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.

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