2003 - 2004: Samuel Ruiz Garcia

Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia

The sixth annual University of Alberta Visiting Lectureship in Human Rights was delivered by Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia on Thursday, February 26, 2004 at 7:30 p.m. at the Myer Horowitz Theatre.

About Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia

1924 Born in the city of Ciudad de Irapuato, state of Guanajuato on November 3.

1949 Ordained a priest.

1952 Returned to be a professor at the seminary in Leon and later became its rector, until he was named as a bishop in Chiapas.

1959 - 1999 Bishop of the Diocese of San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico.

During the years of the civil war in Guatemala many refugees, mostly Indigenous Peoples, left Guatemala for Mexico. Under Ruiz Garcia's direction, 44,000 Indigenous refugees received assistance from the Diocese of Chiapas. Bishop Ruiz Garcia served as a mediator during the conflict in Guatemala and established the mediation system, CONAI (National Commission on Mediation).

As Bishop of the Diocese of Chiapas and advocate of the poor and Indigenous people, he has been the mediator between the Mexican government and the Zapatista National Liberation Assembly.

1962 - 1968 He participated in all sessions of Vatican II (1962-1965), in the First Latin American Missions meeting in Meigar, and in the Second General Conference of Latin American Bishops (CELAM) in Medellin, Colombia in 1968, among many other important events and conferences.

1965 - 1970 Served as President of the Episcopal Commission for the Indigenous of the Conference of Mexican Bishops.

1970 Appointed President of the Department of Missions at CELAM.

1974 Initiated the National Indigenous Congress to promote collaboration among Mexico's Indigenous communities.

1988 Founded the Center of Human rights "Fray Bartolome de las Casas", which addresses the violations of human rights of the Indigenous people and peasants of Chiapas.

1992 Became president of Secretariado Internacional Cristiano de Solidaridad con América Latina (SICSAL). SICSAL works to promote and facilitate international solidarity with Latin America on many issues including addressing marginalized peoples and post conflict reconstruction.

1994 - 1998 Served as President of the National Mediation Commission (CONAI), which worked to broker peace and reconciliation among the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), the Mexican military, the Mexican Government, and the Indigenous Peoples of Chiapas.

1994 - 1996 He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times in 1994, 1995 and 1996, the maximum number of times allowed by the Nobel Committee - and each time millions of people signed petitions in his favor.

Ruiz Garcia has received much international recognition for his work to combat human rights violations in Mexico. He has been under constant threats and harassment because of his work for Indigenous rights and peace in the state of Chiapas and has survived several attempts on his life. He has received numerous awards in recognition of his courage and perseverance in his human rights activities in the face of such threats and attacks, of his commitment as a forceful and forthright human rights defender and of his efforts to bring the plight of the Indigenous people in Chiapas to international attention.

These awards include:

  • 1997 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defender
    The Martin Ennals Award is a unique collaboration among ten of the worlds leading non-governmental human rights organizations. The jury is composed of: Amnesty International, Defense for Children, German Diakonia, Human Rights Watch, HURIDOCS, International Alert, International Commission of Jurists, International Federation for Human Rights, International Service for Human Rights and World Against Torture.
  • 2000 UNESCO - Simon Bolivar Prize
    Awarded every 2 years to an individual who "has contributed to the freedom, independence and dignity of peoples, as well as to the strengthening of ties of solidarity between nations."
  • 2001 Niwano Peace Prize
    This Japanese prize is awarded annually to an "individual or an organization that is making a significant contribution to world peace through promoting, inter-religious cooperation."

Father Samuel Ruiz Garcia continues to speak out in support of marginalized peoples in Mexico and Latin America and to address issues such as poverty, human rights and debt cancellation.