Fr. Arriaga“Study the law not only with reason but also with heart,” says Luis Arriaga Valenzuela, S.J., who has joined Santa Clara University School of Law as chaplain and as a human rights scholar.

“We are delighted to welcome Fr. Arriaga to our community,” said Santa Clara Law Dean Lisa Kloppenberg. “He has already made a positive impact on students with the ‘Jesuit Values’ series, and he is a tremendous resource on human rights issues.”

A Jesuit priest, licensed as an attorney at Law in Mexico by Iberoamerican University, Tijuana, Arriaga has a master’s degree in social philosophy from the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente (known in English as the Western Institute of Technology and Higher Education) in Guadalajara, Mexico, and a master’s degree in international law from Fordham University School of Law. He is licensed in religious sciences by Iberoamerican University, Mexico City, and also holds a doctorate degree in education for social justice from Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles.

Arriaga has worked to defend and promote human rights with various organizations, including the Center of Reflection and Action of Labor, Cultural and Educational Standards in Guadalajara, Jalisco; The Ignatius Loyola Migrant and Refugee Association, A.C.; the Legal Rights Center for the Indigenous, A.C. in Chiapas; and the Center of Justice and International in Washington D.C. He was the Director of the Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Human Rights Center, A.C. (Centro Prodh) from 2006 to 2011 in Mexico City. He has published numerous articles on human rights in periodicals dedicated to human rights issues, and he has served as lecture and member of the International Human Rights Clinic at the Loyola Law School of the Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. In addition to his work at Santa Clara Law, he also holds the position of Post-doctoral Fellow at the Human Rights Center of the Stanford University Law School.

In October, Arriaga was honored with the Center for Reconciliation and Justice Hidden Heroes Award by Loyola Marymount University. The CSJ Center for Reconciliation and Justice honors faculty, staff, student and alumni who exemplify justice and reconciliation in their lives.  Each recipient is honored through the telling of their story in a dramatic performance which highlights their mission of building bridges to repair human relationships.


How will you spend your time at Santa Clara?
This is really a great community and I feel very grateful to have the opportunity to interact with students, faculty, and staff here. I will combine my post-doctoral research studies here with the position at the Stanford Human Rights Center.

The continuing violations of human rights worldwide demand that mankind make serious efforts be made to stop or at least attempt to curtail these violations. I am only one in the sea of mankind, but personally I can make a more meaningful difference if I can acquire more effective tools.

I plan to publish academic articles about human rights as well as articles that address the contributions of the Jesuits to human rights in Mexico. Also, I have agreements with Seattle University and Loyola Law School in Los Angeles to serve as a guest lecturer, to assist during seminars, and to dialogue with professors in my field. Also, I have been invited to participate in the XII Forum of Human Rights of the Jesuit University System in Mexico.

If possible, I would like to organize with the law students some presentations about the work of the Jesuits in social justice.

What intrigues you about working with law students?
I very much enjoy working with law students. I have done this for many years, working in Mexican universities and law schools, and my own wellbeing has been enriched by their contributions. It is work that I believe is part of my vocation as a Jesuit, as I feel I make contributions by sharing the Ignatian Spirituality Exercises with the students. The professor does not try to transmit knowledge or a doctrine, but a method of thought, and the possibility of growth for which the student can assume personal responsibility for his/her own personal history. I believe a major challenge I have as a chaplain is the need for offering personal support and developing an environment of trust to enhance the knowledge of the law so that it may bloom within the students. It is important to study the law not only with reason but also with heart.

Which areas of human rights challenge you the most? Which areas have you focused on in your work?
Human rights are instruments to fight against all that renders vulnerable human dignity: for example the right to an education or the rights of those of various groups which are oppressed such as women, the indigenous, youth, and children. Within all these groups there is constant exposure to pain by those who are discriminated against of every category: gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or economic status.  But above that, it is most important that we prevent or repair the damage which those in these groups suffer to their dignity.

I have worked in the field of human rights for approximately 20 years. I am especially moved and challenged by those who have been affected by poverty and inequality in the world. In my earlier years, as a Jesuit, I had pastoral assignments and in Southern Chiapas near the Mexican and Guatemalan border, and I assisted the indigenous people, Tseltales, in the development of a minor crimes criminal justice system in their own language.

As Director of Center Prodh for five years, I carried out some legal cases that contributed to Mexico’s democratic society.  I have coordinated diverse strategic litigation for human rights violations cases at domestic and international levels, including before the Interamerican Court. Three cases in which I have significantly participated are the cases of Cabrera and Montiel, San Salvador Atenco and Jacinta Francisco Marcial. Cabrera and Montiel were ecological peasants who were tortured by the Mexican army. The court again ordered the Mexican government to change its practices that violate human rights, including the use of military jurisdiction and policing of the lay population. In the Atenco case, the evidence proved sexual torture of women and exemplified the practice of the criminalization of social protest. Finally, in the case of the indigenous woman, triple discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, and social status was demonstrated as inherent in the criminal justice system.

What do you feel are the advantages and challenges of this region—Silicon Valley?
I think that for us, as educators of future generations, this area represents a great challenge. That is the urgency that I try to address together with other Jesuits and non-Jesuits, to work toward helping to build a just society that includes the legal field. We are blessed by the fact that many, if not all, of the students here are greatly motivated to make significant contributions to the United States and to the world as a result of their education.

I believe that being in this area, we face a special challenge of helping to build such a just society by encouraging the use of the law toward justice, not just for commercial purposes. We Jesuits must encourage the use of great technological advances to be used also to address social inequality.

Why do you feel called to be a chaplain? What do you find most rewarding about that work? 
My vocation, in summary, is the defense of human dignity and to put my talents at the service of this community.  I believe that being a chaplain or professor is a medium to be able to realize my vocation of loving and servicing a community, which in my case is the community of law students and attorneys.

What do you like to do for fun?
I don’t have a lot of time for fun, but when I have some time, I like to read novels, to travel or walk in areas of beautiful nature, and I enjoy the practice of yoga.