Peace & Justice Blog

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


 

No Justice, No Peace

“Without justice there can be no peace.”

Pope Paul VI

Blog by Sister Judy Morris, OP

Pentecost comes this year at a time when we are in great need of Spirit-wisdom and Spirit-courage.  Jesus appears to his apostles who are locked away, living in fear that they too may lose their lives to the powers of their day.  His words, “Peace I leave with you.” are the words we need desperately to hear today.

We hear those words today with the backdrop of a violent pandemic that has killed over 103,000 people in the United States, and the understanding that this ruthless killer will kill many more.

With the brutal murders of George Floyd, Brenna Taylor, and Ahmad Arbery we face a 400-year-old virus of hatred and systemic racism that continues to kill and infect every institution.  The seeds of racism are buried deep, watered by ignorance, power and indifference.  The challenge of what one person can do in the midst of racism and the violence erupting in our cities seems overwhelming.  We need the peace that Jesus offers as we watch our cities burn, buildings destroyed, businesses trying to recover from the pandemic, looted.  We grasp for the peace promised by Jesus.

Helping us on Pentecost are the words from Acts of those filled with the Holy Spirit speaking in many languages yet being understood.

Can we truly hear the experiences of our African American brothers and sisters …of being followed in a department store in the event they may shoplift, being stopped by the police because they are driving in the “wrong neighborhood” or losing a son to gun violence? Can we understand the anger that expresses the frustration of not being respected?  Can we hear the pain of African Americans who have lost loved ones at a disproportionate rate to COVID-19 because of limited access to quality health care?  Can we hear the language of African Americans whose voting rights are systematically being weakened?

The Spirit has given us the wisdom to hear with our ears, our hearts and our conscience.  Our job is to listen, to act with the confidence that one person, one community can make a difference.

It is time for history to stop repeating itself.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

What’s Best for Immigrants Helps All Americans

“Migrants are persons…  They are the symbol of all those rejected by today’s globalized society.  The weakest and most vulnerable must be helped.  This is a tremendous responsibility, from which no one is exempt if we wish to fulfill the mission of salvation and liberation, in which God has called us to cooperate.”     

Pope Francis

Blog by Sister Judy Morris, OP

If you asked the person on the street, “Who are the ‘dreamers?’” more than likely the response would be a stare, or “I have no idea.”  Dreamers, or DACA immigrants (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), have faded into the woodwork in the midst of COVID-19.  Dreamers work in our businesses, study in our schools, serve in our military and pray in our churches.

In 2012, when President Obama issued an executive order creating DACA, there was hope in the air that Dreamers would become citizens.  These immigrants who were brought to the United States as children are innocent victims in a broken immigration system.  As one commentator stated, “This is like arresting a two-year-old because its mother stole diapers at Wal Mart.”

Immigration dysfunction and misunderstanding continue in large part because of myths.

  • Myth 1:

Immigrants bring crime into the country.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce refutes that myth, stating that the crime rate has plummeted 45% from 1990-2010 and that property crime has dropped 42%.

  • Myth 2: Immigrants do not pay taxes.

According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, immigrants collectively contribute an estimated $11.74 billion to state and local coffers, each year with a combination of sales, excise, personal income and property taxes.  This begs the question:  Does truth matter in our political arena?

  • Myth 3: Immigrants are given large amounts of federal help, taking money away from “real” Americans.

Undocumented immigrants … including the young “Dreamers,” are not eligible for federal benefits. But because many undocumented immigrants use a “borrowed” social security number to work, they are paying into a system from which they will never benefit. According to the financial website The Motley Fool, the Social Security program generated a net cash surplus of nearly $3.2 billion, much of that from the payments made by migrants and refugees.

If we listen to the voices of Dreamers, we will consistently hear a desire to serve their country and their families.  Denise Rojas, a medical student and DACA recipient from California, is one of those wanting to make a difference in the medical field.

As co-founder of the national organization “Pre-Health Dreamers,” which serves roughly 800 undocumented youth who have aspirations of becoming health professionals, Denise says: “Without DACA, or a long-term immigration remedy, I would not be able to practice as a doctor.  DACA has allowed for the significant economic and social incorporation of undocumented persons to American society and has served to benefit communities nationwide.  Without fair and just solutions to our immigration system, my future as a physician, and the aspirations and livelihood of millions of undocumented immigrants are in jeopardy.”

The supreme irony of immigrants wanting to serve the country as health care professionals is the fact that the United States continues to face a severe shortage of physicians.  According to the Association of Medical Colleges, by 2032 the country will face a shortage of 122,000 physicians.

At a time when we cannot physically embrace each other, we need to turn our attention to embracing “justice for all,” the common good, and the ideals symbolized by the statue that welcomes all.

 

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Ghostly Concern

Blog by Sister Judy Morris, OP

Common Sense Alert!

Senator Richard Blumenthal led 15 senators in introducing the “Untraceable Firearms Act.”  Why is that important?  The COVID–19 pandemic is sparking a demand for guns – in March, the FBI processed over 3.7 million firearm background checks — the highest number in over 20 years. I would call this a second pandemic.

What is of greatest concern to those of us concerned with sensible gun ownership is the manufacture and possession of “ghost guns.”  These guns are made by an individual with online instruction, without serial numbers that make tracing possible. Currently, anyone who purchases a firearm at a gun store must go through a background check, but that represents only about 60% of gun sales. Nearly 40% of gun purchases are not checked because of a loophole for private, show or online purchases. These ghost gun kits are not required to be background checked either, making it easy for a person with a felony conviction or a history of domestic violence to skirt the law and obtain a dangerous weapon.

According to the May 14, 2020 issue of “The Hill,” Senator Blumenthal’s bill would address both the ghost gun components and the firearm.  The legislation would require online kit manufacturers and distributors to have a license, put a serial number on the kit’s frame, and conduct a background check.

Spoiler alert:  The Republican-led Senate will oppose the bill.

On November 19, 2019, a 16-year-old used a ghost gun at Sargus High School in California, killing two students and injuring five others.  When students were interviewed, they said they were not surprised, saying this has become “the new normal.”  As with mass shootings in schools around the country, students are under lockdown, texting families with messages expressing love and hopes for survival.

Students continue to be victimized by our gun culture. These vulnerable students cannot vote, and the “responsible” adults who should be looking out for them continue to pass on demanding responsible gun legislation.

We now find assault weapons proudly displayed in rallies to end the stay at home orders during the pandemic, and government business interrupted by unpunished death threats on public officials.

What can concerned citizens do?  Contact your senators and representatives and urge passage of the “ghost gun” bill.  Investigate “ghost gun” laws in your state, and push for legislation if there is none.  Contact ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) and ask for immediate steps to regulate and monitor the surging sale of “ghost guns.”

Just write or call:  ATF, 99 New York Ave. N.E., Washington, D.C, 20226, (202) 648-8430.

We need passionate, “pro-life” voices. You can be one.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Racism and a Pandemic

Blog by Sister Judy Morris, OP

Straddling the borders of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, the Navajo Nation (the size of West Virginia), is finally making the headlines in the overwhelming hardships of the COVID – 19 pandemic. While only representing 5 percent of the population of New Mexico, Navajo Nation has suffered with 20 percent of the COVID – 19 cases.  According to the New York Times, Navajo Nation, with a population of 175,000, has more cases of COVID – 19 than eight states.

Many physical realities work against Native Americans during a pandemic.  While most of the country is busy washing their hands, 30 percent of Navajo Nation has no running water.  Many families live in crowded conditions and remain in close physical contact with other families.  Inadequate infrastructure has hampered the ability of Native Americans to get to medical appointments; as a result they travel as long as an hour on dirt or gravel roads in New Mexico, and those roads are frequently impassible after heavy rain or snow.  Only 1/5 of the roads are paved, and poor road conditions can mean life or death for patients needing regular medical attention, like kidney dialysis.  Often, many miss their appointments.

Family of 2 Navajo Women Outside Their Traditional Hogan Hut

The overarching problem for Native Americans in a health care setting is discrimination.  The Cochran Colloquium – Toronto, in its study, “Discrimination in the United States:  Experience of Native Americans,” noted that “more than one in five Native Americans (23 percent), reported experiencing discrimination in clinical encounters, while 15 percent avoided seeking health care for themselves or family members due to anticipated discrimination.”  Even in a pandemic, it is no surprise that many Native Americans would hesitate to seek medical treatment and face more discrimination.

With the passage of the CARES ACT by Congress, Native Americans are scheduled to receive eight billion dollars for protective equipment, testing, and related services.  They faced three problems: delay, delay, delay.  The process is slow and complicated.

Like every citizen in the United States, Native Americans will continue to face an unrelenting and deadly pandemic, made more difficult by the effects of crippling poverty, an inadequate and distant health care system, poor education, and inadequate infrastructure

The deadliest disease that Native Americans face is racism.  From the racism of the early settlers, to the “Trail of Tears,” to the present reality, racism is stealing lives among our first citizens.  Having awareness of racism does not make it go away.  Do we have the will to eliminate the disease of racism?  There is no vaccine.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

“The Ten Suggestions”

Blog by Sister Judy Morris, OP

Break out the “Be Peace” t-shirts!

Are you shocked and saddened by the violent rhetoric and actions filling the streets of our country during the greatest crisis we have faced in decades, or am I alone?  Recently, a mob of over 1,000 appeared with assault weapons, confederate flags and other pro-slavery relics in the state capitol of Kentucky.  Racism was on display, as was a display of power that could kill everyone present.  They wanted to end all of the safety measures now and go back to work immediately.  The symbols went much deeper than a desire to go back to work… legitimate authority was not to be respected.  One way this was shown was by an outright refusal to wear masks.

In Michigan, Illinois, Texas, California, and other states, irresponsibility abounds with mobs appearing with assault weapons, nooses, and more confederate flags. Governors’ lives have been threatened.  Just as disturbing, the racist symbols are obvious.  The anti-life messages also cannot be missed.  By refusing to wear masks, ignoring orders to avoid crowds, or even consider the health risks to vulnerable citizens, these people are willing to destroy lives to send a message.  Some politicians have not even been embarrassed to say (with no subtlety) if you are over 70 years old, you should be willing to sacrifice your life so our economy can recover.  The common good is nowhere to be found.

What has happened to “love your neighbor as yourself,” “my brother’s/sister’s keeper” or that commandment that reads, “Thou shalt not kill?”  I have come to believe we watered down the Ten Commandments to the ten suggestions.

The signs of a new era of violence are everywhere—from nooses and assault weapons to selecting who should live and who should die, to health care for the fortunate rather than for all, to language demeaning immigrants and putting children in cages, and now, anti-Asian acts of violence.  We have lost the “rally around our neighbor” attitude that was so powerful after 9/11.

Whether we are concerned about the appearance of assault weapons, rise in racist behavior or overall disrespect for life, our commitment to “be peace, build peace and preach peace” is needed now more than ever.  The best modeling is not responding in kind, but instead, as Michelle Obama put it so eloquently, “When they go low, we go high” – to respond to violence with calm and to hate with peace and prayer.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog