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

There are so many ways to be involved right now and I wanted to share this simple one from American Friends Service Committee. If you feel called to support the Muslim community in this uncertain time – please see below.

Action to Support Muslims

We are living in an extraordinary moment. The Trump administration’s Muslim ban executive order has sparked protests and criticism across the country and the globe. Even more seriously, the administration’s commitment to disregard legal decisions staying the order and to dismiss staff that raise concerns internally has brought us to the brink of a constitutional crisis.

We need you to act now, and call on your member of Congress to oppose the ban.

To recap:

  • Late Friday evening, Trump signed an executive order ending the Syrian Refugee program, suspending visas from seven majority-Muslim countries, and temporarily halting refugee resettlement.
  • On Saturday, people who already traveling from those countries when the order was signed were detained at numerous airports, sparking large protests at those airports as well as at the White House, the Capitol, and in cities and towns across the country. Chaos and confusion erupted around the globe as hundreds, including children and grandparents, were held in detention, deported, or prevented from boarding flights to the U.S. Late Saturday night, federal judges in New York, Virginia, and Massachusetts ordered a temporary halt to the order for those who had valid visas.
  • On Sunday, large protests at airports continued, with shouts of “No Hate, No Fear, Immigrants are Welcome Here!” Meanwhile, in multiple cases Customs and Border Patrol agents refused to follow the judge’s orders to allow those with valid visas to enter, even when confronted by members of Congress at Dulles airport. The administration was silent on the matter.
  • Monday it was revealed that the order was written without input from the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or the Secretary of State nominee. Instead, Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions and white nationalist Trump advisors Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon, were the primary authors. Monday evening it was announced that 100 State Department officials signed a “dissent memo” against the administration’s policy.
  • Monday evening, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates announced that she would not defend the executive order, saying, “I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right. I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities, nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful.” President Trump fired her hours later, saying that she had “betrayed the Department of Justice.”

The Trump administration must be held accountable for violating court orders. Our democracy depends upon checks on executive power, which are being defied by this administration.

Call your Congressperson today, and ask them to: 

  1. Hold the Trump administration accountable for violating court orders and undercutting the independence of the office of the Attorney General, dangerously undermining democratic process and constitutionally mandated checks on executive power.
  2. Support legislation introduced in both the House and the Senate that would overturn this racist, anti-Muslim executive order.

Contact the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, and ask for your senator or representative. When you are connected with their office, you can use the script below. “My name is _____, and I’m from (city/town and ZIP code). I am calling to ask the member to act strongly to protect a core value of our democracy by holding the Trump administration accountable for violating court orders to halt implementation of some aspects of his “Muslim ban.” I also ask that they support legislation overturning this dangerous, ill-conceived executive order entirely.” 

Call three times to be connected to each of your senators and your representative. Call volumes have been high, so if you can’t get through, consider looking up the number for your local office—usually found on the member’s website.

Every action we can take in this extraordinary moment counts! Thank you for your commitment to justice.

In peace,

Mary Zerkel
AFSC Communities Against Islamophobia

I want to share a piece from Bill McKibben about a “green” new deal.

McKibben’s article “A world at war,” published August 15 in New Republic, offers a tactic that could tackle a lack of well-paying jobs and environmental devastation. During this particular time when as a nation we are discerning the next president, members of Congress and the Senate, McKibben’s piece is a reminder to dream big:

In the North this summer, a devastating offensive is underway. Enemy forces have seized huge swaths of territory; with each passing week, another 22,000 square miles of Arctic ice disappears. Experts dispatched to the battlefield in July saw little cause for hope, especially since this siege is one of the oldest fronts in the war. “In 30 years, the area has shrunk approximately by half,” said a scientist who examined the onslaught. “There doesn’t seem anything able to stop this.”

blue-icebergs

Image courtesy of www.freeimages.com

In the Pacific this spring, the enemy staged a daring breakout across thousands of miles of ocean, waging a full-scale assault on the region’s coral reefs. In a matter of months, long stretches of formations like the Great Barrier Reef—dating back past the start of human civilization and visible from space—were reduced to white bone-yards …

Read more of McKibben’s article at https://newrepublic.com/article/135684/declare-war-climate-change-mobilize-wwii?utm=350org

The Orlando shooting has the ignominy of being the largest mass shooting in the United States. Sadly, this is a field with steep competition. More horrifically, mass shootings account for only a tiny portion of annual gun deaths in the U.S. The Guardian provides a thorough analysis here.

Conversations surrounding the shooting are riddled with toxicity. Whether it is politicians and gun rights advocates once again claiming that if everyone was armed no one would be hurt or the religious extremists who name violence against the LGBTQ+ community as God’s “will,” there is little left to help the average person understand or act.

It is overwhelming to be drenched in the horror of the mass execution Omar Mateen enacted; to watch the same actors take the same positions on the same stage and, once again, nothing happens.

Yet in the last week, two congressman changed that trajectory on the Senate and House floor: Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who led a 15-hour filibuster, and Representative John Lewis, who staged a sit-in after gun control measures failed to pass. A brief video of Rep. Lewis (below) as well another of Sen. Murphy by Rolling Stone offer different view points of what might be possible if people decide to no longer accept that change is impossible.

It is a testament of hope and a clear moral call to not give up on creating change. In these times when the deaths of literally thousands of people have failed to move the political dial it is easy to feel powerless and hopeless; as if our voices and our actions do not matter.

And yet every grieving family member has no choice—they cannot turn away because for them there is no where left to turn. It is vital that we find a way forward, and the courage of both Rep. Lewis and Sen. Murphy can be contagious if we let it.

In closing a prayer from Bishop John Noonan of the Diocese of Orlando:

All life is sacred as each one of us is made in the image and likeness of God. We cherish each person as a child of God.

We pray for victims of violence and acts of terror … for their families and friends … and all those affected by such acts against God’s love.

We pray for the people of the city of Orlando that God’s mercy and love will be upon us as we seek healing and consolation.

Every time we look at the Cross, we see how God has forgiven us in Christ—with a love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things; love never fails.

We dry the tears of those who weep and mourn as gently as Veronica wiped the Lord’s bleeding face on the Via Dolorosa.

May the Peace of Christ dwell within our heart.

oregon

I want to share an excellent analysis and resource from Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) to help unpack the situation in Oregon and provide opportunities to take action if you would like. See below …

Post from SURJ

Over the past few days, we have been inundated with articles about the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge building in rural Eastern Oregon. This moment didn’t come out of nowhere; the Far Right has been organizing for years and their movement only continues to grow. It is fueled by the ongoing economic crisis: job insecurity and losses and the predictable anger of working people and veterans, the vast majority of them white.

Hardest hit areas in Oregon are those where economies formerly based on resource extraction, such as logging and mining, that have not recovered from the loss of jobs in those industries and where today the federal government regulates the use of the majority of the land in order to provide environmental protections. Read more ...

Root causes

The past few days I was at the annual School of the Americas Watch Vigil calling for the transformation of inequitable policies between the United States and Latin America. Every morning before I headed out for a day full of meetings and actions I listened to the news on CNN.

I was stunned by the misinformation, war mongering and outright exploitation of grief and fear from the events in Beirut and Paris. This rhetoric was chorused by presidential candidates naming shameful and ridiculous solutions from children being denied refugee status to a “registry” for Muslims in the U.S.

A lot of candidates say they are for the troops and will do anything to support vets. But how many listen to veterans when they call for an end to war? In our ongoing exploration of what never makes it into the main stream media during a campaign year, I offer to you a vitally important statement from vets on how we need to respond to events unfolding around the globe:

IVAW Statement on Recent Attacks in Lebanon, Afghanistan, France, Iraq, & Nigeria
 

Our hearts and thoughts go out to the victims and families who have suffered from the acts of brutality committed in Beirut, Paris, Baghdad, Zabul and now multiple cities in Nigeria over the last number of days.

We condemn these terrorist attacks in Lebanon, Afghanistan, France, Iraq and Nigeria. We mourn with the victims and send our deepest condolences to their families. No one’s life should end in this way; no family should suffer the anguish and loss that these people are suffering.

For these attacks to stop, we must address their root causes and take responsibility for U.S. participation in the destabilization of countries that span the Middle East, North and Western Africa, and South and Central Asia. The deliberate destabilization of once functional states in the region, and the current bombardment of Yemen by U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, has created the perfect environment for groups like ISIS and Boko Haram to grow and thrive. We must see the rise of terrorism and the attacks in Paris for what they are, blowback for western intervention in the Middle East and elsewhere around the globe.

We, as current and former military members, understand that who the U.S. military kills is never certain and differentiating combatants from civilians is not a priority. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been killed and thousands of others are being stalked and killed by drones in at least seven countries, creating an environment filled with constant terror. Russia joining the bombardment of Syria and Iraq, the recent announcement of more troops to be deployed around the globe, and the extension of troop withdrawal in Afghanistan will only exacerbate an increasingly volatile situation until the “all out war” that France’s President Hollande called for is upon us. The end result of all of this can only be destruction, terror and lost lives, not only from predominately Muslim countries, but everywhere terror and war will inevitably reach.

We know from experience that declaring war on terrorism is a futile gesture that engages the world in a downward spiral of destruction. A full land war in Syria plays into the goals of terrorist groups and will undoubtedly destroy more innocent lives. Meanwhile, western countries will be no safer than before, in fact, increased blowback resulting from these actions will remain an ever present threat for years to come. An escalation of warfare will also violate civil liberties by establishing a securitization regime in France as an extension of the already existing “security measures” in the U.S., England and elsewhere
.

We call on the US and its NATO allies to:

1)    Exercise restraint and exhaust all avenues of diplomacy;

2)    Take full responsibility and hold themselves accountable for the illegality of the Iraq war and the continuance of the Afghanistan war, their colonial exploits, and their extra military actions which gave rise to the instability of various regions as we see today;

3)    De-escalate from the perpetual violence, and reduce militarization both at home and abroad; and

4)    Accept responsibility for the resettlement of all refugees, who are victimized by the so-called “War on Terror,” and resist scapegoating those with the least power in this tragic string of events.

Repeating the disastrous choices made by our nation after September 11th will result in nothing short of squandering the future of millions. This cycle of violence and exploitation has to end now.

This week marks one year until we will elect our next president. Campaigning has already been in high gear for months — months of campaigning and yet, if we had cast our votes this past Tuesday, what knowledge of the country and the candidates would we have actually had?

Media coverage rarely connects the policy statements of candidates (even if they are making them) with the lived reality of the people. Often media’s only focus is a “bump” in the polls. We are not engaged in a popularity contest; we are engaged in choosing a leader who will impact not only North Americans, but the world.

It seems important then that we take the time to know what poverty, the environment, education, immigration, militarism, racial inequities, gender inequities, children, the elderly, health care, etc., look like in America today. We deserve to know what is needed, not just what will play as a sound bite.

Let’s travel to the margins, past the flashing signs of Donald Trump’s hair and Hillary Clinton’s granddaughter Charlotte, to see the world and the election through the eyes of the people and the earth who will bear the burden of our decision next November. I propose a “year from the sidelines” — a year in which we ponder what is needed in a leader, in a party, in ourselves, and in our communities from the perspective of those left behind or blamed by power.

To begin, I would like to share The Rag Blog’s Halloween at Hutto by Elaine J. Cohen that looks at the connection between immigration and militarism. It is easy to talk about stopping people from coming; it’s harder to understand why they come and how the United States is intimately connected to the forces driving people to the border here and the borders in Europe. This blog looks at migrants from Latin America in connection with our own militarism in their region.

Barred window inside of Hutto Detention Facility. Photo courtesy of thewire.com

Barred window inside the T. Don Hutto Residential Center Detention Facility. Photo courtesy of www.thewire.com

As we sat in the waiting area of the Hutto “Residential” Center, an unexpected spectacle unfolded before the three of us who had come to visit. It was Halloween in Hutto.

Originally Peggy Morton and I had planned to take Maria Luisa, field organizer for the School of the Americas Watch (SOAW), to Karnes, another family detention center in Texas, that morning. It was October 30, when thunder and torrents of rain poured down on the hill country.

Still, I left my apartment on St. John’s at eight. In the time it took to walk from my building’s entrance to my car, I was soaked to the bone. Driving south on Lamar was an exercise in focus and I’m sure I cashed in a few of my good karma points as I drove with limited vision and somehow got to Wheatsville South at nine to meet them.

Peggy’s husband, Fred, had told her that a tornado had touched down in San Marcos — near our usual route to Karnes. We went to Peggy’s house where my wet clothes were put in the dryer. We decided that if the rain slowed down we would go north, rather than south — and visit with women at Hutto. Their hunger strike had just begun and we agreed that visiting there would be an excellent first visit to a Detention Center for Maria Luisa.

Over cups of hot tea and vegan pozole, the three of us shared stories about immigration, violence shaped and honed by this country’s military might and the extraordinary connectedness of decades of violence in Central America and the number of refugees coming across the border.

Maria Luisa Rosals had come to Austin on a southern/border states journey to learn about conditions here and share knowledge about the complicity of USian interests as manifest in the instruction of violence at the School of the Americas.

Protests began in 1990 at the School of the America’s base at Fort Benning outside of Columbus, Georgia, and have continued despite the change of name to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). In a few weeks, the vigil will have its 25th anniversary. Many readers of The Rag Blog are familiar with the organization and its work. For those of you who aren’t, I refer you to the SOA Watch website — because the story today is really about the 27-plus immigrant women on hunger strike in Taylor, Texas.

Though as Peggy, Maria Luisa, and I spoke, it became obvious to us that, in fact, the hunger strike of immigrant women incarcerated under U.S. policy is very much related to the work of the SOAW. Peggy, an active member of the Hutto Visitation Program, has been visiting a woman who has been incarcerated there for over a year. As is my custom, I will not refer to her by her real name. Let’s call her Juana. All three of us signed up to visit Juana, who greeted us with delight.

The Corrections Corporation of America continues to assert ‘there is no hunger strike.’

Although the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the private business that runs Hutto, continues to assert “there is no hunger strike,” we were assured that the strike was real. Moreover, the women are highly motivated and optimistic. I asked Juana if I had her permission to mention her in my writing and she said that the women wanted “everyone” to know that, Yes, they are on hunger strike and that No, it’s not because the food is so bad (even though it is terrible) and it is an insult for whoever is telling those lies (hmmm, the CCA comes to mind) to pretend it is not about the absolute injustice that they are incarcerated for their attempt to escape from domestic, cartel, and state violence.

We laughed and exchanged stories about our families and talked a lot about tamales. Peggy was worried that talking about food wasn’t a good idea — but it seemed to cheer Juana — talking about something from her culture. When Maria Luisa and Juana discovered they were from the same area in Guatemala, there were broad smiles and, I believe, some comfort to Juana. In front of her was someone who knew where she came from — and had also come to the U.S. as an immigrant.

It seems that our visit to Hutto took place on the day that the CCA had encouraged its employees to costume up for Halloween. I’m serious. As we sat in the waiting room we watched as an angel in black tulle and a black halo left. A Thor-like Viking came on shift. The costumes were elaborate and at one point Maria Luisa and I caught each other’s glance and I whispered, “This is surreal.” Her eyes widened in agreement.

In the visiting area, the guard was straight out of the Flintstones. When Juana began to cry, I went up to the guard to ask for some tissue. I remarked on her costume, casually asking, “So, what are you?” She broke into a large smile (the first I’d seen) and said, “I’m a cave woman.” Fortunately, she didn’t appear to have a club. I wouldn’t swear, however, that she didn’t have one, hidden under the desk.

While immigrant women languish in this for-profit prison, the jailers play out their domination fantasies as Dark Angels, Vikings, and Neanderthals. Juana shook her head at the strangeness of the display. I suggested that Halloween was kind of like carnival and she managed a crooked smile. As we left, and we had our final hug (one is permitted at the beginning and another at the end of a visit), she again asked me to make sure to tell as many people as possible about their strike and how unjust is their detention.

In the days that have passed since I started this piece, participation in the hunger strike has grown enormously. This coming Saturday, November 7, 2015, there is a call to come to Taylor and show your support for the hunger strikers.

Sofia Casini of Grassroots Leadership reports of “the continuing escalation in numbers of women inside, far beyond the initial 27. We’ve seen retaliation in the form of solitary confinement, two of the strikers transferred to Pearsall Detention Center, threats of deportation, and citations for not leaving their quarters to eat. ICE continues to deny the strike is happening. Loco!”

The rally will be held across from the baseball field to the side of the detention center (1001 Welch St, Taylor, Texas 76574) this Saturday at 2 p.m. Sofia explains that “this time was chosen because it’s when the women are let outside — the hunger strikers asked us to come then so they can see us and gain strength from our presence. Even if they’re brought inside quickly, we’ve been told from women that in past rallies they can still hear the loud, amplified music — let’s raise our voice so high they can hear us, too!”

I was recently reminded that there may be readers who are unfamiliar with the complex mix of politics, racism, and greed that has brought us immigrant detention. Yet I worry that I have written so much about various aspects of the issue in the past year that some of the material may appear redundant. Am I laboring to explain that which I’ve already laid out? Finally I realized that I can’t assume that the earlier pieces have been read.

The School of the Americas Watch, with its insistence that we recognize and expose the complicity of the American Military in the training of the perpetrators of so much violence in the Northern Triangle, absolutely connects to the women on hunger strike in Hutto. It is precisely that violence which has driven them here.

But what of the violence that is the experience of the thousands of immigrants locked up in immigrant detention? Could it be that the monster personas I saw at Hutto were more than Halloween fun? Were these employees of one of the worst private prison corporations really showing us something about what it means to be a guard in a prison incarcerating the victims of violence?

It is the image of the Dark Angel walking around the Hutto detention prison that I can’t shake.

Read more articles by Elaine J. Cohen on The Rag Blog.

Rag metro writer Elaine Cohen moved to Austin in 1997 after she found Accion Zapatista’s website. She became involved with immigrants when she started work as a bilingual substitute for the Austin Independent School District (AISD). After another stay teaching in Mexico (2005-2010) she returned to Austin and discovered the Hutto Visitation Program and became involved in visiting women and children in Texas’ family immigration detention centers.

politifact_photos_UWM_budget_protest_Feb_2015

Photograph: Students protesting budget cuts by Governor Scott Walker. Source: Politifact.com

I wanted to share some resources as we head into the national discussion of the budget. The budget, which has always been fraught with difficulties, has become even more of an ideological football in the past few years. The potential for that to worsen only increases with the looming presidential election. The budget, however, is a moral document as well as a fiscal one. It reveals to the nation and the world what we see as our priorities and what bears examination for exclusion. Below are resources from the Coalition for Human Needs that will serve to open this conversation.

Coalition of Human Needs

Several budget proposals were released this week for Fiscal Year 2016 and beyond. The differences in them highlight the major ideological differences and partisan priorities, both amongst themselves and when compared with the president’s budget released last month. While the House and Senate Budget Committee budgets cut taxes for the wealthy, cut human needs programs, and repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget offers a plan to invest in broadly shared economic growth and economic security for all Americans.

Congressional budget resolutions serve as an outline, providing an overall total funding level for annual appropriations and including policy recommendations, but without the line-item detail of the president’s budget. Because it is not legislation, a Congressional budget resolution does not require the president’s signature. Usually, the only parts of the budget resolution binding on Congress are the appropriations funding levels, and those only become binding if the House and Senate can agree on a joint budget resolution, which is likely this year.

Below are some of the major points of each of the budget blueprints:

House Budget Committee Budget Resolution

Senate Budget Committee Budget Resolution

Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget Resolution

Next Steps in the FY16 Budget Process

Categories: Budget and Appropriations

The Story Project

In looking at our national priorities it is important to hear from those whose needs are most often on the chopping block. Below is a link to a story project that captures the voices of Americans living across a spectrum of different challenges:

http://halfinten.org/ouramericanstory/

Ferguson-Michael-Brown-690

As a nation we have watched Ferguson and as nation we have waited to hear if Darren Wilson would be held accountable for shooting an unarmed civilian. In the time of waiting we learned of Tamir Brown, a 12-year-old boy shot dead in Cleveland, and Akai Gurley, a 22-year-old father shot dead in the stairwell of his housing unit. We have seen communities across the nation rise up and demand justice. The murder of Michael was not justified because a police officer fired the gun. The fact that a sworn officer of the state fired the gun amplifies the murder to a state-sanctioned killing. If the state will not protect you–will not recognize your right to life–where do you go?

And is that who we are? A nation that kills 12-year-old boys who have toy guns in parks? A nation that kills unarmed civilians? The lack of indictments would say yes.

Melissa Harris-Perry holds open a space to remember the people left to pick up the pieces of lost life. In her open letter to Lesley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown, she invites us to remember for how long black mothers have faced state-sanctioned destruction of black families. She invites us to step outside the media blitz on this issue and be present to a grieving mother. May this presence–this grief–help all of us to join those in the streets demanding justice.

Click her to watch: Letter to Mother of Michael Brown

68,000

Photo courtesy of NBC news.

Photo courtesy of NBC news .

As we move toward November 4th and head to the polls I wanted to share a perspective that is often left out of the mainstream media. Jerry Large, columnist for the Seattle Times, drawing on the work of Professor Dana Frank, offers another look at the more than 68,000 children that fled to our border just this year. Professor Frank and Jerry Large offer us a glimpse into the worlds edited from our nightly news. As we get ready to select a new group of leaders who will make decision on issues like immigration, it can be helpful to hear the voices typically left out of the conversation.

“U.S. Has Hand in Honduran Mess” (Reprinted from the Seattle Times)

Things have gotten much worse since Dana Frank had an opinion piece published in The New York Times with this headline: “In Honduras, a Mess Made in the U.S.

This year, more than 68,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended after crossing the southwestern border of the United States, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The vast majority are from three Central American countries, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Frank, a history professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, says the U.S. is partly to blame for the flood of youngsters.

I spoke with Frank last week before she spoke about the situation at the University of Washington. She lived in Seattle in the 1980s when the headlines about Central America were about wars that raged between U.S.-supported right-wing forces and leftists backed by the Soviets and Cubans.

She thought we’d learned some things from our involvement there in the 1980s, but we are back. Last time the Cold War was the justification and this time it’s the War on Drugs, and it seems, she said, that the more we support a government, the worse conditions get. Not surprising because we always seem to be in bed with the worst sort.

Her research focus has been on Honduras, which she said has been most tied to U.S. influence. The U.S. is particularly intent on preserving that relationship, she said, because in recent years some countries in Central America have elected left-center governments that are exercising more independence from U.S. influence.

Frank was researching a book on Honduras in 2009 when the elected government was overthrown in a military coup. The current president is Juan Orlando Hernandez, whom she calls “a dangerous Machiavellian thug.”

Frank said the coup changed her life and the direction of her work. People she knew were being arrested and mistreated. “I asked myself, what can I do? What powers do I have? What is my moral responsibility?”

Before the coup, Frank had researched labor issues. Her first book was “Purchasing Power: Consumer Organizing, Gender, and the Seattle Labor Movement.” She’d first gone to Central America at the invitation of women in banana-worker unions.

But after the coup she started paying attention to U.S. policy in the region, studying it in detail and building expertise. She knew how to gather and analyze facts, and how to present them in academic papers, books, newspaper articles and public testimony. She put all of her skills to use.

In recent years she has testified before Congress, the Canadian Parliament and the California Assembly about human rights and U.S. policy in Honduras.

She told me those children at the border aren’t coming in search of economic gain or in pursuit of the American dream. They are fleeing the brutality of their homelands. The numbers of children and adults fleeing grew rapidly as Honduras became the murder capital of the world, she said.

Their well-being is threatened by drug gangs, by the police and the military. The U.S. sends at least $25 million a year in aid to the government and yet, she said, drug dealers are present at every level of government.

Most of the people fleeing are coming from Honduras, and the Obama administration’s response has been to offer the government there more help and to try harder to seal our own borders.

Frank says we shouldn’t see the children as a threat to us, but ask instead whether we have helped disrupt their lives.

She believes Congress can be persuaded to push for change in our Central America policies if people here become aware of the situation there, and the role the U.S. plays in it, and then press their representatives to act.

Hondurans wouldn’t leave in droves if their country were economically stable and more humane. U.S. trade policies and financial support for the police and military are part of the problem.

And, she said, we could more effectively deal with drugs though legalization and treatment here.

Jerry Large’s column appears Monday and Thursday. Reach him at 206-464-3346 or jlarge@seattletimes.com

 

 

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Pax Christi has created a great toolkit to prepare us for International Day of Peace, Sept. 21, 2014:

Greetings of peace!

Beginning on the International Day of Peace, September 21st, and continuing through September 27, Pax Christi USA members and groups will be hosting and/or participating in a week of actions as supporters of Campaign Nonviolence. Pax Christi USA was an earlier endorser of Campaign Nonviolence, and if your local group or region has something planned, we want to know! Send your information to jzokovitch@paxchristiusa.org and we’ll help promote your event and connect others to your action.

Peace education and the practice of nonviolence are needed now as much as ever. Dr. King told us that “the choice is not between violence and nonviolence, but between nonviolence and nonexistence.” Events like the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, to the U.S. bombing campaign in the Middle East, and issues from climate change to nuclear weapons are the evidence for just how prescient Dr. King’s words were. But we can turn the tide. We can “mainstream nonviolence” and create a world which is more peaceful, just and sustainable. Join us between September 21-27 for this week of action. It is not too late to plan an event or make plans to participate. Let’s take our action to the street and show that nonviolence is “the love that does justice.”

In peace,
Johnny Zokovitch
Director of Communications, Pax Christi USA

Pray

by Eileen Egan and John Dear

Recognizing the violence in my own heart, yet trusting in the goodness and mercy of God, I vow for one year to practice the nonviolence of Jesus who taught us in the Sermon on the Mount:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons and daughters of God…You have learned how it was said, ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy’; but I say to you, Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. In this way, you will be daughters and sons of your Creator in heaven.”

Before God the Creator and the Sanctifying Spirit, I vow to carry out in my life the love and example of Jesus…

Click here to see the rest of the Vow of Nonviolence.

Click here to order copies of the Vow in brochure format for your church, family, school, or others, with additional actions and resources for practicing nonviolence.

 

Study

Drawing from articles sent in to the Bread for the Journey blog on the Pax Christi USA website, we periodically reformat several articles into a free, downloadable process booklet of 4-6 sessions designed for small group discussion and reflection. We think that these two resources may be of particular interest for your group or even individual study as part of Campaign Nonviolence. To see more of these process booklets, click here.
“The Gospel, Nonviolence and Civil Discourse: Reflections on civil discourse, respectful dialogue across difference, and nonviolence” by Pax Christi International Co-President Marie Dennis
“For Now We See in a Mirror, Dimly: An Anti-Racist Critique of Pax Christi USA’s Theology and Practice of Nonviolence” by PCUSA Ambassador of Peace Tom Cordaro

Act

1. Join or plan an action in your local community. Click here for more information.

2. Take the Campaign Nonviolence pledge.

3. Join the Fast for Peace.

Iraqi Children

A perspective from religious leaders to consider before President Obama’s address:

Dear President Obama:

As religious communities, leaders, and academics, we write to express our deep concern over the recent escalation of U.S. military action in Iraq. While the dire plight of Iraqi civilians should compel the international community to respond in some way, U.S. military action is not the answer. Lethal weapons and airstrikes will not remove the threat to a just peace in Iraq. As difficult as it might be, in the face of this great challenge, we believe that the way to address the crisis is through long-term investments in supporting inclusive governance and diplomacy, nonviolent resistance, sustainable development, and community-level peace and reconciliation processes.

Pope Francis has affirmed that “peacemaking is more courageous than warfare,” and more recently said that “it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb ‘stop;’ I don’t say bomb, make war — stop him.” But how, we ask?

In addition to the complex factors spilling over from the civil war in Syria and pressure from other neighbors, decades of U.S. political and military intervention, coupled with inadequate social reconciliation programs, have significantly contributed to the current crisis in Iraq. More bombing will ultimately mean more division, bloodshed, recruitment for extremist organizations, and a continual cycle of violent intervention.

The current state of crisis and the breakdown of state institutions in Libya provide another stark example of the failure of a militarized strategy. Like Libya, the air strikes in Iraq will ultimately fail to build and maintain sustainable peace in the long-term.

We understand and deeply share the desire to protect people, especially civilians. However, even when tactics of violent force yield a short-term displacement of the adversary’s violence, such violence toward armed actors is often self-perpetuating, as the retributive violence that flares up in response will only propitiate more armed intervention in a tit-for-tat escalation without addressing the root causes of the conflict. We see this over and over again. It is not “necessary” to continue down this road of self-destruction, as Pope Francis called the hostilities of war the “suicide of humanity.”

There are better, more effective, more healthy and more humanizing ways to protect civilians and to engage this conflict. Using an alternative frame, here are some “just peace” ways the United States and others can not only help save lives in Iraq and the region, but also begin to transform the conflict and break the cycle of violent intervention. To begin, the United States should take the following steps:

  • Stop U.S. bombing in Iraq to prevent bloodshed, instability and the accumulation of grievances that contribute to the global justification for the Islamic State’s existence among its supporters.
  • Provide robust humanitarian assistance to those who are fleeing the violence. Provide food and much-needed supplies in coordination with the United Nations.
  • Engage with the UN, all Iraqi political and religious leaders, and others in the international community on diplomatic efforts for a lasting political solution for Iraq. Ensure a significantly more inclusive Iraqi government along with substantive programs of social reconciliation to interrupt the flow and perhaps peel-back some of the persons joining the Islamic State. In the diplomatic strategy, particularly include those with influence on key actors in the Islamic State.
  • Work for a political settlement to the crisis in Syria. The conflicts in Iraq and Syria are intricately connected and should be addressed holistically. Return to the Geneva peace process for a negotiated settlement to the civil war in Syria and expand the agenda to include regional peace and stability. Ensure Iran’s full participation in the process.
  • Support community-based nonviolent resistance strategies to transform the conflict and meet the deeper need and grievances of all parties. For example, experts have suggested strategies such as parallel institutions, dispersed disruptions, and economic non-cooperation.
  • Strengthen financial sanctions against armed actors in the region by working through the UN Security Council. For example, disrupting the Islamic State’s $3 million/day oil revenue from the underground market would go a long way toward blunting violence.
  • Bring in and significantly invest in professionally trained unarmed civilian protection organizations to assist and offer some buffer for displaced persons and refugees, both for this conflict in collaboration with Iraqi’s and for future conflicts.
  • Call for and uphold an arms embargo on all parties to the conflict. U.S. arms and military assistance to the government forces and ethnic militias in Iraq, in addition to arming Syrian rebel groups, have only fueled the carnage, in part due to weapons intended for one group being taken and used by others. All armed parties have been accused of committing gross violations of human rights. Along with Russia, work with key regional players such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait to take independent initiatives and meaningful steps towards an arms embargo on all parties in the conflict.
  • Support Iraqi civil society efforts to build peace, reconciliation, and accountability at the community level. Deep sectarian and ethnic divisions have long been exacerbated by various factors, including the U.S. military intervention in 2003. Sustainable peace will require peace-building and reconciliation efforts from the ground up.

With hope, deep-felt prayers, and a splash of courage, we ask you to move us beyond the ways of war and into the frontier of just peace responses to violent conflict.

Sincerely,

Susan T. Henry-Crowe, MDiv.DD
General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society
The United Methodist Church

Rev. Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (USA)

Janet Mock, CSJ
Executive Director
Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Diane Randall
Executive Secretary
Friends Committee on National Legislation

Shan Cretin
General Secretary
American Friends Service Committee

Rev. Julia Brown Karimu
Co-Executive, Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ

Rev. Dr. James Moos
Co-Executive, Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ

Sandy Sorensen
Director, DC office
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

Eli McCarthy, PhD
Director of Justice and Peace
Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Patrick Carolan
Executive Director
Franciscan Action Network

Stanley J. Noffsinger, General Secretary
Church of the Brethren

Sr. Patricia Chappell
Executive Director
Pax Christi USA

Marie Dennis
Co-President
Pax Christi International

Gerry G. Lee
Director
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Scott Wright
Director
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach

Rev. Michael Neuroth
Policy Advocate for International Issues
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

Very Rev. Michael Duggan, MM
U.S. Regional Superior of Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers

Very Rev. Carl Chudy, SX
Provincial Superior of Xaverian Missionaries in U.S.

Very Rev. Domenico Di Raimondo, M.Sp.S.
Provincial Superior of Missionaries of the Holy Spirit
Christ the Priest Province

Provincial Council of the Clerics of St. Viator (Viatorians)

María Teresa Dávila, PhD
Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics
Andover Newton Theological School

Bill Barbieri, PhD
Professor of Religion and Culture and Moral Theology/Ethics
Catholic University

Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite
Professor of Theology
Chicago Theological Seminary

Sr. Marianne Farina, CSC
Ethics Professor
Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology

Laurie Johnston, PhD
Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious Studies
Emmanuel College

Rev. Priscilla Eppinger, PhD
Associate Professor of Religion
Graceland University/Community of Christ Seminary

Peter Phan, PhD
Ellacuria Chair of Catholic Social Thought
Georgetown University

Fr. Ray Kemp, S.T.L.
Theology Professor
Georgetown University

Francis X. Clooney, SJ
Parkman Professor of Divinity
Director, The Center for the Study of World Religions
Harvard University

Betty Reardon, PhD
Founding Director Emeritus
International Institute on Peace Education

Maureen O’Connell, PhD
Associate Professor of Theology and Chair of Department of Religion
LaSalle University

Amir Hussain, PhD
Professor of Theological Studies
Loyola Marymount University

Kathleen Maas Weigert, PhD
Carolyn Farrell, BVM Professor of Women and Leadership
Loyola University Chicago

David Cortright, PhD
Director of Policy Studies
Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies
Notre Dame University

Margaret Pfeil, PhD
Assistant Professor of Theology/Ethics
Notre Dame University

John Berkman, PhD
Professor of Moral Theology
Regis College, University of Toronto

Gerald W. Schlabach
Professor of Theology
University of St. Thomas

John Sniegocki, PhD
Associate Professor of Christian Ethics
Director, Peace Studies Minor
Xavier University

Kathryn Getek Soltis, PhD
Director, Center for Peace and Justice Education
Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics
Villanova University

Suzanne C. Toton, EdD
Theology and Religious Studies Department
Villanova University

Rev. Louis Arceneaux, CM
Promoter of Peace and Justice
Western Province, Congregation of the Mission, USA

Fr. Robert Bossie, SCJ
Priests of the Sacred Heart
Chicago, IL

Fr. John A. Coleman, SJ
Saint Ignatius Parish
San Francisco, CA

Fr. John Converset, MCCJ
Director, Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation
North American Province of Comboni Missionaries

Doreen Glynn, CSJ
Justice Coordinator
Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Albany Province

Bro. Michael Gosch, CSV
Justice, Peace, Integrity of Creation Director
Clerics of St. Viator (Viatorians)

Jude A. Huntz, Director
Office for Peace and Justice
Archdiocese of Chicago

Bro. Brian McLauchlin, SVD
Justice, Peace, Integrity of Creation Promoter

Bro. Frank O’Donnell, SM
Marianist

Brian Reavey
Lay-Marianist

Bro. Jerry Sullivan, SM
Marianist

Rev. Dr. Peter A. Wells
Justice LED Organizer
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

Bro. Stan Zubek, SM
Marianist

cc:

  • Secretary of State John Kerry
  • U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power
  • Department of State, Undersecretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Sarah Sewall
  • USAID, Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance Nancy Lindborg
  • Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Shaun Casey
  • Special Assistant to the President for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Melissa Rogers

mikebrown

In light of what is unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri, I wanted to provide a resource for people looking for education and action around the issues of race, police brutality and creating truly safe communities.

Here is a link to the Showing Up for Racial Justice Police Brutality Action Kit:

http://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/archives/2016

It includes everything from actions that take one minute up to lifelong actions for racial justice. I invite you to engage this as a personal resource and to share it with others. This is not just a problem for Ferguson, or for the black community or for chiefs of police. It is a fundamental reflection of each of us that black men and women are seen as dangerous criminals undeserving of the basic right to live. Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, Eric Garner and Mike Brown stand at the end of a long line of people of color who have been killed extra-judicially in the United States. The time to act is now.

The Franciscan Action Network (FAN) has shared a simple action that will help children in crisis at the border. The senate is considering rolling back protections provided to these children under the Trafficking Victims Protections Re-authorization Act (TVPRA). FAN is asking for people to call and speak to their senators and ask them to vote no on rolling back protections.

In Wisconsin:

Senator Ron Johnson has said he will vote in favor of rolling back protections

Senator Tammy Baldwin is undecided.

If you wish to call – FAN is asking for folks to tell senator staffers that as a constituent you  urge your representative to vote NO on rolling back protections under TVPRA. If your senators are not in Wisconsin, feel free to ask their staffers how they are planning to vote: you want to hear them say the senator will vote NO on rolling back protections. Click here to learn more about TVPRA.

We will not solve our immigration crisis by criminalizing children and their families. St.Francis’ life call us to stand with these families in crisis and accompany them – not deport and detain them.

From FAN

The position of USCCB/JFI, Interfaith Immigration Coalition, and FAN is NO to rolling back legislation that provides protection for refugee children.  PLEASE CALL YOUR SENATOR with thanks for their NO, or encourage NO for those undecided or not declared, or urge change from YES to NO.  Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121.

With anyone concerned about the violence in Gaza, I wanted to share this great resource from Pax Christi. Please see below for a Pray, Study and Act email from Pax Christi USA.

Greetings of peace! (reposted from Pax Christi)

Over the past few days, we have received many emails expressing the concern, grief, outrage, and heartbreak people are feeling over the violence in Gaza. The death toll rises dramatically each day. The infrastructure which people rely on to live crumbles under the bombing. As one PCUSA member wrote, “When will we ever learn?”

The cycle of violence must be unmasked and named and transformed. As people of faith, we engage through prayer, study and action. Below and in the sidebar on the left, you will find some resources for engaging this tragedy. Below is also a link to the new statement we released this morning regarding the violence in Gaza. Additionally, we have set up a special webpage on our site, “End the Violence in Gaza,” where you can find a catalog of additional resources for prayer, study and action. Let us–through whatever effort we can make–bring the “peace of Christ” into a situation which is desperately crying out for answers rooted in justice, mercy, understanding and nonviolence.

In peace,

Johnny Zokovitch

Director of Communications, Pax Christi USA


 

PRAY: A prayer for peace and an end to the violence

By Jim Hug, S.J

O Loving God,

We so often and for so long hear about the guns and rockets, drones and bombs
We see the pictures of death in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Congo, Nigeria, Sudan and South Sudan, Ukraine, Israel and Palestine, Central African Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala…

Wrap all and each of these your people in your love.

Let them hear: “Come to me you who suffer
and are burdened and I will give you rest.”

In these few months of 2014, we have heard the weapons and seen the blood of mass shootings and gang violence
In Los Angeles and Detroit, Minneapolis and Miami, in Denver and in 138 other cities, towns and villages across our nation.

Wrap all and each of these your people in your love.

Let them hear: “Come to me you who suffer
and are burdened and I will give you rest.”

The bombs are exploding again in Gaza and Israel.

Wrap all and each of these your people in your love.

Let them hear: “Come to me you who suffer
and are burdened and I will give you rest.”…

Click here to read the entire prayer.

STUDY: Pax Christi USA’s official statement on the violence in the Middle East

“Peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare. It calls for the courage to say yes to encounter and no to conflict: yes to dialogue and no to violence; yes to negotiations and no to hostilities; yes to respect for agreements and no to acts of provocation; yes to sincerity and no to duplicity. All of this takes courage, it takes strength and tenacity.”

