Honduras Involves Churches in Political Peace

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TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras - Three months after the removal of President Manuel Zelaya from power, Honduras seems to be closing in on a solution to its political crisis that goes beyond politics to include the country's churches.

The walls of downtown Tegucigalpa give witness to the political conflict that has dominated daily life in Honduras. Conflict has destroyed property, like a Popeye's restaurant, and claimed lives. 

While deposed President Manuel Zelaya claims sanctuary in the Brazilian embassy, the dispute over who should be president has moved from the streets to the negotiating table.

"I believe we're on the right track now," said Foreign Minister Carlos Lopez. "That all the actors are within the framework of the Honduran territory and that allows to view the Honduran problem as a domestic problem, subject to Honduran jurisdiction and Honduran law."

Lopez leads the dialogue with regional foreign ministers sent by the Organization of American States.

One of the more popular options on the table is that President Roberto Micheletti turn the presidency over to another interim leader and deposed President Zelaya give up his presidential claims. And in January, the winner of upcoming presidential elections would take power. 

The candidates and general public understand the key role of this November's elections.

"Under any scenario or reading that people might come up with, they do see that the electoral process, historically, has served to get out of 'uncommon situations,'" said Denis Gomez of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.

On a morning talk show Gomez assured that the elections will be carefully monitored.

Pastor Pedro Reyes of Vida Abundante is a regular on this talk show.

"The vote, for us as a church, as faith, is sacred," he said. "And when we give our vote to someone we're transferring authority to him.

Before the crisis began the leaders of the Vida Abundante church in Tegucigalpa saw the need to get more Hondurans involved in the country's democracy to combat voter apathy and ignorance.

Voter education tools produced by the church include a music video.

"For decades we have been taught that politics is dirty," Pastor Evelio Reyes said. "It's bad, it's of the devil, and we shouldn't get involved with the affairs of this world. And then unfortunately, we allow a few people to manage public affairs, while the church suffers the consequences.

Pastor Evelio Reyes leads the Vida Abundante church. His civic involvement has even won the admiration of resistance leaders.

Marwin Ponce is an opposition delegate in the national Congress.

"In my case, I'm from the Catholic church," he said. "But the Vida Abundante church gave me recognition because of my honesty, my struggle, for my decency, my work, my relations with the poor. They presented me as an example and that helped me a lot in the electoral process."

Many Honduran pastors are convinced that whatever the politicians eventually decide, the churches of Honduras will be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

*Originally published October 8, 2009

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