I Believe in Hope

  • November 22, 2016

By Kate Parsons, AJS Director of Communications

I wake up every morning in Honduras, a country that’s beautiful and complicated, and go to work in an office full of indomitable people doing beautiful and complicated work.

I sit in that office and look at data all day.

So I know the facts: that the homicide rate in Honduras is the third-highest in the world—about thirteen times higher than the States. I know that in over ninety-six percent of these homicides the murderer will never go to jail. I know about the drug trafficking here. I know about the murder of activists. I know about deeply-entrenched government corruption, and that two-thirds of this country lives in poverty, on less than ten dollars per day.

Any one of these facts is so big, complicated, and scary that it becomes paralyzing. How do you end violence and corruption in an entire country, especially when it seems to have spread like rot through everything? How do you continue when you see people giving their lives for the causes you’re defending?

I’m an outsider to many of these fears. Meanwhile, my coworkers have been working on not one, but all of these issues together for almost two decades—sometimes losing battles, but never losing hope.

This hope doesn’t always seem to make sense. When we interact with foundations or international donors, the UN, or USAID, they don’t always seem to share it. If you read the news about Honduras, you’ll read nothing but hopelessness—everything here is violent and broken and it’s only getting worse.

If you ask my coworkers, they have a different outlook. They point out reasons to be optimistic—the homicide rate in Honduras has dropped by a third in four years. Some communities are notably safer. A handful of important and powerful people are starting to go to jail.

But their hope reaches beyond this optimism into faith. I work for a Christian organization, and while the hope that my coworkers have is certainly buoyed by their optimism, it isn’t dependent on it. It’s rooted in their faith that this world is not as it was created to be; and more than that, it is not as it could be, if we Christians lived out our call to do justice for the poor and oppressed.

This hope, of course, does not make them naïve. The people in my office have been mocked and lied to, they’ve suffered insults and even death threats for their work. But they’ve continued because they believe that God is on their side.

In a commencement speech over twenty years ago, Dr. Cornel West said something that still feels true: “Optimism is a notion that there’s sufficient evidence that would allow us to infer that if we keep doing what we’re doing, things will get better. I don’t believe that. I’m a prisoner of hope, that’s something else. Cutting against the grain, against the evidence.”

Hope, West says, leads us to “the conclusion that the world is incomplete—that history is unfinished, that the future is open-ended, that what we think and what we do does make a difference.”

This hope beyond reason (though not against reason) is not held in monopoly by Christians, but it is central to Christianity. This hope has been remarkable and noticeable since the time of the apostles, who wrote letters telling churches to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15).”

In our devotion time here, we often sing a song together called “Danza a mi País”. Its lyrics, which sound better in Spanish, say:

I live in a wonderful country,
Full of riches and good will.
God, paint my soul the colors of this flag.
I would not change this place for anything.

My people are brave and generous,
Poor, but rich in dignity.
And neither suffering nor anger
Has kept them from dancing.

So dance, dance, dance with your shame,
With your joy, with your walk.
Dance, dance, dance, because you have hope
That the God of life will liberate you.

If you go to live in other lands,
Tell them truly what happens here.
Tell them that hatred and misery
Have not been able to bring us to our knees.

Speak of all the good people
Who have given their lives for peace,
And that, through their death, those who remain
Have united in order to continue.

So dance, dance, dance with your shame,
With your joy, with your walk.
Dance, dance, dance, because you have hope
That the God of life will liberate you.

That’s why we continue to do the impossible here in Honduras. Not because it always makes sense. Not because we always have proof that our actions make a difference. But because we have hope that the God of life will intervene, and will use our work to construct a country where children need not cross borders to flee violence, where families can walk without fear in the streets, where the wicked will find justice, and where no one will be hungry.

Even my optimism doesn’t take me that far—but I believe in hope.

So I will dance.

Originally published on the Post Calvin blog.

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