Father Gregorio Iriarte, OMI Honored for a Lifetime of Human Rights and Justice Work
September 23rd, 2012
Rolando Lopez, secretary general of the Universidad Mayor de San Simon, said the highest distinction regarding the defense of Human Rights was awarded to Fr. Gregorio Iriarte omi, a priest with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He said this is a recognition of Fr. Iriasrte’s activity as founder of the Assembly of Human Rights and his contribution to the restoration of democracy in Bolivia.
Fr. Gregorio Iriarte said he was grateful though, he said, he did not deserve such an honor: “My contribution is relative. It is true that I wrote some books, but I can not say I’m a great researcher, I think I’m more of a popularizer, I try to simply translate what others do in science, politics, of economics “.
Fr. Iriarte was also honored with the Ana Maria Romero de Campero National Prize for Culture of Peace from La Fundación UNIR. He was the founder of the Permanent Human Rights Assembly of Bolivia, as well as UNITAS (Unión Nacional de Instituciones para el Trabajo de Acción Social – the Bolivian CSO network) and ERBOL (Educación Radiofónica de Bolivia) – an NGO based in La Paz, Bolivia dedicated to using radio as a means for providing education, social service and pluralistic news. Fr. Iriarte is valued for his tireless work in promoting and defending human rights and the establishment of social justice.
He is considered one of the main drivers of the “liberation church” and his primary contribution was working with basic Christian communities formed by poor people, in order to mobilize them in an attempt to improve their living conditions. Dictatorial governments labeled him as a “friend of the enemies of the government” and expelled him from the country several times. He remained committed to a deep conviction to work with the most needy. Born in 1925, in the Basque region of Spain, he arrived in Bolivia in 1964 and worked in the Llallagua mining center in the Potosi region. As head of Radio Pío XII, he worked to educate farmers and community members in this region.
Fr. Iriarte has published thirty books on the struggle for democracy, teaching values, and promoting principles of a peace culture claiming that education is a means of justice, freedom and solidarity. He has been invited to many national and international forums as a champion of justice and peace.