WASHINGTON, D.C.– From November 12-14, 2016, nearly 2,000 attendees, animated by Pope Francis’s call to be merciful, “to grow in a love which is courageous, generous, and real,” attended the 19th annual Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice, held in the Washington, D.C. area.
In the midst of a shifting political landscape, the Teach-In, hosted by the Ignatian Solidarity Network, affirmed that, as people of faith, attendees stand in solidarity with those marginalized by injustice. Teach-In attendees represented over 120 Catholic institutions in twenty-seven states, Canada, El Salvador, and Mexico, including more than 30 Jesuit universities and more than 30 Jesuit high schools, parishes, and other universities.
“Regardless of who the leaders of our nation are — their political party, their stances, their statements,” shared Christopher Kerr, ISN Executive Director as he welcomed attendees, “one thing remains consistent — as people of faith, we stand in solidarity with those who are marginalized by injustice.” Citing the Jesuit martyrs and their companions, he said, “[The martyrs] were men and women of faith, inspired by the Gospel of Jesus to work for peace and justice — just like we are today.”
Greg Boyle, SJ, opening keynote and founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries, called upon attendees to stand with those at the margins–to listen to the stories of those who are suffering and forgotten, reminding attendees to “stand against forgetting that we belong to each other–that we’re called to create a community of kinship such that God, in fact, might recognize it.”
On Sunday morning, Sr. Norma Pimentel, MJ, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley and internationally-recognized advocate for immigrants, emphasized the imperative to welcome the stranger, sharing stories of Central American families and individuals who have sought asylum in the United States.
Lisa Sharon Harper, author and chief church engagement officer at Sojourners,drew from Biblical historical context and language of the creation story to amplify a call to the church to rise up in the face of injustice with a call to action for Ignatian Family Advocacy Day on Monday, November 14: “Are you ready to go to the halls of Congress…on your day of educating them…and to tell Republican and Democratic Senators and House of Representative members–not on our watch.”
Beyond the diverse and wide-ranging opportunities presented to participants through speakers, breakout sessions, policy briefings, and networking events, more than 1,400 participated in advocacy meetings throughout the day on Capitol Hill, specifically discussing criminal justice reform and humane immigration policy. Aitana Libreros, student at St. Peter’s University in Jersey City, NJ, speaking at the public witness held prior to advocacy meetings at Columbus Circle in Washington, D.C., boldly called upon attendees “to use your privilege, your voice, to speak for those who have been silenced, to speak for those children who carry this burden, those parents who are terrified for what the future holds for their family….it is time for you to empower others by empowering yourself and taking this great gift that you have of being able to speak to your legislators.”