Friday, September 4, 2009

Honduras Coup

There was a coup in Honduras a few weeks ago that is still playing out. President Manuel Zalaya was escorted from his presidential residence and out of the country. The Organization of American States (OAS) unanimously condemned the coup. (Not everyone is calling it a coup, but what else is it when a president is forcibly removed from the country?)

Zalaya was a rich land-owner and when he first came to office was supportive of his kind. But eventually he changed his outlook, and he became more concerned of the needs of the poor.

The per capita income of Honduras is estimated to be $2600 (from Encyclopedia of the Nations, Honduras). This is $50 per week, but is an average, so the higher incomes would push this down even more for the poor. When we were in El Salvador five years ago, workers were trying to get $2.00 a day wages. I imagine there are Hondurans working for $1.00 a day.

Zelaya was trying to get the popular opinion on whether to change the law concerning presidential term limits. The referendum was up for vote the day he was removed from the country. The persons involved said the referendum was illegal, but it was only a popular opinion poll, at least for the moment. I don't know the in's and out's of Honduran law, but it seems the best way to change a law in a democracy is to let the people decide.

There have been varying reports of the local Catholic response to the coup. Some priests have supported him and are undergoing harassment, as told here at the Catholic News Service. The Honduran bishops, headed by Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, seemed to back the coup, also reported by CNS. They claim an increase in class hatred since Zelaya came to office.

When Christ said, "The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me" (Matt. 26:11 NAB), he sure had that right. One wonders how on Earth we haven't figured out how to share yet. But of course, this is the result of sin on all sides.

In struggling with this problem, the Church has declared a "Preferential Option for the Poor." John Paul II said:
While an examination of conscience can be disconcerting, it may also be invigorating. Pope Paul VI offered some insights: "It is not just a question of eliminating hunger and reducing poverty. It is not just a question of fighting wretched conditions, though this is an urgent and necessary task. It involves building a human community where everyone can live truly human lives, free from discrimination. . . . free from servitude to others or to natural forces which they cannot yet control satisfactorily. . . . Each person must examine his or her conscience, which sounds a new call in our times" (quoted here at the USCCB website).
The whole of our individualistic attitudes must change in order to be molded into community. Unfortunately, being realistic, not everyone is willing to do this. The Christian community of Acts 4 is sadly beyond our reach when considering all living persons, many of whom are not even Christians or just nominally so. The question is, where do real Christians (the ones who seriously try to follow Jesus Christ) go from here?

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