September 19, 2013 — Last week, Jesuit scholastic Luke Hansen traveled across Honduras with a delegation sponsored by the Jesuit Conference in Washington, D.C., to learn more about the political and social challenges facing Honduran society. The group made stops mostly along the northern coast — the most violent region of the country — and met with campesinos (farmers), community leaders, Jesuit priests and their collaborators.
Hansen wrote that the delegation’s purpose was to find out “how we — representing Jesuit ministries in the United States and Canada — might be in greater solidarity with Jesuits in Honduras and the communities they work with.”
The delegation also included Shaina Aber, policy director for social and international ministries at the Jesuit Conference; Jesuit Father Rafael García, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Albuquerque, N.M.; Fernando Serrano, a professor in the College of Public Health and Social Justice at Saint Louis University; and other leaders of Jesuit social justice apostolates.
The Jesuits are engaged in a variety of ministries in Honduras, including a radio station, a social research and advocacy center, parishes, secondary education and even a community theater.
Hansen reported that “these groups are engaged in political and economic issues, and they have a strong and clear analysis of the problems, who suffers the most and who is responsible.
“We spoke with dozens of individuals who spoke fluently … about economic inequality, drug trafficking and gang violence, agrarian reform and land recuperation, environmental degradation and forced displacement of campesinos by mining companies, the highest murder rate in the world and the impunity that accompanies it.”
Hansen wrote that the challenge lies in developing an analysis of potential solutions and how positive social change will actually take place. “The people we met with are doing many positive things … but the major structural changes required to address the breakdown of civil institutions and the increasing levels of violence remain elusive.”
According to Hansen, the Jesuits in Honduras acknowledged their limited capacity to respond to the violence. “It is humiliating, frustrating,” said one Jesuit. “We are in desolation. Each of us has a creative ministry, but we are overwhelmed by the violence.”
The delegation found that many in Honduras said they felt isolated and ignored and that it meant a lot that an international group would visit them and listen to their stories.
Hansen concluded that it is urgent for Americans to call upon public officials in Washington to provide additional staff to help monitor and address human rights concerns in Honduras.