Confronting the Global Timber Barons
Faith and the Environment
Here in Salama, Father Andres speaks out not with anger but with indignation, an important difference. You sense he has no personal hatred, not even mild hostility, toward the people who have killed or ordered the killing of his friends in the movement, and who may one day kill him. But he is vigorous, and loud, about the injustice his parishioners and neighbors are forced to live through, as their very livelihood is threatened and they are then murdered for protesting peacefully.
He walked back and forth in the church kitchen, explaining how deforestation is destroying his parish: "Because the trees are cut down, our people don't have water. Before, women may have walked two or three miles for water; now they walk seven or ten. Vegetable plots produce only one-third what they once did, due to the growing ecological imbalance. People who used to be able to work in the countryside year-round are reduced to three months. Sixty percent of our young people have already left, many of them North, to the United States."
Father Andres has been criticized for bringing politics into religion. The overflowing congregation at Sunday morning Mass suggests his parishioners do not agree. I asked him how he responded. He obviously has answered the questions many times before, but he was patient and engaged. "It is certainly true that God accepts both good people and sinners in his church," he said. "But God is not content with injustice, with exploitation. Our ministry is not just within the four walls of the church."
His voice rose. "There are those who speak of justice but don't confront injustice," he said with a sharp laugh. "To confront injustice is not just a duty; it is a demand. In my work in Olancho I'm not outside the evangelization; I'm within it. I am doing what God has ordered me to do. A priest who did not, who remained silent, would be merely an ornament."