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The story of Father Ignacio María Doñoro de los Río is worthy of the greatest James Bond. The 57-year-old former military chaplain has been nominated to receive the Princess of Asturias Prize in the Concord category. This is to reward his work for 25 years with young victims of extreme poverty and against human trafficking.
Endowed with great courage, he stood out in the 1990s during a special mission to El Salvador with the Spanish National Police Force. It was at this time that he saved from certain death a child ready to be sold for his organs.
This story begins in a family of five children. Among them, Manuel, 14 years old who suffers from paralysis. His parents, very poor, decide to sell him to make some money and feed their four other daughters.
They only ask for $25. Quickly, many buyers show up. But not just any. They are criminals with a clear objective: to kill the young man to recover his organs in order to sell them on the organ trafficking market. Because although ‘defective’, the ‘commodity’, Manuel has sufficient value in spare parts.
Everything in this story seems to come out of a nightmare. The misery of a family so great that it is forced to sell one of its children; a child treated and handled like an animal taken to the slaughterhouse; the sale of one human being by another without the slightest qualm. Most shocking is that Manuel is far from the only one in his case. Human trafficking is a problem that has lasted for centuries and unfortunately is still relevant today.
On learning of the fate that awaits Manuel, Father Ignacio does not hesitate to risk his life to help him. For a week, he does not shave, dressed in civilian clothes, then hires a truck and travels to the Panchimalco mountains where Manuel’s family lives. Impersonating a trafficker, he buys the boy and offers a dollar more than the previous ones. After which, he loads the boy into the truck and takes him away, thus pulling him out of the clutches of a tragic fate.
In an interview with El País, Father Ignacio confided: ‘In a tenth of a second, I realised that this kind of opportunity does not come twice in a lifetime. We must make the choice to seize it or let it pass. And if we grab it, it can take us where we would never have imagined. I was very aware that this child was going to change my life.’
Father Ignacio is then asked what he thinks of the family. Did they know what was going to happen to their child? Did they know about organ trafficking? To this, the priest replies simply: ‘If I have learned one thing over time, it is that we cannot judge them. This child was going to die and they sold him out of a hopeless situation.’
Thanks to Father Ignacio, the boy was able to be treated. With physiotherapy, Manuel not only survived but also regained the use of his body. Today he is alive and deeply grateful. Father Ignacio, back in Spain, received a letter in which the young man expressed his joy and declared that the priest was ‘the most important person in his life’.
But Father Ignacio’s generosity did not stop with Manuel. With friends, he founded the Nazareth House in Peru whose mission is to take care of orphans and children from poor families like Manuel. Families who live in poverty and find themselves making impossible choices to survive. Prostitution, crime, and of course, human trafficking.
Father Ignacio received the Telva magazine solidarity prize in 2021. The $20,000 contributed to the purchase of equipment to allow Maison Nazareth to develop its agriculture and become self-sufficient. Today, the former chaplain continues to assume his mission with determination. Source
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