Peace & Justice Blog

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


 

Seeking Baptism, Ending Execution

 

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

“Now what?” I thought to myself as I crossed the street to find my car in the parking garage. After standing with Ohioans to Stop Executions and community members to call on Ohio Governor Kasich to end executions, I politely handed back the “thou shall not kill” sign I held and dispersed with the rest of the small crowd that had gathered just outside the Ohio Statehouse on a hot afternoon.

Rallies and demonstrations can be powerful. They bring us together with others who are passionate and committed to similar justice issues. They draw courage out of us in order to stand up for our values, for our faith, and for those who cannot stand up for themselves. Yet perhaps the courage we need most is for the quiet after the demonstration.

How do we take energy from vigils and demonstrations and carry that with us throughout our daily lives when schedules get filled and days get hectic?

On July 26th executions are scheduled to resume in Ohio. There are still 31 states with the death penalty and we have Sisters and Associates living in 22 of those states. As individuals of faith, we understand that the death penalty steals away an individual’s dignity and disregards respect for all life. Sister Helen Prejean, the Sister portrayed in the movie Dead Man Walking, gave an explanation against the death penalty that is direct and poignant. She said, “Execution is the opposite of baptism into a community. Baptism into a community means “We are all connected, we are all one family and you are part of us.” And execution is removing a person from the human family, step by step, saying, “You are no longer part of us. You are not human, like we are, and so we can terminate you.”

As we continue to search for ways to unify our communities, our nation, and our world, we must embrace those on the outskirts of society and give them an opportunity for conversion. Let us begin by embracing them with prayer and seeking a baptism of love and peace in our communities.

For more information about the death penalty, see this fact sheet. Please pray for those scheduled to be executed in July:

July 26 – Ronald R. Phillips, OH

July 27 – Taichin Preyor, TX

Our faith and Catholic teaching offer a moral framework for choices about the use of the death penalty. A principled Catholic response to crime and punishment is rooted in our convictions about good and evil, sin and redemption, justice and mercy. It is also shaped by our commitment to the life and dignity of every human person, and the common good. The opening chapters of the Book of Genesis teach that every life is a precious gift from God (see Genesis 2:7, 21-23). This gift must be respected and protected.
—USCCB, 
A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Breathe, then push …

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

During these summer days, I love that the sun sets later, allowing me to soak up summer beauty throughout the evening. I find so much joy in seeing flowers blooming and birds tweeting around. There is something bright and hopeful about summertime when children are seen playing in the streets and the smell of barbecues can be found on the weekends.

Yet there is still work to be done in the summertime. We’ve been aware of the continual struggle to save health care and protect the vulnerable who would lose the most with the proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act. So while we are enjoying long sun-filled days this summer, the world can look a bit dark and hopeless.

Since Election 2016, we’ve been talking a lot about how to persevere through disheartening times and destructive policies. We know that policies must be constructed while keeping in mind that all citizens and individuals are our brothers and sisters.

In early June I was introduced to a short clip of a speech by Valerie Kaur. This speech was given shortly after Election 2016 and describes both her concern and hope.

Watch the short video here.

Valerie asks “what if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb. What if our America is not dead but a country that is waiting to be born? What if this is our nation’s great transition?”

The darkness of the womb will soon bring light and life. This labor may be long and painful, but Valerie reminds us, “What does the midwife tell us to do? Breath, and then push.” During these summer days, it’s important to relax, to breathe, and not to try to fix everything in a day. What do we want to give birth to in this great transition?

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Water For All?

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

Many individuals in developing countries lack basic access to clean, accessible drinking water, we know this. In 2010, the United Nations recognized the human right to water and sanitation and has since been working to ensure all have access to this basic human right. This is one of the Sustainable Development Goals that the United Nations is working to achieve by 2030.

According to the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, “while 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, only 2.6 percent of it is usable freshwater and 884 million people do not have access to a safe drinking water source.” Having access to clean, drinkable water is a life necessity and is also mandatory in order to adhere to Catholic Social Teaching and uphold the dignity of each person.

Yet, there’s been a lot of rhetoric lately in the public sphere urging leaders to focus on taking care of American citizens before getting involved in international affairs. While the United Nations (and many other faith-based and civil society organizations) have made great progress in providing access to clean water and sanitation around the world, it may be surprising that the United States is facing a water crisis at home. Let’s not so quickly forget Flint, Michigan where residents still cannot drink their tap water, or California where recent droughts and the melting of mountain snowpack has resulted in water restrictions across the state.

According to a new study from Michigan State University, in 5 years, water will be unaffordable to more than 35% of the U.S. population. This is a staggering and almost unbelievable statistic; that’s roughly 112.5 million people!

Why the rising costs? Among many things, aging infrastructure, water pollution, and water privatization. What can we do? Let’s start small by being responsible consumers: conserve water and stop buying bottled water. Ask questions and do some research. Do the producers you purchase from have sustainable water practices and view water as a human right rather than something to be privatized?

We all need water, a basic human right, to survive. Let’s continue having these discussions and engaging with others on these critical justice issues. What else can we do to ensure all have access to water?

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Warrior Vs. Healer

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

I recently attended a faith leaders’ gathering that meets monthly to discuss various justice issues here in Columbus. We are currently focusing on race relations and are working to set up a meeting between members of the group and the Mayor of Columbus. During our recent meeting, our conversation ranged from figuring out meeting logistics, discussing effective messaging, and establishing our meeting goals or desired outcomes. The conversation, however, gently led us to discuss our roles as church leaders and people of faith.

One faith leader brought up the importance of both words and the way in which we identify ourselves. When we go into a meeting or begin a conversation with someone with an opposing view, do we enter the conversation as a “justice warrior” ready to save the day and explain why our solutions are the best for the common good? Perhaps we need to shift our own interpretation of our identity. Working for justice is good, necessary, and our Gospel mandate, but doing so as a “warrior” may be counterproductive.

Are we starting from a position of violence (internal or external) when we enter into conversations or relationships with the idea that we can fix the problem as the warrior for good, as the one fighting the good fight? We know how impactful peace can be in our own lives and in the world, and perhaps we need to approach our work for justice with intentional peace as well. Can we be healers rather than warriors? Can we be peacebuilders for truth and justice rather than fighters for justice?

Entering a space as someone who wants to heal rather than fight allows us to begin with peace and persevere with love as we meet others where they are and work to find common ground. The power words have is important, perhaps now more than ever. In the time of fake news, post-truth, and alternative facts, working, living, and praying as healers, as peacemakers, and as disciples will provide an example of love and solidarity to the world.

How can you heal the world today?

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Let It Be So: Reflections on Current Justice Issues

Note from Kelly Litt, Justice Promoter:
June 20th is World Refugee Day. As we remember those who risk their lives to find better opportunities for themselves and their families, may we continue to work toward comprehensive immigration reform and encourage all communities to be welcoming and safe areas of retreat for all immigrants, migrants, and refugees.

See below for a reflection from Sr. Ellen Dunn, OP.

Blog by Ellen Dunn, OP

We Americans can co-operate or resist; we can ignore or pay close attention to what is happening on the American political scene today. In many ways, to my great surprise, people are waking up, standing up, speaking out, gathering together, taking steps to bring about change. Many are concerned that our freedoms and our deeply held values need to be protected in the face of possible threat.

This is new behavior for most of us who tend to just roll along with the general population. Currently, it’s the ‘immigration’ issue that is driving most of the uprisings across the country. The implications of the whole immigration equation weigh heavily on us because of our DNA, our very roots as individuals and as a people, because we are Americans—sons and daughters of Lady Liberty.

If one pictures the scales of Justice, it begins to be obvious that, pretty soon, the load will shift and matters will be sorted out – in favor of those in our midst who have been treated unjustly.

Let it be so, America!

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog