With the end of 2017, we are saddened and disheartened by the continual signs of violence, indifference, and seeming hopelessness that surround us throughout the world. We long for peace. We ache for peace. We pray for peace.
We see the struggles across the planet of families displaced, separated, taken from their homes and forced to flee their communities in search for peace.
We watch the scenes on our daily news and it is too much to take in. If we do not wake ourselves up, we become numb, unable to see how we can ever make a difference.
One of the struggles that does not reach our news reports is the plight of the Palestinian people, a people who are systematically oppressed by Israel apartheid. At this holy time of Hanukkah, Israeli military checkpoints are shut down for the benefit of the military, thus prohibiting the movement of Palestinians to reach their lands, jobs, schools and families.
What has reached our news reports is the recent declaration by President Trump of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, despite the fact that Palestinians also have their center of worship in Jerusalem. Human rights groups and governments throughout the world have condemned this decision and called it a “grave threat to peace.”
So where do we look for a call to peace? Who has the moral message for all of humankind?
It is none other than Pope Francis, who in his message for the 51st World Day of Peace 2018, wishes “Peace to all people and to all nations on earth…especially for those who most keenly suffer its absence.” Pope Francis recognizes that “welcoming others requires concrete commitment, a network of assistance and good will, vigilant and sympathetic attention…”
One ray of hope in the US government is the recent sponsorship of HR 4391 promoting Human Rights by ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act. Introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Min) and 9 others, it has continued to gain additional support in the House of Representatives and brings to light the abuses of the Israeli forces against Palestinian Children.
In this new year of 2018, Pope Francis, through his message “Migrants and refugees: men and women in search of peace”, continues to be the global voice for peace as he calls on the United Nations for leadership in the development of global compacts for migration and refugees.
The Palestinian people are refugees in their own lands as their homes and businesses are destroyed to make way for new Israeli settlements, and for them we pray that they will not be forgotten and may enjoy peace in this New Year.
What makes a budget moral? What is the responsibility of government in drafting a budget? Currently the issues of morality and responsibility swirl around the US and our global world. Why? Is it because of the extensive disparities in economics between those who have a good life and those who do not in the US and in so many other countries? Is it because of the natural and human disasters plaguing our world with politicians apparently powerless?
Morality can be defined as a particular system of values and principles of conduct held by a society such as honesty, integrity, honor and justice. Do the denials, cuts or repeals for programs as the Affordable Care Act, Clean Power Plan, Paris Climate Accord, EPA rules for clean water, air or land as in the Keystone XL or Dakota Access pipelines reflect such values?
The role of the state in public spending should be directed to the common good based upon these pillars: “respect for the fundamental and inalienable rights of the human person, promotion of human development and defense of peace.” Taxes and public spending are tools for uplifting and developing all members of a country’s population. All of us have gifts and skills to hone and share for the well-being of the whole. We also have needs in our society to be able to exercise our gifts and skills—education, health, meaningful work and supportive agencies, private and public. Personal and social responsibilities round out a society’s common good goal for wellness of earth and ourselves. Why then do politicians give the middle class all the attention as being in need when all working and non-working members of society deserve help.
Of the proposed federal 2017 budget: 54% is for the military; 3% for social security, labor, unemployment; 6% for education; 7% for veterans; 1% for food, agriculture; 2% transportation; 3% science; and 4% energy and environment. The moral system for this budget is violence—not in people or the earth, upon which we live, work and love.
Sources: USCCB letters of August 31 and November 7, 2017
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 2006
I became involved in the Akron Area Interfaith Council (known as the AAIC) in August, 2015. I received a call from a United Church of Christ minister Chuck Auscherman asking if I would participate in a DVD for the AAIC. I had never heard of the organization and couldn’t imagine how I could serve. We agreed to a face-to-face meeting the next day during which he filled me in on the AAIC and this current project. Basically, I was asked to voice on the DVD the official position of the Catholic Church on interfaith dialogue. How blessed I was that Pope Francis had just addressed that issue a few weeks before!
In 1980 faith leaders from the Catholic, Jewish, Orthodox, African American, and other Protestant faiths joined together to create the AAIC. These clergy persons were all friends and saw the need to have an organization in place for communication and collaboration as well as the ability to address issues that arise between faith groups.
