How do you solve a political crisis? Hondurans try prayer
TEGUCIGALPA – A month after a coup that has plunged Honduras into its worst political crisis in decades, the country’s de facto rulers declared Tuesday an official Day of Prayer for peace.
State television has been playing announcements for days with the slogan “Let us all pray for our Honduras.”
Facing international condemnation of a June 28 coup that has led to a freeze on multinational lending and threats of wider sanctions, Honduras, one of the poorest countries in Latin America, needs all the help it can get.
“We ask God to save Honduras for us. We pray to God for all who are suffering in this crisis, and we pray to God to punish the wicked,” a priest saying Mass at the main Catholic cathedral in Tegucigalpa said.
He did not say who he thought should be punished but the leaders of the Catholic Church have criticized exiled President Manuel Zelaya and backed the interim government, headed by Roberto Micheletti.
But at least one of his congregation was praying for the return of the ousted president, a cowboy-hat wearing logging magnate known as Mel, who was toppled after allying himself with the socialist president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez.
“Mel is a good Catholic,” said Ana Josefa Lopez. “Just now I was praying, saying ‘God, open the way for Mel.’ If he doesn’t come back, we will not have peace.”
On June 28, soldiers seized Zelaya from his home and flew him out of the country. The Supreme Court had ordered his arrest and Congress backed his removal, appointing Micheletti as interim president within hours. Read our latest story on the crisis here.
Zelaya is in exile in Nicaragua and Micheletti’s government has rejected almost unanimous international calls for him to be reinstated, vowing to arrest him if he returns to Honduras.
Around 70 percent of Hondurans are Catholic and 30 percent Evangelical Christian, according to an official at the presidential palace.
The official said the day of prayer was the initiative of Evangelical church leaders and it was backed by the presidency. Catholic priest Carlo Magno also appeared on a state channel urging Hondurans to pray for peace.
Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, believed to have been on a short list of possible papal candidates after Pope John Paul II died in 2005, has justified Zelaya’s ouster while opposing his expulsion from the country.
“He doesn’t have any authority, moral or legal,” the Cardinal told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo earlier this month.
“The legal authority he lost because he broke laws and the moral authority he lost with a discourse full of lies. The most patriotic thing he could do is stay away.”
Zelaya moved to the left after his election in 2005 and allied himself with Venezuela’s Chavez, a fierce critic of the United States and of the Cardinal.
Marcia Ines Hernandez, who works in the Church of Guadalupe in Tegucigalpa, said with the crisis looking so intractable, “it’s a good idea to be inviting people to pray.”
“Many people are against the Cardinal, and Evangelical church leaders, because they say they should not get involved in politics,” she said. “There’s a split that’s dividing the church as much as the people,” she said.
PICTURES: EDGARD GARRIDO/REUTERS – A Zelaya supporter takes pictures of fellow supporters in front of Metropolitan Cathedral during a cultural event in downtown Tegucigalpa July 12, 2009. AND: A man dresses up as Cardinal Maradiaga during a cultural event in support of Zelaya in downtown Tegucigalpa July 12, 2009, after the Cardinal asked Zelaya to stop attempting to return to Honduras.