On Wednesday, February 11, Boston College’s Catholic Relief Services Student Ambassadors hosted their first public event on campus. The Ambassadors showed a documentary called A Bridge Apart, which depicts the lives of Central American migrants surrounding the perilous journey many people take to reach the United States. The Ambassadors are a group of students on campus who are committed to living out “a faith that does justice.”
A Bridge Apart, produced by Virginia Wolf and Frank Maniglia, Jr, follows migrants as they decide to undertake the dangerous journey through Central America towards the United
States-Mexican border. Maura Lester-McSweeney, A&S ’17 and a member of the CRS Ambassadors, says that the film “does a good job of exploring the economic, emotional, and political dimensions
of immigration, which mass media does not tap into as deeply.” The film focuses on the part of the journey through Central America towards Mexico because travel often begins in countries
such as El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Thousands of migrants make their journey by riding trains through Central America and Mexico, called by many “La Bestia,” or “The Beast” because the
dangers of being injured, robbed, or kidnapped while on the train are so great.
Migrants embarking on this journey are faced with exploitation, extortion, threats, and violence at every turn. Though the trip will be dangerous, people have no choice but to attempt to migrate if they want to feed their families. Human trafficking is a huge issue along the migration routes. Violence and robbery, especially while actually on the train, is common. Along the route of “La Bestia”, there are many people who have lost arms or legs because they had been thrown off the train.
There are many efforts going on in Central America to mitigate the need to migrate in the first place. In Honduras, rural communities are working together to bring access to clean water and irrigation to their towns so that farming can be more efficient. In Guatemala, coffee farmers are challenging coffee corporations’ low wages and unpredictable conditions by working together to produce coffee in a way that benefits the land and the workers themselves. In addressing one of the root causes of migration and economic instability, citizens of Central America are empowering each other so that they will not need to leave their countries and families behind.
The CRS Student Ambassadors program was brought to BC by Ashlen Nimmo, GSSW ‘16. Nimmo was a founding member of the CRS Ambassadors program at UC San Diego during her undergraduate years. Nimmo says that “the work of CRS is a manifestation of the social teachings of the Church, and more specifically the preferential option for the poor. It seems such a natural fit to have a student group affiliated with CRS at Boston College, where Catholic Social Teaching and a deep commitment to serving others is valued.” When asked how she sees her Catholic faith influencing her commitment to justice, Nimmo said, “I feel that as a Catholic, in order to live out my own faith, I am called to work for a more just and peaceful world, especially for those on the margins. In our daily lives, our studies, and future careers we can live out a deep commitment to other people- to being loving, respectful, and concerned about those near and far from us.”
To be Catholic and Christian is to follow Jesus, who allied himself with the causes of the poor of the world. Lester-McSweeney adds that “if you are Catholic you must be unequivocally committed to peace and justice, you have no choice. To be of this faith is to follow the example of Jesus, who… created a community around Him that was committed to peace and justice as well, and spoke to large congregations of people, spreading this message of love…[he] did nothing but stand with the marginalized and oppressed ”
If you would like to receive more information about the CRS Ambassadors’ upcoming events, please follow their Facebook page or email Ashlen Nimmo at firstname.lastname@example.org.