A blog by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration about justice and peace issues

February 8 is the National Prayer Day for Victims of Trafficking. This poem from Lucille Clifton (click on image to play on PBS website) and reflection from Nelson Mandela is offered as one way to be in solidarity with the victims and survivors.

clifton_feb 2014

“The time for healing wounds has come.
The time to build is upon us…
We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation,
suffering, gender, and other discrimination…
There is no easy road to freedom…
None of us acting alone can achieve success.
We must therefore act together as a united people,
for reconciliation, for nation building,
for the birth of a new world…” Nelson Mandela

 

January 11 is Human Trafficking Day. The U.N. estimates at any one time 2.4 million people are being trafficked. Eighty percent of these victims will be used as sexual slaves. Traffickers earn an estimated $32 billion a year. The average number of rescued victims a year is 100.

FSPA has begun to work on this very important issue, from serving on President Obama’s advisory council to attending the Vatican’s Human Trafficking Workshop. I encourage you to learn more about FSPA’s human trafficking efforts.

To hear from someone working directly on this issue check out the TED talk from Sunitha Krishnan (added above).

And finally, take action!

“My name is Maria Luisa…I am here today to honor and remember those who are taken.”

I captured this interview with Maria Luisa Rosal today, the closing day of the School of Americas Watch vigil; Maria is on staff with SOA and helped to coordinate this vigil. Her father is “disappeared.”

 

More news from Maria Luisa

SOA News Alert: Human Rights Activists Demand the Extradition of SOA Graduate who killed Famous Singer Victor Jara from the United States to Chile

 

On this, the final day of the School of Americas Watch Vigil at Fort Benning, we hear from a Chilean survivor who was tortured under the Pinochet dictatorship. Her message: “Don’t attack the people.”

More about our schedule today (from SOA Vigil):

On the final day of the vigil weekend we gather at 9:00 am once again at the gates of the School of the Americas to remember the martyrs and those who have been killed by soldiers trained at this site.

The ceremony begins with an indigenous blessing, a group commitment to the guidelines of nonviolence, then statements of solidarity from some prominent Latin American activists. The funeral procession will then begin to remember and honor the victims of this institution. As the names of victims are sung out to the crowd, we respond “Presente!”

As “Converge on Fort Benning” continues, we hear from Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of School of Americas Watch: “…we cannot be silent.”

 

About Father Roy (from SOA Vigil)

Vietnam veteran, Purple Heart recipient, a Roman Catholic priest and founder of SOA Watch, Father Roy Bourgeois has dedicated his life to the cause of human rights. While working with the poor in Bolivia for five years, where he was imprisoned, he witnessed and experienced first hand the brutal dictatorship of SOA grad General Hugo Banzer.

It was in 1980 that Fr. Roy became more involved in issues surrounding US policy in El Salvador after four US churchwomen–two of them his friends–were raped and killed by Salvadoran soldiers. As a result, Roy became an outspoken critic of US foreign policy in Latin America, and in 1990, founded the School of Americas Watch.  He has since spent over four years in US federal prisons for nonviolent protests against the training of Latin American soldiers at Ft. Benning, Georgia.

I am once again back in Georgia for the School of the Americas Watch Vigil. I have been coming to the Vigil since 2004 and every year I find myself once again amazed at the level of harm the School of the Americas has created and the power of the people gathered to change that.

We come together to stand in solidarity with the countless victims and survivors of the School. People who have lost mothers, father, sons, daughters, uncles, aunts, grandfathers and grandmothers to the cruel machine of militarism that the U.S. government runs in the name of democracy.

This year I wanted to give you a chance to hear from the people here – the beautiful family that comes together to say No Mas! My first guest on the blog is Sister of Providence Kathleen Desuatels of the 8th Day Center for Justice. Come back over the weekend for more videos!

