December 9, 2016 — Father Thomas H. Smolich, SJ, International Director of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), was honored with the CRISPAZ Peace Award on Nov. 30. Inspired by the testimony of the martyrs of El Salvador, the award was established in 2009 to honor individuals or organizations embodying the preferential option for the poor in their work for the promotion of peace and social justice
Christians for Peace in El Salvador (CRISPAZ) gave the award to Fr. Smolich at a reception at Santa Clara University in California. For more than three decades, the organization has enabled thousands of individuals, mainly from North America, to accompany the Salvadoran people in their ongoing struggle for peace rooted in justice and compassion.
“Peace cannot happen without walking with one another,” said Fr. Smolich, upon receiving the award and reflecting upon CRISPAZ’s work building bridges of solidarity between the people of El Salvador and other countries.
Fr. Smolich (right) receives the peace award from Fr. Peter Hinde O.Carm., one of the co-founders of CRISPAZ.
Since October 2015, Fr. Smolich has served as the International Director of JRS, which accompanies, serves and advocates on behalf of refugees and forced migrants. He believes education is a precious tool for refugees, as well as a basic human right, and helps refugees rise up to the challenge of making a new life for themselves.
“As human beings, we are often at the mercy of war, of
nature, of governments — of forces beyond our control. For this reason, nearly
60 million people worldwide have been forced to flee their homes, constantly
moving. But for people living in motion, those who cannot take possessions can
bring knowledge and change their world,” he said. “We are convinced that
education helps build peace and stability and gives hope to many young refugees
and displaced in the 46 countries where JRS works.”
As International Director of JRS, Fr. Smolich visited with Burmese refugee students in the Ban Mai Nai Soi camp on the Thailand-Myanmar border.
Fr. Smolich entered the Jesuits in 1974 and was ordained a priest in 1986. After ordination, he was assigned to Dolores Mission Parish in East Los Angeles, where he served for seven years as an associate pastor and was the Executive Director of Proyecto Pastoral, a community development organization.
He also served as a project manager for the Mid-Peninsula Housing Coalition, developing affordable housing for families in the San Francisco Bay area and later held leadership positions with the Society of Jesus. [Sources: CRISPAZ, ISN]