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Fifty years, fifty countries: Honduras

The Central American nation of Honduras is known for its rich natural resources, including vast swathes of magnificent forest. However, years of military rule, corruption, inequality, violent crime and natural disasters have made Honduras one of the most dangerous, and least developed countries in Central America.

Cheryl Bannatyne | 11 May 2018

Palm trees

  Cheryl Bannatyne

Cheryl is a copywriter for Tearfund where she gets to share the great stories of lives being transformed around the world.

To mark 50 years of Tearfund, we’re sharing about 50 countries where we’ve worked, celebrating God’s provision and power to transform, and praying for each of these nations. This week we’re in Honduras.

The Central American nation of Honduras is known for its rich natural resources, including vast swathes of magnificent forest. However, years of military rule, corruption, inequality, violent crime and natural disasters have made Honduras one of the most dangerous, and least developed countries in Central America.

Tearfund began working in Honduras in the 1970s, in response to hurricanes and the flight of refugees from neighbouring civil wars. In the 1990s one of the key areas of work was in the fight for the land rights of the indigenous Miskito people.

A right to land
The leaders of the Miskito were lobbying the government for land rights to protect their lifestyle and environment. Tearfund’s partner MOPAWI (Agency for the Development of the Mosquitia) and our supporters joined them in their fight. A logging agreement in 1991 and plans for a hydro-electric dam in 1998 were both overturned.

Osvaldo Munguía, Director of MOPAWI, has lobbied, persuaded and prayed for his people for three decades, despite many challenges to his own safety. Since 2012, 10,000 square kilometres have been given to the indigenous people of La Mosquitia.

‘When we started, things seemed to be so hard that I was convinced I would not see the results,’ says Osvaldo. ‘I am so privileged that God has kept me here to see with my own eyes the results of all those efforts.’

Together with our local partners, we remain committed to strengthening marginalised communities, addressing environmental issues, training and equipping local churches to tackle local problems (especially access to healthcare), and advocating for land rights, in particular for indigenous peoples.

Tackling violence
However, a new issue has developed. A culture of violence has dominated much of Honduras, and indeed Central American society in recent years. A UN report released in 2014 determined that Honduras had the highest homicide rate in the world.

This is in large part due to the presence of drug trafficking and youth gangs or 'maras', but there’s a bigger picture.

‘It’s a complicated situation,’ explains Alexis Pacheco, who leads Tearfund’s work in Central America. ‘During the civil wars in the region many escaped to the US, but in the ‘90s large numbers were deported back. Many of these young people had never even lived in Honduras and found themselves surviving in the slums, using the skills they had learned in gangs in the US.’

Add to this high unemployment, corruption – even in the church – the disintegration of families and the insufficient law enforcement resources, and violence has become endemic.

‘The community was not well-prepared to face this level of violence,’ says Alexis. ‘As a pastor said to me some weeks ago, "No theological school taught me how to face the trauma." How do you minister to a family whose son is murdered?’

But there are churches reaching out into the poorest areas, and this gives Alexis great hope for his nation.

‘I feel very happy that some churches start to take practical action to protect young people; to teach and share, to give spaces of protection and spaces to deal with trauma, and to create hope. One of my heroes is called Pastor Mario – together with his church they decided to work with the youth. His weapons are his Bible and his faith, and with them he is facing the trauma and bringing solutions.’

Please pray:

If you'd like to know more please visit our Honduras page. And if you've missed any other articles in this series you can find them here.

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