Ismael Moreno, from the Province of Central America, lives in what he calls a country that does not exist for the media: Honduras. A country of violence and injustice. The life of this Jesuit has been one of a deep commitment to the mission of faith and justice, especially through the defence of the rights of the poor. This commitment has earned him and continues to earn him threats, even death threats. On the first day of the SJES Congress, as various forms of engagement in the social apostolate of the Society of Jesus were being celebrated, he was invited to share his experience.
Surprise! This is how this man, attacked from all sides by the forces of death, began his remarks: “There is nothing more beautiful in my life than to have received this gift of defending the human rights of the most deprived and oppressed people, and to do so in the name of God and my fragility as a Jesuit.”
The theme of his testimony: how to nourish our social apostolate with hope. This hope comes first of all from the God of Life. In the midst of violence and death, he receives the life of the Lord who knows how to bring light into the darkness. He perceives God’s hopes for new mornings. On another level, his hope is fuelled by the memory of the martyrs of the struggle for faith and justice. During his 42 years of commitment, he has known many of them, women and men, from all walks of life, thinkers and activists, believers and non-believers. They were killed. But their memory does not leave him in peace; these martyrs nourish his dreams and days, they send him back to Jesus of Nazareth. The martyrs, he added, were imperfect human persons, with their fragilities. But they were ready to give their lives... which they did.
In recalling these people killed in the midst of the struggles, Padre Melo’s voice broke when he mentioned his co-worker Berta Cáceres. He had planned to be with her for an activity the evening before her murder. He called her to tell her that he was being held elsewhere and that the journey would be too long to reach her; he reproached her for calling him too late... And it was that night that they killed her!
Ismael Moreno’s hope also comes from the generosity of the simple people with whom he lives and works. They are always ready and happy to share what little they have, and even to offer him the best place in their homes. There is also the hope of his work team, a large number of lay people, men and women, inspired by the spirituality of the Society of Jesus, enthusiastic and joyful, despite their very meagre salaries. The Jesuit community - those of committed men who sometimes work under the suspicious gaze of more institutional sectors of the Church and even of the Society - is also a source of hope in the midst of an often-gloomy environment, while the service of the little ones is nourished by faith and in solidarity.
In short, Padre Melo testified in a brilliant way to the life that animates him, that of Jesus of Nazareth who manifested his friendship for the poor and the excluded.