The mission statement specifically calls the AAIC to coordinate and enable effective interfaith responses to the social, moral, ethical, and cultural issues of the Akron area community as well as to promote freedom of religion, equality, and understanding. Currently, the AAIC has representatives from the Baha’i, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, Christian (including Catholic), and Unitarian Universalist faiths. We meet bi-monthly to build friendships as well as to collaborate in addressing specific needs.
Intrigued by the variety of faiths of which I was, for the most part, unfamiliar, I decided to join the AAIC for a year in order to learn more deeply the origins and practices of those I knew so little of. The persons I have met and with whom I have engaged in projects have deeply enriched my life. At this time, not all members of the Council are clergy and there is a good mixture of male and female. I am the first religious sister many of these have encountered. Once we get to know one another, so many walls and barriers are brought down. We welcome one another as children who come from the same God, no matter how God is named and understood.
Two of our largest projects are The Fall Forum and The Hunger Walk. The former is a yearly event that brings topics of current interest to the interfaith community that enlighten and inform. This year the Forum addressed Akron’s opiate epidemic; titled “Join the Voices for Recovery: Strengthen Families and Communities,” it featured presentations by 1) a couple who had lost their son to heroin addiction, 2) Summit County Opiate Task Force, and 3) an addiction recovery speaker.
The Hunger Walk is held annually in early May. Over 20 congregations have joined together to eliminate food insecurity in the Akron area. One hundred percent of the proceeds are donated to the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. Young children, teens, and even family pets participate! The May 2017 walk garnered $26,375.02 for the Foodbank.
I have so appreciated involvement with the members of this Council. It is such a joy to share different faiths with openness and acceptance, learning enriching insights from one another. We are realizing that at the heart of it all is our common humanity originating from the same God although called by various names such as Yahweh, Allah, Baha (All-Glorious), and Krishna. This approach is so needed at this time in our country when there is so much division. The more we share together, the more I find we share in common. In the year ahead, I hope to celebrate a worship service at the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the Islamic mosque, Temple Israel, and a Hindu temple in order to appreciate each faith’s reverence and love for God.
October 17, 2017: A Day to Heed the United Nation’s Call…
To eradicate poverty everywhere
To become an inclusive society
What will it take to meet this prophetic call?
A Commemoration of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty: October 17, 2017
Thirty years ago the United Nations set October 17 as a day to raise awareness of and direct our energies towards the eradication of poverty throughout the globe. Carved in a commemorative stone is the conviction,
“Wherever men and women are condemned to live in extreme poverty, human rights are violated. To come together to ensure that these rights are respected is our solemn duty.”
These are the words of Fr. Joseph Wresinski. His life experience of poverty, hope and transformation may be an inspiration to all. Joseph was born in 1917 to immigrant parents in an internment camp outside Paris. His sister died in that camp of malnutrition, and his mother suffered humiliation from her dependence on donations. The intensity of this family’s experience of chronic poverty and social exclusion became a driving force in his life as a priest for all people. His chosen priestly residence was with the poor in a camp for the homeless. His efforts to build relationships with all people finally led him to gather together 100,000 people of all social backgrounds at the Human Rights and Liberty Trocadero Plaza in Paris, where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948, to honor the victims of extreme poverty, violence and hunger.
Out of this ability to bring people together, Fr. Wresinski started the movement “ATD Fourth World “(All Together in Dignity). As an international movement that is active in 34 countries it remains a force in the determined effort to defeat poverty. In solidarity and collaboration with the most excluded families around the world, ATD designs and plans its projects with the participation of people living in persistent poverty. It has been demonstrated that the most disadvantaged people can be empowered to free themselves from the dependence and indignity of poverty when their courage and capacity for action are recognized, and when everyone takes responsibility for overcoming the prejudice and discrimination that continue to exclude people living in poverty.
The United Nations set the theme for this year’s commemoration appropriately as, “Answering the Call of October 17 to end poverty: A Path Toward Peaceful and Inclusive Societies.” It has been demonstrated that the poverty of some affects whole communities and leads to the destabilizing of civic structures. We are witnesses to the instability of our age, to a depersonalized world overrun with war, terrorism, human exploitation, and a self-centered will to power.
The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal to end all poverty everywhere by 2030 seems too ambitious to many, but according to the Director-General of UNESCO it is achievable. Irina Bokova claims that success rests on political determination driven by solid knowledge about the causes, mechanisms, and consequences of poverty.
If we look at the magnitude of world and local poverty from a merely statistical reference we learn that 2.4 billion people survive on less than $2.00 a day; 1.6 billion people live in poverty; one half of the refugee population are children.
The poor have a voice. What do we hear them say about the situations that make poverty a systemic trap for them:
“I am not able to find work with my limited skills.
How will I feed my children?
I cannot support my children on low wages I make in 2 jobs
I am forced to choose between food and medicine in my senior years.
I am undocumented and am exploited by my employer.
I am opiad addicted and feel trapped.
My parents may be deported. Who will care for me?
I may be deported. Where do I belong?
The soup kitchen lost its grant. How will I eat?
We have lost everything in hurricanes, floods, etc.
I am hungry and no one feeds me, I want to learn and no one teaches me.
I don’t want bombs; I need bread.”
On the international level, children are the innocent victims of war and violence, famine and displacement. The hostilities in Syria, Yemen and Palestine lead us to wonder how children can live normal loving lives when fear is their emotional response to life. It is heart wrenching to know that children are dying each day of starvation, as I dump food in the garbage.
It is heartening to know that movements of solidarity and care are finding ways to change things. One movement close to my heart is Bread For The World. Its primary purpose is to end hunger everywhere. Although not political in intent, BFW is currently pushing Congress to respond to the spreading famine in Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen. The famine and displacements are reaching proportions that haven’t been seen since World War II. BFW Churches mobilize people to write letters to Congress and to visit their legislators to effect changes in policy.
Albert Nolan in his book “Hope in An Age of Despair,” 2010, reframes our option for the poor as an option for the cause of the poor. He writes, “Beyond our ability to be moved by the pain of the poor, as good as that is, we are to take sides against the cause of the rich; to choose to eliminate unjust economic structures that discriminate against the poor, but the poor themselves have to take up their own cause.”
Taking on the call to be in solidarity with the poor is a task and grace given to us by Jesus. “For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sakes He became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor. 8: 9).
As our own legislators are consumed with measures that will remove health care and safety nets for many, while Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have caused loss of life, destruction of homes, citizens in the entertainment and media industries hosted the telethon Hand-in-Hand, and raised millions of relief funds. The Global Citizens Festival, held in September in New York, was a gathering of 60,000 people of all ages, races and creeds calling for political and social change, with special efforts to defeat AIDS and poverty. As I watched these events on TV and saw faces radiating the joy of life, I wondered if we are witnessing a renaissance of goodness, a new age of spirit and unity!
Our prophetic Pope Francis tells us in his Encyclical “Laudato Si” “that the human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together…affecting the most vulnerable people on the planet…the gravest effects are suffered by the poorest.”
As we commemorate this International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, you may wish to Google some websites for the many heartening stories of solidarity. One story that touched me was that of the Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC). It began 15 years ago when parents and families walked in the rain to the juvenile courthouse, stood and gave voice to over 2,000 voiceless families to abolish the school to prison pipeline, thus reforming the juvenile justice system.
Finally, as we join with other alliances to fight poverty, secure inclusion and dignity for all, what would we write on our commemorative stone? Have we already done so in our Chapter mandates?
As I write this blog, I’m watching the rain turning our backyard into a swamp. The rain is soft but steady and the water quickly gathers into a small pond. I know that a rainfall like Harvey would flood our basement and house very quickly requiring us to evacuate. After watching so much coverage of Harvey victims with their garbage bags holding their possessions, I got to wondering what I would pack if I had to evacuate quickly. What precious items would be in my black bag?
The first thing that came to mind was the copy of my vows that I signed at my first and final professions. They define so much who I am today. Then I thought of the small collection of pictures I culled out for use at my funeral- reminders of family, my Dominican Collaborative Novitiate crowd, my good friends. (I just stuck them in the envelope with my vows.) I’d take two crosses hanging on my wall – one a resurrection cross given to me by a dear friend and the other that I received at my profession. Another much loved mentor gave me a wooden statue of Dominic that she received at her profession in 1952. I couldn’t let anything happen to a Dominic who is as old as me. I’d add a watercolor painted by another close friend. Finally I’d stick some earrings that were my mother’s and my dad’s wedding ring into my stash.
As I reflected on why I’d take these items first I realized that they all remind me of relationships and events that have shaped in some way who I am… sisters, family, and friends. They are very valuable to me and would be lost forever if destroyed. That would you take with you? What memories and relationships do you hold dear? My heart aches for all those who lost precious keepsakes in this recent flood and I pray that when the disaster is over, they can begin to gather some new mementoes.