Just Reflecting

“Just Reflecting” features a variety of blogs and bloggers discussing various social justice topics that we encounter in our daily lives, whether it be within our communities or own families.


 

Take Action for Our Dreamers

Blog by Sr. Rene Weeks, OP

Every day my ministry brings me into contact with immigrants. Some are citizens or legal residents, others have immigration cases in process, and still others have no realistic hope of regularizing their situations under our current laws. I listen to their stories, their worries, their dreams and help where I can.

One special group of immigrants is those we know as Dreamers or recipients of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). About 800,000 young people are currently enrolled in this program. An estimated 1.5 million more could qualify but did not enroll for various reasons, including the fear that enrolling would jeopardize the status of relatives in the country without documents.

Many of us have already written numerous letters and made many phone calls on their behalf. But now, even if we have already done so, we must take action again and write or call our representatives in Congress, or better yet do both—and urge them to protect these youth who were brought to this country illegally as children.

Dreamers have grown up in the United States. Many of them remember no other country. They’ve been educated here and speak English fluently. The youngest are still in high school. The rest have enrolled in college or are employed. Some are PhD candidates, doctors, attorneys, scientists, teachers and mechanics. About one thousand are members of the US armed forces. No one who committed a crime could even apply for DACA.

These are exactly the sort of people we can be proud to call our neighbors and friends. They have long lives ahead of them, lives with which they can make substantial contributions to our society. Leaving aside all the moral and ethical reasons why we should protect the legal status of these young people, for economic reasons alone DACA makes great sense. It is estimated that during their lifetimes these Dreamers have the capacity to add $329 billion to the US economy.

Recent non-partisan polling indicates that more than 75% of US voters want protection for Dreamers. More than 55% also want them to have a pathway to citizenship. Yet these young people are being used as bargaining chips in the larger debate on immigration.

I know some of these DACA recipients personally. They speak of feeling like they are on a seesaw, one week with hope, the next with despair. Their lives are on hold, waiting to see if they will ever receive a favorable response to their dreams. They wonder what they will do if no action on their behalf is forthcoming. Should they return to their country of origin? Or try to blend back into the shadows of the undocumented, losing their work permits, drivers licenses, and their right to be here as students?

I try to put myself in the place of Sylvia (not her real name), who is studying nursing at a state university. The new semester has begun, and she wonders if she will be able to complete it. Even more she wonders what her life would be like if she had to return to Mexico, especially since she only has distant relatives living there and has not been out of this country since she was too small to remember.

Or Jesus (also not his real name), who dreams of specializing in immigration law when he graduates in the next couple of years. Now he interns with a non-profit helping low-income workers protect their rights. What future awaits him?

Or Angel, a high school junior who never enrolled in DACA because he didn’t realize he could. His marks place him in the top quarter of his class, but he realizes he may not be here to graduate unless something changes.

DACA expires on March 5. Right now, before it’s too late, our members of Congress need to hear from us. We need to tell them that we care about Dreamers and want the DACA program renewed. As important, we want – and our faith demands – a pathway to citizenship so as not to uproot the lives of so many young people who’ve made enormous contributions to our communities and our economy.

In the words of the US Catholic Bishops Conference:

DACA youth are woven into the fabric of our country and of our Church, and are, by every social and human measure, American youth. As people of faith, we say to DACA youth – regardless of your immigration status, you are children of God and welcome in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church supports you and will advocate for you.

If you would like to advocate for the Dreamers, please click here to send a letter to your government representatives.

Posted in Just Reflecting

Searching for Peace in a War Torn, Violent World

Blog by Sr. Germaine Conroy

With the end of 2017, we are saddened and disheartened by the continual signs of violence, indifference, and seeming hopelessness that surround us throughout the world. We long for peace. We ache for peace. We pray for peace.

We see the struggles across the planet of families displaced, separated, taken from their homes and forced to flee their communities in search for peace.

We watch the scenes on our daily news and it is too much to take in. If we do not wake ourselves up, we become numb, unable to see how we can ever make a difference.

