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 17, 2019

Staying engaged in justice work can be challenging and discouraging. Sometimes we need to treat ourselves to self-care. Buddhist teacher, Haemin Sunim, offers five simple steps for this goal.

A new report found that oxygen levels in the world’s oceans declined by 2 percent over 50 years, threatening marine life around the planet. You can read more here.

Methane was originally positioned as a safer, cleaner fuel obtained by fracking.  However, methane escaping into the atmosphere is causing serious climate issues.  A New York Times visual journalist and climate reporter went to West Texas oilfields and filmed methane escaping from oil and gas sites.  To the naked eye, everything seems normal but when filmed with special cameras, the escaping gas is obvious.  You can watch it here.

Call your governor.  We need refugees.  President Trump signed Executive Order 13888 that requires governors and city councils to approve any refugee resettlement. If you live in one of these states – California – Connecticut – Delaware – Hawaii – Illinois – Louisiana – Maine – Minnesota – Nevada – New York – Rhode Island – Wisconsin – please call your governor and ask him/her to provide written consent to allow resettle refugees and share publicly why they are providing consent.  Here’s more information from Catholic Legal Immigration Network.

Catholic Mobilizing Network presented President Trump and Attorney General Barr with a petition signed by more than 3,000 bishops, clergy, women religious, and laypeople condemning the restart of federal executions.  Then the Supreme Court issued a decision upholding the preliminary court injunction that temporarily placed federal executions on hold.  In the coming months, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbus Circuit will decide whether the executions can resume.  They are still collecting signatures to the National Catholic Petition Against Federal Executions.  You can read the petition and add your signature here.

Did you know that the House of Representatives has passed 389 bills, 250 of which are bipartisan?  The Senate has only passed 91.  Who’s working harder?  Find out more?

Religious Institutions are providing the impetus for a solar energy boom. This is a good news story.

Earlier in the year, Sr. Doris told us about the Honduran climate crusader, Berta Cáceres who was murdered. Seven men were sentenced in early November. Several of these men, Douglas Bustillo and Mariano Dias were both trained at the SOA (School of the Americas) in Bennings, GA.  However, none of the seven sentences were the ones who ordered and paid for Cáceres’ murder. None of these perpetrators have faced trial.  Bustillo and Diaz were sentenced to 30 years and six months and 30 years respectively. They communicated with Henry Hernandez who led a group of hitmen to Cáceres’ home on March 2, 2016 to execute the murder. Hernandez and the other three hitmen were sentenced to 50 years for both the murder of Cáceres and the attempted murder of Mexican environmentalist Gustavo Castro who was at Cáceres’ home at the time of the murder. The court’s sentences affirmed that Cáceres was murdered for her leadership in COPINH’s (Council of Popular and Indigenous Organization of Honduras)  opposition to DESA’s (Desarrollos Energeticos, SA) internationally-financed hydroelectric  project on the Gualcarque River.  To read more about this, click here.

 

 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

Dominican Month for Peace – December 17, 2019

Last week we highlighted the friars ministries in India, here is a sampling of what the Sisters are doing. 

The PBS News Hour presented a feature called Fighting to Unravel India’s Widespread Child Labor Abuses. There are laws against child labor in India, yet millions of underage children are still trafficked or forced by poverty to toil away in factories. Here is that report.

What’s happening in India? Reuters explains this in pictures.

The Indian Parliament voted last week to pass a measure that would give special treatment to Hindu and other non-Muslim migrants in India. Critics say that this action by the Hindu nationalist government is in conflict with the country’s founding as a secular republic.  To understand better what is happening, read here.

 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

Justice Updates – December 10, 2019

Need a dose of cute? Watch Hafod Hardware’s 2019 Christmas Advertisement, Be a Kid this Christmas.

Do you knit or crochet?  You might want to make a plastic mat for a homeless person.  It’s a great project for Christmas vacation.   Check out the directions.

This December, people around the country will gather to honor and remember those who have lost their lives to gun violence. As of December 1, there have been 35,943 gun deaths including homicides, suicides, and accidents.  There have been 385 mass shootings.  Take a minute and pray for these victims and their families.  Write a note or make a call to your legislators, either state or federal, and tell them to take action to stop these shootings. If you know someone who has lost a loved one to gun violence, contact them and send them your love.

Call your representative!   The world’s annual carbon emissions need to drop by nearly half by 2030 to net zero by 2050 to keep global warming at 1/5 degrees Celsius. However, the 2018 UNIPCC report projects that annual global carbon emissions are on track to stay the same or increase, not decrease, by 2030. Call your representative today about the 100% Clean Economy Act of 2019 (R.R. 5221). This legislation sets a nationwide foal of achieving a 100 percent clean energy economy by 2050, defined as net-zero pollution across all sectors of the U.S. economy. The 100% Clean Economy Act of 2019 lays out principles for federal agency action, including, but not limited to:

  • improving public health, resilience, and environmental outcomes, especially for low-income and rural communities, communities of color, Tribal and indigenous communities, deindustrialized communities, and other communities disproportionately impacted by climate change;
  • enhancing quality job creation and ensuring fairness and equity for workers and communities affected by the transition to a 100 percent clean economy;
  • providing benefits for consumers, small businesses, and rural communities; and
  • preparing communities for the impacts and risks of climate change.

The administration has proposed raising fees for those seeing asylum and naturalization.  The proposed fee structure changes would:

  • Drastically increase the cost of naturalization from $640 to $1,170 – this is a historic high and a staggering 83 percent increase.
  • Establish an unprecedented, new $50 fee for affirmative asylum. This would make the U.S. one of just four countries (Australia, Fiji and Iran being the other three) to levy such a fee.
  • Create a new fee for DACA renewals, raising the total cost from $495 to $765.
  • Effectively end a long-standing fee waiver program that has kept naturalization, green card renewals and other benefits accessible.
  • Transfer $207.6 million in funds that should be used for immigration and naturalization processing to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, to use for enforcement.
  • Increase Adjustment of Status to Lawful Permanent Residencyfrom $1,225 to $2,195 by requiring separate filing fees for work and travel authorization. The current fee includes applications for both work and travel documents.
  • Charge asylum-seekers for work permit applications. Currently, there is no charge for asylum seekers to seek work authorization for the first time.
  • Limit stakeholder participation by shortening the comment period from the standard sixty days to only thirty days.

You can make a public comment by using the Sisters of Mercy website.  Reminder:  Personalize the message of any sign-ons.  Rule of thumb – ⅓ original content (unique language) to be counted.  Consider putting in Scripture, faith-language, stories,

Archbishops Coakley and Gregory and Bishop Dewane have served in death penalty states. They believe it’s time to stop federal executions. They write “Human dignity can be difficult to understand when we are confronted with the depths of our sins. But we believe, from Scripture and tradition, that each person is created by God in his image and likeness, and the dignity that flows from God’s creative act cannot be removed by the actions of any person, no matter how bad, no matter how hurtful. We reverence God’s gift of life in those at the beginning of life and those at its end, in the weak and in the strong, in the poor and in the rich, in the happy and in the sad, in the honored and in the forgotten. And we reverence God’s gift of life in the guilty and in the innocent.” Read more here.  (Note. The Supreme Court stayed the execution of three federal prisoners who were supposed to be executed this week.)

Immigration is being used as a political weapon and is fueling division and violence in our country. Frontline from PBS  produced at 54 minute video called “Zero Tolerance” that explains how this has happened.  You can view it here.

 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

Dominican Month for Peace – December 10, 2019

The situation of children in India can be dire. Children under the age of 18 comprise 37% of India’s population. Many of them experience deprivation such as lack of access to basic education, nutrition or health care. In addition, many are subjected to various forms of abuse, neglect, violence, and maltreatment which dominate their childhood experience

Further violations of child rights, legitimized by cultural practices and customs deeply rooted in the male-dominant patriarchal society, involve child marriage, of which 326 incidences were reported in 2015-16, and gender discrimination, which has created significant gender disparity.

This is reflected in the preference for providing educational opportunities for the male child. The perception of girl children as a burden to the family also leads to sex selective abortion which has resulted in an unequal sex ratio in the country with 933 females per 1000 males (Census, 2011).

Indian Center for Integrated Development provides programming for the children and women in Nagpur India.  There are a number of programs working with youth. You can check them out here.

A prime example of this is an initiative, Project Bloom, of Dominican friars in collaboration with Dominican Sisters of the Presentation and Dominican Laity in the Yuvajyothi Children’s Home of the Indian Centre for Integrated Development (ICID) in Nagpur.

This project strives to rescue children and female youth from exploitative, abusive and other disadvantaged situations such as street and pavement dwelling, work places, children begging, picking waste material and neglected children, and provide a protective environment where a child finds a safe, dignified and child-friendly atmosphere including their rehabilitation with their families.

 This is done through various programs, such as street outreach, formation of children’s groups, counselling, life skill education, educational support and sponsorship, provision of safe shelter for children in need, organizing child right awareness and advocacy programs.

 The Dominican Family of Friars, Sisters and Laity also work in collaboration with a team of social workers and volunteers in Nagpur district to assist with children who are already living on the streets with adequate and necessary support:

  • Providing street-based support, protection, rescue, rehabilitation and integration (with family), maintaining street presence through volunteers, and awareness creation among children about the risks and dangers on the streets.
  • Residential care (counselling, food, accommodation, education, life skill development, livelihood training and opportunity, and preparing them for family life). Children are referred to Yuvajyothi or other homes for children.

 And to work with economically and socially disadvantaged families whose children may turn to the streets:

  • Sensitization visits to the families, life skill education to children in the families, child rights awareness in communities and schools, interventions at the school level in order to retain children in the schools, networking and advocacy.
  • Livelihood training and opportunities for women from disadvantaged families at community-based centers.

In addition, all the Dominican entities in India are developing a training project, Safe Childhood: Breaking the silence and preventing incidences of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), to equip sisters and brothers with skills in dealing with child sexual abuse through activities such as:

  • Children’s groups and training in safety lessons against CSE
  • Increasing the knowledge and life skills of children to understand CSE and appropriately report the same in time
  • Awareness and sensitization on CSE in communities
  • Strengthening families by assisting parents to understand their children’s issues and how to help them be free from sexual exploitation
  • Providing nurturing support by visiting at-risk families at home and ensure family counseling and parenting support
  • Training of teachers, counselors and others on child sexual exploitation and enhance their capacity to effectively protect children from sexual exploitation
  • Dialogue and networking with schools and Government and Civil Society Organizations

 

If you want more information in the Indian Centre for Integrated Development run by the friars in India, click here.

Indian society is tremendously diverse. According to the Asia Society, “India offers astounding variety in virtually every aspect of social life. Diversities of ethnic, linguistic, regional, economic, religious, class, and caste groups crosscut Indian society, which is also permeated with immense urban-rural differences and gender distinctions. Differences between north India and south India are particularly significant, especially in systems of kinship and marriage. Indian society is multifaceted to an extent perhaps unknown in any other of the world’s great civilizations—it is more like an area as varied as Europe than any other single nation-state. Adding further variety to contemporary Indian culture are rapidly occurring changes affecting various regions and socioeconomic groups in disparate ways. Yet, amid the complexities of Indian life, widely accepted cultural themes enhance social harmony and order.” You can learn more here.

Christians represent only 2.3% of the population of India. Over 75% are Hindu and 15% are Muslim.  Here are Five Facts about Religion in India.

 

 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

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