On October 12, Pax Christi USA celebrated our fellow Pax Christi member group, legal aid organization Tutela Legal Maria Julia Hernandez, when it received the prestigious Letelier Moffitt Human Rights Award.

In the late 1970s, during his country’s violent civil war, Archbishop Oscar Romero opened the human rights office in the Archdiocese of San Salvador; this office has since developed into Tutela Legal Maria Julia Hernandez (Tutela Legal MJH; tutela legal translates to legal protection). Maria Julia Hernandez worked closely with Mons. Romero and was the longtime director of the human rights office, which, over the past four decades, has investigated hundreds of cases of political violence, massacres, and assassinations, including that of Mons. Romero. After Maria Julia’s death in 2007, the organization added her name to its own.

The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) has presented the Letelier Moffitt award since 1976; the award was created in honor of Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffitt who were assassinated by the Pinochet regime for their work to defend democracy and human rights in Chile.

Every year, IPS awards one group from the United States and one from Latin America and the Caribbean in order to recognize those who fight for economic, cultural, social, and civil rights. Awardees have gone on to become progressive presidents in Brazil, Colombia, and Chile, overthrow Chile’s Pinochet-era constitution, win landmark unionization campaigns against corporate powers, and stand strong against multinational companies trying to displace Indigenous peoples from their lands. Together, all of the Letelier-Moffitt awardees help create the future we aspire to share.

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