Atoning for Historical Abuse

What happens when historical crimes of abuse involve generations—and are removed in time by several generations, too?

One example in amends and atonement has been initiated by the Jesuits of Canada and the United States, who have formed the Slavery, History, Memory, and Reconciliation (SHMR) Project to address the Society of Jesus’s historical involvement in the institution of slavery. Almost from their founding, the Jesuits acknowledge that they “relied on enslaved labor globally…. In the United States, the forced labor of enslaved people facilitated the establishment and success of Jesuit missionary efforts and educational institutions until the abolition of slavery in 1865.”

Today, the SHMR project proceeds as a genealogy effort, to identify the descendants of the people held in bondage as well as to find and tell the stories of the bondspeople, highlighting the pivotal role they played in establishing a Jesuit presence in the United States.

In this February 26, 2021, America article, Fr. William Critchley-Menor, SJ, (@billymenorsj) interviews Ayan Ali, an SHMR researcher, about her work and the goals of the project. Interview: How the Jesuits are working to confront their history of slavery.

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