Justice Updates – September 3, 2019

Catholic organizations are doing phase two of the Catholic Day of Action to end harm against immigrant children. Please keep the activists in your prayers as they protest in Newark, NJ tomorrow. Call your Senators (202-224-3121) and call the White House (202-456-1111). Tell these elected officials to—Stop the inhumanity—NOW.

Here’s a sample script but use your own words:

I am a person of faith and I am calling to demand that [Senator ____ or President Trump] immediately end the unjust and immoral practice of detaining children and families. Family is sacred. It is the cornerstone of our church and our communities and it must be protected. Guided by our Catholic faith and our national values, we affirm the dignity of all people and our call to love our neighbors. We can and must remain a country that provides refuge for children and families fleeing violence and persecution. Thank You!

During this Season of Creation (September 1 – October 4), consider taking a moment each day to reflect on the gift of nature. The EarthConnection, a ministry of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, has prepared a calendar to help.

Help to protect the oceans. Every year 8 million tons of plastic enter the oceans. They break down into micro-particles and get eaten by the fish. This year scientist found disposable plastics at the bottom of the Marianas Trench, the deepest depths of the oceans.  Scientists predict that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish!

There are many ways to tackle this problem. One is to cut off pollution at its source – the petrochemical industry.  A Coalition of environmental groups is demanding the EPA ban the discharge of plastic pellets and other pollutants from the petrochemical industry. They need our help.

Tell the EPA to place stricter regulations on the petrochemical industry as it ramps up production. Plastic plants discharged 128 million pounds of pollutants into the U.S. waterways last year.  The petrochemical industry is taking steps to expand recycling efforts and increase consumer awareness around recycling. But this is not enough. We really need to stop manufacturing plastics and curb the release of tiny plastic pellets and pieces that go into the waterways and oceans.

Tell the EPA to ban plastic pellet discharge in our oceans by signing and/or commenting here.

Bryn Greenwood wrote this thoughtful perspective on why some women are forced into prostitution.  It might be a net that catches them before they fall into destitution. Read her article from The Lily titled Sex work encompasses more than what we see on TV. It saved me from poverty.

One year ago Pope Francis made clear the position of the Catholic Church on the death penalty when he ordered the revision to the Catechism of the Church.  The text now affirms, “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.”

There seems to be a move toward abolishing the death penalty across the U.S. Here are some highlights from the Catholic Mobilizing Network.

  • 2 states (Washington and New Hampshire) abolished the death penalty.
  • The governor of 1 state (California) declared a statewide execution ban.
  • 1,569 copies of Harm, Healing, and Human Dignity, CMN’s restorative justice faith formation guide, were sold within two months of its May release.
  • CMN supporters sent 24,345 letters and emails to lawmakers and Boards of Pardons and Paroles, advocating in support of clemency and death penalty repeal.
  • CMN hosted 2 Restorative Circle Intensives, with plans for two more circle events this fall.

CMH has prepared a 4 ½ minute video on Catholics and the Death Penalty and why they work to abolish the death penalty.

JAMA Pediatric reports that more than eight million children currently enrolled in Medicaid and the CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) or receiving SNAP benefits are at risk of disenrollment under the October 2018 proposed public charge rule because they live with a noncitizen adult. This includes 5.5 million children who have specific medical needs such as asthma, epilepsy, cancer, and disabilities or functional limitations.  You can read more about the implications of the proposed public charge immigration rules in the Food Research & Action Center’s summer issue of ResearchWIRE.

Human Rights Watch has just published this report “You Pray for Death: Trafficking of Women and Girls in Nigeria.” It is a detailed account of how human trafficking operates in Nigeria and reports that the nightmare does not end for survivors who manage to return home.   This is a rather long report but given our connection with the Dominican Sisters in Nigeria, it is an important read.

Here is an excerpt:

When she was 18 in 2013, Adaura C. met a woman who promised her a job earning 150,000 naira (US$414) as a domestic worker in Libya. Adaura agreed and the woman made the arrangements for her to travel from Nigeria to Libya. After a long, dangerous journey through the Sahara Desert, witnessing drivers and other men beat and rape women and girls, she arrived in Libya only to find that she had been deceived. The “madam”(a woman who is part of the trafficking ring and controls women and girls) there told Adaura and her friend Jane V. Adaura and Jane were recruited by the same woman in Nigeria, but traveled separately—to undress and have sex with clients. “We said, ‘We were told we would be house helps,’” Adaura explained. The madam responded, “This is house help.”

Business Roundtable CEOs Release New Statement of Corporate Purpose. The BRT, which represents the largest U.S. companies, released a new statement of corporate purpose on August 19.  The statement is an important acknowledgment that corporations must look beyond short-term shareholder value to account for the full impact of their business on society, and must view the well-being of all of their stakeholders―including their workers, customers, and the communities where they operate — as integral to their long-term success.  We hope that the BRT’s pledge is followed up by concrete action by its signatories to invest in their employees and communities, to reverse the push for deregulation, and to support public policy that has the public interest – and not corporate profits – at heart.

 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

Justice Updates – August 27, 2019

National Geographic provides an excellent review of what happened in Virginia 400 years ago. “Stolen by Portuguese slave traders, kidnapped by English pirates, and taken far from home, African arrivals to colonial Virginia in 1619 marked the origins of U.S. slavery.”  Read more about our infamous past.

Associate Rev. Dr. Tim Ahrens shares his litany for 400 years of Africans in American.

L: God has created all people.  Let us give God the glory for creating us all!

C: God be praised for the gift of one human race, it all its complexions, customs, and cultures!

L: From the beginning, the Church of Jesus Christ has been a blessed mixture of peoples—women men, children, Jews and Gentiles, slave and free;

C: We celebrate the cradle of Christianity in Africa – in Egypt and Ethiopia. Before American Christians were a twinkle in the Eye of God, African Christians were rising and spreading the love of Jesus Christ.

L: In shame, Christians and others were shackled and brought to America as slaves. They came as believers in Christ.

C: Not all “found Jesus” in America.  And those who were baptized into Christ here rose to shine His light to generations of believers! The faith of millions transformed the Church and our nation. Thanks be to God!

L: On this 400th Anniversary of Africans arriving in America as slaves, we celebrate all people of African Descent across the globe and in our land.

C: We celebrate the beautiful and powerful presence of all people of African Descent in our congregation, in Columbus, in Ohio and in our nation.

L: We confess, lament, and grieve the pervasive injustice and harm done to people of African Descent in our nation. We weep for the centuries of the Atlantic slave trade which resulted in millions of victims in our nation alone.

C: We remember the words of our third President and slave-owner, Thomas Jefferson who wrote of the sin of slavery: “The Almighty has no attribute which can take sides with us in this practice of slavery.” 1

L:  We lament the tragic legacy of slavery continued in segregated communities, schools, churches, South and North – a legacy which leaves a tear in the fabric of every community and a terrible scar on the body of Christ and our nation.

C: We remember the words of African American poet, Langston Hughes, “I am the American heartbreak; the Rock on which Freedom Stumps its toe; the great mistake that Jamestown made long ago.”2

L: Out of the American heartbreak, God is still speaking and God keeps a people vital, with resistance leaders, significant local and national cultural influences, beautiful music that changes our essence, spirituality that touches our souls, art beyond imagination, commitment to education, prophetic and social conscience, transformative writing and leadership in law, government, science and industry.

C: Thanks be to God, as we “lift every voice and sing.”

L: The history of people of African Descent is rich, complex, varied and close to home.

C:  Thanks be to God for the rich, complex and varied blessings which have touched each of us.

L: Out of history’s shame and deep-rooted pain

C: Still We Rise!

L: Out of slavery’s whip; and tears dreadful stain,

C: Still We Rise!

