Incarnational Justice in Honduras

Incarnational Justice in Honduras

Guest Post by Rick Gerhardt

During a recent long weekend, Ken and I had the privilege of being introduced to a wonderful ministry working hard and successfully on behalf of justice in the beautiful but imperiled country of Honduras. I am still processing what we saw, but thought it would be good to shine a bit of a spotlight on this amazing but little-known work.

We flew into the hill-encircled single airstrip of Tegucigalpa, Honduras’ capital and largest city. We came at the invitation of the Association for a More Just Society (AJS) for an intimate time of learning and sharing. We listened to Honduran and American staff members, each of whom provided us with different perspectives on the variety of social injustices AJS is addressing in this community and nation. We also had the honor of meeting some of the many men, women, and children whose lives have been transformed by the systemic changes already wrought by AJS and the diverse organizations and people they have mobilized for the common good of the Honduran people.

For example, we sat in the very modest home of a woman who for the first time in her long life has an official title proclaiming that home—and the land on which it sits—as her rightful property. Her resulting security, and that of many others like her, is the result of years of advocacy, legislation, education, relationship-building, and just plain hard work on the part of committed followers of Christ who have felt His call to live justly.

We learned how AJS has spearheaded a campaign to address the systemic corruption in the national education system, an effort so successful that other countries are now seeking to emulate it. We heard about widespread corruption in the national system for distributing pharmaceuticals and how it, too, is being rooted out by people united in their unwillingness to continue to tolerate such injustice.

Most powerful, however, was the story of the barrio that five years ago had one of the highest homicide rates in the world. In a difficult process of hiring good policemen and honest lawyers and then overcoming years of distrust between them and those citizens who might be induced to serve as witnesses to these horrible crimes, that neighborhood has seen a drastic decrease in the homicide rate.

And this success came from the decision—on the part of AJS’s American founders (and our hosts, Kurt Ver Beek and Jo Ann Van Engen)—to follow Jesus’ incarnational example. Kurt and Jo Ann chose to live in this most dangerous of barrios to build relationships and better empathize with the people whose suffering and injustices they were determined to help alleviate.

Another highlight of the weekend was the opportunity to spend time with Nicholas Wolterstorff. He was along to offer us daily teaching on the theological basis for justice (while his wife, Claire, led us each morning in devotional readings). The conversation was rich and deep, and friendships developed quickly.

The most striking thing about the various aspects of AJS’s ministries to which we were exposed was this… AJS is not satisfied with acts of benevolence toward the victims of injustice (as loving and important as such benevolence is). Instead, the founders and staff of AJS feel themselves to be called by Christ to address the root causes of injustice in Honduras, even if those responsible for the injustice and corruption are powerful leaders of either the government or organized crime. In this regard, I like the adjective that precedes the word “Christian” in the mission statement of AJS’s U.S. arm:

Association for a More Just Society is a Christian, nonprofit organization founded in 2000, striving to be brave Christians dedicated to making Honduras’ system of laws and government work properly to do justice for the poor in Honduras; and inspiring North American Christians to follow God’s call to do justice.

I wholeheartedly commend this ministry and the outstanding work it is doing; I hope you’ll check it out and pray about how you might support it or learn more about it.



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