The Maine Conference of the United Church of Christ is deeply concerned about the drug trafficking, violence and oppression taking place in the country of Honduras. The Conference has had a long-standing partnership with Honduras-based clergy and groups, and has come to understand that speaking out against the injustices is simply not an option for the country's voiceless. Through a General Synod 2013 resolution, the Rev. Marcia Charles is hoping other UCC congregations will become aware of the plight of the Hondurans and stand in solidarity as advocates for peace and justice for them.
"We are hoping that we lift up a country and make people aware of what is going on down there," said Charles, former co-chair of the Conference's Maine-Honduras partnership committee and pastor of Blue Point Congregational UCC in Scarborough, Maine. "The resolution is about looking at the lives of people in a neighboring country and being the voice that is relatively silenced in Honduras."
The resolution calls on UCC pastors and churches to have a greater awareness of the problems in Honduras, a nation with the highest homicide rate per capita in the world, due in large part to the failure of the U.S. to effectively control illegal drug trafficking. The resolution also asks UCC pastors to act as a voice for oppressed Hondurans, to encourage U.S. leadership to address foreign policy issues, and to educate congregations and communities about the effects illegal drug use in the U.S. have on people in neighboring countries.
"This resolution calls all settings of the United Church of Christ to dispel the false impression that the use of drugs is a 'victimless crime,'" the resolution states. "Instead, we seek to clarify the fact that the sale and consumption of illegal drugs here in the U.S. has direct, tragic, and often deadly consequences for people in Honduras as well as other countries."
The partnership between Maine and Honduras began in 1998 when the Conference sent disaster relief teams there after Hurricane Mitch devastated the country. In 2009, a political coup and increases in gang violence and drug trafficking created new problems, and the Conference began focusing more on peace and justice efforts. During a 2011 visit to the Maine Conference, a group of Honduran pastors and their wives gave reports of physical abuse and mandatory relocation for people who spoke out against the country's dangers. In fact, one of the pastor's wives was still recovering from being beaten after her husband preached against drug activity in the community, and others spoke of being temporarily relocated for periods of up to a month during times of increased violence.
"What they made mention of is when we speak out to our government and decision makers, people listen, and we have a greater level of freedom to speak out without threat of retaliation," said Charles. "For them to speak out against the drugs and the level of violence taking place, they are putting their lives at risk. So we said it's up to us to be the voice."