Journeying with Courageous Women in Honduras
By Sister Diane C.
The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers and rejoice with joyful song…Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, who comes with vindication, who comes to save you. (Is:35)
After returning from Honduras, my heart wants to hold our Honduran sisters and brothers in an embrace of light and tenderness found in the promise to Isaiah, but my whole being is railing against the economic disparity, the consumerism and the blaring injustice in me/in our society that has brought about the terrible situation in which the Honduran people live.
The violence in Honduras is both very personal and widespread. On our first night staying with our three Mercy Honduran sisters, Sandra yanked me back in from the front porch where we were feeding the dogs, because the bullets fired outside were too close and the impunity is so blatant that there is no one to report to should one witness some crime. Sandra’s blood sister Norma was kidnapped from her home six months ago by heavily armed men, and there has not been a serious investigation nor any direct word of her since.
The next morning, we met with three women, including a Mercy associate, who host a weekly show on a Jesuit-founded radio station to speak of the changes they have witnessed since the coup of June 2009: the deepened oppression, the reality that the government has not dialogued authentically with its own people but rather set back gains that slowly had been achieved in worker rights, salaries and food security. (You may listen to the Spanish-language radio broadcast every Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time.)
The women described a continual growth in the militarism of society since the coup. This includes an anti-terrorism law that was recently put in place that could well be used to justify more repression against those expressing opposition to the government. The national budget also was just revised to increase funds for military and security, while hunger is spreading among the people. Speaking out so publicly puts these women at risk, yet they used the second half of the radio broadcast as a rallying cry for solidarity and mutual support in working for social justice.
We also met with part of the Independent Monitoring Team, led by another Mercy associate and which for many years has followed the women workers in sweat shops and helped them to negotiate for greater labor rights and benefits. Now, they see the utter control, the setback or loss of those very hard-won gains, and the multiple ways in which forces of evil are taking advantage of the space made by the coup.
Those who have been beaten who have the courage to go to present their complaint are not heard because of corruption or because of police involvement in the very crime. New laws have been set to control the influence and work of the non-governmental sector. Even the church, which might have provided protection or support in the past, is now felt to be controlled and conservative in its stance, supportive of the wealthy business sector, and is silent in the wake of human rights violations.
The women we met were saddened to tell us that they see the hand of the U.S. government in the highly sophisticated technology (i.e., sonic weapons) in use against the people and in lobbying to legitimize the Honduran government in the world community. There are highly advanced computerized records of all, tracking of cell phone use, and even infiltration of the meetings of non-governmental agencies to follow their activities.
We learned that unarmed youth are found killed, and word is spread that they were terrorists. The media is well controlled and those involved in journalism and judged to be exposing the truth are assassinated. Political leaders with interests in oil refining in the country are assured of enormous return. Narco trafficking is found in all segments of society.
Yet the hope in the Advent Isaiah reading, the bloom in the desert of parched land, is also evidenced. The “resistance”— those working to change the conditions of poverty and injustice — represents a diverse network of groups and their courage is unwavering. The women we met are committed to on-going efforts to expose the lies, to support one another, and to act for their people and their gorgeous land without fear. As they do so, may they melt our hearts and transform all the powers against them.
Please consider joining a delegation to Honduras Jan. 21-29, led by the Friendship Office of the Americas, to learn more about the situation there and return as a witness to the repression. For more information and an application, contact Jenny Atlee,firstname.lastname@example.org