BY ISN STAFF | November 14, 2014
WASHINGTON D.C. – Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-2) received a “Legacy of the Martyrs” Award from the Ignatian Solidarity Network on November 13 in honor of his ongoing commitment to advocating for human rights oriented U.S. policy in El Salvador and across the globe.
McGovern played a key role as an assistant to the late Congressman Joseph Moakley in the U.S. Congressional investigation into the murders of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter on November 16, 1989 in El Salvador. Following his election in 1997 to the U.S. House he became vocal advocate for human rights oriented policies in Central America and around the world. In 2009, McGovern introduced a U.S. House Resolution honoring the Jesuit martyrs and their companions on the 20th anniversary of their deaths. He has also sponsored numerous bills to cut funding or close the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly known as the U.S. Army School of the Americas) where a number of Salvadoran soldiers and officers responsible for the Jesuits’ murders received US taxpayer funded training leading up to 1989.
During the award ceremony Congress McGovern noted the impact the Jesuit martyrs have had on his life, saying, “They inspired me, to continue working for the poor just like Fr. Ellacuria did, in my work in Congress.” McGovern is spending the weekend following the award ceremony in El Salvador, participating in a U.S. delegation of Jesuit university presidents and others taking part in the 25th anniversary ceremonies for the Jesuit martyrs in San Salvador. McGovern has been recognized with honorary degrees from the Jesuit’s University of Central America in El Salvador as well as a number of U.S. Jesuit universities.
The Ignatian Solidarity Network is a direct product of the martyrs’ legacy. The deaths of 70,000 innocent individuals over the course of El Salvador’s 12-year civil war, many killed by Salvadoran soldiers who received U.S. military training at the former U.S. Army School of the Americas, gave ISN founders like Robert Holstein and Fr. Charlie Currie, S.J., the impetus to invite the Jesuit network to be part of working to bring attention to U.S. involvement in Central America.
From 1996 to 2009, the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice took place in conjunction with SOAWatch’s vigil at the gates of Ft. Benning, the location of the former School of the Americas before it was renamed in 2001. Congressman McGovern spoke at the Teach-In in 2005. While the Teach-In moved to Washington, D.C., in 2010, the legacy of the martyrs remains at the core of ISN’s social justice education and advocacy efforts.
Also recognized last night was Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación (ERIC) and Radio Progreso, Jesuit sponsored NGO’s in Honduras whose work encompasses grassroots radio programming; training on human rights, community organizing, and empowerment; and the formation of leadership committed to social change; and aiding migrant families.
The award was accepted on behalf of ERIC and Radio Progeso by Fr. Ismael Moreno Coto, S.J., the director of both programs. Popularly known as Padre Melo, Fr. Moreno is a Jesuit priest and human rights activist in his native Honduras. Fr. Moreno has also previously testified before the U.S. Congress at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission regarding the human rights situation in Honduras and the fear he, his staff, and other journalists experience.
The awards are part of ISN’s year-long commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Jesuits’ deaths, which kicked off with a delegation to El Salvador comprised of Jesuit institution representatives from across the U.S. “The legacy of the Jesuit martyrs is grounded in a commitment to respond to the suffering and reality of our world today,” said Christopher Kerr, ISN executive director. Kerr continued, “Rep. McGovern and ERIC/Radio Progreso are living out that call, standing in solidarity with the poor and marginalized.”
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 501(c)3 organization working in partnership with Jesuit universities, high schools, and parishes, along with many other Catholic institutions and social justice partners.