Honduras on the Verge of Social Chaos

Bishops of San Pedro Sula Decry Criminal Brutality and Impunity

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SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras, DEC. 5, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Two Honduran bishops have spoken out in the face of a wave of murders, kidnappings and abuse of human dignity afflicting their Diocese of San Pedro Sula.

The gravity of the situation was reflected in the anguished appeal of Bishop Ángel Garachana Pérez and Auxiliary Bishop Rómulo Emiliani who signed a recent pastoral letter on violence.

Over the past four years, 4,500 murders have been reported in the diocese, which includes the departments of Cortes, Atlantida and the Bahia Islands. Twelve percent of the victims were young people. Among those murdered were members of youth gangs, who died in clashes with other gangs.

Gangs, in fact, are responsible for many victims. Yet, a U.N. report cites the «executions of street children carried out by members of the national police,» the alarmed bishops said. «It is known that 85% of the murders resulted from the use of firearms,» they added.

«The impunity of crimes hovers around 60%, and the fact of not finding the culprits creates an atmosphere of anxiety in the society,» the bishops said. This trend was aggravated in recent years by the great wave of kidnappings and the connections of national groups with international mafias, they added.

The poverty rate is as high as 70% and the level of malnutrition affects half this Central American nation of 6.5 million. Moreover, «family violence, including the abuse of women and children, makes the atmosphere in which we live even more wretched,» the prelates said in their pastoral letter dated Nov. 21.

Considering the number of rapes and abortions committed, «our community is suffering an unspeakable calvary,» the anguished bishops said.

The pastoral letter also mentions «‘globalized’ violence, given the imposition by international bodies of economic and financial policies that impoverish our people,» they stressed.

The lack of education means that many are marginalized from progress, as «cheap labor is available, which never prospers.»

In addition, there is the problem of drugs: consumption and sales are constantly increasing, reflected in an ever-rising crime rate. Mafias battle «to defend sales territories,» the bishops continued.

«The legal and illegal arms trade, which has filled our country with over half a million firearms of different calibers and potency, makes the coexistence of citizens that more dangerous,» the document adds.

The bishops appeal to the people to be conscious of how «aberrant, repugnant and harmful for the collectivity is the wave of violence in which we find ourselves and how urgent it is to emerge from it, to protect the community from what already seems the uncontrolled elimination of peoples’ lives.»

«All of us have a shared responsibility in this situation and the realms of politics, economics and education must do much more in their respective fields of action,» the bishops stressed.

«Social and economic changes are urgently needed that will diminish the effects of this extreme poverty that does so much harm to the country,» they continued. «To the degree that we have more social justice and that more effort is expended for the common good, poverty and violence will give way to progress and social peace.»

The prelates concluded: «We, as Church, are called to intensify our evangelization at all levels, knowing that, to the degree that we are more faithful to the Gospel, our missionary life will flower more and, with the preaching of the Word and witness of effective solidarity, we will reach all the areas of society that suffer violence.»

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