A Mature Analysis of Honduras

Honduras has been in the news quite a bit lately as one of the countries of the Northern Triangle (together with Guatemala and El Salvador) from where many of their citizens are emigrating. So, what is the truth about Honduras? For various reasons, the following Declaration provides good answers to that question.

As we all know, in our polarized society, it is quite common for people on the left and on the right to blame only the other side for all the problems that we experience. Therefore, it is refreshing to find leaders who assume responsibility for their actions. The following Declaration ¨Honduras: Between Crisis and Hope¨ is refreshing precisely because these Christian leaders recognize that they are partly responsible for the problems in their country, especially by not holding government officials accountable for their actions. They rightly point out corruption and mismanagement by elected officials, the dangers posed by gang activity, and other internal and external factors, but they acknowledge their own failures. Read their realistic analysis of Honduras and be refreshed and inspired by their recommendations for going forward!

HONDURAS: BETWEEN CRISIS AND HOPE – A DECLARATION OF THE LATIN AMERICAN THEOLOGICAL FELLOWSHIP – HONDURAN CHAPTER [1]

The Latin American Theological Fellowship (FTL – la Fraternidad Teológica Latinoamericana), Honduran Chapter is an association composed of Protestant[2] men and women committed to the life and mission of God in Latin America. Gathered together as the local groups of the Honduran chapter of the FTL, we announce this declaration about the critical situation that our country is facing. We make this declaration from a perspective of hope in the midst of the frustration, deception and confusion that many of our Honduran people are experiencing. In addition, we are conscious of the need to change how evangelicals participate in our national life.

THE HONDURAS WHERE WE LIVE

We live in a Honduras with alarming rates of poverty that affect more than half of our people. At the same time, we have high rates of unemployment and underemployment, little production, consumerism and a costly rise in the prices of food and other essential items for life. Monopolies, greed, and large debt are enslaving our citizens. There is a decrease in even minimum access to the basic services of health, education and safety. This picture of generalized poverty contrasts greatly with the unequal, and frequently illegal, accumulation of wealth by a small number of people. We live in a Honduras that ranks very high regarding the unequal accumulation of wealth. In fact, we rank sixth in the world and first in Latin America. We live in a Honduras where assassinations, the Sicariato,[3] drug trafficking, arms trafficking, the Maras[4] and violence in the social media have largely contributed to a culture of violence learned at an early age. Immigration, motivated by (these high rates of) violence and poverty, is increasing in spite of difficulties, dangers and barriers. We live in a Honduras where corruption and impunity are an evil duo that has permeated governmental structures, private enterprise and average citizens, devouring, little by little, the lives and institutions of our country.

It is impossible to ignore the scandals and thefts committed within our governmental institutions that have not been resolved, such as the embezzlement of the National Social Security Institute (IHSS -Instituto Hondureño de Seguridad Social). There are other activities that are very disconcerting: the secrecy surrounding the governmental administration of finances, the involvement of public officials in drug trafficking, and additional cases that reveal the negligence and inefficiency of the Honduran system of justice. We live in a Honduras where the lack of trust in the justice system leads to desperation and pushes citizens to take justice into their own hands. Corruption is seen as a sin of the government, but we need to recognize that personal and collective corruption feeds into governmental corruption. We live in a Honduras where the Constitution and laws are continually and openly disobeyed by authorities and citizens alike. This has produced a weakened and corrupt government that lacks any credibility. We are concerned that our country is ungovernable. Our democratic institutions have become progressively weakened. The independence of governmental powers (executive, legislative, and judicial) has been lost and they are under the control of powerful groups of people.

The new generations of politicians are being formed in an environment where respect for the law is quite relative and this is quite serious. We live in a Honduras where citizens are being repressed.  They get treated with a disproportionate violence by governmental institutions when they protest against what they consider to be a violation of the Constitution and fraudulent disrespect of their vote. The chronic crisis that we experience has become extraordinarily worse due to the questionable results of recent elections and by the generalized perception of vote fraud (Psalm 101:7). This has led to an indignant reaction by broad sectors of the society that have chosen to practice civil disobedience and even insurrection. It is disconcerting that no respected national mediators have emerged, those who could call for a true dialogue that would result in believable agreements that would help stabilize our country.

THE CHURCH THAT WE HAVE BEEN FOR HONDURAS

We recognize that we Protestants have developed many service projects intended for the poor and vulnerable. Nevertheless, we have not fulfilled our duty of requiring the government to assume responsibility for its own destructive actions that have led to poverty and injustice. We recognize that we Christians have not been properly taught about the correct exercise of power. In general, we have lived an “escapist” kind of Christianity, hiding behind Biblical verses taken out of context. We have forgotten that although Christians have duties like respecting and praying for government authorities, they are also called to demand that those authorities govern with justice, righteousness and goodness (Romans 13). We acknowledge that many Protestant Christians have become involved in Honduran politics in the last decades, but we also recognize that they have done so without adequate preparation, without making much improvement, and they have confused politics, partisanship, and the Kingdom of God. Confusion and distortion regarding these three spheres have happened due to a reading of Scripture with biased lenses about the Church, society and citizenship and have resulted in a type of participation in society that is shameful. Recent experiences have given us examples of Protestant groups and individuals that have obtained positions of power but have left bad testimony because they have been involved in political cronyism and influence peddling. We recognize that we Christians need to deepen our responsibility to society, but without losing our senses and our firm resistance of evil (Habakkuk 1:2-4). Before we become seduced (by power), we need to remember that the true power of the Church is in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and not primarily when church members obtain governmental power. We have seen, with sadness, that when we seek power, we really lose it. We are convinced that the teaching of Jesus should lead us to transform our society with the power of love and we should avoid the temptation of the love of power. We are ashamed that in the recent elections, self-proclaimed “prophets” have arisen who have predicted who would win the elections, but they predicted different winners.[5] As we study the Holy Scriptures, we discover that the role of prophets goes much deeper than predicting the future; their role consists of denouncing evil, demanding justice, calling the people and their leaders to give God and his commandments first place in their lives. The Biblical prophets also reminded the governing authorities not to abuse their power. “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humblywith your God” is what God has told us through his prophets (Micah 6:8). It is necessary to exercise discernment with these contemporary “prophets”, that are so abundant today and evaluate them according to the Holy Scriptures that show us how to distinguish true prophets from false ones.

WE ASK FOR FORGIVENESS AND WE RECOMMIT OURSELVES TO OUR MISSION

As Protestant Christians we ask for forgiveness from our fellow Hondurans, because we also have been responsible for corruption through our actions and our failures to act. To know what is right and not to do it is also sin. We have allowed the seduction of power and access to government subsidies to damage our prophetic function and our independent moral voice. Given our past, we have lost the opportunity to be instruments of peace and mediation. With humility we recommit ourselves to our calling to pray, reflect and act for the common good of our country. We do not only aspire to “peace”, but we do commit ourselves to promote justice. Isaiah 32:17 reminds us that “the fruit of justice is peace”,[6] and as citizens we are called to promote both in a holistic way. We should do this according to ethical and spiritual principles that guide us to overcome (the all too common) confusion, hate, despair, political opportunism and personal ambition.

WE CALL FOR CHANGE IN THE CHURCH AND FOR THE REBUILDING OF HONDURAS

  1. Let’s promote and live out our ethical ideals in both our church and public citizen contexts. The Christian mission is countercultural, because in a country in crisis, it is necessary to build a culture of values, peace, justice, honesty, legality and solidarity. These values include serving those in need and this service should be encouraged and put into practice by the church. We should not grow weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9).
  2. Let fight against corruption and impunity. Christians, wherever they are, should begin to break the chains of corruption. Our message and our lives should be consistent with honesty and righteousness, whatever the cost. In addition, the true prophetic work of the church is to denounce injustice, lies and evil, wherever they are, at both the individual level as well as in structures. Let’s imitate the mission of the ancient prophets of God, who challenged the acts of corruption that happened in places of power and in spaces of religion (Isaiah 33:15-16). Our role is to announce God’s call to repent of the sin of corruption and injustice. Today, more than ever, as a church we need to announce the good news of salvation (I Peter 2:9-10) and to denounce everything that goes against the principles and values of the Kingdom of God and his justice (Matthew 6:33; Micah 6:8).
  3. Let’s rebuild the institutional structures of society. We frequently hear that we should submit ourselves to the earthly authorities because they are instituted by God (Romans 13), but we don’t usually read the entire message within its context, which calls us to build a society that has good government because its institutions are just. The citizen should respect authorities, obey laws, work and pay taxes; but, on the other hand, the governing authorities need to obey the laws and make sure that they are obeyed, punishing evil and rewarding that which is good. Therefore, it is necessary to distinguish the functions of the Church from those of the government. Both are called to cooperate for the common good but maintaining a clear separation. Christian people and leaders are called to develop an incidence in society with integrity, independence and with a message and action to guide people from crisis to hope.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

(Jesus in Matthew 5:6-10)

Tegucigalpa, Honduras, January 25, 2018 https://www.facebook.com/FraternidadTeologica/


[1] This is a preliminary translation into English by Lindy Scott.

[2] Translator´s note – In the original Spanish version, the word that is used is ¨evangélico¨. Generally, this word in the Spanish speaking world refers to almost all Protestant groups. As such, ¨Protestant¨ is probably a slightly better translation than ¨Evangelical¨ (which is a translation that would too restrictive) or ¨Christian¨ (too broad).

[3] Sicariato = the hiring of a hitman to kill someone.

[4] Maras = a powerful, international gang that operates throughout Central America and in certain areas of the United States.

[5] Translator’s note – The Declaration makes reference to contemporary “Prophets” who claim to have a large amount of authority because they are the voice of God in a special way. This is a fairly recent phenomenon that has emerged primarily in some expressions of Neo-Pentecostalism in Latin America and around the world. Although these Prophets have large followings, there are many valid criticisms against them and their abuses, like the ones mentioned in the Declaration.

[6] Translator’s note. The Greek word “dikaiosune” is usually translated as “justicia” in Spanish versions of the Bible, but as “righteousness” in many English versions (Matthew 6:33). Although “righteousness” used to have a social justice meaning (as utilized by Abraham Lincoln to refer to the emancipation of slaves), it has become excessively individualistic in modern English. “Justice” would be a more faithful rendering of the original Greek into English today.

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