Wednesday, January 20, 2010

An Intense Long Day in Tegucigalpa

Post #3 From  Tegucigalpa, by Michael Cooper-White

"You are living letters for us," declared a valiant woman named Noemi who directs the Latin American Council of Churches'human rights program in Honduras.  She was referring to a program of the World Council of Churches that goes beyond sending letters or emails and dispatches a delegatiion within days of an outbreak of human rights violations in any corner of the globe.  Looking around our circle of seven Gettysburg seminarians, I saw looks of wonder and awe that our very presence seemed to make such a difference.

Seven meetings is intense on any day anywhere.  The nature of our visits demands even more than the usual concentration from both speakers and listeners, as we pause after every few sentences to translate from Spanish into English or vice versa.  But both our "viajeros" and hosts take the challenge in good stride, committed to share and learn as much as possible in the brief time we have together.

For me, the day's most stimulating meeting was our first, held at a labor union where there are weekly gatherings of the "resistance" movement's leadership, who launched concerted efforts after last summer's military coup to restore the nation to a state of respect for the constitution and democratic convictions.  It is never easy to hear harsh critique of one's own government, but the spokesman for the Honduran Resistance Movement expressed the conviction that either tacitly or overtly the U.S. government lent support for the coup that deposed the democratically elected president and installed a puppet of the army and police forces.

In one way or another, all the groups we visited are involved in the struggle to protect and defend human rights.  One of our hosts spoke of threatening phone calls received by his wife in just the past couple of days.  Leaders of a youth resistance movement talked of anti-coup demonstrations at which an old woman was brutally beaten, and of other instances where corpses were found after resistance movement participants were "disappeared" at the hands of the ruling regime.  Despite  the resistance forces' commitment to non-violence, the toll of torture, murder and disappearances mounts daily.

While most of the day's meetings would be regarded by some as "political" in nature, we were reminded by the president and two other ordained ministers of the Honduran Christian Lutheran Church that their holistic mission is deeply pastoral, theological and one of service to the "least of these" throughout this Central American nation where a young church has established over a dozen congregations and mission outposts.  In this land where both the Roman Catholic cardinal and pastors of evangelical and Pentecostal mega-churches have publicly sided with the perpetrators of the military coup, the Lutherans may be the church to watch as its influence and impact in proclaiming the Gospel grows in stunning measure day by day.

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