This weekend is a “Weekend of Prayer” focused on Human Trafficking. This is an important issue that touches on issues of crumbling labor rights, gender, the environment, and poverty to name a few. A “Weekend of Prayer” is an invitation to spend time with this issue and hopefully become part of the solution.
To get us started I provided a link below to a site that can lead you through the prayer guide for the weekend and article from Truthout that presents a story of human trafficking. Happy journey!
Weekend of Prayer
America’s Shame: The US Government’s Human Trafficking Dilemma
For Vinnie Tuivaga, the offer was the answer to a prayer: A job in a luxury hotel in Dubai–the so-called Las Vegas of the Persian Gulf–making five times what she was earning as a hair stylist in her native Fiji.
She jumped at the chance, even if it meant paying an upfront commission to the recruiter.
You probably know how this story is going to end. There was no high-paying job, luxury location or easy work.
Tuivaga and other Fijians ended up in Iraq where they lived in shipping containers and existed in what amounted to indentured servitude.
Journalist Sarah Stillman told Tuivaga’s story and that of tens of thousands of other foreign workers in acute detail almost a year ago in her New Yorker piece, “The Invisible Army.”
In some cases, Stillman found more severe abuses and more squalid living conditions than what Tuivaga and her fellow Fijians experienced.
But like Tuivaga, thousands of foreign nationals in the U.S. government’s invisible army ended up in Iraq and Afghanistan war zones because they fell victim to human traffickers.
Let that sink in.
This human trafficking pipeline wasn’t benefitting some shadowy war lord or oppressive regime. No, these are workers who were feeding, cleaning up after, and providing logistical support for U.S. troops—the standard-bearers of the free and democratic world.
In its final report to Congress last year, the Commission on Wartime Contracting said it had uncovered evidence of human trafficking in Iraq and Afghanistan by labor brokers and subcontractors. Commissioner Dov Zakheim later told a Senate panel that the Commission had only scratched the surface of the problem. He called it the “tip of the iceberg.”
In essence, despite a 2002 presidential directive that set a “zero tolerance” on human trafficking, modern-day slavers have been operating with impunity under the aegis of the U.S. government.
Nick Schwellenbach, who until last month was the director of investigations at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), and author David Isenberg also wrote about the conditions some of these foreign workers endured in Iraq.
Nick and David uncovered documents that showed how one U.S. contractor—in this case KBR—was well aware that one of its subcontractors, Najlaa International Catering Services, was allegedly involved in trafficking abuses. From their story:
The freshly unearthed documents show that for several months, KBR employees expressed exasperation at Najlaa’s apparent abuse of the laborers and said the subcontractor was embarrassing KBR in front of its main client in Iraq: the U.S. military. But despite its own employees’ strongly worded communications to Najlaa, to this day, KBR continues to award subcontracts to the company.
Nick later testified before a House subcommittee, outlining reforms that Congress should pass to hold contractors and subcontractors accountable.
Well, it appears that some of the attention focused on human trafficking (including the movie The Whistleblower, the story of U.N. peacekeeper Kathryn Bolkovac, who blew the whistle on sex trafficking in post-war Bosnia) in the last year may finally be paying off.
Some Members of Congress have introduced measures aimed at preventing human trafficking by government contractors and subcontractors.
The bipartisan proposals (End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act of 2012, H.R. 4259 and S. 2234), which include some of the reforms that POGO has recommended, are sponsored by Rep. Lankford (R-OK) and Sen. Blumenthal (D-CT). Rep. Lankford will likely offer the legislation as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (FY13 NDAA) this month. The legislation would bolster the current laws and regulations governing trafficking by requiring contractors to create plans to prevent trafficking and requiring companies to closely monitor and report the activities of their subcontractors.
The measures also call for penalties, including suspending or debarring or criminally prosecuting violators.
Sen. Blumenthal said current law was insufficient and ineffective and failed to prevent abuses.
“Modern-day slavery by government contractors—unknowingly funded by American taxpayers—is unconscionable and intolerable,” Blumenthal said.
And, really, all of us should feel pangs of guilt for the human rights violations perpetrated by those profiting in the name of the American people. POGO launched a campaign this week urging people to tell their Members of Congress to support the anti-trafficking legislation.
It comes too late to help those workers who were abused during our decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But our presence in Iraq, Afghanistan and in military bases all over the world continues. And the invisible army we rely upon to keep those bases running needs this protection now as much as it ever has.
Below is a guest post from 8th Day Center for Justice
In the wake of the violent deaths in Newtown, Conn., 8th Day Center for Justice joins with the nation in grief and despair. We grieve the loss of these lives; we despair over the violent culture that allows such atrocities. Such expressions of violence do not exist in isolation; they exist in the context of a long, shameful history of perpetuating violence through our lifestyles, mentalities, actions, and wars.
We remember the children lost in Newtown. We remember all children who die through violence. We remember children who die from gunshot wounds in impoverished cities across the nation. We remember.
Afghan and Iraqi children who have died at the hands of the United States’ war machine. We remember children who have died because of poverty and hunger. We honor and mourn their lives.
We breathe in the memory of all who lose their lives to violence, and we breathe out hope for a new world. We envision a world that creates itself anew by changing this culture of violence. We envision a world where the tragedies of war and school shootings truly are unimaginable, a world where nonviolence surrounds us and is within us, a world where our lives are guided not by the works of war, but by the works of mercy.
In the darkness of tragedy and violence, 8th Day Center for Justice works and hopes for a spirit of peace to be born anew into our hearts and our world.
Guest Post: Esther Pineda, CSJ
The message of Our Lady of Guadalupe is for the restoration of justice. She highlights the need to be present to those who are poor, to those devastated by war, to those whose voices have been silenced by the pillage of conquest, to those who are rendered invisible by social and political structures. Through Juan Diego, now St. Juan Diego—he was canonized August 2002—she becomes the visible love of God. She is God’s action on behalf of those who are poor. Our Lady of Guadalupe gathers the people and restores their sense of dignity and self-worth, reveals to them that they are both loved and loving and reveals to them the unconditional love of the One God who has not abandoned them.
This is the fundamental imperative of the Gospel.
Her presence becomes a conversion—a call to see the world upside down. . . “The meek shall inherit the earth, the last shall be first,” and so on. She calls on Juan Diego, a poor, uneducated, indigenous peasant and makes him an ambassador with the message for the Bishop of Mexico. The bishop is to build a church on the outskirts of what is now Mexico City . . . among the people who live on the periphery of the city, on the outskirts. Prior to her apparition, the church was located in the heart of the city, in the heart of the commercial and political arena. It was difficult for those living on the outskirts to attend liturgy and avail themselves of God’s word and sacraments. The Church is to be in the midst of the poor. As is often being said, “Option for the poor is not an option, it is a mandate.” It is a mandate from our God, the God who sides with those who are poor, who sides with the anawim of society.
As we continue to contemplate Our Lady of Guadalupe, as we continue to prepare for the coming of her Son, let us be about justice-making.
Sr. Esther Pineda, CSJ, is a member of the Pax Christi USA National Council.
As a country we take a collective sigh, whether of joy or disappointment, the rigor and drama of an election season has passed. We have a re-elected a Democratic President, a slightly stronger Democratic Senate, and a Republican controlled House of Representatives.
We have committed as a country the peaceful transfer of power as a transparent expression of the people’s will. Tuesday night’s news was full of stories of the people’s will – people waiting for hours to vote, voting with a flashlight in districts hit by Hurricane Sandy and here in Chicago a woman experiencing contractions five minutes apart voting before going to the hospital!
Young and old, conservative and liberal, Democrat, Republican and Independent: we came together and gave ourselves and the world a snapshot of what we value and are concerned about at this time.
It seems there is a mandate to take seriously most of the platform offered by the Democratic Party: environmental concerns, reducing unemployment, taxing a wealthier income bracket, and taking seriously immigration reform. With the Republicans maintaining a strong majority in the House there is also a mandate for many of the traditional Republican concerns like debt and the support of the military.
However the biggest mandate seems to be that youth and communities of color, who parties may have grown comfortable ignoring, came out in strong numbers for an America that has room at the table for more than Super PAC wealth. An America that is conscious of climate change, redefining households, and ready to rebuild a domestic economy that cannot be outsourced.
The work comes now, and not just for those who now hold office, but for every one of us. As President Obama stated last night civic participation is not just about voting it is about a full embrace of working locally and nationally to create a country that reflects a diversity of dreams and hopes. And may it be so…
Love letters from Kabul – a fairer life for all
Letters from an Afghan boy, an Afghan girl & a Singaporean doctor
Dear friends and fellow human beings,
1st November, 2012 ( Gregorian calendar )
11th Aqrab, 1391 ( Afghan calendar )
Like yourself, Abdulhai, Samia and I live in a world that is not well. There are growing inequalities and angry conflicts, and the air in Kabul is getting increasingly polluted.
Are the three of us well?
“I’m 16 years old. I want to be happy, but when I see how human beings ignore or treat one another, I feel alone,” says Abdulhai (pictured below), who carries an inner burden created by the loss of his father.
Samia (pictured below),“I’m 13 years old and I want to learn to read and write. I also want to help my family have enough food at home…it isn’t easy to feel hungry.”
And I’m a 43 year old Singaporean physician whose name is Young and whose given Afghan nickname is Hakim. Afghan friends, like Abdulhai and Samia, have changed my life over the past 10 years, as I learn with them about meeting basic needs and improving livelihoods. I thought I was educated, until I peered beyond orphan boy Najib’s tearful eyes, and saw our modern world making children cry from hopelessness.
The three of us thought that we’ll write letters to you as friends and fellow human beings, with me as the translator-scribe, to tell you stories of our lives in 21st century Afghanistan.
We have no political or religious affiliation or aims, and we’re not looking for funds. We are ordinary people, warts and all.
We’re a little nervous about being vulnerable with you, so we’ll have to fall back on the shared hope that all human beings want to love and be loved, and long to be free.
Love letters from Kabul – a fairer life for all
Please join us.
Abdulhai, Samia and Hakim
NB Before our first letter next week, please take time to see the late Rachel Corrie speak of the shared hope of a fairer life for all when she was 11 years old, in this video clip “I’m here because I care” . In 2003, Rachel was crushed by an Israel Defense Forces armored bulldozer in Rafah, West Bank, when she stood to block the demolition of Palestinian homes. We’re privileged to know Rachel’s parents, Cindy and Craig Corrie.
Abdulhai, Samia and I will try to pen our sentiments weekly or fortnightly under the following letter headings….
