The Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice (ICPJ) hosted the first event of their Latin American Caucus Speaker Series, co-sponsored by the University of Michigan’s Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program Thursday evening. The series features one new speaker a month from January to May 2022 as they lead conversations regarding environmental, human and racial rights in Latin America.

The first event featured John Lindsay-Poland, a researcher and activist who spoke on human rights and demilitarization of U.S. policy, particularly in Latin America.

Richard Stahler-Sholk, a member of the ICPJ, stated the organization focuses on social justice issues in Latin America and this series is a part of ongoing peace and justice work.

“The speakers are addressing a variety of issues that are of interest and have to do with peace and justice in Latin America,” Stahler-Sholk said. “The first one of the series, John Lindsay-Poland, was chosen by the members of our committee. He has a long history of 30 years of research and active advocacy work around issues of Mexico, Latin America particularly, trying to find alternatives to violence in the region.”

The event began with Mary Anne Perrone, a member of the ICPJ, who introduced the series. 

“(Lindsay-Poland) left his studies at Harvard University to participate in international disarmament and serve the interfaith organization Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) to help Central Americans faced with political violence,” Perrone said. 

Lindsay-Poland emphasized the severity of the information he was speaking on tonight, noting that the majority of guns entering Mexico are from the United States. 

“When we learn things, it is very important to learn what to do with that information,” Lindsay-Poland said. “Most guns in Mexico are coming from the U.S. border states; Texas being the biggest one at 42%. You can buy a firearm in a majority of U.S. states without a background check and some firearm dealers will even sell tactical gear.”

Throughout the majority of his presentation, Lindsay-Poland examined the U.S.’ relationship to the gun flow to Mexico and analyzed its effects on Mexican citizens. 

Lindsay-Poland then introduced Antonio Tizapa, the father of Jorge Antonio Tizapa Legideño, who disappeared in 2014 as a result of the weapons from the Beretta company, along with 42 of his classmates.

Lindsay-Poland recited a quote from Antonio Tizapa saying, “Mexico has acquired exorbitant quantities of weaponry and munitions, and the people at large have no idea of the magnitude of these weapons purchases, which also end up with organized crime. Let us hope that the manufacturers do not continue to sell weapons to Mexico because they are disappearing us. Stop arms sales to Mexico.”

Lindsay-Poland’s work as co-director of the California Healing Justice Program involves helping families like the Tizapa. He said he also coordinates Stop US Arms to Mexico, a project of Global Exchange.

Lindsay-Poland referenced President Biden’s commitment, saying it was an empty promise and went on to discuss what the audience can do to help minimize the gun flow to Mexico. In his call-to-action list, Lindsay-Poland listed that the audience can “urge President Biden to abide by his promise: return oversight of firearms exports to the State Dept.”

President Joe Biden made a promise during his campaign that “the authority of firearms exports stays with the State Department, and if needed, (he would) reverse a proposed rule by President Trump,” according to Biden’s campaign website. 

When asked by an audience member about what interests the U.S. have to push sales in Mexico, Lindsay-Poland said it is a combination of control, finance and ignorance towards the issue.

“The gun lobby is very powerful and the NRA is in deep crisis,” Lindsay-Poland said. “White supremacy and racism make some lives in the United States appear more valuable, and this applies internationally in Mexico too. People shy away from claiming Mexico’s gun violence as a U.S. issue. It is a combination of culture and campaign finance and ignorance. Of course, ignorance is something we can work on.”

This collaborative event was the first of an informative speaker series. The next event will be on Feb. 8 and feature Lisa Haugaard, executive director of Latin America Working Group, who will the Biden Administration’s approach towards the Northern countries of Central America.

Stahler-Sholk closed the event with Martin Luther King Jr. quote about fighting injustice in international communities.

“We hope that people will see the connections between injustice in other parts of the world and injustice in our own community,” Stahler-Sholk said. “So as we approach Martin Luther King Jr. Day, let’s remember this famous quote by Dr. King: ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’”

Daily Staff Reporter Sejal Patil can be reached at