What Christians might not know about the people of Honduras

The realities of life marked by poverty and violence

June 24, 2019

I recently read an article about the violence toward women in Honduras. It grabbed my attention because I usually only see articles about Honduran riots and unrest, not about everyday life. Having grown up in Honduras, I think articles like this are important; people need to understand the harsh realities of life for Hondurans, though it’s hard to put into words.

Corruption and violence

I moved to the capital city of Honduras, Tegucigalpa, in 2008 when I was going into the fifth grade. My parents were missionaries, and we spent the next six years there. Over the course of our time there, we witnessed a country go through a military coup and spend the next half decade trying to recover from it. In the summer of 2009, the sitting president, Manuel ‘Mel’ Zelaya, was ousted in the middle of the night, and the government was put in the hands of the military until a replacement was named.

I remember driving to church and seeing a Burger King on fire. I remember the sound of military helicopters circling at night, and weeks of riots in the capital city that ultimately led to the death of many protestors at the hands of the police. The violence and corruption that stemmed from this led Honduras to be named the most dangerous country in the world outside of a war zone. The homicide rate in the two biggest cities in Honduras hovered around an astounding 88-90 per 100,000 citizens. To put this on a scale, the U.S. has a homicide rate of around 4, and the global homicide rate is around 6-7 per 100,000.

As a 12-year-old kid in the aftermath of the coup, I didn’t fully grasp how dangerous the country was. It was for me, as well as most Hondurans, a fact of life that politicians and police are corrupt, and violence and crime affects everyone. When my school basketball team went on a trip to a rival school for a game, we passed dead bodies on the side of the road or floating in the river. It was common to hear about politicians being connected with the cartels, taking drug money, stealing state resources, or rigging elections. There were times when you would be stopped by the police and get asked for a bribe to let you go, or if there were protests on the highways, you would have to pay a “toll” to the protestors in order for them to let your car through.

Poverty and violence

If you are unfortunate enough to be in the 66% of the population who live in poverty, or the 1 in 5 who live in extreme poverty, things are even worse. Gangs are the root cause of the violence and crime in the city barrios, or slums. Women as young as 10 are targets of rape and incest by men, with 90% of those crimes going unpunished. Gangs circulate drugs through the streets as a way to “escape” that reality.

If you own a small business, such as a pulperia that sells chips, soda, and other small snacks on a street corner, you might be forced to pay a “war tax,” or an impuesto de guerra, to your local gang for their protection. If you decline to pay or can’t pay, the least of your worries is your business being attacked and vandalized. Your family becomes targets of the gang until you agreed to pay the tax.

Honduras also has no middle class, just a small, elite, upper class and a massive lower class. Those born into poverty have a 99% chance of staying in poverty. Because of these odds and the massive systematic oppression of basic human rights and decency by the Honduran leaders, Hondurans are forced to seek ways to get out. This is manifested in a couple ways. Gang membership is one way because it provides food, a home, a “family,” and a purpose, which is more than a poor kid in the slums would have. Another way that mostly women and children choose is to leave. It is an expensive and dangerous journey, but for some, it is the only choice. These are just a few of the reasons why people from Honduras decide to risk everything and leave their home to seek a shot at a better one in the U.S.

Responding as Christians

One of the central themes of the gospel is caring for those who cannot care for themselves. In Matthew 25:40-45, Jesus tells us that whatever we did not do for the least of these, we did not do for him. Where else do we see “the least of these” than in the thousands of people fleeing violence and poverty? The parents in these families with tin walls and dirt floors, one bed for 10 people, and no food for their kids, risk their lives and spend their fortunes for the smallest chance that their kids will not have to grow up knowing the same reality that they did.

If, as a church, and a Christian community, we wish to emulate Christ, here are a few things we should do.

How we should view immigrants: One of the first ways to start is our view toward immigrants. We are called to show Christ-like love for our neighbors, including immigrants, and to share the good news of salvation to those of every nation. Honduran immigrants are made in God’s image and deserve to be treated as such. When we look down upon and despise these individuals and families, we undermine their very human dignity. This is antithetical to the message of the gospel and undermines the Church’s mission.

How we should pray: We should be continually praying for the leaders of Honduras, that they would lead the people in a Christ centered way. We should pray that the people would find comfort in Christ’s love, and we should pray for safety and protection from anyone and anything that seeks to do them harm.

How we should learn: We can read and learn about what life is like in Honduras. We should talk to a local Honduran immigrant about what they have been through. Or, we can on a short term mission trip to Honduras and experience it firsthand.

After living in Honduras for six years and experiencing hundreds of mission trip teams, the one thing I have heard over and over is how people came to Honduras wanting to make a difference in the lives of the Honduran people, but how the love of the Honduran people actually changed them. Christ calls on us to love our neighbor as ourselves, even if that neighbor comes from a faraway and dangerous place like Tegucigalpa. I pray that we may do what’s in our power to love and esteem the Honduran people like Christ loves us. We might just find ourselves changed as a result.

Nicholas Raineri

Nicholas Raineri is a Chicago-land native who, after spending nine years as a missionary kid in Honduras, Germany, Greece, and France, has spent two years working in politics in Washington D.C., and the Midwest. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24