August 31, 2016 — The Jesuit superiors in Canada are calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Canadian government to urge Honduran authorities to assure the security of human rights and environmental activists in Honduras.
The letter to Trudeau from Jesuit Fathers Jean-Marc Biron and Peter Bisson, provincials of the French Canada and English Canada Province Jesuits respectively, was written in French. The Jesuits decided to write the letter after a recent visit to Canada by Honduran Jesuit Father Ismael Moreno, a human rights activist in his country known as Padre Melo.
While in Canada, Padre Melo was interviewed by the Toronto Star, which wrote an article that said, “Father Melo lives every day as though it is his last. He knows assassins are out to kill him. And, eventually, they may succeed.”
The Jesuits provincials said they were extremely concerned for his safety, as well as the safety of Honduran activists.
“Given that Canada signed a free-trade agreement with Honduras in 2014, and that 90% of the foreign investors in the Honduran mining sector are Canadian, we ask you not to ignore the flagrant violations of human rights in this Central American country,” the Jesuits provincials wrote. “The Canadian government is in a position to urge the Honduran authorities to assure the security of Fr. Melo, as well as that of all those who work for the protection of human rights and the environment in Honduras.”
There have been more than 100 documented cases of assassinations in Honduras in the past five years. Most recently, Berta Cáceres, an indigenous leader in Honduras, was murdered in March. “Being a woman with the highest international recognition among the social and popular movements in Honduras, her assassination shows and lays bare the helplessness of people and organizations fighting for human rights and the defense of the natural resources and against the sale of our national sovereignty,” said Padre Melo, shortly after she was killed.
The letter to Trudeau also said it is urgent that Canada “impose on its mining industry a rigorous responsibility for the respect of human rights and environmental norms. This would imply, among other things, an end to the forced displacement of local indigenous communities — an issue that would match your government’s sensitivity to First Nations peoples.”
The letter implored Trudeau to “do everything possible to assure the safety of our colleague, as well as that of all Honduran citizens engaged, as he is, in the fight for justice and respect for the integrity of creation.”
Earlier this month, Padre Melo told the Toronto Star, “I cannot walk in the streets or ride my bike … I am the government’s No. 1 enemy.
“Every night when I return home after my radio show, I breathe a sigh of relief that I have survived another day.”