 

I landed in Afghanistan last week to continue my work with the Afghan Peace Volunteers. It has been a wonderful first week here. Being with the volunteers again and learning of their lives and hopes and struggles at this time. I wanted to share a simple story with you to give a picture of Afghanistan that I think is forgotten.
We are staying in a sweet little house in an area of Kabul near their university. Many of the professors live on this same street. The houses have big fences around them. This is a tradition as well as a security measure. The fences are made of corrugated metal and have big doors.
Most folks leave their doors open. So people can pass through and say hello and such. There is a family across from us who has four kids between the ages of six and two.
They run in and out of our yard and seem to enjoy a game of pretend vandalism. They take things and draw with chalk on the walls and sidewalks.
The peace volunteers pretend mock outrage and despair and the kids laugh wildly all the more. They are sweet and funny and a little wild and remind me so much of my own nieces and nephews at home.
It has been a gift to see them play while I am here. A good reminder of why a better future must be built for all kids around the world. Surely each child deserves more than war, poverty, environmental destruction and intolerance.
The Afghan Peace Volunteers are working hard to make sure these children might know a childhood different then their own. After more than thirty years of war they hope these kids will reach 18 and not be living with the scars of war on their hearts. They hope their work will help Afghanistan become a place where running and playing are the norm instead of suffering and loss.
I am blessed to be here and carry with me all the grace and support of the FSPA community.
Thank you and Peace.

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

http://www.weekendofprayer.net/index.html

America’s Shame: The US Government’s Human Trafficking Dilemma

Tuesday, 08 May 2012 09:46 By Joe Newman, Project on Government Oversight | Report

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.

human trafficking spscc 076.1

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.

Breathe out hope

 

Image

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.

Our Lady of Guadelupe

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.

Elections 2012

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.

photo of Abdulhai, a 16 year old boy

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.”

Photo of Samia

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.

http://ourjourneytosmile.com/blog/2012/11/love-letters-from-kabul-a-fairer-life-for-all/

http://www.2millionfriends.org/apps/blog

Love,

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

End

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.

____________________________________________________________________________

PROJECT SOUTH: INSTITUTE FOR THE ELIMINATION OF POVERTY &
GENOCIDE Project South’s mission is to build the foundation for successful broad-based social justice movements. Project South works directly with communities pushed forward by conditions of poverty and racism in order to strengthen leadership for community organizing on critical frontlines of economic, racial, and social justice. Project South increases the number of skilled organizers in the South, creates space for leadership to converge and strategize for movement building, and produces cutting edge political education that reaches a national audience in order to provide direction for long-term movement organizing.Read more.POVERTY & RACE RESEARCH ACTION COUNCILThe Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) is a civil rights policy organization with a mission of connecting advocates to social scientists working on race and poverty issues and promoting a research-based advocacy strategy on structural inequality issues.  At the present time, PRRAC is pursuing project-specific work in the areas of housing, education, and health, focusing on the importance of “place” and the continuing consequences of historical patterns of housing segregation and development for low income families in the areas of health, education, employment, and incarceration. PRRAC’s work is informed by an extensive national network of researchers, organizers, attorneys, educators, and public health and housing professionals.Read more. SOUTHWEST GEORGIA PROJECT FORCOMMUNITY EDUCATION, INC.

The Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education, Inc. (SWGAP) seeks to empower rural communities to work for change through education, advocacy, and economic development. It originally began in 1961 as a project of the Student Non-Violence Coordinating Committee (SNCC) when SNCC sent student Charles Sherrod to engage residents and coordinate activities for the Civil Rights Movement. In 1971 Charles Sherrod and his wife Shirley Miller founded the organization to continue the work of empowering black families in Southwest Georgia. Throughout its history, the organization has been an advocate for social justice through grassroots social community organizing among adults and youth, to register and educate voters, organize local advocacy groups, create jobs through the establishment of cooperative business and foods based businesses, and strengthen academic and leadership skills among youth.

Read more.

THE POVERTY INITIATIVE The Poverty Initiative’s mission is to raise up generations of religious and community leaders committed to building a movement to end poverty, led by the poor.Economic disparity and poverty are increasing around the globe.  By bringing an historical, political and economic perspective to these defining issues of our time, the Poverty Initiative deepens the way that activists, organizers, students, academics, clergy and the poor come together to think critically and act persistently to end poverty.  With its rigorous approach to leadership development and its immersive, boundary-crossing, and comprehensive programs, the Poverty Initiative creates the space where leaders can learn to “think as we fight,” learn as we lead,” and “educate as we organize.”Read more.MICHIGAN WELFARE RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONThe Michigan Welfare Rights Organization is the union of public assistance recipients and low-income workers in Michigan. MWRO has chapters across Michigan and is one of the founding members of the National Welfare Rights Union. MWRO’s goal is to organize recipients and low-income workers to fight for our rights, to eliminate poverty in this country and to build an army prepared to battle for the economic and human rights of millions of disenfranchised Americans.

Read more.

GEORGIA CITIZENS’ COALITION ON HUNGER

The Georgia Citizens’ Coalition on Hunger was founded in 1974 as a statewide coalition of concerned citizens to end hunger, homelessness and poverty in the state of Georgia. The Coalition has been at the forefront of grassroots organizing, service delivery and policy changes that positively impact poor and working class communities in Georgia for over 35 years. The Coalition operates a food pantry, community garden and four outdoor farmers markets while also engaging in grassroots organizing, public education and leadership development so that low income citizens can address their concerns around food and economic security.

Read more.

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.

Feast Day

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 befriends@2millionfriends.org

(b)     Communicate : Email, Facebook and Twitter

(c)      Listen : Global Days of Listening conversations with Afghans & people from conflict areas

(d)     Upload photos and video clips of friendship

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

Grief’s wisdom

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.

Rally for immigrant rights

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.

http://faithandimmigration.org/action/no-excuses-delaying-immigration-reform

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.

Trayvon Martin at 17.

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

The Journey to Smile

Afghan Youth in India

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.

 

 

Dear friends,

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/

Love,

Hakim and the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers

Thanks to all who made this trip to India possible!

1.     South Asia Peace Alliance http:// http://southasiapeacealliance.weebly.com/

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

3.     Kathy Kelly ( Voices for Creative Non-violence USA http://vcnv.org/ ) and Maya Evans ( Justice not Vengeance UK http://www.j-n-v.org/ )

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.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rani-hong/human-trafficking-prevention-month_b_1199395.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/18/nuns-concerned-about-human-trafficking-super-bowl_n_1213921.html

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.

http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=198382

Vigil to close Guantanamo

Mary L Johnson mother of police torture survivor

Folks gathered at 8th Day for Witness Against Torture

 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

Occupy Advent

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!

http://www.un.org/en/events/humanrightsday/2011/events.shtml

 

Bearing witness

“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

The people have spoken!

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

Lost in Detention

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 !

Presente

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.

http://act.presente.org/signup/lostindetention/

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…

Images

http://www.suntimes.com/photos/galleries/index.html?story=8145613

Daily Kos

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/10/04/1022722/-Occupy-Wall-Street%3a-List-and-map-of-over-200-US-solidarity-events-and-Facebook%20pages

Happy Feast of St.Francis

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.

Blessings!

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.

Please click on the link below to sign a petition to President Obama to stop the human rights violations by Border Patrol against immigrants in their custody!  To read the full report or the Executive Summary of “A Culture of Cruelty: Abuse and Impunity in U.S. Border Patrol Custody,” go to:

http://www.cultureofcruelty.org/?p=306

To see media coverage of the new report:

From USA Today:

Katerina Sinclair, a statistical consultant and research associate at the University of Arizona, oversaw the report separately from her work at the university. She said the report was funded by donations to No More Deaths and a grant from the Fund for Unitarian Universalist Social Responsibility.

The main finding of the report “is that Border Patrol is acting with impunity and that abuse is pervasive,” she said. She said researchers expected to find abuse limited to certain shifts or certain days of the week by a small number of agents.

Instead, she said, “it was across the board. It was a horrible violation of human rights, and I don’t think that is what people were expecting at all. We were deeply shocked.”

From International Business Times:

Physical abuse was reported by 10 percent of interviewees. Physical abuses reported include sexual assault, being shoved into cacti, and being forced to walk barefoot through the desert.

One woman reported having her breasts touched in the presence of male and female guards after being forced to strip naked.

The report said that children were just as likely as adults to be abused, and spending more time in custody meant an increased chance of being abused.

There were also 416 reports of “dangerous transportation practices,” such as overcrowded vehicles and agents who purposefully drove in circles to make passengers nauseous.

The report also noted that items were often confiscated from detainees and not returned.

Several cases of evening repatriation were reported, which the study notes violates the Memorandum of Understanding and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.

There were 869 reports of family separation. Seventeen of these reports came from children and 41 came from teenagers.

“Aside from the psychological agony of being separated, possibly permanently, from loved ones, women and children who are repatriated alone are vulnerable to kidnappers and sex traffickers,” the report said.

From the San Antonio Times:

Customs and Border Protection spokesman Bill Brooks said Border Patrol agents “were required to treat all those they encounter with respect and dignity.”

“This requirement is consistently addressed in training and consistently reinforced throughout an agent’s career,” he said in an email. “Mistreatment or agent misconduct will not be tolerated in any way. Any agent within our ranks that does not adhere to the highest standards of conduct will be identified and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.”

It was unclear whether CBP planned to investigate the report’s allegations.

http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/217905/20110921/report-physical-sexual-abuse-illegal-immigrants-border-patrol.htm

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/21/us-usa-mexico-study-idUSTRE78K6NV20110921

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2011-09-21/border-patrol-mistreatment/50490872/1?csp=34news

http://www.tucsonsentinel.com/local/report/092111_no_more_deaths/report-alleges-border-patrol-torture-illegal-immigrants/

http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/valleyfever/2011/09/immigrant_abuses_at_hands_of_b.php


Girls in a school, Kabul Afghanistan

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….

Sojourners

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:
http://go.sojo.net/site/Advocacy?s_oo=8hTv4XvIy1vhZVynZpLGQQ&id=435

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.

A small win

On Thursday, August 18th, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it will begin a thorough review of the 300,000 pending deportation caseload to refocus enforcement efforts away from “low priority” immigrants and toward “high priority individuals,” such as those who have committed crimes.  DHS will now consider DREAM Act-eligible youths, relatives of veterans, and other individuals who are currently in the deportation process and who have no prior criminal convictions, non-threatening; they will move to dismiss their cases and, on a “case per case basis,” issue work permits.
This is a step in the right direction and could be crucial for so many facing deportation, yet we still need more comprehensive and compassionate immigration policies that move away from the current enforcement-only strategy and towards more humane and compassionate policies. Last week, August 17th, hundreds of student, community and faith leaders came out to call on DHS and the Obama Administration to stop the Secure Communities Program. Six undocumented students were arrested after participated in an act of civil disobedience, putting their lives on the line to stop the broken Secure Communities Program.  Read more from the Immigrant Youth Justice League
Please take a moment to thank the President Obama for this important administrative action.
“I’m calling to thank President Obama for taking a step in the right direction through more responsible enforcement strategies. We still need more permanent immigration policy solutions that keep families together and to stop the implementation of programs like Secure Communities that are harmful for our communities.” 

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!

http://www.democracynow.org/2011/8/10/wi_recall_marks_labor_win_election

http://scottwalkerwatch.com/recall-races/

Join with Voces de la Frontera for Immigrant Rights this week!

National Week of Action Begins Against Controversial Program
In response to the recent decision by the Obama Administration to mandate state and local participation in the controversial Secure Communities (S-Comm) program, Executive Director, Christine Neumann-Ortiz made the following statement:

“The dramatic decision of the Obama Administration to preempt the growing chorus of opposition at a state and local level to the S-Comm program and pending litigation, is a shocking development and a slap in the face to Latinos and naturalized US immigrants who gave President Obama their vote and trust in the 2008 elections.
President Obama´s rhetoric about how this program only targets dangerous criminals is by the US government’s own data, untrue.  His rhetoric about blaming Republicans for not helping pass immigration reform is completely missing the point. His record of mass deportations and the expansion of these type of programs under his leadership are shameful.  President Obama and his advisors are wrong if they believe these actions do not come with a price in the upcoming November 2012 presidential elections.¨  
 
On Friday, August 6, the Obama Administration’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) notified 39 states who currently participate in S-Comm, many of whom signed voluntary opt-out clauses, that the program is now mandatory and that they cannot opt out as planned.  By 2013, DHS said, the program will be nationwide. S-Comm is a program in which fingerprints of people arrested and detained in a county jail–regardless if they are innocent of the charge or are charged with a minor infraction– are shared with immigration officials, resulting in the deportation of tens of thousands of immigrants each year.

There is now broad support across the country to end S-Comm. Law enforcement officials have determined that the program makes communities less safe and encourages racial profiling.  Community members, faith leaders, elected officials and members of Congress have all called for an investigation into S-Comm.

Contrary to DHS claims, S-Comm does not only target people charged or convicted of serious criminal offenses. In fact, according to DHS’s own data, 79 percent of individuals deported through Secure Communities between October 2008 and June 2010 were either non-criminal or were picked up for low-level offenses such as traffic violations.
The result of such a dragnet is the destruction of entire communities, as families are forced to witness their loved ones being detained and in many cases, deported. Families are separated and fall into greater poverty.  These are families that President Obama claims deserve the chance to legalize their status.
 
Pressure on the Obama administration to end these abuses is getting stronger each day.

This week (August 15-20th) marks a national week of action to urge Barack Obama and Congress to use their executive powers to stop the inhumane detentions and deportations.  Join in the action by sharing this alternative downloadable report with your Congress members. Click on the link below and print it out or copy and paste and send it as a link to your Reps and Senators!

http://altopolimigra.com/s-comm-shadow-report/



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.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/#43996669

Walker and Wisconsin

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.

 

Getting to Crazy

By

There aren’t many positive aspects to the looming possibility of a U.S. debt default. But there has been, I have to admit, an element of comic relief — of the black-humor variety — in the spectacle of so many people who have been in denial suddenly waking up and smelling the crazy.

A number of commentators seem shocked at how unreasonable Republicans are being. “Has the G.O.P. gone insane?” they ask.

Why, yes, it has. But this isn’t something that just happened, it’s the culmination of a process that has been going on for decades. Anyone surprised by the extremism and irresponsibility now on display either hasn’t been paying attention, or has been deliberately turning a blind eye.

And may I say to those suddenly agonizing over the mental health of one of our two major parties: People like you bear some responsibility for that party’s current state.

Let’s talk for a minute about what Republican leaders are rejecting.

President Obama has made it clear that he’s willing to sign on to a deficit-reduction deal that consists overwhelmingly of spending cuts, and includes draconian cuts in key social programs, up to and including a rise in the age of Medicare eligibility. These are extraordinary concessions. As The Times’s Nate Silver points out, the president has offered deals that are far to the right of what the average American voter prefers — in fact, if anything, they’re a bit to the right of what the average Republican voter prefers!

Yet Republicans are saying no. Indeed, they’re threatening to force a U.S. default, and create an economic crisis, unless they get a completely one-sided deal. And this was entirely predictable.

First of all, the modern G.O.P. fundamentally does not accept the legitimacy of a Democratic presidency — any Democratic presidency. We saw that under Bill Clinton, and we saw it again as soon as Mr. Obama took office.

As a result, Republicans are automatically against anything the president wants, even if they have supported similar proposals in the past. Mitt Romney’s health care plan became a tyrannical assault on American freedom when put in place by that man in the White House. And the same logic applies to the proposed debt deals.

Put it this way: If a Republican president had managed to extract the kind of concessions on Medicare and Social Security that Mr. Obama is offering, it would have been considered a conservative triumph. But when those concessions come attached to minor increases in revenue, and more important, when they come from a Democratic president, the proposals become unacceptable plans to tax the life out of the U.S. economy.

Beyond that, voodoo economics has taken over the G.O.P.

Supply-side voodoo — which claims that tax cuts pay for themselves and/or that any rise in taxes would lead to economic collapse — has been a powerful force within the G.O.P. ever since Ronald Reagan embraced the concept of the Laffer curve. But the voodoo used to be contained. Reagan himself enacted significant tax increases, offsetting to a considerable extent his initial cuts.

And even the administration of former President George W. Bush refrained from making extravagant claims about tax-cut magic, at least in part for fear that making such claims would raise questions about the administration’s seriousness.

Recently, however, all restraint has vanished — indeed, it has been driven out of the party. Last year Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, asserted that the Bush tax cuts actually increased revenue — a claim completely at odds with the evidence — and also declared that this was “the view of virtually every Republican on that subject.” And it’s true: even Mr. Romney, widely regarded as the most sensible of the contenders for the 2012 presidential nomination, has endorsed the view that tax cuts can actually reduce the deficit.

Which brings me to the culpability of those who are only now facing up to the G.O.P.’s craziness.

Here’s the point: those within the G.O.P. who had misgivings about the embrace of tax-cut fanaticism might have made a stronger stand if there had been any indication that such fanaticism came with a price, if outsiders had been willing to condemn those who took irresponsible positions.

But there has been no such price. Mr. Bush squandered the surplus of the late Clinton years, yet prominent pundits pretend that the two parties share equal blame for our debt problems. Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, proposed a supposed deficit-reduction plan that included huge tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, then received an award for fiscal responsibility.  

So there has been no pressure on the G.O.P. to show any kind of responsibility, or even rationality — and sure enough, it has gone off the deep end. If you’re surprised, that means that you were part of the problem.

Take Action With Credo

Whether you are Republican or Democrat the time has come to contact your Reps and Senators and tell them that cutting social programs is off the table – the vulnerable of our society did not create the debt problem and it will not be fixed by taking from them basic income and healthcare.  See below…

http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/senate_gop_crazies/?r_by=24414-2463086-KsKkvlx&rc=confemail

Saving Monsignor Ryan

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.

http://contract.rebuildthedream.com/

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

by Michael Sean Winters on Jul. 12, 2011

Congressman Paul Ryan, House Budget Chairman, has a post up at Our Sunday Visitor [3] 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.

Join the budget talks

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.

ACTION: Urge Congress to Protect Struggling Americans
Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights - Schools, health care, human services and public-safety efforts all face a minefield of serious threats this summer – and Congress needs to hear your advice on protecting struggling Americans from harm. During federal deficit-reduction talks taking place in Washington right now, some members of Congress are proposing two things: (a) deep budget cuts in fundamental supports for people in need and (b) radical changes in the structure of important programs and even the budget process itself – changes that would force further drastic cuts, year after year. Click here to learn more and take action.

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…”

Read his speech: http://www.truth-out.org/sen-bernie-sanders-we-will-not-balance-budget-backs-working-families/1309280399

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:

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 adest@wola.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

of us.”

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

globaldaysoflistening@gmail.com )

Love,

Hakim and the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers

http://ourjourneytosmile.com

http://globaldaysoflistening.org/

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

human.

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.

Unfortunately.

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

trouble?

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

everything.

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.

Little girl holding American flag

This little girl holds an American flag at a rally in Postville, Iowa.

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.

Sign the petition and tell Representative Don Pridemore that Wisconsin Won’t Be the Next Arizona!

 

Photo copyright: FSPA Communications Department

HONDURAS: Since April 2013, the Lenca people of Río Blanco have blocked the construction of a dam
Defending Río Blanco
by Brigitte Gynther, SOA Watch – the article will be published in the upcoming issue of Presente

“Are you afraid of bullets?” a member of the National Police asked Marcelina as soldiers and policemen surrounded her.  “No,” said Marcelina, “I’m not afraid to die and I’m not going to move.”  The soldiers and police Spring 2014 issue of Presentethreatened Marcelina, who stood protecting her community’s ancestral land — where they grow corn, beans, bananas, oranges, and more — from the construction of an illegal dam.  The soldiers and police stayed there for several hours, but Marcelina held her ground and other women soon joined her in blocking the machinery.  They held vigil all night, sleeping outside, determined not to let the machinery advance.

Since April 1, 2013, the Lenca people of Río Blanco have been physically blocking the construction of an illegal dam in their territory. For years they had tried to stop corporations from coming onto their land to no avail. When the dam company destroyed crops they depend on to survive and private security guards prohibited them from accessing a river they have used for generations, they realized they had no other option than to stop the dam themselves.

Río Blanco is one of many communities throughout Honduras threatened by the privatization and corporate agenda pushed by the post-military coup government, which has turned over land and natural resources to corporations at an alarming rate, with total disregard for the communities who live there. When people resist, the U.S.-funded military or other security forces are called in. In fact, the new mining law includes a provision by which mining companies will pay a percentage to the military.

For defending their land and river, the Lenca people of Río Blanco face death threats and have had their community militarized—with members of a military unit commanded by a SOA graduate dispatched to serve the dam company.  On July 15, 2013, a soldier shot and killed community leader Tomás García, firing at him multiple times from just a few feet away during a protest.  The police have raided houses, fired shots, thrust guns at children, and evicted the Lenca roadblock. Berta Cáceres, leader of the Lenca organization COPINH to which the Río Blanco people belong, has been ordered to jail, detained by the military, and threatened with death. Yet, the resistance of the Lenca people has only grown stronger.

María, whose determined resistance has led to death threats and persecution, explains, “If I die, I will die defending life.” Clementino Martínez, a young father of two who works the land to feed his children, explains the motivation of many: “This is a struggle because we love our children; this is for our children, our grandchildren, and all the generations who will come after us.”

In a country governed by impunity and injustice, the people of Río Blanco have had some success. In July, Chinese company SINOHYDRO, the largest dam builder in the world, withdrew from the project and left.  In January 2014, the Central American Mezzanine Infrastructure Fund, connected to the World Bank, announced it was canceling an approved loan for the dam. And thanks to national and international pressure, one set of charges against Berta Caceres has been provisionally dismissed.

The struggle is far from over but there is no doubt that the women, men and children of Rio Blanco will continue their resistance, day in and day out, until their land and lives are respected, no matter how many soldiers are sent in, no matter how many death threats they receive.
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To order a box of Presente, to distribute the paper in your community, visit:
http://www.soaw.org/news/organizing-updates/4176-become-a-presente-activist-distributor

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