I just returned from a ten-day long sojourn through Guatemala, Honduras, and Chiapas, Mexico as part of an interfaith delegation made up of leaders from across the United States, led by the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity to learn about the root causes of migration. For this post I want to focus on the connection of violence in Honduras, a beautiful country with beautiful people.
One thing we learned while in Honduras is that violence pervades much of Honduras and often is so intimidating that Hondurans find it challenging to dream of a country free from violence. The exportation of the “American Dream” to Honduras serves as a mythical and largely unattainable actualization of the individual without strengthening the whole, making the family unit expendable. The American Dream has become the Honduran nightmare as Northern imports have overwhelmed Honduras through:
- images of a Western-based affluent lifestyle that are mostly inaccessible, but which lure Hondurans to migrate dangerously to the North,
- the strengthening of gangs whose members are often intimidated into joining because there are no viable employment opportunities,
- violence through the presence of US-made guns that allow the powerful and strong to prey upon the weak and vulnerable in order to horde resources for the few at the expense of the many, and
- the rape of the land through the extraction of natural and human resources by international corporations from the North and other developed countries that force people from their land and, in the end, leads to the disintegration of the family.
Our delegation learned that the family unit has been decimated in many instances because of the internal migration from rural to urban places due to mining and mountain top renewal. When families arrive in the cities they find a lack of employment opportunities which then forces family members to migrate again. During this second migration many Hondurans sojourn to the North to find jobs to support their families who stay behind. Some of those who do not make it often fall victim to human trafficking. Some who do make it to the U.S. are arrested and deported due to a broken immigration system that benefits U.S. corporations with cheap labor while providing no worker protections until migrants are arrested, detained, and deported. And those who do make it and find fairly livable employment live constantly under state-sponsored terror initiated by the US government through detainment in for-profit prisons until they are deported back to Honduras. Hondurans are dehumanized into economic units that benefit the North and strip Honduras bare of its greatest resources.
The rise of violence through gangs (which have been imported from the North back to Honduras due to deportations from prisons where migrants were forced to join gangs for their survival) has now forced even children as young as 7 years old who fear being recruited into a life of violence to migrate to the North for their own continued existence. When and if the children arrive in the United States they are often shipped around from detention center to detention center and denied due process before they are dispatched back to Honduras where an unknown fate awaits them.
Something that has stood out to me and others in our time in Honduras is that people of faith in Honduras are alive and well! In faith, Hondurans are creating communities of love to support and provide for one another even as members of their families are forced to flee and the family unit is being undermined and disintegrated.
We have seen examples of the faith community creating family-like structures:
- Mothers of the Disappeared have created family-like systems of love and support as they grieve the loss of their loved ones and refuse to accept that their loss has been in vain.
- Los Indignados is a family-creating organization intent on bringing together all those who are tired of the corruption and impunity by the Honduran government – another exportation from the North – and they are moving in protest weekly throughout the country.
- St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Progreso is creating families as they regularly remember the Lord’s Supper, instituted by Jesus as a way for the Body of Christ to create new communities of love to provide systems of support that are also celebratory of the stages of life.
These communities of faith are constructing distinctive realities of love and solidarity in the midst of enormous destructive forces. They provide the hope for a safe and secure Honduras and point prophetically to the forms of violence the faith communities of the North impose when our congregations choose complicity through apathy and ignoring the needs of our sisters and brothers in Honduras.