A powerful legacy

Bartolomé de las Casas (1484–1566)
Narratio regionum Indicarum per Hispanos quosdam deuastatarum verissima / priùs quidem per Episcopum Bartholemæum Casaum, natione Hispanum Hispanicè conscripta; & anno 1551. Hispali, Hispanicè anno verò hoc 1598. Latinè excusa. Narratio regionvm Indicarvm per Hispanos qvosdam deuastatarum verissima
Francofurti: Sumptibus Theodori de Bry, & Ioannis Saurii typis, anno M.D.XCVIII. [1598]
Syn.7.59.8, p. 50

Bartolomé de Las Casas and the work of the sixteenth-century Salamanca theologians continue to inspire many in the Dominican Order and in the wider world. The Dominican friars have maintained a permanent presence at the United Nations in Geneva since 1998 in collaboration with the Franciscans. This NGO, Dominicans for Justice and Peace (http://un.op.org/), has Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It exists to provide a greater capacity of advocacy in response to human rights violations; to promote networking and collaboration between Dominican friars and sisters working in this area; and to respond to the requests from the international community for interventions on the part of the friars and sisters on issues of justice and peace. A sister body, the Dominican Leadership Conference, similarly represents Dominicans at the United Nations in New York. In Spain, Bartolomé de Las Casas, Antonio de Montesinos and Pedro de Córdoba have inspired a third human rights NGO, Acción Verapaz, which supports social justice projects across the globe (http://www.accionverapaz.org/). In the United Kingdom, the English friars at Blackfriars Hall in the University of Oxford run the Las Casas Institute to promote academic research into difficult questions of social justice (http://www.bfriars.ox.ac.uk/hall/las-casas/).
Since their General Chapter of 2013 the friars have also promoted what has become known as the ‘Salamanca process’: the structured dialogue and other forms of collaboration between missionaries, pastoral workers, and theologians with particular emphasis on the plight of the vulnerable, causes of conflict, and the decline in religious practice.

Beyond the Dominican Order, the enduring legacy of Bartolomé de Las Casas can be seen in the use of his writings by the Zinn Education Project (http://zinnedproject.org/materials/columbus-and-las-casas/) and in the 2010 film Even the rain (Tambien la lluvia), in which the story of Columbus and Las Casas serves as a lens through which the film explores the modern-day privatisation of water in Bolivia. The film, dedicated to Howard Zinn and starring Gael García Bernal, was written by Scottish screenwriter Paul Laverty.

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