Our letter on basic needs
Our letter on a fairer education
Our letter on fairer livelihoods
Our letter on family
Our letter on friends
Our letter on a fairer community
Our letter on a fairer world
Our letter on safety
Our letter on fairer thoughts
Our letter on emotions
Our letter on deeper emotions
Our letter on fairer beliefs
Our letter on fairer money
Our letter on fairer power
Our letter on fairer hopes
Our letter on fairer dignities
Our letter on love
In these last weeks of campaigning we keep hearing about the middle class. Certainly the concerns of the middle class are worthy and deserve the time and consideration of candidates. But what about those in poverty?
U.S. Human Rights Network is working to bring a focus to a growing group of Americans who have been erased in the campaign for the White House. See below to learn more about their initiative and groups working to help folks in poverty…
In commemoration of the 64th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this year, the U.S. Human Rights Network launched a campaign to highlight the important human rights work that our members and partners are engaged in domestically. In the 64 days leading up to December 10, otherwise known as Human Rights Day, the USHRN is highlighting 64 member and partner organizations as a way to raise awareness about the domestic human rights movement. For this week, when the United Nations recognizes October 17 as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, we are featuring six organizations working with low-income communities, fighting against poverty, and challenging structural inequality. To round out the week, we also feature the important work being done at ColumbiaLawSchool’s Human Rights Institute, and the role it plays in the domestic human rights movement. Poverty is a deprivation of the full range of our economic human rights.
|HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTE – COLUMBIA LAW SCHOOLThe Human Rights Institute sits at the heart of human rights teaching, practice and scholarship at Columbia Law School. Founded in 1998 by the late Professor Louis Henkin, the Institute draws on the law school’s deep human rights tradition to support and influence human rights practice in the United States and throughout the world. Over the past several years, the Institute and the Human Rights Clinic have become increasingly integrated, enabling it to multiply their impact on the field and engage students more fully in their work.HRI currently focuses its work in three main substantive areas: Human Rights in the United States; Counterterrorism & Human Rights; and Human Rights & the Global Economy. HRI has developed distinct approaches to work in each area, building bridges between scholarship and activism, developing capacity within the legal community, engaging governments, and modeling new strategies for progress.Read more.|
On this day of remembering the life and love of St. Francis I feel hope–hope that the story of one life and passion for justice and peace has joined the lives of millions over centuries and remained true.
True to the radical notion that God’s love is abundant and our lives are marked from the beginning with an amazing potential to be grateful, humble and blessedly present. Francis gives us the invitation to integrate the suffering and joy of the day into the widest chamber of our hearts and to feel the buzzing anticipation of transformation while holding the tender sadness of not being there yet.
On this day to all those who hold Francis as an elder, an inspiration, an ancestor and a saint may the joy of wildly passionate Francesco fill your day.
Peace and All Good…
Last week many of you celebrated International Peace Day. Below is a great opportunity to continue the work and the celebration. The members of Afghan Youth Peace Initiative, the boys I visited in Afghanistan, have created a new campaign for peace. They are trying to create “two million” friends to mark the roughly two million civilians who have been killed in civil conflicts and the U.S. invasion.
This act is simple and yet it helps to create a global network that says: “We believe that all people have the right to live in peace.”
Be One of ‘2 Million Friends’! for peace in Afghanistan
Join the ‘2 Million Friends’ Campaign.
Farzana, 22 year old Afghan stage actress, and a member of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, said, “When I express the whole range of emotions on stage, I enter an awareness, and a thrilling consciousness of human reality. I have a pain and my husband and fellow Afghan citizens, men and women, share the pain with me. It is the pain of being treated as less than humans. We are human beings. We have wishes. War has brought this pain on us. War kills our joy and hides our tears.”
Farzana calls out to our compassionate imagination, “Instead of fight, talk and build, I suggest, ‘Be friends, talk and build!’”
Listen to Farzana and the Afghan Peace Volunteers say in this video clip “Be One of 2 Million Friends!”
Why ‘2 Million Friends’?
2 million Afghan victims of war were killed over the past four decades. We wish to remember them by finding 2 million friends, to call for a ceasefire in Afghanistan. More friends! No more war. No more killing.
Help Farzana and the Afghan Peace Volunteers find those friends : Visit http://2millionfriends.org
1. Be a Friend!
(a) Email “ I’m One of 2 Million Friends!” to email@example.com
(c) Listen : Global Days of Listening conversations with Afghans & people from conflict areas
2. Help them find 2 million friends: Email, Facebook and Tweet this far and wide to all your friends!
3. Support their call for a ceasefire : Sign a letter to the U.N. for a ceasefire
The letterwill be ‘presented’ to the U.N. office in Kabul on the International Day of Human Rights, December 10th, 2012.
4. Host or join concurrent, solidarity events on Dec 10th, 2012
An event will be held in Kabul on December 10th , 2012and attended by ordinary Afghans and Afghan civil society groups, Dr Sima Samar ( Chairperson of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission ), Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Maguire and others.
You can host or join concurrent, solidarity events on December 10th , 2012in your own communities and countries, to remember the 2 million Afghan victims of war in various ways e.g. releasing doves, flying kites, displaying banners, lighting candles etc.,
5. Consider participating in Dec 2012 visit to Afghanistan or a fast in New York
In light of all the talking points, issues and framing of the national conventions I feel pulled to the memory of Maya Angelou reading her poem at Bill Clinton’s inauguration.
In particular, the following stanzas:
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon
This day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream…
Maya Angelou, On the Pulse of the Morning
It recalls for me this is a time to dream rooted in the best of who we are and the most we long to become.
The video below, “This is the America I Believe In,” (featuring songwriter and performer Sister Kathy Sherman, CSJ) recalls the space of civic engagement that is about imagination, values, and dreams. I offer this video this week as we pause after the Republican National Convention and head into the Democratic National Convention to ask ourselves what is my hope, our hope for the America we all believe in.
Sunday, not even one month after the Aurora, Colo., tragedy, we saw another mass shooting . In fact so far this year there have been four instances of mass shootings.
April in Oakland, Calif., a man opened fire in a classroom at his former University killing seven and injuring three.
June in Seattle, Wash., a man entered a cafe killing five and injuring one.
July in Aurora, Colo., a man entered a movie theatre killing 12 and injuring 58.
August in Milwaukee, Wis., a man enters a temple killing six people.
So far in 2012 30 people have been killed in mass shootings and 65 injured. Since 2003, 195 people have been killed in mass shootings and more than 207 injured.
The numbers are hard to look at and the stories with their own unimaginable grief and terror become hard to remember because they overwhelm. The desire as a culture is to turn away, turn toward anything else that does not leave us with such hard questions. We turn toward any media hook in its voracious 24 hour news cycle that allows us to leave behind the paralyzing questions: What is happening to our society? Why did it happen? What does this mean?
These questions cannot just be answered by the victims; it is not their burden alone to comprehend this trauma. Nor can they only be answered by us individually in private or with a few friends. These questions need to be understood collectively, in a common space that acknowledges the narratives of the shootings are multifaceted, complex and belong to each of us.
Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes getting a divorce is given more space in our culture to be “understood” than many of the traumas and tragedies we see in war, natural disaster and man-made disasters like shootings. Why do we create the collective psychological space to feed on private struggles, like the divorce of celebrities, but the public traumas after the initial facts are exploited are left behind?
When we go to funerals, deal with the death of a loved one, we confront questions as an individual or as a family that are hard. And yet which one of us would give up that journey or that ritual simply because it is hard? We deal with the radically difficult journey because it heals the loss.
So in this moment, facing another tragedy, what if we approached it as a country like a funeral and not a news cycle? A ritualized, collective grieving that is committed to the hard journey so that we can heal from the loss together and create a new way forward. Take a break from the “new” news of the day and stay right here in the hard and the sad and let grief’s wisdom lead us to a new place.
The battle over SB1070 has gone all the way to the Supreme Court in an effort to untangle where federal rights meet state rights, what constitutes racial profiling, and who at the end of the day is responsible for creating immigration reform.
The government is arguing that the law promotes racial profiling and over steps into a policy area that belongs on a federal level. The states are arguing that they have both a right and an obligation to deal with people who are undocumented within their own contexts and that while the law could create circumstances of racial profiling that would only be if it was abused by law enforcement.
The list of questions presented to the court are all worthy and represent key facets of democracy, human rights, and balance of power. At the heart of these questions is how we understand citizenship. Is it a special status that restricts the distribution of legal rights? Or is it a legal reality that confers on each of us a special responsibility for how we welcome and integrate those who come into our borders?
Sojourners and many other faith leaders feel that it is the latter. In light of that they invite those who feel that SB1070 represents a failure of democracy, human rights, and the balance of powers to write letters to their editors. Check out the link below and join the call to never understand a human being as illegal.
A powerful conversation between nine Black and Latino boys about their experience growing up as young men of color in the United States. The locus of their reflection surrounds the events of Trayvon’s murder but extends further into the realities of race that implicitly and explicitly impact the lives of young men of color. The boys answer questions like: when was the first time you were frisked? what does it mean to look suspicious?
A powerful video that reveals the lived struggles of young men of color as they grow, live, learn in a world that deems them dangerous, untrustworthy, and in need of social control. Take some time and listen to these young men as they share what it means to live in a world where a hoodie may decide your fate.
This post will make the most sense for those of you who have read the Hunger Games series or at least seen the first movie. If you are reading this and have not seen the movie or read the books I recommend giving them a try if only for the questions they raise.
Simple low down – Katniss Everdeen lives in the future United States. Through different past events the U.S. has shifted from states into regional districts and the districts are ruled by the Capitol, the nation’s largest city. Katniss lives in District 12, one of the poorest districts and the one responsible for providing coal to the Capitol for energy.
The Capitol, in an effort to maintain control over the districts, holds an annual “Hunger Games.” Each district (excluding the Capitol) holds a “reaping” in which a female and male “contender” who are between the ages of 12 – 18 are selected in a drawing ran by Capitol officials. These contenders are then brought to the Capitol to live in an arena where they will fight to the death. The last one standing is considered the “victor” and when they return home may live in the “Victors Village” in their own district.
The entire “games” is televised and seen by Capitol citizens as entertainment while the families in the district must watch as one of their own children kills or is killed or both. Katniss’ sister, Primrose is chosen, but Katniss volunteers to replace her in the games. And so begins an incredible story of survival, the bounds of love, and the power of the powerful to change a life.
The Hunger Games is a gruesome story line and one that is easy to dismiss as too fantastic. When would any country demand that their children fight to the death in a televised spectacle?
And yet as you read the book or watch the film there is something chilling and familiar in the lines of the story – tell me if any of this rings a bell …
A part of the world that guzzles resources while those who live around it are cast into poverty…
A part of the world that watches “real life” on T.V. finding humor, entertainment, and even pleasure in the struggles, humiliations, and tragedies of others…
A part of the world where a child who dies in one neighborhood is treated differently than a child who may die in another neighborhood…
Sound at all familiar?
