Fifty innocent individuals were slaughtered at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand last Friday. It was done by a self-professed white supremacist who wrote that he wanted to kill as many people as possible. Why?
On the following day, I participated in a press conference at CAIR (Council on American–Islamic Relations). Each of the imams and Muslim leaders described calls and texts from children and teens in their mosques who wanted to know if it was safe to come to prayer. They were afraid. Why?
Later that evening I prayed Taize prayer with discerners and sisters at the Come and See Weekend in our motherhouse in Akron. As I sat in silence, it occurred to me that not one of the twenty or so women in the chapel were afraid to come to prayer. The majority of us were white and we had never experienced hatred because of our skin color or religion. Why?
Why? Why? Why? As Dominican sisters and associates of Peace, we must condemn the heresy of supremacy that teaches that one race, religion, or nationality is superior to another. It is evil. It is not what the Scriptures teach. At the same time, we must also pray for conversion of heart for those ensnared by this heresy. Is this hard? You bet. It’s much easier to pray for the victims and we must do that; but, we also have to pray for conversion of hate to love. We cannot match hate with hate. Join me please, in prayer so that children will not be afraid to go to prayer.
Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink. Did Noah in the Ark think the same as they all floated for 40 days? We assume God sent down sufficient rain to quench their thirst. Still—anxiety must have existed. What about us in 2019? Are we assuming God and technology will provide us with sufficient fresh water in these times of climate change with its overwhelming precipitation or drought as well as rising temperatures? Are we making peace with our water or waging war?
Some facts can frame our world’s water situation:
98% of earth’s water is salt
Less than 1% of our total fresh water is available for human use
Water consumption since 1900 has increased 10-fold with population growth, economic development in industry and agricultural mass production
Fresh water scarcity has increased 20% with depletion of water aquifers, melted glaciers, destruction of lakes, streams, watersheds, and pollution
The human body stops functioning after going without water for 3-4 days. Each American (you and I) at home uses an average of 88 gallons (333 liters) of water daily. Our hygienic needs in handwashing with soap after/during activities, food preparation take 4-5 gallons of water. As fresh water scarcity increases on Earth, one-half of our current global population lives in deprived water areas for at least one month a year. This water scarcity exists on every continent. By 2020, 1.8 billion people will experience no water and another two-thirds will have very limited access to it. What are ways you and I can reduce an everyday water routine—not run water when brushing teeth?
Having water for life is a human right—not a commodity. Water security means access to sufficient quantities of clean water for food, sanitation, and health care. Are you aware that here in the US—and in OH—individuals/families go without water because they cannot afford to pay for or buy it? Cities and towns in their need to repair/update/expand their public water infrastructure (ex. Corroded/broken pipes or valves) and to adjust to changing climates are raising water rates. The trend toward privatization of public utilities such as city water in the name of efficiency and expense endangers public access to this human right. The Corporations of Nestles/Perrier, Danone, Pepsi, Coca Cola see the increasing water crisis as economic opportunity as they pump water from springs, aquifer/underground sources, and lakes (as Lake Michigan and Superior) to bottle in plastic for purchase by us and in other countries. Do you recall the bulk packages of water bottles unloaded for the destitute residents of Detroit or Puerto Rico? Did the bottling corporations freely donate?
We cannot just wring our hands; it is not que sera, que sera. To make peace with water, we must keep tabs on the proposals and actions of our government officials, of business /legal entities proposing public budget savings. We avoid buying bottled drinks and encourage relatives/friends to do also; we use waste containers to avoid polluting streets and streams. How do you plan to make peace with our precious water?
How does God reveal God’s self to you? Perhaps it’s holding an infant with Downs Syndrome. Maybe, it’s serving at a soup kitchen. Many of us see God in a glorious sunrise or sunset… in the majesty of the mountains or the vastness of the ocean. God is so often revealed in the nature that is all around us. What responsibility do we have to protect this source of God’s revelation? Are we in danger of losing it through climate catastrophes?
The Dominican Sisters of Peace Land Ethic Document states: “It is a short jump to the realization that when we humans destroy the land, water and air with chemicals, sewerage, waste products and machines, we are crucifying again the God who created everything, ourselves included. This failure to recognize God’s presence in creation is our Sin. In our disregard or mindlessness, we are eliminating and short circuiting all life forms as nothing can evolve out of our destruction of ecosystems.”
Richard Rohr, in his February 27th blog, puts it like this: “Every single creature—the teen mother nursing her child, every one of the twenty thousand species of butterflies, an immigrant living in fear, a blade of grass, you reading this meditation—all are “in Christ” and “chosen from the beginning.” (Ephesians 1:3-4, 9-10)
Finally, a young person typing a reflection on her visit to the Grand Canyon wrote, “Hearing the words ‘Grand Canyon’ and now experiencing it for the first time, I realize that the term ‘Grand’ falls far [short] of what this place [truly] represents: Perfection.”
Yes… God is revealed in the perfection of the natural world. During the months of March and April leading up to Earth Day, members of the Eco Justice committee will present a series of blogs called Making Peace with the Earth. It will be an opportunity for readers to reflect on the importance of our world and how we must make changes if we are to protect this amazing revelation of God. Please take some time this Lent to consider what actions you can take. What’s one thing that you will do to make peace with the earth?
When we were in El Paso, we visited Tornillo, a tent city that housed unaccompanied and separated children ages 13-17. At its peak, it held around 2,500 children. It closed down while we were there and most of the children were united with their sponsors. Some of the children, however, were sent to another camp in Homestead, Florida which has become the focal point for efforts to eliminate child detention. Homestead is the largest of the child detention centers and unlike others, is run by a for profit organization and does not have state oversite.
There are numerous reasons why children are held in detention. If they are separated from their parents, come alone or are with an aunt, uncle, cousin, or brother instead of a parent, they are defined as unaccompanied and put in detention. The large number of children in detention was largely due to an administration policy to require every adult in the sponsor’s household to get a background check instead of just the sponsor. Not surprising, some adults refused to get them and the children remained in detention. That policy has now been rescinded.
There were 3,000 children separated from their parents during the zero tolerance policy of this administration. 2,737 have been reunited but there may be still more children who were separated before the court required the administration to track them and since the ruling to stop separating children. There is no way to know how many children this represents. Even though this policy of separating children has been banned, over 100 children have been separated since June 2018. Some children may never be reunited with parents or family because there is no way to find the parents who have been deported or the children were given into foster care.
Because Homestead is a “temporary” or “influx” shelter on federal lands, it is not subject to state regulations and inspections intended to guarantee child welfare – only a loose set of Health and Human Services guidelines. The concern for advocates is that Homestead is a for-profit organization and it is in the best interest of the owner – Comprehensive Health Services, a division of Caliburn International – to house as many children as possible as long as possible (an average of 67 days) with the least amount of services. The time of stay has increased to 89 days during 2019. This arrangement is also a way to get around the Flores Settlement that limits the amount of time a child may be detained to 20 days. Another downside of keeping the children so long is that if they are in detention when they turn 18, they are immediately taken into ICE custody and deported.
Examples of reduced regulation occur in healthcare and education. In regular children’s shelters, Health and Human Services (HHS) requires a 12 children to 1 clinician to provide mental health care. At Homestead, it’s 20-1. Other detention centers require an educational component with certified teachers. There are also no certified teachers providing any educational programs and the superintendent of schools for the Homestead area has not been contacted.
Currently, HHS spends about $775 per child per day at Homestead. This is compared to other facilities that cost around $276/day. Comprehensive Health Services has been issued state licenses for three permanent shelters in South Texas to hold 500 migrant children for the government. In an IPO filing last fall, Caliburn International stated that the administration’s “border enforcement and immigration policy…is driving significant growth” for the company.
This problem is only going to grow. In January, the Customs and Border Protection collected over 5,000 unaccompanied children. As of the middle of February, there were 11,500 children in HHS custody, down from nearly 15,000 last December but nearly 80% higher than the year before. A bill was recently introduced in congress called the “Shut Down Child Prison Camps Act” (H.R. 1069). This bill prohibits HHS from maintaining and opening any more emergency shelters. This really is an unacceptable situation. Children need to be with family not in shelters.
*Facebook Group for those wanting to close Homestead
Last week there was a Facebook Live press conference at Annunciation House in El Paso. Ruben Garcia, the director of Annunciation House, was joined by two women and their children seeking asylum and one citizen immigrant. Each explained that they wanted to be in the U.S. because it was where they could live in peace and provide a good livelihood for their families.
Throughout the press conference, people sent emojis or made comments about how they felt about the people speaking. There were many who felt compassion but there were also a lot of negative comments. Some of them were downright mean. I felt a great sadness in my heart for these attitudes. What is it that causes this hate? Are they afraid of losing their own freedom and liberties?
I heard recently that it is human nature to want to limit freedom to our own group whether that group is our race, our religion, or maybe, our country. This is a scarcity mentality in which I want to be free and enjoy the benefits of that freedom but I don’t want to share it with others. As Christians, aren’t we called to transcend our human nature and be more like Christ? The Scriptures are filled with Jesus coming in contact with people outside his comfort zone – women, demons, Samaritans, prostitutes, Romans, Pharisees. Jesus didn’t think freedom – the kingdom of God – was limited to just his group. He wasn’t afraid to share the liberating and beneficent power of God.
On February 13th, in his daily meditation, Fr. Richard Rohr commented “In fact, that is my only definition of a true Christian. A mature Christian sees Christ in everything and everyone else.” Maybe we can’t see Christ in immigrants or asylum seekers because we’ve never met one and we hear so many bad things about them. I must admit that spending time on the border gave me a very different perspective on what these brave folks are experiencing. Knowing someone who is different – color, religion, class, nationality – can provide us with a new understanding and acceptance of them.
Perhaps we should take some advice from Wisdom 11:24: “You (God) love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for you would not fashion what you hate.” Let us put aside our hateful, fearful, and limiting attitudes and see Christ in everyone.