A Justice Issue for Us to Consider and Act Upon

Associate Jerry Stein, OPA

Nuclear Weapons and Security

The Peace Farm, outside Amarillo, TX, began 33 years ago as a place where people could gather to prepare activities in regard to the ongoing witness against the world annihilating work of the Pantex Plant nearby. That is where all the nuclear weapons of the US are assembled. People also lived on the 20-acre farm for about 25 years as a continual witness to the death plant nearby. I’m sure huge numbers of people would witness against a place that was built only for abortions. Yet here is an assembly plant that only exists to abort the whole world and few notice or care. It is the most anti-life place possible.

We sold all but one acre, and now the “Peace Farm” consists of 5 people on a Board that continues the witness as possibilities arise. We are part of the ANA (Alliance for Nuclear Accountability—look at the website if you want to know more), which consists of about 35 organizations throughout the country, most grouped around other nuclear plants of various kinds, having to do with bombs or power. The ANA meets 2 times a year, once in the fall and once in the spring in Washington, DC, to lobby Congress about nuclear weapons and the various programs and money involved. The ANA has been working on the whole nuclear issue for over 25 years, and many are experts in various fields and also experienced in nuclear issues, who therefore know more than many government people who come and go more often.

I came to Amarillo in 1987, to be involved with the Peace Farm and ANA as much as I could. From the selling of most of our land, our Board has enough money to send someone to the DC spring lobbying days, so I’m going this year for the first time. Please pray for me and all of us as we try to make government people aware of the great dangers of building new nukes and having them on hair-triggers for a long period of time.  There have been many mistakes made, some almost starting a nuclear war. I think this our greatest security problem, much greater than terrorism, but I seem to be in a small minority. If you have any ideas about any of this that might help me/us, please let me know.

[The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA) will be gathering in Washington DC from May 19-26. Associate Jerry Stein, who has been active in Peace and Justice events for many years, says: “I’m going for the ANA spring meeting and lobbying against nuclear weapons. It’s going to be even more important this year, as you can imagine.” Please keep Jerry and the Alliance in your prayers.]

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

A Revolution of Tenderness: An Invitation of Hope from Pope Francis

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

In late April, the Pope again surprised the world when an unexpected TED Talk was released. According to their website, “TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment, and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages.”

TED Talks are powerful tools to convey critical messages to a global community. In this digital age, these short motivational films have inspired individuals of all ages to become more aware of their environment, to develop leadership skills, and to understand different cultures and ideas.

At 80 years old, the Pope is very much ahead of the curve when it comes to technology and is even active on Twitter with a large following. This TED Talk shows that the Pope sees the value in technology and embraces its ability to be used for good and for the conversion of hearts.

The Pope’s simple yet profound message was more surprising to me than the mere fact that he produced a TED Talk. Pope Francis spoke about solidarity, inclusiveness, and the importance of using power to help others rather than suppress. In his talk, the Pope challenged the audience: “How wonderful would it be if solidarity, this beautiful and, at times, inconvenient word, were not simply reduced to social work, and became, instead, the default attitude in political, economic and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples and countries.”

While holding the troubles and difficulties of the world in his heart, Pope Francis left the audience with a song of hope as well as a challenge: “Through the darkness of today’s conflicts, each and every one of us can become a bright candle, a reminder that light will overcome darkness, and never the other way around.”

As we continue working toward peace and justice in our world, this simple yet necessary message from Pope Francis can reignite our flame and fill our hearts with hope so that we can continue working as the Body of Christ. Hope is essential, and as Pope Francis said, “Hope is the virtue of a heart that doesn’t lock itself into darkness, that doesn’t dwell on the past, does not simply get by in the present, but is able to see a tomorrow.” Let us all continue seeing a tomorrow filled with peace.

You can watch the full TED Talk here or read the transcript here.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Preaching the Gospel through Shareholder Advocacy

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

Executive compensation. Incentive plans. Increasing numbers of common stock. Accelerated vesting of equity awards. Vote tabulation. These are corporate phrases that I rarely paid attention to before. Understanding that I felt a call to justice work, I had no need to surround myself with corporate verbiage and technical terms that I assumed would never affect me. Yet my role as Justice Promoter has quickly transformed me into a pseudo-corporate detective as I work with our proxies and our socially responsible investments.

Signing petitions, writing letters, calling legislators, and walking in marches are all ways to support just causes and make our collective voice heard. Yet we know there is beauty in diversity, and we can find multiple, effective ways to bring about change. One of those ways is through shareholder action.

As much as I wish we could easily change the system by changing hearts, telling stories, and forming relationships (and that is often an effective avenue to change!), I also realize that money talks, especially in the corporate boardroom. As shareholders, we have the ability to advocate for issues that are important to us and hold corporations accountable. We can ensure they know they have a responsibility to take care of their employees, to take care of the Earth, and to take care of all those they serve.

Investors have advocated for policy changes that have proved very effective over the long-term (although they are often slow victories to win, as is most systemic change work). Shareholder advocacy has been very effective in getting businesses to adopt sustainability standards and greenhouse gas emission limits, committing to sustainable sourcing, adopting human rights policies, and addressing supply chain risks. We now find ourselves at a critical time to protect the victories we’ve achieved through shareholder advocacy and ensure shareholders have a voice that will continue to be heard. Currently, before the House Financial Services Committee, there is a bill called the Financial CHOICE Act. Part of the legislation would curb the ability of small investors to bring issues to a shareholder vote during annual meetings. As shareholders, we have a moral responsibility to stand up for those without a voice at the table. Please click to review a letter about the Financial Choice Act and actions you can take today.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

World Press Freedom Day: Advancing Truth and Promoting Justice

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

Back when I was in college, I lived in Washington, DC for a semester as I completed an internship. While there, I tried to soak up the life and culture of DC, often attending events, trying new food, and visiting as many museums as I could squeeze in.

One of the most impactful experiences during my time in DC was when I spent a Sunday afternoon in the Newseum, a museum that “promotes, explains and defends free expression and the five freedoms of the First Amendment: religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition.” Located on Pennsylvania Avenue between the Capitol and the White House, this museum speaks to the core values and principles that our nation was founded on.

While there, I recall spending time in the Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery where I saw, experienced, and mourned Kevin Carter’s photo, “The vulture and the little girl.” This photo, taken in 1993, showed a collapsed and starving Sudanese toddler and a vulture standing in the background presumably waiting for her death. This picture shook me to my core and changed me deeply. My spark for justice was fanned from this experience as I decided I needed to work to create systemic change so that children, individuals, and families don’t have to experience the pain and suffering I witnessed through that picture.

May 3 is World Press Freedom Day, and the theme this year is “Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies.” The press has a critical job in communicating to the public what is happening at all levels of government, in our communities, and around the world. Without this freedom, I may never have seen that photograph which could easily have been censored as inappropriate. Without this freedom, we wouldn’t have journalists who dedicate their time, and sometimes their lives, to exercising this right and to working toward truth and justice.

In this “post-truth era” that we continually hear about, it is crucial that we continue supporting freedom of the press and ensuring that the truth is always heard.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

It’s Time for Good News

    Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

In a time where every issue seems to carry with it elements of partisanship and an “us versus them” mentality, it is refreshing to reflect upon issues that bring all together, regardless of color, creed, or party lines. Human trafficking is one such issue that seems to have bipartisan support in protecting victims and in the effort to work to combat this form of slavery.

While human trafficking is indeed modern day slavery, and the victims of trafficking are subjected to unthinkable torture physically, emotionally, and spiritually, it’s still essential for us to acknowledge the large strides that are being taken to end trafficking worldwide. It’s time for some good news!

Earlier this year, UPS announced that they will be working with Truckers Against Trafficking to train their drivers to recognize and report cases of human trafficking. They plan to train all of their freight drivers by the end of the year.

Delta Airlines is also working to provide training to their employees to recognize the signs of human trafficking on board their aircrafts. As of March 7, 54,000 Delta employees have been trained, and now they are encouraging Delta customers to join in their efforts to end human trafficking. Through a partnership with Polaris, a leader in the global fight to eradicate modern slavery, “all Delta SkyMiles members can now donate miles to Polaris through [the] SkyWish program at Delta.com to cover the airfare survivors need to return home, receive critical services, reunite with their families or engage in survivor leadership opportunities.”

These are critical partnerships and training initiatives that will save the lives of numerous individuals. I am filled with hope after hearing about these initiatives of dedication and goodwill coming together to save countless women, men, and children around the world. This is progress, and this is good news!

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog