Imagine living in fear of assault, persecution or rape for being gay — or worse yet, being murdered for loving someone of the same gender.
The people in the LGBT community in Honduras live with this grim reality. According to Honduran equality advocates, 20 LGBT people are killed every year, United Church of Christ minister the Rev. David Mateo says this is why he and a dozen others will travel to the Central American country this month to be in solidarity with LGBT Hondurans.
"The important thing [people should] know is this is justice work," said Mateo, pastor of Iglesia Unida De Chapel Hill, in North Carolina. "When a country or community isn't respecting human rights, or human differences, people need to pay attention to those actions. So I think our mission as Christians is to be a witness for justice. This group is taking a first step to go there and listen to their stories and bring them back, and share what those people face there."
"We want to give them hope they can continue to bravely do what they are doing, and we want to create a liaison and create a relationship," Mateo said.
The diverse delegation of 10 people, who are LGBT and straight, English- and Spanish speaking, travel to Honduras from Sept. 11 through Sept. 14. While in the city of Tegucigalpa, they'll meet with six nonprofit organizations to build new relationships that will guide a long-term advocacy effort, and will appear in public to announce their presence and intentions before speaking with journalists.
Despite the dangers LGBT Hondurans face, they still possess the courage to advocate for their rights. Mateo and the accompanying delegation will offer their support during the trip by meeting with representatives of these advocacy groups to understand their struggles, and offer support and solidarity in establishing a coalition for the future.
"Last year, I did an informal visit, and it was amazing with more than 70 kids between 18 and 35 in an underground place," Mateo said. "The only place they can be together in is one of these agencies, so they have programs to educate them and keep them safe. It was amazing how [these agencies] work with no resources to keep these kids safe."
Mateo also has a list of items he is trying to collect and distribute to the Honduran non-profit groups, including school supplies, board games and HIV-AIDS resources.
"We already sent about 6,000 condoms for HIV-AIDS advocacy programs two weeks ago," Mateo said. "In the future we'd like to send another 45,000 condoms. We may also consider establishing an LGBT church."
There are six members of Iglesia Unida de Chapel Hill in the delegation, as well as Alex Cordova, director of LGBT affairs with Centro Latino (a nonprofit agency), Jose Alegria, a community leader with gay youth, and the Rev. Roberto Ochoa, interim pastor of Lakewood Congregational UCC in Worcester, Mass.
"We have a commitment to Hispanics in that fight for social justice," Mateo said. "We believe that all human beings deserve a place in the world. Our church is the only Hispanic congregation in the area that accepts openly gay [persons]."
Iglesia Unida is a ministry of United Church of Chapel Hill, a congregation that raised and donated $1,200 toward the cost of the trip.
"We're proud of David and the people of Iglesia Unida, and their willingness to make this witness in Honduras and show solidarity with the people there," said the Rev. Rick Edens, pastor of United Church of Chapel Hill.