Peace & Justice Blog

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


 

How Far Have we Come in 50 Years of Earth Day?

Blog by Sister Judy Morris, OP

April brings thoughts of the beauty that surrounds us. Flowers with a rainbow of colors abound, and the gray of winter disappears. Even though we are limited in our movement because of the coronavirus, the beauty is there to inspire. April also brings to mind Earth Day and all that has happened since April 22, 1970, when Senator Gaylord Nelson hosted an environmental teach-in.

Fast forward to 2020 and we find rubble in many forms:

  • the United States withdraws from the Paris Accord
  • the EPA suffers drastic cuts
  • the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act are weakened
  • changes in the Endangered Species Act threaten all wildlife
  • scientists are ignored

 

Is there any good news in today’s reality?

While our government is ignoring an environmental crisis, individuals are stepping up with a determination that inspires. Students have made the streets their new classroom, drawing attention to climate change and the urgency of the most critical concern of our day. While that may not make parents or principals happy, their voices need to be heard—this is their future!

I have been impressed by students who are collecting plastic bottle caps.  These caps are sent to a company that produces benches and picnic tables made from this normally-discarded plastic.  More individuals are refusing to use plastic straws, instead using metal straws, or simply drinking from the glass.

Informed citizens know the state of our plastic-infested oceans.  The Pacific Ocean is now called ‘plastic island” because it contains an amount of plastic twice the size of Texas, harming marine life and destroying ecosystems. We dump 150 million metric tons of plastic in all of our oceans, and add eight million tons each year, according to the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions. One survey found plastic in 94% of our tap water.

What better time than this “Earth Month” to make a difference with our choices and our voices.

 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Bring Back the Common Good

Blog by Sister Judy Morris, OP

“Every Storm Runs Out of Rain.”
Maya Angelou

 

Our nation – and indeed, the world, has been set on its heels by the COVID-9 corona virus. But throughout this dark storm, we are blessed with the occasional glimpse of light and hope.

A television story features six-year-olds writing thank you notes to health care workers.  School bus drivers deliver lunches to children at home because schools have been closed… and for some children, this may be the only meal they eat all day.  Donations are pouring into food banks and to workers who have lost their jobs. People are tipping generously as they go through a drive-through for meals. For all of the negatives we are facing, we are being reacquainted with the concept of “common good.”

We are in a time of deep reflection. Who are we as a country? Deep political divisions are obvious. Racism is ever-present. We face an ever-expanding economic divide. We now share vulnerability. I believe we will soon come to the realization that we, too, are Milan, South Korea, China, and New York. Even though we must now stand six feet apart, we must come together with a desire to help each other, putting aside political differences.

We have become a country of tribes:  red vs. blue, liberal vs. conservative, urban vs. rural.  We are the western version of the Sunnis vs. the Shiites.

The center of Catholic social teaching and indeed, of every faith tradition, is the common good.  We find wisdom in these words from Vatican II’s Gaudim et Spes, “The Church in the Modern World.”

“It is imperative that no one indulge in a merely individualistic morality.  The best way to fulfill one’s obligation of justice and love is to contribute to the common good according to one’s means and the needs of others, and also to promote and help public and private organization devoted to bettering the condition of life.”

Whenever Congress is deliberating bills, and state houses are deliberating bills, I ask myself, “How does this affect the common good?”

We are witnessing a sociodrama of a tug of war in congress.  As government bodies seek to divide a large piece of our economic pie, they struggle with who will get the largest pieces.  I believe the greatest concern needs to be about “the least of these…” the working poor, restaurant workers, factory workers… not major bailouts of large corporations.

Many of us remember the banks in 2008, when it seemed to many that banks seemed to benefit over the good of individuals. We have a chance now to do better.

That is a summary of the dispute.  Those who roll up their sleeves and go to work every day cannot make it on a $600 bailout.  Everybody wins when the poor and middle-class win.

As we have done with 9/11, we can and will get through this together.

 

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

The Struggle Continues

Blog by Sister Judy Morris, OP

As we observe Women’s History Month, we celebrate resiliency, determination, courage, and success, always mixed with struggle. As women met in Seneca Falls, NY, in 1848 to plan the “what next” that was needed to achieve the right to vote, they knew the struggle would require a long-term commitment and a willingness to withstand verbal and physical violence.  They would be pelted with tomatoes by men and women, imprisoned and subjected to verbal abuse every step of the way.

The year 2020 is the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote. We celebrate the model of courage that this achievement represents, and the continued progress towards equality, including the rights to serve on juries, own property, receive credit in their names, and work in law firms.

Today, one of the greatest and most important challenges that women face is achieving the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act. The Violence Against Women Act was originally approved and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994. It expired in February 2019, and the 2019 Violence Against Women Act was passed by the House of Representatives in April 2019.  The bill has been stalled in the Senate since then, due to opposition by the NRA.

In 2019 bill includes a provision to restrict partners – spouses and boyfriends – who have been convicted of stalking or abuse from accessing firearms. The bill also expands protections for Native American women, immigrant women and transgender women.  This bill can save lives!

Representative Katie Porter of California recalled her experience of dealing with domestic violence.  She testified that the first time she called police after being beaten, the officer who arrested her told her that if she called again, her children would be taken away from her. In December 2019, a Texas police officer was shot and killed by a man who would have been denied a firearm under the Violence Against Women Act. More than 5,000 Alaska Native and Native American women have been kidnapped and/or murdered – all would have been protected by the Violence Against Women Act.

Before we pop the cork on a bottle of champagne to celebrate the centennial of our right to vote, we are challenged to stand with women suffering from violent abuse from a partner.  Like our foremothers, we are in the struggle for the long haul for the rights and protections of our sisters.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

“I Stand with Immigrants”

Dr. James Tinnin, OPA

Associate Dr. Jim Tinnin, Bradenton, FL, ministers through his participation in the Dominican Sisters of Peace Immigration Reform Committee. Here is what he has to say about this work.

I am most grateful to serve on the Dominican Sisters of Peace Immigration Reform Committee, which is chaired by Conni Dubick, OPA, a fellow Dominican Associate and long-time friend, and includes fifteen other DSOP Sisters and Associates. We meet on a conference call every month to update each other on immigration issues and actions in the regions where we live and minister and discuss how we might aid those who are impacted by unjust immigration policies.

In his Prayer for Immigrants, Pope Francis states that “in caring for immigrants, we seek a world where none are forced to leave their homes and where all can live in freedom, dignity and peace.  Inspire us, as nations, communities, and as individuals to see that those who come to our shores are our brothers and sisters.”

As a Congregation, we are committed to promoting justice through solidarity with the marginalized, and to creating welcoming communities. Dominican Sisters of Peace Immigration Reform Committee helps to give these commitments “legs” through action and advocacy.

We advocate against the separation of immigrant families and the detention of children at the border because like our Savior, we preach love for these children and their families.

In a speech at a 2019 educational event in El Paso, TX, Michael Okinczyc-Cruz, executive director of the Coalition for Spiritual and Public Leadership in Chicago, said “We have to be bold. The work of the church is to activate.” The Holy Father has told our Bishops that we must step back from partisan politics and discern how to cast our votes based on our values.

As members of the Committee on Immigration Reform, we are actively tuned into the 2020 political debates, carefully monitoring each candidate on this issue that is so vital to our Congregation’s commitments.

We ask that you, too, pay attention to the candidates and how their policy objectives coincide with the values that we hold central to our beliefs. Personally, I stand with these immigrant families and am solidly behind the candidate who can best resolve this important policy issue.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Extreme Risk Laws Save Lives

Blog by Sister Judy Morris, OP

It was a beautiful, sunny Palm Sunday in Louisville.  Billie Jo and Brad Hettinger attended mass with their two children, five-year-old Collin, and four-year-old Courtney.  Collin was always ready to answer questions when the pastor asked for a response, most recently saying he was sad Jesus died, but happy that he loved him.

After greeting the pastor at the end of mass, the Heddingers drove home.  Soon after returning home, Brad pulled out a gun, walked upstairs, shot, and killed his wife.  He then shot and killed his two children.  After setting fire to the home, he put a gun to his head and took his life.  Families, friends, and parishioners were rocked by this unbelievable tragedy.

Billie Jo, Collin (5) and Courtney (4) were shot by their husband and father, Brad Hettinger, who suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Brad Hettinger suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  After serving in the military as a decorated officer in the Iraq war he knew that he needed to get psychiatric help, but it was too late.

Every Town for Gun Safety continues to work for the adoption of Extreme Risk laws, sometimes referred to as “Red Flag” laws.  These laws empower loved ones or law enforcement to intervene in order to temporarily prevent someone in crisis from purchasing firearms or removing firearms from their possession.  This helps de-escalate emergency situations and is a proven way to intervene before gun violence, such as a murder/suicide or mass shooting.  Current law prohibits the sale of firearms to those convicted of certain crimes, or adjudicated as mentally ill, or involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital.

Currently, there are 17 states and Washington D.C. that have passed Extreme Risk laws.  Every Town for Gun Safety notes that Connecticut has seen a 14% reduction in firearm suicides.  This law is especially important since perpetrators of mass shootings often display warning signs of violence before committing violent acts.

Extreme Violence Risk laws are common-sense efforts to reduce gun violence, mass shootings, and suicides.  Responsible action to curb gun violence has worked in those 17 states that have passed Extreme Violence Risk laws.  Several state legislatures are now considering passing such laws.

Please contact your state representative and call for the passage of this vital Extreme Risk Law.  We can make a difference.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog