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Center for Human Rights and International Justice

2012-2013 Past Events

center for human rights and international justice

Aftermath book cover and author Daniel Kanstroom

Aftermath: Deportation Law and the New American Diaspora Book Launch



Wednesday, September 12
5:00 p.m.
Heights Room, Corcoran Commons, Boston College

At this book discussion, author and ChRIJ Associate Director Daniel Kanstroom will give commentary about his book, and Harvard U. Professor of Sociology Mary Waters will respond, discussing the social effects of U.S. immigration policy on immigrant families and communities.

About the Book:
Center Associate Director and Boston College Professor of Law Dan Kanstroom has authored a new book, forthcoming in July. The title is Aftermath: Deportation Law and the New American Diaspora.  Detailing research both in the U.S. and abroad, Prof. Kanstroom examines the large and increasing number of deportees that have been expelled from the U.S. and the harsh realities they often face in the new communities they are trying to integrate into.

The book also examines how the current deportation system came about in the U.S. and whether it “works” in any meaningful sense. Looking at the uneven application of justice that his work with the Center’s Post-Deportation Human Rights Project often addresses, he ends the book with a powerful and compelling case for reform of the current system, offering his recommendations to make a more humane and rational system.

Event flyer may be viewed here. Find the book on

Read a review of Aftermath in the July 2013 Oxford Journal of Migration Studies here.

Indigenous women of Guatemala

Continuities and Discontinuities of Violence against Indigenous Women in Guatemala

Thursday, October 18
7:30 p.m.
Heights Room, Corcoran Commons, Boston College

View the event flyer.

The Guatemalan internal armed conflict, which lasted 36 years, from 1960-1996, took a horrible toll on the Guatemalan people.  During the conflict, fought between various leftist groups, which received backing from the indigenous Maya people and poor peasants, and the government of Guatemala, backed by the armed forces, an astonishing 200,000 people were killed. 

Human rights abuses were rampant during the long conflict.  Although committed by both sides, the government forces were responsible for the vast majority of the abuses, using human rights violations and terror as a deliberate tactic to intimidate possible opposition.  The UN-sponsored Historical Clarification Commission, or “Truth Commission” as it is popularly known, concluded in 1999 that state forces were responsible for 93% of the human rights violations committed during the conflict, while guerrilla forces were responsible for 3%.

As part of the government’s campaign of terror against indigenous people, which included torture, killing of children, and opening of mother’s wombs to kill unborn children, rape of indigenous women also featured prominently as a terror tactic. 

In 2010, various civil society groups staged a Tribunal of Conscience for Women Survivors of Sexual Violence during the Armed Conflict, which, while not legally binding, provided a space for Mayan women who are rape survivors to tell their stories in the public sphere and to be heard by a national and international audience.    

Dr. Irma Alicia Velásquez Nimatuj

Dr. Irma Alicia Velásquez Nimatuj is Executive Director of the Support Mechanism for Indigenous Peoples Oxlajuj Tz´ikin (in Guatemala). As an anthropologist and journalist, she has been at the forefront of the struggle for respect for economics, social and political rights of the indigenous people of Guatemala. As a journalist she has acquired multiple awards nationally for her writing. She has published two books, Indigenous People, State and the Struggle for Land in Guatemala: Strategies of survival and negotiations in the face of global inequality (The Association for the Advancement of Social Sciences, 2008) and The Small Indigenous Commercial Bourgeoisies of Guatemala: Social, Racial and Gender Inequalities (Social and Jurisdiction Services/SERJUS, 2002). Dr. Velásquez Nimatuj is the first k'iche' woman with a doctorate in Social Anthropology in Guatemala. She received a Ph.D. and an M.A. in Social Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin. During her dissertation research, she was a Social Science Research Council Scholar.

As Executive Director of the Support Mechanism for Indigenous Peoples, Dr. Velásquez Nimatuj has worked with Mayan communities since 2005 supporting the implementation of the 10 Peace Accords having to do with Mayan identity rights, socioeconomic development, and agrarian rights and the 2005 Guatemalan government decree, 52-2005.

Dr. Velásquez Nimatuj gave an expert witness account at the aforementioned Tribunal of Conscience and described in great detail the ruptures in community harmony that occurred as a result of the violence committed against women, including the perpetration of sexual violence as a weapon of war.  A Guatemalan Maya k'iche' woman herself, and informed by her work with Mayan communities, she testified to the racial, gendered and cultural complexities involved in truth-telling processes.  Citing the Mayan worldview or cosmovision, many Mayan women saw the violation they had experienced as an act that severely damaged their pre-existing place in their communities, in their roles in the communities and in their relationships with others. 

Based on this expert witness testimony and on her longstanding work in Mayan communities, Dr. Velásquez Nimatuj will discuss continuities and discontinuities in violence against Mayan women in Guatemala.  Indigenous customary law situates responses to violence against women within the Mayan cosmovision, that is, within processes that call for the reestablishment of community harmony and the maintenance of stability and well-being of the collectivity, which includes not only human beings but also the wider natural environment and deities.

Tony and Janina's American Wedding screenshot

Tony and Janina's American Wedding

Wednesday, November 7
5:00 p.m.
East Wing 115A, Boston College Newton campus

As part of BC's International Education Week, a showing of the film Tony and Janina's American Wedding.

Tony & Janina’s American Wedding is a feature length documentary that gets to the heart of the broken, red tape ridden U.S. immigration system. After 18 years in America, Tony and Janina Wasilewski’s family is torn apart when Janina is deported back to Poland, taking their 6 year old son Brian with her. Set on the backdrop of the Chicago political scene, and featuring Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez at the heart of the immigration reform movement, this film follows the Wasilewski’s 3-year struggle to be reunited, as their Senator Barack Obama rises to the Presidency. With a fresh perspective on the immigration conversation, this film tells the untold human rights story of Post-9/11, that every undocumented immigrant in America faces today, with the power to open the conversation for change.

To learn more, visit the film's website.

AMEN Project Logo

AMEN Project Exhibition: Rebuilding Hope, Tolerance, Peace and Justice in Sudan

Monday, October 29 – Saturday, November 10
Bapst Library, Boston College

Thursday, November 8
5:30 – 8:00 p.m.

You are cordially invited to the AMEN Project Exhibition celebrating peaceful coexistence, tolerance and respect for human rights and religious freedoms.

The AMEN project evolved in response to the burning-down of a church in Gireif, a residential area in Khartoum, Sudan, in April 2012. This incident took place in a context of increased tension between Sudan and newly independent South Sudan over a number of outstanding issues including border demarcation, natural resources, oil transportation, security arrangements, and citizenship rights, including for Southern Sudanese in Northern Sudan. Tragically this has led to continued outbreaks of ethnic and religiously driven acts of violence. The burning down of the Church marked a new depth of despair for the people of Sudan.

Houses of worship, regardless of creed, stand as places of safety, peace and sanctuary while representing a people’s spiritual identity. In that sense, this act of violence is not just a physical one but attacks the very essence of a person’s sense of self. This kind of extreme violence requires collaboration across religious, ethnic, socio-economic, gender, and disciplinary differences and divides to establish a support system that reflects universal principles of peace, tolerance and social justice – and to help individuals and communities cope.

Over the summer Khalid Kodi, adjunct professor of Art at Boston College, and his students assembled a multi-ethnic multi-religious team of artists to produce a series of large-scale high-quality biblical paintings as part of a greater effort to rebuild the Church; artists from Italy even contributed. We also conducted interviews with various educational and religious leaders in the community and the entire experience has been tremendous. Over the summer, numerous artists, academics, activists, politicians, and community members have visited Khalid Kodi’s studio to view the progress of our work. Documentation of the process producing the artwork is available, along with the interviews, on our website (  

We have garnered the support, financially and morally, from institutions like Boston College and Northeastern University while amassing great insight on the issues of civil war, religious and ethnic tension, and cultural development as a means of peace-building. In the meantime, we have been communicating with a committee of lawyers, architects, engineers, and human rights activists in Sudan seeking justice for the incident and working to rebuild the Church.

We are excited to exhibit our work at Boston College’s Bapst Library between October 29th and November 10th and would also like to invite you to the Artist’s Reception and Discussion Panel on Thursday November 8th from 5:30pm to 8pm.

Co-sponsored by the Center for Human Rights and International Justice.

For more information, please visit our website.

Download the event flyer.


A Bishop's Response to Climate Change Refugees

Wednesday, November 14
7:00 p.m.
Devlin 101, Boston College

The Catholic Coalition on Climate Change and several departments at Boston College are pleased to sponsor a free screening of the Academy Award-nominated film Sun Come Up which depicts some of the world's first "climate change refugees," inhabitants of the Carteret Islands just north of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea.

Following the short film, Most Reverend Bernard Unabali, Bishop of the Diocese of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, will share his experience of helping to re-settle some of those displaced from the Carteret Islands by the consequences of climate change.

Co-sponsored by the Center for Human Rights and International Justice.

View the event flyer here.

Korean War-era Korean family

Remembering to End a Forgotten War: Oral History, Art, and Activism

Monday, November 19, 2012
12:00 p.m
Campion 139, Boston College

BC Department of Counseling, Developmental & Educational Psychology Colloquium with CHRIJ Visiting Scholar and BC Professor Emeritus of Psychology Ramsay Liem

For Korean American survivors and their children, the Korean War remains a source of shared pain and national division. In spite of the magnitude of loss engendered by the War and the pivotal role this conflict played in shaping U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War, most Americans can barely recall the Korean "police action." Ironically, it is best remembered in the popular U.S. culture as the "Forgotten War.“

A light lunch to be served.


Women at a memorial

Niños de la Memoria (Children of Memory)


Wednesday, November 28
7:00 p.m.
Merkert Center, Room 127, Boston College

A showing of the film Niños de la Memoria (Children of Memory) with film producer Kathryn Smith Pyle.

Niños de la Memoria tells the story of the search for hundreds of children who disappeared during the Salvadoran Civil War. Many were survivors of massacres carried out by the U.S.-trained Salvadoran army. Taken away from the massacre sites by soldiers, some grew up in orphanages or were adopted abroad, losing their history and identity. Niños de la Memoria weaves together three separate yet intertwined journeys in the search for family, identity and justice in El Salvador, and asks the larger question: How can a post-war society right the wrongs of the past?

Co-sponsored by The Ignacio Martín-Baró Fund for Mental Health and Human Rights, the BC Film Studies Program, the Jesuit Institute at Boston College, and the BC School of Theology and Ministry.

To learn more, visit the film's website.

Event flyer may be viewed here.

Youth Held at the Border book cover

Book Talk: Youth Held at the Border: Immigration, Education, and the Politics of Inclusion

Tuesday, January 29, 2013
7:00 p.m.
Gasson 100, Boston College

With author Leigh Patel Stevens, BC Associate Professor in the Lynch School of Education Teacher Education, Special Education, Curriculum and Instruction Department.

Illegal. Undocumented. Remedial. DREAMers. All of these labels have been applied to immigrant youth. Using a combination of engaging narrative and rigorous analysis, this book explores how immigrant youth are included in, and excluded from, various sectors of American society, including education. Instead of the land of opportunity, immigrant youth often encounter myriad new borders long after their physical journey to the United States is over. With an intimate storytelling style, Prof. Patel Stevens invites readers to rethink assumptions about immigrant youth and what their often liminal positions reveal about the politics of inclusion in America.

Following Prof. Patel Stevens' presentation, immigration activist Conrado Santos will also offer commentary on the situation of young immigrants in the U.S.

To read more, find the book on amazon.comSee the event flyer here.

Eleanor Roosevelt with Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Human Rights in History:
A Roundtable

February 6, 2013
5:00 p.m.
Devlin Hall 101, Boston College

Three distinguished authors on human rights with an emphasis on history come together for this special roundtable discussing human rights in history and the development of the concept.

With Samuel Moyn, Columbia University, author of The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History; Michael Rosen, Harvard University, author of Dignity: Its History and Meaning; David Hollenbach, S.J., Boston College, author of Claims in Conflict: Retrieving and Renewing the Catholic Human Rights Tradition

Co-sponsored by the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy and the Boston College History Department.  See the event flyer here.

Not my Life film poster

Migration Film Series:
Not My Life

February 26, 2013
7:00 p.m.
Fulton Hall 511,
Boston College

Not My Life is the first documentary film to depict the horrifying and dangerous practices of human trafficking and modern slavery on a global scale.

Filmed on five continents over a period of four years, Not My Life unflinchingly, but with enormous dignity and compassion, depicts the unspeakable practices of a multi-billion dollar global industry whose profits, as the film's narration says, "are built on the backs and in the beds of our planet's youth."

