Peace & Justice Blog

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


 

Why Stay?: Peace and Persistence on the International Day of Peace

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

As North Korea continues building and testing its nuclear arsenal, as Dreamers are threatened by the rescinding of DACA, as white supremacists march in our public spaces, and as relief efforts continue for those impacted by Harvey and Irma, it’s hard to hold on to hope as the International Day of Peace approaches on September 21st.

We all know brave women and men who have been working toward peace and justice for decades, many of whom are members of our congregation. Yet, it often appears that decisions continue to be made and actions continue to be taken that send us backward on our march toward justice and peace.

As we come together in community and prayer on the International Day of Peace, may we all reflect on the reasons we continue in our work to be peace, build peace, and preach peace. In her book Perseverance, Margaret Wheatley articulates well the frustration, the hope, and the reason we continue working toward peace, each and every day.

“Why Stay”

It’s normal to reach the point where we start questioning our motivation: “Why do I work so hard?” “Why am I dedicating so much time to this?” “Why do I stay in this work?”

And if we don’t ask these questions, our friends and loved ones surely will. Usually, if they’re confronting us with these, they already have the answers in mind: Stop working so hard; get a life; notice that other people aren’t nearly as dedicated as you.

Asking “Why stay?” can be an invitation to reassess not our work load, but our original commitment that brought us into this work. Especially when we’re overloaded, burned-out and exhausted, it’s extremely helpful to pause occasionally and reflect on the sense of purpose and potential contribution that lured us into working for this cause. Doing this with colleagues who also are working much too hard is a well-tested means for deepening our relationships and strengthening our resolve to keep going.

But there’s also a significant element of irrationality in why we keep going, even in the midst of defeat and exhaustion. The question “why?” doesn’t lead us to any personal clarity or reassessment, because there really isn’t an answer.

We’re doing the work because we’re doing the work.

If we try and develop an explanation beyond this simple statement of fact, we get into murky waters. Yet even though it’s the truth, it’s a statement destined to promote either anger or confusion in our loved one.

It’s an insufficient answer, and sometimes it’s the only one available.

-Margaret Wheatley, Perseverance 2010

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Reclaiming the Freedom to Marry

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

As a young professional, I have arrived at the point in my life when many of my friends are getting married and starting their families. It’s a beautiful and exciting time to see so much joy and life blossom. As I work to plan my own wedding, I find myself stepping back to think of the young girls who perhaps dreamed of getting married one day with the beautiful dress, the union of families, and the celebration but instead are forced or coerced into marriage at much too young an age.

Child marriage strips young girls of not just dreams of a perfect wedding, but also often denies them further educational experience, threatens their health and wellbeing, sometimes locks them in a life full of violence and abuse, and leaves them with the idea that girls are inferior to boys. According to Girls Not Brides, each year, “15 million girls are married before the age of 18. That is 28 girls every minute. 1 every 2 seconds.”

Child marriage further propels gender inequality and poverty. In developing countries, tradition intertwined with generational poverty can persuade a family to marry their daughter off sooner to alleviate economic hardships. Surprisingly, child marriage is also prevalent in the United States. According to the Tahirih Justice Center, “researchers estimated that over 9.4 million U.S. women had married at age 16 or younger, and that nearly 1.7 million had married at age 15 or younger.” (For more information and statistics, click here). The majority of these child marriages are between a young girl and an adult man.

In a world where we view marriage as a beautiful commitment and covenant between two individuals, it’s important to remember that child marriage can be dangerous and unjust. Child marriage often leads to family instability, reduced educational opportunities, linkages to human trafficking, and high rates of intimate partner abuse and violence.

In the United States, most states have set the minimum age for marriage at 18, but there are numerous exceptions to the rule that make it possible for girls as young as 12 or 13 to be married to an adult man. Click here for a report about child marriage and an analysis of state laws. As we work to foster God’s web of life, let us continue advocating for girls so they can reach their full potential with justice, freedom, and dignity.

Are you concerned or moved by this issue? Consider calling your legislators to discuss this issue with them and ask how they are working to ensure girls are protected and treated with dignity and equality.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

What Gifts Are You Spreading?

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

As I continue to meet more and more justice advocates, I find myself picking their brains and asking this crucial question: “how do you take a step back, re-center, and recharge in light of everything going on in our world today?” I hear, over and over again, that many find refuge and refreshment in nature and meet God in the beauty of creation.

I too find spiritual fulfillment and a direct avenue to God through my experiences of nature. Recently, I have been struck by the intricacy and beauty of Pando. Pando looks like 40,000 individual aspen trees growing in Utah, but it’s actually believed to be the largest organism on Earth. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Pando started from a single seed and spreads by sending up new shoots from one single root system. This incredible organism spans over 106 acres and is nearly 13 million pounds.

Pando is Latin for “I spread,” and that’s exactly what this organism has continued to do for the last 80,000-1 million years making it among the oldest known living organisms.

Nature can bring us closer to God, and Pando can serve as an example of how we are all linked. We are connected with the migrant, with those in poverty, with the victim of human trafficking, with those marginalized and harmed by racism, and with the Earth. At the same time, we can also see that we are connected to those with whom we disagree, with the estranged relative, with the politician who abuses power, with those who resort to violence. We are all connected through God. We are a “we.” Just as Pando continues to grow and spread, we too can continue to progress, to grow, to spread, and to share our gifts with all to whom we are connected. We can spread love, patience, kindness, peace, healing, understanding, compassion, energy, hope, forgiveness… We can continue to water our roots of peace, inspiring others to build a foundation rooted in peace and justice.

What will you spread today?

The Global Catholic Climate Movement is working with partners to sponsor the Season of Creation from September 1 – October 4. Click here for a toolkit and a prayer for our Earth during this Season of Creation.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Two by Two…Just as God had Commanded

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

A recent federal report noted that global warming is already having a negative effect in the United States despite President Trump’s claim that global warming is a “hoax.” We, the Dominican Sisters of Peace and Associates have long been committed to “reducing the impact of global climate change. We support actions, programs and legislation on all levels to protect Earth’s climate, with particular concern for the negative impact affecting the lives of the poor” and this report doesn’t come as a huge surprise (Corporate Stance May 31, 2016). Our Congregation, along with numerous other faith and community based organizations continually work to combat climate change. Yet, progress and movement in the government seems much more difficult to realize. Scientists are now fearful that the current Administration may try to change or ignore this Climate Change Report, but despite the uncertainty, there is hope building in Congress.

Currently in the House of Representatives bipartisan support is rallying around the Climate Solutions Caucus. This Caucus, cleverly nicknamed the “Noah’s Ark Caucus” because Representatives must enter two-by-two, one Democrat and one Republican together, is also quite fitting for a group that aims to find climate solutions as sea levels continue to rise and many coastal cities are finding themselves flooded more often.

This Caucus is the first of its kind and has had the support of many faith groups. There are currently 52 members, and the group is provided with monthly briefing by science and policy experts. The Noah’s Ark Caucus urged the President to remain in the Paris Agreement and is dedicated to continue working to build relationships across the aisle to mitigate climate change.

Click here for more information, or read the draft of the Climate Change Report here. For continued progress, it is crucial that Members of Congress work together in a bipartisan fashion to protect the most vulnerable in our communities who are negatively and disproportionately impacted by climate change. Take action by calling your Representative and urging them to join the Noah’s Ark Caucus to work toward bipartisan and critically necessary solutions or send them a message here.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

We can’t go backward…

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP

I think Jimmy Fallon said it best, “We can’t go backward.” It’s been over a week since the events in Charlottesville and I’m still trying to understand how it occurred. How can one person hate another just because of their race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, etc? But it does happen and the danger is real. This is especially true with groups such as neo-Nazi’s. Richard Frankel of the University of Louisiana, Lafayette explains that Nazi’s “fought to destroy the most basic values that America has claimed to stand for over more than two centuries: the fundamental dignity and equality of all people.” Our country has come a long way in building equality for all people and we cannot allow hate groups to push us backward.

Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Tipping Point, explains the rise of hate speech and rallies as backlash to the change. He states that we may be in an “extended period of backlash” as we face “overwhelming amounts of change” in a short period of time. Unfortunately, the current political climate has encouraged this backlash and it has resulted in violent rallies and the murder of innocent people. As a Sister of Peace, it’s hard to condone violence of any kind but it’s especially difficult to hear and see the violence associated with white supremacists, neo-Nazi’s or the KKK that work to damage the fundamental values of dignity and equality of all.

Women have come a long way from being considered a possession but not nearly far enough. Minorities have also come a long way from slavery and Jim Crow but not far enough. Many are still enslaved by poverty, mental illness, and lack of education. They should have greater representation in government, business and church. But here’s the dilemma. These changes have left some feeling off course and left behind. It can generate the fear that turns into hate and violence. Together we must promote opportunities for all to live healthy and peaceful lives.

Jesus gave us peace and compels us to make peace on the earth… to share it with others. This is the time to use nonviolent approaches to speak and act against violence. So what is the answer to how we react to hateful speech and Nazism? What we don’t do is incite or perpetuate violence on anyone no matter how much we disagree with them. We don’t provoke them or participate in shouting matches. You cannot change a person’s opinion by yelling at them. Violence only begets more violence.

What can we do? Don’t show up. Let the hate speechers talk to themselves. Refuse to give them an audience. Gather together at another site. Display signs of peace, respect, dignity not hate. Pray together. Be silent. Presence is more powerful than words. Support events that promote unity and peace. Let’s not go backward by giving in to the tactics and speech of hatred and fear.  Let us move forward with peace.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog