Honduran BIC churches persevere despite political uncertainty

GRANTHAM, Pa. (July 22, 2009)—The June 28 military coup that deposed Honduran president Manuel Zelaya and installed an interim government has “caused all the churches [in the country]—Catholic, Evangelical, and Jewish churches—to come together to pray for peace,” says Cathy Bert, a Brethren in Christ World Missions (BICWM) missionary stationed in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa.

“Some churches have started an around-the-clock prayer time for this situation,” adds Cathy. “The Evangelical church in general has called for 21 days of fasting. Last week in San Pedro Sula, the second biggest city in Honduras, the Evangelical church had a march for peace.”

Peace is much needed in the country, where political uncertainty has continued to grow in the almost four weeks since Zelaya’s unexpected overthrow.

While the ousted leader—working from the neighboring country of Costa Rica, where the Honduran military exiled him after forcing him from his home—has continued to challenge his removal, the interim government has asserted its right to power and has refused to grant Zelaya’s return.

Peace talks between the opposing factions broke down in early July, as did follow-up talks a week later. The Costa Rican officials who moderated the early talks have arranged another round of negotiations beginning July 22, but Zelaya’s representatives have refused to meet with interim government leaders, according to a BBC News report.

christian_home

On June 28, members of a Mechanisburg (Pa.) Brethren in

Christ Church youth missions team snapped this grainy photo

of activists driving through the streets of Tegucigalpa,

peacefully protesting the military coup that deposed

president Manuel Zelaya.

Despite these complications and reports of widespread violence from international news outlets, Cathy says that day-to-day life in the country has remained relatively unaffected.

“We praise God because there has been very little violence here in the country, regardless of what US newspapers and cable channels are reporting,” she says. She identifies a clash between pro- and anti-Zelaya forces at an airport on July 5 (which, according to BBC News, left one Honduran dead) but suggests that this kind of activity has not been the norm.

“We have not been afraid to go out into the town,” she says. “Stores, banks, and businesses have been open as usual. There is a curfew but it's late at night and so doesn't affect most people.  People have been saying that crime has been 70 percent [lower] since the curfew took effect. That is good.”

She notes, however, that the conflict between pro- and anti-Zelaya factions has entered into churches, causing “major divisions in congregations.”

“In one of our BIC churches, a person was praying for the leaders of the interim government,” she recounts. “Other members of the congregation were upset and complained to the pastor.” Cathy says that such delicate situations will require much wisdom on the part of church leaders.

But, Cathy reports, in the midst of such division, churches remain focused on meeting felt needs.

“Some churches are already beginning programs to feed hungry people,” she says, noting that the programs are a response to news that the United States— Honduras’ largest trade partner—is considering economic sanctions against the interim government, which the U.S. views as unconstitutional.

The European Union has already frozen €65 million ($92 million) in development aid for Honduras and has threatened further steps.

Such measures will only weaken Honduras’ already fragile economy, experts say. Cathy notes that, given the persistent problems with negotiations between Zelaya and the new leaders, such measures may not let up any time soon.

"Economically, it will probably get difficult until elections are held in November,” she estimates.

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