A Journey That Was Meant To Be

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

It was a horrendous trip – delayed by a winter storm far worse than expected with states and citizens not prepared or used to the amount of snow and ice.  We sat three hours on a closed highway in Oklahoma. Then once we got into New Mexico, we were trying to beat another storm so we kept going.  Unfortunately, it caught up to us about half way through the state and late into the night.  I won’t go into the details but we were traveling much slower than the speed limit and had a few harrowing moments.

Part way through this journey we realized that our experience might have some similarities to those of the refugees that we would be interacting with. We were all desperate to get to El Paso… we wanted to escape the danger of the snow and begin our service, they wanted to escape the violence of gangs and poverty and begin a new, more promising life. We were both at the mercy of the government… we needed them to plow and salt the roads, they needed to be processed and sent to a hospitality center.  We all needed rest and refreshment after difficult journeys.

But there were some big differences.  We could afford to stop at a nice hotel to wait out the storm.  We had a safe, warm vehicle to travel in, plenty of warm clothing, and nutritious food.  We knew where we were going and how to communicate with others if we were stuck.  The asylum seekers were not so fortunate sleeping rough, bringing little more than the clothes on their backs, and with little money for food or shelter. Most had never travelled by plane and where afraid of this final leg of their journey to their sponsors.

We arrived safely in El Paso after 18 hours or so and completed our ministry in the Pastoral Center of the Diocese of El Paso.  Each of us shared the gifts we had for language, cooking, organizing, and cleaning.  We met some courageous mothers and fathers from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Brazil, Cuba, and Russia whose only desire was to live in peace and provide for their families.  We were blessed over and over again during our two weeks.  It was a journey that was meant to be.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Palestine and Human Rights

Blog by Sr. Roberta Miller, OP

In the beginning was Al-Nakba (the Catastrophe) in May 1948. The Zionist forces (Irgun and Haganah) invaded Palestine to establish the Israeli state. The conquest is now an occupation in 2018 of the land.  The Zionist ideology formulate by Theodore Herzl back in 1897 was to have a Jewish nation-state to counteract European anti-Semitism.

The Israeli state models England’s government set-up with Prime Minister, Parliament and several political parties vying for voting power.  Jewish citizens are governed under Civil law    and Palestinians under Military law. The list of violations of Palestinian human rights (Muslim and Christian) over the 70 years of Israel’s existence would be a book now with the blatant disregard for human rights getting worse as the U.S. exercises its protective power on behalf of Israel in the United Nations and here at home. As former Israeli soldiers are coming forth to speak out publically to the world (“We were the Terrorists”), egregious acts of disregard of human rights and violence have been committed against Palestinians as they are pushed off their lands, out of their homes, deprived of the basic necessities of life such as water, privacy and safety. Medical care in hospitals and formal education become non-accessible with the roadblocks, check points, and secure roads only for Jewish settlers and citizens. Under military rule Palestinians live in an apartheid state, one in which the lives of their children are always in danger. Youth between 12 and 17 are arrested, detained, questioned in Hebrew not Arabic and without counsel or family, kept in solitary confinement and tortured either physically or verbally. Children under 11 have been shot by soldiers coming home from school.

We stand up for of justice and mercy for the Palestinians by understanding protesting Zionism is not anti-Semitic; by supporting the peaceful movements such as BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sanction) to pressure international corporations to not benefit from the systemic deprivation of Palestinian land and resources; by becoming more informed and active to stop Israeli violations of the basic human rights of all peoples in Israel.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Justice Blog

By Associate Jackie Paluszak, OPA

You’ve seen them. They’re on the street corner when you drive by on your way to the grocery. You look on in disgust. How could they be living like this?

How would you feel if people were judging someone in your family this way?  It happens every day, my friends. Women, children, convinced that their lives could be better.

She’s in high school. She’s not the real pretty, popular cheerleader. She’s kind. She’s sweet. She’s ordinary. And he catches her eye. In the middle of the mall he tantalizes her. He tells her she’s pretty. He flatters her, certainly more than the boys in her class. The twinkle in his eyes makes her feel special. He asks if she’ll be at the mall again tomorrow. And so it starts. The stalking. The dance.

She rushes to the mall after school. He’s there waiting. The adrenaline rush is more than she can handle. She runs to him. He takes her shopping. They pick up a few pretty thing and she’s enamored!