The Hunger Games draws from realities in the present and casts them into the future – what will it look one hundred years from now? Reality T.V., consumerism, government, how we are in relationship to one another?
Will the great – great grandchildren of today’s first graders stand in a line praying that their name is not called ? What do we need to create today, what do we need to change today to make sure that the “odds” will be forever in everyone’s favor.
Read the book, see the movie, have a conversation and tell me what you think.
This Palm Sunday, for some reason, the image I had in my head was of Trayvon Martin and his grieving parents. I wonder what it means to live in a society that upholds the law that the shooting of an unarmed minor is legal? That the death of your son was his own fault for appearing suspicious and threatening to an armed adult who was told by the police, prior to shooting, to cease and desist. Suspicious in this case being the wearing of a “hoodie” and apparently being a young man of color.
We know the story of Palm Sunday, Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey and is greeted in many ways as a king by the crowds of people who have come to believe in his preaching. What is not often taught with the story is that through the other gate, the Western gate, the military of the Roman empire entered the city of Jerusalem as well. They entered on big horses, in full uniform, a spectacle of terror to all the Jews who were gathering for Passover week. A reminder that the empire had the power to arrest and put to death anyone who did not conform to the laws of Roman occupation.
Jesus’ entering on a donkey was a way to challenge the empire, to create a new image of power that was grounded in the people. The common folks who traveled on a donkey and bore the burden of the Roman’s taxes and laws. A way also to challenge religious powers who colluded with the empire in oppressing the people.
In the weeks since Trayvon’s death I have seen image after image of people putting on a “hoodie” to show that wearing a sweatshirt with the hood up does not equal being dangerous. I have seen protests and rallies across the country of communities calling on the Department of Justice to challenge the “Shoot First” law that makes Trayvon’s death an act of self-defense rather than murder.
I see people entering by the eastern gate, choosing the donkey over powerful horses to be present to those who are oppressed, left out and disappeared in the failed and terrifying logic of “Shoot First”.
This Holy Week I invite you to the eastern gate, to gaze from a perspective that is the opposite of powerful or mainstream, and see where it takes you.
I am haunted this week by the Kandahar killing spree. I keep thinking of the young men I met through the Afghan Youth Peace Initiative, some as young as 12, and I wonder what if they were one of the 16? What if one of those brave young men working for peace in Afghanistan had been dragged from their bed at 3 a.m. and shot in the head?
I am haunted by this soldier. After his third tour and traumatic brain injury he believed he would be sent to Hawaii for a desk job, instead he was sent to the most unstable area in yet another war zone. What had happened to him that the only option left was to shoot men, women and children in the middle of the night and then light their bodies on fire?
I am haunted by Leon Panetta who bluntly told the press, “war is hell,” and to expect that this type of tragedy would happen again.
I am haunted by the story we keep telling ourselves that in this war there are “good” deaths and “bad” deaths as if the loss of any human life fits into such cheap categories.
I am haunted and yet I know that peace, justice and healing find their roots in what haunts us, what disturbs us and what will not allow us to say death and suffering and horror are what we should expect. So I borrow from the traditions of healing I have been taught in Colombia. Another war zone, another place where too often death is treated as a normalized outcome of “war.”
The Colombians have taught me the power of memory and how in honoring those who have suffered, those who have died, you hold open the space for what can be – for what we do not yet see but refuse to ever relinquish our hope for…
So as a way to honor memory and pray for hope I offer this prayer for all those who have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and all the places of war around the world…
Leader: In the rising of the sun and in its going down,
All: We remember them.
Leader: In the glowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,
All: We remember them.
Leader: In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring,
All: We remember them.
Leader: In the blueness of sky and in the warmth of summer,
All: We remember them.
Leader: In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn,
All: We remember them.
Leader: In the beginning of the year and when it ends,
All: We remember them.
Leader: When we are weary and in need of strength,
All: We remember them.
Leader: When we are lost and sick at heart,
All: We remember them.
Leader: When we have joys we yearn to share,
All: We remember them. So long as we live, they too shall live,
For they are now a part of us, as we remember them.
From Prayers for Life, Edited By: Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon
Below is an update from Hakim and the Afghan Youth Peace Initiative I travelled with last March in Afghanistan. The boys have made a trip to India and continue to explore what it means to build peace in this world. Catch up on their journey with note and link from Hakim below.
The last photo-essay update of our India trip is available at http://ourjourneytosmile.com/blog/2012/01/what-would-gandhi-say-to-afghan-youth-today/
Hakim and the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers
Thanks to all who made this trip to India possible!
Thanks to Vijay and Rita of South Asia Peace Alliance for inviting, hosting and teaching us!
2. Ekta Parishad http://ektaparishad.com/
The team at Bhopal : Aneesh, Lilly, Vinod, Rakesh who organized our field visits in Bhopal
The team in Delhi : Muntajan, Paul, Kathrin and Fran who made our stay in Delhi, Bhopal and India so colourful
4. The Oasis Program facilitators and participants, including teachers and students of Gandhinagar International School
It has become sadly well documented fact that large sports events tend to increase “opportunities” for the trafficking of human beings, in particular women and girls for sex trafficking.
In advance of the 2012 Super Bowl occurring in Indianapolis Catholic Sisters through the mid-west have joined together to increase awareness while demanding that officials in Indiana do all they can to ensure a safe environment for all who attend the event.
Check out the two articles below about this important work.
This past week held two important events. On Jan. 11 there was a vigil calling for the closing of Guantanamo and the use of indefinite detention and on Jan. 12 there was a city council hearing on a resolution to declare Chicago a “torture free city.”
This year, 2012, marks ten years of Guantanamo being open and indefinite detention being a practice. Currently just fewer than 200 men remain in the prison with no access to due process. If current practice continues these men could be held until their own deaths having never been accused of a crime or afforded an opportunity to defend themselves in a court of law.
This year also marks over 30 years of struggle to bring accountability to police officers on the south side of Chicago who used torture to extract confessions from suspects. Over 200 African-American men, some as young as 14, were beaten, shocked with electric cattle prods, put through mock executions, and placed in stress positions by Chicago police to extract fake confessions and ensure higher convictions rates. Many of these men went on to serve over 20 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.
Both of these events shared a common link: justice is a core piece of our identity as a democracy and human community. When we remove, compromise, exploit, or block justice we lose the balance of power between government and citizen – between law officer and community member – between nation and citizen of another land. And when that balance of power is gone – then we cease to be a democracy and we edge towards the abusive power regimes that stand infamous in human history.
The vigil and the hearing on the city council resolution provided the space to take back a piece of that lost democracy, the lost balance of power by honoring the victims and calling for accountability. Check out the photos below and the link to an article explaining more about the resolution.
8th Day Center for Justice joins with groups around the globe to mark the 10th anniversary of Guantanamo Bay Prison and the practice of indefinite detention, enhanced interrogation and torture.
We will spend the next nine days leading up to January 11 going to teach-ins, actions, vigils and walks to help raise up the voices of those disappeared by fear, prejudice and the abuse of the law.
Check out the link below to see how you too can “hunger for justice” this next week and support the end of torture!
Hungering for Justice
January 2-12, 2012
To mark and mourn ten years of torture, abuse, mistreatment and miscarriage of justice, Witness Against Torture began a liquids-only fast on January 2. We will break the fast the morning of January 12. We fast for ten days to remember ten years of Guantanamo. We fast for the closure of Guantanamo and Bagram and other sites of indefinite detention and abuse. We fast for an end to torture. We fast for the restoration of justice and decency.
We remember those held at Guantanamo, Bagram and other similar prisons around the world – those who have been deprived of food by their captors, and those who have voluntarily deprived themselves of food in protest. We stand in solidarity with them, and our fast is our small piece of understanding. Join Us! Also read Practical Information About Fasting
Advent calls us to wait, not a passive numbing to enable a blind passage of time, rather an engaged anticipation that does not dim with the dying light of a winter season.
The Occupy Movement calls forth a similar engagement of holy imagination; to imagine fiercely a world built on economic justice, is an active willing rather than a passive day dreaming.
Occupy and Advent call us to not just long for the new day but create it from the raw beauty and potential that surrounds us wherever we are – to move toward a light we see as birthright no matter the obstacles, the chronic pain of cynicism, or danger.
Add the video from Occupy to your Advent meditations and join the global celebration of possibility…
Today, FSPA, together with nine other congregations of Catholic Sisters, declares itself an Immigrant Welcoming Community.
The sisters, based in the Upper Mississippi River Valley, call on President Obama and Congress to work together to enact comprehensive immigration reform. To make their point, they have issued a statement on “Welcoming Communities” and are placing billboards in the QuadCities,Des Moines, Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, Sioux Cityand Clinton,Iowa, this month in advance of the Iowa caucuses to make sure delegates, potential candidates and voters remember this critical issue.
“We declare ourselves ‘Welcoming Communities’ in affirmation of our Catholic tradition that holds sacred the dignity of each person,” the Sisters said in the official statement, “and we invite other communities and people of faith to join us in becoming ‘Immigrant Welcoming Communities’ through prayer, reflection, education and action.”
“Our ‘Welcoming Communities’ stance is a direct response to the government’s ‘Secure Communities’ program which has transformed local police officers into a primary gateway for deportation,” explained the sisters.
“The results have been hundreds of thousands of detentions and deportations, serious civil and human rights concerns, due process violations and damaged trust between immigrant communities and local police.”
They further noted that “the ‘Secure Communities’ process was marketed to local law enforcement agencies as a way to deal with serious and dangerous criminals. In fact, low-priority, non-violent offenders or even lawful permanent residents are being funneled into this program which is breaking up families, promoting racial profiling, and fueling a fear-filled and hateful anti-immigrant atmosphere.”
National immigration reform organizations assert that the “Secure Communities” program has actually made communities less safe because many individuals are afraid to report crimes that they experience or witness for fear of being deported or having neighbors, family members or friends deported. As a result, they state, crimes are going unreported and communities, rather than becoming “secure” are living in fear.
“Failure on the part of the federal government to reform the present unworkable immigration system has resulted in states passing legislation that is punitive and harmful to human rights,” noted the Sisters.
“We understand that enforcement of law is part of any immigration policy,” the Sisters emphasized. “However, the present policy of involving state and local law enforcement agencies in the enforcement of federal immigration law, such as in the ‘Secure Communities’ program, is not achieving that goal. True security lies in building relationships and respecting human rights and only true, comprehensive, compassionate immigration reform can deal with the crisis in our nation. Therefore, we are declaring ourselves Immigrant Welcoming Communities.”
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/catholicsisters.
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,
Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights will be turning 63 on Saturday December 10th. For over 60 years the conversation on human dignity, rights and responsibilities has been shaped by the historical document that flowed from the atrocities of WWII.
In a time of indefinite detentions, deportations, and enhanced interrogations it is more important than ever to honor human rights by fighting for them – celebrating them – and never forgetting all the victims of human rights violations worldwide. Check out the link below and see how you can join in the global conversation of continuing the struggle for the… recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world!
“I am crossing today because I am hoping for a resurrection.” Theresa Cusimano
Theresa Cusimano crossed onto Ft. Benning on Nov. 20, 2011, to call for the closing of the School of the Americas and a return to believing that each of us can bear witness to the struggles we see in the world. To bear witness to harm and suffering as well as beauty and possibility is a path away from the apathy and dis-empowerment that builds fear and hate. It is a path toward resurrection.
Join in bearing witness by watching Theresa’s video.
I will return this week to the gates at Ft. Benning to gather and vigil for the closing of the School of the Americas. We will stand together to remember all those who have been victims of the school and their loved ones. We will stand together to call for peace with full justice which demands that those responsible for the crimes of the school be brought to light. We will stand and lean out hearts and souls into the knowledge that another is possible even it is not yet known. Join me in prayer, in spirit, and enjoy the video below….Adelante!
SOAW Video 2010
In another exciting round of recall elections, similar to those in Wisconsin, Arizona recalled Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce who was the author of S.B 1070- Arizona’s infamous “Show Me Your Papers” law.
This is a tremendous moment for immigrants, their families and supporters across the country. A moment of collective outcry that says we are not a nation built on fear and exclusion. A nation that relies on an abuse of power rather than examining our own role and responsibility in how folks come to live, work and be a part of our diverse land.
Read below and take a moment to celebrate with immigrants and advocates across the country!
Loss a stunning reversal for Pearce
Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services | Posted: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 12:01 am
MESA – Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce – architect of some of the nation’s toughest state laws against illegal immigration – was ousted by voters Tuesday in an unprecedented recall.
Results late Tuesday showed challenger Jerry Lewis, a political newcomer, with a 53-to-45 percent margin over Pearce in his east Mesa district. Both are Republicans. A small percentage also cast ballots for Olivia Cortes, although she withdrew from the race.
Pearce conceded defeat, saying he is disappointed and will spend some time “with my family and my God” before deciding what to do next. He has not ruled out another run – including to get his seat back.
Pearce is probably best known for proposing several immigration measures – often amid opposition from his own party – including a successful 2004 ballot measure to deny services to people living here illegally, and most recently, last year’s Senate Bill 1070 to give police more power to detain and arrest illegal immigrants.
“Obviously, it was a huge part of the recall,” said Lewis, who promised a more “civil dialogue and discussion” of the entire immigration issue.
U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a Tucson Democrat who called for a controversial boycott of Arizona over SB 1070, said Pearce’s loss “is a game changer for Arizona and a game changer for politicians who have used the immigration issue to divide people.”
Pearce, however, said he makes no apologies for his style, which can come across as confrontational. “Am I vigilant? Yes,” he said. “When you take tough positions, people get upset. That’s because somebody has to be a leader, and we wouldn’t have accomplished what we accomplished without leadership.”
He said polls have shown that most Arizonans support SB 1070, and he still believes that.
Pearce said one reason he lost was that this was an unusual race, with no primary. That allowed all voters, including the district’s Democrats and independents, to make the final decision.
“This is going around the primary process,” Pearce said.
“Jerry Lewis could not win in a (Republican) primary,” he added, saying Lewis was the choice of Democrats. “So it doesn’t take but 10 to 15 percent of the Republicans to vote for him to make the difference.”
Lewis disputed that description of the race, calling it dishonest. He sidestepped the question of whether he could have beaten Pearce in a head-to-head primary where only Republicans were allowed to vote. “That’s a hypothetical question,” Lewis said. “I don’t know the answer to that.”
Lewis, a charter school executive, said he never ran for office in a regular primary “because I never wanted to be a politician.”
He said one reason he probably won is he had support from Hispanic voters, many of whom are Democrats.
Despite being rejected by the voters in the district, Pearce said he would not have done anything any different since he was first elected to the Legislature in 2000.
“We’re Number One in the nation in Second Amendment liberties,” said Pearce, who helped push through laws allowing any adult to carry a concealed weapon. “We’re one of the top in the nation in laws that protect the unborn. So what else would I do differently? I’m pretty proud of that record.”
Pearce blamed his defeat in part on “heavy outside money” from liberal groups and unions, but at the same time boasted about the fact that he received donations from contributors in 40 states.
Lewis, for his part, said he waged a clean race, suggesting Pearce supporters had not done the same.
“I was told from the beginning it would be very hard hitting, below the belt. I just didn’t realize I’d have padlocks thrown below the belt as well,” he said, in a reference to a July incident where someone threw a lock at him. “That was a symbol of things to come,” he said.
But Lewis said he has no animosity for the man he beat.
“I still love him, he’s my brother,” he said of Pearce. “And I still consider him a friend, and I hope that we can work together in bringing about a fresh voice for Mesa.”
The recall election, forced by a petition drive, was the first for an Arizona legislator.
Tuesday’s vote has statewide implications in other ways. It means the 21 Senate Republicans – now including Lewis – will have to pick a replacement for Senate president.
That could shuffle the power within the chamber as would-be contenders try to line up support and promise plum committee assignments to supporters.
Arizona Daily Star reporter Carmen Duarte contributed to this report.
Wanted to share some info and perspectives on the Occupy Wall Street movement and how it is seen from an international lens (video below from Russia Today News) to locally a reflection from Noam Chomsky. Watch, read and ponder…are we making history?
Noam Chomsky, Truthout | Speech
(This article is adapted from Noam Chomsky’s talk at the Occupy Boston encampment on Dewey Square on Oct. 22. He spoke as part of the Howard Zinn Memorial Lecture Series held by Occupy Boston’s on-site Free University. Zinn was a historian, activist and author of “A People’s History of the United States.”)
Delivering a Howard Zinn lecture is a bittersweet experience for me. I regret that he’s not here to take part in and invigorate a movement that would have been the dream of his life. Indeed, he laid a lot of the groundwork for it.
If the bonds and associations being established in these remarkable events can be sustained through a long, hard period ahead, victories don’t come quickly, the Occupy protests could mark a significant moment in American history.
I’ve never seen anything quite like the Occupy movement in scale and character, here and worldwide. The Occupy outposts are trying to create cooperative communities that just might be the basis for the kinds of lasting organizations necessary to overcome the barriers ahead and the backlash that’s already coming.
That the Occupy movement is unprecedented seems appropriate because this is an unprecedented era, not just in this moment but since the 1970’s.
The 1970s marked a turning point for the United States. Since the country began, it had been a developing society, not always in very pretty ways, but with general progress toward industrialization and wealth.
Even in dark times, the expectation was that the progress would continue. I’m just old enough to remember the Great Depression. By the mid-1930s, even though the situation was objectively much harsher than today, the spirit was quite different.
A militant labor movement was organizing, the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations) and others, and workers were staging sit-down strikes, just one step from taking over the factories and running them themselves.
Under popular pressure, New Deal legislation was passed. The prevailing sense was that we would get out of the hard times.
Now there’s a sense of hopelessness, sometimes despair. This is quite new in our history. During the 1930s, working people could anticipate that the jobs would come back. Today, if you’re a worker in manufacturing, with unemployment practically at Depression levels, you know that those jobs may be gone forever if current policies persist.
That change in the American outlook has evolved since the 1970s. In a reversal, several centuries of industrialization turned to de-industrialization. Of course manufacturing continued, but overseas, very profitable, though harmful to the workforce.
The economy shifted to financialization. Financial institutions expanded enormously. A vicious cycle between finance and politics accelerated. Increasingly, wealth concentrated in the financial sector. Politicians, faced with the rising cost of campaigns, were driven ever deeper into the pockets of wealthy backers.
And the politicians rewarded them with policies favorable to Wall Street: deregulation, tax changes, relaxation of rules of corporate governance, which intensified the vicious cycle. Collapse was inevitable. In 2008, the government once again came to the rescue of Wall Street firms presumably too big to fail, with leaders too big to jail.
Today, for the one-tenth of 1 percent of the population who benefited most from these decades of greed and deceit, everything is fine.
In 2005, Citigroup, which, by the way, has repeatedly been saved by government bailouts, saw the wealthy as a growth opportunity. The bank released a brochure for investors that urged them to put their money into something called the Plutonomy Index, which identified stocks in companies that cater to the luxury market.
“The world is dividing into two blocs, the plutonomy and the rest,” Citigroup summarized. “The U.S., U.K. and Canada are the key plutonomies, economies powered by the wealthy.”
As for the non-rich, they’re sometimes called the precariat, people who live a precarious existence at the periphery of society. The “periphery” however, has become a substantial proportion of the population in the U.S. and elsewhere.
So we have the plutonomy and the precariat: the 1 percent and the 99 percent, as Occupy sees it, not literal numbers, but the right picture.
The historic reversal in people’s confidence about the future is a reflection of tendencies that could become irreversible. The Occupy protests are the first major popular reaction that could change the dynamic.
I’ve kept to domestic issues. But two dangerous developments in the international arena overshadow everything else.
For the first time in human history, there are real threats to the survival of the human species. Since 1945 we have had nuclear weapons, and it seems a miracle we have survived them. But policies of the Obama administration and its allies are encouraging escalation.
The other threat, of course, is environmental catastrophe. Practically every country in the world is taking at least halting steps to do something about it. The United States is taking steps backward. A propaganda system, openly acknowledged by the business community, declares that climate change is all a liberal hoax: Why pay attention to these scientists?
If this intransigence continues in the richest, most powerful country in the world, the catastrophe won’t be averted.
Something must be done in a disciplined, sustained way, and soon. It won’t be easy to proceed. There will be hardships and failures, it’s inevitable. But unless the process that’s taking place here and elsewhere in the country and around the world continues to grow and becomes a major force in society and politics, the chances for a decent future are bleak.
You can’t achieve significant initiatives without a large, active, popular base. It’s necessary to get out into the country and help people understand what the Occupy movement is about, what they themselves can do, and what the consequences are of not doing anything.
Organizing such a base involves education and activism. Education doesn’t mean telling people what to believe, it means learning from them and with them.
Karl Marx said, ‚”The task is not just to understand the world but to change it.‚” A variant to keep in mind is that if you want to change the world you’d better try to understand it. That doesn’t mean listening to a talk or reading a book, though that’s helpful sometimes. You learn from participating. You learn from others. You learn from the people you’re trying to organize. We all have to gain the understanding and the experience to formulate and implement ideas.
The most exciting aspect of the Occupy movement is the construction of the linkages that are taking place all over. If they can be sustained and expanded, Occupy can lead to dedicated efforts to set society on a more humane course.
© 2011 Noam Chomsky
The FSPA Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation Committee has been working for two years on the issue of immigration.
PBS is offering a great opportunity tonight to curl up in this great fall weather and watch a Frontline episode about the devastating impacts of detention on immigrant families and communities.
This is great opportunity to learn more about what is happening across the country as politicians refuse to reform the immigration system and instead are “creating” policy by default through extensive detention and deportation. Join with the JPIC Committee and commit to learning more about this human rights crisis tonight!
See below for more information and an action from Presente.org !
On Tuesday, October 18th, award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa presents the groundbreaking documentary Lost in Detention. It’s an exposé that reveals the devastating consequences of the mass incarceration of immigrants, and the harsh toll it takes on families, women and children.
Hinojosa discussed Secure Communities (S-Comm) and other issues highlighted in the documentary. Check out the video and you will see why we all need to tune in to Lost in Detention on PBS. Click below to let us know you’re watching on Tuesday and to see the exclusive interview. When you’re done, forward this email to friends and family and post this video on Facebook and Twitter.
The astonishing and unprecedented footage in Lost in Detention has the power to change how people understand the immigration crisis and motivate them to act. The film starts with the highly criticized Secure Communities (S-Comm) program and goes on to give a look at the overall system of detention and incarceration – and on the physical and sexual abuse that has become commonplace.
Click here for more information on Lost in Detention and to find your local listing.
Thanks so much!
The 8th Day Center for Justice participated yesterday in march in downtown Chicago as a part of the new national movement that originated as Occupy Wall Street. We marched to the call of ,”We are the 99%” teachers, public workers, students, college students, union members, high school students and even grade-schoolers” in order to call attention to the spreading disparity, inequality and want.
I was behind a group of fourth graders that carried signs saying, “I am in the fourth grade and I want recess back” pointing to the recent Illinois budget cuts that shortened the school days and took recess away. To my left was a high school marching band that was out in support of their teachers who may lose collective bargaining rights and behind me was the Jane Addams Senior Caucus calling for politicians to take their hands off Social Security and Medicare.
It was diverse, nonviolent and full of the palpable needs so many of our communities across the United States are facing. Check out the pictures below and link from Daily Kos to see what groups around the country are doing…
Happy Feast Day FSPA community and Franciscans everywhere!
On this special day to honor the life and legacy of St. Francis a reflection from Sr. Joan Chittister entitled: We need St. Francis now.
We need St Francis now
By Joan Chittister
Created Sep 27, 2010
Some things never go way. The best ones, in fact, come back to us in whole new ways. Saints are like that.
The church calendar that formed me, for instance, provided the Catholic community one feast day after another designed to remind us of the heroes of the Catholic community. On those days, congregations held special masses, sang special songs, prayed special prayers and blessed special statues.
On St. Joseph’s Day, for instance, the Italians had street fairs in which they spread a family feast from one end of the country to the other in honor of Joseph, the just one, who protected the Virgin and raised the child Jesus in a holy family. And so that Holy Family became a model for us all. For committed children and faithful fathers and strong mothers.
On St. Patrick’s Day, the Irish carried shamrocks to remind us of Patrick’s exegesis of the Trinity which, we were told, converted the pagans of Ireland and were still a clear icon to us of the God whose presence is “three in one.” It was the articulation of a ‘mystery’ that became clearer as we got older.
On Halloween, all the saints of the church were honored for their faithful lives and their models of goodness. We dressed up to look like Therese of Avila and Ignatius of Loyola and the Children of Fatima rather than Peter Pan and The Terminator and a vampire or two on Halloween.
We named our children for saints. We dedicated our churches to their memory. We presented them as icons and heroes to our children long before celebrities and rock bands and rappers and reality shows conquered the airwaves and took their place. Long before Brittany and DeShaun and Darcy and Travis replaced Peter and Mary and John and Theresa as baptismal names.
In that period, we lived immersed in a veritable “communion of saints,” surrounded by signs and images of those whose lives were themselves meant to be templates for our own.
We don’t do those things anymore. For many good reasons, both liturgical and theological. At the same time, the stories and the figures go on stirring in my memory, raising old ideals, provoking old memories of beauty and fidelity and awareness and commitment. Only now those figures and those stories ring in strong new ways.
For instance, Oct. 4 is the Feast of Francis of Assisi, il poverello, the poor one, whose voice in the newly emerging mercantile class of the 13th century warned of the greed and corruption and destitution that would come when the world was run more on profit for the rich than it was on a prophetic commitment to the poor. And he was right.
But Francis was known for more than protests.
Francis loved animals, too. He was a walking apostle for ecology and the protection of woodlands which having been destroyed for parking lots and housing estates leave animals who once lived in caves and forests spilling over into our largest cities. He talked to the animals. He understood them. He knew their place in creation.
Francis talked to the birds about their call to the unceasing singing of the praises of God. When the birds surrounded him, he told them,”My sister birds, you owe much to God, and you must always and in every place give praise to Him; for He has given you freedom to wing through the sky and He has clothed you …
He calmed the wild. The wolf Gubbio who had been ravaging animals and people alike lay down at his feet like a puppy when Francis scolded him for his violence: “All these people accuse you and curse you … But Brother Wolf, I would like to make peace between you and the people.”
Then Francis led the wolf into the town, and surrounded by startled citizens made a pact between them and the wolf. Because the wolf had “done evil out of hunger”, the townsfolk were to feed the wolf regularly, and in return, the wolf would no longer prey upon them or their flocks. In this manner Gubbio was freed from the menace of the predator.”
No doubt about it. In a world where species after species is disappearing under the rubric of “progress,” where animals are being used for research on materials and cosmetics, where the boundaries between forests and cities are fast disappearing, where bears show up in shopping districts of major cities and crocodiles show up on people’s front lawns, we need St Francis now.
It is also becoming clear that Francis knew what we are only now discovering.
In our time, the science that separated us from nature is now declaring that animals, too, have intelligence, have emotions, have needs like ours. Research by Dr. Filippo Aureli, professor of animal behavior and co-director of the Research Centre in Evolutionary Anthropology and Palaeoecology in Liverpool, England, indicates that the study of animal emotions, particularly in birds and primates is providing new insight and information on the emotions of humans, as well as the feelings of animals.
Well, I am an animal lover, too. And I have been threatening for years now that my last book would be Two Dogs and a Parrot: The Spiritual Lessons I Have Learned From My Pets. The parrot, named “Bennie” for obvious Benedictine reasons, is the most obvious educator of them all.
From Bennie I am learning persistence and emotional sensitivity. Both of which are needed in this world of invisible women and neglected children.
Persistence is a very good thing for a woman to know in a man’s church. If Bennie needs something, she simply refuses to give up trying to get it. She will knock at her hopper until it gets filled, until the door gets opened, until you put her on your shoulder and make her a real part of the community.
Emotional sensitivity, the awareness of the needs of needy others, is her forte. She stretches herself out on the top of her cage, thin as a pencil, rigid as a piece of steel and stares at you until you stop work and give her the loving she seeks, for her sake and yours. She teaches us to be very aware of very small signals in life.
No wonder that churches to this day bless animals on October 4, the Feast of St. Francis.
St. Francis would find it all very normal, very necessary.
From where I stand, we need to take another look at what animals have to teach us today, yes, but we have to take another look at what the saints have to say to us today, too. Somehow or other, the models we have put in their stead have not, as a class, managed to fill the gaps.
We have reached the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. This weekend will mark, for many in the United States, the anniversary of the death of a loved one – in light of that a moment of silence.
In October we will reach the tenth anniversary of our invasion of Afghanistan – many Afghanis mark the anniversary of the deaths of loved ones throughout the year – in light of that a moment of silence.
In light of the lives lost and communities destroyed around the world by violence, war, occupation we take a moment of silence.
In light of the children around the world, like the girls at school in Afghanistan in the photo above, let us take action to create a world free of terror, war and violence. Join with Sojourners below and take the pledge to work for peace….
This Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. While we will all take time to remember the day and the lives we lost, 10 years later, we must go deeper.
There were two paths forward from the ashes and rubble of 9/11: One path led to war, torture, and fear, but another path — led by people of faith across our land — was marked by soul-searching, genuine mourning for the lost, and standing up for peace-building and caring for our neighbors.
Although our government and too many of its citizens, regrettably, have chosen the first path, Sojourners invites you to celebrate the alternative journey — to stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters of all faiths, and no faith, who are helping to build a nation that reflects our best values.
On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, affirm your commitment to peace-building and reconciliation by signing this commemoration pledge, written by Sojourners, an organization that I belong to:
To take action on this issue, click on the link below:
If the text above does not appear as a link or it wraps across multiple lines, then copy and paste it into the address area of your browser.
Wisconsin continues to make national news and has become the bell weather for the health of democracy in the United States.
The country is watching and gaining hope from watching the grass-roots struggles of the people in Wisconsin who are refusing to respond to the extreme agenda of Gov. Walker with apathy and fear.
Check out this piece from Democracy Now and a link to an interesting website called “Scott Walker Watch”…it even has the first round of a petition to recall Gov. Walker! Thank you for leading the way!
Wisconsin will hold elections on Tuesday to recall six Republican seats from the state legislature. These recall elections were a strong and pointed reaction to the attacks on unions made by Walker this past winter.
Wisconsin is popping up all over the news as the site of the most important elections of the year. What message will be sent to conservative lawmakers looking to disenfranchise workers, immigrants, and the economically poor? Will the message be that if you take on the working class with unfair and extreme politics you can expect to lose your seat? Or will it be a green light – after some protest politicians can expect to be able to push through their extreme agendas?
Check out the Rachel Maddow clip below (includes a mention of La Crosse) and go and vote on Tuesday! Then come back and let us know on the post which way will Wisconsin go.
The story of what happened in Madison still reverberates around the blogosphere gaining new attention with the pending recall elections for Republicans on the horizon. Few of these blogs, however, are looking at the potential impact Walker and conservatives in the State House and Senate could have and are having on the immigrant community. Check out this great video from “The Real News” and learn more about the struggles of the Wisconsin immigrant community.
Sorry for the link last week that did not work. Sadly I still cannot get it to work, however I have a new way to participate in the budget talks.
MoveOn.org is providing an online forum for people to share ideas and build momentum to create a “new contract” for America that honors workers, elderly, children/persons with disabilities and those who are undocumented .It also calls for accountability in how resources are divided and taxed.
