The Diocese of Honduras has denounced the murder of an environmental activist who had spearheaded the fight by indigenous Lenca people to stop the construction of a dam in western Honduras. On 5 March 2016 the Rt. Rev. Lloyd Allen and the Honduras diocesan standing committee released a statement following the murder three days earlier of Berta Cáceres (pictured) in La Esperanza. Cáceres led the public campaign against the dam, organizing rallies and bringing legal complaints before the Honduran courts and the Inter-American Human Rights Commission. Last year, she won the Goldman Environmental Prize, which is awarded to local leaders who build community support to protect the environment. The Episcopal Church “deeply regret the despicable murder of the leader of the Lenca peoples, who was a defender of indigenous rights and a protector of the environment in the sacred river territory of Gualcarque,” the statement said. The diocese, which began mission work among the Lenca Indians in 2009 and planted several dozen preaching stations and missions in the region said Honduran and international law guaranteed the rights of “indigenous and tribal peoples” and “we strongly condemn the crime against humanity in the murder of our sister Berta Cáceres.” The statement said Cáceres “was a brave and unwavering advocate for the rights of both indigenous peoples and the protection of the environment. She leaves a lasting impression on the Honduran people. Her death leaves a bitter taste that compels us to speak out.” The diocese called upon Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández to enforce the rule of law in country, which has the highest murder rate in the Americas. “We call for justice to be done in this case and for the government not to rest until this crime has been solved. … We call on the authorities to fulfill their duty to honor life, environmental rights, and the rights of indigenous peoples. Likewise, we call on the state to combat those involved in drug trafficking and organized crime. These were the banners that our sister Berta Caceres hoisted tirelessly during her lifetime,” the diocese said. President Hernández called the killing “a crime against Honduras, a blow for the people of Honduras,” and promised an investigation with help from the United States.
Photo courtesy of the Goldman Environmental Prize committee.