Why do Hondurans leave their country in masses, why women with children and entire families and why to the United States?
Since October 16, an exodus of Honduran men and women of all ages shook the American continent. I approached the Honduran migrants in Guatemala City, wanting to serve them and understand why they leave their country in this way in masse, why women with children and entire families and why the United States. I understood that I had to delve into my understanding of this mass migration, and I accepted the invitation to Honduras extended to me by Sister Karen Gómez, leader of the ecumenical women of Honduras and of the Christian Church Agape, to participate in the Mesoamerican Forum and be with the Christian Church Agape. Without hesitation, from October 25 to 28, I went to Honduras, and I heard from Hondurans themselves what is behind their exodus.
In the Mesoamerican Forum, held at the National Autonomous University of Honduras in Tegucigalpa, 425 people from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Colombia, Brazil and Honduras participated in 12 working groups. I participated in Militarization and Violations of Human Rights; and Grassroots Christian Movements. From what I heard and from the readings I read, I share with you a word that I hope clarifies my new understanding about the Honduran exodus.
The Honduran migrants are bringing out of the darkness into the full light of day atrocious and shameful acts and the actors and accomplices who pushed them out.
Being in Honduras, I realized that the history of Honduras is a fundamental fact for understanding this human exodus. It can help us find light that answers the question: why do Hondurans leave the country in masses to the United States? Honduran walkers unmask the failed model of the country imposed on their land. Their steps underpin what needs to be repaired in Honduras and point out the atrocities that demand reparation. Their footprints demand that truth, justice and love embrace so that there be peace; as requested in Psalm 85:10.
On Sunday, October 28, 2018, at the Agape Christian Church, Pastor Juan Pablo preached and shared the idea of the following story that clarifies the pain of Honduras.
In a village not far away, where a foreign landowner dominated, lived a woman named Honduras. She was a suffering and fighting single mother with many children. She was the 5th of 4 sisters and a younger brother who had also suffered the mistreatment of the overseer under his command.
Honduras was forced to marry one of the overseers. He beat her, abused her and contributed nothing to the support of her and her children. He, rather, took her belongings and land inherited from her father and grandfather to deliver them to the foreign landowner.
Their children grew up without education, health, and an opportunity to excel in their mother’s small and arid ranch.
One day, tired of so many abuses, they decided to go to the hacienda of the landlord. They said: give us something to support our mother and brothers or we are going. Watching them leave the landowner ordered his overseer, stop them, but he could not hold them. They were determined to show everyone their father’s oppression. They left, and their aunt Guatemala helped them and their uncle-grandfather Mexico, too. During their journey the overseers of the landlords, without caring for their people, hurt the walkers with tear gas and many abuses. But the sons and daughters of Honduras shouted their pain.
These reflections of my visit to Honduras to clarify this tangled Honduran situation; and I ask you, please, to think with me and together we join strengths that accompany the Honduran people. These are the titles and links of my meditations:
1) The militarization and the consequent violations of Human Rights.
2) The collapsed model of economic development.
3) The Christian Agape Church, partner in the pain of the Honduran people
The first reflection highlights the militarization and violations of Human Rights in Honduras as the cause of the Honduran exodus.
The Escape to Egypt
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him…” When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.
Matthew 2:13 New International Version (NIV)
At the table Militarization and Human Rights Violations, they shared the Report on Forced Disappearance in Honduras of the Committee of Detained Relatives in Honduras and the Report of the Truth Commission, the authoritative voice of the victims . The lucid analysis of the long history of the absence of civility, the dissolution of institutionalism in the country and the consequent violations of human rights, sheds light for understanding the Honduran exodus.
In the eighties, the poor, afflicted and dispossessed people expressed their discontent with the government of the powerful elites, asking for an inclusive, fraternal and supportive state for all in Honduras. The response to this demand was war, and it was accompanied by horrendous crimes: They kidnapped and took to places without law the union leaders, academics, peasants, students, religious and all who expressed their dissatisfaction with the military regime. In those hidden spaces, they were shamed under torture with electric touch, deprivation of food and water, isolation, sexual violations, immersion in water with feces, hanging, prolonged nudity; they forced them to torture other detainees, they simulated their execution, they threatened to kidnap their family, and in the end they were executed and buried in common graves in clandestine cemeteries. In those times, the death squads created by state security were financed and trained by the United States. Without law, without institutionalism, in total impunity, Honduras lived through those sad years.
