Monday June 20, 2016

Statement in Commemoration of the Victims of Orlando

By Camilo Perez-Bustillo, Executive Director of the Human Rights Center

<p>Human rights and a commitment to nonviolence must be at the center of the deep, critical reflection and effective responses needed to the killings in Orlando, as we commemorate the first week since these horrific events.</p>

As Pope Francis has suggested, the “homicidal folly and senseless hatred” which has targeted the Latino LGBTQ community there pose a challenge to our moral imagination in a much more universal sense. This includes our obligation to uphold the dignity and rights of all persons, everywhere in the world, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, age, physical ability, or immigration status. We must be especially concerned and engaged as racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia continue to be stoked in the wake of such incidents by those who seek to exploit such differences for political gain, or as pretexts for the propagation of a culture of death in the name of “gun rights” and of militarism, repression, and other forms of structural violence. We also join with fellow Latino scholars and theologians who have eloquently and courageously reaffirmed our “preferential option for these victims of senseless hatred in Orlando and all those persons who continue to suffer various forms of marginalization within the church and society” (statement, Theolog@s Por Orlando, June 2016).

At least 24 of the 49 victims in Orlando were specifically of Puerto Rican origin. The Puerto Rican community in the Orlando region is the second largest in the mainland U.S.... after that of the New York metropolitan area. It is widely recognized as the honorary "79th municipality" of the island.

Their vulnerability reflects the injustices inherent in the colonial relationship between the U.S. and the people of Puerto Rico. This colonialism has been exacerbated recently by the fiscal crisis which threatens to further erode respect for their rights, and by two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions which undermine their fundamental right to self-determination and to a peaceful, negotiated process of decolonization under international supervision.

All of these issues will be addressed before the UN’s Special Committee on Decolonization in a session on Monday, June 20th (see regarding its 2015 session: This includes the demand for the immediate liberation of Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera, which has been supported by notable Nobel Peace Prize laureates such as Adolfo Perez Esquivel of Argentina, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu of South Africa, Jose Ramos Horta of East Timor, and Mairead Corrigan of Northern Ireland.

The Human Rights Center at the University of Dayton stands with these victims and their families and loved ones, and with the Latino, Puerto Rican and other LGBTQ communities, and with all persons threatened by violations of their rights in Orlando and beyond, as well as with our Muslim, Arab, and South Asian sisters and brothers in the U.S. and throughout the world in defense of our common humanity and dignity. We also stand in solidarity with the people of Puerto Rico and their right to self-determination.

Photo Credit: Joel Pruce and Heather Atkinson

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