I spent much of the summer of 2006 visiting seven countries in Latin America with theologian Rene Padilla (integral-mission.org). Among the highlights of the trip was my time in Honduras, including a stay with Kurt Ver Beek and his beautiful family. They live among the poor in Honduras and work with the Association for a More Just Society (AJS). This is a Christian ministry that aims to promote justice for the poor - a work close to the heart of God.
I just heard the news that Dionisio Diaz, a lawyer from AJS who worked to defend the rights of poor workers, was shot to death last week. He was killed Monday morning, apparently in retaliation for his efforts to provide legal services to poor security guards whose labor rights had been violated. His colleague Carlos Hernandez, president of the AJS board, then received a death threat, telling him he would be next.
This news hits home because when I was there this summer, Carlos gave Rene and I a walking tour of the poor community in Tegucigalpa where his family and Kurt's family both live. I also visited the AJS offices and met the courageous staff, who told me that they lived with danger on a daily basis because of their work against the corruption and injustice that keep so many in poverty.
I will never forget the people I met during my trip, and the good work they are doing with and on behalf of the poor.
But good work that brings justice for some frequently exposes the injustice of others in the process, and that can bring frightening consequences. As I prepare for Christmas this season, I will be thinking about how that little baby in the manger would grow up to become a man who - like Dionisios, like Carlos and Kurt and their colleagues - would bring good news for the poor and oppressed, which comes as bad news for those hell-bent on injustice and oppression. If you would like to take some concrete action in response to this situation, you can:
1. Pray for AJS, its workers, board of directors, and their families.
2. Visit www.ajshonduras.org/dionisio. From this page you can send emails to Honduran and U.S. officials and donate to support Dionisio's family and the ongoing work of promoting labor rights for poor Hondurans.
3. Tell friends, family, and media about this case. Thanks. I know that everyone is busy, but just by taking a few minutes, you can be of practical help in the struggle against injustice in a needy part of the world, among people I consider friends. Doing so is, in a very real way, an expression of the true Christmas spirit.