The right to live with dignity

by Charissa Zehr

“The situation is complex; people need to understand that,” says Suyapa Ucles, the program director for the Mennonite Social Action Committee (known by its Spanish acronym, CASM) of Honduras. She says that violence is not the principal cause driving people to migrate, but it is tightly linked with economic difficulties.

Josbel Perdomo, José Santos Bautista and Edgar Tinoco (left to right), participate in a vocational training project supported by MCC.
Josbel Perdomo, José Santos Bautista and Edgar Tinoco (left to right), participate in a vocational training project supported by MCC.

Youth in Honduras will often say, “I don’t have a job, I can’t afford to study, and it’s difficult to start a business.” On top of that, if they receive threats or face insecurity in their communities, leaving feels like the best option. In this way, “violence becomes the detonator,” the proverbial last straw.

CASM is one of only two organizations that works to help deported, returned migrants in Honduras reintegrate into society. They offer counseling and psychological support, as well as some initial humanitarian assistance in the form of food and hygiene kits when people arrive at the airport or the Honduras-Guatemala border.

Since the migration crisis initially gained media attention in 2014, CASM has broadened the scope of their programs. With support from MCC, they started a vocational training program that equips young people with technical skills for employment. Initially just for returned migrants, the program also targets youth who may be at risk of migrating.

Ucles says, “We are called to be people of hope and the church cannot say ‘there is no way out.’” All people have the right to live with dignity, including migrants. “We have to work towards that, even against the tide.”