In the nineties, the war ended, and the people believed that life would flourish. However, all illusion vanished. On June 28, 2009 everything went back to what was before. That day, the army gave a coup d’état to President Manuel Zelaya and suspended the constitutional rights of personal freedom, of association, of assembly and movement, and again arbitrarily and disproportionately imposed military and police force in the streets to repress the demonstrations in support of Zelaya.
The people sighed and insisted on expressing their will through voting, and it was again run over. Fraudulently, the State crushed their will expressed in 2 electoral processes. In 2017, the second of these two elections, the then President Juan José Hernández (JOH) dismissed the prohibition of the constitution for presidential reelection and was ratified as a candidate. Despite that gross regulatory violation, the people went out to vote. Advanced the counting of votes, the irreversible callout that would give the victory to Salvador Nasralla of the party called Alliance of Opposition against the Dictatorship was announced. Then, without explanation, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced JOH as the winner. Offended the people, expressed their dissatisfaction, and the usurping government responded by introducing curfew and ordering police and military attacks on social protests.
Instead of the good life coming, militarization increased in Honduras. Murders and enforced disappearances continue, especially for those who defend rights and oppose land grabbing. The extermination continues, justified in the alleged fight against drug trafficking, organized crime and the war against crime that the United States finances. The military continues monopolizing the control of security and hurting Hondurans. The Tegucigalpa declaration of the Mesoamerican Forum says that the national armies, not only in Honduras, in entire Mesoamerica, have become a transnational crime corporation that has its epicenter in Washington.
This is how Honduras lives today
What was yesterday is still today
Hurts the wound,
it does not heal,
it wanted to cure,
they macheted it again.
Some people say, why do Hondurans want to invade the United States? The question is the reverse: Why did the United States finance and advise on such a bloody war, and why does it continue to invest resources that poison with violence, when instead it could change the weapons of war into instruments of humanization? Micah 4: 3b-4a
Failed Attempt to Repair President Manuel Zelaya, affirming the sovereignty of his country, sought to respond directly to that history of malice and cruelty: 1) He recognized the responsibility of the State in the violations of human rights and crimes against humanity committed during the application of the Doctrine of National Security, and expressed willingness to deduct responsibility from the perpetrators and compensate the victims and their families through the creation of a National Reparation Program. 2) He opposed the request of the United States Ambassador, Charles Ford, to grant Luis Posada Carriles exile status, considering him a terrorist for having planted a 1976 bomb in a Cuban plane in which 73 people died. 3) He expressed his intention to convert the US military airport Soto Cano in Palmerola into a commercial airport.
Obviously, these facts bothered the army, the Honduran business elite and the United States, and together in the US embassy they planned and perpetrated the coup. The then US Ambassador, Hugo Lloren, brought together businessmen, parliamentarians, judges, the military and the media, and all together agreed to remove Zelaya from circulation.
Calls to Straighten Roads
The Honduran exodus shouts:
• Respect for civility and strengthening of institutionalism
• Protection of physical and moral integrity of people
• Protection against torture
• Legal rights that avoid arbitrary detentions by State bodies
• Civil and political rights: respect for the will of the people expressed in elections
• Freedom of thought, press and assembly
• Sovereignty and free self-determination
The Honduran exodus requires that:
• We demand the demilitarization of Honduras and the cessation of military agreements between Honduras and the United States.
• We extend our hands to the Honduran migrant population and shelter them with the rights of international protection.
• We confess accomplices of the interference that resulted in perverse violations of human rights.
We are sent to preach: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
We are sent to be:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”
Matthew 3: 1-3
Another reflection from my visit to Honduras exposes the injustices of the economic development model that was imposed on the country.
The Evil Temptation
Jesus was put to the test by the devil in the desert after having fasted forty days and forty nights. The desert and the forty days allude to the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. The liberated people had to start a nation in which the law prevailed. That will always be God’s plan, a kingdom far from oppression. The devil (evil personified) wanted to co-opt Jesus. He told Him to be self-indulgent, eat well and not look at those who are starving. The devil insisted on diverting Him, and told Him, throw yourself from the pinnacle of the temple, and You will see that everyone admires You. Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
Matthew 4: 1-11
The Honduran people dream of peace born out of respect for the right to:
• social security, work, a fair remuneration, rest, recreation, organize labor unions
• education, form a family, food, health
• participate in the culture that belongs
• peaceful coexistence
• clean environment, without pollution or the deterioration of nature
• eradicate discrimination and economic inequalities
• the self-determination of the nation and indigenous peoples
• not compromise the resources of future generations
• human dignity and political representation of migrants and vulnerable groups
However, the Honduran rulers succumbed to the temptation of the devil and betrayed the people. And instead of founding a nation that honored the covenant with God, they denied the economic, social, cultural, environmental and peoples’ rights; instead, to recognize them, they dismantled restrictions on the penetration of foreign companies and favored land grabbing, water, minerals, forests and other goods of Creation.
Exercising his presidential mandate, Manuel Zelaya applied a series of measures that altered the historical relations subordinated to the geopolitical and strategic interests of the United States and the Honduran business elite. The following were a few adopted measures during his mandate:
1. Reduced forestry exploitation. Measure praised by environmentalists and condemned by companies such as Home Depot, Wood Products International, Heritage Creation.
2. Declared a moratorium on mining concessions and banned open-pit mining, and approved decrees to provide land to the peasantry. This disposition was celebrated by the communities defending their habitat and abhorred by the Canadian and American companies.
3. He took control of oil terminals of Exxon, Mobil, Chevron and DIPPSA; paid one million in debt for electricity services and reduced the cost of energy and fuels to 50%.
4. Increased the minimum wage of the working day by 62%. This measure was applauded by the working class and hated by the industrial sector.
5. Sought to invigorate democracy introducing mechanisms of direct citizen participation. This measure was loved by popular movements and feared by business, religious and imperial elites.
Zelaya saw his country as sovereign and as such he acted. The military-business-religious-media-imperial forces conspired to stop changes that altered the power and interests of the national elites and the United States, and their response was the blow against democracy.
The Tegucigalpa declaration of the Mesoamerican Forum puts it this way: We understand, without a doubt, that the free trade and energy security and military political treaties signed with North America, the Panama Puebla Plan, Mérida, Colombia, the Northern Triangle, the Model Cities, the zones of special development, among others, are motivated by anti-national interests and constitute real neocolonial occupation processes that are operationalized through mining, energy, forestry concessions and various processes of dispossession and privatization of social and common goods. The country does not respond to the demands of its nation, because it obeys powerful foreign interests.
The dispossessed Honduran people who were denied the right to a long and healthy life, to high levels of education, to a decent life full of hope for people, communities and creation, left the country and put in evidence this gagged memory.
an imposed regime,
that nothing gave,
to the controlling North
of dreams, disrupter.
to the truth,
to the rightfulness,
for everyone, nothing
for them, all,
they walk forward.
In the Mesoamerican Forum, the ex-deputy Bartolo Fuentes of the Freedom and Refoundation Party (Free), whom was falsely accused of having organized the Honduran exodus, gave a word. He said: The Honduran government is happy that the Hondurans are leaving, because they are not going to make riots in the streets anymore and because they are going to send remittances. The contribution of Honduran migrants in remittances exceeds the amount generated by all export products (coffee, maquila, African palm …) to the Gross Domestic Product. The Honduran government does not care about those who leave, if they worried, they would have long ago secured decent living conditions in a country where 3 of 8 million Hondurans live in extreme poverty, with barely a dollar a day to survive. If they cared, they would have protected the 300 who left daily in the transit from where they left to where they arrived so that not many died on the way. What bothers the Honduran government is that the exodus has made noise, that it has not been silent; it bothers them because the exodus unmasks the failure of the Honduran political regime.
Let’s join the Scream
The Honduran exodus shouts:
• Listen to their cry and unite your voice to theirs so that the looting of Honduran wealth ceases and the just society is born.
• Hear their cry and strongly condemn the criminalization of the migrant population and demand that they be treated in accordance with International Humanitarian Law.
• Hear their shout and demand that the US interference in Honduras and the blind indifference to justice and moral order, stop.
The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So, I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—.Exodus 3:7-8 New International Version (NIV) Hear the voice of the Lord.
My last reflection from my trip to Honduras: An inspiration of the incarnation of the Gospel from the testimony of the Ágape Christian Church and from the table of Church and Grassroots Christian Movements that Ágape coordinated in the Mesoamerican Forum. Agape was our hostess in Honduras, and we are already with her in the mission.
Blessed are the poor, the afflicted, the dispossessed, the hungry and thirsty for justice, the merciful, the pure, those who seek peace, the persecuted, because they will be consoled, will inherit the earth, will be satisfied, will receive mercy, will see to God, they will be called sons and daughters of God; to them belong the project of God.
Matthew 5: 1-12
The table Church and Grassroots Christian Movements rescued the martyr history of the Honduran church and connected it to the Mariological testimony in the scriptures and the history of Christianity.
The Honduran martyr history of extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and murders of people working for the benefit of the most disadvantaged sectors is the history of peasants against unequal land tenure; of women for equal rights and full citizenship without asymmetries of power between genders and without violence against their bodies; of indigenous and black communities that defend their identity and territory against hydroelectric, mining, forest and other extractive activities; of workers for the rebounding of the legal and social structure that defines the distribution of income and poverty. The Ágape Christian Church heard God call in the burning bush of the Honduran pain of these and other groups and responded by going and being as their companion.
Ágape, One with the People
In the Mesoamerican Forum, some participants harshly censured the church for allying themselves with the powerful sectors of the country, for floating away in spirituality from the pain of the world or for assaulting the victims of the inhuman social order with blunt fundamentalisms. However, whenever that critical voice was heard, someone would get up and say, nobody can deny that, however, not all churches are like that, Agape is with the people.
At the Church and Movements table, we discussed proposals that would bring the churches closer to the people, and we were happy to hear the testimony of Ágape’s commitment. We said, the church should demolish its walls and goes where the pain is. People said, Ágape goes with the victims to collect the bodies of their loved ones; visit the dying in hospitals; rescues the captured and tortured from clandestine prisons and raises a voice of protest in the streets and on radio and television programs. We indicated that the church should find the injured groups, rescue their memory with them and help them to discover themselves as social actors. We heard from the people, Ágape went out to find the orphans of the murdered during the political-business-religious-imperial coup d’état and made them understand that their hands should touch; their feet, walk; their heart, love and their word, release, denounce and compromise. Ágape has earned the respect of those who dream of a new society. They said, some speak and dream, but their feet and minds walk in separate directions; to others it does not occur to them to find God in those who are run over; still, others, like false prophets, bought with dollars, bless those who hurt the people; not so the Ágape Christian Church.
I wanted to understand where and how Ágape came to be like that, and I asked Pastor David Del Cid. He told me: the transformation of Agape was in the wake of the coup d’état in 2009. We saw the army massacring, people disappearing and violating the most basic human rights of those who protested, and we understood where and with whom we were called to be.
And you are with whom?
I pray for you to hear and understand
that the migrants face us.
God speaks to us.
I pray that our ears, hear
our eyes, see
and that we respond to their call.
the truth or the lie
justice or indecency
love or hate,
or let’s stick to the eternal judgment.
Pastor David del Cid gave me the book Sólo Díganme Lupe (Just Call Me Lupe) from Father Guadalupe Carney, an American martyr who became Honduran, and told me to read it. Reading it, I felt the same frustration that Lupe indicated. He said, the people of my country cannot see what causes human breakdown. Feeling the same as Lupe I say, if my people could understand that the failed Honduran nation model was imposed by us, the United States. If we could see and hear the Central American displaced people who are wanting to enter the United States, we would hear the cry that condemns the perversity of the security forces that kill and crush the will of the people; we would listen to the lament that shows the failure of a system that cannot go on any longer. If we listen to them, we would know that the government of the United States is an accomplice of this pain; and we would feel indignation with the announcement of militarizing the border to prevent outsiders from entering our land. It frustrates me that many of my people listen more to media outlets that label migrants as criminals, instead of hearing them and hear inside themselves God who forces us to be neighbors with the stranger.
The Honduran exodus demands that:
• We confess ourselves as accomplices of the interference in Honduras that led away public policies aimed at guaranteeing human rights;
• We firmly condemn the criminalization of the migrant population and treat them in accordance with International Humanitarian Law;
• We exalt the values of the kingdom and put them above any strategic business and geopolitical interests in the region.
Honduran migrants, like all Mesoamericans, demand a new nation pact that ends the model of extractive development and the warmongering logic that violates human rights and crushes the will of the people.
The Honduran exodus reminds us that the gospel is a moral obligation:The Son of Man Will Judge the Nations
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory… All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.
“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
“Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Matthew 25:31, 41-46 New King James Version (NKJV) Respond to the Lord.
Thank you for joining me in the 3 reflections of my visit to Honduras.
Ricardo Mayol serves with the Ecumenical Christian Council of Guatemala (CECG). His appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, WOC, OGHS, and your special gifts.