We are now several weeks into Lent and will soon be preparing for Easter. The end of Lent also marks that time when we prepare to return our Trócaire boxes to our parishes, make a final push in our schools to raise those vital last few pounds and consider adding to our contribution by signing the tab on the box for Gift Aid or perhaps even sign up for a Direct Debit.
The purpose of these articles during in March and April has been to give you a flavour of Trócaire's work in this year's country of focus, Honduras, and also on the issue of Climate Change which is the cause of so many of the problems faced by the poorest communities both in Honduras and around the world. At this time we also need to focus on the rapidly deteriorating situation of Famine in Somalia and South Sudan caused by a combination of Climate Change and violent conflict. Be assured that your financial assistance and your prayer are going a long way to help people like those in Honduras you are about to read about in the second part of this diary of my journey last November across Honduras.
DAY FOUR- MONDAY NOVEMBER 7th 2016
Today we drove to the community of San Juan Pueblo and met members of a local advocacy group from various communities supported by Trócaire. The group campaign against corruption in public life and in support of communities who are trying to prevent the development of numerous Hydro electric damns and mining in their communities. It was inspiring to see their courage in the face of threats to their lives from hit men working on behalf of the local business tycoons while the authorities turning a blind eye, because many of them have been bribed to do so and thus are part of the corruption. We visited their health clinic based in the parish which provided natural Mede Ines to the locals and then saw their own radio station, Radio Dignidad, which gets their message out to the locality. We then travelled back to the capital Tegucigalpa.
DAY FIVE- TUESDAY NOVEMBER 8th 2016
Today we journeyed south to the south west of Honduras and made our way to the peninsula of Zacate Grande and met the various communities whose lands along the Pacific coast are being stolen by the major business families who run Honduras. The campesinos(farmers) and pescadores(fishermen) are being evicted and then jailed when they resist or try to seek redress judicially and are also threatened.
Why this peninsula? Because it sits in the Gulf of Fonseca leading into the Pacific Ocean and is a beautiful and glorious place. The rich want it as their play ground. The locals have lived here for many many generations.
As we journeyed by boat out into the Gulf of Fonseca we were able to view the Nicaraguan coast on one side and on the other El Salvador. On our trip around the Gulf by boat we could view the holiday homes built by the leading families of Honduras including the President and other places where they wish to evict the local people from. The attempts to clear the land continues.
The locals have organised themselves to defend their land and to try to have sustainable development and community based tourism. Legal attempts are being made to hold them at bay but corruption in the police, judiciary and political world make it difficult for the locals to get justice. It is difficult to get lawyers for their case as they are afraid to be involved. Trocaire support the local campaign group and assist them with legal representation.
We also visited the radio project run by the youth of the community to help keep the communities informed of abuses taking place.
DAY SIX- WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 9th 2016
Having overnighted in Choluteca and witnessed on CNN Espanol the election of Donald Trump as President we began our work today in the morning visiting in the town with a group called The Association of Women Defenders of Life and the Committee for the Defence of Nature both partner organisations with Trócaire.
They are involved in a wide variety of projects. Primarily they are trying to prevent violence against women, educating both men and women and also youths in schools. They are trying also to bring an end to impunity for perpetrators, therefore needing to work with police, judges and prosecutors where some progress has been made.
This group also works on supporting Food Security. We were shown the Solar Oven which the women themselves help build. They work for Nutrition for under 5s and also In support of community struggling to protect their Natural Resources like rivers from the threats of Hydro-electric dams and against unbridled development of mining.
In the afternoon we met women in the neighbourhood of Carmen 3 where a Trócaire supported project is working to diversify the harvest to things like cucumber, beans, corn, pumpkin and other vegetables. 14 women work on this project. There are 10 such groups covering 179 families. The women were very grateful for the support of Trócaire. There are both family and collective fields. Back to Tegucigalpa again.
DAY SEVEN-THURSDAY NOVEMBER 10th 2016
Last morning in Honduras. On the way to the airport we stopped off in a little church firstly where I lit a candle for the intention of all my friends and family. We then went over to the nearby Basilica in Honour of Our Lady of Suyapa. As always the reality is not far away with the beauty of the Basilica contrasting with the barrios a few yards away with houses perched in the edge of hills, tightly packed together. It was a timely reminder why we came here with Trocaire in the first place to help in the efforts to bring about a more just world. It was without doubt both a truly memorable and chastening experience!
Finally as Easter approaches may we all keep in mind those who struggle from day to day to feed and clothe their families on every continent of the globe. We pray that the struggle for a more just world may continue and hat we may not turn a blind eye to it.
We pray in the words of Pope Francis
O Lord, seize us with your power and light,
help us to protect all life,
to prepare for a better future,
for the coming of your Kingdom
of justice, peace, love and beauty.
Praise be to you!
Amen. (Pope Francis-Laudato Si 246)