Peace & Justice Blog

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


Peace & Justice Blog

Blog by Associate Mary Beth Auletto

This morning I reluctantly watched the video on child labor in the Democratic Republic of Congo on last week’s OP Peace News. Tears came to my eyes as a watched the interview of an 11-year-old boy who just wants to go to school, but he has to make money for his family.  He works in cobalt mines; this part of the child trafficking that is rampant in the county.

As Sr.Barb pointed out, the DRC’s situation is dire.

And yet…

There is some light, both there and in our country. (watch the video to see the Sisters who with their school are making a difference! )

Today I write about the light of Freedom House Detroit.  Freedom House states their mission as follows:

“… a temporary home for indigent survivors of persecution from around the world who are seeking asylum in the United States and Canada. Our mission is to uphold a fundamental American principle, one inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty, providing safety for those “yearning to breathe free.” In 2012 we became a formal partner in the Northern Tier Anti-Trafficking Consortium servicing victims of human trafficking. “ (retrieved 12/9/18)

Freedom House offers comprehensive free services to survivors, including legal counsel and English learning.  They have an extremely high success rate in helping their residents gain asylum in the United States.  Columbus has a nonprofit organization called Community Refugee and Immigrant Services that provides similar services.

At the Mid-West Fall Mission Group, four residents and the executive director of Freedom House came to present to us.  We were witness to the story of a young Congolese Woman refugee who was sexually assaulted before fleeing from the DRC.  Her pain, fear, and trauma were apparent as she haltingly shared with us her story.  Deb the executive director and other Freedom House Community Members lovingly placed a hand on her shoulder; many of us who listened breathed out compassion and support in the patient silence and rapt attention accentuated with subdued sniffles indictive of tears.  Today, I pray for this young woman and all women and children of the DRC.  I am glad that in addition to praying, our community is supporting places like Freedom House financially.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Why does the Democratic Republic of Congo Need our Prayers?

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

Several weeks ago, I had an opportunity to sit down with a young man from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).   As you know, this second Annual Dominican Month of Peace is focusing on the DRC which is struggling with war, violence, displacement, and, recently, Ebola.  Theo is a husband and father to two baby girls. I first met him when he came to the Dominican Learning Center to see about getting ESL classes for a group of men and women from the DRC who were worshipping at a local Catholic church.  The primary language in the DRC is French and they wanted to learn English.

Theo explained to me that the nation has experienced political insecurity for many decades.  The current president, Joseph Kabila, agreed to step down as president at the end of 2016 but then reneged.  This has resulted in much violence as protestors demand the elections.  Last December, the Roman Catholic bishops, supported by a coalition of civil groups, called for peaceful demonstrations after Sunday Mass. The government refused permits for the demonstrations yet more than 160 churches in many parts of the country participated in the call. Police responded with teargas, rubber bullets, and, in some cases, live ammunition.  Parishioners of St. Dominic’s Parish in Kinshasa (capital city), run by the Dominican friars, were fired upon in the church grounds and even inside the church. One friar was shot in the face with a rubber bullet.  Elections are now planned for the end of this month.

The DNC is a country of great natural wealth that is the cause of much of the current conflict.  In the eastern portion, the resources are being fought over by both internal and external forces. Corporations are encouraging this discontent because they are able to get the minerals more cheaply. This is also resulting in environmental disasters such as poaching, water pollution, deforestation, and mining. The Government had to shut down the Virunga National Park, Africa’s oldest national park, when two British tourists were kidnapped and six park rangers were killed in April.

Now, in the northern part of the country, there is an outbreak of Ebola. More than 419 cases have been reported and 240 have died.  Treatment is complicated by violence against the aid workers who are trying to bury those infected.  Burial customs are in conflict with the need to isolate those who have died because they are still contagious.  Recently, the World Health Organization announced some success with some experimental treatments it is using to stem this deadly disease.

The DRC has the largest displaced population in Africa with more than 4.49 million internally displaced persons, including 2.7 million children.  Chronic instability and conflict are the primary causes of this displacement but poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation which lead to natural hazards such as floods also contribute to the displacement. Local ethnic divisions are used and abused by armed groups and the military, coupled with corruption and the illegal exploitation of mineral resources, mean the violence continues.  There is also competition for other natural resources, such as fishing grounds and arable land causing local insurgencies and conflict.  Theo told me of one village where the villagers were forced to flee to the forest to survive.

So you can see how much violence has touched the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Let us keep them in our prayers and hope that with a fair and peaceful election and sufficient care, some peace may again come to this land.



Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

More on Food Waste

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

My comment in last week’s blog about throwing out food touched a nerve for several people so I thought I’d dig into it a little more.  Globally, food waste or unused edible food weighs in at 1.3 billion metric tons or 1/3 of all food produced. Recovering just 25% of that would feed 870 million hungry people. 

In the U.S., we throw away an average 430 pounds per person which can cost a family of four around $1,500 per year. 30 – 40% of all food grown is not eaten. That’s a lot of food. And it costs $218 billion annually to grow, manufacture, process, distribute and dispose of that food.  That’s a lot of money.  

The Environmental Protection Agency reported that food waste is 21.6% of garbage shipped to municipal landfills and incinerators.  This is problematic because the produce in landfills produces methane gas which contributes to climate change. 

The United Nations recognizes this problem and Number 12.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns) proposes to halve the per capita food waste at the retail and consumer level by 2030. In fact, France is the first country to pass legislation prohibiting supermarkets from throwing away unused food. It must be donated or the market faces stiff fines.  Denmark has opened ‘ugly’ produce grocery stores.  (Ugly produce is produce that is below the standard for size, shape, color, or appearance but still perfectly good to eat/use.)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has also proposed to reduce food loss and waste by half by 2030. Kroger will be introducing a new line of Ugly Food called Pickuliar Picks beginning next year.  This is part of Kroger’s Zero Hunger/Zero Waste program launched in 2017. Remember, nearly one in seven Americans suffer from “food insecurity” or limited or uncertain access to adequate food.

Another reason to support the Senate version of the Farm Bill is that several measures to address food waste are included.  These include Food Donation Standards for Liability Protections, Spoilage Prevention, Milk Prevention Program, and others.

Also on the Federal Level, in July 2017 bills were introduce into both the House and the Senate to provide funding and establish requirements to reduce food waste by encouraging food donations and liability protection and standardize date labeling on food.  Unfortunately, neither bill has moved past committee. In our litigious society, grocery stores and restaurants are hesitant to donate food should someone eating it get sick.   

One big reason that individuals throw away food is because of the confusion about the “use by” and “sell by” dates on the label. “Best if used by” means the food is tastiest close to the date on the label but it’s still safe to eat once that date is passed. “Use by” is more concerned with safety, not quality, meaning the food becomes less safe to eat after the date. 

What can we do to reduce food waste? Consider these tips from Toby Amidor, a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. 

  • Make a shopping list to avoid buying duplicates of items you have and prevent impulse buys.
  • Understand the food labels (see above.)
  • Buy the exact amount you need. Buying more because it’s a bargain might result in waste.
  • Practice FIFO. First In, First Out means using up food you have in the fridge before using newer food.
  • Eat leftovers. Or cook only what you will eat in that meal.
  • Use leftover scraps.
  • Preserve. Pickle, freeze, can and/or dehydrate fruit or vegetables that were abundant in the summer or fall.

We can all take action to reduce food waste and encourage your legislators to support the Senate Farm Bill and those House and Senate Bills that address this issues. (HR 3444: Food Recovery Act of 2017, HR 954: FoodDonation Act of 2017, S 1680: Food Recovery Act of 2017)

You can also check out for more information on food saving actions.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Thanksgiving… or not

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

As I entered the church, I noticed a huge white altar with these yellow bottles around the top. Looking more closely, I realized they were bottles and bottles of yellow vegetable oil.  My first though was what an interesting way to decorate an altar. Then… “Wow. Using money that would be used for flowers to buy food for people in need. That’s really justice!” Later I learned that the parishioners were decorating the altar by bringing different food items each week.  By Christmas, the altar would be filled with food and boxes prepared for the families who use the soup kitchen that the parish also runs.  It was a beautiful witness to the mission and charism of the Vincentians and a sad commentary that in the U.S. there are people without enough to eat.

We have a love/hate relationship with food in our country.  We eat too much and yet are malnourished.  We are so busy that we have to depend on processed food or fast food restaurants rather that eat fresh meals made from scratch. While we produce enough food to feed the world, there are millions of children who go to bed hungry every night.   We throw out about 1/3 of the food produced for human consumption or about 38 million tons each year.

Does the United States have a responsibility to make sure people in the U.S. and the world, aren’t hungry?  I don’t know …. but as the richest nation, one blessed with prosperity, we certainly could.  When our government threatens to defund programs like WIC, SNAP, Food for Peace, USAID that feed people, and we don’t try to stop this, are we forgetting the bounty that we are blessed with or do we see only scarcity and want to protect our portion?

I love thanksgiving. It’s my all-time favorite meal…filled with memories of my parents and family gatherings. But there are others who because of poverty, famine, or war will have nothing to eat.  Let us take a minute to recognize our blessings and resolve to work to eliminate hunger in our world. 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

What you Wear may Contribute to the World’s Warming

Blog by Sr. Roberta Miller, OP

Don’t like wrinkled clothes? Don’t like to iron? Then buy materials with polyester? Perhaps we want to think again about what is convenient, practical, or time saving.  All choices have consequences, right?

Sisters and Associates in the Congregation participate in a campaign against the wide use of plastics—straws, containers, bags. Clothing/materials have escaped our attention, yet 60% of our clothing made out of plastic.  Polyester comes from oil—a polymer which is a long chain of repeating molecular units; the synthetic polyester of clothing results from a chemical reaction involving coal, petroleum, air, and water (one type: purified terephthalic acid or PTS). (For the non-chemical engineer the names are tongue-twisters.) Polyester has become ubiquitous in clothing because the threads in the spinning process can be spun short or long which enables blending the threads with the natural fabric threads of cotton, wool or silk. And so we can have our warm fleece or non-wrinkle pants or fast-drying shirts. Did you know that China is a leader in producing all plastic clothing?

A major problem exists, however: producing polyester requires great amounts of fuel—oil and coal—which releases significant CO2 into our atmosphere—adding to the CO2 and methane trapping the sun’s heat on our earth and into our oceans. We in the US and peoples around the world in the Americas, Africa, Europe and Asia experience its consequences of extremes in heat, fires, droughts, and home losses. Do we include all the animals, fish, and birds lost in these events?

Another related consequence is adding to the amount of plastic in our earth’s water. In laundering fleece and other materials-often of 50-50 polyester fabric composition-microfibers are released by heat into the waste water, ending up in our oceans, lakes, rivers for ingestion by aquatic creatures and us.

All of us can and must speak up and resist continued dependence upon fossil fuels.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog