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.
In Kabul, on the same day that Der Spiegel released photos
documenting American soldiers posing with the bodies of civilians they
murdered, the Transitional Justice Coordinating Group (TJCG), the
umbrella organization for NGOs in Afghanistan that are pursuing
transitional justice, gathered Afghan, Australian, American, and
German peacemakers to discuss methods to bring peace and security to
Afghanistan. The photos present the grim reality that this conflict is
characterized by civilian killing and violence.
In 2001, the American led ISAF (International Security Assistance
Force), a coalition of the richest nations in the world, began
military operations in Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 killing of
civilians in New York and Washington. The purpose of the operations
was to fight terrorism and seek reprisal for the Taliban’s harboring
of Al Qaeda. The operation has turned into a near decade long war on
one of the poorest nations in the world.
After nearly ten years of war Afghanistan is mired in terror,
brutality, and a security situation that is worsening. Among Afghans
there is growing consensus that the ISAF is pursuing military
measures, such as the formation and arming of independent local
militias under the banner of the “Afghan Local Police” against the
wishes of President Karzai and the Afghan people, which undermine the
prospects of peace in the future and further endangers ordinary
people. However, it is the killing of civilians by American military
personal and mercenaries that most enflames the conflict and expands
the rift between ISAF and the Afghan people.
Most Westerners are familiar with the thousands of American civilians
killed 9/11, some people know about the atrocities committed by the
armed opposition groups in Afghanistan, and even fewer people are
familiar with the stories of Afghan civilians killed by ISAF forces.
Some of the recent civilian killings by ISAF, primarily composed of
American forces include: 2children in Kunar province on March 14, 9
children collecting firewood in Kunar province on March 1, five
civilians including two children who were searching for food in
Kapisa province on February 24, 22 women, 26 boys, and 3 old men in a
raid on insurgents in Kunar province on February 17, 2 civilians were
killed and one injured while traveling in a van in Helmand province
on February 3.
As the fallout from the Der Spiegel photos continues to be felt
around the world, ISAF and the other belligerents who have publicly
stated their objective is to prevent terrorism need to recognize that
the killing of civilians whether by Taliban, mercenaries, militias,
insurgents, or by soldiers of a nation is terrorism.
Guest blogger Patrick Kennelly is the Associate Director of the Marquette University Center for Peacemaking and is participating in the peacemaking efforts organized by the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers and Voices for Creative Nonviolence. He writes from Kabul, Afghanistan. He can be contacted at email@example.com
Throughout Afghanistan people are gathering to celebrate the Afghan new year, Nauroz (March 21, 2011). It is a chance for Afghans to celebrate the rebirth of nature after the long winter. In Kabul, today thousands of gathered in the cemetery and spent the day picnicking. Before heading home to share a meal that included seven items to symbolize their hope for the coming year: wheat for rebirth, a sweet pudding for affluence, garlic for health, apples for beauty, berries representing the sunrise, vinegar for patience, coins for prosperity. After 13 days the wheat will be collected and tossed into flowing water, by which time it will have collected the family’s bad luck for the year.
While some Afghan’s describe the situation in their country as bad luck, the majority of Afghans realize that there is a direct correlation with the increased number of American and foreign fighters entering the country. Currently, there are more foreign troops in Afghanistan than at any time since the American led invasion and the security situation is at the worst point since the beginning of the war. While nearly all Afghan’s do not want to see the return of the Taliban, they do not want the status quo of violence caused by the International Security Assistance Force and the armed opposition groups to continue. Instead Afghans are realizing that the underlying problems of their country are the problems of poverty, hate, and violence. They are also realizing that these are problems that cannot be solved by war.
In Kabul, a group of young people are adopting strategies that would help solve Afghanistan’s problems and allow them to see their wishes from Nauroz come to fruition. They have consciously chosen methods that are exemplary in applying theoretical nonviolence to actively resist the indignity of violence and seek out life sustaining alternatives. For example, under the tutelage of professional journalist a group of young men and women in their twenties launched a campaign of public speeches, declarations, and photography by young journalist to manifest Afghan’s desire for peace.
On another occasion the group gathered nearly one hundred people, primarily school children and elders, to plant fruit and nut trees at a school in Kabul. The trees will help clean the air of Kabul that is polluted from decades of war. The trees will produce nutritious food. The tree planting was preceded by a forum on the importance of creating educational opportunities. The action demonstrates the point of Gandhian nonviolence that from the seed grows the fruit or in other words that nonviolence has to begin with education and be integrated into daily living.
While these feats are exceptional considering the situation in Afghanistan, if Afghans are going to get their Nauroz wish the international community will need to begin following these Afghans example and integrate nonviolent strategies into their lives and foreign policy. This will begin by working to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan.
Patrick Kennelly is the Associate Director of the Marquette University Center for Peacemaking and is participating in the peacemaking efforts organized by the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers and Voices for Creative Nonviolence. He writes from Kabul, Afghanistan and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy of Patrick Kennelly
Last week Liz blogged about her travel to Afghanistan as part of a delegation of U.S citizens who are accompanying the Afghan Youth Peace Initiative through a week of activities to build peace. She is there now and we are sharing updates from Liz and others who are with her.
Guest blog entry: Jake Olzen (he writes from Kabul, Afghanistan).
Finding Hope in Afghanistan, March 20, 2011
In a country torn by thirty years of war where the promise of peace is continually broken, despair and resignation seem to be the norm for Afghan society. War – and its corollaries of social decay, poverty, corruption, and trauma – does not discriminate. Not a family in Afghanistan has been left unaffected by the death or disappearance of a loved one and the daily, traumatizing stress of living in an occupied war zone. Billions of aid intended for reconstruction has been siphoned off leaving little left over for meaningful, local development. Afghanistan is an unstable society wracked by corruption at nearly every level of government and a pervasive distrust of strangers and neighbors alike is the expectant result of such disintegration of social ties. But as the late Studs Terkel reminds us, “hope dies last.” And this is certainly true for the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, a small but growing group of young Afghans committed to a life of peace in the midst of so much violence. While cynicism and disbelief run deep across generations, the AYPVs have an alternative vision for their country embedded deep in their hearts – and they believe this hope for peace is already in the heart of every Afghan.
Hope in the Afghan Spring
Fifty-five young saplings mark the beginning of a new year in Afghanistan. The various apple, apricot, and almond trees were planted in a Kabul elementary and high school as a sign of hope and promise of peace. Organized by the AYPVs, twenty-five international partners joined together with over fifty ordinary Afghans to declare a commitment to an Afghanistan without war. The previous day, the AYPVS along with members of the Open Society organized and participated in an inter-ethnic walk for an end to the war. As far as anyone can tell, this is the first public gathering calling for peace in Afghanistan that is not politically aligned or sponsored. The bright blue scarves of the AYPVs, their smiles and words of gratitude to the accompanying riot police, and banners denouncing warmongering is a considerable different message that most Kabulis are not used to seeing or hearing. The steadfast commitment to nonviolence of the AYPVs and their deep desire for peace offers a kind of hope that is unheard of in Afghanistan but it also offers a breath of fresh air. Slowly but surely the AYPVs and their partners – both Afghan and international – are growing into a sizable community with a peace-filled vision for Afghanistan. The planting of trees is a small gesture indeed and the challenges for ending the foreign occupation of Afghanistan, confronting corruption and human rights abuses (particularly of women), and promoting a culture of peace are many. But the planting of trees is a beginning and it may very well be the birth of a movement that transforms Afghanistan.
Jake Olzen is a member of the White Rose Community in Chicago, Il. He can be reached at email@example.com.