Cáceres' family and other activists fear the Honduran government may be too close to interests that persecuted Berta to properly investigate the murder.
THE WORD MARTYR means “witness.” In times past, it meant dying for one’s beliefs; but increasingly it means dying for one’s faith because of justice.
On March 3, Honduran Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres was brutally murdered in her home. As co-founder of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, Cáceres had led the Lenca Indigenous communities in a nonviolent struggle to defend the sacred lands, forests, and water that her people have protected for generations.
She was beloved by many around the world for her extraordinary leadership on the environment, recognized in 2015 when she received the Goldman Environmental Prize for “sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk.” Her assassination sparked a global outcry, including a demand from the Vatican for an independent investigation into her death.
Cáceres’s life and death is a witness to what Pope Francis calls “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” Her martyrdom embodies the intimate connection between creation justice and social justice for the poor that is at the heart of Francis’ recent encyclical on the environment.
The deadly environment for activists is closely tied to recent Honduran history. Following the 2009 coup, in which democratically-elected Honduran president Manuel Zelaya was deposed, the new government declared Honduras “open for business” and granted profitable contracts to transnational companies looking to capitalize on Honduran natural resources — including resources on indigenous land. When leaders like Cáceres demanded the rights guaranteed to indigenous people by the U.N and the International Labor Convention — including the right to determine how indigenous land is used — it wasn’t great for business. The death threats followed.
The world-renowned leader of an environmental and indigenous rights group in Honduras has been killed. Berta Cáceres, General Coordinator of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), won the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015 for her work organizing indigenous Hondurans to successfully block the construction of the Agua Zarca Dam. Late on the night of March 2, two unidentified individuals broke down the door of the house where Cáceres was staying, shot, and killed her.
“We should never talk about ‘therapeutic’ abortion,” the cardinal said in his homily, according to Honduran media reports.
“Therapeutic abortion doesn’t exist,” he said. “Therapeutic means curing, and abortion cures nothing. It takes innocent lives.”
This new hymn is inspired by the crisis in Central America that has caused over 70,000 children to take the dangerous journey to the United States in recent months. Carolyn Winfrey Gillette has led many mission trips to Honduras for the past sixteen years. The brother of a child that Carolyn sponsored in Honduras was recently killed there.
The hymn’s reference to “On one boy’s belt, a number carved in leather” is from a news report ("Boy's Death Draws Attention Immigration Perils") of a body of a dead child found with his brother’s phone number on his belt.
“As angry crowds are shouting, “Go away!” comes from the news reports of Americans yelling at the detained children on buses in Murrieta, California. Jim Wallis of Sojourners reflects on this incident in his powerful online essay “The Moral Failure of Immigration Reform: Are We Really Afraid Of Children?" Biblical references in the hymn are Matthew 25:31-46 and Matthew 19:14-16.
Taking direct aim at libertarian policies promoted by many American conservatives, the Honduran cardinal who is one of Pope Francis’ top advisers said Tuesday that today’s free market system is “a new idol” that is increasing inequality and excluding the poor.
The pope, Maradiaga said, grew up in Argentina and “has a profound knowledge of the life of the poor.” That is why, he said, Francis continues to insist that “the elimination of the structural causes for poverty is a matter of urgency that can no longer be postponed.”
“The hungry or sick child of the poor cannot wait,” the cardinal said.
Fight global poverty, invest in agriculture. ~ Growers First
As the winter winds bite at our collars, a hot cup of coffee is a perfect antidote for healing. But what you might not consider when you sip a mug of dark roast is the economic injustices that many coffee growers around the world face.
Coffee is one of the largest cash crops in the world – the U.S.D.A. Foreign Agricultural Service reports that last year 15,689,340,000 pounds of coffee were distributed worldwide. Yet, indigenous coffee growers see only a tiny fraction of its revenue.
These are some of the reasons why fair exchange programs such as Growers First got into the coffee business — to tip the scales of economic and social inequity that has become a way of life for many coffee farmers globally in a more just direction.
Even more importantly, Growers First exists to transform lives. The non-profit based in Laguna Beach, Calif., has a powerful story of action, conflict, struggle — and ultimately hope.
Thankfully, the crisis in Honduras may be reaching a political resolution.