Peace & Justice Blog

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


 

Where Are the Institutional Voices?

Blog by Justice Promoter Sister Judy Morris, OP

As a high school freshman attending a lily-white public high school in Danville, Kentucky, I learned soon that what I learned in the classroom was a small part of education for life.  Soon after beginning my freshman year, an associate pastor from my parish church issued a challenge to members of “Young Christian Students,” an association specifically geared toward Catholic students attending public schools.  He challenged us to meet with managers of local restaurants and ask why they did not serve Black customers.  With some nervousness, I accepted the challenge and met with three restaurant managers.  The answer was not a surprise:  “We do not want to lose our white customers.”  This was the beginning of a long journey for me to face the sin of racism.  I remain grateful to that priest for challenging me to face the reality of racism in this small town.  The challenge of personal responsibility remains in my actions.

Years later I was a graduate student in the School of Social Work at Barry College (now Barry University) and took a course in Institutional Racism.  The professor, Gil Raiford, an African American, challenged students to examine racism through the lens of our institutions, specifically educational, economic, religious, and political.  People of color rarely have a voice in the decision-making process within those institutions. How can change happen to remove racism from our institutions without the active participation of African Americans on all levels of decision making?  The questions and challenges remain.

We find few African Americans serving as Presidents or department heads in predominately white colleges.  It is only in recent years that courses in African American studies are offered.  College boards of trustees, high school boards and school boards in general too often have an inadequate representation of African Americans in any given location.

In our political arena, suppression of the “Black vote” is obvious and ongoing.  Georgia, Wisconsin, and Arizona, and in many other areas continue to reduce the number of voting sites, require a photo ID and engage in gerrymandering to discourage voting.  The challenges to the outcome of the most recent presidential election centered largely on Atlanta, Detroit, and Philadelphia, all with large African American populations.  Another troubling reality is that Congress has failed to extend the John Lewis bill on voting rights.

Without African American voices in education and politics, we often find inequitable funding for schools in poor neighborhoods.  According to the Center for American Progress, predominately Black schools receive $23 billion less in funding each year.  Schools in Black, indigenous, and Hispanic areas often have outdated materials, are under-resourced, and in many cases, are in buildings that are hazardous to their health.  Resources need to be updated or replaced.  Money matters in education!

Have our religious institutions played a role as moral leaders in addressing racism?  When was the last time you heard a homily on racism?  Or on any justice issue period?  Where were the religious voices of leaders after Charlottesville, after the murder of Black parishioners in Charleston?

Where are the black voices in your parish or your diocese – or are they, like my high school in Kentucky, lily-white and unaware of the issues facing our sisters and brothers of color?

From the parish and school board to colleges and Congress, our institutions are failing in our struggle to remove racism from our current reality.  It is always the right time to ask the hard questions of institutional leaders and demand that all voices be heard.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Racism: A Conversation and Commitment that must Continue

Blog by Rosie Blackburn, OPA and Marybeth Irvine, OPA
Blog by Marybeth Irvine, OPA and Rosie Blackburn, OPA

Recently, I was listening to an interview on the radio. One guest commented he was tired of everything being about race.

I immediately thought – that is simply a white privilege statement.  I ask myself where a statement of that nature might originate, especially, in light of the very visible and troubling events of this past year.

A few ideas come to mind: fear of losing the power and many privileges that are bestowed to white folks; lack of awareness of or indifference to the enormous prejudices and challenges to which people of color have been subjected since our country’s formation; wanting peace at all costs; being swept up by extremist ideologies; “racism fatigue”… the list could go on.

Everyone in this country, as well as around the world, is aware of the vicious attack on our Capitol on January 6, 2021. It was a glaring example of the deep-seated racial bias in our country. Yes, as reported all over our country, had those rioters and intruders been black or brown-skinned, we would have witnessed a massacre on our Capitol steps.  In the year 2021.  A massacre.  In the land of the free.

The young man in the interview said he just wanted us all to be Americans and not focus on white or black or brown.  It’s really not that simple.  How do we live with our persecuted brothers and sisters as equal Americans, as members of one family of God?    Racial injustice is a systemic problem, but addressing its roots begins with each individual.  Positive changes are possible when we place our energies into reading and listening and engaging in honest conversations, into educating ourselves, into challenging ourselves. It will take much “unlearning,” much soul-searching, a deep openness and commitment, and a willingness to stay in the uncomfortableness that will arise from our explorations and work.

This is our work to do.  It is hard work, but it is necessary work for the survival of us all, our country, our world.  To shift our responsibilities to our brothers and sisters of color is to step right back into our houses of white privilege.

There are so many important questions to take on this journey of enlightenment:

Will we stay focused?

Will we look at our own bias, privilege, and judgements through the lens of truth?

What might I be able to see, now that I know?

Will we show up, go deeper, and choose peace and equality for all life?

Honestly, I also tire of the focus on racism. I want to put on my rose-colored glasses and hope for a miracle.

I am tired of being uncomfortable.  I want to sing Kumbaya, numb my senses, and pretend.

And then I hear that Divine voice that says, ‘Take care of what is yours to do, take care of your small part of Mother Earth, keep listening, keep studying, keep your eyes open, keep looking into your heart and soul, keep having hard conversations, keep working for peace and justice.’

We are called to live love, to be peace, for every human being.  Our commitment must continue.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Is Domestic Terrorism the New Normal?

Blog by Justice Promoter Sister Judy Morris, OP

Is there such a thing as the calm after the storm?  After having witnessed thousands of domestic terrorists storm the United States capital, with the lives of former vice president Pence and Speaker Pelosi being threatened and five people dead, I had hoped that calm would prevail after the dust settled.  No such luck.

Homeland Security has just issued a domestic terrorism warning: “Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence,” the bulletin said.

In plain English, American political extremists, excited by lies spread by the former administration and fed by current members of Congress, have become an active threat to our nation.

This is not a poorly written play; this is our new reality, with no final act in sight.  I was shocked to see a large crowd in Wyoming (unmasked, of course), listening to Rep. Matt Gaetz call for removing Rep. Liz Cheney from office for her vote to impeach Donald Trump.  I am always impressed by someone who follows her/his conscience in making a decision. It appears Rep. Gaetz is not.  This vote may cost her life, as threats abound.

Some members of the House of Representatives are now wearing bullet-proof vests.  Rep Greene of Georgia carries a gun, and is best known for her violent rhetoric.  A few years ago she called for the execution of Nancy Pelosi and then-President Barack Obama; another Congressperson has asked to have her office moved away from Greene’s after an ugly confrontation over mask-wearing.

The national guard remains in place near the capital and a seven-foot fence continues to serve as a reminder of the ongoing fear of more violence.  Where does that lead us?  How do we “be peace, build peace and preach peace” in this never-ending arena of vitriol and violence?

The answer is not to remain silent.  Many people tiptoe around all things political.  Isn’t there such a thing as respectful dialogue?  No one wants to lose a friend or have strained family relationships.  However, our voices need to be heard.  Minority leader in the House Kevin McCarthy needs to hear from us about the violent rhetoric coming from Rep. Greene.  She serves on the education committee even, though she called the massacre of 20 children and six teachers at Sandy Hook a “hoax,” and the massacre of 17 students at the Stoneman-Douglas High School in Florida “overblown.”  She also stalked one of the students who was meeting with his representatives in Washington.  Your senators also need to hear from you before the vote of conviction of Donald Trump.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was asked what he thought needed to be done to end racism, and he responded that the greatest obstacle was the silence of good people.  Silence allows violence, injustice and racism to continue.  Silence is not acceptable.  No one is too busy to lend a voice.  Catherine of Siena would say Amen to that.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Don’t Give away your Shot!

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP

I hate shots.  No, I mean I really hate shots….so much so that I can barely watch someone getting a shot on television.  So I was pretty surprised when, after getting the first dose of the Moderna vaccine that I felt so darn good.  It was a feeling of relief and of hope. Maybe there was a light at the end of the Covid tunnel.

I think everyone who can, should get the vaccine too.  Why? During the past year, I’ve worked at St. Raphael Hospital in New Haven as a chaplain intern.  I’ve been present at the bedside of a dying patient because his son could not come into the hospital. I’ve prayed with a daughter and her father who had Covid using a telephone and video conferencing.  I’ve comforted nurses on a Covid unit as the second wave ramped up in our hospital. They were already exhausted, nervous and afraid.  I’ve tried to connect over telemedicine with a Covid patient who had recently lost her father to Covid. (It wasn’t very successful or satisfying for either of us.)  I’ve felt the fear of being with a patient who later was diagnosed with Covid and watched the disruption of our convent when someone had unknowingly spent time with a Covid-infected person.

I want Covid to go away. Don’t you? That’s why I pray and ask that you pray that everyone who can, will get the vaccine. Science says that it can help us overcome this pandemic and allow us to get back our lives.  I’m not a huggy-type person, but I miss hugs. I want to be able to hold the hand of a patient who is lonely and afraid and I want to sing again at Mass. What do you miss?

If you are confused or still have some doubts about the vaccine, check out this YouTube video. It’s a good explanation.  Please encourage your friends and family to get the shot.  In the meantime, please keep wearing your mask, stay six feet apart, wash your hands and stay safe.

 

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Learning Can Change Lives

Blog by Justice Promoter Sister Judy Morris, OP

January is my least favorite month of the year. There are so many gray days and more darkness than daylight.  However, January is a month to turn on the lights and expose the evil of human trafficking with the designation as “Human Trafficking Awareness Month” and “National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.”  This is an important time for all of us to educate ourselves about human trafficking and what we can do as individuals to end this world-wide epidemic.

We know the statistics are staggering, and never precise.  Polaris estimates that the total number of victims in the United States reaches into the hundreds of thousands; less than 4% of law enforcement agencies across the United States have dedicated human trafficking personnel, and 20 % of law enforcement officers have no form of human trafficking-specific training.  Looking at statistics alone is a discouraging exercise.  What is encouraging are the stories of those who escaped the slavery of human trafficking.

Human trafficking victim Flor Turcio (center) stands with the two Catholic Charities employees she calls family – employment specialist Karen Kanashiro and case manager Rosa Alamo. (GLENDA MEEKINS)

One sad, but encouraging story of survival is that of Flor Turcio, a woman in north Florida who works with survivors of human trafficking.  Flor lived in poverty and a verbally and physically abusive home in a small Central American mountain town.  She fled her home, lived with friends and later worked in a home that provided shelter.  At 17 she met a man who spoke to her of love and groomed her with gifts.  She was trapped by his words of love because she never experienced true affection and caring before.  Soon, Flor was his “sex worker” and was taken to bars and introduced to alcohol.  For years she worked as his slave and became pregnant four times.  Her children were taken away from her and went to the United States.

Flor’s life began to turn around when a man befriended her, contacted the police, and had her trafficker arrested.  She came to the United States, and with the help of the FBI, was reunited with her children.  Despite two attempts on her life, Flor has a new life with the support of Catholic Charities of North Florida.  She was provided with counseling, English classes, completion of her GED, and a job.  Now, this “wounded healer” is helping other survivors of human trafficking get their lives back.

Sr. Nadine Buchanan distributes cards with organizations where trafficked women can seek he;p.

Change can happen when concerned individuals and organizations make it happen.  What can we do to be part of the solution?  We can support legislation that addresses human trafficking with concrete actions to prevent or reduce the opportunities for trafficking.  Many become involved with local organizations that distribute information on trafficking to hotels before a major athletic event.  Others are active in human trafficking prayer vigils, or host panels and speakers on human trafficking. For some, it may be as simple as keeping your eyes open on the street and offering assistance when we see a need. The practical opportunities are many and the need is great.

 

We can brighten the many gray days for victims and survivors with actions that make a difference.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog