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Living Oscar Romero's Spirit in Today's Climate

The 2021 Romero Award ceremony and symposium consisted of a series of online events celebrating the perseverance and achievements of environmental and climate justice advocates culminating in the honoring of the award to an inspiring, indigenous, and feminist grassroots leader. The 2021 symposium included global, national and local perspectives on environmental and climate justice issues and challenges in the context of Saint Oscar Romero's legacy. It also launched the new work by Our Moral Courage Project, Poison and Power: The Fight for Water.


Romero Series

March 24, 1980

Anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, a martyr for the faith.

Climate and Environmental Justice

Combating climate change and ensuring a healthy environment for all, regardless of race, wealth, or national origin.

Highlights From the Series

UD Students from ETHOS, Hanley Sustainability Institute, Human Rights Center and River Stewards shared their experiences working on environmental justice issues in Dayton thus far. 

Claire Sullivan (Moderator), '21

Shannon Stanforth, '21

Ancy Johnson, '21

Ashley Kush, '21

Grace Jackson, '23

Victoria Jacobs, '23

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Human rights and environmental justice defenders, and colleagues of the 2021 Romero Award winner shared their reflections of Aura Lolita Chávez Ixcaquic and her work. 

Yesica Sánchez Maya, Human Rights Defender, Consortium for Parliamentary Dialogue and Equity Oaxaca

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Marusia López Cruz, Advisor, JASS (Just Associates)

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Sebastiana Par Álvarez, Community Mayor and spiritual guide to the Council of K’iche’s Peoples

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Sebastiana Par Álvarez, Community Mayor and spiritual guide to the Council of K’iche’s Peoples, performs a traditional Mayan counting of time ritual.  

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Aura Lolita Chávez Ixcaquic

The 2021 recipient of the Romero Human Rights Award is a feminist indigenous leader of the Council of K'iche' Peoples (CPK) for the "defense of life, mother nature, land and territory" in Guatemala. She and the CPK work with 87 communities in the El Quiché region to preserve indigenous lands against corporate and government exploitation. As a result of her front-line advocacy work, Lolita has faced persecution and has lived in exile since 2017. 

Her story brings awareness to the role of indigenous people in the fight for environmental justice and the continued violence against human rights defenders.

Read about Lolita and her work in the National Catholic Reporter, Earth Beat here: >>

Schedule of Events

Anniversary of the assassination of Saint Oscar Romero

March 24th, 3:30-5:00 pm

In this session, international, national and local experts and practitioners joined UD students to share experiences working with communities to co-create transformative solutions at the interface of human rights, public health, environmental degradation and climate justice.

Romero's Legacy: Vince Miller, Professor; Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture, University of Dayton

Keynote Speaker: Adrienne Hollis, Senior Climate Justice and Health Scientist, Union of Concerned Scientists

Student Experiences: Leslie King, Director, of Leadership Formation and Rivers Institute, Fitz Center for Leadership in Community, introduces UD students from ETHOS, Hanley Sustainability Institue, Human Rights Center, and River Stewards: Claire Sullivan (Moderator), Shannon Stanforth, Ancy Johnson, Ashley Kush, Grace Jackson and Victoria Jacobs.

Dayton Perspective: Matt Currie, Managing Attorney, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality

Moderator: Sr. Leanne Jablonski FMI, Scholar for Faith and the Environment, Hanley Sustainability Institute; Director, Marianist Environmental Education Center

April 7th, 3:30-4:45 pm

Thirty years ago, community leaders from all walks of life gathered in Washington, DC for a landmark environmental summit. Delegates asserted the environmental movement needed to pivot and combat environmental racism. They introduced principles that expanded the customary boundaries of environmental protection. This panel featured ‘environmental justice trailblazers’ who attended the Summit. The discussants reflected on the historic milestone and the trajectory of the environmental justice movement.

Romero's Legacy: Kelly Johnson, Associate Professor; Fr. Feree Chair of Social Justice, University of Dayton

Moderator: Carlton Eley, Regional Equity Initiative Manager, Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission

Featured Panel: 

Charles Lee, Senior Policy Advisor for Environmental Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Richard Moore, Program Director, Los Jardines Institute 

Donele Wilkins, President/CEO, The Green Door Initiative 

April 14th, 3:30-5:00 pm

This session featured a roundtable of regional experts to explore how human rights law can promote environmental protection for local communities across the Western Hemisphere. 

Romero's Legacy: Rob Bodrick, Senior Project Manager, The Partnership Center, Ltd.

Poem: Kwyn Townsend Riley, Poet; Graduate Assistant, Western Illinois University

Moderator: Ann Hudock, President and CEO, Counterpart International 


Soledad Garcia Muñoz, Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 

Megan Hess, Rural Organizing Director, We the People, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

Andrea Hain, Ethical Commission Against Torture, Chile

Michalyn Steele, Professor, Brigham Young University Law School

April 20th, 3:30-5:00 pm

The Romero Human Rights Award Ceremony will commemorate an inspiring, indigenous, and feminist grassroots leader for her advocacy for environmental justice in Guatemala. 

Welcoming Remarks: Shelley Inglis, Executive Director, Human Rights Center

Song: Scott Paeplow, Campus Minister for Liturgical Music, Campus Ministry

Prayer: Cheyenne Palmer, Campus Minister, Marycrest Hall and Latinx Ministry

Mayan Counting of Time Ritual: Sebastiana Par Álvarez, community Mayor and spiritual guide to the Council of K'iche's Peoples

Romero's Legacy: Mauricio López Oropeza, Red Eclesial Pan-Amazónica

Reflections of Awardee:

Yesica Sánchez Maya, Human Rights Defender, Consortium for Parliamentary Dialogue and Equity Oaxaca

Sebastiana Par Álvarez, community Mayor and spiritual guide to the Council of K'iche's Peoples

Marusia López Cruz, Advisor, Just Associates (JASS)

Award Presentation: Eric Spina, President, University of Dayton

Acceptance Speech: Aura Lolita Chavez Ixaquic, Leader of the Council of the K'iche' Peoples

Poem: Sierra Leone, Poet, Holistic Urban Creative Arts & Theatre

Moral Courage Project Student Perspectives:

Bridget Graham, '22

Meg Deneen, '21

Jared Marsh, '20


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