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Legacy of Jesuit martyrs & companions inspires students
November 25, 2014

Legacy of Jesuit martyrs & companions inspires students
Ismael Moreno Coto, S.J., speaks with Brophy Prep delegates after giving his keynote address on the human rights situation in Honduras. (Ignatian Solidarity Network)
"You are part of a generation that will face great challenges,” said Marie Dennis. "You are also part of a global community that is filled with energy and life and is already creating a better world."

(Washington, D.C.) November 25, 2014 — More than 1,600 attendees were inspired by the legacy of the Jesuit martyrs and their companions at the 17th annual Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice. The Teach-In took place in the Washington, D.C. area from November 15-17. 

The IFTJ is an annual nationwide Catholic social justice conference sponsored by the Ignatian Solidarity Network. Teach-In attendees represented more than 95 Catholic institutions in 25 states, Canada, El Salvador, and Mexico. The 17th annual Teach-In coincided with the 25th anniversary of the murders of six Jesuit priests, killed in El Salvador on November 16, 1989, by Salvadoran military for their defense of the economically poor.

ISN executive director Christopher Kerr welcomed the crowd with stories from a recent trip to El Salvador. Referencing the experience of praying with women from a rural Salvadoran community, who ended the prayer with a song, he said, "we can sing the song left to us by the martyrs." Kerr continued, "this is a song of peace, a song of justice, a song that goes from this hall here, to the halls of Congress, to halls of our schools and our churches, and our homes. A song that never ends."

Opening keynote Michael Lee, Ph.D, offered many insights about the legacy of the martyrs. He challenged critics of the martyrs affinity to liberation theology, saying, "to many people it is a dirty word…but it is the witness of the Jesuit martyrs.  It is a way of seeking God." Lee is a professor of systematic theology at Fordham University and has written numerous books on the Jesuit martyrs and liberation theology movement.

That same evening Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International called on students to be "peacemakers" by committing their lives to nonviolence through simple living, civic participation, and socially conscious consumerism, public action, fasting, and prayer. "You are part of a generation that will face great challenges,” said Dennis. "You are also part of a global community that is filled with energy and life and is already creating a better world."

The following day Honduran human rights activist Ismael Moreno Coto, S.J., cited the Salvadoran martyrs and the blood they shed in describing the situation in his home country. "Twenty-five years ago they killed our brothers and sisters at the Jesuit University of Central America and twenty-five years later that horror continues to be present in the horror of bodies torn apart in Honduras," said Coto. In closing he implored the crowd, stating, "Today is the time of Honduras, don’t abandon the people of Honduras."

Beyond inspiring speakers, policy briefings, and networking events, more than 1,000 of the Teach-In participants who collectively met with 100+ U.S. Congressional offices during a legislative advocacy day on Monday, November 17. Advocates participated in meetings with lawmakers and staffers to urge Congress to pass humane comprehensive immigration reform, support human rights oriented policies in Central America, and respond to climate change negatively impacting the economically poor across the world.  

Highlights of the advocacy day included a group of approximately fifty students from Archbishop Mitty High School, Bellarmine Preparatory, and Santa Clara University, who met with with Representative Zoe Lofgren (CA-19) to discuss immigration reform and Saint Louis University High School students and faculty meeting directly with Senator Roy Blunt (R.-MO) to speak about immigration as well.

The IFTJ is a nationwide social justice conference sponsored by the Ignatian Solidarity Network, a national lay-led, faith-based, social justice organization that works to mobilize Jesuit universities, high schools, parishes, and ministries and the larger church throughout the United States in order to effect positive social change on critical issues facing the world. The IFTJ started in 1997 in conjunction with theSchool of the Americas Watch movement to close the former U.S. Army School of the Americas. In 2010, the IFTJ moved from Georgia to Washington, D.C., to more directly impact public policy with legislative advocacy.

The Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice was sponsored by: Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, Catholic Relief Services, Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University, Loyola University Chicago Institute of Pastoral Studies, Loyola University Maryland, University of San Francisco, Xavier University, America Magazine, Appalachian Institute at Wheeling Jesuit University, Bread for the World, Fairfield University, U.S. Jesuits National Advocacy Office, John Carroll University, Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University, Loyola Press, Oxfam America, and Villanova University.

A listing of institutions that sent delegations to the Teach-In can be found here.

Photos of the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice can be found here.

Three keynote talks available on YouTube at:

The Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) is a national social justice network inspired by the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola. ISN was founded in 2004 and is a lay-led organization working in partnership with Jesuit universities, high schools, and parishes, along with many other Catholic institutions and social justice partners. More information can be found at:

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