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New York Times (en español)
>>The Pope’s visit to Peru once again brings to light cases of abuse in the Sodalicio
16 de enero de 2018
Por Silvia Viñas
Londres – En las paredes de su cuarto en Colonia, Alemania, donde vivió los últimos años, no había un solo rastro que revelara que Álvaro Urbina era peruano. Nada recordaba al país donde había nacido y vivido hasta los 23 años, cuando decidió marcharse. “Dejé un poco atrás mi vida en el Perú”, dijo, una tarde del 2017, “y muchas veces me duele mucho recordar”.
Urbina se fue de Lima en 2004 y durante más de una década trató de evitar el pasado; pero un día del 2015, mientras revisaba Facebook, se topó con una noticia que lo obligó a recordar: el artículo decía que a Luis Fernando Figari y a Germán Doig —dos altos dirigentes del Sodalicio de Vida Cristiana, una sociedad católica a la que él se había unido de adolescente— se les acusaba de abusar sexual, física y psicológicamente de menores de edad y adultos jóvenes.
El Sodalicio de Vida Cristiana fue fundado en Perú en 1971 por Luis Fernando Figari, uno de los primeros líderes de la organización acusados de abuso por exsodálites, cuyos testimonios dieron a conocer los periodistas Pedro Salinas y Paola Ugaz. Esta sociedad católica —formada por sacerdotes y laicos como Figari y aprobada por el papa Juan Pablo II— ha buscado establecer un grupo de religiosos devotos que viven en comunidad. Desde su fundación, el Sodalicio ha concentrado sus esfuerzos de evangelización entre la elite peruana, pero también tiene presencia en toda América Latina y en Estados Unidos. Algunos medios han reportado que la organización cuenta con más de 20.000 seguidores.
Después de ver aquella noticia, Álvaro Urbina siguió buscando y leyó en un blog que Jeffery Daniels, su antiguo guía espiritual en el Sodalicio, presuntamente había abusado de una cantidad indeterminada de adolescentes. No lo podía creer: “Yo estaba tan ciego que nunca supe que yo no había sido el único. Por eso siempre me quedé callado”, dijo esa tarde de abril en Colonia, donde vivía desde el 2012. Entonces decidió contar su historia: unos meses después, su testimonio salía publicado en la prensa peruana.
[Google Translation: On the walls of his room in Cologne, Germany, where he lived in recent years, there was not a single trace that revealed that Alvaro Urbina was Peruvian. Nothing remembered the country where he was born and lived until he was 23, when he decided to leave. “I left my life a little behind in Peru,” he said, one afternoon in 2017, “and many times it hurts a lot to remember.”
Urbina left Lima in 2004 and for more than a decade tried to avoid the past; but one day in 2015, while reviewing Facebook, he ran into a story that forced him to remember: the article said that Luis Fernando Figari and Germán Doig – two senior leaders of the Sodalicio de Vida Cristiana, a Catholic society to which he had joined as a teenager – they were accused of abusing sexually, physically and psychologically minors and young adults.
The Sodalicio de Vida Cristiana was founded in Peru in 1971 by Luis Fernando Figari, one of the first leaders of the organization accused of abuse by exsodálites, whose testimonies were made known by journalists Pedro Salinas and Paola Ugaz. This Catholic society – formed by priests and laymen like Figari and approved by Pope John Paul II – has sought to establish a group of devout religious who live in community. Since its founding, Sodalicio has concentrated its evangelization efforts among the Peruvian elite, but it also has a presence throughout Latin America and the United States. Some media have reported that the organization has more than 20,000 followers .
After seeing that news, Álvaro Urbina continued to search and read in a blog that Jeffery Daniels, his former spiritual guide in Sodalicio, allegedly abused an undetermined number of teenagers. I could not believe it: “I was so blind that I never knew that I had not been the only one. That’s why I always kept quiet, “he said that April afternoon in Cologne, where he had lived since 2012. He then decided to tell his story: a few months later, his testimony was published in the Peruvian press .
Urbina is 36 years old, with long dreadlocks and clear eyes. He is the only victim of Daniels who has given his name publicly to tell what he lived. “We could say that is my payment method for all this,” he said.
When he decided to do so, it was still almost two years before the Public Ministry of Peru requested preventive detention for his former spiritual guide, Jeffery Daniels, and three other ex-leaders of Sodalicio, including Figari. The founder of Sodalicio and seven ex-leaders were denounced in May 2016 for the crimes of kidnapping, serious injuries and illicit association to commit a crime.
The story of Urbina is part of a special episode of Radio Ambulante on the victims of this organization that is broadcast today, one month after the request for preventive detention against ex-leaders of the Sodalicio and two days before the visit of Pope Francis to Peru, the first of a pontiff to the country in thirty years.
On Wednesday, January 10, a week after his arrival, the press office of the Vatican informed that Francisco had ordered the Sodalicio to intervene because of the concern generated by “all the information that, for several years, has been coming” about the organization.
‘There was no way to escape for me’
Álvaro Urbina was 14 years old when he went to his first activity organized by Sodalicio. There he met Jeffery Daniels, who was twice his age. At that time, in the mid-nineties, Daniels was one of the laity who led groups of adolescents between 12 and 16 years. Organized activities, outings and trips. It addressed religious themes in a fun and accessible way for young people.
Daniels was known for his jovial attitude, for making jokes and being “chacotero”, says Urbina. That irreverence was not what he expected from a religious leader: “It was lucky for him that we liked him very much,” he says. Daniels was also affectionate and Urbina says that it made him feel that “you could trust him with your problems, any kind of problems”. Bullying, sex, your parents. “He became your best friend.”
That connection was something Urbina wanted. He did not fit in his private upper class school in Lima; he had bad grades, his classmates harassed him, and he was in danger of being suspended for indiscipline. His parents had recently separated and his father had left the country. In that group led by Daniels, Urbina felt safe. “They made me feel happy,” she says, “they gave me a reason to smile, that was something that I lacked since my dad left.”
One day, after one of his first outings with the group, Daniels left him home. He parked the car and began to talk to him about the trust: he told him that if he was able to trust him, he would lower his pants, says Urbina. Then he asked her to pull her underpants down. “And I did too,” Urbina says now, and recalls that Daniels reviewed him as if he were doing a medical inspection.
After another exit the scene was repeated, but Urbina says that this time it had a sexual tone. For that lonely 14-year-old boy, what happened with Daniels felt like the beginning of a relationship. “I mean, he knew what he was giving me. Then, of course, from that point of view he had me completely tied psychologically, “he says.
At first Daniels visited him once or twice a week, even when Urbina stopped going to Sodalicio’s activities. And during the nearly two years of their sexual encounters, Urbina says that Daniels never had to ask him to keep what they were doing secret. “It was not necessary,” Urbina says, “talking to my mother or something like that would have been, to my best friend and the person I trusted the most, to throw it to the lions. There was no way to escape for me. ”
Until suddenly, without warning, Daniels stopped visiting. After months without having news, Urbina called the house of Sodalicio where Daniels lived. The person who answered told him he had moved. Soon Urbina ran into him on a beach near Lima. Remember that Daniels “had a mad face upset,” who spoke for a minute and told him he had to go. “That was the last time I talked to him.”
Five years later, Urbina left Peru and would not know about Daniels until twelve years later, when he read the article with the accusations and decided to tell his story. “If I had known at that time, if I had noticed, if I had not been so blind. What do I know, so many ‘if there were’, “he told me that afternoon in Germany.
In February 2017, Sodalicio’s website published a report that says Daniels “has been accused of sexual abuse of at least twelve young men”, but according to witnesses, there are more victims who have not reported it. The document is the result of an investigation carried out by international experts commissioned by Alessandro Moroni, who is listed as Superior General of Sodalicio on the organization’s website.
Urbina’s experience is now part of an extensive list of testimonies detailing sexual, physical and psychological abuse by Sodalicio leaders. Many are registered in the book Half monks, half soldiers , written by the journalist and exsodálite Pedro Salinas and the journalist Paola Ugaz.
The book, published in 2015, is the result of five years of research. It gathers thirty testimonies pointing to Figari, retired since the end of 2010 and currently in Rome; Doig, who died in 2001, and Daniels, who according to recent reports in the Chicago Tribune , lives in the state of Illinois, in the United States. Ugaz tells that since they began their investigation, at the end of 2010, they have collected more than a hundred testimonies.
Within the Sodalicio the accusations were not new. According to the aforementioned report, a minor reported to Figari of sexual abuse in 1975, four years after Sodalicio was founded. In the following years there were more denunciations against Figari, Doig, Daniels and others. But the first articles on physical and psychological abuse did not come out until 2000, thanks to a series of columns written by the exsodálite José Enrique Escardó Steck for Gente magazine . As with the cases of the Chilean priest Fernando Karadima or the Mexican Marcial Maciel , it took decades to uncover these abuses.
In the case of Karadima, The New York Times revealed the first denunciations against him in 2010. The accusations dated back to the eighties. In February 2011, the Vatican declared the Chilean priest guilty of sexually abusing minors and ordered him to retire to a life of prayer. Five years earlier he had ordered the retirement of the Mexican Marcial Maciel, founder of the Order of the Legionaries of Christ and accused of abusing minors for decades. Maciel died in 2008.
In the case of Figari, the Vatican ordered him not to return to Peru – “except for very serious reasons” and with written permission – not to contact Sodalites and not to talk to the media. These indications are part of a letter of January 2017 addressed to Moroni, where they report on the result of an “apostolic visit” that sought to verify the accusations against the founder of Sodalicio.
In May 2016, Pedro Salinas and four ex-Sodalites sued Figari and other former leaders of the organization for crimes of kidnapping, serious injuries and conspiracy to commit a crime. The prosecutor in charge of the case questioned Figari in Rome. However, in January 2017 the prosecution filed the case alleging that there was not enough evidence and that the crimes had been prescribed.
But two months later another prosecutor reopened the case and on December 13 the Public Ministry requested nine months of preventive detention for Figari, Daniels and two other ex-leaders of Sodalicio: Virgilio Levaggi and Daniel Murguía.
The request for preventive detention was made public one month after Pope Francis visited Peru. Congressman Alberto de Belaunde, who led the creation of a special commission to investigate the Sodalicio, sent a letter to the representative of the pope in Peru requesting that the pontiff meet with the victims of the Sodalicio during his visit from January 18 to 21.
Until Monday, January 15, Belaunde’s request had not received a response. But, eight days before Francisco’s arrival, the Vatican announced the intervention of Sodalicio, what some have considered more a public relations maneuver than a real commitment to transform the organization.
Álvaro Urbina returned to Peru in August 2017, after thirteen years abroad. Now he works as a surf photographer on a beach north of Lima. “I went abroad to find answers,” he says. “Now I’m here looking to settle my roots and help as much as possible.” One of the first things he did back in Lima was to testify in the Office of the Prosecutor. “If I can help a child not to be touched by that beast, then more than happy to do so, more than happy.”]
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