By Sister Deborah Kern
For several years I have wanted to visit and listen to the stories and experiences of some of the people who touch Mercy through our sisters in Honduras. In December 2015, I was able to make that visit as part of a six-day delegation, organized through the Institute Justice Office.
Simply, this visit changed my life. I “woke up” in Honduras! Now that I am awake, everything looks different.
In the United States we hear countless news stories of drugs, violence and guns in Central America. We hear that women and children, fleeing the terror of ruthless criminals, are a threat to our national security. We are told that the U.S. military presence in Central America is an effort to protect U.S. citizens from violence and the social deterioration of drugs. In the voices of the people of Honduras I heard the rest of the story.
My heart heard the frightful stories of early morning raids on families, asleep and vulnerable in their homes. The soldiers of organized crime, armed with high-powered weapons made in the United States, seize private homes for strategic purposes and/or for the purpose of intimidation. Terrified mothers and fathers wake their children in the middle of night and flee into the streets with only the clothes on their backs. Any opposition is met with deadly violence. Children stand as witnesses to tragedy that is unimaginable. There are no consequences. Laws are clearly broken, but police do not accept complaints, let alone investigate and prosecute criminals. There is no protection or recourse. People live in fear and hopelessness. With eyes wide open I began to see the deepest tragedy the people of Honduras experience: impunity. How can this be?
Where do the guns come from? Why are legitimate laws not being followed by Honduran authorities? Who is in control? Who benefits when the human rights of the Honduran people are ignored, when authorities charged with the sacred trust of the people become perpetrators of injustice? Awake, I began to see clearly the link between my standard of living and privilege, to the suffering of the people who graciously welcomed me into their lives. I do not know how these people, who are daily faced with the consequence of my affluence, could be so welcoming, so hospitable. I could not imagine why they weren’t angry with me for not doing something in my country to address the cause of their suffering? Did they not hold me responsible for the actions and policies of my democratically elected government?
On the contrary, they gently and mercifully woke me up. Now that I am awake, I can no longer rest in complacency and cynicism while others commandeer our democratic process.
I intend to stay awake until the people of Honduras can sleep in peace.