Honduran church models inclusion and opportunities for young women
LWF member church works with partners offering alternatives to migration
(LWI) - While controversy continues to surround the planned building of a wall along the southern border of the United States, the Christian Lutheran Church of Honduras (ICLH) is working hard to support young people who are considering the option of escaping from increasingly high levels of poverty and violence in their country.
Over the past year, thousands of Central American asylum seekers have set out on foot, travelling north through Mexico towards the heavily guarded border with the United States. These journeys in search of jobs and better living conditions are fraught with dangers, from gangs of smugglers and people traffickers to police and paramilitaries who arrest and deport many of the forced migrants back to their home countries.
Statistics show that around 80 percent of these asylum seekers are Hondurans. They are fleeing from a combination of factors including extreme poverty, high youth unemployment, family breakdown, the violence of gangs, drug traffickers and prostitution networks, as well as widespread corruption that drives political instability.
Offering alternatives to migration
Pastor President Rev Rolando Antonio Ortez heads the ICLH and he notes that most participants in the so called migrant ‘caravans’ are young people, in particular young mothers travelling with their small children. “Every month that goes by”, he says, “violence against women in Honduras increases and has already reached alarming rates”. Even more worryingly, he says 90 percent of all femicides go unpunished and women also suffer from high levels of discrimination.
Every month that goes by, violence against women in Honduras increases and has already reached alarming rates.
Rev. Rolando Ortez explains that this year the ICLH, with the support of ‘Misión un Mundo’ (Mission One World), is pioneering a project to respond to the challenges facing young people, offering them alternatives to emigration. The project includes workshops and training in bread-making, jewellery production and fish-farming to provide skills that can enable people to earn an income and provide for themselves and their families.
Empowering lay and ordained women
The ICLH, encouraged by The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), also tries to combat the patriarchal structures which serve as a breeding ground for violence against women and in which impunity for such abuses continues to thrive. By empowering both lay and ordained women in the church, the ICLH models inclusion in its own decision-making, as well as offering spaces for dialogue, healing and care of young people in particular.
Another project that the church is offering focuses on developing the musical and artistic talents of young adults, teaching them painting, photography or how to play an instrument. Younger children are also invited to take part in an initiative called ‘Culture of Peace’, working to combat their feelings of anger and exclusion, thus seeking to reduce levels of violence in society.
The ICLH is working together with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) as well as ecumenical partners, such as the Latter Day Saints (LDS-FLM) in Tegucigalpa and the Mennonite Church (CASM) to coordinate these activities.
A recent visit by ELCA Presiding Bishop (and LWF Vice-President for North America) Elizabeth Eaton to Honduras served to strengthen this partnership and implement the strategy known as ‘AMMPARO’ (Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities).
The strategy was drawn up after ELCA members witnessed the dramatic plight of children forced to flee from their communities in several Central America countries. It seeks to address the root causes of this regional migration while, at the same time, guaranteeing the safety and rights of all children and families in transit.
The Christian Lutheran Church of Honduras (ICLH) has been a member of the LWF since 1994.