Franciscan Spotlight

Fray Tomás González Castillo, OFM - Mexico   

All photos courtesy of Br. Christian Seno, OFM

Franciscan Spotlight is a new section that will feature the work of Franciscans Internationals’ partners on the ground. Through a series of brief interviews, these Brothers and Sisters will share their passion for human rights, some insights into their work, and their hopes for a better future.

Our first Franciscan Spotlight focuses on the work of Fray Tomás González Castillo, OFM.  The founder of La 72, a migrant and refugee shelter in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico, Fray Tomás has recently been honored as a runner up for the United Nations’ Nansen Refugee Award.  Named after Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian explorer, scientist, diplomat, humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who served as the first High Commissioner for Refugees at the League of Nations, the Nansen Refugee Award honors individuals who have advocated for the aid and protection of displaced persons.

On 18 October 2017, Fray Tomás will be presented with the Human Rights First Award for his work in advocating for migrants and refugees.  Human Rights First wrote, “Unbowed, Friar Tomás persists in championing the human rights of migrants and challenging the Mexican government to end impunity for crimes against the hemisphere’s most vulnerable population.” 

Franciscan Spotlight spoke with Fray Tomás about the significance of receiving international recognition for his humanitarian work and the importance of human rights advocacy as a Franciscan.

The original version of the text in Spanish can be found below. 

 

What does your recognition as a finalist for the United Nations’ Nansen Refugee Award and the recipient of the Human Rights First Award in New York City mean to you?  

This recognition is not for a person because La 72 has been a collective effort of several years. It is a recognition of the work of the many people who have gone through Tenosique and have believed in our project. As Franciscan, it is a recognition of our Family and of our Order.

How will this honor impact your work with the migrants and refugees in La 72?

This recognition or rather, the nomination, commits us to continue working with passion, without rest; because migrants and refugees will continue to come and they will continue to suffer.

How does working with Franciscans International and the United Nations assist you in your work with migrants and refugees in Mexico?  

Franciscans International is a strategic ally. The issue of migration and refugees is a “transversal” theme in the present pontificate and, for us Franciscans, it is imperative to work with them.

Why is it so important to include working for human rights in your ministry as a Franciscan friar?

We Franciscans have an enormous spiritual heritage. We have not fully explored what our Franciscan history and identity are capable of. The struggle for human rights is one more way to live our charism. But I believe that human rights should go through all the evangelizing work of our Order.

How can other Franciscans in Mexico and all over the world get involved with advocating for our migrant and refugee brothers and sisters?

Mexico and the United States have a terrible migration situation. Politicians, governors, the owners of economic power have worked to create borders and design walls; all Franciscans and all Provinces should have an evangelizing service for migrants and refugees.

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¿Qué significan estos reconocimientos para ti?

Este reconocimiento no es para una persona, porque La 72 ha sido un esfuerzo colectivo de varios años. Es un reconocimiento a la labor de muchas personas que han pasado por Tenosique y han creído en nuestro proyecto. Como Franciscano es un reconocimiento a nuestra Familia, a nuestra Orden. 

¿De qué manera este reconocimiento impactará tu trabajo con los migrantes y refugiados de La 72?

Este reconocimiento o la nominación nos compromete a seguir trabajando con pasión, sin descanso, porque las personas migrantes y refugiadas seguirán pasando, seguirán sufriendo.

¿De qué manera trabajar con Franciscans International contribuye en tu trabajo con los migrantes y refugiados en México?

FI es un aliado estratégico. El tema de la migración y el refugio es un tema transversal en el actual pontificado y para nosotros los franciscanos es un imperativo trabajar con ellos.

Como fraile franciscano, en tu ministerio... ¿por qué es importante incluir trabajar por los derechos humanos?

Nosotros los franciscanos tenemos una herencia espiritual gigantesca. No se han transitado hasta ahora en la historia de nuestra familia todos los caminos de los cuales es capaz el franciscanismo. La lucha por los derechos humanos es un camino más para vivir nuestro carisma. Pero creo que los derechos humanos deberían atravesar todo el trabajo evangelizador de nuestra Orden.

¿Cómo pueden otros franciscanos en México y alrededor del mundo involucrarse, abogando por nuestros hermanos y hermanas migrantes y refugiados? 

México y los Estados Unidos tienen una realidad migratoria muy sufriente. Los  políticos, gobernadores, los dueños del poder económico crean fronteras, diseñan muros; todo franciscano y toda provincia debería tener hoy un servicio evangelizador con las personas migrantes y refugiadas.

 

Author: Christian Seno, OFM

 

Photo Credit: © Gustave Deghilage