Report on Honduras Delegation

Recently, our own Director of Advocacy, Sr. Maria Orlandini was part of a delegation to Honduras, heading down to show support for the Honduran people in their struggles with their government. Sr. Maria gave us this brief report.


Maria.Honduras

The delegation consisted of about 50 people from varying faith traditions and from different parts of the U.S. There were a few clergy from different Christian denominations, several journalists, many activists and returning missionaries and few sisters in our group. It was quite powerful and energizing to feel the commitment of the group and their willingness to share their stories. We were invited by Jesuits, in particular Padre Melo and ERIC (Equipo de Reflexión, Investigation y Comunicación) in Progreso, to accompany them in this very difficult time, in a way to be their shields and protect them from the police and military reprisal.

We had a press conference as soon as most of us had arrived at the airport to make it known that we were in the country. They came to welcome us with a big banner with the pictures and names of the 30 people killed or disappeared since the elections in December. The signs and welcome from the people warmed our hearts. They were so grateful we were there, and at the same time watchful to see the reaction of the authorities.

On the first morning we had a presentation on Honduras, including the historical build-up to the current situation. In the afternoon we went to a Mass held in a nearby village to pray for hope and courage in a village terrorized by the police. After Mass, we walked through the streets, stopping traffic, hoisting banners, and following Padre Melo to show solidarity for the Honduran people. You could feel the tension; it seemed everyone was waiting for violence to break out. The people were very grateful for our being there. They felt that the delegation’s presence was the reason there was no violence during the mobilization. In fact, every time we were present, the police never intervened, even though the protesters were always afraid and expecting violence which had been the norm for the past weeks. The Honduran people are very much determined to continue fighting for their freedom and the right to choose their leader. The people have decided: this is going to be their struggle for the next few years. They didn’t choose it and they want their country back.

On Inauguration day, the delegation was on standby in case we were needed as witnesses to any violence that might break out. We again spent time in the streets, walking, witnessing, chanting, praying, holding banners. That day no violence occurred at the events we witnessed. The situation became real to me when, before joining the protesters, we were given a small towel wet with vinegar just in case tear gas were thrown at the protesters. Thankfully, there was no need to use it.

After one of the mobilizations, mostly done by teenagers 14 or 15 years old, they were so afraid the police would run after them that we decided to accompany them back to their village. We walked with them for five kilometers to assure they returned safely. Several groups were so thankful and grateful that we were there, they wanted protection, to be accompanied in their struggle even by just walking with them. Our presence was felt, and each time we were there, the police never intervened in the group’s activities. They lined the streets with all their paraphernalia and guns, but they watched and let the situation enfold. Some of the delegates who knew Spanish tried to engage them and show our friendly side.

The last two days we went to Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, four hours drive from Progreso. We participated in a Prayer Vigil in the street in front of the American Embassy. It really warmed my heart to see the faith of the people and feel their warmth. The next morning we went for “a lobby visit” with the acting US ambassador, Heidi Fulton. It was a memorable moment to be able to speak truth to power. We were so proud of the ones who spoke for all of us. We asked our country to stop sending military aid to Honduras which is used to militarize the country and against its citizens. We do not think we touched the hearts of anyone in the embassy, but we did say what was in our hearts, especially to urge them to protect the life of Padre Melo and others who have received death threats. We wonder why we never learn from history, that what is happening to Honduras is a repeat of El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.

The last night was a FIESTA in great style with live band, “baleadas,” and of course dancing. It was the way for the people to say thank you for our presence, for having responded to their call for help. In reality the delegation owes them a big thanks for their welcome and hospitality. From the Sisters of Notre Dame who hosted us, to Padre Melo and every single person we met, we found a warm welcoming smile. I was once again reminded of how joyful Latin American people are. They have chosen not to allow the struggle to take away their joy. What a beautiful witness to choose to celebrate life, even if lost, in gratitude for the life given and the length of time it was given.

I found hope all around. There was a clear sense that the struggle will be long but determination to keep in the fight and do it together. The words on the tee shirt they gave us the last night summarizes it: “Con El abrazo de los pueblos, venceremos los miedos.” With the embrace of the people, we will conquer fears. (Padre Melo)

As we returned, we committed ourselves to raise awareness of the stories of the Honduran people that we have heard. There are plans to for a project to raise money to protect the radio station with bullet proof glass and rebuild the radio tower destroyed a few weeks ago by the government. These will be shared as plans are finalized and assistance requested. For a good information about what brought the situation in Honduras to this point please read this article.

There were many photos taken while we were there:

Day One: https://www.flickr.com/photos/54922368@N07/albums/72157665074900998
Day Two: https://www.flickr.com/photos/54922368@N07/albums/72157691922436194
Day Three https://www.flickr.com/photos/54922368@N07/albums/72157691949789574
Day Three Demonstration: https://www.flickr.com/photos/54922368@N07/albums/72157689887467332
Day Three Police Assault Reporter’s House with Gas: https://www.flickr.com/photos/54922368@N07/albums/72157692018268214

Day Four Meeting Victims: https://www.flickr.com/photos/54922368@N07/albums/72157690005912502
Day Four Blockade: https://www.flickr.com/photos/54922368@N07/albums/72157663268019067
Day Four Safe Walk Home: https://www.flickr.com/photos/54922368@N07/albums/72157692931816535
Day Four Demonstration: https://www.flickr.com/photos/54922368@N07/albums/72157691253056851

Day Five Candlelight Vigil at US: Embassy: https://www.flickr.com/photos/54922368@N07/albums/72157668984332279

Day Six: https://www.flickr.com/photos/54922368@N07/albums/72157663264380997

Day Seven: https://www.flickr.com/photos/54922368@N07/albums/72157690036928192

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Published in: on February 3, 2018 at 8:25 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The link to the article didn’t work….just fyi….

  2. Thanks for fixing the link!!! Maria I rejoice in the opportunities you have to represent so many in witnessing the gospel . Jean S


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