Photo: Lee Pellegrini

Gasson Professor is peace builder

Francisco de Roux, S.J., chaired the truth commission that studied Colombia's 58-year internal conflict

Francisco de Roux, S.J., recently completed an eventful appointment as the 2022-2023 Thomas I. Gasson, S.J., Professor at Boston College.

The Colombian-born priest, economist, and philosopher arrived at BC last fall just a few months after submitting the report of Colombia’s government-appointed commission formed to study the country’s 58-year internal war. Fr. de Roux chaired the four-year initiative, a product of the peace deal between the Colombian government and its largest rebel force, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

Some 450,000 people died as a result of the war, according to the commission’s report, which also was critical of the United States’ collaboration with the Colombian armed forces in efforts to battle drug trafficking.

Fr. de Roux formally introduced the commission’s report at a public event in June of 2022. A New York Times story quoted Fr. de Roux as saying that the list of victims “is unending and the accumulated pain is unbearable. Why did we watch the massacres on television, day after day, as if they were a cheap soap opera?”

During the course of his term as Gasson Professor, Fr. de Roux received numerous honors for his work on—or accepted them on behalf of—the commission. In November, French President Emmanuel Macron invited him to Paris to address the World Peace Forum. The following month, he was presented with the Sakharov Prize, the highest tribute paid by the European Union to human rights work. In January, Fr. de Roux received the Franco-German Human Rights Award, established by France and Germany as an example of enemies in war who resolved to live in peace.

One of the most impressive Jesuits I have ever met, he is as generous as he is imaginative...His passion for peace and understanding is a part of his own DNA.

April was especially busy: The Mayor’s Office of Paris held a public ceremony in tribute to the commission, and in Madrid, the Casa de América presented an act of recognition of the commission’s work at an event attended by Latin American ambassadors in Spain. The town of Gernika (Guernica)—an enduring symbol of the brutality of warfare in the wake of its devastation during the Spanish Civil War—selected the commission for its Peace and Reconciliation Award, presented as part of its annual commemoration of the 1937 attack by German and Italian fascist forces.

In June, Fr. de Roux will receive an honorary doctorate for his contribution to peace and reconciliation from the Jesuit universities of Mexico at a ceremony in Mexico City.

“Pacho is fully at home here in BC,” said Vice Provost for Global Engagement James Keenan, S.J., Canisius Chair and director of the Jesuit Institute, referring to Fr. de Roux by his preferred nickname. “One of the most impressive Jesuits I have ever met, he is as generous as he is imaginative. Nearly every day someone at BC tells me a Pacho story, how they met him, heard him, engaged with him. His passion for peace and understanding is a part of his own DNA. It is not surprising that from all over Europe his work is being recognized at the highest offices. He does us all good. He also starts his day with a 6 a.m. run around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir—not bad for an 80-year-old.

“The Gasson Professorship each year brings a Jesuit who is recognized internationally, but Pacho is a nation builder through peace building, an exemplar for our times.”

Funded by a gift from the Jesuit Community at Boston College, the Gasson Chair is held by a distinguished Jesuit scholar in any discipline and is the oldest endowed professorship at Boston College.