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Standing in Solidarity with Immigrants via Prayer and Fasting

Blog by Associate Peggy Frank

One night last summer I was particularly touched, and troubled, by an online news article about detainees at the southern U.S. border whose children had been taken from them. I don’t remember who the reporter was, just the line that grabbed me: “The mothers never stop crying.”

Immediately, a passage from Jeremiah 31 came to mind, “Rachel, mourning for her children, she refused to be consoled. “

I went to bed with a heavy heart and prayed for the mothers and children, and fathers, for all families and for our country and leaders.

The next day, it got worse. Pictures of children in cages flooded the news, as did reports of the U.S. Attorney General citing scripture, Romans 13, to justify separating immigrant children from their parents. More pointedly, he applied the passage to say that people should not question government laws, just obey them because they were God ordained for the purpose of order. It was a far cry from Rachel crying for her children.

The whole situation, especially the graphic depictions of children and families being ripped apart, made me sick. I wanted to go straightaway to join protesters picketing, or do something, anything to help. I am tied to commitments however, that prohibit me from leaving home. Even knowing that I am where God put me at the moment, this inhumane treatment of innocents, piled on top of so much other distressing global news, made me frustrated that I couldn’t do more than “just” pray. That’s when I decided to step up my fervent prayers with added fasting.

Fasting is not a new concept by any means. The bible talks about “when” you fast, not “if” you fast, and that you fast in order to free the oppressed, and care for the poor, hungry, homeless, and afflicted (Isaiah).

But, for me this was to be no ordinary fast. Six months in now, my fast has evolved, along with a heightened awareness of the world around me. Yes, I still indulge in a dish of ice cream sometimes; but when I do, I’m more thankful for it, and still breathe a prayer for the kids who don’t often, if ever, get ice cream. Overall though, skipping meals sometimes seems like the least I can do.

Awhile back, someone encouraged me to write a blog about fasting, but I resisted. I have always considered fasting something you do just between you and God, a personal thing. At this time however, I decided to make a public case for fasting for a particular reason. It is to ask you to join me. Even now, innocent immigrant children are still in custody. Two have recently died! And numerous distressing national and global news issues inundate us daily.

I believe in the power of prayer, and that the more people who are praying, and fasting, the more powerful the prayer will be. I know some people have health, age, and other dietary restrictions that prevent them from fasting from food; but if you can, will you please  consider adding some extra fasting to your fervent prayers?

Our world needs it so much. Thank you.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

We Still Have Miles to Go

Blog by Sister Amy McFrederick

Last Monday, December 10, was the 70th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was drafted in 1948 by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world: Dr. Charles Malik (Lebanon), Alexandre Bogomolov (USSR),  Dr. Peng-chun Chang (China), René Cassin (France), Eleanor Roosevelt (US), Charles Dukes (United Kingdom), William Hodgson (Australia), Hernan Santa Cruz (Chile), John P. Humphrey (Canada). The United Nations General Assembly in Paris formally approved it on Dec. 10, 1948, as a declaration of principles, a common standard for all peoples and all nations, listing fundamental human rights to be universally protected.

In 2009 on a visit to the Empire State Building in New York City, I was inspired as I read the  Universal Human Rights displayed artistically on one of its walls. But I became more and more uneasy as I noted that we still have miles to go, until our actions match our words.

Long before the Declaration of Human Rights was written down, President Abraham Lincoln believed in his heart that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”[Article I of UDHR]. Nearing the 3rd year of the Civil War, he bravely issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, declaring “that all persons held as slaves are, and henceforward, shall be free.”

However, enslavement continues. And it takes many shapes around the world as well as in our own so called ‘land of the free’–human trafficking, debt bondage, unjust imprisonment, blocked access to resources and advancement opportunities, etc.

In a recent Global Sisters Report, Sr. Janet Kinney, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood, New York, and the executive director of the Partnership for Global Justice, a U.N.-based advocacy organization, referring to the 70th Anniversary, notes “We still have so far to go.” “Human rights violations are widespread across the globe. Faced with the reality of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, the plight of the people of Syria, the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, migrants being turned away from our American borders, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the victims of human trafficking, the pilfering of our Earth of its natural resources — it can be overwhelming.”

But, as Lao Tzu wisely observed: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
One step—just one step at a time–makes miles to go seem more possible.

 

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Your Pinch of Salt can Help Season the World

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

Last week, as I listened to a eulogist pay tribute to a longtime religious woman during a Memorial Mass, I was moved to explore my own value and effectiveness as a Christian.

Arleen Kisiel, O.P. (a Dominican Sister of Peace), described the late Sr. Rosemarie Robinson as “the salt of the earth” — what a legacy!

Salt of the earth is something that we, as Christians, aspire to be (based on the phrase derived from the Bible, where Jesus tells his followers, during The Sermon on the Mount, that “Ye are the salt of the earth”).

In ancient times, salt was not only used as a seasoning for food, but as a preservative, a disinfectant, a component of ceremonial offerings, and as a commodity for exchange (or payment). Salt was valuable (and still is today).

While salt can have negative connotations, salt of the earth is coined in reference to the value of salt. Valued workers are said to be “worth their salt” and the word salary has the root sal, or salt.

To be salt of the earth is to be of high value and importance. As salt of the earth, we are called (or challenged, if you prefer) to be a positive, purifying influence in the world. That begs us to ask ourselves: Are we influencing the world or is the world influencing us?

Then, there is the question that follows the declaration that “Ye are the salt of the earth” in the biblical scripture: “but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot…”.

Salt can become tasteless when contaminated by other minerals. As salt, our challenge is to not become contaminated – to not allow our basic, fundamental goodness to be corrupted; to not sit in silence when we should be speaking out; to not idly stand by when we should be taking action or advocating; to not be disqualified from service because we have lost our zest.

If we lose our saltiness, we lose our value and usefulness. We lose our effectiveness as a positive influence in the world.

Salt is a necessity of life and I think most of us would agree that food tastes better with a little salt. It doesn’t take much. In fact, recipes often call for a pinch of salt.

A pinch of salt can make a big difference in taste, just like a pinch of our salt can do much to reduce bitterness, chaos, and darkness and bring peace to the world.

The way we live, the things we say, the attitudes we entertain, the lifestyle we adopt produce positive or negative results. Our goal is to be a positive influence – valuable salt – in our own little corner of the world.

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.” (Matthew 5:13, The Message)

Posted in Associate Blog, News

The Power of Small and Big Kindnesses

Blog by Sister Amy McFrederick

The other day someone posted an Advent calendar of Small Kindnesses on Facebook, suggesting it as a possible Advent daily project until Christmas. I appreciate things like this that can help me be intentional about doing kind acts. And you never know just how powerful a small kindness can be in the life of another. To download this Advent calendar, click here.

On Nov. 16 CBS ran a story by Steve Hartman about John Metzler who still keeps the letter written by a girl in the sixth grade over 45 years ago. He was a 23-year-old Army helicopter sniper in the Vietnam War, and didn’t know the girl.

The letter arrived on Christmas Day 1970 and it simply read in part, “Dear Serviceman, I want to give my sincere thanks for going over to war to fight for us. The class hopes you will be able to come home.” – Donna Caye. That simple letter, John said, got him through the Vietnam War.

Because he had such deadly job in such a thankless war, that little girl’s note mattered. Obviously, it could have gone to any soldier. But John took it very personally. “Fact is I think it means more today than it did when I got it,” John said. It’s because she said thank you.

It was just a small kindness, but with power beyond that small girl’s imagination.

I personally have mixed feelings about expressing my gratitude to persons who have or are serving in foreign wars. On the one hand I AM deeply grateful to anyone willing to risk his/her life to defend our country and keep all of us safe—even though I’m not really clear against what we are being defended or kept safe.

On the other hand, I am deeply troubled that our national and international leaders keep choosing to sacrifice the lives and limbs of countless men and women in ‘forever’ wars that they and we know cannot be won–like Vietnam and Afghanistan. It makes me wonder: do we really need to be defended or kept safe from ‘forces’ that require sacrificing our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters in wars that leaders perpetuate rather than have to admit failure and put an end to it?

Buckminster Fuller, an American architect, systems theorist, author, designer, inventor and futurist, wrote: “It is now highly feasible to take care of everybody on Earth at a higher standard of living than any have ever known. It no longer has to be you or me. Selfishness is unnecessary. War is obsolete. It is a matter of converting the high technology from weaponry to livingry.”

What if, instead of training and sending people to war, a portion of our defense budget were diverted to train them instead for this work of conversion? It would certainly be a big kindness for humanity, with power to transform all life on Earth in ways beyond our current imagination!

Posted in Associate Blog, News

DO WHAT YOU CAN TO STOP DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

Aisha Fraser
and Tamara O’Neal were murdered within three days of each other.

One was a devoted
Emergency Room Physician in Chicago.

One was a
dedicated Elementary School Teacher near Cleveland, Ohio.

Both were described
as being committed to helping and serving others.

Both of their deaths
were attributed to what some call “the silent epidemic” — domestic-violence.

“Silent”
because many of us are unaware of it, until it touches us personally. I urge
you to not wait until it becomes personal but to be proactive. Now is the time
to speak up and take action.

According to
the Violence Policy Center, three women in the United States are murdered every
day by a current or former romantic partner and when men murder women, 93
percent are killed by someone they know. (Aisha’s alleged killer is her
ex-husband. Tamara’s alleged murderer is her ex-fiance)

Statistics on
the National Domestic Violence Hotline website show that more than 12 million
women and men are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate
partner annually in the United States and that:

  • 1
    in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) aged 18 and older in the United
    States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner
    in their lifetime.
  • More
    than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the United States
    have experienced various forms of domestic violence in their lifetime.
  • Women
    ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 generally experienced the highest rates of intimate
    partner violence.
  • Most
    female victims of intimate partner violence were previously victimized by the
    same offender, including 77% of females ages 18 to 24, 76% of females ages 25
    to 34, and 81% of females ages 35 to 49.

Does that alarm
you? If it doesn’t, it should.

Combing through
those statistics and many more (including the fact that five million children
are exposed to domestic violence every year), I was reminded that Domestic
Violence is an insidious problem deeply rooted in our culture. (Aisha’s
daughters, ages 8 and 11, witnessed the brutal beating of their mother four
years ago by their father and were again traumatized when witnessing her murder
at the hands of the same alleged perpetrator).

I am incensed
and I want to see a system put into place that protects those who need to be
protected.

October was
Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s
theme was #1Thing, accompanied by a challenge for each person to do just “one
thing” to end Domestic Violence. It is clear to me that we need to continue
doing our part each day.

If you don’t
know what to do, I suggest beginning by raising your awareness – the hotline’s
website (www.thehotline.org)
is a great place to start.

Here are some
other suggestions: know the warning signs; don’t ignore the warning signs;
listen without judgement, if someone confides in you; keep the numbers to a
nearby shelter and National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233) in your
phone; be available to help someone in need; assist a local shelter or domestic
violence organization; advocate for victims of domestic violence.

Family and
friends of Aisha and Tamara will gather on Friday for visitation, continue to
pray for them (and add a special prayer for Audrey and Ava, Aisha’s daughters).

Posted in Associate Blog, News