Letter to Secretary Shultz on Refugees in Honduras, September 11, 1985

Year Published
  • 2013
  • English

September 11, 1985  

The Honorable George P. Shultz
Secretary of State 
Washington, D.C. 20520 

Dear Mr. Secretary: 

I am writing as General Secretary of the United States Catholic Conference to express concern over certain disturbing events recently occurring in Honduras, and to urge our government to do all possible to clarify and ameliorate the situation. 

The circumstances surrounding the attack by armed Honduran troops on the Colomoncagua refugee center August 29, according to available eye-witness testimony, differ significantly from the version put forth by the Honduran government and apparently accepted by ours. 

With the bishop of the area, Bishop Luis Santos of Santa Rosa de Copan, I also must ask what purpose the Honduran military, so closely linked at present to our own, had in forcefully entering this protected refuge, shooting, beating and even raping numbers of the Salvadoran refugees, none of whom was armed or, according to our information, offered any violent resistance. Two of the refugees, one a two-month old baby, are now dead; several are hospitalized. 

To all appearances this was an act of unprovoked aggression against people who, by international agreement, are entitled at the least to protection from physical violence. Most of them had fled to Honduras precisely to escape the violence in their home country. 

Were U.S. foreign policy and specifically our military forces not so deeply engaged in Honduras today, our government's responsibility to seek to affect matters might be more limited. But as our involvement with the Honduran military is extensive, our government must assume some responsibility to encourage the appropriate authorities to desist from these kinds of actions. 

I would add to this category of unacceptable behavior the wholly unwarranted arrest and detention of an American Jesuit priest, Father John Donald, S.J. Not only was Father Donald's arrest immediately after celebrating Mass in Saba on August 18 unjustified, but the unwitting complicity, or at least failure to assist, displayed by American troops on the scene remains a troubling question. 

Given the circumstances, it is appropriate for the United States Government to press the responsible authorities to guarantee the now-threatened security and physical integrity of the many refugees that Honduras, to its credit, has allowed to remain within its national territory. I urge you to do so. 


Reverend Msgr. Daniel F. Hoye
General Secretary