Finding a Way Out
The reappearance of Manuel Zelaya, the deposed president of Honduras, from within the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, provoked street demonstrations and an emergency powers decree from the de facto government. Since his return the city has witnessed marches and confrontations in the streets, military raids on media outlets, a death threat to a Catholic priest and a baseball stadium converted into a holding pen for detainees—all images that evoke unpleasant memories not just in Honduras but throughout Latin America.
The Obama administration seemed off its game in the final days of September, perhaps because of the accelerating pace of events in Tegucigalpa or perhaps because of genuine frustration with both sides of this standoff. But one thing it may have gotten right in its efforts to restore Zelaya was the suspension of visas allowing travel to the United States. The restrictions seem to have motivated members of Honduras’ business class to step into the civil fray with their own proposal for a way out: Briefly, Zelaya can be restored with limited powers but must defend himself against allegations of corruption.
The plan is not perfect. One wonders, after three months of crisis and with positions hardening on both sides, if Zelaya can count on a truly fair trial. But the business leaders’ proposal comes closer to what Costa Rica’s President Oscar Arias has proposed: to return Zelaya to the president’s office (with immunity offered all around). That could be the basis for dialogue that both sides could accept without much political shame. If Zelaya is true to his word and confident of his innocence, he should accept this plan. The increasingly embattled de facto president, Roberto Micheletti, would be wise, for his part, to embrace the proposal as a face- and life-saving way out of what could otherwise deteriorate into a terrible civil conflict.
Sudan’s Crucified Christians
Gangs affiliated with the Lord’s Resistance Army in Northern Uganda have been crossing the border into Sudan, “crucifying” Christians during raids. Near the town of Nazra, seven recently died. On discovering the bodies, villagers described what they found as a “grotesque crucifixion scene.” The guerillas nailed the victims to pieces of wood on the ground before killing them. Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala of Tombura-Yambio blames the government in Khartoum for not increasing security in that area and has called upon the international community for help.
In one attack, guerillas rushed into Our Lady Queen of Peace in Enzo during novena prayers on the Feast of the Assumption. After desecrating the host they abducted 17 young people. One captive was tied to a tree and killed, according to Aid to the Church in Need, a charity assisting persecuted Christians. The bishop said “the attackers clearly wanted to harm the people because they knew they were at prayer.” Bishop Hiiboro ordered three days of prayer, and 20,000 people walked in silent protest against the government’s inaction. The Khartoum government is failing Christians within its population, ignoring its responsibility to safeguard some of its most vulnerable citizens. Such events underscore the importance of the doctrine of the responsibility to protect, whereby a sovereign state like Sudan should be held responsible for protecting its citizens from atrocities like these.
The Grand Master Visits
America’s editors do not normally host people who are formally addressed as “Your Most Eminent Highness,” which made the visit of the Grand Master of the Order of Malta, Fra Matthew Festing, all the more delightful. Fra Matthew’s trip from Rome to the United States was part of his charge to care for the members and works of his order. During his visit to the magazine, he outlined the international network of charitable works that fulfill the order’s motto: Tuitio fidei et obsequium pauperum. When one editor remarked that the defense of faith and service to the poor are connected, Fra Matthew, whose friendly manner belies his august title, readily agreed.
The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta began ministering to the crusaders in Jerusalem in 1099 and was formally approved as a religious order in 1113. Today, though the order is a sovereign entity, its nonpartisan status enables the members to work in a variety of political hot spots. They provided humanitarian relief during the crisis in the Balkans in the late 1990s, for example, when they transported blankets all the way from Scotland to internally displaced people. Efforts among the war-torn recently led to the death of three members working in Afghanistan.
Fra Matthew, an Englishman descended from a Catholic recusant family, also boasts an unusual connection to America. During a tour of our offices he paused before an icon of St. Edmund Campion, the English priest martyred not only for his ministry to Elizabethan-era Catholics, but also for his provocative pamphlets. Fra Matthew remarked that his family once owned the house where Campion’s printing press was located, which published the writings “which caused all the bother.”