We’ve written a lot about the Basque Passionists in the Peruvian Amazon. As we’ve explained many times, this is for a number of reasons. There are quite a few, but the highlights would be our fondness for this order that helped anti-Francoist Basques so much; their commitment to the poorest and most needy in the Amazon; their deeply progressive positions bringing the Church as close as possible to the people; their opposition to allowing that part of the world to become a warzone or letting its people be taken hostages or used as pawns in violence that they have nothing to do with; their struggle against powerful forces that want to squeeze every last resource out of that area and its inhabitants; their defense of the environment.
Because of all of that, we did not want to miss the opportunity the 3rd edition of the Day of the Basque Diaspora gave us to again feature them on our blog. In the week dedicated to this event this September, we’re sharing the message sent to all Basques around the world by Basque Passionist Jesús María Aristín, who was recently named the Bishop of the Apostolic Vicariate of Yurimaguas by Pope Francis. It’s a message from one of the many Basques who left their homeland and became members of our diaspora, guided by their goal of making the world a better place.
Now, as this September comes to an end, we wanted to share an intense video-interview we had with him in order to have him tell the story of the Basque Passionists in that part of the world and, especially, so that we could document the more than 100 years of the commitment of these Basques to the inhabitants of those lands.
The tale told by Bishop Aristín is one of those that can’t help but move you. He takes un on a long and enthralling journey which starts with how the first Basque missionaries there discovered what their main goal in that Amazon jungle was: to fight for the defense of the dignity of the inhabitants of those lands. It then ends with their determination in modern times: to defend these lands to keep them from falling into the claws of those who would plunder them and condemn their inhabitants to misery and despair. And he does so with clarity and without euphemisms.
On that journey, he tells us how, once integrated into the community that welcomed them with open arms, the Basque Passionists have been a key element in providing their community with all types of basic resources, from schools to electricity, including vocational training, hospitals, radio stations, libraries…in then end, creating a community.
Now they’re working hard to fight deforestation; the uncontrolled extraction of raw materials; and for the defense of balanced growth that benefits the locals, and not the multinationals, to guarantee a dignified future to the local community. It’s a struggle that is not just for the inhabitants of the Amazon, but for us all, because defending the integrity of the jungle is tantamount to defending all of humankind.
And we couldn’t let the opportunity slip by, so we asked him about the Amazon Synod and the proposal made by this Apostolic Vicariate: to allow married priests. It’s a possibility that has rocked the foundations of the part of the Catholic Church that is rooted (if not stuck) in a past based on control and power.
This interview shows us some of the best things we Basques can offer the world. And we’re not talking about religion. We’re talking about commitment and solidarity, dedication and effort. It’s a field our missionaries have given so much in, setting an amazing example.
We’d like to thank Monsignor Aristín for so kindly dedicating his time to us. We’d also like to highlight the support and collaboration with everything related to the Basque Passionists in Peru that we have received from the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Aranzazu of Lima; the Limako Arantzazu Euzko Etxea – Lima Basque Center (the idea for this interview came from one of those conversations); and ‘Oiga’ magazine, founded 72 years ago by Basque-Peruvian (or Peruvian-Basque) journalist Paco Igartua.
And don’t miss the interview. You’ll learn so much about the amazing work of these Basques in the heart of the Amazon for over the last 100 years.