Words of encouragement – “Living Letters” “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it…” (I Cor 12:26a). With these words of solidarity, we greet you in the name of Jesus Christ. As a “Living Letters” delegation of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Council of Latin American Churches (CLAI), we visited Honduras in the wake of the June 28 coup d’état to listen, accompany, learn and share the suffering and the hope that the Honduran people are living at this time. We met with representatives of various churches, diverse sectors of civil society, and with people engaged in politics. Here are the “words of encouragement” (Acts 13) that we direct to you at the end of our visit.
Message to the Churches of Honduras, Latin America-Caribbean, and the world
Tegucigalpa, 7 August 2009
Words of encouragement – "Living Letters"
"If one member suffers, all suffer together with it…" (I Cor 12:26a). With these words of solidarity, we greet you in the name of Jesus Christ.
As a "Living Letters" delegation of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Council of Latin American Churches (CLAI), we visited Honduras in the wake of the June 28 coup d'état to listen, accompany, learn and share the suffering and the hope that the Honduran people are living at this time. We met with representatives of various churches, diverse sectors of civil society, and with people engaged in politics. Here are the "words of encouragement" (Acts 13) that we direct to you at the end of our visit.
A worthy and dignified people who choose the paths they wish to follow
We encountered a worthy and dignified people who demonstrate maturity, who call out for justice and who do not accept the imposition of a de facto government. The response of the people in the face of the coup d'état was immediate and massive, a proposal for peaceful protest. This stirring of Honduran women and men is the consequence of decades of work by and among popular movements, churches and various sectors of society to augment the participation of the people in the decisions that most affect them.
We listen mutually and make other voices heard
Our visit enabled brothers and sisters of different traditions to meet with us and with each other to share their witness of the complex situation that is lived today in Honduras. These were sacred moments of listening to each other in profound ways that made it possible to share the same pain and sentiment. We hope that the churches and their leaders may continue to meet among themselves to strengthen the spaces that have been created. As one participant in a meeting affirmed, "a burden shared is lighter." Another challenge is to be heard as churches of resistance, and to raise up voices that are very distinct from the voices that have predominated in the major communications media in recent weeks in this country. It is urgent that Christian voices be heard that are raised in defense of human rights and in support of humanitarian actions that respond to the lack of respect and the violence that has intensified with the passage of days.
End the repression, return to constitutional order
Together with the Honduran people in resistance, and with all of the governments of our hemisphere, we call for the re-establishment of the constitutional order as soon as possible so as to prevent continued execution of orders of repression, arrests, forced disappearances and violence directed against the population and especially against women. "Women who were taking part in the resistance in the zone of Comayagua were captured and assaulted. Some fled by the rivers and the mountains. Those who were captured were taken by the police. More than 100 women in a small cell…. They were beaten; arms and collarbones were broken; their clothes were taken from them, leaving them naked among men" (testimony received). Like all of the people of Honduras, we do not wish to see a return to the violence that was lived in the 1980s. We congratulate President Manuel Zelaya for his acceptance of the San José Accord, and we thank President Oscar Árias for his efforts to seek a peaceful solution to the conflict. We call on the de facto government to accept the Accord as well. With the return of President Zelaya, the way is opened once again for the possibility of holding free and legal elections, which is to say within the framework of the constitution. The social movements will have the opportunity to continue organizing and acting without the present repression.
Religious expressions in favour of peace with justice and life with dignity
"For anyone who has known Jesus even slightly, this situation has touched us. How do we focus on the message of peace with justice?" (a church member present in a meeting). We encourage the churches to recover, from within their respective traditions, the inspirations that will most help them to contribute to the strengthening of dignity and the construction of the fullness of life in the present context of Honduras. May they, with love and responsibility, accompany the people in their search for peace with justice and the re-establishment of democracy.
This moment demands a friendly, pastoral presence. This presence can be shown in diverse forms. We share the following suggestions that emerged in our encounters with churches:
a) Celebration of vigils in communities, congregations and ecumenically.
b) Organization of public ecumenical events that give witness to the testimony of the presence of different churches in the midst of the people. It's important that other church voices be heard.
c) "It is the time to walk with the people," said some whom we met. One group of churches took on the challenge of supporting a march, identifying themselves as church, and serving the people in their needs, offering water, food and lodging to those in need.
Heal wounds, build the society that is dreamed of
As a consequence of the political events, the need to heal wounds and to seek reconciliation becomes apparent. We can see in the midst of the darkness the presence of small lights. A new time approaches and it is necessary to be prepared to build that country which for many years the Honduran people have been dreaming of and working toward. "Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly. Your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard" (Is. 58:8).
In the months and years to come, we can foresee that, in the face of the need for change that is expressed by the people, calls will emerge once again for a national dialogue and/or a constituent assembly. We hope that these efforts will be carried out with the authentic participation of all sectors, and not only those who have traditionally maintained themselves in power.
The Word of God speaks clearly to us of God's will: that all creatures live in fully enjoyment of creation and have life in abundance. In this hope, we call on all of the churches not to resign themselves to accepting the present situation, to listen with renewed attention to the Word, to accompany all people who suffer and to practice solidarity with those in greatest need.
May this message reach your hearts, filling them with the strength and tenderness of the Spirit.
Noemí Madrid de Espinoza, Vice-moderator, Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, World Council of Churches, and Administrative Rector of the Theological Community of Honduras
Jim Hodgson, United Church of Canada
Rev. Alfredo Joiner, Mesoamerica Regional Secretary, Council of Latin American Churches
Silvia Regina de Lima Silva, Ecumenical Department of Research (DEI), Costa Rica