HONDURAS: Episcopal mission groups from Maryland, Wyoming safe despite unrest

Honduran bishop asks for prayers
June 30, 2009

Episcopal mission groups visiting Honduras from Maryland and Wyoming have assured their dioceses of their safety after reports of clashes between police and protestors in the capital city Tegucigalpa following the military ouster of President Manuel Zelaya. A group of 13 youth missioners and their adult chaperones from the Diocese of Maryland were in Talanga, north of Tegucigalpa, where at least 15 people reportedly were injured in what has been called the worst unrest in decades in the Central American country. The diocese "is in the midst of its annual high school youth mission trips to the country, serving El Hogar de Amor y Esperanza, an Episcopal orphanage in Tegucigalpa, and the orphanage's agricultural and technical training school in Talanga," according to a message posted on Maryland's website. The Rev. Wes Wubbenhorst, diocesan youth missioner, was in telephone contact with diocesan officials and "confirmed the group's safety, upbeat spirit and willingness to stay undeterred" until the planned July 3 conclusion of the trip. Parents and spouses of the travelers were assured of the safety of their loved ones. "Everyone here is fine, the city is quiet and we will be in touch with reports as we find out more," Wubbenhorst told diocesan officials, according to the website. Another group, headed for the orphanage on Saturday, June 27, returned to Baltimore after reaching Miami, the first leg of the trip. Bishop Bruce Caldwell of the Diocese of Wyoming was among a group of 20 adults and youth in LaCeiba, on the opposite side of the country from the reported unrest, according to office manager Jessica Reynolds. Wyoming Episcopalians could follow the movement of the group—a regular mission presence in Honduras for a decade—via Twitter. Caldwell and the others arrived in Honduras June 22 "to help install a hyperbaric chamber and open a medical clinic," Reynolds said. The chamber has a variety of medical uses, including aiding in decompression illness, some cancer and other treatments, she added. The clinic was awarded a grant for the chamber through the diocese's Episcopal Foundation. Reynolds added that there were six youth and 14 adults in the group, and "we've been in daily contact" with them since they left, she said. "They're on the other side of the country from where the major protests were taking place. There was very little disturbance, but they called to say everything was fine and our people were all okay." The group is expected to return on Thursday, July 2. Meanwhile, Bishop Lloyd Allen of the Diocese of Honduras wrote to assure other bishops of the Episcopal Church that "so far" he, his clergy and lay leadership and their families are safe and requesting prayers. "A month ago the country was shaken by a 7.1 earthquake and now this," Allen wrote. "What next and how much longer can this impoverished country survive? "I want to call on the Church to keep this diocese and the Honduran people highly in prayers. I really don't know what the future will bring. The Honduran delegation is ready to participate with you all at General Convention. However, if the course of actions does not improve in the next few days, I may have to reconsider." Allen wrote that political tension in Honduras rose after Zelaya "pressed on with plans for a nonbinding referendum which opponents said would open the gate for him to rewrite the constitution to run for re-election." Last week the country's Congress and the Supreme Court ruled the referendum unconstitutional, Allen wrote. "On Thursday, the president led a group of protesters to an air force installation and seized the ballot boxes, which the procurator's office and the electoral tribunal had ordered confiscated. "I predict that you will be hearing a lot more about all what has happened," Allen wrote. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders have decried Zelaya's ouster, as tension reportedly continued to run high among his supporters. Zelaya vowed to return to Tegucigalpa on July 2.