In Dec. 2016, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity led a third delegation of religious leaders to Central America to listen, witness and better understand the root causes of migration as a response to the increasing flow of migrant youth and families from Central America since 2014. A primary goal was to investigate more deeply beyond the simple reasons of “violence and poverty,” to get at the root causes, and to hear proposed solutions from the Honduran social movement. Our 10-day delegation consisted of 13 persons from California, Illinois, New York, Washington DC and Canada, representing the United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Unitarian Universalists, Sisters of St. Joseph and other Roman Catholics.
We met with organizations fighting the underlying causes of migration, and an organization searching for family members disappeared on the migrant trail. We witnessed the daily return of hundreds of Hondurans by plane from the U.S. and met with an organization providing support and job training to those who have been deported back to Honduras. We met with communities of subsistence farmers and indigenous Lenca and Garifuna communities fighting the theft of their lands and extraction of their natural resources, and, as a result, facing targeted threats and assassinations of their leaders. The violence and displacement has greatly increased since the 2009 coup. We met the mother of assassinated leader, Berta Caceres, and garment factory union leaders fighting for safe working conditions and a livable wage. We were expertly guided by the Jesuit organization, Radio Progreso/ERIC, celebrating its 60th Anniversary.
We observed that Honduras is rich in natural resources, but the vast majority of Honduran people are being impoverished by deliberate policies. We were surprised to learn that the problem of gangs is not a root cause in itself, but is enabled by a climate of impunity and corruption. Gangs committing extortions and violence are the foot soldiers of drug cartels complicit with the highest levels of Honduran government and elites.