SANTIAGO, Chile — Five friars and the Province’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Director Russell Testa attended the second OFM JPIC Congress of the Americas here recently to discuss migration, environmental justice and other timely issues.
JPIC animators from all provinces in the Americas were invited to the Oct. 29-Nov. 2 congress, along with representatives of the Secretariat of Formation and the Secretariat of Mission and Evangelization.
Joining Testa, who served as animator, were Francis Di Spigno, OFM, representative of formation, and Hugh Macsherry, OFM, a formation student.Jim McIntosh, OFM, was secretary of the congress, and Ignacio Harding, OFM, served as translator. Joseph Rozansky, OFM, head of the Order’s JPIC office in the General Curia in Rome, hosted the meeting.
Each of the five conferences — English-speaking, Mexico, Central America & Caribbean, Boliviana, Conasur, and Brazil — presented social, economic and political analyses of justice and peace in their region.
“The analysis of the five conferences showed both the interrelated nature of the nations in the Americas and the complexity of this relationship,” said Testa, who presented for the English-speaking Conference. “It provided a base upon which to build a conversation of how Franciscans in the Americas might coordinate their activities.”
Discussing Issues of Migration, Environmental Justice
Attendees discussed common issues affecting North, Central and South America, said Jim, including migration. A common theme raised by all the conferences and provinces was the issue of environmental justice, he added.
“Climate change was highlighted as one example of this far-reaching crisis,” Jim said, “with recognition of human activity as a primary cause of the accelerated degradation of the planet. We are on the verge of an irreversible catastrophe.”
Congress participants agreed to tackle the problems of the Amazon basin as a common project. Testa said: “Through this common project, the interconnected nature of social justice issues can be more easily seen, and it is possible to build relationships among the friars and the people they serve who are truly grounded in solidarity.”
Hugh agreed. “People all over the Americas are really eager to work together on a shared project.”
Testa, shown in photo, presented a summary of the Franciscan Action Network, the office to be opened by the Franciscan Family in Washington, D.C. His summary of the network, designed to help Franciscans and their ministries in the United States be more effective at advocacy, presented a way that U.S. Franciscans could act in solidarity with friars around the world.
A Firsthand Look at a Scene of Torture
Participants also took time to visit the city of Santiago de Chile, seeing a Villa Grimaldi farmhouse used during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet where torture and assassination took place. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and her mother were tortured at Villa Grimaldi. Jim noted that many North American participants were shocked to learn that some of the Pinochete regime torture methods are used by the U.S. government today.
“The Congress moved to a deeper level of urgency and reality for me and many of the participants following the visit to the torture camp,” said Testa. “The need for a Franciscan-Christian message of healing, reconciliation and justice was even more evident.”
The congress documents, as well as photos and other information, can be found at www.ofm-jpic.org/panamericano/.
Earlier in October, Joseph Rozansky participated in the III European Continental meeting for JPIC animators in Frankfort, Germany. The Oct. 15 – 20 event included approximately 50 friars representing the five European conferences. Joseph and Br. Vincente Felipe are responsible for the JPIC office in Rome. The theme of the meeting was “For a Europe United and in Solidarity.”
Information about this congress, as well as JPIC news from the Province of Austria, the JPIC animation committee, and an update about the OFM coordinating Group for JPIC that met this summer in Paris and discussed a campaign for nuclear disarmament can be found in the Nov. 2007 issue of Contact, the newsletter of the OFM International Council for JPIC.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.