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Many of us are enjoying listening to, or singing, our favourite Christmas carols as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.
This year the Saint Ignatius parish choir in Honduras, supported by one of our local Church partners, shared one of their favourite carols, Navidad en Libertad (Christmas in freedom), with us.
Longing for a better world
Honduras is a beautiful country, but it has endured years of economic and political crises of corruption, violence and of crime, making it one of the poorest and most unequal countries in the world. Hundreds of Hondurans leave the country every day - environmental and human rights defenders suffer threats and deaths. Access to land is scarce, and indigenous people face additional problems in fighting for their own land.
In El Progreso, our Jesuit Church partner ERIC-Radio Progreso works with the Saint Ignatius of Loyola parish, accompanying parishioners and community groups to fight against repression for speaking out against injustices and human rights violations, and against impunity for perpetrators of crimes.
Julissa, the choir coordinator, told us: “We see singing as our vocation. We provide music for Sunday Masses, but also anywhere else we can bring joy and a message of the Good News to those who need encouragement.”
As part of a CAFOD-supported human rights project, ERIC accompanies legal cases of parishioners such as Jhony Salgado, who was arbitrarily detained on trumped up charges. He is a victim of police brutality and a flawed judicial process that seeks to criminalise his involvement in a social protest in 2017 – in which, as evidence shows, he didn’t even participate. His case has been postponed three times, and is now not due to be heard until July 2022. Jhony, if found guilty, faces up to 15 years’ imprisonment. Amnesty International has taken up his case. Meanwhile, the four policemen who entered his home illegally have been acquitted.
Singing as a source of strength and encounter
The Saint Ignatius Choir is an integral part of Jhony’s parish. It is a true beacon of light and hope to those it serves. During 2020, the choir’s own YouTube channel became even more important. Since the choir couldn’t meet in person, they uploaded videos to keep in contact with parishioners in a different way. She explained how the choir is a place of encounter, not just strengthening those who listen, but choir members themselves, who serve through their music.
Julissa says how delighted the choir is to be invited to record a Christmas carol for CAFOD, and how they spent time rehearsing, talking about which song to record, and how to decorate the church. Their song choice was deliberate – it’s a song from neighbouring country Nicaragua and represents the situation experienced every Christmas – especially by those who live in poverty, who do not receive any material gifts at Christmas but who do welcome Christmas with its true meaning: the birth of Christ.
The choir sings:
Happy Christmas, happy Christmas,
in justice and freedom.
Happy Christmas for a better world,
Without poverty or oppression.
Finally, Julissa says how proud they are to share their recording with us – and how seeing it shared on social media has sustained not just the choir, but the whole parish.
Julissa said: “We are so grateful for the opportunity, and we hope to continue receiving these invitations – they motivate us to continue growing in what we love to do, which is to give greater glory to God, and to love and serve him in everything we do.”
The light of Christ
This Christmas, we pray for the St Ignatius choir and parish, for Jhony, and for our Church partner ERIC-Radio Progreso as they continue to campaign and fight against injustice. We stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers around the world. May we allow the light of Christ to shine through us all to relieve poverty and bring justice and freedom.