Honduras is located within the epicentre of Central America — illustrated on its iconic flag as the star in the middle — the nation shares its borders with El Salvador on the south-west, Nicaragua south-east and Guatemala to the west.
In line with continuing the Prophetic Mission across the globe, the iERA team visited this land that was originally populated by not only the Mayans but by a multitude of indigenous peoples — ‘discovered’ by Christopher Columbus in the early 1500’s — he named the land mass “Honduras” which literally translates to “depths” due to the depth of the ocean near its coastline.
As akin to many other developing countries around the world, the socio-economic aspect of its people are polar opposites — on one hand, it is regarded as the second poorest nation within the South America continent — and on the other, the rich live fairly decadent lifestyles.
This country which holds such wondrous marvels of God’s creation — the cloud rainforest being one of many examples. Unfortunately, Honduras has gained notoriety for being a nation which suffers from scores of homicides on a weekly basis — the side effect of its location, being sandwiched between the northern and southern American continent — makes it a prime location for smugglers to traffic narcotics northwards.
MUSLIMS? WHERE ART THOU?!
With Christopher Columbus’ apparent discovery of this area of the globe, there are accounts of Muslims visiting this region before it was colonised by the Spanish. Which was the case of other areas of the Americas, where the famous Muslim Chinese Muslim navigator — Zheng He — discovered the region several decades before Columbus.
Currently, there are only about 1,500 Muslims within Honduras, which are mostly made up of immigrants heralding from either North Africa or the Middle East. One of the main reasons why some Arabic speaking people decided to migrate halfway around the world is due to the ease of gaining a Honduran citizenship and passport — making it easier to travel and engage in Honduras international trade based on it’s substantial natural resources at its disposal — sugar cane, textile industries, tropical fruit, coffee and minerals.
When compared to the overall population of 10 million, the tiny Muslim population don’t even have a single Masjid (Muslim place of congregational worship) within the whole nation — something that in today’s day and age was inconceivable to the iERA team.
AYMAN HAMMAMI? iERA DA’EE ON THE GROUND!
Born in the Northern African nation of Tunisia where he lived most of his life, with a background in Law — he moved to Honduras with one of his sole aims being to convey the call to Islam in an area of the world which was in dire need of it!
Ayman first got involved with iERA through the World Dawah Mission campaign. Prior to that, he had already launched many dawah initiatives not only in Honduras but across South America. Seeing the fantastic work he was doing, Ayman formally became an iERA Outreach Specialist in 2017 and has continued conveying the call with iERA’s support. This trip by the iERA team from London was to continue to build and deepen that relationship with Ayman.
Ayman has settled well within the country, marrying a Honduran revert to Islam and helping her raise their son, he has tried his best to contribute to the local community. One of the Embassies within the country have Ayman as their first point of contact in regards to Muslim matters and deem him as a representative of Islam within the region.
However, moving to a country — notorious for its high crime rate — requires a steep learning curve. Ayman’s prior life experiences within in his homeland with the nonchalant/God consciousness attitude a typical North African, combined with a husband’s disregard of his wife’s warnings, he found himself in a number of precarious situations. Resulting in both being robbed at gunpoint and receiving a bullet on two separate occasions — therefore, the usually adventurous visiting iERA team members who like to soak in the sights to explore the culture were forewarned about venturing out by themselves.
At times the local iERA volunteers, ‘The Ahmeds’ — who were Egyptian and Moroccan respectively with the same name — were our allocated drivers and kindly drove the iERA team around during their time in the capital, Tegucigalpa. The Ahmeds would instruct the iERA team passengers with either two Spanish word — ‘peligroso’ and ‘tranquilo’. The former ‘peligroso’ means dangerous and within our context, it meant we were in a dangerous neighbourhood — so the iERA passengers would have to keep their windows rolled up and equipment out of sight — whereas the latter command ‘tranquilo’ meant peaceful, it was fine for us to behave in a relaxed manner.
FEED A MAN FOR A DAY OR FEED A FAMILY FOR A MONTH?
Whenever iERA visits a new country to empower the duaat, we run through a checklist of activities to enable us to further the cause of Islam in a peaceful and loving manner.
One of these activities is feeding the homeless, which entails purchasing items such as sandwiches, cartons of juice and other snack items.
However, Ayman Hammami noticed a major flaw with this well-intentioned initiative — instead of feeding a person for one day why don’t we feed a family for a month! By spreading the costs the team were able to purchase essential items including sugar, butter, kidney beans, rice, cooking oil, corn flour and more.
These are the typical ingredients which can be found in the typical Honduran staple diet! In recent times there have been major fluctuations with basic commodities, therefore, some of the specific items have trebled in value to the point where they’ve become unpurchasable items for the impoverished.
When we were handing out food packs in the village of St Lucia — people were reluctant to accept gifts — thinking that there is an underlying sinister motive behind the gesture of goodwill.
AVOIDING THE ‘COLD CALLER’ APPROACH
Initially, the iERA team wanted to conduct their typical street dawah activities within the centre of the capital Tegucigalpa but Ayman Hammami advised the team that prior arrangement had to be made for such an activity to take place. You may ask, what sort arrangements need to be made? Well, the centre of the city can be best described as an area which can spill into chaos within a split second. Ayman would only be willing to conduct dawah in such areas if there was a police presence, at an expense of course — hired guns per say — to ensure security whilst conveying the call in a peaceful and compassionate manner.
However, it was too short notice for Ayman’s police contacts to commit to the time slot we needed. Therefore, the team decided after a successful feeding the homeless incentive the day before it only made sense to build upon the rapport with the St Lucians.
With the underlying crime epidemic prevalent within Honduran society it’s only natural that the locals from the small touristy village of St Lucia will be open to strangers proposing to them new ideas and concepts when initiating a conversation.
iERA Outreach Specialist Ayman Hammami suggested that our usual street dawah approach of setting up stall within a popular public place handing out iERA literature will be moot due to the local’s reluctance to interact with strangers.
Instead, he proposed an alternative — a more indirect method — of conveying the call. Ayman suggested we should behave like tourists and initiate conversations with the locals on an everyday conversational level.
When we visited souvenir shops, we stood out like sore thumbs with our appearance — beards and bright blue iERA Jesus T-Shirts — but this worked in our favour. Ayman would ask questions to the shopkeeper about specific items within the shop to break the ice — which sometimes culminated in buying a small item — but once he was able to get into their good graces Ayman would for instance point to his t-shirt and ask the individual “Hey, did you know Muslims believe in Jesus?” This was the prelude to initiating an organic dawah conversation with the locals and the results were phenomenal!
AN INTERNATIONAL iERA DAWAH CENTRE?
iERA have commissioned a new Dawah Centre in Honduras, which is undergoing a drastic renovation. The project will be complete in approximately a month and we are going to have a grand opening after Ramadan, God willing!
The iERA Dawah Centre is located near one of the main Malls — which is in the heart of the capital Tegucigalpa — and close to main bus station, presidential palace and the national bank. Numerous people are out and about within the confines of this during the whole week and the high volume of footfall is directly outside the main entrance to the mall. This will serve as a permanent drop-in centre for Non-Muslims, a teaching centre for New Muslims and will also be the first dedicated Muslim prayer space in the country!
May Allah bless this place and make it a means of guidance for the people of Honduras!