In 2005, I had the chance to visit the tomb of Monseñor Archbishop Romero at the Metropolitan Cathedral in San Salvador and sit and pray in the chapel at the hospital where the Monseñor was presiding over mass when he was assassinated in 1980. We were visiting around the 25th anniversary of his martyrdom and at least a decade has since passed. He was killed for presiding, advocating, preaching, demanding publicly that the violence and repression and killings stop and that peace and the causes of justice take their place. As a long-time student of the region and now clergy, Romero’s witness and example have long challenged and inspired me.
And many other names should be spoken too: Martin Luther King, Jr, Father Stan Rother, Ita Ford, Maura Clark, Jean Donovan, Dorothy Kazel. Father Rutilio Grande. There are so many to name. These are just a few whose stories have influenced and formed my work. These people teach me that it is risky around the world to preach the truth, demand justice, and speak truth to power.
It’s been many years since I’ve traveled in Central America. My accompaniment and partnership work focuses mostly on Colombia now. A few weeks ago I got an email from a Jesuit priest in Honduras and some of his partner organizations that I could not ignore: Come. Come to Honduras. We need your presence, your eyes and ears. We need faith leaders and the world to pay attention. The presidential inauguration is coming up and we don’t know what will happen.
Indeed, the priest and many Hondurans have been hard at work defending the people and the causes of justice since last November’s fraudulent presidential election and long before that. I had been watching the news since the Honduran presidential election with anger and a broken heart. A country that had been struggling to move forward saw further violent repression and harsh response from the government towards citizens who dare to call for justice and transparency.
“We need you to organize delegations that come to accompany us, to witness what is happening here and to share it with the world. Together we can make a difference.”
So, it is to accompany and to witness that I and forty other faith leaders from North and South America will be traveling to Honduras next week. Many Hondurans have long committed to the important causes of peacemaking and justice. Recently, this has meant greater risk, violence, and about thirty deaths in the post-election violence. The Jesuit father who wrote us has been receiving death threats. A radio station he works with sabotaged and its transmission tower destroyed since the election. We cannot ignore this critical moment. Similar to the accompaniment we do in Colombia, we go hoping that the work we do together will have a better chance of succeeding with all people remaining safe in the process.
We go to accompany. We go to listen and bring back stories that have been silenced. We go to witness and stand beside.