Service for Peace and Justice (SERPAJ)

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Service for Peace and Justice (SERPAJ)

Service for Peace and Justice (SERPAJ), international organization dedicated to promoting justice through active nonviolence. Founded in 1974 in Buenos Aires, by a group of Catholic activists, the goals of the Servicio de Paz y Justicia include education in nonviolent strategies to promote human rights, disarmament and demilitarization, alternative modes of economic development, effective political participation for all, and communal approaches to societal problems. Strongly influenced by the examples of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., SERPAJ emerged in a period of increasing violence by both the Right and the Left in Latin America.

Seeking to bring together groups experimenting with nonviolence and to increase knowledge of such strategies, the organization emphasized popular education, training, and networking. SERPAJ spread throughout Latin America in the 1970s with an international headquarters established in 1974 in Buenos Aires under the direction of Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, a sculptor and peace activist.

National units of international bodies tend to reflect the particular needs of specific countries and hence there is some variety in their programmatic emphases. In Uruguay, SERPAJ emerged as the principal human rights organization engaged in the documentation and denunciation of civil and political violations, particularly during the 1973–1985 military regime; in Ecuador and Paraguay the emphasis was on organizing for greater economic self-sufficiency among the rural poor. SERPAJ also works closely with Christian Base Communities to promote socioeconomic justice. In 1980 its general coordinator, Pérez Esquivel, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In the late 1980s and 1990s democracy returned to Latin America, but SERPAJ has continued to investigate past human rights crimes under military rule. Moreover, SERPAJ through the early twenty-first century maintains its focus on economic and social injustice, by aiding, for instance, homeless children in Argentina.

See alsoChristian Base Communities; Human Rights; Pérez Esquivel, Adolfo.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Basombrío Iglesias, Carlos. Y ahora qué?: Desafíos para el trabajo por los derechos humanos en América Latina. La Paz, Bolivia: Diakonía Acción Ecuménica Sueca, 1996.

Harper, Charles R. O acompanhamento: Ecumenical Action for Human Rights in Latin America, 1970–1990. Geneva, Switzerland: WCC Publications, 2006.

Servicio Paz y Justicia, Uruguay, Uruguay, Nunca Más: Human Rights Violations, 1972–1985 (1992).

Weschter, Lawrence. A Miracle, a Universe: Settling Accounts with Torturers (1990).

                              Margaret E. Crahan