Also, below is a quick read on remembering our own heritage of Catholic Social Teaching from National Catholic Reporter.
Cong. Ryan on Catholic Social Teaching
by Michael Sean Winters on Jul. 12, 2011
Congressman Paul Ryan, House Budget Chairman, has a post up at Our Sunday Visitor  in which he explains how he understands Catholic social teaching and its applicability to the budget he has proposed. He neglects to mention that the USCCB, which knows rather a lot about social programs, how they work, and whom they help, disagree with his proposed cuts.
Still, Ryan gets points for trying. I just wish he would read a bit more deeply in the writings of another Ryan, Msgr. John A. Ryan, who is sort of the father of Catholic social teaching in the U.S. Ryan, the Monsignor, understood the need for government to assist those who have been marginalized by our incredibly dynamic society. He also recognized that unrestrained capitalism was a great danger to the stability of society, which is why he advocated for the very programs that Ryan, the Congressman, is aiming to gut.
Huffington Post:Kate Maehr
If the economy is showing tepid signs of recovery, we’re seeing no indication at the hundreds of food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters we serve daily. Across the country and throughout Chicago and Cook County, record numbers of men, women and children are still in need of emergency food assistance — many for the first time.
A few weeks ago, David, a single father of two in his 30s, walked into a community center in South Suburban Harvey. He needed food to feed his young children because his work hours had recently been cut. He’d seen a flyer about an assistance program, but didn’t know what to expect. From a Greater Chicago Food Depository outreach worker at the center, David learned of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly the Food Stamp Program), and that he might be eligible for help. He also learned that there was a fresh source of wholesome food close to his home at a nearby stop of the Food Depository’s pantry on wheels, the Producemobile. For David, the social safety net worked beautifully, as it should.
David’s circumstances are all too common these days, as the need for emergency support remains achingly high. But, the support net that is essential to tens of millions of people is in danger of fraying badly, as Congress drives to cut the budget deficit. In the fiscal 2012 agriculture appropriations bill recently passed by the House of Representatives, deep cuts were made in SNAP, the nation’s frontline defense against hunger, which would convert the program to block grants and reduce the flexibility of states to respond to spikes in need. Nearly 50% of SNAP recipients are children under the age of 18. Also sharply cut are programs that provide nutritious food packages to low-income seniors. Cuts to the Women, Infants, and Children — or WIC — program mean that 300,000 fewer people will have access to supplemental nutritional food and educational assistance.
We understand the long-term importance of getting our nation’s financial house in order. But, we urge Congress to take a measured approach in the budget battle and avoid slashing vital services that are essential to the stability and wellbeing of those most in need, especially children and the elderly. A downward spiral is a real worry. Cuts at the federal and state level will place enormous burdens on scores of critical human services organizations — and, this at a time when 1.8 million people and 850,000 households in Illinois are currently receiving SNAP benefits, the highest number ever.
When critical services are cut, low-income families are forced to make difficult choices to balance basic needs — child care, housing, medicine, transportation and food. More people turn to their local food pantry, their community health center, or other temporary supports for help, contributing to record levels of demand. While the Food Depository distributes tens of millions of pounds of food each year, we cannot meet the need alone.
Our current safety net was forged in the 1960s with bipartisan support. Now, nutrition programs are becoming an unfortunate political chip.
What can be done? Members of Congress must be made aware of the grave consequences for millions of Americans if vital services are cut. Your voice must be heard. You can get involved by visiting the Advocacy Center on the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s website (chicagosfoodbank.org/advocacy) or by visiting Feeding America’s website (feedingamerica.org).
The most vulnerable in our communities — children, the elderly, the working poor — should be our priority. It is true that the sheer numbers can be overwhelming. And, that’s why it’s so important to remember David and his two young daughters and the challenges they face.
Senator Bernie Sanders took to the floor and gave a 10,000 word historic speech about the absolute necessity of not solving the budget crisis on the backs of the poor and vulnerable. Below is a snippet from the speech & the video. If you are interested in reading his speech, click the Truthout link pasted below.
On the heels of Governor Walker’s “austerity” budget stripping funds from BadgerCare, public schools, and Medicaid - Senator Sanders’ speech serves as a great antidote or for Harry Potter fans…it is the chocolate after a Dementor attack….read, watch and feel inspired!
Senator Bernie Sanders
“At a time when the richest people and the largest corporations in our country are doing phenomenally well, and, in many cases, have never had it so good, while the middle class is disappearing and poverty is increasing, it is absolutely imperative that a deficit reduction package not include the disastrous cuts in programs for working families, the elderly, the sick, the children and the poor that the Republicans in Congress, dominated by the extreme right-wing, are demanding…”
Dear All – Obama and Congress is hoping to slip in a Colombia Free Trade agreement this summer.
This would be disastrous for the majority of Colombians adding to the profound poverty, displacement and violence that is already prevalent in Colombia.
Obama promised when he was still a presidential candidate that as President he would not “reward” Colombia with a free trade agreement when it continues to have the highest death rate of union members in the world. Guess what? It still does.
Join with the Washington Office on Latin America and many others to remind the President and Congress that we want fair trade not free trade!
Washington Office on Latin America
Good news! We received over 400 signatures from organizations, academics, and individuals in the United States and Colombia on our letter opposing the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Click here to read it.
Not so good news: The Obama Administration has announced that it wants to push all three trade agreements through before August and the republican controlled house may move on it as soon as this week.
So we have to act now. We’re going to send the sign-on letter to Congress this Thursday, June 23, at 10 am. And we need your help to generate as much buzz as possible about it throughout this week.
How you can help:
1. Send the letter to congress. Stay tuned for more one-click actions to share with your networks.
2. Send out a press release. Click here to read our sample press release from WOLA. Feel free to use as much of it as makes sense for your organization or background.
3. Write an op-ed and send it your local newspaper. Click here for a sample op-ed. Check out these great resources to use in crafting your own press strategy:
- Videos by the U.S. Office on Colombia provide testimony from Colombia on the impact of the FTA on small-scale farmers and workers, in addition to Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities.
- Today’s blog in “The Hill” by Jess Hunter-Bowman of Witness for Peace
- Karen Hansen-Kuhn’s op-ed in the “Winona Daily News”
- LAWG’s video on “What will you do if the US-Colombia FTA is passed?”
4. Tweet it! Share it on Facebook! Use #nocolombiafta! If you’re active on social media, click here to read a great strategy from the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and adapt it to your needs.
We know you all are really busy, but if there was ever a time to push on this, it’s now. So please do what you can to get the word out to Congress and the press starting this Thursday, June 23 at 10 AM EST.
If you have any questions or need any help, please contact Anthony Dest at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo note from Liz: The above photo was taken while I was in Colombia for an ethics march (2010).
Dear All – So good to see so many of you at the Chapter of Chats! A wonderful space for connecting, sharing stories and dreaming of a future shaped and held by justice and compassion. In light of the spirit of Chats I wanted to share an update from The Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. Please see below and blessings on your summers!
Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers
Peace from Afghanistan, specially to those with the Caravan of Solace
far-away in Mexico, who strengthen us with their poetic struggle.
From Afghanistan, we need you to know : Walking together is not a
weakness. It is our everything.
We thank you for walking differently.
Julian LeBaron, a Caravan of Solace leader whose brother was
kidnapped, tortured and killed last year, reminded the crowd that fear
isn’t the only thing keeping people home — it’s apathy: ‘There should
be 100 million people here, holding hands to mourn the death of 40,000
If you have a few minutes this Sunday 19th of June, let’s connect on
the Global Days of Listening ( email to the cc-ed address
Hakim and the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers
From Afghanistan, we need you to know
Javier Sicilia, Julian Lebaron and all with the Caravan of Solace,
like you and the families of 40,000 Mexican victims, we need you to
know that we’ve also been crying.
There are no expectations in our crying.
There’s only grief, and ignored anger, the ignored anger of the mundane masses.
To all fellow humans alive today, we need you to know that many people
are hurting badly because we will not do more than what is normally
required to preserve our conventional ways of life.
We need you to know that the many who are hurting are real people.
Sadly, every day that we defend our lives as usual, we demean other
lives as usual, and therefore we all become less dignified, less
We in Afghanistan have been learning that being alive is not just
about busily earning our keep, or more ridiculous, about getting good
grades in ‘empty’ schools.
We have also been learning what it means to be alive.
Here, the other Friday, we felt alive when we walked together to the
river, listening to everything.
We felt alive caring for one another despite our utter despair.
Our systems have been structured to rule us out, to corner our
humanity. Our systems despise our hope.
The doorways of our governments are tunnels for theft.
To conform with Power, we’re ‘told’ that we must remain helpless, friendless.
Our poverty is ‘graced’ by bullets, bombs and blood.
Our struggle is ‘condemned’ by religious and political dogma.
We detest these from way deep down. We detest these so much. Every soul does.
But today, self-protection at the expense of the distant ‘other’
justifies a strategy of ‘Man killing Man for Greed’s sake.’
How can that be?
How can it be that ‘the common good’ is no longer ‘good’, that it has
become an impractical ideal divorced from human society?
How can it be that asking for economic fairness is considered being
anti-government, that speaking against corruption gets us into
How can it be that when we tell our leaders to stop killing, we are
the ones deemed naïve and dangerous?
We detest this violent antagonism infecting the world.
We detest the decay of our values.
We’re creating so few lifetime opportunities for genuine education,
decent livelihoods, and grief.
Not enough space, except by the rivers.
We need to talk differently, walk differently, serve ( lead )
differently and relate differently, and if we so earnestly and
painstaking act in love, ‘Y’ not?
Who has dictated to the ‘Y’ generation that,’ You can never change
this unequal, unkind global system of governance.’?
‘Y’ not when the majority of humanity and the majority of 30 million
Afghan citizens manage to get along without killing one another?
‘Y’ not step towards the rivers where human solidarity runs?
How can we live without crying? How can we suggest what could be done
when we ourselves are hardly coping?
We need you to know that your journey is our journey too, and that
yes, ‘No estas solo’.
We need you to know that crying is our friend, and not a weakness.
We need you to know that walking together is not a weakness. It is our
For many of my FSPA readers it’s Chapter of Chats week! I’ll see some of you very soon.
Check out another great resource from Voces on the copy cat bill introduced by Rep. Pridemore – do not miss the link at the end that lets you sign a petition to let Rep.Pridemore know WI will not become another AZ!
1. Immigrants Deserve Our Respect, Not Our Disdain
Contrary to conservative talking points, the majority of immigrants are not criminals or welfare parasites, but rather hard-working folks who simply want to earn a living. In fact, Harvard professor Robert Sampson has found that immigrants are actually less likely to commit crimes than other people. Undocumented immigrants also contribute more to state and local economies in taxes than they absorb in social services, including billions paid to Social Security.
2. Arizona-Style Laws Are Expensive
Since it passed SB 1070, the state of Arizona has spent over $1 million on legal defense and has paid out hundreds of thousands more to public relations firms to restore the state’s image. The Wisconsin bill’s opponents have already promised a public campaign and legal action against the bill.
3. Civil Rights Violations Will Skyrocket
Pridemore’s proposed law would require police to check the immigration status of anyone who is arrested, not just those convicted of crimes. Giving local law enforcement officials the power to threaten any undocumented immigrant they encounter with deportation is dangerous — that kind of unchecked power permits officers to threaten, coerce or manipulate any undocumented person at will. Communities across Wisconsin will surely see a disturbing uptick in civil rights violations.
4. Policing Will Suffer
Local law enforcement, already strapped for cash by the recession, will have to spend precious staff time and resources to check the immigration status of every “suspected” undocumented immigrant. That’s why Arizona law enforcement was against SB 1070. It’s also why Milwaukee Police don’t ask suspects about their immigration status — it’s a waste of time for immigration authorities. “Do you really think they’re going to come at 2 o’clock in the morning in District 7 to pick up a bricklayer who just got caught without a driver’s license and is here illegally?” says Milwaukee’s police chief.
5. Immigrants Will Be Less Likely to Report Crimes
Immigrants that are scared of being deported are less likely to tell police when they witness or are victims of crimes. Pridemore’s proposed law would reduce reporting by victims of domestic violence, theft or violent assaults.
6. Families Will Be Needlessly Divided
Under this policy, a law-abiding undocumented mother or father of citizen children could be pulled over for a broken tail-light, booked, then permanently deported within days, leaving responsibility of the children to local social service agencies. It just doesn’t make sense — the state loses a hard-working taxpayer, and children lose their parents.
7. Many Citizens Can’t Prove Their Legal Status
Thirteen million people — seven percent of the U.S. population and primarily poor women — don’t currently have documents that prove they are citizens, says a study by New York University. Even more worrying are mistaken deportations like that of Mark Lyttle, a mentally ill U.S. citizen who was recently deported to Mexico.
8. Private Prisons Will Benefit, Not the Public
Private prisons stand to gain millions from laws that criminalize immigrants and cause incarceration to rise. Investigators recently uncovered that ALEC, a membership organization of state legislators and corporations, including private prison companies, played a major role in the drafting of Arizona’s SB 1070 law. Wisconsin’s new governor-elect, Scott Walker, was a member of ALEC and has supported the private prison corporate agenda for years.
9. Wisconsin Has Bigger Concerns
Like the rest of the nation, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate has remained stubbornly high while local and state governments, schools and social services are facing crushing cutbacks. Wisconsin has more to worry about than immigrants who haven’t caused social or economic problems in the state.
10. No One Says Immigrants Are Bad for Wisconsin
In his announcement, Rep. Pridemore made a clumsy link between Wisconsin immigrants and “the illegal drug trade” and a host of other generic social problems. The fact is, no one has provided proof or even claimed that immigrants are to blame for any of the state’s problems. Rather than sparking a foolhardy and costly campaign to bring Arizona’s discredited law to Wisconsin, Pridemore should tackle issues that really matter to Wisconsinites.
Photo copyright: FSPA Communications Department
So much of civil discourse in recent years has been robbed of the importance and beauty of recognizing our powerful inter-connection to one another and to Earth. Instead we appear to be in a frenzy to point out what is different and mark those differences in alienating and unjust laws and social policy. These radical demarcations of power and privilege are then upheld as social triumphs that create safety and punish those who “deserve” it.
Nothing is more emblematic of this problem than the debate that surrounds immigration. Migrants and their families are placed in the category of criminals while punishing policies and laws masquerade as solutions that create safety and justice.
Are we in such a state of scarcity as a nation that we cannot respect the basic civil rights of people who live here? The right to education, housing, health care, work and safe passage are universal human rights that are not based in citizenship.
They are based in being human and as signers of the Universal Declarations of Human Rights we are accountable as a nation to crafting laws and policies that respect those rights. As human beings linked to one another and to Earth we are accountable for creating a world that reflects the soul deep knowledge that how we act toward one another reflects our beliefs in the sacred, in democracy, and in human dignity – and that matters. Justice cannot flow from distortions created by fear and prejudice – it needs the wild love of inclusion.
Please consider joining with allies for immigrants across the state in the actions listed below and helping to turn the tide in “whatever we did not do…”
Emergency Action Alert: Defend Public Education, In-State Tuition Rights, and Denounce AZ Copycat Bill!
Thursday, June 2nd in Madison
PROTEST JOINT FINANCE VOTE ON IN-STATE TUITION AND CUTS TO PUBLIC EDUCATION!
We urgently need people to come to the Capitol in Madison this Thursday, June 2nd at 12:45 PM in Room 412 (East) to protest the Joint Finance Committee vote to repeal instate tuition rights for Wisconsin’s immigrant youth and massive cuts to public education. Walker’s budget forces taxpayers to pay for the children of wealthy families to attend private schools while attacking the quality of education for working class families and the poor.
Come to Madison to hold legislators accountable for the hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin’s children whose futures will suffer if this budget is passed!
RACINE – Bus leaves from Pick n Save, 2210 Rapids Drive at 7:30 am
MILWAUKEE - Bus leaves from Voces de la Frontera Action (1027 S. 5th St.) at 10:30 am
All buses will return in the evening. To sign up, please call (414) 469-9206.
Thank you for standing with us to protect the educational future of all children! Education is a right, not a privilege!
Saturday, June 4th in Milwaukee
CIVIL RIGHTS MARCH & RALLY TO SUPPORT PUBLIC EDUCATION & INSTATE TUITION RIGHTS!
Voces de la Frontera Action and allied organizations will be sponsoring a civil rights march and rally to condemn Governor Walker’s proposed budget which robs our children of their basic civil rights and jeopardizes the future of our communities, our city and our state. All children have the right to schools that offer art, physical education, music, library, school nurses, a kindergarten program, school buses, and reasonable class sizes.
All children raised in WI deserve in-state tuition at public universities and technical colleges, including immigrant students!
Parents, teachers, students & community members: Defend your children’s right to public education!
• 11am gather at MacDowell Montessori (17th & Highland)
• March across the 16th Street Bridge (James E. Groppi Unity Bridge)
• Rally outside Forest Home Elementary (1516 W Forest Home Ave)
Tuesday, June 7th in Madison
PRESS CONFERENCE TO DENOUNCE ARIZONA-COPYCAT BILL
On May 23rd, Rep. Don Pridemore (R-Hartford) announced plans to introduce an Arizona-copycat bill in Wisconsin which will undermine the state’s economy and legalize racial profiling.
Voces de la Frontera Action and Wisconsin Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (WNIRR) will host a press conference on Tuesday, June 7th at 1:00PM at the State Capitol to protest the bill. We invite organizations to write press statements/statements and share them with Elena Lavarreda at email@example.com, as well as joining us at this action.
For those that cannot attend the June 7th press conference in Madison please contact your legislator here and call Governor Walker at (608) 266-1212 to say, “We don’t want an Arizona-copycat bill in Wisconsin!”
For more information on these events, contact Voces de la Frontera Action at (414) 643-1620
A copy cat of Senate Bill 1070 has come to Wisconsin. Please read below the quote from Rep. Pridemore on his motivation for introducing it and the statement from immigrant justice group Voces about the deep concerns the bill raises. This is home for many of you that read this – so I know that makes it even harder to see a bill based on discrimination and fear labeled a way to make Wisconsin a “safe haven.”
I have included an antidote…a short video from Princeton Professor Cornel West who reminds us that Love is the answer. Stay tuned for actions on this bill from the FSPA Justice and Peace committee.
“This is an action that should have begun long ago when the federal government and the current administration stopped efforts to secure our borders,” Pridemore said in a statement. “Now that the illegal drug trade and human trafficking have put the lives and property of those along our borders in peril, we must do all we can to dissuade the criminal element from looking at Wisconsin as a safe haven.” Rep. Don Pridemore
Voces de la Frontera Condemns Introduction of Arizona-Copycat Bill in Wisconsin
As the largest immigrant rights organization in the state, Voces de la Frontera unequivocally condemns the passage of any racist, anti-immigrant legislation in Wisconsin.
Yesterday Representative Don Pridemore (R-Hartford) introduced a bill requiring law enforcement officers in Wisconsin to interrogate people they detain about their immigration status if they have ‘reasonable suspicion” that the person is undocumented. However, the vagueness of the term “reasonable suspicion” is exactly what gives cover to legalizing racial profiling.
“We will not tolerate this vicious bill, designed to lead directly to racial profiling and the criminalization of innocent people. Voces is prepared to mobilize widely in opposition.” says Primitivo Torres, president of Voces de la Frontera.
The bill is modeled after Arizona’s SB-1070, the controversial anti-immigrant law which prompted mass boycotts and cost that state hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost business revenue. The Center for American Progress estimates that boycotts against Arizona in response to SB 1070 could cost the state more than $250 million in taxes, tourist spending and wages. Pridemore’s bill is designed to do the same to Wisconsin, a state already facing economic challenges.
The bill also requires people to carry certain documents available to prove their immigration status or else risk being arrested, jailed, and deported. People of color are more likely to be racially profiled and more likely to be interrogated; this also violates their rights to be treated as equals under the law.
This legislation also violates US Constitutional rules, including the denial of Fourteenth Amendment equal protection guarantees, because it encourages racial discrimination against Latinos and other people having foreign appearance or who sound foreign. By interfering with the federal government’s authority to regulate and enforce immigration law, it also opposes the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution.
Pridemore’s legislation claims that it is designed to avoid racial profiling, but it clearly encourages police officers to base their actions on people’s appearance and characteristics as race, ethnicity, language, and social class.
This law would greatly harm the trust that authorities need from the public to protect Wisconsin residents. The law would also compel law enforcement officers to assign scarce resources to investigate false threats instead of solving serious crimes.
Voces de la Frontera and our allies will fight to ensure that Wisconsin does not inherit the moral and economic burden that has devastated Arizona.
Watch the video and join with Presente! and advocate for immigrant youth in detention.
Earlier this week President Obama gave a major speech in El Paso, Texas, where he renewed his commitment to immigration reform.
That’s great news, and we’re ready to continue fighting to make immigration reform and the DREAM Act a reality. But the truth is that there are thousands of young people facing the threat of deportation right now–including University of Texas student Raul Zamora, who hopes to be an architect but first must survive his May 26 deportation hearing.
The President has the power to make sure thousands of young men and women like Raul don’t have to worry about deportation. He can issue an Executive Order that would stop the deportation of DREAMers until we get this critical legislation passed. And if he’s serious about immigration reform, that’s exactly what he should do.
In this critical time following his speech, the media will look to see how the public reacts. If we can show that thousands of us are demanding action right now, we can make a real impact on the public debate around the DREAM Act and help save thousands of amazing students from being forced from the only country they know as home. Can you click below to automatically sign this petition asking President Obama to use his executive authority to stop the deportations of DREAMers? Click here:
Sadly, Raul’s story is not unique. In Texas alone, there is Benita Veliz who came to the United States from Mexico when she was eight years old, graduated as the valedictorian of her high school, and is now in removal proceedings. Mario Perez came to this country when he was five and now studies math and statistics as he fights his deportation order.
DREAMers like these across the country have asked the President to use his executive authority to stop their deportations. Unfortunately, despite the advice of legal scholars1 and calls from members of his own party2, the President has refused to halt the deportations of young people like Raul, Benita and Mario.
The longer he waits to take action, the more young people will be deported. They need our help and we need to pressure the Obama administration to grant executive relief for them.
Please join us and ask your friends and family to do the same.
1. “Legal Experts Weigh in on Executive Branch Authority,” Immigration Policy Center, 4-29-11
2. “Twenty-Two Senators Ask Obama to Stop Deporting DREAMers,” Colorlines.com, 4-11-11
The headlines are filled with the killing of Osama bin Laden by the U.S. Special Forces. One headline in Chicago read, “Justice Has Been Done.” The images of Americans celebrating in the streets, waving flags and soldiers abroad cheering all seem to indicate that we just completed something monumental. We achieved a goal or overcame a dire obstacle and so it is time to herald a new beginning free of the danger of the past.
It would seem that we are in a nation-wide pep rally and not that just we killed a man in his home in front of his family. Literally in front of his family since we shot one of his wives to be able to shoot him.
Interesting that the over 100,000 troops in Afghanistan had nothing to do with the killing of Osama bin Laden even though that is why we invaded that country 10 years ago. Equally interesting that the troops who have been in Iraq, our other war, since 2003 were also not involved.
No, a Special Ops Team went into Pakistan, our ally in the double wars, and killed him. Interesting that we have spent close to a trillion dollars on two wars and what “got us” the intellectual author of the 9/11 attacks was intelligence and a small group of soldiers none of which were harmed.
So our double occupation and destruction of two countries in the end had nothing to do with the killing of America’s “enemy number one” – and yet we celebrate.
Equally interesting that we kill a man without even the pretense of a trial and we call it justice. We kill a man who according to our own laws, no matter how horrible the crime, had a right to have his innocence or guilt proven in a court of law. We celebrate and announce justice as if the entire story exists between Osama bin Laden and those Special Ops.
No dead civilians in Afghanistan or Iraq, no families who lost their sons and daughters to two wars, no corruption of our own rule of law, no Abu Grahib or Bagram, no torture and indefinite detention, no environmental devastation and extravagant debt. Nope all we have is a victory, at last, the U.S. has been avenged as was our right.
There has been a lot of misinformation and outright lies that we as a country have been expected to overlook as we struggled through the unknown territory of the “borderless war on terror” for the past ten years.
But to be asked to celebrate this assassination and call it justice, to see “victory” or closure with two ongoing wars is too much. We cannot afford to cede any additional moral ground to the disaster that is the “war on terror.” Join with the Quaker Friends Committee and click on the link below to contact your Reps and Senators and ask them for real solutions to the two wars and real justice for the victims of 9/11.
Holy Week seems an apt time to stop and take a simple action to impact the national budget for 2012. Below is a good summary of what passed the House from Huffington Post and an action from NETWORK.
Many blessings on this week and on Easter as we move as a Christian community through our shared collective stories toward celebration and rebirth.
Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan proposed, and last week the Republican House approved, a budget bill that will transfer tens of trillions of dollars from ordinary working people to the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry and generic rich people from any industry. This money will come in the form of higher payments by seniors in their old age for health insurance and another round of tax breaks for the country’s richest people.
The Medicare story is the bigger transfer here. Representative Ryan wants to replace the current Medicare system with a voucher system. The size of the voucher in Ryan’s plan is held even with the overall rate of inflation. This means that it will not rise at anywhere near the rate of projected health care cost growth. As a result, a greater portion of the cost of health care will be shifted from the government to retirees.
However, this is the less important part of the story. The main reason that retiree health care costs will increase is that the private sector is less efficient at delivering care than the existing Medicare program. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that, under the Ryan plan, the increase in the cost of buying Medicare equivalent policies would be more than $30 trillion over Medicare’s planning horizon.
This additional waste comes to almost $100,000 for every man, woman, and child in the country. It is approximately equal to six times the size of the projected Social Security shortfall. This waste is a direct transfer from retirees to the insurance industry and the health care industry.
This is not the only way that Representative Ryan and the Republicans dip into the pockets of ordinary workers for the benefit of the obscenely rich. He also wants to give an additional $2.9 trillion in tax breaks to the wealthy over the next decade. These tax breaks would be paid for with cuts to Medicaid, Food Stamps and other programs that middle-income and poor people depend upon.
The tax breaks would be real money for the people who get them. For example, Representative Ryan’s tax breaks could give Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, another $3 million a year based on his $20 million annual paycheck. That’s the equivalent of more than 2,600 monthly Social Security checks.
Representative Ryan and the Republicans in Congress are likely to justify their budget by saying that they believe that their health care plan will hold down costs and their tax cuts will spur economic growth. While we can never know what politicians believe, we do know that these are not plausible stories.
We have already tested expanding the role of private insurers in the Medicare system. We did this in the 90s when the Gingrich Congress pushed through their Medicare Plus Choice plan. We did it again more recently with the Medicare Advantage program that was promoted by President Bush. These plans did not lower costs; they raised them. That is the basis for the non-partisan CBO’s projections that the Ryan plan will raise costs.
Similarly, Representative Ryan and the Republicans claim that tax cuts for the wealthy will spur growth. We have also twice tested this one. The first time was when President Reagan gave us big tax breaks beginning in 1981. The 80s were the worst decade of growth since the Great Depression, prior to the 00s, when President Bush tested his tax cuts for the wealthy. Certainly the economy’s bad performance during these decades cannot be blamed solely on the tax breaks for the wealthy, but it is a bit hard to maintain tax cuts to the wealthy gave a big boost to growth in these years.
While Representative Ryan and the Republicans may actually believe that giving private insurers more control over health care lowers costs and that cutting taxes for the rich increases growth, who cares? These people may believe that the moon is made of green cheese, but this does not make the green cheese theory true or even plausible.
We have extensively tested both parts of the Ryan transfer program to the wealthy, and they don’t work as he claims. They redistribute money to the rich: end of story. Thanks to Representative Ryan we have the Republican Party on record as supporting these massive transfers to the wealthy. We just have to hope that the Democratic Party takes a different position.
NETWORK: Budget issues return after recess
I was able to participate in a march and direct action to close the School of the Americas this weekend in Washington D.C. It was amazing to be there while the entire country was watching the debate on the “budget crisis” go down and never once hear a single congress person talk about cutting military spending.
Over 70 million dollars a year could be saved by closing the School of the Americas let alone the human lives home and abroad that would thrive with less military intervention and spending.
We gathered as a group at Dupont Circle and marched with an artist collective that had made puppets honoring the resistance of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. Led by the grandmother puppet we walked to the White House and 27 of us laid down in a “die in” front of the White House to symbolize the death and destruction that comes from the School.
We prostrated ourselves and begged from the heart to stop funding the military training that has led to torture, disappearances, death, dictatorships and the destruction of whole economies in Latin America.
The National Park Police who have jurisdiction over the sidewalk in front the White House arrested us for failing to obey a police order to move. We felt that by staying we could call – even if only for a moment – the attention of the White House and our Congress to the importance of the issue and give them a way to save money without cutting schools, health care or PBS!
It was an honor to take a step of resistance and hold up the memory and resistance of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo as we called to close it down. Click on the link below and you can see the puppets, march and even the arrests!
p.s. A quick note about my arrest: an arrest for civil disobedience is handled very quickly. I was held in a room (not in a jail cell) for about two hours and paid a small fine ($100) before my release.
Guest Post : Afghan Peace Volunteers
Two young Afghan boys herding cattle in the Uruzgan Province of Afghanistan were mistakenly killed by NATO forces yesterday.
They were seven and eight years old.
Our globe, approving of “necessary or just war,” expects “this to happen occasionally.”
Some say, “We’re sorry.”
Therefore today, with sorrow and rage, we the Afghan Peace Volunteers took our hearts to the streets.
We went with two cows, remembering that the two children were tending to their cattle on their last day.
We are those two children.
We want to be human again.
Don’t we see it? Don’t we hear it?
All of nature–the cows, the grass, the hills and the songs–crave for us to be human again.
We want to get out of our seats of pride and presumption and give a cry of resistance.
We want the world to hear us, the voice of the thundering masses.
“We’re so tired of war.”
“Children shouldn’t have to live or die this way.”
“This hurts like mad, like the mad hurt of seeing a child being caned while he’s crying from hunger.”
“We have woken up, and we detest the method of mutual killing in war that the leaders of the world have adopted.”
We say, with due respect to the leaders but with no respect for any act of violence, “We are very wrong. You are very wrong.”
“We cannot go on resolving conflicts this warring way.”
Unless we see the cattle’s submission upon being blown to pieces, understand the momentary surprise of the seven year old listening to music on his radio, empathize with the eight year old who had taken responsibility for the seven year old and weep torrentialy with the mother of the children, we are at risk of losing everything we value within ourselves.
Hearing the NATO commander General Joseph Dunford say that they’re sorry makes us angry–we don’t want to hear it.
We don’t want to hear apologies. We want an end to all killing. We want to live without war.
We want all warriors to run back anxiously to their own homes, and fling their arms around their sons and daughters, their grandsons and granddaughters, and say, “We love you and will never participate in the killing of any child or human being again.”
In the days to come, we’ll remember the distraught mother and family of two children.
We know they won’t eat or feel like breathing or living. They will remember, yet not want to remember.
Their mother will feel like giving away tens of thousands of cows just so she can touch her two children’s faces again. No, she’ll not only touch their faces, she will shower them with the hugs and kisses only mothers can give.
Do not insult her grief or her poverty by giving her monetary compensation for her children.
If they were alive they would say along with their mother, “We are not goods.”
We went out there with our hearts and two cows this morning. We stood in front of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, next to a trash-lined river no one wants to clean up, and we began to feel human again.
We had begun to cry for our world.
“We are those two Afghan children.”