Events to Raise Awareness about Honduras and El Salvador
“The people of Central America (including El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras) face extreme hardship in our 21st Century world,” says Joan Williams, OP. “It’s up to us, those who have a voice, to speak out against systemic political, economic, and social injustice.”
In March, the Dominican Sisters~Grand Rapids are working to raise awareness about Central America, specifically Honduras and El Salvador.
This month, Dominican Center at Marywood prepares to welcome Bishop Oswald Escobar Aguilar, OCD from El Salvador to West Michigan. At the same time, Sister Joan, a Grand Rapids Dominican Sister, is packing for the Interfaith Root Causes Pilgrimage to Honduras.
Both actions are timed during the 39th anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint Oscar Romero to raise awareness about violence, repression, and economic instability in Central America.
“Bishop Escobar Aguilar’s heart was moved by Romero’s passion and courage to speak truth to power despite the dangers which ultimately cost Romero his life,” says Margarita Solis-Deal, director of Dominican Center at Marywood. “Rooted in Catholic Social Teaching, Bishop Escobar Aguilar is a witness to the people of Central America and walks in union with them and advocates on their behalf as their voices are often unheard and their situations overlooked.”
Knowing of the struggles of the people of Central America, we will learn how the life of Saint Oscar Romero continues to be relevant in our world today, especially in relation to migration and immigration. The public is invited to meet and hear from Bishop Escobar Aguilar of Chalatenango El Salvador on Saturday, March 16 from 8:30 – 11:30 am at Dominican Center at Marywood. This and other programs are being hosted by Dominican Center at Marywood, the Grand Rapids Diocese, and the Catholic Information Center. On Sunday, March 17, beginning at noon, the public is invited to the Spanish Mass at the Cathedral of St. Andrew, followed by a reception. Bishop Escobar Aguilar will preside during the Mass. Translators will be present.
Sister Joan Williams is joining a delegation to Honduras March 14-25. The interfaith delegation hosted by the Salvadoran Humanitarian Aid, Research and Education Foundation (SHARE), will study root causes of migration. According to SHARE, “Our hope for the delegation is also to deepen bonds of solidarity with Honduras and, in particular, to offer the visit as a gesture of international accompaniment.”
Members of the delegation will shine a light on the factors that compel individuals to leave their homes in desperate search for protection and survival across borders. During the week, participants will also reflect on St. Romero’s message and its context in Honduras today.
“All people are sacred across all borders. Compassion knows no borders and love has no walls. The Interfaith Root Causes Pilgrimage is symbolic of these values,” says Sister Joan. “We walk in solidarity with our brothers and sisters wherever we encounter one another. During this week, we will walk with our Honduran brothers and sisters, across cultures, languages, and beliefs. We share one common identity of being human, made in the image of our Creator, with a need to be loved and love.”
This focus on the people of Central America isn’t new to the Dominican Sisters~Grand Rapids.
Sister Joan lived and served in San Pedro Sula for 19 years before returning to the United States two years ago this month. She provided theological pastoral formation, accompanied men and women in prison, and provided HIV education and support to multiple families who had children HIV+. She has witnessed the horrific violence, repression, and economic instability that force people to flee their homes and face the knowns of migration across borders around the world.
Salvadoran Humanitarian Aid, Research and Education Foundation (SHARE) was founded in 1981 in Washington, DC. Their goal is to empower marginalized and impoverished Salvadoran communities in their efforts to both meet their immediate needs and to construct long-term, sustainable solutions to the problems of poverty, underdevelopment and social injustice.
Initiatives vary from empowering young leaders in El Salvador to teaching women sustainable farming techniques to working with Salvadoran Hometown Associations to educating people in the United States about the effects of US foreign policy, SHARE work touches countless individuals, communities, and organizations. SHARE’s Major Delegations (El Salvador and Honduras) are a unique opportunity to walk with Salvadorans and people of other regions in Central America as they remember their past and face current struggles. Delegates learn first-hand about history, present challenges, and hopes for the future while building relationships with people, communities and organizations working for change.
FEATURE PHOTO Credit: Joan Williams, OP
Joan Williams, OP was present for the March 3, 2016 funeral of BERTA CÁCERES. The human rights leader was murdered for advocating for the rights of the indigenous peoples and protecting the environment. According to SHARE, this criminalization of human rights defenders is consistent with a long history of violent repression by state and private businesses working together in the Bajo Aguán. Between 2010 and 2014, over 100 agrarian reform cooperative leaders and members were killed as they demanded return of stolen land, illegally held by palm oil corporations. A Dignity Camp hosted by members of the Guapinól community to protect against the contamination of their drinking supply was violently evicted twice, by hundreds of police and military officers. The Guapinól 12 have been wrongfully accused of initiating the violence – and now face “preventative detention” requiring them to remain in detention until the trial occurs, which can take up to two and a half years. Additionally they are being denied due process by being tried in a special “terrorism court” outside the regular legal system.
Learn about the people and country of Honduras. Learn what causes people to flee their home countries, and what local Honduran communities living with unimaginable danger are doing through belief in the power of nonviolent action. We are humbled to be in solidarity with them and to help raise the volume of their strong voices.
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