L: Out of the ashes of the past, out of memories that last,

C: Still We Rise!

L: With God before us, behind us, within us, beside us,

C: We Will Rise! We Will Rise!  We Will Rise! Amen. 3

*  Inspired by the work of CeCee Mills and Tim Waltonen, of the Virginia Synod African American Outreach Team for the “Sankofa Dialogue/Litany,” 2019.

  1. Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1785; 2. Langston Hughes, “American Heartbreak,” 1951; 3. Inspired by Maya Angelou, “And Still We Rise,” 1978

 

Dean Spade is an Associate Professor at Seattle University School of Law, a founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (a non-profit law collective that provides free legal services to transgender, intersex and gender non-conforming people who are low-income and/or people of color), and currently a fellow in the “Engaging Tradition” project at Columbia Law School. He explains “Winning legal equality—getting the law to cast us as victims of discrimination who the state will protect—will not support our survival.  Instead of focusing on what the law says about trans people, which is really what the law is saying about itself as a protector of trans people, we should be focused on what systems of law and administration do to trans people and our interventions should aim to dismantle harmful, violent systems such as criminal punishment and immigration enforcement. Critical Race Theory offers a critique of how law and certain law reform strategies misunderstand the actual operation of life-shortening state violence, and how that has produced a set of reforms that fail to actually transform material conditions of white supremacy. These critiques redirect our attention to the conditions we aim to transform.” This might also explain why other persecuted people are not moving forward.  He explains more in this interview in the Daily Good.

The American Friends Service Committee has developed a self-study e- course on Changing Systems Change Ourselves: Anti-racist Practice for Sanctuary, Accompaniment, and Resistance It’s a four session course you can use at your own pace.

Fr. Brendan Curran, a Dominican Friar of the Central Province, and the North American Dominican Justice Promoter Co Coordinator, took a delegation to Mississippi to help the community after the raid and arrest of 700 adults.  He writes that the communities in the four affected areas are very rural – about 20 miles between towns. Resources for immigrants’ rights are sparse. There are four immediate needs at this time. His report is here.

  1. Need for lawyers: The families need immediate help with immigration lawyers we need to help pressure the Guatemalan government to visit and represent Guatemalans in the affected zone. Nearly all of the 300 detainees are Guatemalan.  Some attention is also needed to work with the Vietnamese Consulate for similar support and access to the detained.
  2. Need for international outcry: we believe that there is evidence of abuse and violation of laws in the apprehension of these immigrant workers.  I am interested in assisting the local networks with support of the United Nations and/or other observers to ensure that a procedure for fighting these abuses proceeds.
  3. Need to support Vietnamese family victims:  There were a number of victims of the raid who are from Vietnam and have very little support in the area – pastoral ministers who speak Vietnamese, immigrant rights lawyers and volunteers who speak Vietnamese.
  4. Need for a climate-controlled space in a warehouse near Jackson, MS: Donations are coming in for baby diapers, formula, wet-wipes, paper towels, napkins, kleenex and other needs and more is needed.  There is NO warehouse space in the area at the moment.

If you can help or want more information, please contact Fr. Brendan at bcurran@resurrectionproject.org

Is planting trees enough to save the environment?  Maybe not but we should probably follow the actions of Sr. Redemptor Iconga  in Kenya and plant a few more ourselves.

On average, twenty active duty and veterans commit suicide each day primarily by guns.  There are many for whom guns are necessary for their livelihood who still recognize the need for common sense gun safety legislation. Please see this letter sent by the Giffords Law Center Veterans Coalition.  (https://lawcenter.giffords.org)

Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer:

We write to you today from an America we no longer recognize.

As veterans, we have been willing to put our lives on the line for our country. Yet we can’t protect Americans from the gun violence epidemic here at home. This month’s shootings served as a stark reminder of how this crisis is ravaging the country. A killer fueled by hate and racism took the lives of 22 people and injured dozens in El Paso, Texas, while just 13 hours later, another senselessly murdered nine more and injured 26 in Dayton, Ohio.

Every day, 100 Americans die from gun violence. And yet for far too long, calls from a majority of Americans to pass commonsense gun laws have been met with indifference from our leaders. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Since September 11th, the United States has spent trillions of dollars combating terrorist threats abroad. But the unfortunate reality is that Americans motivated by homegrown hate and extremism are responsible for more American deaths over the past decade than sympathizers of al-Qaeda and other foreign terrorist groups. Now is the time to confront domestic terrorism and gun violence with the same focus and national consensus we’ve applied to combatting international terrorism.

While hate can fester in any corner of the world, our country’s weak gun laws represent a glaring vulnerability to American security. Last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported a record-high number of active hate groups in the United States. When we allow these hate-filled individuals to purchase and possess firearms, the consequences can be deadly. Every year, there are more than 10,000 violent hate crime attacks involving firearms in our country. Passing stronger gun laws is not only the right thing to do—it’s critical to our national security.

It is painful and tragic to fight for our security abroad only to return home and confront a country torn by hate and awash in unregulated guns. The power of this country has always come from embracing our diversity. Together, we stand; divided, we fall.

We write to you today to ask that you take these security threats to our nation seriously, and advance commonsense gun safety legislation, like H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act. You have the power to condemn the violent, hateful rhetoric taking root in communities across the country, and to take action to address it.

Our time in service was dedicated to leaving our country a safer place. We ask you to use your time in service to do the same.

Sincerely,

General Peter W. Chiarelli, USA (Ret.)
General Michael Hayden, USAF (Ret.)
General James T. Hill, USA (Ret.)
Admiral James Loy, USCG (Ret.)
General Stanley A. McChrystal, USA (Ret.)
Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, USA (Ret.)
Lieutenant General Russel L. Honoré, USA (Ret.)
Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy, USA (Ret.)
Lieutenant General Norman R. Seip, USAF (Ret.)
Commander Carlos Del Toro, USN (Ret.)
Captain Terron Sims, II, USA (Ret.)
Shawn VanDiver, USN (Ret.)

 

 

 

 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

8-6-19 Justice Updates

One of our Chapter Commitments calls us to transform oppressive systems. There are numerous ways to do this including putting pressure on banks, financial organizations, and organizations with investment portfolios to stop supporting companies who are involved in these oppressive systems.  In the past few months, eight major banks have decided to end their relationship with the private prison sector which are involved in housing asylum seekers and children separated from their parents. This decision is due to the work of the immigrant community, activists, and ICCR (Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility) members (we are members) who have put these banks on notice for financially supporting facilities with documented human rights abuses, including medical neglect, sexual and physical assault against detainees, understaffing, and overcrowding. Action is being directed to regional banks that remain invested in private prisons and immigrant detention centers.  This article provides more information.

The number of asylum seekers being admitted to El Paso was reduced dramatically with the MPP (Migrant Protection Protocols) or Return to Mexico Program implemented by the administration.  Immigrants are being forced to wait weeks before their credible fear hearings in very dangerous conditions. Please read this article about what’s happening.

What does trafficking look like?  Human Rights Watch describes this story. Take the story of Seng Moon. Her family fled fighting between the Myanmar government and the Kachin Independence Army in 2011. They took refuge in one of northern Myanmar’s many displaced persons camps. After three years, when Seng Moon was 16, her sister-in-law said she had found Seng Moon work as a cook across the border in China. Seng Moon didn’t want to go, but her family desperately needed the money she would earn. During the car ride to China, her sister-in-law gave her what she said was anti-nausea medicine; Seng Moon fell deeply asleep and woke up terrified and alone with her hands tied.

What ensued was a horrifying narrative, one that is sadly not uncommon. Seng Moon’s sister-in-law sold her to a Chinese family as a “bride.” Gender discrimination in China, exacerbated by the government’s “one child policy” in place from 1979 to 2015, has resulted in there being about 30 to 40 million more men than women in China, and this has created a market for trafficked brides. Seng Moon was locked in a room for months, suffered repeated rape and mistreatment, and was forced to bear a child. It took two years, the kindness of strangers and 1,000 yuan ($160) before Seng Moon was finally able to escape her nightmare and make it back to Myanmar with her baby son. And Seng Moon is one of the lucky ones – most victims who escape are able to do so only by leaving any children behind.

Our hearts and prayers go out to the loved ones of those killed by these senseless killings. But what about those shot?  They will live a life of pain and deep wounds. Read this story from Boston Public Radio about one survivor.

Another attack on the poor by this administration means that 500,000 kids could lose eligibility for free school lunch under the current proposed rule changes to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Here’s more information.

The administration is still separating migrant families despite a court order to stop.  When we were in El Paso in January and February and recently, we saw intact families from Russia, Cuba, Brazil, and Venezuela. Families from Central American were being separated. In addition, children are still being separated from their parents. See this investigation from the ACLU and information from the NY Times.

Continue to pray for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the country for the Dominican Month of Peace last December. The Ebola Epidemic shows no signs of ending.

Attorney General William Barr has just directed the Justice Department to bring back the death penalty — and to immediately schedule the first five federal executions in 16 years.

Pope Francis, the National Council of Churches, and countless other Christian leaders have long spoken out against capital punishment. As Jesus said, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.” Catholic leaders have expressed their concern about the reinstatement. Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty released a statement criticizing the federal reinstatement of capital punishment, arguing the practice goes against the fundamental principles of conservatism.

Yet some religious leaders are loudly cheering on the death penalty. Appearing on Fox News earlier this year, Robert Jeffress — one of Donald Trump’s favorite pastors — dismissed objections to executing the wrongfully accused, outrageously arguing that “the greatest example of an innocent person being executed was Jesus Christ himself.”

Please consider signing on to this petition to end the federal death penalty.

The Homestead Migrant Child Detention Facility has been closed!! There is a possibility it will re-open after the Hurricane Season. It is not clear when all the children have gone or where the next big facility might be.  Watch this documentary about witnessing at Homestead.  The Homestead facility is only one of many for-profit prisons. We need to shut them all down.

 

 

Posted in Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

July 31, 2019 Justice Updates

Today is the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. Human trafficking generates over $150 billion in revenue for traffickers. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres asks us to reaffirm our commitment to stop criminals from ruthlessly exploiting people for profit and to help victims rebuild their lives.  Many trafficked individuals face even more difficult existences after being freed from trafficking because they are not accepted back into society. The UN Special Rapporteur, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, urges governments to be more aware of this problem. See her statement here.  Let us pray for an end of human slavery and for those who are ensnared by this great evil.

It doesn’t seem possible that there are individuals who don’t believe there is a climate crisis in our world today.  But it’s true.  Even those who believe something is the matter, can’t engage with the urgency of it all. National Catholic Register’s Bill Mitchell shares some insights on how to talk about it in this article.

Dr. Scott Warren, a member of the group No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes, was tried once for offering food, water, clean clothes and beds to two men from Central America. The jury was dead locked and the trial thrown out. Now the government wants to try him again for his humanitarian aid.  Since his arrest in January 2018, at least 88 bodies have been recovered from the Ajo corridor of the Arizona desert.”  Here is more information.

Now, No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes is hosting a short-term volunteer program in support of their legal defense campaign. From September to November 2019, they welcome volunteers from around the world for two weeks or longer to come support their community outreach efforts in southern Arizona.  Volunteers will commit on average 30-35 hours per week:

  • 12 to 15 hrs – doorknocking in Tucson & other towns
  • 2 hrs – weekly campaign meetings
  • 2 hrs – weekly team meeting
  • 4 to 6 hrs – event-based outreach
  • 2 to 3 hrs – research
  • 5 to 8 hrs – logistical & other support with weekend events

Shared housing, food and in-state transportation provided. Want more information?  Click here.

There are now 7,000 service members being deployed at the southern border even though legally these troops should be kept separate from the domestic law enforcement. Win Without War is asking its member organizations to spread the word and get their members to tell the Department of Defense Inspector General to investigate the misuse of the U.S. military at the southern border. Please click here to add your name to this effort. Each anti-immigrant attack such as caging kids in detention camps, separating families, banning Muslims, destroying the U.S. refugee resettlement program, mass raids and deportations, deploying service members to the border and authorizing these troops to use deadly force empower an anti-immigrant and white supremacist agenda. This must be investigated so we have transparency.

Attorney General William Barr recently announced that executions for Federal Crimes will be reinstated.  He has ordered that the executions of 5 men on death row be scheduled. Sixteen years have passed since the last federal execution in June, 2013 and the U.S. has been trending away from capital punishment.  In fact, July was the first month in recent memory in which there were no executions.  Rep. Ayanna Pressley has introduced legislation to abolish the federal death penalty. When a bill number is assigned, I will ask you to contact your representatives.  Here is more information, from the Boston Globe and The Hill.

Quick…. Call your representatives – senators and representative – to defund Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and invest in programs that strengthen – not tear apart – our communities. Dozens of people in the U.S., including citizens, were arrested in immigration raids last week. Desperate individuals and families are being turned back to Mexico despite their request for asylum. Let your legislators know that you do not want cruelty against immigrants to continue.

SAVE THE DATE.  Blessed are the Peacemakers Workshop and Webinar  will be held the afternoon of Sunday, October 27.  The workshop will be held at the Martin de Porres Center in Columbus and webcast to others who want to participate.  A Pace e Bene facilitator will help us learn tools that we can use to share our message of justice while interacting with people, including our own relatives, who disagree with us.  We want to bring civility back to the political process. More information will follow.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

July 23, 2019 Justice Updates

And then there were none.  The current administration seems to be winning the battle to keep anyone seeking asylum especially Central Americans from coming into the United States. National and International Law allows individuals and families to claim asylum.   There are significantly fewer individuals being admitted into the U.S. since the implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols.  MPP or ‘Return to Mexico’ was implemented several months ago.  According to the Department of Homeland Security, Migrant Protection Protocols are a U.S. Government action whereby certain foreign individuals entering or seeking admission to the U.S. from Mexico – illegally or without proper documentation – may be returned to Mexico and wait outside of the U.S. for the duration of their immigration proceedings, where Mexico will provide them with all appropriate humanitarian protections for the duration of their stay.”  The key statement here “all appropriate humanitarian protections” is not happening.  During our recent stay in El Paso, Sr. Manuela and I talked to several who had experienced a return to Mexico. They told us about how little humanitarian aid or protection was given by the Mexican Government.  Religious and other humanitarian organizations are overwhelmed while groups in the U.S. such as Annunciation House are sitting virtually empty.   One Cuban father who with his family spent nine weeks in Ciudad Juarez told us that seven Cuban men had gone missing. Others told us about families sleeping outside and waiting in line for days to talk to a Customs and Border Patrol official. (The daily temperature in El Paso while we were there was between 80 and 100 degrees and sunny.) This is not the answer to what is happening on the border. Please call your senators and representatives and tell them that the MPP or Migrant Protection Protocols are inhumane and not what American values are about.   For more information, please check this information from the Department of Homeland Security and this article from Refugees International, “Remain in Mexico is a Travesty of Asylum Policy.”

Current administration wants to take from the poor and give to the rich.  In order to pay for the budget deficit caused by the massive tax breaks given to the wealthy and to corporations, the administration announced plans to make changes to the food stamp program that will cut 3 million individuals from food assistance.  Here’s more information.

Plastic straws are for sale to support Trump reelection campaign.  Everyone knows that plastic straws are bad for the environment but the current president’s reelection campaign doesn’t care.  Thanks to all the folks who have given up using plastic straws.

 

 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates