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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Several weeks ago, I had an opportunity to sit down with a young man from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). As you know, this second Annual Dominican Month of Peace is focusing on the DRC which is struggling with war, violence, displacement, and, recently, Ebola. Theo is a husband and father to two baby girls. I first met him when he came to the Dominican Learning Center to see about getting ESL classes for a group of men and women from the DRC who were worshipping at a local Catholic church. The primary language in the DRC is French and they wanted to learn English.
Theo explained to me that the nation has experienced political insecurity for many decades. The current president, Joseph Kabila, agreed to step down as president at the end of 2016 but then reneged. This has resulted in much violence as protestors demand the elections. Last December, the Roman Catholic bishops, supported by a coalition of civil groups, called for peaceful demonstrations after Sunday Mass. The government refused permits for the demonstrations yet more than 160 churches in many parts of the country participated in the call. Police responded with teargas, rubber bullets, and, in some cases, live ammunition. Parishioners of St. Dominic’s Parish in Kinshasa (capital city), run by the Dominican friars, were fired upon in the church grounds and even inside the church. One friar was shot in the face with a rubber bullet. Elections are now planned for the end of this month.
The DNC is a country of great natural wealth that is the cause of much of the current conflict. In the eastern portion, the resources are being fought over by both internal and external forces. Corporations are encouraging this discontent because they are able to get the minerals more cheaply. This is also resulting in environmental disasters such as poaching, water pollution, deforestation, and mining. The Government had to shut down the Virunga National Park, Africa’s oldest national park, when two British tourists were kidnapped and six park rangers were killed in April.
Now, in the northern part of the country, there is an outbreak of Ebola. More than 419 cases have been reported and 240 have died. Treatment is complicated by violence against the aid workers who are trying to bury those infected. Burial customs are in conflict with the need to isolate those who have died because they are still contagious. Recently, the World Health Organization announced some success with some experimental treatments it is using to stem this deadly disease.
The DRC has the largest displaced population in Africa with more than 4.49 million internally displaced persons, including 2.7 million children. Chronic instability and conflict are the primary causes of this displacement but poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation which lead to natural hazards such as floods also contribute to the displacement. Local ethnic divisions are used and abused by armed groups and the military, coupled with corruption and the illegal exploitation of mineral resources, mean the violence continues. There is also competition for other natural resources, such as fishing grounds and arable land causing local insurgencies and conflict. Theo told me of one village where the villagers were forced to flee to the forest to survive.
So you can see how much violence has touched the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Let us keep them in our prayers and hope that with a fair and peaceful election and sufficient care, some peace may again come to this land.
My comment in last week’s blog about throwing out food
touched a nerve for several people so I thought I’d dig into it a little more. Globally, food waste or unused edible food
weighs in at 1.3 billion metric tons or 1/3 of all food produced. Recovering
just 25% of that would feed 870 million hungry people.
In the U.S., we throw away an average 430 pounds per person
which can cost a family of four around $1,500 per year. 30 – 40% of all food
grown is not eaten. That’s a lot of food. And it costs $218 billion annually to
grow, manufacture, process, distribute and dispose of that food. That’s a lot of money.
The Environmental Protection Agency reported that food waste
is 21.6% of garbage shipped to municipal landfills and incinerators. This is problematic because the produce in
landfills produces methane gas which contributes to climate change.
The United Nations recognizes this problem and Number 12.3
of the Sustainable Development Goals (Ensure sustainable consumption and
production patterns) proposes to halve the per capita food waste at the retail
and consumer level by 2030. In fact, France is the first country to pass
legislation prohibiting supermarkets from throwing away unused food. It must be
donated or the market faces stiff fines.
Denmark has opened ‘ugly’ produce grocery stores. (Ugly produce is produce that is below the
standard for size, shape, color, or appearance but still perfectly good to
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has also proposed to
reduce food loss and waste by half by 2030. Kroger will be introducing a new
line of Ugly Food called Pickuliar Picks
beginning next year. This is part of
Kroger’s Zero Hunger/Zero Waste program launched in 2017. Remember, nearly one
in seven Americans suffer from “food insecurity” or limited or uncertain access
to adequate food.
Another reason to support the Senate version of the Farm
Bill is that several measures to address food waste are included. These include Food Donation Standards for
Liability Protections, Spoilage Prevention, Milk Prevention Program, and
Also on the Federal Level, in July 2017 bills were introduce into both the House and the Senate to provide funding and establish requirements to reduce food waste by encouraging food donations and liability protection and standardize date labeling on food. Unfortunately, neither bill has moved past committee. In our litigious society, grocery stores and restaurants are hesitant to donate food should someone eating it get sick.
One big reason that individuals throw away food is because of the confusion about the “use by” and “sell by” dates on the label. “Best if used by” means the food is tastiest close to the date on the label but it’s still safe to eat once that date is passed. “Use by” is more concerned with safety, not quality, meaning the food becomes less safe to eat after the date.
What can we do to reduce food waste? Consider these tips from Toby Amidor, a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition.
Make a shopping list to avoid buying duplicates of items you have and prevent impulse buys.
Understand the food labels (see above.)
Buy the exact amount you need. Buying more because it’s a bargain might result in waste.
Practice FIFO. First In, First Out means using up food you have in the fridge before using newer food.
Eat leftovers. Or cook only what you will eat in that meal.
Use leftover scraps.
Preserve. Pickle, freeze, can and/or dehydrate fruit or vegetables that were abundant in the summer or fall.
We can all take action to reduce food waste and encourage your legislators to support the Senate Farm Bill and those House and Senate Bills that address this issues. (HR 3444: Food Recovery Act of 2017, HR 954: FoodDonation Act of 2017, S 1680: Food Recovery Act of 2017)