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Sister of Mercy Kathleen Erickson of Omaha speaks at a prayer vigil during a Jan. 24-30 visit to Honduras to support protesters of government abuse and repression. PHOTO BY MARK COPLAN

Omaha Sister of Mercy witnesses repression in Honduras

To raise awareness of the plight of Hondurans facing an increasingly repressive government, a group of 50 international faith and civic leaders recently joined protesters as observers and supporters.
 
Sister of Mercy Kathleen Erickson of Omaha was part of the delegation, which included members of several Catholic religious orders and groups who stood with people protesting the re-election of President Juan Orlando Hernandez.
 
Hernandez has been accused of stacking the country’s supreme court, which overturned a constitutional prohibition against his seeking a second consecutive term. Reports of election irregularities also called into question the legitimacy of his re-election.
 
Since Hernandez’s Nov. 26 victory, protests by Hondurans have been marked by violence, including beatings, arrests and killings by the country’s police force and military, according to the group’s report.
 
“Most people don’t realize what’s happening in Honduras,” Sister Kathleen said. “When we joined people who were protesting, we were surrounded by the militarized police, but they didn’t do anything when we were there. But there would have been a lot of violence had we not been there.” 
 
“We were there, not to make a political statement, but to be observers, to witness what was happening, and to come back and try to raise awareness,” she said. The group also visited the U.S. Embassy and met with officials there.
 
Some of the most “heart-wrenching” meetings the group had were with people who had lost family members or were injured in the violence, she said. “It’s sobering to know that people are ready to die for their democracy.”
 
During the Jan. 24-30 trip, the group also heard Jesuit Father Ismael “Melo” Moreno, a popular leader of the protests who has received death threats. He spoke during a prayer vigil about the hypocrisy of the U.S. government’s support for Hernandez’s government, including money that has been used to militarize the police force and keep people from expressing themselves, Sister Kathleen said.
 
Another opportunity for witness is planned for May, she said, when Honduran human rights activists will visit several U.S. cities to spread the news of their government’s repression, ending with a May 18 “National Day of Prayer for Peace in Honduras” in Washington, D.C., which will include meetings with congressional and religious leaders.
 
And Sister Kathleen said she is inviting people from the archdiocese to join a delegation that plans to accompany the activists back to their country May 19-24 and serve as witnesses to the plight of the Honduran people. For more information, contact Sister Kathleen at 575-430-5974 or kerickson@mercywmw.org.
 

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