Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

Join Dominican Sisters of Peace as we strive to bring PEACE and justice to our world in this post-truth era. Each week, our Justice Promoter will share important information (including action alerts, prayer opportunities and much more) that will help you to spread peace in your own local community and our world at large.


 

Justice Updates – December 3, 2019

One of the strongest reasons for abolishing the death penalty is that innocent people can be wrongly convicted. NPR shares Archie Williams’ story.

Sister Esther Calderon forwarded this letter from Rev. Delle McCormick at Casa Alitas where she and Sr. Rachel Sena minister.  The situation there is as bleak as El Paso. 

November 2019 Update for Catholic Community Services’

Casa Alitas Welcome Center

Dear Friends,

It was a cold day for Southern Arizona as three Casa Alitas Welcome Center volunteers made our way down to a sister shelter on the Mexico side.  We arrived to meet Sisters Judy and Lucy on the US side and stopped for a moment to receive their generous hospitality of hot coffee and homemade pastry. We then loaded their SUV and headed south to cross the border into Mexico. I am always astonished when I cross the border to see US security installations fit for a war zone, which, it increasingly seems, we are at war with our neighbors to the south.

The three of us had brought boxes of donations and an eagerness to see beyond the borders created by the real and virtual realities of border politics. I have served as a volunteer with Casa Alitas shelters for families seeking asylum in the US for the past year, and have witnessed many families’ tragic circumstances that caused them to risk everything and flee their countries for ours. Lately we had begun to hear that while one family out of a large group made it through to our shelter where we facilitate their journeys to their sponsors, the rest of their group, including  small children and pregnant woman, were turned back across the border as part of the draconian US policy of Remain in Mexico, or Migrant Protection Protocol. The “Migrant Protection Protocol” is a misnomer. Ironic at best, the new policy entails the obscene practice of feeding these vulnerable and at-risk people to the wolves.  We wanted to see first-hand what was happening in Mexico shelters as this new policy was implemented, and to collaborate with them through sharing of resources and volunteers.

After passing through the maze of border aisles and barricades we began to see signs of the pressure cooker forces of thousands of migrants waiting to enter or turned back from the US. A bus parked next to the border wall surely helped some cross and was then hastily moved. Long lines of cars and pedestrians waited to enter the US. Just blocks from the highly militarized border, we stopped at a shelter with a long history of providing accompaniment with “migrants in exodus.” The shelter manager and Mexico volunteers faced constant harassment and threats by members of the local cartel, yet continue to advocate for and accompany migrants. The manager of the shelter receives daily threats to his and his family’s well-being, yet will not be deterred. He greeted us enthusiastically, despite the pressures he and his team must be under.

The manager keeps a running list of over seventeen hundred people who are awaiting their turn to enter the US to seek asylum. Some, unable to survive the violence close to the border, take shelter in other towns as they await their turn until their number comes up. But most sleep on the streets, in cheap motels, or houses of friends of friends. They cannot work and are fearful of being kidnapped or worse, so they wait in place, afraid even, to go outside. This day, the magic number was 1,111. The Cuban family of four who had been waiting for seven months to cross, were excited for their turn to come up. Another family had to give up their place in line when the mom delivered twins. When they returned they had to start all over again and were now number 1,125.

We sat with the guests at the shelter as they asked questions: Would their nieces and nephews be able to cross with them? (No.) Would a husband who had been previously deported be able to cross with his two US citizen children, new wife and their children. (No. And his US citizen children would most likely be separated from his wife, because she wasn’t their mother.) Would a seventeen year old young woman be able to cross with her three younger cousins so they could be reunited with their mom. (No, because they weren’t her children.)  It was heartbreaking. Devastating, to interpret for them and deliver this news.

We went on to visit the Migrant Welcome Center, which was adjacent to the border entry. There US volunteers from Presbyterian Peace Fellowship wait with families next in line, and accompany them to the border crossing, lest they be picked off by cartel members. Other volunteers from US faith communities cross the border each day to bring meals to those who wait. The atmosphere today was one of excitement. So few people get through these days. It was likely that two families might cross this day.

As we were leaving, we stopped at the make-shift tent where those ready to cross stay until their number comes up. The dad of the family of four stood outside the tent looking devastated. “They said that if we cross, we will be sent back to wait in Mexico,” he said. “That means we are dead meat.” They had spent those seven months traversing the border, looking for a place they might stay safely while they waited their turn to enter the US. This was supposed to be the day they would be selected to cross. They had money for plane tickets to their sponsor. They were ready. They had survived seven months on the streets.  Now they learned that they would not be allowed to enter the US to seek asylum. Not today. Probably not ever.

They were the first in what soon would be a long, long line of buses filled with hundreds of families to await their US asylum proceedings in Mexico. In other border cities we have heard stories of buses arriving at the border to drop of hundreds of families in the dark of night. These families then cross into Mexico on foot carrying the plastic bags with their belongings and wearing shoes with laces removed, which makes them easy targets for the cartels and Mexican “federales” (famous for their cruelty and corruption) who collude to kidnap them for extortion, torture, and according to testimony by one father who was returned, even organ harvesting.

Our group of three was quiet on our way home as we considered how we might collaborate with border shelters overloaded by the MPP, and how the new protocol would affect our shelters and our guests. We learned upon our return that the MPP was now a certainty for Tucson as well. Asylum seekers would be bused back to El Paso where they would be dropped off in the dark at the border and into the hand of those who would profit from their vulnerabilities. Only women who are six or more months pregnant and families with children under one year of age will be admitted and sent to the Casa Alitas Welcome Center. While this might mean drastically reduced number at the Welcome Center, it does not mean we will be idle!

As I tucked into my warm bed  at the end of the long day, I thought of the cold days to come, and those we had met living on the streets with little or no protection against the cold and abject terror of every single day. In these holy-days of giving thanks and celebration, may we remember them, and act together in ways that bring us together at one great table.

I had planned on writing a bright letter of thanks-giving today, and this letter is, indeed, that. I  am so grateful to be a part of Casa Alitas shelters, of reaching out to make the world a better place, especially for the most vulnerable and at-risk among us. Between the three of us who went to the border today, we had between us many years of service all around the world! This is a common phenomenon at Casa Alitas. We are a gathering place for those who know our work as saving grace in the midst of hatred and fear.  It is humbling to work among such saints –  volunteers and guests alike. We are grateful too for all your very generous support across the years and changing needs of our guests. Thank you! Your contributions have mattered to the more than 18,000 guests we have welcomed over the past year.

And after thanks-giving comes a call to action. We will not stand by and allow this new policy  destroy more lives of innocent people. We will continue to serve the few guests who make it through to us  and we will pour out our love through human and material resources to our sister shelters in Mexico until the policy shifts again. We will be better, stronger, together. God continues to do a new thing in and through us even alongside such hard-hearted and cruel policies for asylum-seekers. This is the story of so many of our faith communities: the Holy One comes every day to save the world. We are grateful to be there to witness and share the good news as an antidote to so much bad news.

Next month I will travel throughout southern and central Mexico to visit and volunteer and write about shelters there. “Seeing Beyond Borders” is an effort to join forces with our neighbors to the south to ease the suffering of those who have already suffered so much. If you care to follow my journey, you can do so at https://bengchurchintheborderlands.weebly.com/

Please feel free to share this letter with others who might be interested in learning more about our important work, and/or who might also like to offer financial support. Your support makes our work possible. Together, we provide help, create hope, and serve all. Your gift strengthens children, families, adults, and communities. Donations can be made directly to CCS at  Support Migrant Aid – Tucson and through our GoFundMe page https://www.gofundme.com/casa-alitas-for-migrant-families. For more information about Casa Alitas shelter programs, please see ccs-soaz.org.

May we find sustenance and hope in changing lives through the services we provide.

Rev. Delle McCormick

* In order to protect those who work and those who are served by each shelter across the border, I will not reveal the name or location of shelters in Mexico.

The UN Sustainable Goals work to move people out of poverty. Celine Paramundayil describes attending a UN Session where a teenage girl from Papua New Guinea sobs that her dreams were going down the drain.  Read more in Global Sisters Report titled A UN Reminder: Please, leave no one behind.

It’s been four years since the Paris Accord was signed in an effort to address climate change.  According to a UN report, China and the United States have expanded, not reduced, their carbon footprint.  “The summary findings are bleak, the report said, because countries have failed to halt the rise of greenhouse gas emissions even after repeated warnings from scientists. The result, the authors added, is that “deeper and faster cuts are now required.”  Read more here.

Call your senators to support SB 874, the Dream Act of 2019. SB 874 is the Senate version of a bill to protect DACA recipients. The bill directs the “Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to cancel removal and grant lawful permanent resident status on a conditional basis to an alien who is inadmissible or deportable or is in temporary protected status who (1) has been continuously physically present in the United States for four years preceding this bill’s enactment; (2) was younger than 18 years of age on the initial date of U.S. entry; (3) is not inadmissible on various grounds such as those related to crime or security; and (4) has fulfilled specified educational requirements. DHS shall cancel the removal of, and adjust to the status of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence on a conditional basis, an alien who was granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status unless the alien has engaged in conduct that would make the alien ineligible for DACA. DHS shall remove the conditional basis of the permanent resident status granted under this bill if the alien meets various requirements, such as (1) maintaining residence in the United States, and (2) acquiring a degree from an institution of higher education or serving in the Uniformed Services. DHS may not disclose or use information provided in applications filed under this bill or in DACA requests for immigration enforcement purposes. The bill repeals a restriction barring states from providing higher education benefits to undocumented aliens unless those benefits are available to all U.S. citizens.”

Our oceans continue to struggle.   According to Greenpeace, “the ocean is one of our best allies against climate change. The seas provide half of our oxygen, food for a billion people, and a home to some of the most spectacular wildlife on Earth. But the impacts of climate change, plastic pollution, and destructive industries put them in more danger than ever before.

The oceans in particular are being choked with the plastic that we use everyday — often only once — and throw away. But what about the ocean trash that was literally designed to kill marine life? Most fishing gear used by fleets all over the world ends up abandoned at sea. Ghost fishing occurs when this lost or discarded ‘ghost gear’ continues to catch and kill whales, turtles, and seabirds for many years, or even decades, to come.

Ghost gear is just one reason that Greenpeace has been sailing on an ambitious voyage from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Greenpeace crew members have revealed the wonders that lie beneath the surface of our oceans, and the threats which are destroying marine life. Every inch of this expedition is building the movement for a strong Global Ocean Treaty, that will allow space for wildlife to recover and thrive, and could change the fate of our planet.

Currently, our ship, the Arctic Sunrise, is in the middle of seamount Vema, a 4,600m high underwater mountain located in international waters off the coast of South Africa. Divers and researchers onboard are exploring the incredible biodiversity of the area, and have also seen the impacts first-hand of overfishing in the area, including the amount of ghost gear present on the seamount slopes.

It is hard to believe that there are mountains underneath the shimmering ocean surface. What’s even harder is finding words to describe these underwater wonders. Mount Vema is an absolute carnival of colours, bursting with marine life. However, the threat of destructive fishing is still very real to this underwater world and others like it across our global oceans.

We’re working to create a global network of ocean sanctuaries that would put millions of square kilometers off limits to destructive industries and protect nature’s beauty.”

Right now, until the final negotiating session on March 23, 2020, governments are coming together at the UN to work on a Global Ocean Treaty. Greenpeace and other activists are working to create a global network of ocean sanctuaries that would put millions of square kilometers off limits to destructive industries and protect nature’s beauty.

For more information about the Global Ocean Treaty, click here.

What does nonviolence look like? Listen to this podcast “Trials of Nonviolence The Kings Bay Plowshares Story” prepared by NCR about the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 who protested at the Naval Submarine Base in Georgia against nuclear weapons and went to jail.

The Supreme Court will hear its first Gun Rights Case in ten years. This case could change the gun safety legislation around the country a very negative way. Read more.

And now some good news…. Our young folks do care about the environment and telling their legislators.  See how they are doing this.

 

 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

Dominican Month for Peace – December 3, 2019

During the Dominican Month for Peace, please pray for the Dominican Family in India and the people who they serve.  Here is a prayer written for this purpose in English and Spanish.

DOMINICAN MONTH FOR PEACE

PRAYER FOR PEACE IN INDIA

 Almighty God, in this Advent season, we yearn for your peace, especially for the people of India. Too many people of this great nation are vulnerable victims of violence, deprivation, exploitation or human trafficking: especially children, abused for sex or labour; women, oppressed and treated as lesser beings in society and even at home; and indigenous communities, marginalized and displaced.

Loving God, who created each and every one of us in your image and likeness, in this month for peace we beseech you to heal, protect and console these victims, your children, so that they may find love and hope in the midst of their suffering.

Touch our hearts and help us to understand your words, “whatever you did to one of the least of these, you did it to me” (Matt 25,40).

Merciful God, we implore you to inspire us and to bless all the people of India, especially those wielding power in families, in communities and in government, to grow in your compassion, wisdom and love which respects the richness of each citizen regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, color or creed. May joy and unity be found in rich diversity so that all may live with dignity and in peace.

Amen.

MES DOMINICANO DE LA PAZ

ORACIÓN POR LA PAZ EN LA INDIA

 Dios Todopoderoso, en este tiempo de Adviento, anhelamos tu paz, especialmente la del pueblo de la India. Demasiadas personas de esta gran nación son víctimas vulnerables de la violencia, la pobreza, la explotación o el tráfico de seres humanos: especialmente niños, víctimas de abuso sexual y laboral; mujeres, oprimidas y tratadas como seres inferiores en la sociedad e incluso en el hogar; y comunidades indígenas, marginadas y desplazadas.

Dios amoroso, que nos has creado a todos y cada uno de nosotros a tu imagen y semejanza, en este mes de paz te suplicamos que sanes, protejas y consueles a estas víctimas, a tus hijos, para que encuentren amor y esperanza en medio de su sufrimiento.

Toca nuestros corazones y ayúdanos a comprender tus palabras: “Todo cuanto hicieron a uno de estos más pequeños, a mí me lo hicieron” (Mt 25,40).

Dios misericordioso, te imploramos que nos inspires, y bendigas a todo el pueblo de la India, especialmente a aquellos que ejercen el poder en las familias, en las comunidades y en el gobierno, para que crezcan en tu compasión, sabiduría y amor para que respeten la riqueza de cada ciudadano sin importar su edad, género, etnia, color o credo. Que la alegría y la unidad se encuentren en la rica diversidad para que todos puedan vivir con dignidad y en paz. Amén.

Catholic Relief Services has produced this 3 ½ minute video on Ending Child Slavery in India.  

Millions of Indian children work as slaves in factories, brothels or as domestic workers. Out of poverty and desperation, parents sell their daughters and human traffickers wait at train stations for runaways or gather orphans in monsoon-ravaged villages.  In Children for Sale: The Fight Against Child Trafficking in India, this injustice is explored.

Decades of short-sighted government policies are leaving millions defenseless in the age of climate disasters especially India’s poor.  Read about India’s Ominous Future: Too Little Water, or Far Too Much.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

Justice Updates – November 26, 2019

Should we talk about politics at our Thanksgiving dinner?  Fr. Richard Rohr writes, “ Politics is one of the most difficult and complex issues on which to engage in polite conversation… But you know what? There is no such thing as being non-political. Everything we say or do either affirms or critiques the status quo. To say nothing is to say something: The status quo—even if it is massively unjust and deceitful—is apparently okay. From a contemplative stance we will know what action is ours to do, which words we are called to say, and how our spirituality must be fully embodied in our political choices.” Read more in his blog from November 17, 2019 titled Affirm or Critique.

Have you wondered what influence, if any, you can have in the church, government, or other institution? Dominican Fr. Dominic DeLay’s new short film, First Confession, is about how 7-year-old Sofia tells the bishop she needs to help him fix the church. Watch the 8-minute film here.

The U.S. has the highest child incarceration rate in the world, according to an expert who authored a new U.N. study on the treatment of children.  The expert also says the administration’s family separation policy is “absolutely prohibited” by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The author, Manfred Novak, writes “there are still quite a number of children that are separated from their parents – and neither the children know where the parents are, nor the parents know where the children are.” For more information, click here.

Call your representative and urge him/her to vote for H.R. 2156, the RECLAIM Act. This act will make updates to the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 and will release more than $1 billion already collected for abandoned coal mine site cleanup. The funds can be used to restore polluted streams, address hazardous erosion, land sinks, underground mine fires, and coal ash piles that are endangering residents’ health.  RECLAIM will also put people to work in some of the areas adversely affected by abandoned coal mines – Appalachia and other regions of the country dealing with the effects of this environmental injustice.

Good News! A federal judge blocked the Justice Department’s Plan to resume federal executions. Read more.

According to Human Rights Watch, the lives of children around the world have improved but there is a long way to go. Child labor rates have dropped by a third, while school enrollment has increased by more than 110 million.  Read about it here.

White supremacy hurts all white people. Read how from Greg Elliot of the American Friends Service Committee about how “our own liberation as white people, our own humanity, is inextricably linked to racial justice” in Ten Ways White Supremacy Wounds White People.

US taxpayers spent almost $1 billion incarcerating innocent black people. Couldn’t this money be used for better purposes?   Read here.

The recent meeting of the U.S.C.C.B. showed the division present in the Catholic community today about the justice issues in today’s society including abortion, immigration, and climate change. Sadly, one bishop described climate change important but not urgent.  Read more here.

 

 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

Justice Updates – November 19, 2019

A focal point of our democracy is the right of every adult to vote. Sadly, there are constant challenges and threats to this right.  The League of Women Voters is asking us to contact our representative and ask him/her to support H.R.4,the Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA). According to the LWV, “More than 50 years ago, we saw the most sweeping advancement to voting rights with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which made racially discriminatory voting practices illegal.  Since the court’s decision in 2013, voters across the country have faced issues at the ballot box including unlawful purges, shortening of voting hours, and the closing of polling places in communities with large populations of voters of color…. The VRAA will strengthen our democracy by ensuring that race is not a factor in determining who has access to the ballot box.” Catholic Social Justice affirms that it is the right and responsibility of each and every person to participate in the political process. No individual or community should be disenfranchised by federal policy. Tell your Representative that you support H.R. 4 by dialing 888-496-3502.

Almost a million children could lose free lunch because of a SNAP rule change.  The change, first announced over the summer, would eliminate Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, or SNAP, as the food stamps program is now known, for more than 3 million people by eliminating something called broad-based categorical eligibility, a policy that gives states the flexibility to waive some asset and income limits for households that receive both SNAP and other welfare benefits. To learn more, click here.

Human Rights Watch reports that loopholes in US labor law make it legal for children as young as 12 to work unlimited hours on farms of any size with parental permission, as long as they don’t miss school. There is no minimum age for children to work on small or family farms. New research published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine reinforces just how dangerous agricultural work is for children in the United States – and how unprepared most are for what they face in the fields. More US child workers die in agriculture than in any other industry. Every day, 33 children are injured while working on US farms. And they receive frighteningly little safety training, making their work in demanding environments even more dangerous.

Count us in. Watch this one-minute video about why the census is important. 

Fossil fuels and extraction industries have caused massive damage to our environment.  The recent Amazon Synod addressed these issues.  Here are key take-aways from the synod:

  • A concept of “ecological sin,” which is based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 340-344, says that the Creator established the world as a web of dependence. When we break that web, all are harmed, and we turn from our Creator’s love.
  • We have compassion for the people who have been victimized by ecological sin, and especially for the indigenous people who suffer invaded, degraded lands and broken families.
  • Divesting from fossil fuels and reducing our overall dependence on fossil fuels, as well as living more simply and sustainably, are concrete ways to recover from this sin.
  • Our God is merciful, and we can recover. Integral ecology, which sees the deep connections between how we relate to God, each other, and our common home, is the way forward.

There hasn’t been a federal execution in 16 years but the administration has stated they will being executions again. As support for the Death Penalty is waning, this moving in the wrong direction. Please call your President Trump and Attorney General Barr that you are opposed to capital punishment.  Read how hundreds of victims’ relatives are asking the administration to stop this.

We hear with more and more frequency people killed in gun violence. More than 34,483 individuals have been killed in 2019.  We don’t often hear of those who were injured but their trauma continues long after the shooting are passed. Read about the survivors of the El Paso Walmart shooting.

Will we have to stop eating hamburgers?  Scientists say we should shift away from carbon-intensive beef toward poultry, fish and plant-based food and toward agricultural practices and food preparation that make the meat we do eat more sustainable.  Here’s what they say.

Need a little fix of joy?  Here’s something beautiful. Bay Area youth activists are creating 15,000 butterflies to stand in solidarity with the migrant children who have been and are currently in U.S. detention centers.  You can act also.  Read about The Butterfly Effect: Migration is Beautiful.

 

 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

Justice Updates – November 12, 2019

The editors of NCR write “The church is changing. The situation in the Amazon region gathers up, as we’ve noted before, the most compelling themes facing humanity and the church today. The Earth is indisputably under assault because of the activity of humans and nowhere is it more demonstrable than in this critically important ecosystem. Can humanity come to some agreement over ways to protect it?” Read Genuine Dialogue Takes Church into Unscripted Territory.

Today, November 12th, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about the legality of DACA. Archbishop Charles Chaput from Philadelphia writes, “In this great country, we should not have young people living under the threat of deportation, their lives dependent on the outcome of a court case.  The issues at stake are legal, but they are also humanitarian, economic, and moral. By now, these young people are grown up and are deeply integrated into our social fabric – studying in universities and colleges, serving in the police and military, working in hi-tech fields and hospitals; some are even preparing for the priesthood and religious life…. Business leaders from every sector of the economy say these young adults are vital to our nation’s economic future; already, they are contributing billions each year in tax revenues and income. This contribution is especially important at a time when 10,000 baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964 are reaching retirement age every day.”  Read more.

The Supreme Court will not issue its decision until the Spring of 2020.  In the meantime, we must urge Congress to act to provide DACA recipients a legislative solution and a path to citizenship.  The House has already passed H.R. 6 which includes a path to citizenship for DACA recipients.  Please call your Senators and ask them to support S. 874, the Dream Act of 2019 which will support legislative protection for these young people.  Here is a suggested text:

 As a person of faith and a Catholic sister, I want express my strong support for the “Dream Act of 2019” (S. 874). The young people protected by this bill are our neighbors and friends. They are mothers and fathers of U.S. citizens. They are important members of our community and leaders in our parishes. As Catholics, we have long supported DREAMERS as we believe in protecting the dignity of every human being, especially that of our children. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a program that has benefited over 800,000 young people by ensuring that recipients are able to live their lives free of the anxiety that they could be deported at any time to a country they do not know and separated from their families.I urge the Senator to:

  • Support and co-sponsor S. 874, the Dream Act of 2019; and
  • Continue to work towards larger legislative reform of our immigration laws.

Be assured of my prayers and please know that Catholics stand with you in support of the DREAM Act of 2019, S. 874.

For more information about what you can do, check out this information from the USCCB Justice for Immigrants.

Catholic Sisters Against Trafficking recently highlighted an innovative program used in Columbus, Ohio to help trafficking victims called CATCH (Changing Actions to Change Habits) Court. To read more about this program, click here.

The LCWR released a statement about the recent withdrawal of the US from the Paris Climate Agreement. “Catholic teaching is clear – climate change is a grave moral issue that threatens our commitment to: protect human life and dignity, exercise a preferential option for the most vulnerable, promote the common good, and care for God’s creation” Read the entire statement.  Also call your members of Congress and urge them to publicly oppose the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement.

 

 

 

 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates