“We can have an ethical market that respects people and nature.”
– Fr Arturo Estrada SJ
Fr Arturo Estrada SJ, Director of the Bachajón Jesuit Mission in Chiapas, Mexico, visited Ontario and Newfoundland last November 18 – 27. His visit coincided with Canadian Jesuits International’s (CJI) Giving Tuesday campaign, “JUST Communities.” This campaign, which ended on December 3, highlighted the work of our community partners in the Global South and their effort to strengthen just relationships among people and with the earth – our common home.
Fr Arturo spoke at schools, parishes and the Mary Ward Centre in Toronto, as well as to several CJI supporters at a luncheon held at CJI’s office. He talked about the work of the Jesuit Mission of Bachajón, and how for over 60 years, they have been accompanying the Tseltal-Maya community in their journey to autonomy and transmission of culture to new generations.
The culmination of Fr Arturo’s visit were the three public engagement events held in Ottawa, St John’s and Toronto: More than coffee; cultivating dignity and justice in Chiapas. At these events, Fr Arturo talked about their partnership with the Tseltal and how they furthered dignity and justice by: 1) promoting land ownership, food security, and fair wages; 2) advocating for socio-political self-governance consistent with the values of the Tseltal culture; and 3) the strengthening of the Indigenous church through synthesis with the Mayan rite and greater roles for lay people.
Fr Arturo also shared this presentation at two Youth for Others (Y4O) Social Justice Days in St John’s, Newfoundland and Ancaster, Ontario. Y4O is the school outreach program of CJI. It aims to inform students about their rich heritage of social justice and the responsibility it carries. It also aims to engage them in justice issues in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Students who participated in the Y4O Social Justice Days listened to Fr Arturo’s talk on More than coffee; cultivating dignity and justice in Chiapas. They heard the ways in which the community of Bachajón are resisting exploitative economic systems and adding value to the supply chain by empowering local communities. Fr Arturo challenged the students to become more aware of where and how goods and products get to their local stores, and to look at the whole process through the lens of social justice. They were also encouraged to use their “purchasing power” to align with companies that use more equitable ways of growing or manufacturing goods and selling them at just prices.
Fr Arturo also had the opportunity to meet with Fr Hasina Rakotoarisoa SJ and Donna Naughton, Executive Director of the Kateri Ministry to discuss the challenges and opportunities in the work of accompaniment with Indigenous communities in Canada and in Chiapas. Ms. Naughton noted that the work that the Jesuits and the Tseltal have done in building-up the Indigenous church through amalgamation with the Mayan rite, with the support of the Diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, was a “longing” in Canada that could help towards greater reconciliation.
Fr Arturo also reached out to the LatinX community in Ontario through a radio interview with Radio Voces Latina and by joining a gathering at the San Lorenzo Latin American Community Centre.
Fr Arturo’s trip to Canada was more than just a visit; it was about developing relationships with individuals, organizations and institutions that identify with the journey of the Tseltal community. It was also about exchanging and sharing knowledge and perspectives in order to build just communities.