Ecuador: Elsie Monge

And when we are with the others, on the edge of an eternal morning, will all of us have eaten breakfast?” (Cesár Vallejo, Peruvian poet)

— Elsie Monge

She entered the missionary community of Maryknoll and worked with people who had gone astray. She denounced a murder during a radio transmission in Panama and was forced to leave the country. Back in Ecuador, her native country, Elsie Monge collaborated with agricultural cooperatives of afro-descendent peasants. Later, she started working with the Ecumenical Commission of Human Rights, which she has directed since 1986. She is helping refugees, denouncing crimes and other abuses. Eternally young, Elsie Monge (72) continues to lead the Commission.

From a young age, Elsie Monge worked with her grandmother, who was the founder of the Red Cross of Ecuador. Later, she studied in the United States and graduated in education. During her studies, she learned about the Catholic missionary group at Maryknoll, which she later joined. She worked throughout Latin America as a missionary with people who have strayed from the Catholic Church's teachings. She worked at a Catholic radio station in Panama and was “invited to leave” the country after denouncing the murder of a clergyman during a radio program. So she returned to Ecuador. She worked in a community of afro-descendent peasants. At that time, the peasants held the land and confronted the powerful landowners. She participated in the formation of the Federation of Agricultural Workers. During one confrontation, one of the peasants was killed and others were hurt. In the hospital, they were denied treatment because one of the nurses belonged to the family of the landowner involved in the conflict. Elsie came with the Ecumenical Commission of Human Rights and changed mindsets. The peasants received land and an irrigation channel. In 1981, Elsie began her service with the Commission. She supported political refugees of Chile, Uruguay and El Salvador. Shortly after, she was called on to face the dictatorship of Leon Febres Cordero, in Ecuador. She gave legal and humanitarian assistance to political prisoners, and she denounced the disappearances carried out by state security. She has been threatened. The police fabricated an incriminating video to discredit her. She pushed for the creation of a Provincial Commission for Human Rights, which later became the Ecuadorian Front for Human Rights, an organization which she heads. Elsie Monge, the rich girl who decided to dedicate her life to the poor, declares: “The worse attack on human rights is poverty.”

Ecumenical Commission of Human Rights Ecuadorian Front for Human Rights