Formed with the support of Gustavo Gutiérrez in 1974, the Institute of Bartolomé De Las Casas is one of the main national institutions in Peru preserving and developing a Catholic commitment to social justice and development from a perspective of liberation theology and preferential option for the poor.
They are incredibly well respected and they support a whole host of work, providing training, support and expertise to radio stations, community leaders and volunteers to promote justice. They respond to the need of many people and organisations for solid Catholic Christian teaching, resources and training around social justice and the option for the poor. These needs vary but ‘Los Bartolos’ are able to provide that support and expertise.
Recently they have been focussing on human trafficking which has risen in Peru especially around the Amazon basin which is the focus of mining activity. Los Bartolos are able to respond to the needs of the community and it is often religious communities who are the first to hear of the problems. They are able to respond from the point of view of faith, which sees every person as having dignity and every person being made in the image and the likeness of God.
I got the impression that much of the work they do is high level stuff. This isn’t an organisation that simply provides food for people or builds houses, it trains people to become active in their society, championing the rights of the poor and downtrodden. It changes society by training and enabling advocates and helps build a more just society from the grass roots. It helps people to challenge the structures that keep people poor. It is well and truly yeast in the dough that is Peruvian society and it is making a big difference.
In Mary’s prayer, the Magnificat, we hear of a God who casts down the mighty from their thrones and raises the lowly. We pray that God supports Los Bartolos in their work and removes the obstacles that hinder the good work they and the rest of the Church are doing in Peru.