Peace & Justice Blog

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


 

How Will You Vote?

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

One of the freedoms that I am most grateful for is freedom of speech. As citizens, we are able to disagree publically with our elected officials and each other without worrying about the police arresting us when we walk out the door. And most importantly, we can make our voice heard through our vote. 

When we vote, we look for the person who will best represent our values. This can be especially difficult in today’s climate and we might be tempted to vote only for our party, or for women…or Latinos…or liberals… or…..   You get my point.  

Some might vote only for a candidate who professes to be pro-life. Voting for a person who is anti-abortion is not necessarily the same as voting pro-life.  Life does not stop when a child is born.  There are so many other important life issues to be considered.  I would suggest that all the issues that the Dominican Sisters of Peace have included in our voting guide are pro-life including protection from violence in our own communities and welcoming people escaping from it in their countries…ensuring that our creation is protected and its resources are available for all…protecting adults and children from sex or labor trafficking. They address the sanctity of life from conception to natural death.

So what do you do when a candidate professes to be pro-life but addresses none of the life issues after birth? That’s where our consciences come into play.

A recent article in America called Catholic Teaching on Conscience is (Again) Topic of Discussion at Synod, states “Catholics believe that following one’s conscience is paramount—and that believers should do their best to form their consciences in the light of reason, experience, Scripture and spiritual formation, always with the help of church teaching.”  The Church’s Social Teaching is one source of formation and includes the rights to life, dignity, work, care for the poor and vulnerable, and care for creation. Perhaps we need to work together to end abortions by helping women to avoid them or supporting mothers when their children are born.

So, in the end, each person must make his or her decision on how to vote. That decision must be done with prayer, information, discussion.  Voting is an important action that cannot be taken lightly. It affects each of us personally and communally.  May you find peace in this important action. 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Justice is Rest

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

The best law in the church’s canon is number 663 which states that religious are “to observe faithfully an annual period of sacred retreat.”  What a blessing that it is a required to take time out to rest the mind, body, and spirit. I just got back from my retreat and it was an amazing experience. Once again, I experienced God in the beauty of the retreat grounds, in the daily liturgy and scripture readings, and in the reflections suggested by my director.  Add to that great food and a comfortable bed and it was just what I needed to refuel for my ministry.

It got me thinking, however, about the idea of rest and relaxation and how so many people do not have that luxury. Even with the job market as robust as it is, low wage earners – around one-third of the work force-  earn less than $12 an hour and would have to work full time over 50 weeks per year to reach the poverty line for a family of three.   The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines a ‘working poor’ person as someone below the poverty line who spent at least half the year either working or looking for work.  There are around 7.6 million working poor primarily adults over 35.  If they cannot get full time work or if their income is not enough to make ends meet, they must work several jobs. The Labor Department also reported that around 7.6 million workers held multiple jobs just to make ends meet.

Many of these working poor are single parents, mostly women, who also have children or elderly parents to care for. Sadly, caregiving is not often thought of as work and not factored into the work equation.  Even if the children are in school, there is not enough time for mothers to work full time and care for their children. If they are earning only the national minimum wage which is $7.25, it is impossible to make enough income to support their families. The stress of living in this environment must be tremendous. And there is likely not much opportunity for rest or relaxation.

Time off for relaxation and vacation like retreats is important to our wellbeing. This has been known for ages. Leonardo da Vinci said, “Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer.” Lack of relaxation can cause anxiety, depression, digestive issues, headaches, or chest pain.  The ability to have some time for relaxation improves health and mood.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to have time each year to do a retreat. I’m even more grateful that I have time each week for the Sabbath and do not have the stress of supporting myself and my family. Do I really make the most of these opportunities?

For an interesting perspective on this issue, check out Americans Want to Believe Jobs Are the Solution to Poverty.  They’re Not.  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/11/magazine/americans-jobs-poverty-homeless.html

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

How Can you Stop Hunger?

What do you do when you feel pangs of hunger? The majority of those reading this article walk over the kitchen, open the refrigerator or cupboard and take out something delicious and nutritious to eat.  815 million – one out of nine – people do not have that luxury and are considered undernourished.  Unsurprisingly, the second Sustainable Goal is to end hunger by 2025.

Ending hunger includes achieving food security, improving nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture.  The good news is that over the past 20 years, the number of hungry people was reduced by half.  The bad news is because of conflict, drought and climate disasters the number of hungry people has increased.  In 2017, 151 million children under the age of five were under height for their age. 51 million suffered from wasting or low weight for their height. Will this continue to deteriorate due to climate change?

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

In 2017, USAID’s Office of Food for Peace helped approximately 69.4 million people in 53 countries.  The United States is often the largest provider of food aid and in 2017, gave $3.6 billion for food. This seems like a lot of money; but, let’s put it in perspective. The United States Government has budgeted $590 billion for defense this year. Americans spent $60.59 billion on their pets in 2015.  The 2016 presidential campaign cost at least $5 billion.

As a percent of GDP, however, U.S. aid spending ranks near the bottom of all developed countries. It accounts for 0.17 percent of GDP, twentieth out of twenty-eight countries measured by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom all spend more than 0.7 percent of GDP on foreign aid, which is the target set by the United Nations.

It may be hard to believe but there are hungry people in the U.S. also. In fact, 41 million Americans struggle with hunger.  Unemployment, household assets, and demographics can make it difficult to get the nutritious food people need to thrive.  Government programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) the National School Lunch Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provide help.  These programs are under siege with this administration and in danger of being reduced.

So, next time you walk to the frig and grab a bite, remember those who are hungry, offer a quick prayer, and then call your senator and representative and urge them not to decrease food aid here or abroad.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Justice for Those who Provide our Food

Blog by Sr. Barbara Catalano

The wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud.  (James 5: 4) 

These words cried out to me from the second Mass reading last Sunday. Saint James is very strong in condemning the labor injustice on the farms of his day. The workers’ wages were being withheld by cruel masters and their misery cried out to Heaven for justice.

Actually, James could use the same words today about what happens in many of the fields of the U.S. One example is North Carolina where agriculture is the leading industry. Over 150,000 farm workers with their dependents work there during harvest season. The work is very labor-intensive especially the ‘stoop labor’ under a hot sun. Yet only 6 cents or less of every dollar the consumer will spend for that food goes to the farm worker.

A number of years ago I spent a ministry summer in North Carolina. One evening I helped teach English to the workers in the farm camps. I saw how hard they had to work for a pittance and how eager they were to learn. In one camp the men were from Haiti, and when they received their meager wages, they would walk to the nearest town to wire the money to their families back home.

The average annual income of the American farmworker is $11,000, making them the second lowest paid workforce in the nation. Farmworkers living in East Coast states such as North Carolina, earn about 35% less than that. The percentage of farmworker families living in poverty is nearly double that of other working families in the US.  In fact according to a 2006 study, nearly five out of 10 farmworker households in North Carolina reported not being able to afford enough food to feed their families.

Besides the low wages, there are many occupational hazards the workers must endure as well such as: poisoning due to pesticides, muscular and skeletal damage, eye damage, heat illness, and injuries resulting from operating dangerous equipment. Taken together these frequent health issues make agriculture one of the three most dangerous occupations in the United States. To make matters worse, most growers are exempt from laws requiring Workers’ Compensation for farmworkers; safety laws are absent; and, there is no protection from employer retaliation under North Carolina and federal law for farmworkers. They may not unionize, or receive extra compensation for working overtime, or take sick leave. Add to this, the labor laws for farm workers allow children as young as 10 to work under certain conditions and with their parents’ consent.

The impact of Hurricane Florence is ongoing and will affect these farmworkers even more. If you want more information or feel God is calling you to help, contact the North Carolina Justice Center (http://www.ncjustice.org). They conduct regular visits with volunteers to the camps where migrant farmworkers live in order to advise them of their rights, and provide legal representation to those whose rights have been violated. In addition, they advocate for laws that improve the working and living conditions of migrant workers.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Again?

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

As Dominican Sisters of Peace, we committed to “promote justice through solidarity with those who are marginalized, especially women and children, and work with others to identify and transform oppressive systems.” I can’t think of a more oppressive system than the one that condones sexual assault and abuse of women and children.

I have never been sexually assaulted so I can only imagine what Professor Christine Blasey Ford must be going through.  She was attacked as a teenager during a party where drinking was going on.    What must have gone on in her head and heart after the assault?  Shame – was I responsible for it? Terror –  What if my parents find out? Will my reputation by ruined?  Fear – will he do it again?  Will he tell other boys and they will attack me? Confusion – how did I let myself get into this mess?   Hopelessness –  How can I trust a boy/man again?  Trauma affects victims in many different ways.

Sadly, we often see the victim ignored, shamed, or treated as the perpetrator. It’s a double whammy – assaulted twice – once by the attacker and then by those who are supposed to help.  Professor Ford is now in danger of a third possible attack by the Senate Justice Committee. Once again, a victim is not taken seriously… a woman is not heard.

20% of women – 1 in 5 – are victims of rape and 43.3% of heterosexual women have reported sexual violence other than rape in their lifetime (National Sexual Violence Resource Center).  These women should not be ignored.  It boils down to the fundamental principal of Catholic Social Teaching – that each and every person deserves dignity.

Why did she come forward now?  I don’t know. Perhaps she saw the possible impact on women in the future with Judge Kavanaugh as a supreme court justice. Perhaps the #MeToo movement gave her the courage to speak up. By all accounts, her actions have irrevocably impacted her life and that of her family.

I recently watched an interview of some women who are supportive of Judge Kavanaugh.  Their argument for dismissing this issue was that it happened in high school.  That they were young.  That boys will be boys.  I find this argument especially insulting for young men. They are perfectly able to understand right and wrong and assaulting a girl/women is wrong.  Today’s parents of young men must teach their sons about treating others, especially women, with respect and dignity.

As I write this, it seems clear to me that Dr. Ford is innocent.  The women above are just as sure that Judge Kavanaugh is innocent.  Without an adequate investigation, there will never be a resolution and doubt will remain. This is too important to leave it up to the testimony of just the two involved; for in addition to selecting a Supreme Court Justice, a true measure of whether women’s concerns, dignity, and voices are truly equal to men’s also lies in the balance.

 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog