonso Santos who has, since the beginning of August, repudiated the coup. The cardinal sees unity in the episcopate but mentions that "Sometimes there is a voice singing out of tune with the choir ... but you're united." I am not sure that the cardinal is correct about the unity, but I am privileged to be able to work in the diocese that is “out of tune” – or, maybe put better, “marches to the beat of a different drummer.”

Honduras is deeply divided, as is the church, despite the protestations of the cardinal. Christian Science Monitor article, “Honduras crisis rips open public divides,” details this, including the proposal for reconciliation efforts.

Father German Cálix, director of Caritas Honduras, the national office of Honduras, has proposed that the church play a role in reconciliation efforts.

Leticia Salomón, professor of Sociology at UNAH, the Autonomous National University of Honduras, has doubts about the church’s ability to play this role since it has been regarded as largely supportive of the coup.

I, however, think the church could play such a role. Despite the role of the cardinal and others, the church still has much respect among the common people, for varied reasons. And it is rather amazing that Tegucigalpa auxiliary bishop, Juan José Pineda, who is perceived as being pro-coup, was able to visit President Zelaya in the Brazilian embassy and facilitate another round of talks.

Furthermore, the Catholic Church has been involved in reconciliation processes in many countries, including Rwanda where many members of the church were involved in the massacres and in Colombia. Catholic Relief Services and Caritas International have a lot of experience which might be of use to Honduras whenever the current crisis arrives at a temporary solution. But it is important that any effort at reconciliation be also a process of uncovering the truth. As Professor Salomón notes a truth commission could help unify the country. Reconciliation cannot happen without truth and justice, as well as a concerted effort to face the enormous poverty and economic disparity which Honduras has suffered for all too long.

There is another Catholic News Service article, "Political unrest drags down Honduran economy," that addresses some of the economic issues as it discusses the effects of the coup on the poor. I found it an intriguing and balanced article.

And now for some blatant self-promotion:

I gave a talk last Friday at the motherhouse of the Dubuque Franciscan sisters – whom I worked with in Suchitoto, El Salvador, and two of whom are good friends, now also working in the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán, in Honduras. The Dubuque Archdiocesan paper, The Witness, has a report on the talk, "Honduras volunteer."

I also spoke at Iowa State University, last Monday, on “From Honduras in Crisis: A View from the Rural Poor”. They recorded it and the audio can be downloaded at the lectures program site.

Earlier this month I spoke with some members of the editorial staff at America, the weekly Jesuit magazine. There’s a podcast of my talk on their website.

Excuse this uncalled-for self-promotion. But yesterday I had dinner with two friends who worked in Bolivia and El Salvador with the Mennonite Central Committee. They remarked that they were glad I’m blogging, but they would never have been able to do something like this, because of the concerns about deportation.

Next week I will return to Honduras. I am homesick for Honduras and will be glad to be there again, among the people I know and love.

A couple of times during my trip to the US I have been asked about concerns for my safety. Of course there are some. But I believe Honduras is where God is calling me to be of service to those most in need. What else is important?

This sign greeted me at the bottom of the hill leading to Briar Cliff the day I spoke there.
The closest thing to fame or infamy!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What gives me some hope

I’m visiting Ames, where I worked for 24 years at St. Thomas Aquinas Church and Catholic Student Center and where I taught occasionally at Iowa State university in philosophy and religious studies.

I visiting friends, talking with the committee at St. Thomas that is promoting the ministry of solidarity with the church in the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán, Honduras, and speaking to a few groups.

Thursday night in Ames, Iowa, though, I went to listen to a lecture, “U.S. Leadership in the Global Fight Against Slavery,” by Luis CdeBaca – Louie, as I knew him when he was a high school student in religious ed at St. Thomas and a college student at ISU. He went on to law school and then worked with the justice department, eventually specially in human trafficking cases. Now he is director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the US Department of State and has some title like Ambassador at Large on Human Trafficking.

It was amazing to hear him speak with such passion of his work to end slavery and human trafficking around the globe. He recognized the role that St. Thomas played in the 1980s in his life in terms of the commitment to justice and also acknowledged his mother who did early research on women in Argentina as well as Mary Richards, a local lawyer.

He mentioned an ancestor who walked across the Americas in the 1500s and held a public office in Argentina; but after he called for an end to the enslavement of women as concubines for the Spanish found himself relieved of his office in ten days and sent back to Spain in chains.

He also spoke about the Vietnamese and Chinese women who were enslaved in a factory on American Samoa and how one woman just decided to sit on top of her sewing machine and not continue to work. Her beating was among the events there that eventually led to a conviction of the owner and the freedom of these brave women.

I was near tears a few times – starting when he recommended my talk at Iowa State next Monday and spoke kindly of me. He is a lawyer with a passion for justice - and is not afraid to do something.

I made sure I got a picture of me with him and his mother, Mary de Baca.

After the lecture and reception I went to St. Thomas for the 10:00 pm Thursday Night Liturgy where there were probably more than 130 students gathered for Mass. I knew a few of them - but many have come to ISU since I left in June 2007. It is great to see young people taking their faith seriously.

Seeing Louie after all these years, making a difference in the lives of people throughout the world, and then praying with so many students – who I hope will find the courage and the vision to make a difference as Louie is doing – fill me with hope.

For this I am grateful and rejoice, even as I worry about Honduras as it seems to spin ever deeper into a morass.

A nice bio of Luis is at

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Catholic News Service

The Catholic News Service (CNS) has continued to provide some of what I consider the best reporting on the situation in Honduras. Their latest article "Honduran bishops hope talks bring just, peaceful solution" can be found at NCR Online. You can find a listing of other CNS on the side column on my blog of translations of Honduras church documents.

In contrast America magazine had an editorial in the October 19 issue, "Finding a Way Out" in "Current Comment," which I believe is misled in its support of an unspecified businessmen's proposal. You can read their statement and my comment on their website. Without more information I presume that they are referring to the proposal of Adolfo Facussé, though they might be referring to a different proposal about which I have no information.

There's also an article on me in yesterday's Daily Tribune on Ames, Iowa. All too glowing and I'm not sure I would say that the US State Department and the Catholic Church are trying to broker a compromise - though I think both would like to play a part in the resolution of the crisis.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Statement of the Honduran Episcopal Conference on the dialogue

“Let us seek what contributes to peace and make us grow together.” (Romans 14: 19)

1. We, the bishops of the Honduras Bishops’ Conference, meeting in our Ordinary Assembly, feel very united to all the people who, both within and outside of Honduras, have paid attention to the dialogue which is being held in order to seek a constructive exit to the political crisis which our country is living.

2. We have experienced in our own flesh, in the Church and in society, the sufferings, divisions and violence which this prolonged crisis has brought with it. He have lived the worry and the fear that a solution might be sought by the paths of violence.

3. We declare our support of the dialogue which began anew on October 7. In every moment we have advocated for that pedagogy [educational process] of sincere dialogue which diligently seeks the best solution for everyone in charity and truth.

4. We ask those directly involved in the dialogue and those they represent that “everyone of them, overcoming personal inclinations, make efforts to seek the truth and resolutely pursue the common good.” (Words of Pope Benedict XVI about the situation in Honduras at the Angelus, Sunday, July 12, 2009)

5. We cannot continue with the uncertainty, personal and social tension, and the economic deterioration. What is urgent is a solution which is just, peaceful, and agreed upon which “assures peaceful life together and an authentic democratic life.” (Words of Pope Benedict XVI)

6. The presence of members of the Organization of American States, the European Community, and the national and international press is a sign of the interest there is that this dialogue carries the ship of our nation to a good port. The people of Honduras have put many hopes in this national dialogue which cannot remain frustrated since that would lead to a great deception and increasing personal and social tensions.

7. In this climate of dialogue which ought to be respectful and understanding, every form of violence – of word or deed – would be prejudicial and would be an attack on the attitudes which favor dialogue and would lead to a failure of credibility for those who provoked such violence.

8. We believe that the established dialogue is not to be narrowed to a technique of solving conflicts but it has an ethical dimension, since the exercise [of dialogue] implies moral attitudes and is at the service of what is good, just and true for our people. Consequently, those who sit at the “table of dialogue” have a serious responsibility before God and before society which they ought not forget or underestimate.

9. We are conscious that a political agreement is not the total solution to the serious problems which plague Honduras, but at least would place the country in the suitable institutional conditions to confront them, in the framework of a joint plan, with the participation of everyone, in accord with the principle of subsidiarity and with a new style of political working which “places the common good as the principle imperative for the construction of a new society.” (Pastoral Letter of the Honduras Bishops’ Conference, “By the Paths of Hope,” # 15, March, 2006)

10. We are praying persistently and with confidence that God would grant all of us, and especially those responsible for this dialogue, wisdom, capacity to listen, social sensitivity, and a spirit of discernment. We know that other persons are praying for this intention. We invite the Catholic faithful and all believers to intensify that prayer so that God will grant us times of peaceful living together, social justice, and development with solidarity.

Tegucigalpa, October 8, 2009
Signed by the archbishop and the bishops of the country

Saturday, October 10, 2009


When I was in high school during the 1960s, I became very concerned about the role of the Catholic Church in the face of the Holocaust. Though the play “The Deputy” might have overstated the case, I believed that the Church and failed to be a prophetic voice – sometimes for the sake of preserving its “rights.” There were courageous voices like the bishops of Holland. Even though Fr. Titus Brandsma and Saint Edith Stein were among those arrested and killed after the Dutch bishops spoke up in 1942, I saw these as witnesses to truth and justice.

Later in the 1960s I came across the book by Gordon Zahn, In Solitary Witness, which told the story of Franz Jägerstätter, the Austrian peasant who refused to serve in Hitler’s army. It was a great joy when I heard that Franz was beatified last year.

I was edified when I read of the members of the White Rose, mostly young Lutherans and Catholics from Bavaria, who sent out thousands of leaflets opposing Hitler and were executed fro their efforts. The film, Sophie Scholl, is a small tribute to one of the leaders.

And then, when I read Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed, the story of the Reformed Church pastor, André Trocmé, and the efforts of the French village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, to rescue Jews in France, I found an example of committed Christians, risking their lives to save others.

Thus I find anti-Semitism an abomination.

Therefore, I am very disturbed at the statements of the director of Radio Globo, a radio station supporting the Resistance. He later apologized for his statements on the Holocaust, but that is far too little.

There have also been reports that President Zelaya made anti-Jewish quotes, but – as far as I can ascertain – his remarks were against what he thought was support of Israelis of the attacks on the Brazilian embassy. It is sad that critiques of Israel and Israelis are so often interpreted as being anti-Semitic.

In a letter Zelaya noted that his cabinet included several prominent Jewish members. In addition, Jaime Rosenthal, editor of El Tiempo, a prominent member of the small Honduran Jewish community, and a very rich member of the Honduran elite, has recently written an article against the coup.

But there is danger of another anti-Semitism. Many of the rich who have supported the coup are descendants of Palestinian and other Middle Eastern Christians, many of whom fled the Ottoman empire in the early twentieth century. They have become a major power base in the country, not only economically and politically, but also in terms of control of most of the major newspapers. Many here call them “turcos,” Turks, even though they are not. Some here consider them not to have assimilated into the Honduran society but to have constituted themselves into an elite. My fear is that an anti-Arab anti-Semitism might arise and I have heard some rather forceful criticism of the “turcos” who are called not real Hondurans.

These are just a few of the divisions that are become ever more entrenched in Honduras.

Therefore, no matter how the current crisis is resolved a real effort will have to be made in Honduras to create an environment of reconciliation. But it must be a reconciliation that does not sweep under the rug the real injustices and the incredible inequality in the country.

Love must be based in truth, as Pope Benedict XVI, notes in his latest encyclical. “Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality.” (¶ 4) Thus the truth of structural injustice must be addressed to bring about a new Honduras.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Statement of the National Cáritas of Honduras on the State of Siege


Declaration on the State of Siege in Honduras


1. Moved by faith in Jesus Christ, the fount of justice, truth, fraternity, peace, and life, Caritas of Honduras declares its deep concern and dismay in the face of the direction the country is going which troubles and frightens even more large parts of the population; therefore, we join the different voices which have let themselves be heard in this moment and we express our longing in order that we together may construct a nation in peace, tranquility, and liberty.

2. The critical situation in which we have lived since before June 28 and which was deepened from that date on, has been exacerbated increasingly until it has come to the taking of extreme measures by those who are now at the front of the nation, such as the declaration of a state of siege for 45 days, an act which we consider disproportionate in terms of the force imposed, as well as illegitimate and an obstacle to dialogue, because it damages the fundamental rights of the person, such as freedom of expression, assembly, association, normal circulation – rights and guarantees contained in articles 69, 72, 78, 81, and 84 of the Constitution of the Republic.

3. We are worried about the manner that in the pursuit of maintaining an alleged social peace, the life and physical integrity of so many people who have participated in the marches of the resistance have been wounded. We reject the death threats that Father Ismael Moreno, S.J., has received and the blocking [boycott] of the transmissions of Radio Progreso in the diocese of Yoro, Radio Santa Rosa in Copán and other means of communication.

4. It is urgent to reverse as soon as possible this measure which affects and restricts the liberties of all those of us who live in Honduras, increases the tensions, the fear and aggressiveness in the population, without helping solve the real problem of the country.

5. W e make a call for a frank and true dialogue which involves all sectors without excluding anyone, so that accompanied by a mature reflection we may seek together the spaces which will bring us to consensus, discarding every imposition of political positions and personal or group interests and that for one time we think about the common good of this country.

6. We believe that the plan of life which God has for all of us commits us as citizens to the construction of a nation in which living together as brothers and sisters, respectfully and in a dignified manner, is promoted. We also believe that only with the responsible exercise of freedom can we work for the defense and security of life as a right and a duty of everyone. Therefore, we declare our urgent call and our support of the urgent pursuit of reconciliation and social peace in the framework of a Rule of Law which we all desire to become a reality in our country.

7. Longing for and working for a society built on justice, truth, fraternity and respect for life, we shall achieve peace, tranquility, and freedom for this country.

Tegucigalpa, 30 September, 2009.


The Spanish text can be found on my Spanish blogsite.
Slightly revised October 2, 2009