One of the struggles that does not reach our news reports is the plight of the Palestinian people, a people who are systematically oppressed by Israel apartheid. At this holy time of Hanukkah, Israeli military checkpoints are shut down for the benefit of the military, thus prohibiting the movement of Palestinians to reach their lands, jobs, schools and families.

What has reached our news reports is the recent declaration by President Trump of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, despite the fact that Palestinians also have their center of worship in Jerusalem. Human rights groups and governments throughout the world have condemned this decision and called it a “grave threat to peace.”

So where do we look for a call to peace? Who has the moral message for all of humankind?

It is none other than Pope Francis, who in his message for the 51st World Day of Peace 2018, wishes “Peace to all people and to all nations on earth…especially for those who most keenly suffer its absence.”  Pope Francis recognizes that “welcoming others requires concrete commitment, a network of assistance and good will, vigilant and sympathetic attention…”

One ray of hope in the US government is the recent sponsorship of HR 4391 promoting Human Rights by ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act.  Introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Min) and 9 others, it has continued to gain additional support in the House of Representatives and brings to light the abuses of the Israeli forces against Palestinian Children.

In this new year of 2018, Pope Francis, through his message “Migrants and refugees: men and women in search of peace”, continues to be the global voice for peace as he calls on the United Nations for leadership in the development of  global  compacts for migration and refugees.

The Palestinian people are refugees in their own lands as their homes and businesses are destroyed to make way for new Israeli settlements, and for them we pray that they will not be forgotten and may enjoy peace in this New Year.

Posted in Just Reflecting, News

What Makes a Budget Moral?

Blog by Sr. Roberta Miller, OP

What makes a budget moral? What is the responsibility of government in drafting a budget? Currently the issues of morality and responsibility swirl around the US and our global world. Why? Is it because of the extensive disparities in economics between those who have a good life and those who do not in the US and in so many other countries? Is it because of the natural and human disasters plaguing our world with politicians apparently powerless?

Morality can be defined as a particular system of values and principles of conduct held by a society such as honesty, integrity, honor and justice. Do the denials, cuts or repeals for programs as the Affordable Care Act, Clean Power Plan, Paris Climate Accord, EPA rules for clean water, air or land as in the Keystone XL or Dakota Access pipelines reflect such values?

The role of the state in public spending should be directed to the common good based upon these pillars: “respect for the fundamental and inalienable rights of the human person, promotion of human development and defense of peace.” Taxes and public spending are tools for uplifting and developing all members of a country’s population. All of us have gifts and skills to hone and share for the well-being of the whole. We also have needs in our society to be able to exercise our gifts and skills—education, health, meaningful work and supportive agencies, private and public. Personal and social responsibilities round out a society’s common good goal for wellness of earth and ourselves. Why then do politicians give the middle class all the attention as being in need when all working and non-working members of society deserve help.

Of the proposed federal 2017 budget: 54% is for the military; 3% for social security, labor, unemployment; 6% for education; 7% for veterans; 1% for food, agriculture; 2% transportation; 3% science; and 4% energy and environment. The moral system for this budget is violence—not in people or the earth, upon which we live, work and love.

Sources: USCCB letters of August 31 and November 7, 2017

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 2006

Proposed Presidential budget for 2017 (Obama’s)

Posted in Just Reflecting

Akron Area Interfaith Council

I became involved in the Akron Area Interfaith Council (known as the AAIC) in August, 2015. I received a call from a United Church of Christ minister Chuck Auscherman asking if I would participate in a DVD for the AAIC. I had never heard of the organization and couldn’t imagine how I could serve. We agreed to a face-to-face meeting the next day during which he filled me in on the AAIC and this current project. Basically, I was asked to voice on the DVD the official position of the Catholic Church on interfaith dialogue. How blessed I was that Pope Francis had just addressed that issue a few weeks before!

In 1980 faith leaders from the Catholic, Jewish, Orthodox, African American, and other Protestant faiths joined together to create the AAIC. These clergy persons were all friends and saw the need to have an organization in place for communication and collaboration as well as the ability to address issues that arise between faith groups.

The mission statement specifically calls the AAIC to coordinate and enable effective interfaith responses to the social, moral, ethical, and cultural issues of the Akron area community as well as to promote freedom of religion, equality, and understanding. Currently, the AAIC has representatives from the Baha’i, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, Christian (including Catholic), and Unitarian Universalist faiths. We meet bi-monthly to build friendships as well as to collaborate in addressing specific needs.

Intrigued by the variety of faiths of which I was, for the most part, unfamiliar, I decided to join the AAIC for a year in order to learn more deeply the origins and practices of those I knew so little of. The persons I have met and with whom I have engaged in projects have deeply enriched my life. At this time, not all members of the Council are clergy and there is a good mixture of male and female. I am the first religious sister many of these have encountered. Once we get to know one another, so many walls and barriers are brought down. We welcome one another as children who come from the same God, no matter how God is named and understood.

Two of our largest projects are The Fall Forum and The Hunger Walk. The former is a yearly event that brings topics of current interest to the interfaith community that enlighten and inform. This year the Forum addressed Akron’s opiate epidemic; titled “Join the Voices for Recovery: Strengthen Families and Communities,” it featured presentations by 1) a couple who had lost their son to heroin addiction, 2) Summit County Opiate Task Force, and 3) an addiction recovery speaker.

The Hunger Walk is held annually in early May. Over 20 congregations have joined together to eliminate food insecurity in the Akron area. One hundred percent of the proceeds are donated to the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. Young children, teens, and even family pets participate! The May 2017 walk garnered $26,375.02 for the Foodbank.

I have so appreciated involvement with the members of this Council. It is such a joy to share different faiths with openness and acceptance, learning enriching insights from one another. We are realizing that at the heart of it all is our common humanity originating from the same God although called by various names such as Yahweh, Allah, Baha (All-Glorious), and Krishna. This approach is so needed at this time in our country when there is so much division. The more we share together, the more I find we share in common. In the year ahead, I hope to celebrate a worship service at the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the Islamic mosque, Temple Israel, and a Hindu temple in order to appreciate each faith’s reverence and love for God.

Posted in Just Reflecting

October 17, 2017: A Day to Heed the United Nation’s Call

Post by Loretta Sullivan, OP

October 17, 2017: A Day to Heed the United Nation’s Call…

  • To eradicate poverty everywhere
  • To become an inclusive society

What will it take to meet this prophetic call?

A Commemoration of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty: October 17, 2017

Thirty years ago the United Nations set October 17 as a day to raise awareness of and direct our energies towards the eradication of poverty throughout the globe. Carved in a commemorative stone is the conviction,

“Wherever men and women are condemned to live in extreme poverty, human rights are violated. To come together to ensure that these rights are respected is our solemn duty.”

These are the words of Fr. Joseph Wresinski. His life experience of poverty, hope and transformation may be an inspiration to all. Joseph was born in 1917 to immigrant parents in an internment camp outside Paris. His sister died in that camp of malnutrition, and his mother suffered humiliation from her dependence on donations. The intensity of this family’s experience of chronic poverty and social exclusion became a driving force in his life as a priest for all people. His chosen priestly residence was with the poor in a camp for the homeless. His efforts to build relationships with all people finally led him to gather together 100,000 people of all social backgrounds at the Human Rights and Liberty Trocadero Plaza in Paris, where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948, to honor the victims of extreme poverty, violence and hunger.

Out of this ability to bring people together, Fr. Wresinski started the movement “ATD Fourth World “(All Together in Dignity). As an international movement that is active in 34 countries it remains a force in the determined effort to defeat poverty. In solidarity and collaboration with the most excluded families around the world, ATD designs and plans its projects with the participation of people living in persistent poverty. It has been demonstrated that the most disadvantaged people can be empowered to free themselves from the dependence and indignity of poverty when their courage and capacity for action are recognized, and when everyone takes responsibility for overcoming the prejudice and discrimination that continue to exclude people living in poverty.

The United Nations set the theme for this year’s commemoration appropriately as, “Answering the Call of October 17 to end poverty: A Path Toward Peaceful and Inclusive Societies.” It has been demonstrated that the poverty of some affects whole communities and leads to the destabilizing of civic structures. We are witnesses to the instability of our age, to a depersonalized world overrun with war, terrorism, human exploitation, and a self-centered will to power.

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal to end all poverty everywhere by 2030 seems too ambitious to many, but according to the Director-General of UNESCO it is achievable. Irina Bokova claims that success rests on political determination driven by solid knowledge about the causes, mechanisms, and consequences of poverty.

If we look at the magnitude of world and local poverty from a merely statistical reference we learn that 2.4 billion people survive on less than $2.00 a day; 1.6 billion people live in poverty; one half of the refugee population are children.

The poor have a voice. What do we hear them say about the situations that make poverty a systemic trap for them:

“I am not able to find work with my limited skills.

How will I feed my children?

I cannot support my children on low wages I make in 2 jobs

I am forced to choose between food and medicine in my senior years.

I am undocumented and am exploited by my employer.

I am opiad addicted and feel trapped.

My parents may be deported. Who will care for me?

I may be deported. Where do I belong?

The soup kitchen lost its grant. How will I eat?

We have lost everything in hurricanes, floods, etc.

I am hungry and no one feeds me, I want to learn and no one teaches me.

I don’t want bombs; I need bread.”

On the international level, children are the innocent victims of war and violence, famine and displacement. The hostilities in Syria, Yemen and Palestine lead us to wonder how children can live normal loving lives when fear is their emotional response to life. It is heart wrenching to know that children are dying each day of starvation, as I dump food in the garbage.

It is heartening to know that movements of solidarity and care are finding ways to change things. One movement close to my heart is Bread For The World. Its primary purpose is to end hunger everywhere. Although not political in intent, BFW is currently pushing Congress to respond to the spreading famine in Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen. The famine and displacements are reaching proportions that haven’t been seen since World War II. BFW Churches mobilize people to write letters to Congress and to visit their legislators to effect changes in policy.

Albert Nolan in his book “Hope in An Age of Despair,” 2010, reframes our option for the poor as an option for the cause of the poor. He writes, “Beyond  our ability to be moved by the pain of the poor, as good as that is, we are to take sides against the cause of the rich; to choose to eliminate unjust economic structures that discriminate against the poor, but the poor themselves have to take up their own cause.”

Taking on the call to be in solidarity with the poor is a task and grace given to us by Jesus. “For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sakes He became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor. 8: 9).

As our own legislators are consumed with measures that will remove health care and  safety nets for many, while Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have caused loss of life, destruction of homes, citizens in the entertainment and media industries hosted the telethon Hand-in-Hand, and raised millions of relief funds. The Global Citizens Festival, held in September in New York, was a gathering of 60,000 people of all ages, races and creeds calling for political and social change, with special efforts to defeat AIDS and poverty. As I watched these events on TV and saw faces radiating the joy of life, I wondered if we are witnessing a renaissance of goodness, a new age of spirit and unity!

Our prophetic Pope Francis tells us in his Encyclical “Laudato Si” “that the human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together…affecting the most vulnerable people on the planet…the gravest effects are suffered by the poorest.”

As we commemorate this International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, you may wish to Google some websites for the many heartening stories of solidarity. One story that touched me was that of the Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC). It began 15 years ago when parents and families walked in the rain to the juvenile courthouse, stood and gave voice to over 2,000 voiceless families to abolish the school to prison pipeline, thus reforming the juvenile justice system.

Finally, as we join with other alliances to fight poverty, secure inclusion and dignity for all, what would we write on our commemorative stone?  Have we already done so in our Chapter mandates?

Posted in Just Reflecting, News