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Diplomacy in Action

Religious Leaders Help Counter Violence in Honduras


Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations
February 10, 2014

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On the second anniversary of the murder of Honduran anti-corruption advocate Alfredo Landaverde, at the exact time and place of his death, Honduran civil society shut down traffic and held a memorial service as part of an ongoing effort to shift the country’s narrative from despair to hope. A priest blessed the space to rescue it from its violent past and convert it into a sacred place for all victims and survivors of violence. Religious and civil society leaders, as well as U.S. Ambassador Lisa J. Kubiske, used the event to call on Honduras’ newly elected political leaders to make a real commitment to ending impunity and violence.

Violence and impunity are part of the average Honduran’s daily life. Most citizens fear the consequences of challenging the status quo. But a growing group of religious leaders, social justice advocates, and human rights defenders are coming forward to pressure the Honduran government to pass tough laws, purge corrupt police, and address impunity.

CSO is bringing together civil society as agents of change. Working with the country’s largest coalition made up of multiple sectors, including youth, religious leaders and civil society, CSO is providing hands-on technical and strategic expertise to build capacity, strengthen grassroots advocacy, and help develop a unified voice dedicated to promoting security and justice sector reform.

This movement includes the Catholic and Evangelical churches, which rarely work together but view security reform as the thread that binds them. Last September on the International Day of Peace, CSO helped both churches organize an Interfaith Day of Reflection and Remembrance for the Victims of Violence. It was the first time in their history that the churches had united in prayer and, with a million Hondurans taking part, the churches called for government leaders to become accountable.

“In so many places in the world, religion is a dividing factor,” said a pastor from Valle de Angeles (Valley of the Angels). “But in Honduras, it’s our faith that unites us. Religion is where we find comfort and strength—whether in a jail cell or in a humble home—to strive for a more perfect nation.”

While it took nearly two years of civil society pressure to achieve a conviction in the Landaverde case, the crime’s masterminds remain at large. The Honduran government needs to do much more to protect Hondurans. The valiant efforts of civil society organizations – including the dedication and action of the nation’s religious leaders – provide hope.

 

NOTE: On November 5, 2013, Marvin Noel Andino Mascareno was found guilty of murdering Landaverde, and on January 9 he was sentenced to 22 years in prison. The Special Victims Task Force, supported by the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, assisted in the case.



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