By Rev. Kathleen McTigue and Leonardo Valenzuela Pérez on October 31, 2019
Ten days ago, we were in Honduras with three other representatives of U.S. religious and human rights groups. If you followed us on our brief and densely-packed visit to Tocoa and Guapinol, you know that we were there in solidarity with our partners’ ongoing struggle against the mining that threatens to destroy the land and water on which their lives depend.
But the real solidarity we witnessed was embodied in the community itself. People from the surrounding area, and beyond, gathered in Tocoa to welcome back their representatives, who traveled to Washington, D.C. early this month to receive the Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award. They gathered to honor and celebrate the life of Carlos Escaleras, a community member and environmentalist who was murdered more than 20 years ago for his activism to protect the Guapinol River. They were there as a declaration of determination to carry on his legacy, and to protect the national park named in his honor, which is fundamentally threatened by the mining company Los Pinares. They gathered to demand freedom for seven of their members who are imprisoned in pre-trial detention in the most notorious and violent of Honduran maximum security prisons. They gathered there in the assembly hall, despite escalating violence and repression and despite the fear that they must surely walk with on a daily basis.
An extraordinary act of solidarity is shown through the steadfast love the people of Tocoa and Guapinol offer to one another and to the fields, rivers, and mountains of our fragile planet that are theirs to protect. It was an honor and privilege to be with them for a few days, to join our determination with theirs. It reminded us that though we may occasionally be able to join them there in Honduras, the best solidarity we who live in the United States can offer is to be as steadfast as they are, despite distance and distraction and how small our gestures can sometimes seem.
Those gestures count. It matters when we call or email the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa to let them know we see the people of Guapinol and their struggle. It matters when we press our members of Congress to pay attention, to speak up, to sign on to the Berta Cáceres Act. And it matters right now, to the safety and wellbeing of the seven imprisoned activists from Guapinol, that we press for their immediate release.
Photo credit: UUSC Staff
About UUSC: Guided by the belief that all people have inherent worth and dignity, UUSC advances human rights globally by partnering with affected communities who are confronting injustice, mobilizing to challenge oppressive systems, and inspiring and sustaining spiritually grounded activism for justice. We invite you to join us in this journey toward realizing a better future!