While acknowledging that trafficking and slavery are universal crimes, affecting millions of human beings all over the world, Not My Life zeroes in on the fact that the vast majority of trafficking and slavery victims are indeed children. This fundamental truth, says the film's director, Oscar nominee Robert Bilheimer, raises profound questions about the very nature of our civilization. "What kind of society cannibalizes its own children?" Bilheimer asks. "Can we do these sorts of things on such a large scale and still call ourselves human in any meaningful sense of the term?"

Not My Life features dignified and inspiring testimony from survivors; depictions of trafficking, exploitation, and slavery in all parts of the world including forced labor in Africa; street begging and garbage picking in India; sexual trafficking in the United States and Southeast Asia; and various forms of child enslavement and abuse in both North and South America. See film website.

Julie Dahlstrom, a BC alumna and Managing Attorney at Lutheran Social Services of New England, will offer a brief commentary after the film and take questions from the audience about current efforts to assist people affected by trafficking.

View the flyer »

Co-sponsored by Boston College R.E.A.C.T. (Rallying Efforts Against Contemporary Slavery).


Gasson Hall 150 Years

Migration: Past, Present and Future


March 21-22, 2013
Boston College



As part of BC's sesquicentennial event series, the Center presents this major two-day academic symposium. Topics to be discussed include: refugees and economic migrants, race and class as aspects of immigration, the intertwining of BC's history with immigrant populations, and the future of migration policy in the U.S.

Watch video of keynote speaker Richard Rodriguez's address, titled "The Border is Not a Straight Line." All three panel discussions are available for viewing: Panel I video | Panel II video | Panel III video

Dr. Paul Farmer

Accompaniment: Liberation Theology, Solidarity and a Life of Service

April 3, 2013
6:30 p.m.
Robsham Theater, Boston College

Presenters: Dr. Paul Farmer, Kolokotrones University Professor, Harvard Medical School and founder of Partners in Health; and Roberto Goizueta, professor, BC Theology Department.

Join us for this very special presentation, featuring world-renowned public health advocate Dr. Paul Farmer, founder of the organization Partners in Health.  Prof. Goizueta and Dr. Farmer will engage in a conversation about liberation theology, which has been described as "an interpretation of Christian faith through the poor's suffering, their struggle and hope, and a critique of society and the Catholic faith and Christianity through the eyes of the poor", and how it has influenced Dr. Farmer and propelled him in his work.  Dr. Farmer, through his organization Partners in Health, has accompanied the poor and marginalized across the globe in their efforts to address pressing health problems in these very vulnerable populations.

Co-sponsored by the C21 Center, the BC School of Theology & Ministry, and the Center for Human Rights and International Justice.

To learn more about liberation theology, Prof. Goizueta will be giving a lunchtime talk, "What is Liberation Theology?", on March 12, hosted by the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College

View the flyer »

Jeju Island

Save Jeju Island

April 30, 2013
7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Fulton 511, Boston College

Presenters: Jeong Young-Hee, Chairwoman of the Woman Villagers' Committee to Stop the Naval Base Project; Noam Chomsky, MIT Institute Professor & Professor of Linguistics (Emeritus); Sukjong Hong, Open City Creative Non-Fiction Fellow and Independent Artist/Activist.

Jeju Island off the coast of South Korea and popular site for newly weds and tourists was declared the 'Island of World Peace' by former South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun.Jeju has more UNESCO World Natural Heritage sites than any other single location and is designated as a Global Biosphere Reserve. Recently it was one of the first four world-wide winners to be declared in the 'New7Wonders of Nature' global initiative. Its residents have a storied history and culture including suffering a horrific massacre prior to the outbreak of the Korean War when southern Korea was controlled by an occupying U.S. military government.

Today the South Korean government is building a naval base at the village of Gangjeong on Jeju with the capacity to serve domestic and US guided missile-equipped Aegis Destroyers, submarines and aircraft carriers, which some say will be part of the US ballistic missile defense system targeted at China.Gangjeong villagers have been resisting the construction since 2007 and have recently attracted world-wide support from anti-bases, environmental, human rights, and religious leaders and organizations.(See campaign website for more information)

Learn more about this important struggle.