April 18, 2016
Throughout the week, AJS staff gather to discuss how to continue working for justice beneath this mural, which reads: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16.)
The man pictured is Dionisio Díaz García, a lawyer who worked for AJS defending poor security guards and cleaning women against exploitative employers. His fearless work earned victories for some of Honduras’ most vulnerable – but it also angered some of Honduras’ most powerful.
In response to their justice work, Dionisio and other AJS staff received threatening phone calls urging them to quit or face grave consequences. Dionisio refused to give up or to give in to fear — a choice that would cost him his life.
In December 2006, Dionisio was driving to court to present a case against a major security guard company. Dionisio and AJS were likely to win the case, a victory that would force the security company to change its unethical labor practices. Suddenly, two men on a motorcycle drove up beside Dionisio’s car, shooting through the car window and killing him.
People who Dionisio helped gather with his AJS colleagues outside the courthouse during the trial of Dionisio’s assassins. The signs call Dionisio “the lawyer of the poor.”
Bearing the Pain and Building Resolve
Dionisio’s assassination marked a major shift in AJS’s history. As AJS employees mourned the death of their friend and colleague, the cost of doing justice was poignantly clear. The whole staff carried the pain of Dionisio’s loss. Together, the AJS team began to question whether they too were willing to make the sacrifices necessary to bring about justice — to be Brave Christians. Faced with the inescapable question, nearly all employees made the same brave choice as Dionisio — to continue and even expand their work in the face of violence and injustice.
AJS began investigating Dionisio’s killers and seeking justice for the murder. Two years later, they helped secure the conviction of the two hitmen — an ex-security guard and an ex-police officer. The intellectual authors of the crime remained uncharged, but these two convictions were an important step towards justice.
Unfortunately, just three years later, the Honduran Supreme Court reversed the guilty sentences and immediately set the men free. According to the analysis of lawyers from more than 15 countries, this Supreme Court ruling was full of inconsistencies and contradictions, with many signs of corruption. One of the Supreme Court judges had previously worked for one of the same security companies that Dionisio had fought against, even allowing the company to operate out of his law office.
AJS filed an appeal with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights protesting the irregularities in the case and hoping to bring justice again against Dionisio’s killers. Due to case backlogs in the international court, the case is still being reviewed.
Dionisio with his wife and son. Being a Brave Christian means understanding that the call to justice is more important than maximizing our comfort or minimizing our risk.
A Legacy Continues
Dionisio is survived by his wife, Lourdes, and his son, Mauricio, who at the time of his death was only five years old. Lourdes and Mauricio have not lost hope for justice in Dionisio’s case. Lourdes returned to school to study law, in honor of her husband’s work. Mauricio is now a thoughtful, accomplished young man who excels in his college studies to be a civil engineer.
Justice may seem far off in Dionisio’s case, but AJS has not let it be forgotten. Monday after Monday, as the staff gathers to start their week, they do so remembering their fallen colleague and recognizing what a serious calling it is to love perfectly — which is to love without fear — even if it costs your very life.
AJS continues to support Mauricio with his educational needs. If you are interested in contributing to Mauricio’s education, you can make a donation with a note that the money should be used to support Mauricio.
Check out this video to learn more about the life of Dionisio and his family.