.- Students at the Canadian University of Brock in Ontario raising money for a charitable program abroad have been harassed by protestors over the program's connection with the Christian Life Movement.
The protestors, who call themselves “Occupy Brock,” appear to be linked to a campaign by Ana Isla – an associate professor in Women’s Studies at the school – who has been working to halt the university's Solidarity Experiences Abroad (SEA) program.
Isla has said she opposes the program because it was created through the work of Catholic campus minister and member of the Christian Life Movement Brother Raoul Masseur.
Since 2006, Isla has been pressuring the University of Brock to drop programs linked with religious organizations, which she charges are homophobic and opposed to “women's rights.”
On Feb. 13 the protest group issued three action alert messages on Facebook, urging people to demonstrate against the SEA's recent fund raising for projects in Latin America and Africa. One of the messages asked locals for help to “stop this homophobic, misogynistic, and racist organization.”
The protestors are said to have harassed students attending the fund raiser and distributed fliers with claims against the SEA program that have already been dismissed in an investigation by the school's Advisory Internationalization Committee.
Over 200 letters of support from alumni of the SEA program have flooded the school in recent weeks after Isla in December of 2011 urged the university to end the program and remove “all ties” to local partners of the trips.
In a three-page memo to the Sociology Department, she criticized the placement of Brock students in Christian Life Movement facilities and projects while abroad. Although most of Isla's charges were leveled against the Christian Life Movement and unrelated to the program, she claimed that the SEA allowed untrained students to provide medical care at charity clinics in Lima, Peru.
“The Committee after thorough research and investigation of the allegations presented against me and local partners determined that there is no evidence to support those claims,” Br. Raoul Masseur told CNA.
“Therefore,” he added, “there is no longer any question about the integrity of the individuals involved nor of the organizations involved.”
Br. Massuer also said he was grateful and “very impressed” with the “articulated content of these letters of support from many students, also senior administrators and staff members that participated in SEA Programs.”
Since its creation in 2004 as a non-religious program, SEA has allowed thousands of students from Brock and 16 other universities “to develop their careers in solidarity and service to those most in need,” he said.
The SEA program has spread to Ecuador, South Africa, Namibia, Costa Rica and Brazil, with trips organized by chaplains from different denominations. In Peru alone, the program has brought assistance to more than 100,000 people of low income.
Br. Masseur and other parties involved Isla's attempts to remove the SEA program have submitted religious discrimination claims to the school, which are currently being processed by the Office of Human Rights at Brock University.