Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Jesuits of UCA

Today I remember the Jesuits of UCA (the University of Central America) – I met them individually in 1975 when I was doing my degree. Father Ignacio Ellacuria, who was a director of the university as well as a professor, told his students that the mission of the university was to produce professionals who would become agents of change and make the difference in their communities.

I remember when Father Ignacio Martin-Baro adopted from Paulo Freire the concept of “concientizacion” and said “the purpose of literacy is to enable people to read their own reality and to write their own history” because they have to take responsibilty for their own transformation and, in a theolgical way, their liberation.

Father Segundo Montes was working with refugee communities in El Salvador, Honduras & the USA. His research and analysis of refugee issues was well respected in all three countries. He found that a lot of money that should have been in the USA was missing because the Salvadoran refugees were sending money back to their families in El Salvador. This totaled 1.3 thousand million dollars a year. In 1984, Segundo Montes proposed to the Americans that they should reform their immigration legislation in order to protect Salvadoran refugees.

By 1981 the only solution that the Jesuits saw was dialogue. I never heard them say which party a person should belong to. Instead they said that we have to seek the truth which is in the reality that surrounds us. We just have to look around and see that reality in order to work towards making things fair for everybody. This was the best lesson that I learned from them.

All three priests were accused of being responsible for causing the war, as a result the six Jesuits and two women were killed in November 16, 1989.

Today I remember them, and I invite you to read their works, essays and research in order to understand their dreams for the marginalized people, and then we can benefit from their findings, because the problem for refugees isn’t just in El Salvador – but also in Canada, the USA, Australia.

This generates problems for the countries which are opening their doors to refugees, because the solution of their problems is not to impose solutions on them, but to give them support so that they can overcome themselves the problems that they face. This will enable them to take control of their own lives wherever they are. Father Ignacio Martin-Baro said that poor and marginalized people have to have a personal and social transformation that leads them to their own liberation as the third force.

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