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Commemorating Assassinations and Celebrating 30 Years of the MBF

On November 21, 2019, the Boston College Center for Human Rights and International Justice (CHRIJ) and the Ignacio Martín-Baró Fund (MBF) for Mental Health and Human Rights co-hosted the 30th anniversary commemoration of the assassination of the martyrs of El Salvador. The event featured testimonies from Joan Liem, committee member of the Fund and Professor Emerita of Psychology at UMass Boston; Massachusetts 2nd District Congressman Jim McGovern; Walberto Tejeda, a representative from Centro Bartolomé de las Casas in El Salvador; a video greeting from Carlos Martín-Baró, brother of Ignacio Martín Baró, SJ; Boston College Lynch School Professor of Community Cultural Psychology, M. Brinton Lykes, co-founder of the MBF, co-director of the Boston College CHRIJ; Chung-Wha Hong, Executive Director of Grassroots International; and Professor Catherine M. Mooney, BC School of Theology and Ministry and longtime member of the MBF committee.

At thirty years, the Ignacio Martín-Baró Fund for Mental Health and Human Rights has raised over one million dollars in funding for grassroots projects around the world that engage in work that mirrors and carries on the legacy of the organization’s namesake. Words from Ignacio’s, “Nacho’s,” brother describing the Fund sum up the general theme of the anniversary commemoration event quite well. He said that the work of the Fund is serving to represent “la voz de Nacho adelante”’ or “the voice of Nacho moving forward.” This sentiment was brought forth by Congressman McGovern as well in his reflection of his time in El Salvador and the difficulty he has faced in coming to terms with the U.S. involvement in the violence, both historically and today, through his advocacy work as a government official and representing the voices of the people of the U.S. Despite the pervasive indications that history may be repeating itself through the United States’ oppressive immigration policies towards Central American migrants or its violent war on drugs, he noted that those who support the MBF have served – and must continue to serve – as a reminder to the Salvadoran people, and to survivors of mass atrocities everywhere, that there is still hope in this world.

The 30th anniversary event featured stories of Nacho’s personal and professional accolades and philosophies from his friends and colleagues all while highlighting the Fund’s sustained commitment to the oppressed and to those who live Nacho’s understanding of the need to “liberate psychology” toward creating “a new person and a new society”. Walberto Tejada, a representative from one of the Fund’s partners in El Salvador, Centro Bartolomé de las Casas (CBC), spoke about the embodied legacy of Nacho through the work and mission of CBC and its commitment to achieving social justice through first advocating for gendered justice and a sustained ideological praxis of accompaniment and critical reflection.

In partnering with organizations that foster wellbeing and critical social psychology through activism and accompaniment, the Martín Baró Fund for Mental Health and Human Rights has maintained its roots in liberation psychology through walking with the popular majority against systems of oppression. The Jesuits embodied their faith through living intentionally through action and activism in the face of extreme oppression beneath the Salvadoran oligarchy. The Fund maintains this call to action and advocacy for human rights and community wellbeing through the accompaniment of grassroots organizations fighting for those harmed by political repression, structural violence, and social injustice around the world.

It was the hope of Nacho, and remains the hope of the Fund today as it transitions to an Initiative at Grassroots International, that through the fostering of psychosocial wellbeing and the pursuit of social reparations, society can begin to heal from its painful past and move towards a more equitable future.