Waking Up in Honduras

January 22, 2016

By Sister Deborah Kern

Members of the delegation to Honduras with youth from Casa Alianza, a program that works with youth on the streets.

Members of the delegation to Honduras with youth from Casa Alianza, a program that works with youth on the streets.

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.   

Sister Rose Marie Tresp; Berta Oliva, director of COFADEH (a human rights organization in Honduras); and Sister Deborah Kern.

Sister Rose Marie Tresp; Berta Oliva, director of COFADEH (a human rights organization in Honduras); and Sister Deborah Kern.

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?

Sister Deborah (far left) and Jean Stokan (far right), a member of the Institute Justice Team, with two labor leaders who have received death threats associated with their work organizing banana workers.

Sister Deborah (far left) and Jean Stokan (far right), a member of the Institute Justice Team, with two labor leaders who have received death threats associated with their work organizing banana workers.

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?

The delegation visited a memorial wall for victims of the violence in Honduras since the 1980s.

The delegation visited a memorial wall for victims of the violence in Honduras since the 1980s.

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.

Read more about the delegation to Honduras.

Comments (7)

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  1. Mary Anhne Poeschl

    Thanks for risking being changed and sharing your journey with us. What are we going to do with the experience?


  2. Pat Rooney

    I have been waiting to hear about your trip. A beautiful sad story. Let’s hope more people become awake and the atrocities come to an end. Thank you for sharing. Hope we can hear more of your stories and experiences soon. Pat


  3. Mary Waskowiak

    Dear Deb –
    thank you for your words and for inspiring and inviting me to WAKE UP and STAY AWAKE in solidarity with so many.

  4. Pingback: PROAH acompaña a una delegación de Hermanas de la Misericordia en Honduras | Proyecto de Acompañamiento Internacional en Honduras


  5. Cynthia

    Deb, I am so touched by your closing comment. It’s a wonderful image to keep before us as we try to stay awake. Thank you!

  6. Pingback: PROAH accompanies delegation of Sisters of Mercy to Honduras | Honduras Accompaniment Project


  7. Kathy Sisson

    Your words are very powerful and I am touched by them. Thank you.