decent home, everywhere, is a hallmark of human dignity. Yet in the cities of Asia today,
how many millions of people lack a decent home? How many find shelter beneath bridges and
overpasses, beside the rails, or perched in trashwood shanties above the drainage canals?
How many subsist without legal title in ubiquitous slums lacking even the simplest
amenities? We do not know exactly. In some Asian cities, squatters and slum dwellers
account for more than half the inhabitants. And the number is growing as newcomers arrive
daily from the countryside, overtaking completely the efforts of government to either
assist or contain them. To the better-off classes, these mushrooming cities of the poor
are a blight and an impediment to new business parks, condominiums, and shopping malls.
Eviction is the common solution. For nearly twenty years, EDUARDO JORGE ANZORENA has
devoted himself to this wrenching human dilemma.
Argentinean by birth, ANZORENA entered the Society of Jesus as a young man and joined its
mission in Japan. While completing his studies in theology there, he also earned a
doctorate in architecture from Tokyo University, rendering his dissertation in Japanese.
As he began his teaching career at Sophia University, ANZORENA also sought exposure to
life beyond the confines of his privileged university and of prosperous Japan. With Mother
Teresa in Calcutta and among relocated squatters in the Philippines, he confronted
first-hand the common life of Asia's urban poor and their desperate need for secure and
decent shelter. He wondered what could be done?
For ideas, ANZORENA met in 1975 with groups working to improve housing in the slums of
Latin America. He then embarked upon his own study of the housing crisis in Asia, locating
community organizers in the region's poorest neighborhoods and studying NGOs and people's
organizations that worked. Thus ANZORENA began his annual pilgrimage to the cities of
Asia to search for innovative answers to the perennial problems of slum life, to
share his discoveries with other housing activists, and to steer needed financial
assistance toward promising experiments.
In 1976 ANZORENA launched a bi-annual newsletter in which he published the fruits of his
wanderings. Here housing advocates in, say, Dhaka, could read about approaches being tried
in Bombay, Manila, or Mexico City, to organize communities and reduce the cost of housing,
to bring new economic opportunities to the poor, and to arrange professional assistance
and links to government programs. In 1988 members of ANZORENA's network joined formally to
create the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights, which mounts coordinated responses to mass
evictions and works to define and achieve housing rights for Asia's poor.
Although the strategies shared by ANZORENA's far-flung associates are varied, they possess
common premises that reflect his own beliefs. Respect for the poor is the first of these.
A second is that technical assistance and funding are not enough; to change communities in
the long run, the people must organize to help themselves.
ANZORENA, it is said, "teaches in Japanese, prays in Spanish, and writes in
English." These days he devotes half of each year to his travels in Asia. His network
continually grows. His role within it, he says, is to merely "support and
encourage." But others think of him as a catalyst and mentor: "He asks questions
and makes us think. When he leaves, we always have something to do."
In electing EDUARDO JORGE ANZORENA to receive the 1994 Ramon Magsaysay Award for
International Understanding, the board of trustees recognizes his fostering a
collaborative search for humane and practical solutions to the housing crisis among Asia's