soupcan ‘Soup With Substance’ lecture features Jesuit Fr. Ismael Moreno, Honduran human rights issues

Although the term “progresso” has long been associated as a manufacturer of soup, when Jesuit Fr. Ismael Moreno of Radio Progresso visited Marquette University, Milwaukee, to speak at “Soup With Substance,” the theme had little to do with the nourishment of the day.

Fr. Moreno is involved with the Honduran radio station Radio Progresso, a Jesuit mission started by Jesuit Fr. Philip E. Pick of West Bend. Fr. Moreno visited the United States in the hopes of igniting discussion on the infamous June 29, 2009, coup d’état in Honduras.

“It was illegal, violent and completely unnecessary,” said Fr. Moreno while speaking to Marquette University students and faculty at the informal gathering March 9. Fr. Moreno gave a brief background of the political turmoil and said that because a new group of officials had just been elected, the past president, Manuel Zelaya, would never have been able to carry out any of his problematic proposals.

“These people were elected because they were against Zelaya,” he said.

Soup With Substance

takes place every Wednesday at noon and is open to non-Marquette students.

For more information

on Radio Progresso or the Soup With Substance schedule, contact the Marquette University Center for Peacemaking at (414) 288-8446 or visit the Web site.

Following the coup d’état, Radio Progresso began speaking publicly against the government. Soldiers came in with machine guns to shut down the station, but the station persevered and reopened to continue telling the stories of injustice now common around the country.

“Some of them are very cruel,” said Fr. Moreno. “One young girl was captured at a protest by police and violated. She came to the radio to denounce the act and talked with an attorney for human rights to begin a case. But later on the same girl and her sister-in-law were captured again by seven police, taken to a mountain, raped and told to denounce Radio Progresso. They said, ‘If you do it again, we’re going to repeat this and kill you.’”

Stories like this caused Babette Grunow, a community activist for the grassroots organization Witness for Peace, to unite with the cause and spread the word. Grunow met Fr. Moreno while visiting Honduras and heard the plight of the Hondurans. Since then she has been working with Fr. Moreno to bring his story to the U.S.

“Radio Progresso had become an essential voice for the people, and it needed support,” said Grunow, who believes that Marquette University has a commitment as a Catholic, Jesuit institution to teach students to seek knowledge about others and how to help those in need. “I’m determined not to forget them but stay involved.”

Fr. Moreno said his faith is what keeps him persevering for change and if he withdrew from the suffering Hondurans he would lose his faith. During his trip, Fr. Moreno met with various politicians and government officials, but he believes it is just as important to reach students.

“Considering we go to a Jesuit university, I think we need to be exposed to the injustice occurring around the world as well as how people are responding to it,” said Brian Mahoney, a junior at Marquette. “The Jesuits’ actions in Latin America are truly inspiring, and the changes and hardships they, as well as the people they work with, go through every day have the ability to affect our lives in many ways.”

Knowledge about an issue and how to respond to it is what the Soup With Substance program hopes its participants walk away with, said Pat Kennelly, associate director of the program.

“The program is an easy way for students to learn how to create peace,” Kennelly said. As much as they are searching for peace, “they don’t often think about how peace is made. We have, on a weekly basis, people coming in saying this is how it can be done.”

Fr. Moreno agreed, “Educating university students about Latin-American reality allows the emergence of a new generation committed to the justice and transformations in favor of the poorest sectors. It creates new generations with interest and concern for politics as a space to work for the common good, not only the individual good.”

The common good, human dignity and creating options for the poor and vulnerable are what Soup With Substance works for, according to Kennelly, who added that combating oppression is often part of the discussion.

“We hope that people walk away with not only knowledge about an issue but with a way to respond to the issue, to be empowered to make a difference,” he said.

Not forgetting is precisely what Fr. Moreno wants. He hopes that people learn that the country is more than just beautiful beaches, and begin to spread the news of the injustices that are occurring.

“Americans need to ask your government to pressure the Honduran government to respect human rights so that the violations will be prosecuted,” Fr. Moreno said. “And if you know of or have possibilities to be physically present in Honduras, we’d like you to accompany us on human rights organizations, public protests and the media that has been critical of the government. We need international witnesses.”