Unification News for July 1996


RYS Project Honduras June 20th - 30th, 1996

by Josef Schinwald-Honduras

Central America is not really a region where you could find interfaith projects of any kind, the problems there have been historically political in nature, particularly the thread of communism has been very real after it succeeded in Cuba and Nicaragua. This is the reason why our CAUSA seminars had been very effective for many years, precisely in Honduras, the country out of which the Contras fought against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Political leaders in Honduras changed frequently and once they disappeared from the public stage, they often also disappeared from this physical planet. After many years of our CAUSA activities, one General who was a central contact for us became accused and charged to be the main responsible for those Honduran politicians who disappeared mysteriously. Our reputation in that country was gone overnight and CAUSA and Father became a synonym for all the bad designations you can think of describing the extreme right wing political movement.

Having received a mission from the World Media Association to do research for the establishment of a new newspaper in Latin America, I became quickly aware of the problem once I arrived for the first time in Honduras last year in September. Then I learned also that the current President of that country would not meet True Parents at their Speaking Tour. But to my surprise when I was reading the newspaper articles covering In Jin Nim's and Jin Sung Nim's visit I found some very objective and even positive stories, the most negative article, however, was written by a catholic bishop. I pictured in my mind's eye how the leaders of Honduras would have to change their perception of True Parents once they would come to know all the other (next to CAUSA) projects which have been held to promote world peace. I wanted to do something about the public image of our church, so I asked Mr. Jose Leite, the national leader of the UC in Honduras, to come to New York and to meet with me several important leaders of our church to discuss and to decide what kind of project we could do in Honduras.

The RYS Project began in Rev. John Gehring's Office in New York when Mr. Leite and I together with John ended our conversation with a deep prayer for the South American providence. The Religious Youth Service was the right project to promote the work and to restore the image of True Parents in Honduras and you will find out shortly why.

When John called me in February this year to inform me that he was planning to hold a project in Honduras, we both knew that there would be some challenges ahead of us, since it was the first project of its kind in that region. It was exciting at the same time to lay a foundation and to pioneer the way for future ones. So we went to work. I am not planning to list all the difficulties here which we encountered trying to get young people from the different countries of Central America, I just want to mention that it seemed pretty strange for most of our church leaders there to be asked to send representatives of their countries to Honduras for actual work, having to come up with their travel expenses, etc. Finally, the Women's Federation for World Peace helped out and participants came from Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Mexico. All in all RYS could gather about 35 participants from Central and North America. Mr. Leite contacted our VIP's in Honduras to send their children and Mr. Mario Salinas, our main Honduran RYS coordinator brought several of his personal contacts.

Through Mario's extensive network of contacts we received help from the army, the government, and other public institutions. The army provided us with the bus transportation, and the social department of the government gave us a project which was really worthwhile, we were able to participate in the completion of a school building. The school officials and the children received us very warm-heartedly and we had ample opportunity to get to know and to learn from each other. Our voluntary work was received extraordinary well by the Media, two television teams came on sight to cover the activities, and one of the most widely read newspaper wrote a very good article on RYS with an Interview of Rev. John Gehring. The media people were both surprised and impressed that those young people would come from all over the world, people with different religious and cultural backgrounds, pay their own flight or bus ticket and work voluntarily in Honduras.

The next day after we have been seen on television and covered by the newspaper, when I was meeting some of my key contacts in Tegucigalpa, I became convinced that RYS had done something of great significance in regard to the recovery of the image of our church and True Parents in Honduras. I was happy that whenever I met people of influence in Honduran society I could speak about the RYS project and they knew about it. Moreover, I was proud that they knew I was part of it. When I read the newspaper article covering the story about us tears came to my eyes and I felt God's gratitude, I knew that we truly have done His will.

The Religious Youth Service had also the opportunity to promote world peace at another opportunity. Three days after the project had started, a conference for 60 ministers, organized by our church and sponsored by True Parents, was held. Rev. John Gehring was invited to give his slide show and the entire group of RYS participants came to join the conference for the remaining last hours at the second day. The ministers were trying to reach out to us, asking us for our address and one even wanted to buy the Divine Principle book. We took memorable pictures that day together with the ministers and I promised them after my 1 / hour lecture which I gave in broken Spanish but which was received with great interest to send all of them a newsletter to summarize the main points of the two events that had taken place that week.

Every other night after working on the project we had guest speakers in our humble hotel. The RYS participants could hear lectures on the history of Honduras, the Maya culture, Christianity, the situation of the children, the problem of illiteracy, hunger, and drug and alcohol abuse. Moreover, we visited the museums, a village, and had a tour around the capitol of Tegucigalpa. But the most memorable experience by far were the final two days at the Caribbean where we enjoyed a most exotic jungle trip, bicycle and horse riding, swimming and snorkeling. On our final evening, John had us stand on the beach making a circle for prayer. We stood there for an eternity, or for a moment, the perception of time seemed to be distorted by our feeling of bonding, we had done something for God, for Honduras, we had made a foundation for future RYS projects in this region. Representatives of the Women's Federation for World Peace from Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico were proud to be able to claim their participation as one of their own projects, the Honduran participants, one by one, gave their testimonies of their unforgettable experience, two of them said that they had never in their lives been touched so much in their heart than in those days of fellowship and service. Father's vision for RYS to bring harmony and peace through inter-religious service will be doubtlessly carried on in other countries of Central America. Finally, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Rev. John Gehring to come to Honduras. I want to thank all the young people who came to offer their work and to expand their love over religious, racial and national boundaries. Above all, I would like to give my appreciation for the outstanding work of Mr. Mario Salinas, our RYS coordinator in Honduras.

Josef Schinwald is the UTS missionary to Honduras


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