Peace & Justice Blog

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


 

There are No Strangers in God’s House

Blog by Dee Holleran, Public Relations Specialist.

I went home to West Virginia for the Christmas holiday. We visited my siblings and parents, and we all got together for a big holiday meal.

My cousin, recently returned from a six-week stay in Texas, described attending church after the November shooting that left 26 people dead and 19 injured.

“Churches have signs up now saying “Guns Welcome,” he said. “People want to know that they will be safe.”

My heart sank.

“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you.”

Where does “packing heat” figure into the worship of a peaceful and loving God?

Someone else chimed in, “I don’t even like to see new people at church. If I see a stranger in the pew next to me, I won’t talk to them. I am afraid of them.”

I could not believe my ears. It’s bad enough that people are considered untrustworthy because of the color of their skin or the shape of their eyes. But to turn away from another, in a house of God, because you don’t know their name? This attitude literally flies in the face of everything our Church believes – and everything our Lord said.

There are more than 300 passages in the Bible that mention the stranger, the foreigner, the alien, and the exiled. Not one of those passages says “Look away,” “Deport them,” or “Move to the next pew.”  No matter why the Bible talks about the displacement of people, the answer is always the same – welcome the stranger.

This past weekend, I attended Mass in Sanford, FL. The cantor was a woman in traditional dress. A fourth-grade girl made a speech inviting guests to her Catholic school. After the service, the priest pointed out that both of these parishioners were from Haiti. He thanked God for their presence and contributions to the parish. This Church had welcomed the stranger and was richer for their love.

We won’t all have a chance to help a foreigner acclimate to our country. Not all of us can march against deportation or address Congress. But we can all be missionaries. We can introduce ourselves to the new person in the next pew. And maybe, with that small step, trusting God and others in this most holy of spaces, we can find God in the next stranger we meet, too.

For more information about how the Dominican Sisters of Peace and our Associates work to welcome the stranger, click here.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Driveway Moment

Blog by Dee Holleran

I had a driveway moment this weekend. You know – when you’re listening to the radio and don’t want to get out of your car?

I heard a phrase in a news story that was new to me – “climate refugee.” This phrase was defined as “people forced to flee due to alterations in the natural environment related to climate change.” I had never heard those words in that context, and I sat in the car to hear more.

The NPR story chronicled the stories of families in Louisiana who live in what are referred to as “vulnerable coastal areas” affected by increased flooding and sea level rise related to global warming. One family literally ties a canoe to their double-wide trailer and keeps “go” bags at the ready to row away from their home whenever it rains. Our sisters have taught religion and provided pastoral care to the most vulnerable along the bayous of Louisiana for years.

The Federal government had requested that government agencies cooperatively prepare for climate-related impact in 2013, and even awarded $48 million to move one community. But the Trump administration has rescinded this order, leaving more than 2,400 poor and elderly families on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico at the mercy of the weather.

Not only is the Trump Administration ignoring the scientific fact of climate change’s effect on coastal Louisiana, which has lost nearly 2,000 square miles to the Gulf of Mexico in the last 80 years, but it has put the area in more immediate danger as well. In December, the Administration began to roll back oil rig safety regulations enacted after the Deepwater Horizon Disaster in 2010, which dumped millions of gallons oil into the Gulf.  In addition, the Trump Administration has also opened federal waters to new offshore oil and gas exploration in the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans, and the Gulf of Mexico, creating a possible negative impact on tourism, fisheries, and recreation as well as the lives of those living on the coastline.

Pope Francis, in his encyclical Laudato Si, spoke of the importance of our oceans and waterways to the health of our planet. In response to this latest attack on the health of our oceans, the Adrian Dominican Sisters have released a statement urging elected leaders to oppose Trump’s dangerous unraveling of environmental protections. Let us also reach out to our representatives in government and industry to protect our oceans, our Earth, and those most vulnerable to environmental destruction.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Emmanuel, God is with Us

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is attending Christmas Eve Mass with my family. I love seeing the church decorated with trees, poinsettias, and the Nativity. There is something peaceful yet exciting as families full of anticipation fill the pews dressed in their Christmas best and young children doze off to sleep on their parent’s shoulder excited for Christmas morning to arrive.

This year, the readings seemed especially appropriate. At one of the Christmas Eve services of 2017, some of us heard from Isaiah, “for Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her vindication shines forth like the dawn and her victory like a burning torch” (Is 62:1).

This past year has been filled with the moral necessity to raise our voices. We’ve seen government and public policy go astray, and we have mobilized in large numbers to bring the moral dimension, and indeed the truth, back to the center of the debate. So refueled by this Advent and Christmas season, refreshed by the innocence and peace that Christmas brings coupled with the excitement of a New Year, we can join together, once again, and continue speaking out against the injustices of our day.

While we’ve seen a lot of heartbreak and suffering this past year, we’ve also felt God’s presence as communities joined together to stand up for their neighbors, as more grew politically involved, and as individuals recognized the interconnectedness of our world and the importance of protecting Earth. So when we hear “behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us,” we can trust that God has been with us, and God is with us as we continue along our journey toward peace and justice.

Thank you for your support, collaboration, partnership, and continued prayers and efforts. I have been inspired, challenged, and encouraged by this beautiful Dominican community and your endless efforts to promote peace and justice. May God continue to bring you peace and a voice for justice in this New Year!

 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Dominican Month for Peace: Being Peace with our Dominican Family

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

In the United States, we like to recognize days, weeks, and months for both important observances such as the Poverty Awareness Month in January and Earth Day in April and silly promotions like National Doughnut Day and Squirrel Appreciation Day (yes, these are actually recognized and come complete with fun-facts and how-to-celebrate guides).

As much as I enjoy National Doughnut Day (because you can typically find many places that give away free doughnuts), I was even more excited when Fr. Bruno Cadore, the Master of the Dominican Order, named December the Dominican Month for Peace. Each year will focus on a different country, and the Dominican Order is encouraged to get involved through prayer and preaching to promote peace and unity. This year the country of focus is Colombia.

In a world where National Doughnut Day goes viral, yet days honoring those who have worked to change systems and overcome injustices are barely mentioned, it’s hopeful to join part of a larger movement within the entire Order to practice peace, pray about peace, and preach peace through our words and actions. It is more than obvious that our communities need peace.

Let us continue working toward peace in our country and also pray and advocate for peace in Colombia (read more about Colombia in Sr. Barb Kane’s recent blog here).

As the Order of Preachers, how critical, how appropriate, how truth-filled is a month of peace for our world today! As the Dominican Sisters of Peace and Associates, we commit to living and promoting peace-filled lives, and now we can continue to preach peace alongside the rest of the Dominican Order, prayerfully, thoughtfully, and intentionally throughout the month of December.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Compassionately Demanding Reforms

Blog by Associate Frank Martens, OPA

I have a friend who thinks it is funny to say, “She wants me” or “She wants you” whenever an attractive woman looks our way. I can’t get a haircut without hearing the latest sexist, racist or otherwise crude joke or remark. My secretary once accused me of disrespecting her as a woman.

I also confess that I have a habit of touching women, perhaps more than men, on the shoulder to get their attention or as an act of affection. During my career as a hearing officer for the Ohio Civil Rights Commission I heard many cases of sexual harassment or, as we called them, “he said, she said” cases. That is why corroborating evidence was so important.

In spite of this I was shocked to see a trickle of sexual harassment accusations turn into a flood sweeping over well-known politicians, athletes, preachers, high-level executives, actors, broadcasters and others. It is an epidemic that does not spare Republicans, Democrats, liberals or conservatives.

Some of the accused have accepted the blame, apologized to their victims, resigned from lucrative positions, and retreated from public life. Others have steadfastly maintained their innocence attacking their accusers and relying on the criminal burden of proof, “innocent until proven guilty.”

So what are we as Christians to do?  We can pray for the victims, and in the future, we can demand reforms that provide avenues for women in the workplace to complain without fear of retaliation, and work to change our culture of sexism. We can condemn the actions of the victimizers or alleged perpetrators. I believe that as Christians we also have to pray for those who victimize and support their rehabilitation as we support prisoners, addicts and others in recovery. Jesus calls us to be compassionate and forgiving.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog