Peace & Justice Blog

Stay up to date on peace and justice issues, both locally and internationally, and learn how you can take action.


 

Unity through Thankfulness

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

Every year at our annual family Thanksgiving dinner, my extended family gathers in a circle for prayer before the meal. After our prayer, we also go around the circle (which is quite large, usually around 40 family members) and say something we are thankful for. This is not a tradition unique to my family, as I know many other families and groups gathering for a Thanksgiving feast do the same, yet there is something beautiful with voicing our gratitude that unifies us and brings us even closer together.

This year our work for justice and peace has been filled with advocacy, education, preaching, and prayers. Truly, 2017 has been a year like no other, and while it’s been disheartening and dismal at times, we’ve seen peace and justice budding and growing all the while.

This is the week we come together to share our thankfulness for the blessings we’ve received. Here is a short (and incomplete) list of what I’m thankful for this year:

  • The Dominican Sisters of Peace and Associates Justice Committees who continually work for peace and nonviolence, an end to human trafficking, immigration reform, and eco-justice with a passion and commitment that is inspiring and energizing;
  • Increased political involvement and awareness by countless individuals and communities;
  • Events that bring together individuals in a display of unity and determination such as the Women’s March in January, the March for Science in February, and the People’s Climate March in April;
  • The lawyers who mobilized at airports after the President’s refugee ban, and the continued support for immigrants and refugees;
  • Our Dominican family and all our families and friends;
  • Communities who have become Sanctuary Cities and churches who have opened their doors as a sanctuary to those facing deportation along with the communities who support them;
  • The U.S. Climate Alliance, a bi-partisan coalition of states committed to meeting the goals of  the Paris Agreement; and
  • The solar eclipse in August which brought together individuals, sparked conversation about science and the Earth, and filled communities with wonderment.

There continue to be endless people, events, and initiatives to give thanks for. May we continue preaching peace and showing gratitude for our many blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving! What are you thankful for this year?

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Locked in the Cycle of Debt

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

No one would knowingly take out a loan with a 591% interest rate… Unless they had no other choice, unless that’s the only way they could get their car repaired so they could get to work in order to feed their family.

Payday loans are usually small, short-term loans that help individuals with financial obligations or emergencies until their next payday (hence the name). However, the interest rate on these loans is astronomically high, upwards of 400% (in Ohio the interest rate is 591%). If an individual is unable to pay back the loan in full by their next payday, the interest starts accruing, and fast, so the borrower might have to take out another loan, called a rollover, to continue covering it.

To qualify for a payday loan, an individual must have a job and a checking account. These payday lenders are therefore targeting working families and the working poor. They often don’t expect (or want) borrowers to be able to pay off their loan and escape the cycle of debt that has the potential to throw their entire lives off course.

These loans add up fast, and there is a large advocacy effort trying to get payday loan reform passed. Payday loans are of huge concern and are a moral issue. President Obama previously spoke about the problem with these types of loans in Birmingham, Alabama in 2015 and called for reform.

He explained that we’re a country “that was built on the idea that everybody gets a fair shot and that we put laws in place to make sure that folks aren’t taken advantage of. When this country does not live up to its promise of fairness and opportunity for all people, we’re all hurt.”

At the beginning of November, the Dominican Sisters of Peace participated in a rally at the Ohio Statehouse to support payday loan reform in Ohio. Sr. Gemma Doll spoke at the rally and encouraged the legislators to act morally. She quoted scripture saying, “For I, the LORD, love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing” (Isaiah 61:8). These payday loans are immoral and akin to robbery and injustice.

Across the country, our citizens deserve a fair shot at success and with the ability to provide for themselves and their families. These payday lenders are manipulating loopholes and exploiting hardworking Americans who are simply trying to make ends meet and make it until payday. These vicious predatory loans must be reformed. For more information, click here. For information on payday loan regulations in your state, click here.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Justice at Our Borders: Past Reflections on the SOAW Gathering

Blog  by Associate Jerry Stein, OPA

Last October, I and 4 or 5 other Dominicans attended the SOAW gathering at our new destination, Nogales, AZ. I only remember seeing the others once, at the Sunday morning gathering at the wall, which you can see in photos is a series of square steel beams about 30 feet tall. They were on one side (Mexico) and I was on the other (USA). In Columbus, GA, we could only be on one side of the “Wall” (fence). I was glad we could reach through the wall and clasp hands, which I did with at least Conni Dubick, OPA.

As usual, we had very good workshops on a large variety of subjects.  I remember two especially, The Veterans for Peace and the Tohono O’odham Hemajkam Right network. The large Tohono O’odham native reservation is just west of Nogales and hasn’t had a wall, so many refugees go through their territory. The US government is going to put up a virtual electronic wall, as a young Tohono O’odham lawyer explained to us.  Besides the intrusions of all kinds on their land and culture, the natives will also be spied upon whenever the various spy agencies desire.  She took us on the usual US justice path natives have to travel, and, if the government finds it necessary, they will take it back to the Doctrine of Discovery, which always wins the case for the government. This Doctrine was finalize by a pope in 1493, calling newly discovered peoples savages who can be killed and their

land taken as desired by “Christian” nations. Some groups are trying to get Pope Francis to denounce it. Isn’t it interesting that US law accepts it, even though made by a pope? I would hope that Dominicans around the world would make it a priority to have the pope reject that Doctrine as anti-Christian and not a worthy legal pronouncement.

On Saturday, the Vets for Peace led everyone, about 700, to the border. As on Sunday, about half crossed the border, including me and my sister and husband, and the other half stayed across the border from us. As we were processing down the US streets to the border crossing, police were everywhere, sometimes yelling at people to stay off the streets, etc.  When we crossed, there were no police of any kind around. As we walked Mexican streets, police passed by and waved at us with big smiles. It was such an obvious difference that I thought to myself, I went from a police state to a country of freedom. Of course I know the reality of Mexican cartels, but also of US detention centers for families of all kinds and how awful they can be, especially for the children.

At the Vets for Peace Workshop, about 50 people in a circle, took turns telling of an important moment in their quest for peace. At one point two Vets were sitting side by side, but didn’t know each other. The first told how he had returned to the US and became a drug addict, since the war had left him in such a bad emotional state. He finally got caught, was given a long sentence, but, when he got out, some Vets for Peace took him in hand, gave him a reason to live, and he’s been active with them and sober ever since. Then the guy next to him said he was a medic in Vietnam and was told by the CIA to feed LSD to some of the soldiers, and he went home honorable and with pay, etc. We all suddenly realized that one guy went to prison for taking drugs and the other guy was legally getting soldiers hooked on them. So who was the enemy in that war?

I’m glad that we moved to Nogales last year. I would hope more of you will attend next year, since we need to continually give good witness to the need for justice in our country, and, as far as I can see, this is a very good way to do it. We know we gave encouragement to the Indian natives and Mexicans in the area. The Bishop of Nogales, Mexico, celebrated Mass for the young 16 year old who was killed, through the wall, by an American border agent. So far, the parents have received no justice from the USA. I guess that means we can shoot Mexicans through the wall whenever we want. Please get involved and attend next year, if possible. The people we meet, the music, puppetistas, the diversity of brothers and sisters, etc., also make the SOAW gathering a wonderful celebration of hope.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Leaving the Costumes Behind at the Voting Booth

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

Many children look forward to celebrating Halloween. They get to dress up in costume, often representing their favorite cartoon character or superhero. Along with their parents and friends, they walk their neighborhoods and fill their pumpkin-shaped buckets with sweets and treats.

As we enjoy the cute and creative costumes that many families craft, through Halloween we are also given a time to step away from reality, if for just a moment, and enter the world of make-believe with jack-o-lanterns and too much candy.

Yet just one week from today after the costumes are put away and the candy wrappers are cleaned up, we will be completely submerged back into our current reality as we show up to the voting polls. Unlike Halloween, it’s not endearing if issues or candidates are shrouded in costume and mystery. It then becomes our job to look for the truth.

As engaged, responsible citizens, we are tasked with de-masking these issues and candidates, and as Dominicans, again our commitment for searching for truth becomes the cornerstone of our research and voting.

It is both frustrating and unfortunate that now many issues and candidates are confusing and misleading, but that is our current reality. We must do what we can, where we are, with the resources we have to research and learn the truth behind each issue and position on our ballot that we vote on.

Do your research. Have conversations. Pray and reflect on the issues. Then please vote! Let us use our collective voice and voting power to bring peace to our communities.

For those in Ohio, Issue 2 has been especially illusive and confusing this year. See this flyer for information on Issue 2 and find out what Nuns on the Bus Ohio is recommending you do. (ATTACHED)

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Imagining the Potential in Diversity

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

John Lennon’s well-known song “Imagine” is about global peace and unity. He sings,

“Imagine all the people living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will be as one”

Wouldn’t it be great if we had an institution that brought together representatives from across the globe to collaborate and work toward the common good together? Well, we do! Today, on United Nations Day, we celebrate that very institution. On this day in 1945, the United Nations was established after the UN Charter was ratified.

The United Nations holds the ability to be the vehicle for positive change that will bring us closer to the world John Lennon hoped for, one that will see all people living in peace and harmony.

Just like any institution or governing body, the United Nations is not perfect. While it brings together 193 countries from around the world, each representative is still accountable to its home government. The United Nations as whole is, therefore, is only as powerful as its weakest member. We know that various leaders hold different views about the collaborative work and ability to successfully combat global issues.

Occasionally, we hear from individuals or groups who doubt the effectiveness of the UN or who call for the total end of its work altogether. Yet if the United Nations was closed, what would we do? Sr. Margaret Mayce, OP (the Dominican Leadership Conference NGO representative at the United Nations) once told me that if the United Nations didn’t exist, we would create something just like it. It is comforting to think that humans desire collaboration and peace and will work together for the betterment of all societies.

It may not be perfect, but it has made an impact. Look back on this blog about the United Nations’ work to ban nuclear weapons. Recently, the International campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, an NGO working closely with member states at the UN, received the Nobel Peace Prize.

This year, the theme for the UN Day is “Potential in Diversity.” As we think about the United Nations on this day, let us continue to pray that countries, governments, and peoples come together for peace, positive change, and celebration in diversity.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog