Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tocoa base communities on the Aguan violence

Reflections on the conflict in Aguan

In the July 8 meeting of the pastoral workers of the Tocoa sector of the Parish of Saint Isidore the Worker, concerned about the conflicts in the Aguan zone and especially the killings of campesinos and members of our church, we offer the faithful, pastoral workers, and conscientious persons of varied organizations the following reflections.

The Catholic Church is, by its calling, the untiring seeker of truth and freedom. We seek justice based in respect for the truth. We seek the Law based on respect for freedom. When there are such great conflicts as the conflict in Bajo Aguan, we have the obligation to seek in Justice and the Law the ways which will help us live in Truth and in Freedom.

Faithful to this search, the parish of St. Isidore the Worker opts,  as did our Lord Jesus, for the persons who are the persons who was the poorest and marginalized in our society. We do this so that the poor and marginalized also can live the values of Truth and Freedom by knowing and respecting Justice and the Law. But this option for the poor and the defense of their rights does not mean approving violent methods, because we reject violence, no matter its source. And, above all, we reject the violence that comes from the abuse of power and money, which twist justice, buying off judges and lawyers.

In the face of violent events in the zone of Aguan, we declare:

1. We condemn the killing of our companion and brother GREGORIO CHÁVEZ, who was disappeared Monday July2 and whose body was found Friday, June 6, in the farm of Paso Aguan, in lot Lumber 8, property of Grupo Dinant of Mr. MIGUEL FACUSSÉ, in the zone of the community of Panamá.

2. We condemn every type of violence which happens in the Aguan zone – by the defense of land and by drug-trafficking and by organized crime.

3. We demand that the Public Ministry and Human Rights Organizations make an in-depth investigation  which guarantees clearing up all the killing and bloody deeds which have happened in recent years so that the Law may be applied to all those responsible for these acts.

4. We demand a sincere dialogue by the government, interest for the common good, respect for life and human dignity, good will from all parts of the conflict, in order to find a way out of so much crime and shedding of blood which causes mourning in  so many poor families.

5. We ask the God of love and justice to strengthen our hope to continue demanding a more just and dignified lie for our sister and brother campesinos in the Valley of Aguan.

Together we pray to our Lord that there no more will blood continue to be shed in our communities,  which causes mourning and sorrow in our families.

Tocoa, Colón, July 15, 2012  
Comunidades Eclesiales de Base del sector de Tocoa/
Church base communities of the Tocoa sector
Parroquia San Isidro Labrador/Saint Isidore the Worker Parish

The Spanish original can be found here.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Communiqué of the Religious of Yoro


Meeting as CONFEREH [the Conference of Men and Women Religious] of the diocese of Yoro [Honduras] in the month of April, we consider it opportune to issue the following communiqué. As persons living the religious life we feel the call to defend life from where we find ourselves, creating bonds of fraternity.

We make our own the Honduran bishops’ conference’s campaign: “A culture of peace and respect for life.” 

  1. We call on the respective authorities to improve the conditions of imprisonment and the measures of security of persons in the prison facilities in our country, in order to promote the integral development of those who are deprived of liberty who deserve respect and to be treated with dignity.
  2. We call on the competent authorities to make known the results of the investigations carried out from the fire on the Comayagua prison since many cases are still unpunished [in impunity] because of the lack of an effective investigation.
  3. We ask that psychological and spiritual accompaniment be offered to the survivors of the tragedy which happened in the Comayagua prison on February 14, 2012 so that these persons can overcome the traumas they have received.
  4. The religious of the diocese of Yoro is indignant in the face of the abduction and killing of Señor José Lemus Ortega (delegate of the Word)  on March 24th this year in El Negrito, Yoro.
    We call on the respective and competent authorities [to undertake] an immediate investigation of this fact. We don’t want this to be another case of a waiting list, remaining in impunity.
  5. As religious we don’t want to accustom ourselves to this culture of violence manifested in different forms: killings, abductions, assaults, extortions, etc., All this entails a crisis of values which is translated into a dehumanization of society.

The document of Aparecida (DA) in section # 464 exhorts us not to trample on the dignity of the other but to respect and promote life which is a free gift of God.

The defense of life implies a commitment to personal and social transformation which integrates the complete existential reality of the human being: political, economic, cultural, spiritual, and religious.

Lord, you call us to be instruments of peace and justice in order to build a world that is more human and fraternal.



The Spanish original can be found at my Spanish language blog here

Monday, March 5, 2012

Bishop Rómulo Emiliani's message from the National Prison Ministry

Message of Monseñor Rómulo Emiliani, CMF, National Prison Ministry at the end of the plenary of the commission held in Yoro, February 27-28, 2012

Dear brothers and sister, I intend to reflect in this message what we feel and reflect on in the face of the tragedy which overwhelms us these days in Honduras.

A chain of conflagrations
The fire spread out like a voracious dragon and was consuming lives, gobbling in its dark jaws and in an insatiable way 360 persons in the Comayagua penitentiary.  Not satisfied, it then jumped like a diabolical wild beast and destroyed the source of sustenance of 5,000 persons who labor in the markets of Comayagüela. Not content with what it had done, it retreats and goes to the city of San Pedro [Sula] and tries to annihilate the sick who are in the Social Security hospital.

Cause of the conflagrations
These conflagrations brought on by lamentable accidents hide another conflagration much more destructive in our country which is ongoing and feeds the blazes just mentioned: the [conflagration] of a most frightful corruption by which funds destined to be invested in sound infrastructures capable of resisting events such as fires and earthquakes remain in the pockets of a few; the [conflagration] of improvisation and mediocrity which  does everything in a half-way manner and without any quality controls; the [conflagration] of not having a serious plan of integral development for the whole country and the [conflagration] of egoism which makes us work among those who are like us], thinking very little in the poor who comprise most of those who live in our jails, who work in the public markets, and get medical attention in the Social Security [public] hospitals.

What happened in the prison?
We cannot imagine a relatively slow death where the lungs are filled with smoke at the same time as they close off the windpipe, provoking asphyxiation and poisoning the body, together with the flames which are burning their feet, their legs, their hands, their stomachs, their chests, their faces – and to feel the bodies of their companions which in desperation are falling one on top of another and piling up, forming a burning pyre with the flames ascending to the roof of the cell. And this in a dark night, because the electricity in the jail also went out, hearing all types of cries, mixed with prayers and pleas to their mothers or children, smelling burnt bodies, seeing flesh open in bloody fissures, so that, after so much rending noise, all that can be heard are tenuous moans, whispers which are fading out, and a deathly [sepulchral] silence; What is happening is that all are dying, there are very burnt, they cannot breathe…. they are already dead.
The word spreads, they come with faces trembling and hearts beating hard, expecting the worst – the families of the prisoners and they gather in a mass at the entrance to the penitentiary and cry out, plead, cry, wanting to see their sons and husbands. Confusion and crying, questions unanswered and lots of tension, and they want to enter; a clash with the police who try to impose order outside the prison, finally, chaos reigns in the Comayagua prison which is converting what was a prison an hour before into a cemetery in the middle of  prison bars. They are dead – now there are 360 dead, without crosses, without tombs, without grieving or glory. The mothers are crying and the children have become orphans. The Granja Penal – the prison – has been converted into a sad and disconsolate graveyard (camposanto, literally holy field).

Where was God?
From our Christian vision of life in the face of those who were burnt up, mystically “God was burnt” with them and a part of ourselves died with them. Why? Because the beautiful novelty of the Gospel consists in knowing that God is with us, in our midst and in us. By being in all, but especially his loving and merciful presence is with those who suffer and in them he endures what they are living. In addition, since we are members of the Body of Christ in history, what happens to one person happens also to the other. When we really love, we rejoice with those who are the object of our love if they are happy, and we share their sadness if they are suffering misfortune. Therefore, in Comayagua, in the prison, a part of us died. We are in mourning.

Let us give a response
What to do? Assure that this is never again repeated. Construct at least four penitentiaries and renovate the others, closing those which don’t meet the minimal conditions for security and rehabilitation. Approve the Penal Law. Check all the prisons and furnish them with fire extinguishers, fir hydrants, fire hoses, adequate electrical systems and implement a safe system of evacuation and have fire drills several times a year. Eliminate the judicial delays, accelerating trials for prisoners, knowing that more than half of those in the prisons have not been processed by the courts. Seek alternative mechanisms to avoid detaining and imprisoning under whatever circumstances persons when their cases are for light crimes which could be settled outside the prisons in community work projects an in cases where it is merited to wait for trial outside of prison. Compensate, by the State, in some manner the relatives of those who died and help that the wounded recuperate totally.
In general, recalling the sad conflagration of the markets of Comayagüela and the San Pedro Social Security [hospital], demand as much as possible that all construction meet the norms set by the Fire Companies of the place and apply the law precisely for those establishment which don’t fulfill the minimal demands fro security. And before constructing a new market in Comayagüela, pay for the damages of all those who worked there equal to what has arisen in the new prison of San Pedro.

God bless you.

I have posted the original Spanish here on my Spanish blog here.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Honduras Bishops statement on violence

In Defense of Life: Statement of the Honduran Bishops Conference

“¿What does it value a person to gain the whole world if you lose your life? ¿What price would one pay for one’s life?” (Mark 8: 36-37)

Jesus Christ loved us to the extreme of giving his life so that we might have, in Hon, eternal life. With these two questions which are directed at all humanity, He invites us to chose life as the gift of God and to everything that threatens life.

We consider respect for human life and its dignity a natural right which no one can violate.

With deep sadness we have lived a new calamity in the prison world which, in the  prison of Comayagua, has caused 360 victims dead as well as the sorrow and desperation of their families. We ask the respective authorities for a complete investigation of the deeds and we are in solidarity with the statement of the bishops and priests of the diocese of Comayagua,
“We ask the live groups [literally, the forces that are alive] of the Honduran society so that, united, we demand that our authorities improve the conditions of imprisonment and the means of human security in the prisons in order to safeguard the integrity and dignity of those deprived of liberty and in order that such a lamentable tragedy is not repeated, a tragedy which has brought grief to so many Honduran families and saddens all of us.”

The deplorable situation of most of the prison centers of the country obliges us to consider this problem as a grave threat to the human rights of the person who live deprived of their liberty. Because it is not only a case of stacking up [of prisoners], lack of hygiene or food; it is a case of all the problems of violence, killings, corruption, psychological torture, drug addiction, immorality, illegality, etc. which is lived out inside the prisons. The State is responsible for their lamentable conditions through the prison authorities as well as by those responsible for justice [literally operators of justice] who maintain an inordinate judicial delay.

In Honduras, the problem of violence has a unusual seriousness  what demands of us serious reflections and commitments inspired by the values of the Kingdom of God, which is a Kingdom of Justice, Love, and Peace.

Aggressiveness, which we all have, is a positive dynamism which lets us defend ourselves from dangers, threats, and attacks. But an uneducated aggressiveness or one influenced by negative family or social models gets translated into violent attitudes.

Violence is, also, a human reaction against certain aggressions. And in this sense there are serious reason to fear outbursts of violence, not only in the prison population but in the general Population of Honduras which feels itself constantly assaulted by those corrupt members who are in the very heart of the state’s Security Forces, by the consequences of impunity, by the lack of responses of the state powers to their just demands, by the unfulfilled promises and the partisan and populist politics which benefit a very few but upset the majority.

A culture is being built which justifies violent conduct  because it is not able to condemn machismo, because it accepts violence as a consequence of social competitiveness and allows as normal contempt and rejection between social groups which, feeling and thinking themselves different from the others, dismiss each other mutually and confront each other violently.

In such a culture, society becomes incapable of glimpsing a better future, forgets its values and loses [exhausts] its morals. When this happens hope is also lost [exhausted].

The Catholic Church, facing this reality, presents the proposal to work for “A CULTURE OF PEACE AND RESPECT FOR LIFE.”

By means of this campaign, developed by Caritas, it seeks to create a climate of respect for life and human dignity at the national level, contributing  to the construction of a tolerant and fair [equitable] society, centered in the respect for and the well-being of the human person.

We exhort [people], then, to take an active part in this campaign and we convert [ourselves] into instruments of the Peace which Christ offers to the world. Every conversion finds a special moment in the season of Lent which we have begun this Ash Wednesday: Conversion to Christ, “our peace” and to the neighbor, our [sister and] brother.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his message for Lent 2012 tell us
Today too, the Lord’s voice resounds strongly summoning each one of us to be concerned for one another. Today God continues to ask us to be guardians of our brothers and sisters (Gen 4:9), to establish relationships based on mutual care and attentiveness to the well-being of the other, to the other’s complete good.. The great commandment of love for one another demands and urges us to become conscious that we have a responsibility towards those who, like ourselves, are creatures and children of God. Being brothers and sisters in humanity and, in many cases, also in the faith, should help us to recognize in others a true alter ego [an other I], infinitely loved by the Lord. If we cultivate this way of seeing others as our brothers and sisters, solidarity, justice, mercy and compassion will naturally well up in our hearts.
But this way of looking as brothers and sisters which permits us to recognize in the human being the image of the Creator and in each brother and sister an “other me”, we are only going to acquire as the fruit of an education received from infancy and consolidated in our youth. Pope Benedict XVI, in his message for World Peace Day 2012 affirms that education is “the most fascinating and difficult adventure of life.”

The pope considers that to educate in truth and freedom as much teaches us to “recognize life with gratitude as an invaluable gift, [and] leads to discovering the profound dignity and the inviolability of every person.”

The new FUNDAMENTAL LAW OF EDUCATION, in article 2. declares that education “is a human right which every person has to have access to the understanding which results in the development of one’s personality and capabilities, in conditions of freedom and equality, taking as overarching point of  reference [eje transversal – transversal axis] respect for the dignity of the human being.”

The great problems – administrative, didactic, economic, and political – which the education system suffers in Honduras have to be resolved not only with the help of a new law but, above all, with the transparent commitment of the State, with the resolute participation of the educational community and the social oversight  which all of us who which a better country must exercise.

In regard to security in Honduras, this Bishops Conference declares it deep concern about the fragility of the institutions in charge of guarding the lives and the goods of those who live in this country.  Recently the National Police, an entity so needed to fulfill such purposes, has been seen to be very affected by illegal criminal actions, some of them really abominable, committed by member of this institution. We think that not all members of the National Police are involved in these deeds, but it is important to bring to light [these actions] and to apply the law to all those who have participated in criminal acts which stain the reputation of this state institution. therefore we demand the rapid and effective purification of the National Police, at the same time as we offer our spiritual services for their integral formation.

We ask the Lord to renew us in the hope of eternal life so that, from this hope we may commit all  of us believers, to make this human life a path of solidarity which makes us worthy of salvation. The Word of God presents us with a dilemma in the face of which we must choose: “Look: I set before you today life and happiness, death and curse… Choose life and you and your descendants shall live…”  Deuteronomy 30: 15, 19b).

May the Spirit of our Lord Jesus and His Mother, whom we invoke as the Virgin of Suyapa, illumine the heart of all Honduran men and women so that we may be able with courage to choose life, the gift of God, and to love it, respect it, and defend it generously.

Honduras Bishops Conference
Tegucigalpa, February 24, 2012

This is my quick translation. The original Spanish can be read here at my Spanish blog.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Comayagua diocese on the Comayagua prison fire


The diocese of Comayagua in these times of local and national consternation directs itself to the deeply distressed family members of the prisoners who perished in the Central Jail of Comayagua, to those who were wounded and affected during the fatal fire that began at 10:50 pm last night, Tuesday, March 14. We also direct ourselves to the whole Honduran people.

First, we profoundly lament what occurred during the worst tragedy in the history of the jails of our country and we are greatly in solidarity with the family members and those affected by the disaster who took the lives of a large number of prisoners in the Comayagua prison which according to initial data added up to 356 persons who died out of a prison population of 852.

Second, we invite our brothers and to unite with us in a common effort to respond, in the short and medium term, to the most urgent needs of the survivors of the disaster and the affected families.

Third, we lament that this is the third disaster which has happened in a decade in the prisons of Honduras, an aggravating factor being that the penal institution in the city of Comayagua was considered the prison with a higher level of security on the national level.

Fourth: we consider lamentable the inhuman conditions of stacking up [the prisoners] and insecurity in which our country’s prison population lives. Specifically in the Prison of Comayagua, constructed to house 250 prisons, the prison population was reaching 852 persons deprived of liberty.

Fifth, we ask the live groups [literally, the forces that are alive] of the Honduran society so that, united, we demand that our authorities improve the conditions of imprisonment and the means of human security in the prisons in order to safeguard the integrity and dignity of those deprived of liberty and in order that such a lamentable tragedy is not repeated, a tragedy which has brought grief to so many Honduran families and saddens all of us.

Sixth, we ask the Christian community to lift up prayers to the God of life, so that welcome in his kind hands and welcome into his glory our brothers who have died and that he strengthen their relatives with the certainty that they are not alone, that God keeps watch over them and accompanies them in these difficult moments. May God quickly heal those wounded during this disaster and may our civil authorities act decisively and quickly to improve the conditions of our prisons and of the judicial system in general.

Monseñor Roberto Camílleri OFM
Bishop of Comayagua and the priests of the diocese

The original Spanish can be found on my Spanish blog, here.