El Progreso, Honduras, September 17-21 2018
We were 17 social and international delegates, meeting across borders, including from the Antilles, Mexico, Central America, US and Canada. Our number included Rafael Moreno, coordinator of Justice and Ecology for CPAL and Xavier Jeyaraj, secretary for the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat in Rome. Several times, we had the presence of Padre Melo, Yolanda Gonzalez and Pedro Landa of ERIC/Radio Progreso.
The situation in Honduras remains tense following fraudulent elections in November 2017. Radio Progreso, an outspoken critic of the government’s corruption has been under considerable external pressure yet nevertheless, continues to broadcast around the clock and reach the most remote places with news, songs, reflections, and interviews. All the other stations and media are controlled by the government and stream social/political propaganda.
ERIC (Reflection, Research and Communication Team) and Radio Progreso are doing extraordinary work and project a passion for life and justice, raising awareness among the people and the international community. One example of the work we saw happening came from a group of local activists working in their communities to try and change the lived realities so that the youth of the community don’t feel that they have to migrate to have a future.
Our Conference’s Office of Justice and Ecology and the Social Ministries Assistants met with its expanded group in Honduras to be present and give witness for our friends at ERIC/Radio Progreso and Padre Melo, the director, who has been the subject of a very disturbing public defamation campaign.
The meeting followed up on a larger session held in Santo Domingo in 2016. Our aim is to build relationships and find ways to collaborate for greater impact. We revisited the key themes of Santo Domingo: inequality / migration / ecology and extractive industries / violence. We recognized the follow up, including solidarity and advocacy on Honduras, the Campaign for Hospitality and other actions. We took time to reflect together and identify ecology/ extractive industries and migration/refugees as themes on which we hope to have more focussed collaboration.
Regarding the two themes, we decided to narrow our focus for collaboration to ecology, with a particular focus on mining, given the prevalence of mining companies, most of which are Canadian, creating environmental destruction and causing conflict and violence, with serious damage to local communities, including health, housing, breakdown of families and much more. The issue of refugees and migrants has been a key concern for the Society of Jesus (ex: Campaign for Hospitality) and remains a major focus for the Americas. The hope is that we might find ways to collaborate on these two themes in order to have greater impact.
We also discussed was the Jubilee Anniversary of the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat, founded by Pedro Arrupe sj in 1969. A process of renewal and recommitment is being planned through the coming year at all levels of the Society. This process will be linked to the Universal Apostolic Preferences and discerning how these will be brought into our work.
The meeting in Honduras was a chance to deepen existing relationships for shared understanding and to enable ease of communication and therefore partnership. I found the week to be intense, yet inspiring, overwhelming in terms of challenges, yet hopeful in terms of seeing lights on pathways to joint actions and solidarity.