I GREW UP in the Christian Reformed Church and attended Christian schools that espoused a Reformed outlook. So long before I heard of John Calvin or Abraham Kuyper, I’d already been taught a way of living that declares Christ’s sovereignty over all creation and his people’s responsibility to help restore a world overrun by violence, poverty, and oppression.
This worldview led me to live in a poor urban neighborhood in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and to work with the Association for a More Just Society (AJS), a Christian nonprofit group that promotes justice for Honduras’s poor and spreads awareness of justice issues in North America.
And, not quite two years ago, it brought me face to face with violence and injustice in ways I’d never expected.
December 4, 2006, started like any other Monday. But a little before 11 a.m., our receptionist got a call. Dionisio Díaz García, a gentle, good-natured lawyer who headed up an AJS-supported labor-rights project, had been shot to death by professional assassins while he drove to court.
Earlier that morning I had shaken Dionisio’s hand and looked into his eyes. That night I stared down at his lifeless face, scarred by bullet holes the mortician’s makeup couldn’t hide.
In the previous months Dionisio had been advancing in a court case seeking redress for a dozen former security guards who for years had been forced to work three or four 24-hour shifts per week without overtime pay. In retaliation the company had launched an all-out campaign of threats and harassment against Dionisio and other AJS-supported justice workers. For me and the rest of Dionisio’s colleagues, there was little doubt as to who was behind the murder.
The months since Dionisio’s assassination have been trying: More of my colleagues received death threats. The security company whose former employees Dionisio helped sued AJS’s Honduran sister organization, with which I am placed, and tried to get its license to operate revoked. Police and prosecutors dragged their feet for months on end, frightened of confronting the powers behind the assassination—or in league with them.
But in this time we have also seen God’s faithfulness demonstrated through his people. Thousands of individuals around the world—including CRC members, representatives of CRC agencies, and politicians with Reformed backgrounds—have prayed for us, spoken up for us, and offered words of encouragement. This support has kept us going.
On Jan. 31, 2008, God answered the prayers of those who believed: the hit men who killed Dionisio were arrested. One is an employee of the security company whose workers Dionisio defended; the other is a police officer with ties to the same company. In a country where many have ceased believing in justice, these arrests bring renewed hope that a more just society is within reach.
There is still a long road ahead. The hit men must be brought to trial. The people who hired them must be identified, arrested, and tried.
But this road is no longer so daunting for me and the champions of justice I’m honored to work with. While following God’s call to support justice work has led me to see evil in a closer and more frightening way, it has also opened my eyes to the incredible, life-changing power God unleashes when his people take seriously his call to “seek justice and encourage the oppressed” (Isa. 1:17).