By Tom De Meo
There are times when all pretense and superficiality passes away, and things become focused and serious in a surreal way. This day was one of those times.
Today we visited the Guapinol Eight, so named because they are eight prisoners of conscience in detention for protesting against mining development in a national park affecting the Guapinol River. They are in a prison in Olanchito. We actually only visited seven prisoners, as the eighth remains in a high security prison in la Ceiba.
For many of us, especially us less experienced visitors, this was a unique experience. These men have been in detention for two years, and their families receive continuous threats. They each briefly introduced themselves, as did we. We expressed our profound respect for their efforts and our commitment to doing what we could, however limited or inadequate, to further their release. They expressed optimism and gratitude for our presence. I noticed all the prisoners were clean, with fresh clothes, and that the guards were cordial and accommodating.
In the end all that mattered was that we were there. In the Catholic faith we talk about the importance of presence, of being there. We left some gifts of towels and toiletries, hoping they would not be stolen. Sister Mary blessed us with a closing prayer, and we were on our way out the door.
My only other thought on this is that we should all dedicate ourselves to doing what we can to have these people released—writing our Representatives and Senators, advocating however we can…. La lucha continua
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