He asks her if she’s hungry. Of course!  He takes her to a nice place to eat. They actually sit down and are waited on. The guys in high school don’t take her to places like this.

He starts talking strange things. She’s not understanding. He gives her some pills. He says these will help her understand. She takes them gladly. She wants to please this man.

This is how it starts. A young, vulnerable girl looking to be loved and this pervert plans to fill that position.

She’s feeling funny. Things aren’t real clear. Her head seems foggy. He offers to take her home with him.

She’s hooked.
It’s done.
He’s accomplished what he set out to do.
Another girl for his stable.
She’s a prime catch. Just fifteen!  They’ll pay prime for her.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

God has Stacked the Deck in our Favor

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

I attended Mass at one of our surrounding churches for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The homily was another scholarly definition of the Immaculate Conception which certainly is confusing for many people. But I found myself wanting something more… some suggestions on how this concept of Mary being born without the stain of original sin impacted me… how it affected my life… what did it really mean.  As I pondered this, it occurred to me that God ‘stacked the deck’ in Mary’s favor so that she would say ‘yes’ to God’s invitation to birth the divine. Without original sin, there was no roadblock to Mary’s willingness to participate in the incarnation. She still could say ‘no’ – still had free will-  but there was nothing to get in the way of  ‘yes.’

In the Incarnation, God has stacked the deck in our favor also.  When God became a human person, we caught a glimpse of what true humanity looks like. We see how God would like us to relate to one another….how we should act… what we should do.  At one point, I would have said, the Incarnation shows us what we have to do to get to heaven.  But that’s not correct, since heaven – unity with God – is pure gift.  But Jesus’ modeling of how we should live our lives does show us how to be truly happy.

Many people in our world today feel that the deck is stacked against them.  Men and women living in war torn, violent, or poverty stricken cities.  Parents who can’t afford insurance for their families.  High school students who fear another shooting in their schools. People who are discriminated against because of the color of their skin, the religion they practice, the nation of their birth.  Environmentalists who see safeguards that protect the earth eroded. Women caught in the pain of addiction and trafficking.  There are many more.

The Incarnation can speak to these people as well. God coming to dwell with us speaks of hope – hope that humanity is worth investing in…. hope that relationships can be forged between peoples who have different faiths and beliefs and cultures…hope that the good in people will overcome the bad…hope that people of privilege will speak out for those who have none.

As we begin another year, let us look to the Incarnation and recognize that God has stacked the deck in favor of humanity and work to make that a reality for all.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Peace & Justice Blog

Blog by Associate Mary Beth Auletto

This morning I reluctantly watched the video on child labor in the Democratic Republic of Congo on last week’s OP Peace News. Tears came to my eyes as a watched the interview of an 11-year-old boy who just wants to go to school, but he has to make money for his family.  He works in cobalt mines; this part of the child trafficking that is rampant in the county.

As Sr.Barb pointed out, the DRC’s situation is dire.

And yet…

There is some light, both there and in our country. (watch the video to see the Sisters who with their school are making a difference!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_EKsjRcqf4&feature=youtu.be )

Today I write about the light of Freedom House Detroit.  Freedom House states their mission as follows:

“… a temporary home for indigent survivors of persecution from around the world who are seeking asylum in the United States and Canada. Our mission is to uphold a fundamental American principle, one inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty, providing safety for those “yearning to breathe free.” In 2012 we became a formal partner in the Northern Tier Anti-Trafficking Consortium servicing victims of human trafficking. “ (retrieved 12/9/18)

Freedom House offers comprehensive free services to survivors, including legal counsel and English learning.  They have an extremely high success rate in helping their residents gain asylum in the United States.  Columbus has a nonprofit organization called Community Refugee and Immigrant Services that provides similar services.

At the Mid-West Fall Mission Group, four residents and the executive director of Freedom House came to present to us.  We were witness to the story of a young Congolese Woman refugee who was sexually assaulted before fleeing from the DRC.  Her pain, fear, and trauma were apparent as she haltingly shared with us her story.  Deb the executive director and other Freedom House Community Members lovingly placed a hand on her shoulder; many of us who listened breathed out compassion and support in the patient silence and rapt attention accentuated with subdued sniffles indictive of tears.  Today, I pray for this young woman and all women and children of the DRC.  I am glad that in addition to praying, our community is supporting places like Freedom House financially.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog