Peace & Justice Blog

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


Love it or Leave it?

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

Love it or leave it is a phrase being thrown out lately. Recently, it’s been applied to four members of the U.S. House of Representatives who are women of color.  Three of them were born in the U.S. and one is a naturalized citizen. They are being criticized for criticizing actions by our government.  Should they be forced to leave or be silent about their gripes?

What does it mean to really love something like a country?  Thomas Aquinas says that to love is “to will the good of the other.” It means we want and expect the best for them.  This seems a reasonable standard for a country also.

So what is ‘good’ for our country?  Most of that is spelled out in the Declaration of Independence – equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and in the Constitution, the bill of rights and amendments – freedom of speech, of religion, of the press, the right to vote, due process, and to petition the government for a redress of grievance. When someone criticizes the government because these values are not being afforded to it citizens, then aren’t they working for the good of the country? In fact, the Declaration of Independence includes, “That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it.” This certainly includes voting for new government but it also means that we have a right to speak out when the government is unjust.

But here’s the rub… does this only apply for citizens of the party in power? To people who like the president? To white citizens? To those born in the US?

Thomas also wrote, “we must love them both, those whose opinions we share and those whose opinions we reject, for both have labored in the search for truth, and both have helped us in finding it.” People with differing opinions shouldn’t be ‘sent back’, they should be embraced as giving us another perspective that we might not be able to see.

I love my country. So when I see that we are not living up to the best we can be, it’s required that I speak out.  To criticize someone who also wants what’s best for the country is to disrespect what we are all about.  To chant ‘ Send her back’ is un-American.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

The Challenges of Being Peace

Blog by Associate Mary Beth Auletto

“After what happened last election I was mad at myself for being complacent.  Now it’s hard to watch the news – I get mad at everyone else.” 

This seems to be a common admission among many of my friends and colleagues.  And so many of them right now are choosing to steer clear of the news and politics.  Others are limiting their news to keep the negative emotions and anxiety in check.  I personally find what most pushes my buttons is when someone predicts our current leader will get re-elected for four more years; I frequently retort, “Don’t steal my hope!”

So what to do as our next election approaches: Wear t-shirts with our candidate and boldly pronounce that we want to share with anyone who will listen why they should vote for this person?  Keep politics out of conversations with family and coworkers?  Unfriend Facebook friends who post views that disappoint and anger us?

Maybe…but what if we could learn to have peaceful and respectful conversations with those with whom we disagree?  There is a technique called CLARA that was developed to do just that.  CLARA as defined by the Pace Bene Organization as an acronym meaning Center, Learn, Articulate, Receive, Accomplish; they describe it as “a process for nonviolent transformation in our lives and our world”.  CLARA is part of the Peace and Nonviolence Committee’s upcoming “Blessed are the Peacemakers” workshop October 27th.  I look forward to this opportunity and hope you too will consider attending.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Popular Misconceptions about Human Trafficking

Blog by Sr. Joel Campbell of the Trafficking Committee.

About ten years ago, Polaris conducted a “person on the street”, experiment to find out what the general public knew about human trafficking. In New York City, people were stopped and asked, “Do you believe human trafficking is going on?” and “Where is this happening?” A good number had heard of it, but when asked, ‘Where?”, their answers were: “In China or India or someplace like that.” If pushed to name a place in the U.S. they said, “Probably Las Vegas, or maybe Los Angeles.” None thought it happened in New York City.

Unfortunately, ten years later, we are not much further along in recognizing how widespread this crime is. People are still in disbelief that trafficking is happening in their home towns. When I spoke to groups about trafficking in Pittsburgh, I gave them the address of a couple arrested and convicted for trafficking two teenagers. When people heard the actual address, a ripple of shock went through the audience. Typically, people form their opinions about the whereabouts of crime from crime shows on TV, and the cities shown in these episodes. But, not in my home town.

Another common misconception picked up from TV shows, is the belief that trafficking involves only adult women, and these are all foreign nationals. It is true that foreign women have been tricked into coming to the states, and once here, they are caught in the web of the traffickers and used in sex trafficking, but there are different forms of trafficking and men as well as children are also part of the picture.

Men brought from Central and South America are used as field laborers in the breadbasket states in the U.S., and women can find themselves as unpaid housekeepers or workers for a laundry, restaurant or cleaning company.

About five years ago there was a large influx of unaccompanied minors at our southern border. The social service agencies in that area were overwhelmed by the numbers and not prepared to care for them. Children were released into the care of couples who promised to raise the youngsters. Later we found that traffickers, posing as interested couples, took children to use in sex trafficking.

One well-used source of victims today is runaway teenagers, who have been couch-surfing at friend’s homes for weeks or months, and who are picked up and offered a place to stay with an “older friend”. They are first given spending money, later drugs, and groomed to service a segment of the public that is increasingly looking at younger and younger sex partners. A trafficker typically has four girls (sometimes boys also), and the age range is 13 to 17 years old.

These teens call what they do as being, “in the life”, and they do not consider themselves victims. They strongly resist attempts to change their lifestyle. They come from homes where parents have stopped parenting years ago, and say that life with their “new friend” is better than what they had.

Traffickers have said that this new source of workers is easier than using foreign girls. There is no language problem, and while foreign girls resent being tricked, these youngsters have chosen the life for themselves. Often they live at home and attend high school, where other teens envy their clothes and technology gadgets (all given by their “friend” who can make $1,000 a night on them.) When a youngster does choose to leave this life, traffickers shrug and say they are easy to replace.

Another misconception has to do with traffickers themselves. Movies and TV have given us an image of the “pimp” as a man, often African American. But pimps are also women of all ages and races, and sometimes couples. Not uncommonly parents have trafficked their own children for drug money, and young women who have learned the trade as teens, branch out on their own. It is a lucrative business.

Human trafficking is real, present in all of our cities, and increasingly targeting younger and younger children. A good resource book to keep yourself updated is: Walking Prey by Holly Austin Smith.

Sr. Joel Campbell, OP member of the Trafficking Committee.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

A Summer Stroll

Blog by Associate Frank Martens, OPA

We recently returned from a trip. Flying into Columbus, we passed over Shepherd’s Corner. It was an amazing sight. The forest, fields and pond surrounded by houses with brown roofs that looked like they were part of a monopoly game. An oasis surrounded by subdivisions.

Later, I thought about how lucky we are to live on the edge of a park. I decided to take a stroll and see what was going on in our little patch since we had been gone. I noticed our lawn was full of clover and the worker bees were busy gathering pollen per their job description. The goldfinch were eating leftover thistle seed from our winter feeding station and showing off their bright yellow and black finery. Some were demonstrating their perfect balance by standing on the top of our blooming coneflowers picking out the small seeds as they swayed in the wind. Monarch butterflies were laying eggs on our many milkweed plants. Soon their leaves will be full of munching caterpillars and those who survive will become monarchs ready for their migration to Mexico. Swallowtail butterflies will be laying their eggs on fennel and parsley. They will emerge as caterpillars and then ultimately become butterflies.

Two pair of nesting wrens were apparently successful fledging their broods. Perhaps their young were nearby since I was greeted by a chorus of chattering wrens. The blue jay family is occupying the spruce trees and squawking loudly, concerned about something. Another birdhouse, previously occupied by evicted house sparrows, is now occupied by eastern bluebirds and mother bluebird is sitting on four eggs. The deer, raccoons, and rabbits who regularly visit us have left their calling cards. A chipmunk runs across my path. Its puffy cheeks full of seeds or berries. Dragonflies from the nearby pond are whizzing around feasting on insects.

Our prairie plants are about to burst forth. They have funny names like rattlesnake master, queen of the prairie, nodding onion, butterfly weed and iron weed. Our raspberries are beginning to ripen and we hope we can pick them before the lady who regularly passes by our patch eats them. Berries on the many native bushes like spice bush, red-twig dogwood and pagoda dogwood, are ripening for the birds who will feast on them. The serviceberry trees have been picked clean by robins, catbirds, cedar waxwings and chipmunks. When evening comes, hundreds of lightning bug visitors will be visible.

My stroll is over. Take your own stroll in a park or garden, or just sit outside and renew your relationship with nature. “Sit and be still until in the time of no rain you hear beneath the dry wind’s commotion in the trees the sound of flowing water among the rocks, a stream unheard before, and you are where breathing is prayer.” Wendell Berry.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

What’s the Green New Deal?

Blog by Justice Promoter, Sr. Barbara Kane, OP

The pros and cons of the Green New Deal have frequently appeared in the press lately. But what is it?  As I did my research, it became clear to me that it’s a vision… a vision of what the United States should be. What country wouldn’t want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that threaten to increase climate disasters beyond return?  Or ensure that everyone has a job that can support his/her family? Or how about promoting justice and equity? It’s all about the Three E’s – Environment, Economy and Equality.

But “the devil is in the details” and it’s clear that what is proposed will need serious consideration and collaboration. This is a BIG, BIG, BIG effort. Most Americans like the principles of the Green New Deal.  In fact, a recent Yale survey found that 81% of registered voters across the political spectrum supported the broad goals presented in the proposal when presented free of political context.

Here are the main elements of the Green New Deal that would be implemented over a ten-year period: (Politifact)

On emissions:

  • eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as much as technologically feasible
  • build or upgrade to energy-efficient, distributed, and ‘smart’ power grids, and ensure affordable access to electricity
  • work collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible

On water:

  • guarantee universal access to clean water

On infrastructure:

  • build resiliency against climate change-related disasters, such as extreme weather
  • upgrade all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximum energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability, including through electrification
  • provide clean, affordable, and accessible public transit, and high-speed rail

On scientific research:

  • make public investments in the research and development of new clean and renewable energy technologies and industries

On the oppressed:

  • promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth

On education:

  • provide resources, training, and high-quality education, including higher education, to all people of the United States

On labor unions:

  • strengthen and protect the right of all workers to organize, unionize, and collectively bargain free of coercion, intimidation, and harassment

On social services:

  • guarantee a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States
  • provide all people of the United States with high-quality health care, affordable, safe, and adequate housing, and economic security

Ultimately, the goal would be to get the entire world to a net zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050 but it’s time the U.S. took a leadership role.

Back in 1932, candidate Franklin Roosevelt promised a new deal that would eventually pull the country out of the Great Depression.  Isn’t this the time to take bold steps to pull the United States and the world back from the brink of climate disaster.



Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog