Early in the morning of November 16, 1989, six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter were taken from their residence and executed by a Salvadoran military commando unit. This horrendous atrocity alerted United States citizens to the systemic abuses and tragedies occurring during El Salvador’s civil war; however, those connected to the Jesuits were well aware of the injustices. These murders were not isolated nor were they random incidents. Much like the 1980 assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, these were violent responses to voices within the Church calling for an end to the oppression of the poor.
Only to add to the horror of this massacre was the United State’s involvement in the attack. US military aid funded the action and many of the soldiers involved in the murder of the Jesuits trained in terrorism tactics at the School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia. For 20 years, students, priests, nuns, and other concerned citizens gather at the base on the anniversary of the death of the Jesuits to be in solidarity with the Latin American communities afflicted with violence perpetrated by the school’s graduates.
In November 1996, members of Jesuit high schools and colleges and parishes started gathering at the gates of Fort Benning with the other protestors in the newly started Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice. In addition to bearing witness to thousands of lives lost at the hands of SOA graduates, it was an opportunity for members from different Jesuit apostolates to gather together to learn about and network around justice. Fourteen years later, in 2010, the Teach-In relocated to Washington, DC, to include an advocacy component on Capitol Hill. This fall over fifty members of the Creighton community, including students, Jesuits, faculty, and staff will represent the university in Washington, DC, at the IFTJ. All twenty-eight Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States, in addition to a number of Jesuit high schools, will be represented at this event. The Teach-In allows students to educate themselves on the various efforts of our nation’s Ignatian communities made to fulfill the Society of Jesus’ commitment to faith, service and justice for the world.
Why and how is Creighton involved? Creighton students, staff and faculty have been attending since 1997. In 1999, Fr. Bert Thelen, SJ and Dr. Jeanne Schuler accompanied students. In 2002, twenty-six Creighton students made the journey to the Ignatian Family Teach-In. In 2004, fifty-seven members of the Creighton community participated, including Dr. Jean Schuler, Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Laura Weber, Director of Campus Ministry, Fr. Bert Thelen, SJ, Pastor of St. John’s Parish, and Maria Teresa Gaston, Director of the Creighton Center for Service and Justice.