Editor’s note: This is the third installment in A More Welcoming Way, a series of TC articles on the immigration experience, attempts at reform and the church’s role in the process.
We are Christians; we are people of hope.
We rely on hope to live boldly for God and we rely on hope when hardship comes our way. Many of my fellow Hondurans are desperate for hope.
For each of the last five years, Honduras has found itself with either the worst or second-worst homicide rate in the world. And while there is progress being made, it is still a country afflicted with not only poverty, but also extreme levels of violence, drug trafficking and corruption.
Life for the children of Honduras is particularly difficult, as gangs linked to organized crime pressure children to participate in criminal activities, including drug trafficking and extortion rings. Using children as hit men works to the advantage of gangs, since minors are subject to different punishments than adults. To forcibly recruit members, gangs infiltrate schools and threaten families. As threats and violence infect day-to-day life, imagine how hard it is for Honduran children to hold on to hope in their country.
Partly as a result of this hopelessness, 2014 saw an unprecedented number of unaccompanied children migrate from Honduras to the United States - more than 18,000 in total. That’s about 20 times the number of students in the average American public high school, all leaving in one year. It’s also 18 times the number that migrated unaccompanied just three years earlier. And it’s not just in Honduras. Neighboring countries Guatemala and El Salvador have seen huge jumps as well.
Any action we take must offer hope to these children.
The reason that so many children are leaving Honduras isn’t simple. It can’t be boiled down to one single factor. In addition to the violence, there is also poverty and the desire to reunite with family members who previously left for the U.S.
And so I come back to hope. For Christians, this is where the conversation becomes simpler. Whether we are Christians in Honduras, in the U.S. or in any country in the world, any action we take must offer hope to these children.
This is why the response of simply strengthening border security is inappropriate, as well as inefficient. If a house is on fire, you can’t put it out by locking the doors and windows. Eventually the fire will spread.
God’s words in Jeremiah are no less relevant for Honduran children than they are for anyone else today: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Shouldn’t we, as Christians, be willing to take part in a plan of hope?
For these children, faced with violence and crime in their home country, hope is precariously scarce. For many, the journey north is a last hope. And so they risk their young lives to make the perilous trip. As Christians, we know we have a responsibility to help. What can be done?
- Pray. Pray for the children of Honduras and for those in positions of power whose decisions affect them.
- System change. If you are connected with organizations doing work in Honduras, encourage them to speak up. Christian organizations in Honduras can leverage their moral credibility and international connections to reform government policy. A Christian organization in one small town can help reform the entire country. To this regard, I encourage organizations in Honduras to join the Alliance for Peace and Justice - an alliance spearheaded by the Association for a More Just Society that works to reduce violence and crime in Honduras and works toward a government that enforces justice and protects its citizens.
- Write to your representative about immigration reform. You can write to your own government representatives and share your concern for just policies regarding the children of Honduras and Central America. The Association for a More Just Society has a sample letter on its website.
- Stay informed. The Association for a More Just Society is a Christian organization fighting corruption and violence in Honduras. Sign up for our monthly update to get some of the latest news on our work.
In acting for justice for the children of Honduras, we are living out our faith and remembering Paul’s words: “Our hope for you is firm, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.”