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Martin Barillas has been a diplomat and human rights observer in Europe, Latin America and the United States. He has been involved in a far-reaching daily radio program, which broadcasts to over 100 radio stations, and is Religion news editor for Spero News.


MICHAEL WESTFALL: Mr. Barillas, I would like to welcome you to The American Conservative Worker. Thank you for your participation in this interview.

You cover a great many important religious and social issues ranging from gay marriages to human rights. Your canvas has certainly been the world. Could you give our readers an insight as to why you became interested and garnered a special passion for the human rights of the world’s less fortunate?

MARTIN BARILLAS: I had the good fortune to grow up in Flint Michigan but also in Guatemala City, Guatemala, where my father came from. This gave me life experience in assessing the difference between cultures. I followed this up with studies in anthropology at the University of Michigan. My father passed on to me a passion for defending the rights of the powerless that perhaps stemmed from a sense of noblesse oblige. He once told me, “Be strong with the strong, and weak with the weak.” It took me some time to understand just what he meant. I have come to the conclusion that he meant having compassion for the powerless and the poor, while struggling against powers in the world that oppress or would seek to exterminate others.

My father, because he was a dark-skinned foreigner, experienced racism at various times in the US but became a very proud US citizen. He was very proud to espouse the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution having witnessed abuses of basic human rights in his home country of Guatemala. While he was proud of his culture and parentage, he was prouder still of the founding principles of his adoptive country. This is his legacy to me.


MW: Why do you feel that publishing articles on these moral issues is important, and are the social and human rights issues in America different from other nations and if so, in what way?


MB: As an American, I am very aware that long before the “Rights of Man” were proclaimed during French Revolution, our own country was founded not only on a revolution that threw off a monarchy, but one that culminated with a Constitution and Bill of Rights that recognized that human rights are not some sort of privilege granted by a beneficent state but endowed by our Creator.

In our country we have long struggled over the principle upon which our country was based. For too long, we denied rights to certain classes of people because of ideas that are really foreign to the founding principles: race, color, and class, for example. This Great Experiment is not yet over.

I fear that what is happening in the US is that we have imported ideas from Europe that are at odds with the founding principles of our Republic. We see in Europe, for example, that the State (especially in France and Germany) sets itself up against the Church. It would seem that the State not only wishes to void any contribution that the Church has made to Western culture but also sets itself up as an ultimate arbiter of human and civil rights. This was seen in the debate over the European Constitution over the last year or so.

What we are seeing in the US is a threat to the Constitution and the Judeo-Christian bedrock upon which it stands. The debate over human rights, gay rights, rights for immigrants, rights for parents, rights for children, etc. is really just the language of a struggle over the definition of Man. Is he a ward of the State or a child of God?

This is played out in many places in different ways. In China, state capitalism trumps human rights and is also leading to a dangerous degradation of the environment. In the US, huge corporations like Merck are joining with the State to enforce the provision of vaccines to girls for sexually transmitted diseases and, by the way, make millions of dollars. In Africa, the exploration for oil in the Sudan by China and its African allies trumps the rights of non-Muslims. There are tremendously important stories like this all around the world and they need to be addressed.


MW: Chinese Deputy Minister of Public Health, Huang Jiefu, admitted at a conference held in the Philippines in 2005 that organs are harvested from executed prisoners. Your February 1, 2007… Spero article Murder in China to harvest human organs discussed the murder of Falun Gong members, a group in opposition to the communist government, for the purpose of harvesting their organs. Could you explain the ramifications of this barbaric practice?


MB: The US is tied at the waist to China and the Chinese know it. As our manufacturing sector sinks, there is rising. Otherwise, why can they so casually promise to go to war over the possibility declaration of independence of Taiwan? The Chinese know that we (the US) have little sway over how their totalitarian system treats its subjects. It should come as no surprise that China’s totalitarian government is involved at some level with unethical human organ harvesting. This is a government that mowed down hundreds or thousands in the wake of the Tianamen Square incident years ago. It still insists on one child per woman, even at the cost of inducing abortion. The establishment media does not give enough attention to issues such as abortion enforced by the Chinese government, nor organ harvesting. It is up to bloggers and independent news agencies such as Speroforum to put the spotlight on these practices so that China may actually have to reform itself before being accepted as a respected actor in international affairs.


MW: I can think of no greater human rights violation then the abortion issue. You have written on Ecumenical pro-life marches around the world and their importance. Could you give our readers the Catholic Church’s position on abortion, and your personal thoughts on the importance of pro-life marches?


MB: The Catholic Church condemns abortion since it recognizes that human life begins at the moment of conception and is therefore due those inalienable rights delineated in the US constitution. The Catholic Church was vilified in the 1970s during the debate over abortion in the wake of the Roe v. Wade decision and many Christians were silent. Perhaps many Catholics and other Christians really thought that abortion would indeed be rare or exceptional. However, experience has shown otherwise. As abortion became legal, it became acceptable to the public. But its also has become profitable to those who promote it. Catholic and Orthodox Christians and Protestant Christians, and not even liberals such as Nat Hentoff, can agree that not only abortion, but euthanasia as well, is a common enemy that must be confronted head on. Pro-life marches are fine as a way to generate interest in the issue, especially among the young. But they are not enough. If abortion is to end, pro-life voters have to question their politicians’ records and even oppose them if they do not hew to the pro-life line.


MW: What are your thoughts relative to the abortionists, feminists and other pro-choice advocates, who aid, abet and promote the grisly abortion procedures that deny life to humanities unborn? Are these people complicit in a crime against humanity and could you explain?


MB: I am convinced that many of the abortionists and their confreres are beyond any rational appeal. They are obdurate in their view that a human life can be bargained away in the name of an illusory freedom of choice. They must be resisted strenuously, but not violently. Because abortion is so widespread, aided by the United Nations and the United States in some cases, it would be hard to try any of these people for crimes against humanity. The US has to lead the way and end the practice of abortion at home and show that it welcomes children. One way to do this would be through reforming the tax code so as to provide tax relief to families (especially those with two spouses at home) with children.


MW: What do you see as the role of the Church in protecting human rights around the world, who are the major players and do you see the role of the Church increasing or decreasing? Could you explain for our readers some of the other major human rights violations, and what kind of obstacles the Church faces in addressing these issues?


MB: Christians, of whatever stripe, are called to not only praise the Lord but to share his word. This can be in not only evangelising but also taking risks as some missionaries and others do when they challenge economic and legal systems. My thoughts run to the many Catholic nuns and priests who have given their lives in witness to the Gospel when they put the spotlight on the violence and inhuman practices of the powerful. Christians may at times be at odds with government, even if it is the government of the United States.

In Latin America, the Church has long been persecuted by governments that have cozied up to US corporations such as United Fruit, mining and railroad interests. There have been times in places like Guatemala in the 1980s when there was a price on the head of missionaries there. In El Salvador, three US missionaries were murdered there during the Reagan administration.

The Church, broadly speaking, must address human rights violations honestly and courageously. It has to be a beacon of hope and truth to all people.


MW: On these vital matters, do governments and world authorities really care about Biblical values and faith issues relative to their behavior? Does world morality continue to slide downward in important areas and if so, what are your views on the moral decline?


MB: Certainly, there is a perception that the observance of moral values is in decline. In the 20th Century, we saw the onset of industrialized warfare in the trenches of the Somme during the First World War, Nazi death camps and Soviet pogroms before and during the Second World War, the bombing of civilians and the use of the atomic bomb by the Allies, abortion and contraception, and then the advent of gay rights. All of these are manifestations of the culture of death. I wonder if this can progress any further. Or will there be a crisis in the near future?

Some Christians worry that we are in the midst of the End Times, as evidenced by the popularity of the “Left Behind” series of novels. Secularists worry about their own apocalypse of environmental degradation as evidenced by Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth”. It is hard to know just where things are going to go in the near future.

An area of hope is that Christians in Africa, Asia, and Latin America may have a great deal to tell us about the importance of clinging to the anchor of faith. It is truly significant that Anglican bishops of Africa, for example, are leading the Anglican Communion in rejecting proposals to dignify homosexual relationships with the moniker of “marriage”. In the Catholic Church, Cardinal Arinze of Nigeria is also a leader in this regard, calling for orthodoxy in the whole flock.

I have no doubt of the final outcome, but I wonder just where we are heading in the hear term. The secular materialists of the Left and the Right are on the move. Which brings me to a saying I once heard: “When elephants dance, the grass is trampled.”


MW: In the world today the family and marriage are under attack. So many marriages are ending in divorce. Many people no longer value marriage, are just living together temporarily and having children before they move on to other partners. What is happening to the institution of marriage, what kinds of lasting effects do you see this having on children and what impact will this have on our world going forward?


MB: Demography is destiny. We are seeing that in Europe: Italy and Spain have the lowest population growth rates in the world. These formerly Catholic countries are in the grip of secularist ideologies that militate against Christian family life. But not only Europe is headed for a crisis, but the US as well. If we do not increase population, our economy and the systems that support the soon-to-retire baby boomers are at risk.

We have value marriage (in the traditional sense) as an institution that is essential to the well being of the Republic. Stable families are essential to a cohesive society. If marriage becomes an institution for anyone irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, etc., I ask why would heterosexual males want anything to do with it? Marriage must remain reserved to one-man/one-woman couples or we risk further illegitimacy, family break-ups, abuse of women and abuse of children.

You can see the results of casual sex and casual liaisons in our public schools in places like Flint Michigan. The children of casual sexual liaisons and broken marriages are being raised by grandparents or single mothers with no adequate models of male sobriety and work ethic. This is an area where Christians need to get involved.


MW: In a February piece for Spero News relative to Latin America, you wrote how Bishop Gallardo Martin del Campo, the Roman Catholic bishop of Vera Cruz, Mexico, has denounced Mexican gay marriages and has called on Coahuila state legislators to disapprove a proposal to legalize homosexual unions in his state. Could you explain exactly what the Catholic position is on gay marriage and how this issue impacts traditional marriage? How important is it to maintain the exclusivity of marriage between one man and one woman?


MB: For the Catholic faith “gay marriage” is an oxymoron. That is to say that marriage for Catholics and Orthodox is a sacrament that is a living model or icon of Christ’s love for his Church. True marriage, since it comes from God, is holy and is open to God’s will for us. Marriage is not for procreation only. It is also for companionship so that the marriage partners help each other realize the plan that God has for each of them. Paraphrasing C.S. Lewis, without God, the partners in marriage are degraded to the level of master, slave, or idol.

By reserving civil marriage to one-man/one-woman, the Republic enjoys many benefits, not the least of which is societal stability and the raising of children to the level of useful citizenship. By allowing so-called gay marriage, true marriage as an institution is endangered. Without marriage and family, what intermediary societal institution is left between the State and individuals?

I am heartened by how Christians of various denominations have come together on this issue, as they have on euthanasia and abortion.


MW: In a September 11, 2006 piece titled Michigan Baptists Shun gay-Friendly Congregation … …you discussed how various Baptist congregations around Flint, Michigan were disaffiliating from Flint’s historic Woodside Church because of its acceptance policy regarding homosexuality. Rev. Strawser affirmed that American Baptists believe that homosexuality is incompatible with Biblical principles. Could you explain?


MB: Many people believe that they can interpret sacred scriptures for themselves, without any reference to received wisdom or tradition. Some of them are Baptists; some of them are Catholics or other Christians. There appears to be a movement or movement of Christians of various denominations to challenge what they see as the hold that the so-called “Christian Right” or “fundamentalists” have on defining what or what is not acceptable as Christian doctrine. I look forward to observing this debate among Christians and those of other faiths or no faith.


MW: We have only touched the surface of just a few issues. When we take a big picture perspective viewing all of the cultural issues such as abortion, same sex marriage, the break down of the family and other such issues and then add the terrible human rights issues-- including the mass murdering in places like Uganda, the inhumanity in places like Korea, the targeting of Israeli civilians by Hezbollah for no military reason, the terrorism and human misery for purely political reasons around the world --then the damage currently being done to humanity is profound and fundamental. Are there any other relative points or issues that you would like to add or address?


MB: Journalists, especially those in the establishment media, are largely ignorant of religion and the concerns of people of faith. They have got to get up to speed on this. The rise of irredentist Islam in many places of the world has brought into focus the role of religion in politics and economics. If people of faith are to be effective, they must show their integrity. This means integrating their religious principles into all areas of life: how they work, how they vote, what they buy, etc. Human rights are essential to any believing Christian. After all, Christ died for all men, didn’t He?


MW: Martin, through your important career, you have clearly shown that there is no shortage to the serious cultural and human rights issues on our planet. Through our mutual work, we have become friends and colleagues. I genuinely respect and value your efforts, and thank you from all of our readers for being a Champion for Human Rights in our troubled world.

. Please check out Spero News at for additional articles by Mr. Barillas. Mr. Barillas can also be found at Daily Estimate