Learning as a Dominican

Blog by Associate Paul Bonitatibus

After completing a thirty-five year career in banking, I have become quite proficient at the art of retirement. I golf (badly), spoil grandchildren (I am good at this!), travel frequently (visited thirty three countries and planning for more), do volunteer work, follow Notre Dame Football (have attended 165 games), and pursue opportunities for lifelong learning.

Have you ever enrolled in a MOOC – Massive Open Online Course? These are classes offered by universities on a variety of subjects and if you opt just for the knowledge rather than a certificate, they are generally free. Two of the more popular MOOC’s are EdX and Coursera. I have taken a Georgia Tech writing class, two classes from Notre Dame – Statistics and the Architecture of Rome, Climate Change from The University of Melbourne, The University of London’s “The Camera Never Lies,” and even the “Music of the Beatles” from the University of Rochester.

These classes have been fun and educational while providing an opportunity to interact with hundreds, even thousands, of others taking the courses worldwide. But, my most recent course, EdX.org’s “Human Rights, The Rights of Refugees” was more than just educational. It was disturbing, thought provoking, and called for action.

My grandparents were immigrants. I was blessed by their love and guidance and saw them every day of the week until I started high school. I often think of them when I hear about walls, quotas, DACA, and camps. What if they were denied access to Ellis Island in the early 1900’s?

How should we as Dominicans address the plight of refugees and immigrants? Let’s do what Dominicans do best.

Discern

Open our hearts in prayer and support

Make a difference

Inform others about the issue

Navigate the political landscape

Impact the lives of those in need

Care

Advocate

Never stop Building Peace

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Let’s Justify Peace, Not Death

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

Many recognize the pain, destruction, and loss of life caused by war. Numerous are fearful about the death and devastation that could be caused by North Korea’s possession of a nuclear weapon. We rally to end violence, end hatred, end bigotry in order to save lives. Our world is hurting, damaged, divided. There is already so much death and killing around us and across the globe, why do we continue to “justify” killing in our criminal justice system?

Two months ago I wrote a blog about the death penalty, and since then five more men have been executed on death row. In that same time, Harvard’s Fair Punishment Project came out with a report specifically on prisoners on Ohio’s execution list and how they are impaired and traumatized. Click here for the report (please note, the report contains graphic information).

The Fair Punishment Project examined 26 men on Ohio’s death row and found that they “are among the most impaired and traumatized among us – a pattern replicated across America’s death rows.” These individuals have been affected by childhood trauma, physical and sexual abuse, and often suffer from a mental illness or intellectual disability. Some were under the age of 21 when they committed the crime that led to their sentence, yet scholars argue a brain at such a young age is still underdeveloped.

The Eight Amendment protects against cruel and unusual punishment, specifically for those most vulnerable in capital punishment cases such as the mentally ill, and the Gospel gives a clear directive to love rather than retaliate: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:43-44). When will our world know peace? When will we come together to work toward conversion and rehabilitation rather than an eye for an eye?

The Catholic Church believes that the death penalty is an unnecessary and systemically flawed form of punishment. Please pray for an end to the death penalty, for the families of the victims, for those involved in carrying out the executions, and for those on death row. May our prayers and our actions toward peace continue to challenge the status quo and encourage others to live lives of peace rooted in the Gospel.

Today is the World Day Against the Death Penalty. For more information about the death penalty, see this fact sheet. Please pray for those scheduled to be executed this year. Click here for a list.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Kneel for Justice

Blog by Justice Promoter and Associate  Kelly Litt

There’s a famous quote that goes, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” I want to reverse that quote and say, “If you don’t kneel for something, you’ll stand for anything.”

The recent political debate has focused on NFL (and other athletic) players who have knelt during the National Anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice. I’ve seen both support and backlash in the news, on TV, and in endless posts and pictures on Facebook.

However, this protest is about much more than the National Anthem or the American flag. It’s about equality. It’s about justice. It’s about American lives. Where is the moral character of our country when white nationalists who protest are called “fine people” by the president, yet NFL players who peacefully protest injustice are scrutinized and called unpatriotic?

The actions of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi were often viewed as improper, disrespectful, or a mere charade. Yet their peaceful protests became the cornerstones behind major societal shifts.

By taking a knee and bringing attention to a national and moral injustice, these athletes are, by kneeling, standing for what they believe in. I am thankful that these professional athletes are using their platform and positions of influence to stir political discussion on an issue that is far too often swept under the rug. They are coming together, putting their fame and reputations on the line in order to speak out against racial injustice, peacefully.

Some say this display of protest causes division between fans and the public, further polarizing and dividing our country, and others say they prefer to view sporting games for entertainment, not politics. Yet when racial injustice is so clear and so present in our country, when young black men are being brutalized and killed in our streets, perhaps we do not have the privilege to ignore it as we enjoy a ball game.

Whether in prayer or protest, maybe it’s time we all take a knee against racial injustice.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Genocide: Never Again?

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

We are too familiar with the current immigration crisis in the United States where families are being torn apart, mothers deported while their children remain, and families risking their lives to cross the border to flee violence. Yet this crisis is not ours alone; it is happening on a global scale as violence and humanitarian crises continue to push families out of their homelands.

Following violence in Rakhine between security forces and a militant group, Rohingya refugees have been fleeing from Myanmar to Bangladesh since August 25th. The Rohingya, a mostly Muslim minority who live in Myanmar’s far western Rakhine State, are denied citizenship by the Myanmar government who consider them illegal immigrants. As they flee to Bangladesh to avoid violence and persecution, they face pushback from the Bangladesh government who don’t want to open their doors. According to the BBC, more than 400,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since late August.

The Myanmar military have claimed their operations in Rakhine are to root out militants and that they are not targeting civilians. However, the stories of reporters, refugees, and witnesses clearly say otherwise. Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights has called this campaign by the Myanmar military ethnic cleansing. (Read a UN report on the violent military campaign). These actions, including executions, mass rape, and widespread burning of villages while residents are still in their homes, are crimes against humanity. The human rights abuses against the Rohingya must stop, and humanitarian aid must be provided.

Some international leaders fear this will be the next genocide, following Rwanda, Darfur, Bosnia, and Kosovo. A friend recently shared with me a TED Talk about the current refugee crisis. In it, the presenter said “the biggest question in the 21st century concerns our duties to strangers… the world is more connected than ever before, yet the great danger is that we’re consumed by our divisions.” Our diversity should not divide us, and the world should not turn a blind eye on attacks against innocent civilians including women and children. The Rohingya need to be seen and heard and need to be protected.

How can we help? From the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns:

The Elijah Interfaith Institute in Australia offers a prayer for the Rohingya.

Tell Congress to end U.S. military engagement with Myanmar.

A provision in the U.S. Senate’s current draft of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would increase U.S. military engagement with Myanmar. Urge your members of Congress to cosponsor a bipartisan amendment (SA 607) to strike this language and to suspend all U.S. financial aid to Myanmar’s military. Read the letter 125 faith leaders sent to Congress.

The UK government suspended its financial aid to Myanmar’s military on September 19. Please click here to tell Congress that the United States should do the same.

For more information, see this article.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Why Stay?: Peace and Persistence on the International Day of Peace

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

As North Korea continues building and testing its nuclear arsenal, as Dreamers are threatened by the rescinding of DACA, as white supremacists march in our public spaces, and as relief efforts continue for those impacted by Harvey and Irma, it’s hard to hold on to hope as the International Day of Peace approaches on September 21st.

We all know brave women and men who have been working toward peace and justice for decades, many of whom are members of our congregation. Yet, it often appears that decisions continue to be made and actions continue to be taken that send us backward on our march toward justice and peace.

As we come together in community and prayer on the International Day of Peace, may we all reflect on the reasons we continue in our work to be peace, build peace, and preach peace. In her book Perseverance, Margaret Wheatley articulates well the frustration, the hope, and the reason we continue working toward peace, each and every day.

“Why Stay”

It’s normal to reach the point where we start questioning our motivation: “Why do I work so hard?” “Why am I dedicating so much time to this?” “Why do I stay in this work?”

And if we don’t ask these questions, our friends and loved ones surely will. Usually, if they’re confronting us with these, they already have the answers in mind: Stop working so hard; get a life; notice that other people aren’t nearly as dedicated as you.

Asking “Why stay?” can be an invitation to reassess not our work load, but our original commitment that brought us into this work. Especially when we’re overloaded, burned-out and exhausted, it’s extremely helpful to pause occasionally and reflect on the sense of purpose and potential contribution that lured us into working for this cause. Doing this with colleagues who also are working much too hard is a well-tested means for deepening our relationships and strengthening our resolve to keep going.

But there’s also a significant element of irrationality in why we keep going, even in the midst of defeat and exhaustion. The question “why?” doesn’t lead us to any personal clarity or reassessment, because there really isn’t an answer.

We’re doing the work because we’re doing the work.

If we try and develop an explanation beyond this simple statement of fact, we get into murky waters. Yet even though it’s the truth, it’s a statement destined to promote either anger or confusion in our loved one.

It’s an insufficient answer, and sometimes it’s the only one available.

-Margaret Wheatley, Perseverance 2010

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog