What began under a tent in Fort Benning, Georgia has grown into the largest Catholic social justice gathering in the United States–a community rooted in the witness of our past that gathers each year to renew our shared commitments. That first Teach-In protested the School of the Americas, which trained many of the Salvadoran soldiers responsible for the murder of six Jesuits and their two companions at the University of Central American in El Salvador, martyred for their outspoken commitment to the most vulnerable.
Bob Holstein, founder of the Teach-In, commented that “The power of the gathering is reflected in the action of going to the gates of Ft. Benning and protesting the tragedy of the death of the six Jesuits and their two women companions, but much greater is that when these students and members of the Ignatian family return home, they are committed to changing unjust structures.”
Twenty-five years later, though no longer held under a tent in Georgia, the mission of the Teach-In remains steadfast. Together, let us stay rooted in our growing shared history while renewing our call to use our voices and act with boldness as we work together to continue changing unjust structures.
Robert (Bob) Holstein, a former Jesuit, begins conversations with Fr. Charlie Currie, S.J. (President of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities at the time) about the idea of an “Ignatian Teach-In for Justice.”
The Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador (Painted by Mary Pimmel-Freeman)
Ignacio Ellacuria, S.J., Segundo Montes, S.J., Ignacio Martin-Baro, S.J., Juan Ramon Moreno, S.J., Armando Lopez, S.J., Joaquin Lopez y Lopez, S.J., Julia Elba Ramos, Celina Ramos, are killed at the University of Central America in San Salvador, El Salvador. 19 of the 26 Salvadoran soldiers responsible for the murders received training at the U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA).
Click the number 2 to learn more about the Jesuit martyrs and their companions
Don MacMillan, S.J. joins the Boston College delegation
A growing number of people hold vigil as a form of protest at the gates of Fr. Benning. School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) is founded in 1990 and begins to organize the annual vigils. Moved to action by the martyrdom of the Jesuits in El Salvador, many Jesuit institutions send delegations to the protests.
The first Ignatian family gathering takes place at a hotel in Columbus, Georgia.
A student speaks at an early IFTJ in the tent. Banners from the attending institutions line the walls—a tradition that continues today.
The Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice takes up its home in “The Tent” which has since become the symbol of ISN. Sitting at the edge of the Chattahoochee River in downtown Columbus, rain or shine, the tent became an important part of the Jesuit institutions’ time in Georgia to protest the School of the Americas.
Click the number 4 to watch the early IFTJ documentary (18 minutes)
IFTJ Tradition:Prayer for the Jesuit Martyrs
Since our days gathering at the gates of Fort Benning, the Ignatian Family has offered up prayers of thanksgiving for Jesuits and people of faith martyred during the modern area. Remembering each of these individuals by name and the place where they served is a reminder of the prophetic call of our Gospel that can come with great costs.
A Prayer for the Jesuit Martyrs at the Columbus convention center
The Teach-In moves from the tent to the Columbus Convention Center. Over 3,000 people attend the Saturday Mass.
IFTJ Tradition:Prayer for the Jesuit Martyrs
Since our days gathering at the gates of Fort Benning, the Ignatian Family has offered up prayers of thanksgiving for Jesuits and people of faith martyred during the modern era. Remembering each of these individuals by name and the place where they served is a reminder of the prophetic call of our Gospel that can come with great costs.
The public witness of kick off advocacy day at IFTJ 2010
The Teach-In moves from GA to Washington, D.C., and engages the Ignatian family in new and exciting ways including legislative advocacy on Capitol Hill. Elements of our time in GA continue; participants bring small white crosses with the names of people killed by graduates of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly the U.S. Army School of the Americas), and a public witness is held outside the Capitol building.
IFTJ Tradition: “PRESENTE”
During the IFTJ roll call, university, high school, and parish delegations respond “Presente” when their institution’s name is called. The Spanish phrase simply means “present here” and comes from the IFTJ’s roots in Columbus, GA. During the solemn vigil at the gates of Ft. Benning, the names of thousands of people killed by graduates of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly the U.S. Army School of the Americas) are sung in litany. Participants respond “Presente” when each name is called.
The Peace Poets (Frankie 4, left and Lu Aya, right) with Francisco Herrera, center.
IFTJ Tradition: Music
Throughout the history of the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice, music has played an integral role. With the guidance of Francisco Herrera, cultural worker and longtime IFTJ musician, participants will break into songs throughout the IFTJ that help to unite the group and carry on the traditions of our time at the gates of Fort Benning.
Click number 8 to hear Caminando, one of IFTJ’s core gathering songs
In the midst of the pandemic, IFTJ 2020 goes virtual to welcome more than 5,000 people for 10 days of learning, prayer, and networking for a more just world. Woven into the Teach-In has always been the concept of “a movable tent.” The gathering always seeks to meet people where they are, and invite them into seeking a more just world.
Click number 9 to visit our Youtube channel and watch IFTJ speakers through the years!
The Brophy Preparatory delegation on IFTJ Advocacy Day in 2019.
IFTJ Tradition: Advocacy Day Since moving to Washington, D.C. in 2010, the IFTJ has sent 12,000+ people to Capitol Hill to advocate on issues including: humane migration policies, environmental justice, human rights in Central America, criminal justice reform, and protecting the social safety net.
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Ignatian Solidarity Network
1 John Carroll Blvd.
University Heights, OH 44118
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.