A couple months ago, Lucinda stopped by my office to talk about how her last year of school was going. Lucinda is a top student, and has been involved with UPH as a StreetLeader, Assistant Vacation Camp Director, and Trekker for the past three years. She wants to study to be a lawyer after graduating. When I asked her why, she went on to explain how she would like to stand up for those who cannot do so for themselves. Whether it be the campesinos (land-workers), who are often ousted out of their property, or helping those affected by crimes who can’t afford to pay for an expensive lawyer, there are a lot of needs out there. But she said she was doubting whether she would follow through with this dream. “Why?” I asked. “Because I’m afraid. Afraid of the possibility of my life being threatened here in Honduras.”
In the last 26 years, Christianity has been on the rise in Honduras. The most recent statistics show that 47% of Hondurans self-identify as Roman Catholic, and 36% as Evangelical Protestant.* Despite the high volume of those claiming faith in God, Honduras has the highest homicide rate in the world of 79 per 100,000, compared to an international average of 6.2 per 100,000. The murder rate has risen so high largely because of impunity in the justice system. Only about 5% of the cases that are brought to the Public Prosecutor’s offices are resolved.** Needless to say, entering the legal realm poses a potentially serious risk.
During our trip to Tegucigalpa, we visited ASJ (Association for a more Just Society), who’s vision is to be a group of Christianos Valientes (Brave Christians) who do justice and love mercy, especially towards the most vulnerable in Honduras. ASJ has helped bring more transparency to the legal system by working on both grand and small scales to bring about justice and safety within the country. Currently, in Barrio Nueva Suyapa (Tegucigalpa’s most dangerous neighborhood), 37 families are enrolled in regular psychological counseling related to violent crimes, 84 criminals have been incarcerated, and the homicide rate has dropped from 42 down to 1 just in the last 9 months. All of this is directly due to the work of ASJ.
ASJ partners globally with other organizations such as Alianza por la Paz y Justicia (Alliance for Peace and Justice), Transparency International, and the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH). Our Trekkers got to visit the latter of these after our stop in the offices of ASJ. Walking the campus of Honduras’ largest public university gave them a glimpse into the possibility for their futures. For many, this was their first visit to a university. Before the end of the tour, several students were asking our tour guides detailed questions about enrollment, scholarships, and courses of study. Many have told me since returning that they would absolutely love to study there after graduation.
As for Lucinda, between our time at ASJ and the University, she came out and said she already felt a lot more confident about pursuing a degree in law. It wasn’t as intimidating for her anymore to think about entering the legal realm. In fact, she was inspired by the positive changes happening in Honduras. So maybe now, with the inspiration of those at ASJ and UNAH, Lucinda will go on to accomplish her dreams and continue transforming Honduras on a greater scale than she already is. Lucinda has joined the ever growing list of brave Christians…Cristianos Valientes.
“And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.” -Micah 6:8
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear..” -1 John 4:18
Notes: *2007 Nationwide CID-Gallup survey **www.ajs-us.org/project/alliance-peace-and-justice