Friday, October 27, 2017

I already miss Honduras

I’m sitting in the Atlanta airport waiting for a flight to Des Moines. But I’m already missing Honduras. Actually, I began to miss Honduras as I was sitting in the exit lounge in the San Pedro Sula, Honduras airport.

It has been harder to leave because of the difficult time Honduras is going through.
The rains this year have been more than I remember and the roads are in worst shape than they have been in years. People are saying that this is the worst situation, in terms of the climate, since Hurricane Mitch.

Yesterday I drove to La Lima, near San Pedro Sula, leaving after confirmations in Dulce Nombre de Copán and lunch with the bishop. On the road between San Pedro and the exit to the airport, before La Lima, there were large crowds of people on the side of the road. I couldn’t see much more in the dark. This morning I saw that there was massive flooding in some of the neighborhoods and there were still homes under water. Of course, these are, for the most part, the home of the poor. I saw one house of wooden planks, about four meters square, with water up to where the “window” would be. I didn’t get my camera out fast enough, but here’s a photo from the plane.

I also will be gone in the middle of the election campaigns. I am glad for this, but this is sad. On the way to confirmations in Quebraditas on Wednesday I passed through El Zapote Santa Rosa and saw a truck unloading tin roofing and wood for buildings. A fired told me that the politicians were handing these out. The roads at the entrance to El Zapote are terrible – but the politicians are giving handouts. It’s election time, of course.

But I really miss the chances for me to serve. About 250, mostly young people, were confirmed in the parish this Wednesday and Thursday. The liturgies generally went very well. There were moments of great joy as I looked out on the crowd and saw young people I knew from visits to their communities. In Dulce Nombre, Padre German reminded me to add a petition for the ill, partly because one of those to be confirmed was suffering from cancer. For me, it was a blessing to be able to add that prayer to the prayers led by the recently confirmed.

Waiting for the bishop in Vertientes
There are lots more that I miss. I’m homesick – for Honduras. But I pray that my visit to Iowa may help build and deepen solidarity with the poor in Honduras and throughout the world.

But I’ll be back soon.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Security - come to Honduras

I’m leaving for the US this Friday. I’m a tiny bit concerned about security. 

A few weeks ago, after the terrorist attacks in Las Vegas and other places in the US and the world, I wondered whether I am safer here in our part of Honduras than in the US.

People keep asking me if I am safe. Well, let’s look first at statistics. According to the most recent information I can find, the murder rate for Honduras is 59 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. Not good for sure.

But then, a few days ago, I found a web page with information on murder rates in US cities:

St. Louis, Missouri: 59.29 per 100,000.
Baltimore, Maryland: 55.37 per 100,000.
Detroit, Michigan: 43.82 per 100,000.
New Orleans, Louisiana: 41.68 per 100,000.
Birmingham, Alabama: 37.21 per 100,000.
Jackson, Mississippi: 31.08 per 100,000.
Washington, DC: 24.3 per 100,000.
Chicago: 17.52 per 100,000.

The murder rate in Saint Louis is higher than in all of Honduras.

Yes, there are cities in Honduras where there are higher murder rates, including Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. There are also places, mostly along the north coast where there is a higher than average murder rate, largely due to drug-trafficking, I believe.

But none of this should stop people from coming here.

First of all, a photojournalist whom I know has worked in many war zones and is now doing work in one of the most “dangerous” neighborhoods in San Pedro Sula. He told me that years ago someone advised him before going to a war zone, “Remember, people live there.”

People live here, in the midst of poverty. Honduras is the second poorest country in Latin America. They live in the midst of one of the greatest gaps between rich and poor in the Americas. They live in the face of corruption, in a militarized state, in the midst of violence.

People live in Saint Louis, in Chicago, in Baltimore, in Detroit, in Washington, DC – in the face of violence, poverty, and more. And people visit these cities.

When people ask me about safety, I have often responded with a question, “Would you go and visit Chicago?” Almost always I get a “Yes.” But then I ask, “Every neighborhood? “No.” Of course, not. Some areas, for various reasons, are more dangerous.

As I’ve written previously, every place is different. You cannot legitimately generalize that all Honduras is dangerous based on statistics about San Pedro Sula or Tegucigalpa, just as you cannot generalize about Washington, DC, based on neighborhoods with a high crime rate.

Besides I know people who live in what others call dangerous areas, out of conviction, out of solidarity.

And so, come to Honduras, putting aside your fears. I can give you pointers on where to go, people you should meet.

I especially invite people of faith. Will we neglect to meet our sisters and brothers in faith out of a fear-driven approach to life? Or will we let our solidarity in Christ move us and help cast out fear?

Come and see.


There are many different causes of violence and murders here in Honduras.

Some violence is due to the presence of gangs especially in the larger cities and drug-trafficking, especially on the north coast. To lessen the chances of encountering these types of violence, know where you are going, don’t go out at night in large cities, and be as inconspicuous as possible.

There are killings due to family quarrels, quarrels over land, and love quarrels. These are almost always targeted toward specific people. Visitors have little chance of encountering these types of violence.

There are vengeance killings.  Because of impunity in the justice system, people often have little hope of bringing the killers of family members to justice and so some take the law into their own hands. There are people who are killed to prevent them testifying in court on crimes and there are crimes related to corruption in the police and justice system. Again these are largely targeted killings.

There are also targeting killings of human rights workers as well as journalists.

Also, the rate of killings of Honduran women is high.

There are also the killings due to abuse of alcohol and drugs. To avoid these, one should avoid cantinas, pool halls, and other places, especially at night.

This is not to say that one won’t experience crime, even in relatively safe areas. My house was robbed in Santa Rosa in the middle of the day.

But general common sense precaution is the rule of the day.

In addition, if you are coming at the invitation of a church group, the Hondurans will go out of their way to see that you are safe and well-cared for They may be poor, but they are hospitable.

So, don’t follow the advice of the nay-sayers who have never visited Honduras. Listen to the people who live here.