Lutheran council speaks out on Central America, Rio+20

The Lutheran World Federation has urged the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to protect human rights. Photo: Shawn Talbot /
The Lutheran World Federation has urged the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to protect human rights. Photo: Shawn Talbot /
Published June 25, 2012

The Lutheran World Federation’s (LWF) governing Council, during its June 15 to 20 meeting in Bogota, Colombia, appealed to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish an office in Honduras and to strengthen its presence elsewhere in Central America.

The Lutheran group also urged the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to “hear the cries of their people” by protecting human rights and ending impunity for those committing violence, particularly against women and girls, according to a news release from Lutheran World Information (LWI), the LWF’s news service.

Turning to the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development (also known as Rio+20) in Rio de Janeiro, the Council called for “a clear and future-oriented outcome document.” Council members said environmental decisions should be in the interests of people rather than transnational corporations, according to LWI.

On Central America, the statement proposed by the Committee for Advocacy and Public Voice called for the formation of an ecumenical accompaniment program to help protect human rights defenders, especially in Guatemala and Honduras.

The committee’s report had noted that paramilitary forces go unchecked, human rights defenders are persecuted and killed, and poor farmers are kicked off their land by powerful elites and sometimes even killed, LWI reported.

The Council affirmed that bilateral and multilateral economic and security aid to the region, including the supply of firearms to police and military forces, should be subjected to the full respect of human rights. Programs should be strengthened for the security and safety of women and youth, including “access to education, employment, and the opportunities for a dignified life,” it said.

The governing body underlined the LWF’s long history of closely accompanying the churches in the three countries. It noted growing concern for the alarming increase of violence characterized by murder rates that are among the highest in the world, with drug gangs taking over neighborhoods and the lack of strong institutions of justice.

“It is vital that the contributing factors and continuing violence [are] addressed and controlled, so that the suffering of vulnerable people is alleviated and the violence does not spread to neighboring countries,” the Council noted in its statement.

The Council’s statement on Rio+20, taking place from June 20 to 22, also stressed that long-established principles such as “the polluter pays” principle should not be lost, LWI reported. In addition, a rights-based approach to development cooperation, as applied by the LWF Department for World Service, should be in the final document.

The Council also called for the introduction of a tax on financial transactions (the so-called Tobin tax). The tax on transactions in shares, derivatives and foreign exchange should be used for social, economic and environmental programs that will benefit the most vulnerable people on earth, the Council said.

The Council called on member churches to work together with the LWF at national and international levels for the tax.


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