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Bending the Arc references a quote by Rev. Dr. King who said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” This twice-monthly digital newsletter from the CSA Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation office showcases the work of changemakers, opportunities to learn, and opportunities for you to help “bend the arc” toward justice. Full contents of the newsletter are published on this page. 
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From the Dance Floor to the Pope’s Living Room

July 02, 2024
By Tracy Abler, Justice Coordinator

Helena Maleno Garzón is a researcher, investigator, journalist, and activist who stands up for the rights of migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and victims of human trafficking who attempt to reach Europe by sea and land. In her reporting she has denounced human rights violations on the Spanish Southern Border and works with migrant communities in defense of their rights. In 2002, Helena founded Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders), an organization that rescues sea vessels carrying migrants that are in danger of sinking and provides support for them once they arrive in Europe. It is estimated that she has saved at least ten thousand lives through her work relaying the locations of sinking sea vessels to Spanish naval authorities. Helena continues to do this work despite ongoing judicial harassment and threats from the governments of Morocco and Spain, who have criminalized her efforts.

In 2022, UNANIMA International (UI) selected Helena as their annual Women of Courage Award recipient. Since 2008, UI has been selecting women who demonstrate courage in the face of adversity and whose actions reflect and support the values and principles promoted by the UN. Helena was finally presented her award last month when UI Executive Director, Jean Quinn, DW traveled to Madrid. It was a great celebration that included some unexpected dancing, but Jean was a tremendous sport about it!

Just weeks after Jean’s visit, Helena found herself seated in Pope Francis’ home in Santa Marta where she was invited to come talk about border victims and their families. Helena said, “He is genuinely concerned about their situations and encourages us to keep fighting despite the difficulties and persecutions. I am grateful to him for following closely my case concerning the criminalization of the rights of immigrants by the Spanish and Moroccan states. We will not stop demanding justice and fairness.”

This isn’t the first time a UI Woman of Courage awardee has gone on to have greater recognition. Last year, 2018 Woman of Courage recipient, Maria Herrera Magdaleno, was selected as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2023.

Nominations for UI’s 2025 Woman of Courage Award are now being accepted. Please read the nomination criteria, see past recipients, and consider nominating the next courageous, well-deserving woman. Contact with any questions.


Tags: exemplar
Posted in Poor & Vulnerable