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 – Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Action:  Call your congressperson to support H.R. 1945 (The Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act). The Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act (HR1945), demanding a suspension of all U.S. security aid to Honduras, was recently re-introduced by Rep. Hank Johnson with 43 initial cosponsors. The bill will work to ensure that the Honduran government, military, and police cannot commit crimes or acts of violence against the Honduran people with impunity.  Berta Cáceres was an environmental activist who with the indigenous Lenca people waged a nonviolent campaign to prevent the building of the Agua Zarca Dam. She was murdered in 2016 by gunmen in her home.

“This legislation will suspend U.S. military funding to Honduran security forces and discourage multilateral development bank lending until the Honduran government investigates and prosecutes those in the military and police who have violated human rights.” “For years, members of the Honduras police and military have engaged in corrupt practices and gross human rights abuses without consequence. By limiting funding, we have the opportunity to force the Honduran government to investigate and prosecute these crimes,” said Rep. José Serrano (NY-15).For more information about this bill, click here or here.  Co-sponsors of the bill include representatives from Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, and Ohio

Who was Berta Cáceres?  In a country with growing socioeconomic inequality and human rights violations, Berta Cáceres (d. 2016) rallied the indigenous Lenca people of Honduras and waged a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam.

Since the 2009 coup, Honduras has witnessed an explosive growth in environmentally destructive megaprojects that would displace indigenous communities. Almost 30 percent of the country’s land was earmarked for mining concessions, creating a demand for cheap energy to power future mining operations. To meet this need, the government approved hundreds of dam projects around the country, privatizing rivers, land, and uprooting communities.

Among them was the Agua Zarca Dam, a joint project of Honduran company Desarrollos Energéticos SA (DESA) and Chinese state-owned Sinohydro, the world’s largest dam developer. Agua Zarca, slated for construction on the sacred Gualcarque River, was pushed through without consulting the indigenous Lenca people—a violation of international treaties governing indigenous peoples’ rights. The dam would cut off the supply of water, food and medicine for hundreds of Lenca people and violate their right to sustainably manage and live off their land.

Berta Cáceres, a Lenca woman, grew up during the violence that swept through Central America in the 1980s. Her mother, a midwife and social activist, took in and cared for refugees from El Salvador, teaching her young children the value of standing up for disenfranchised people. She grew up to become a student activist and in 1993, she cofounded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) to address the growing threats posed to Lenca communities by illegal logging, fight for their territorial rights and improve their livelihoods.

In 2006, community members from Rio Blanco came to COPINH asking for help. They had witnessed an influx of machinery and construction equipment coming into their town. They had no idea what the construction was for or who was behind the project. What they knew was that an aggression against the river—a place of spiritual importance to the Lenca people—was an act against the community, its free will, and its autonomy. With mandates from local community members at every step of the way, Cáceres began mounting a campaign against the Agua Zarca Dam. She filed complaints with government authorities, bringing along community representatives on trips to Tegucigalpa. She organized a local assembly where community members formally voted against the dam, and led a protest where people peacefully demanded their rightful say in the project.

The campaign also reached out to the international community, bringing the case to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and lodging appeals against the project’s funders such as the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank. Ignoring these appeals, the national government and local mayors forged ahead. They doctored minutes from a community meeting to paint a false picture of unanimous approval for the dam, and offered cash to local people in exchange for their signature on documents declaring their support.

In April 2013, Cáceres organized a road blockade to prevent DESA’s access to the dam site. Using a carefully organized system of alerts to keep everyone in the loop, the Lenca people maintained a heavy but peaceful presence, rotating out friends and family members for weeks at a time. For well over a year, the blockade withstood multiple eviction attempts and violent attacks from militarized security contractors and the Honduran armed forces.

Honduras’ violent climate is well known to many, but few understand that environmental and human rights activists are its victims. Tomas Garcia, a community leader from Rio Blanco, was shot and killed during a peaceful protest at the dam office. Others have been attacked with machetes, discredited, detained, and tortured. None of the perpetrators have been brought to justice. Against these odds, Cáceres and the Lenca community’s efforts successfully kept construction equipment out of the proposed dam site. In late 2013, Sinohydro terminated its contract with DESA, publicly citing ongoing community resistance and outrage following Tomas’ death. Agua Zarca suffered another blow when the IFC withdrew its funding, citing concerns about human rights violations. To date, construction on the project has effectively come to a halt.

Death threats to Cáceres continued until March 3, 2016, when she was killed by gunmen in her home in La Esperanza, Honduras. Her death, followed by the killing of her colleague and fellow COPINH member Nelson García just 12 days later, sparked international outrage. Dutch development bank FMO and FinnFund have since suspended their involvement in the Agua Zarca project. COPINH, along with fellow activists, are determined to continue her legacy, fighting irresponsible development and standing up for the rights of the Lenca people in Honduras.

 Network Lobby for Social Justice continues its Lenten series on Racism with this reminder: “Being anti-racist is a daily choice. When white supremacy permeates the daily society, structures, and systems we encounter daily, it is not enough to be passive – we must actively counter the presence of white supremacy in our daily lives. However, when you do join a conversation about racism, participate in an action, or just go about your daily life mindful of race, you may slip up. We all have racial biases that we are working to overcome, and sometimes there are things that you just haven’t educated yourself on yet. The important thing is that how you choose to react when you mess up.” This week’s information is called Hope for our Liberation.

Action:  We need to fight environmental racism.  When the federal government wants to build something in our communities, we have a right to be a part of the process – especially if there are potentially harmful environment risks.  It is a part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the administration is attempting to roll back parts of the bill that give citizens a voice. This will especially impact communities of color who are often the victims of environmental racism.  From harmful pollution to the real impacts of climate change, race is the single biggest indicator of how likely an individual is to experience negative environmental and public health impacts. NEPA reviews allow people – especially people of color – the power to fight against systemic inequities to protect their families and communities. Call your senators and representatives and urge them to protect NEPA.

Cecilia González-Andrieu writing for America explores why women stay in the Catholic Church. She states that  “the story of the dysfunction of the Catholic Church as an institution is now the subject of multiple investigations and copious news coverage worldwide. Tragically, at issue is not just the sexual abuse of minors by clergy or the exploitation of women religious or the exclusion of women from positions of authority and oversight or denying women full use of their gifts. We are now confronting all of this together.”   Read “With a Church in Crisis, Why do Catholic Women Stay?” 

Many individuals criticize asylum seekers saying they should enter the U.S. the legal way. While claiming asylum is legal based on both national and international law, it is incredibly hard to enter the U.S. through other legal means. Here’s what’s happening with the current immigration system as explained by Peniel Ibe of the American Friends Service Committee.  One of the major problems is the reduction in the number of refugees allowed into the country. This year’s quota is 30,000. Last year, only around 24,000 were admitted.  On April 9, 2019 Senator Edward Markey, Representative Zoe Logfren and Joe Neguse and 22 Senate and House co-sponsors introduced the Guaranteed Refugee Admissions Ceiling Enhancement (GRACT) Act. It would establish 95,000 as the minimum goal for refugee admitted each year. Read, Ms. Ibe’s blog “Trump Attacks on Legal Immigration System Explained.”

More Action: Call your Senators and Representatives to support the DREAM Act and SECURE Act.  The USCCB Committee on Migration publicly voiced support and sent letters to the Senate endorsing the “Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors” (DREAM) Act of 2019, S. 874, and the “Safe Environment from Countries Under Repression & Emergency” (SECURE) Act of 2019, S. 879. The DREAM Act of 2019 would provide permanent legal protection and a pathway to citizenship for qualifying Dreamers. The SECURE Act of 2019 would provide permanent legal protection and a pathway to citizenship to qualifying Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) holders.

 Yesterday was Earth Day – a day to celebrate the beauty of our Mother Earth. What has been accomplished since the first earth day in 1970?  This article from National Geographic provides a list.  There have been many advancements but there is still a long way to go.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

Justice Updates – Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Pray and Fast.  “Do not be afraid: I know you are looking for Jesus…” (Matthew) Give us new eyes-give us new understanding-give us courage and new HEARTS to live in loving communion with those escaping from violence and poverty.

Lenten Action.  Commit to reducing your personal carbon footprint.   Wash in cold water… buy your next clothing item at Good Will… drive one fewer trip… reduce food waste.  Check out these articles about reducing carbon footprints. Top 20 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint and  35 Easiest Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint .

How has racism impacted U.S. Immigration? This week, Network explains that the U.S. has a long history of discrimination against new immigrants. “Examining the history of immigration in the U.S., as well as the laws and customs that changed over decades, illustrates how ‘whiteness’ was manipulated to serve the purposes in power and how ‘White’ was as much as privileged legal and economic status that needed to be protected as it was a racial identity.”   What is your or your family’s experience with this type of racism? Read more.

ACTIONS:  Tell Congress:

H. R. 6 Support the Dream and Promise Act! The newly-introduced Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6) would provide long-overdue, permanent relief and a pathway to citizenship for recipients of TPS (Temporary Protected Status) and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). It would also go further than DACA by providing much-needed protections to all Dreamers, rather than the narrower subset of DACA recipients. Call or email your representative today.  If you email, go to the Network website. They have customized the message based on whether or not your Representative is a cosponsor of this bill. So email your Representative now to thank them, or encourage them to support!

H. R. 508 Earlier this year, Representative Joyce Beatty reintroduced the Trafficking Victims Housing Act, H.R. 508 which would require a federal study to be conducted to assess the availability and accessibility of housing and related services for victims of trafficking who are experiencing homelessness and those at risk. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Financial Services and is awaiting further consideration. Let your representative know that you support this bill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is this a budget we can live with?  The budget of a city, state, and/or nation describes that organization’s priorities. Many believe that it should reflect the needs of its citizens. People of faith might consider it a moral document that should reflect the responsibilities of government to protect those most in need.    Examining the budget released by the administration gives a clear indication of what’s important to President Trump.

The newly released budget contains another massive five percent increase in the Pentagon budget, while slashing spending for human needs, diplomacy and infrastructure by five percent across the board.  31 percent would be eliminated from the Environmental Protection Agency, 12 percent from the Department of Education, 16 percent from Housing and Urban Development, and more.

There’s $9 billion in the Pentagon budget for “emergency requirements,” widely understood to augment the $8.6 billion explicitly in the budget for the border wall. Part of the military’s increase will also go toward the wall.

Who will feel the impact of Trump’s budget? In addition to the soldiers and civilians killed and wounded in our wars, and those made refugees, we all do. Think about the lack of affordable housing, crushing student debt, immigrants rounded up and detained in military-style raids, people who go hungry in our land of plenty.

Do you benefit from white privilege? Utah Jazz player Kyle Korver believes that it’s the responsibility of anyone on the privileged end of those inequalities to help make things right.

The administration has threatened to cut funding to Central America. The NY Times describes some of the poverty-reducing programs that this foreign aid is funding. Contact your senators and urge them NOT to reduce this aid.

The End of Empathy?  If we ever hope to have peace in the world, we need to be able to connect with the “other.” Hanna Rosin writes about the End of Empathy in which she describes that the “new rule for empathy seems to be: reserve it, not for your enemies, but for the people you believe are hurt, or you have decided need it the most. Empathy, but just for your own team. And empathizing with the other team?  That’s practically a taboo.”  It that what empathy means to you?  Read about this here.

 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

Justice Updates – Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Making peace with the earth.   Savor the food that you eat today and make sure to eat everything on your plate. A thirteen minute TED talk featuring Elena Matsui discusses ways to reduce the waste of one-third of the world’s food that either spoils or gets thrown away before it ever reaches a plate. Watch now.

Fast and Pray.  This week we pray for the unaccompanied children and youth now in detention that they may soon be released to their sponsors.  We pray as well for their worried parents and relatives.

Call your representative today. The house will vote on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, a 1994 law that assists victims of domestic and sexual violence and expired in February. Roughly half of all female homicide victims are killed by “intimate partners” – current or former spouses or dating partners. The bill includes:

  • Provisions to prevent domestic abusers from accessing firearms
  • Enhanced health care provider training in identification and response
  • Enhanced services for safety and behavioral care
  • Prevention investments that will support children who witness domestic violence, encourage youth to build healthy relationships and engage men and boys in the prevention of domestic and sexual violence
  • Expanded protections for victims of violence on tribal lands
  • Supportive services and protections for victims, focusing on economic independence, employment opportunity, and safe housing

For more information, read this article from the NY Times. Tell your representative that women deserve this protection.

A Season of New Life and Hope.  Sr. Kathleen Coll, SSJ shares the story of a survivor of sex trafficking in Catholic Sisters Against Trafficking.  Spring 2019, a season of new life and hope, is not disappointing us. Everywhere we look, Earth broke through the winter-hardened soil with crocus and daffodil’s tender shoots. Glorious colors and sweet-smelling flowers greet our senses and lift our hearts for a welcome break after gloomy, cold days of winter. Stories of survivors of commercial sexual exploitation or sex trafficking also, abound with new life. This is one woman’s reflection on her journey through the darkness to a hope-filled new season of life.

Most people would think being released from jail a year early was a good thing, but for me it was a disaster.  I had nowhere to live and would be plunged right back into my old life of prostitution and drugs.

I had been working furiously to find a program that would take me.  I wrote dozens of letters, but resources are very limited in prison.  I kept plugging away and thought I had a year to find placement, when I got notice of early release.

My family wanted no part of me after all I had put them through.  An old boyfriend would take me back, and I knew what that meant.  All the work I had done while in jail would be for nothing. If I went back to him, I would have been dead by now.

On the street, depression would set in, and I’d settle for anything, because of him and I felt I didn’t deserve better.  It wasn’t until after my 22nd arrest that I realized that I really needed help, and started looking for a program to take me. There were no beds in any programs but then, I found Dawn’s Place.

Now, I’m so appreciative. My whole family is in my life. No one talks about the past or judges me. I’m more grateful than I’ve ever been. I had no life, no soul before. I wake up thanking God that I’m alive. I wouldn’t change my life because it made me appreciate even the littlest things that I used to take for granted.

The time in my life when I felt that I didn’t deserve Dawn’s Place, that I just deserved all the bad things that happened to me, seems so long ago. Dawn’s Place gave me back my self-esteem, helped me on the road to good health, empowered me to find housing and a job, made me independent, strengthened me to stay clean and sober and lead me to find my voice.

Stories like this are evidence of the strength and resiliency of the human spirit and offer the possibility of a brighter future to other women in critical need.

NETWORK challenges us to recommit to racial justice this Lent. This week they focus on the systemic destruction of the Native peoples of North America in  A Nation Built on Stolen Land.  From the first interactions with Native Americans to the modern day, white colonizers in North America have worked toward one thing: theft. Theft of land, theft of natural resources, theft of culture and identity. Racial justice demands that we recognize and remedy these thefts. This resource cannot comprehensively recount the entire history of Native Americans, but we hope that this will be a starting point for you to begin learning about the peoples our nation has attempted to make invisible. Click here a PDF of this resource.

Here are some highlights in this week’s resource:

White Supremacy Continues Harming Native Americans Today:  Recently, NETWORK staff traveled to New Mexico and hosted a round table in Albuquerque to listen to Native leaders and leaders in women’s health, childcare, dental care, food security, and immigration sectors share their experience working to mend the gaps. In this resource, we share testimonials from Myrriah Gómez from Tularosa Basin Downriders Consortium Steering Committee and Yvette Pino, Mescalero Apache. Read their full testimonies on our website.

A Story of Resistance and Hope: The Native American experience is one of rich tradition, faith, and resistance. From the American Indian Movement of the 1970s, to the Standing Rock protests around the Dakota Access Pipeline, Native American resistance to the legal expression of white supremacy continues to this day.

This week’s resource also includes a testimonial from Representative Deb Haaland (NM-01). She says, “As one of two Native American women ever elected to Congress, I know it is a historic time to be engaged in politics regardless of background. We have been elected to lead during a time of divisiveness; a time where white supremacy has been proliferated by the current administration… My colleagues and I took an oath on January 3rd and I did so solemnly with the understanding of what it means to stand up, speak out, and lead when others in elected office are abusing their power.”

Partisan Gerrymandering at the Supreme Court.  Gerrymandering involves drawing political boundaries to give one party a numeric advantage over an opposing party. Last week the Supreme Court heard a set of three redistricting cases that could result in ending partisan gerrymandering across the nation. The cases involve the most egregious examples of gerrymandering in which elected officials made ‘no bones about’ an intent to discriminate against disfavored voters and create unfair maps. These cases present extremes in gerrymandering, and the litigants (disfavored voters) seek to rein in the worst gerrymanders to restore voters’ faith in the voting process.

Rucho v. League of Women Voters of North Carolina and its companion cases assert that partisan gerrymandering by both major parties violated voters’ rights. Banning partisan gerrymandering would make huge strides in restoring voters’ faith in the electoral process. The Supreme Court now has a huge opportunity to declare that, once and for all, politicians cannot choose their voters—voters must be free to choose who they want to represent them. You can learn more about these cases on the League of Women Voters blog.

For more information about gerrymandering, check out this article by Christopher Ingraham in the Washington Post. This is the best explanation of gerrymandering you will ever see. How to steal an election: a visual guide.

Racism can affect even the most positive nonprofits. Helen Kim Ho describes 8 Ways People of Color are Tokenized in Nonprofits. She explains that Tokenism is covert racism and is used by those in power to maintain their privilege by exercising social, economic, and/or political muscle against people of color. Tokenism achieves the same while giving those in power the appearance of being non-racist and even champions of diversity because they recruit and use POC as racialized props.

 

 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

Justice Updates – Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Making Peace with the Earth Lenten Activites:

This week, take time to drink a glass of water and appreciate the gift, eat a slice of bread and be thankful for those who made it possible, breathe the air and pray for all life that share this air with us.

Have you considered giving up plastic for Lent?  Kristen Hartke from NPR provides some suggestions in her Commentary: 4 Ways to Reduce Plastics and Other Single-Use Disposables in your Kitchen.

Fast and Pray.  The immigration Committee invites you to pray and fast for those with Temporary Protected Status especially those whose status is in jeopardy.  Many of these men and women have lived in the United States for many years and have children who are American citizens.  May our government find a way to give them justice.

The Dreamers are still Dreaming.  H.R. 6 –  American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 was introduced on March 12, 2019 with 202 original cosponsors. The bill would provide Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders and individuals with Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) with protection from deportation and an opportunity to obtain permanent legal status in the U.S. if they meet certain requirements. There are currently nearly 700,000 DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients, 1.6 million eligible Dreamers, 300,000 TPS holders and 3,600 individuals with DED.  For more information about the details of this bill, read moreCall your representative and ask him/her to support H.R.6.

Garden City, Kansas featured.  STRANGERS IN TOWN tells the story of how global migration unexpectedly transformed and enriched Garden City, Kansas. It brought great challenges to the community, including demands for housing, social services, education, and infrastructure. For the current students at Garden City High School, the town’s remarkable diversity is all they’ve ever known. STRANGERS IN TOWN gives new meaning to the city’s motto: “the world grows here,” and provides an inspiring view of human possibility in the face of change. Our own Sr. Janice is featured.  Click here for the link to the 31 minute film.

Support Red Flag Laws. On March 26th, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Red Flag laws. These laws empower family members and law enforcement officers to petition a court to temporarily restrict a person’s access to guns when they pose a risk of using them to harm themselves or others. Whether it is gun suicide, a mass shooting, or any other act of gun violence, shooters often demonstrate warning signs before carryout tragic acts of violence. States like Connecticut, Maryland, and New York Red Flag laws have stopped potential gun crimes after warning signs indicated that the would-be shooter was a threat to themselves and to others.  After it was learned that the shooter of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting displayed prior warnings, Florida lawmakers quickly enacted a bipartisan Red Flag law.

Why are its citizens leaving El Salvador?  The National Geographic Magazine researched the root cause of why citizens from El Salvador are taking the difficult and dangerous journey to the U.S. Click here to read this compelling article.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

Justice Updates – March 12, 2019

LENTEN ACTIONS:

Do you want to DO something during Lent?  Help us collect children’s and adolescent’s underwear and socks for the children coming with their parents to the United States through El Paso. The asylum seekers come with so little and often just the clothes on their backs. For more information, click here.

Making Peace with the Earth.  Watch your water intake. Do you turn off the water when you brush your teeth? Take time to slowly drink a glass of water and appreciate the gift.

Pray and Fast.  This week, the Immigration Reform Committee asks you to pray and fast for those persons whose asylum cases are denied by the inconsistent application of the guidelines by immigration court judges.  May God bless them with a sense of peace in the midst of the turmoil this causes them.

FYI.   In my blog on February 26th, I mentioned that Caliburn International, the parent company for Comprehensive Health Services, the company running the Homestead Detention Center, was planning in IPO (Initial Public Offering). In their filing, they said “border enforcement and immigration policy…is driving significant growth.”  Because of the public outcry over the company’s profiting from locking up children, Caliburn International canceled its planned stock offering.

Studying Racism.   During Lent, Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice will examine how society in the U.S. has been deliberately organized to advantage white people over people of color.  Their goal is to examine how racism is not just a matter of individual actions and attitudes, but a pervasive predominant social order.  This systemic injustice harms all of us by preventing us from fully living out Jesus’s commandment to “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)  This week, they are looking at a “Common Understanding of Racism and White Supremacy.” The resource is attached here.

Call your Senators.

  1. The House of Representative passed H.R. 1, the  “For the People Act” that will protect and strengthen voting rights, transparency in campaign financing and government ethics laws. Unfortunately, Senator Mitch McConnell has said that he will not even introduce it in the Senate. Call your Senators and ask them to put pressure on Senator McConnell to bring this to the Senate.
  2. The Senate has still not voted on Mr. Trump’s Emergency Declaration. Our taxpayer dollars should be spent on critical programs that make our communities stronger such as education, health care, and housing …. not walls.  The President has proposed to take $2.5 billion from a Pentagon program for countering drug activities to pay for the wall. Isn’t this the reason he wants to build a wall in the first place?  Ask your Senator to OPPOSE the Emergency Declaration.

 

More Killing?   In 2019 alone, there have been over 51 mass shootings, nearly 100 people killed and more than 150 more injured.  The House of Representatives has passed H.R. 8, requiring background checks for all gun sales.  Call your senator and ask him/her to vote for S. 42, Expanded Background Check Bill. Right now it is in the Judiciary Committee.  Senator Lindsay Graham, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee is also planning a hearing on March 26 to discuss Red Flag Laws that are designed to remove guns from dangerous individuals.

Posted in Peace & Justice Weekly Updates