Loyola University Chicago

Ignatian Heritage Month

2016 Recipient

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Father Jesús Alberto Franco Giraldo (left) and Albilio Peña Buendia, both of Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz in Colombia, accept this year’s Martyrs Award at a ceremony in the Information Commons. (Photo: Murillo Conclaves)

Colombian organization wins Martyrs Award

By Elizabeth Czapski  |  Student reporter


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Loyola University Chicago will give its 2016 Martyrs Award to Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz, a Colombian organization that works with victims of human rights violations to promote peace, justice, and nonviolent political change. 

This is Loyola’s second year presenting the Martyrs Award. It was created as part of Ignatian Heritage Month in 2015 to continue the legacy of the eight Salvadoran martyrs who were killed in 1989 for speaking out against the government and advocating for the poor. The award includes a $25,000 grant to a faith-based individual or organization that champions social justice issues and serves marginalized communities. 

“The work of Justicia y Paz is unique in that as an interfaith human rights organization it combines social analysis with intervention and advocacy,” said Chris Murphy, director of Staff Mission Formation and chair of the nominating committee. “As one of the finalists, [Justicia y Paz] showed a deep concern for social justice for the indigenous communities of Colombia.”

Maria Vidal de Haymes, PhD, a professor in the School of Social Work, nominated Justicia y Paz for the award because of its strong commitment to human rights. She has volunteered with the organization for almost 10 years after learning about it from Sister Carolina Pardo, a Loyola graduate and former director of Justicia y Paz.”

“I first heard about Justicia y Paz over a decade ago from Sister Carolina, who was getting her master’s degree in social work from Loyola at the time,” de Haymes said. “Through Sister Carolina, I learned about the Colombian conflict, the work of Justicia y Paz, and the communities that they accompany. The Martyrs Award comes at a critical time in the history of Justicia y Paz and will go a long way in helping them serve marginalized communities in Colombia.” 

For 28 years, Justicia y Paz has been working toward peace in Colombia, offering support to victims of human rights violations so they can become advocates for democracy and justice in their communities. This support ranges from judicial to educational to psychosocial. 

The Martyrs Award will help Justicia y Paz realize its “open university” initiative, a project dedicated to educating leaders and teachers in different humanitarian zones as Colombia works toward an end to its armed conflict. 

“We members of Justicia y Paz recognize this award as a tribute to the many victims and communities in Colombia that have resisted state-based violence by building alternatives to war while living in the midst of it,” Sister Pardo said via email. “This award is also an opportunity to build bridges between Loyola University and the University of Peace, an initiative of the communities in resistance, begun by Justicia y Paz.”

On November 16 2016 the second annual Martyrs Award ceremony was held on Loyola's Lake Shore Campus on the 4th floor of the Information Commons. This year's award went to the Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz, an organization based in Colombia that works with victims of human rights violations to promote peace, justice, and nonviolent political change.


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Fr. Alberto Giraldo, the Executive Secretary of the organization, accepted the award on behalf of the organization.


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Comisión member Albilio Peña Buendia was also in attendance and reflected on his time with the Comisión. Loyola undergraduate students Juana Fonseca and Sebastian Taborda acted as translators for Fr. Giraldo and Peña Buendia.


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Fr. Alberto Giraldo concelebrated the Memorial Mass at Madonna Della Strada, commemorating the 27th anniversary of the death of the El Salvador UCA Martyrs.

Sr. Sister Carolina Pardo Jaramillo, Loyola University Chicago Alumnus and Board Member of Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz, The Colombian Conflict and Struggle for Peace and Justice

Video taped interview that will include: 1) an overview of the Colombian conflict and the current situation post peace accords and no vote; 2) draws connections between her work with Commission to her time and study at Loyola; 3) vision for peace and restorative justice in Colombia.


Dr. Elizabeth Lozano, Associate Professor, School of Communication, Peace and Communities in Colombia


Dr. Maria Vidal de Haymes, Professor, School of Social Work, The Model of Comprehensive Accompaniment of Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz


Dr. Steven Haymes, Member of the Ethics of Truth Commission of the Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz, The Role of the Ethics of Truth Commision in the Clarification of Truth and the Safeguarding of Memory of the Victims of Conflict in Colombia


Professor Albilio Peña Buendia, Accompaniment Team of Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz, Martyrs Award Reflection: La fuerza espiritual la solidaridad/The Spiritual Strenght of Solidarity


Fr. Jesus Alberto Franco Giraldo, Executive Secretary and Legal Representative Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz.



Click here to see photos from the November 16 award ceremony and the annual Martyrs Memorial Mass.