The Return: What Have I Learned?

by Thomas Chaw, delegation member

Now that I have had a chance to rest and recuperate, I would like to express my gratitude for having had the opportunity to participate in the Pilgrimage to Honduras, Root Causes 2019.  It was an experience I will not forget.  I am grateful for all the organizational efficiency and hard work that went into ensuring our safety, transport, and nourishment, physical as well as intellectual.  I am grateful for having had the opportunity to meet and converse with the people from various communities as well as the children of Honduras.  It was a learning experience of a lifetime for me. 

What did I learn and how did it change me?

I learned that the Honduran people are more than what our politicians tell me and more than what I have so far heard from our national news networks.

I learned that Hondurans are more than an “immigration problem” and “illegal migrants” “invading our border” as the President demagogues daily. 

I learned that Hondurans cherish their land, the water and the rich natural resources which includes their children for whom they want to preserve the integrity and sustainability of those natural resources, as an heirloom to be passed on to the the next generation.

I learned that there are many barriers and obstacles, foreign and domestic, preventing Hondurans from fulfilling their dream of staying close to their land.

I learned that Hondurans are worried about the foreclosure of the possibility of providing for their children a reasonable life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 
Looking into the eyes of their children, there’s incredible courage, spirit, and resilience despite incredible odds. I immediately fell in love.

Nevertheless, the mothers and fathers of these incredible children are constantly haunted by the insecurity of daily threats to their personal safety as well as their children’s.  These threats come in the forms of intimidation, assassinations, and evictions, on top of existing structural deprivations of healthcare, education, and nourishment.
I learned that these threats to their security are made possible by American weapons and our government’s military fund transfers to the Honduran government.  I learned that Honduran parents do not “choose” to migrate north.  I learned that they are forced to do so, when they weigh the risk of arrest and deportation, or worse, the terror of their children separated from their parents, to be locked up in ICE cages– against the more terrifying security risk of being stabbed or shot by street criminals and extortionists, or detained and “disappeared” by police and soldiers.

So what am I going to commit myself to, having learned all these things?

That is a huge question and a huge responsibility.
I will begin by simply speaking the truth.  To my family, to my co-workers, to my congregation, to my community, and to my representatives.
I will begin by testifying that the problems didn’t begin at the southern U.S. border when it was crossed.  The crisis began when Hondurans were crossed by the border.  In other words, the  border “breach” and “invasion” left out of the discussion is the Honduran border.

The root cause of the crisis began when foreign multi-national corporations entered into Honduras, with the ambition of securing  huge profits by exploiting Honduras’ natural resources, only after securing contracts signed with Honduras’ military government, whose security and control are derived through American military funding.

I agree with President Trump that the public-safety concerns of “crime” and “violence” is relevant to any discussion of caravans.  The crimes against Honduran citizens and the violence which accompany those crimes is off the charts and should be a ‘national-emergency’ for US, simply because these weapons are OUR weapons.  They are at the root of of this violence.

As an American citizen, I am committed to participate in efforts to get our representatives to support measures to monitor and mitigate that violence by ultimately ending American tax-dollar support earmarked for weapons transfers to be redirected towards housing, food, and healthcare for immediate humanitarian relief in these communities on ground.  It is not charity.  It is a debt.

I will commit myself to taking a cue from the communities of Honduras to end the epidemic of violence by searching for other non-violent solutions to eradicate the root-causes of that violence.

I pledge to take their example, as described in the 2019 Root-Causes Pilgrimage return and update:

“Local Honduran communities living with unimaginable danger have the creative imagination and the courage to believe 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. ” 

I believe it is an example worth replicating.  Because it is based on love and hope.  Not hate and violence.  I pledge to walk in that shadow.

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