Christian Groups Press for Int'l Response to Honduras Crisis

As Honduras continues to slide toward instability following last week's military coup, international Christian organizations are pressing the governments of the Latin American region and the Organization of American States to take appropriate action.

"The LWF urges the international community – and especially the OAS – to establish mechanisms to help mediate the current crisis, to support the democratic process leading to elections scheduled for November 29 this year and to oversee the transition to a new government following those elections," expressed the Rev. Dr. Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation.

"Having been involved in humanitarian relief and development work in Honduras since 1998, the LWF considers that the instability and polarization of society provoked by these events risks undermining hard-won development gains, fostering widespread social upheaval and worsening conflict in the country," he added.

Last Sunday, masked soldiers flew the country's president, Manuel Zelaya, out of Honduras at gunpoint to prevent him from extending his rule and cementing presidential power in ways similar to what his ally Chavez has done in Venezuela – though Zelaya denied having any intent to do so.

The military solution drew international condemnation with many calling the coup a huge step backward for democracy.

"We strongly condemn this Coup d'etat," expressed the Action by Churches Together (ACT) Forum Honduras. "In the light of these events, as members of the ACT Honduras forum, we declare our rejection of the method that has been used to try to solve the political conflict and which means a serious and dangerous backward step for the democratic system in the country, violating the Constitution of the Republic."

Pedro Landa, director of Caritas Tegucigalpa, meanwhile said the forced dismissal of Zelaya does not resolve the central problem of the democratic crisis and the exhaustion of the two-party rule in Honduras.

"Zelaya's restitution is not the real solution to the problem," he stated. "[T]he only thing that is certain is that democracy and the Honduran people have lost out. Now we are left with the challenge to reconstruct a new democracy and fight to avoid these events happening again."

Early Monday, police and soldiers blanketed the streets of the capital, enforcing a sunset-to-sunrise curfew with batons and metal poles. One day earlier, soldiers clashed with thousands of Zelaya backers massed at Tegucigalpa's international airport in hopes of welcoming home their deposed leader.

At least one man was killed - shot in the head from inside the airport as people tried to break through a security fence, according to an Associated Press photographer at the scene.

In his statement, LWF's Noko called for the cessation of all police and military action against the civilian population of Honduras, and the release of all those detained in the protests over the last few days.

"The LWF condemns the use of armed force and unconstitutional means to resolve political disputes. The people of Honduras and the region have suffered enough from military arrogations of power in the past. Such actions cannot resolve underlying disputes and competing claims, and must not be allowed to be part of Honduras' future," he stated.

"For the sake of the people of Honduras, I pray for wisdom to prevail in the midst of the current crisis and tensions," Noko concluded.