~Pope Francis, June 8, 2014

As the number of dead and wounded continues to rise in Gaza, Pax Christi USA calls for an immediate cease-fire by all parties in order to open the possibility for negotiations to end the senseless violence and address the underlying causes which fuel the decades-long tragedy in the Middle East.

Pax Christi USA mourns the loss of life on both sides of the conflict. We stand with all those who have been victimized by violence. Our hearts are broken over the death and destruction which only serves to terrorize hundreds of thousands of civilians in Gaza, those who call this relatively small piece of land home. We join with Pax Christi International members around the world in offering “our sincere condolences to all those in mourning and pray that those who have been killed will be the last to die violent deaths in this escalation of hatred and vengeance.”…

Click here to read the complete statement.

ACT: Stop U.S. complicity in suffering, support a just peace in Israel & Palestine from the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy

NOTE: Pax Christi USA is a member of the Faith Forum. This is the “Third Thursday for Israel-Palestine” action for July.

July 9th marked the 10-year anniversary of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) advisory opinion on the legality of Israel’s construction of the separation barrier. In its opinion, the ICJ declared that the barrier being built by Israel in occupied Palestinian territory is illegal, that it should be torn down, and that those who have suffered as a consequence of its construction should be compensated. Yet 10 years later, the barrier remains, cutting into Palestinian territory and separating Palestinians from schools, work and neighbors. Given its projected route, it is estimated that, if completed, around 85% of the barrier will run inside the West Bank, de facto annexing West Bank land and water resources to Israel.

As violence escalates throughout Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, it is abundantly clear that the underlying causes of this human tragedy must be addressed. All aspects of Israel’s illegal military occupation–including the barrier in the West Bank and the blockade on Gaza–will need to end, in order for a just and secure future to result.
Contact your Members of Congress today and ask them to stop U.S. complicity in the suffering happening in the Middle East, and to support efforts which will result in a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians.

Click here to see this full action alert with a script for contacting your Members of Congress.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious calls for protection of the
persecuted in Iraq.

In the face of imminent danger for the people there, the leader of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Sienna in Mosul, Iraq has called her sisters throughout the country to a time of intense prayer and retreat to beg God for the protection of the Iraqi people.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in the United States also calls upon people of all denominations in the world community to join the Iraqi Sisters in a moment of prayer on Thursday, June 19 at 6 PM (in your time zone) to pray for an end to the violence and the protection of those victimized.

The Dominican Sisters are all Iraqi nationals and minister in health care, social services, and education. In fact, they started the first Montessori school in the country. They serve all people in their ministry.

As the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine continue their days of intense
prayer, they ask that people throughout the world join them on June 19,
believing that this intensification of global prayer can make a difference.

“We believe that prayer has the power to change the course of events in
Iraq,” says Sister Carol Zinn, SSJ, LCWR president. “We stand with our sisters and brothers who courageously remain with the people they serve and will join with them in prayer for as long and as often as it takes until the violence ceases.”

About LCWR:

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) is an association of the leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in the United States. The conference has more than 1,400 members (including the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration), who represent more than 80 percent of the approximately 51,600 women religious in the United States.

Founded in 1956, the conference assists its members to collaboratively carry out their service of leadership to further the mission of the Gospel in today’s world.

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.

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

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

In another exciting round of recall elections, similar to those in Wisconsin, Arizona recalled Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce who was the author of S.B 1070- Arizona’s infamous “Show Me Your Papers” law.

This is a tremendous moment for immigrants, their families and supporters across the country. A moment of collective outcry that says we are not a nation built on fear and exclusion. A nation that relies on an abuse of power rather than examining our own role and responsibility in how folks come to live, work and be a part of our diverse land.

Read below and take a moment to celebrate with immigrants and advocates across the country!

Loss a stunning reversal for Pearce

Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services | Posted: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 12:01 am

MESA – Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce – architect of some of the nation’s toughest state laws against illegal immigration – was ousted by voters Tuesday in an unprecedented recall.

Results late Tuesday showed challenger Jerry Lewis, a political newcomer, with a 53-to-45 percent margin over Pearce in his east Mesa district. Both are Republicans. A small percentage also cast ballots for Olivia Cortes, although she withdrew from the race.

Pearce conceded defeat, saying he is disappointed and will spend some time “with my family and my God” before deciding what to do next. He has not ruled out another run – including to get his seat back.

Pearce is probably best known for proposing several immigration measures – often amid opposition from his own party – including a successful 2004 ballot measure to deny services to people living here illegally, and most recently, last year’s Senate Bill 1070 to give police more power to detain and arrest illegal immigrants.

“Obviously, it was a huge part of the recall,” said Lewis, who promised a more “civil dialogue and discussion” of the entire immigration issue.

U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a Tucson Democrat who called for a controversial boycott of Arizona over SB 1070, said Pearce’s loss “is a game changer for Arizona and a game changer for politicians who have used the immigration issue to divide people.”

Pearce, however, said he makes no apologies for his style, which can come across as confrontational. “Am I vigilant? Yes,” he said. “When you take tough positions, people get upset. That’s because somebody has to be a leader, and we wouldn’t have accomplished what we accomplished without leadership.”

He said polls have shown that most Arizonans support SB 1070, and he still believes that.

Pearce said one reason he lost was that this was an unusual race, with no primary. That allowed all voters, including the district’s Democrats and independents, to make the final decision.

“This is going around the primary process,” Pearce said.

“Jerry Lewis could not win in a (Republican) primary,” he added, saying Lewis was the choice of Democrats. “So it doesn’t take but 10 to 15 percent of the Republicans to vote for him to make the difference.”

Lewis disputed that description of the race, calling it dishonest. He sidestepped the question of whether he could have beaten Pearce in a head-to-head primary where only Republicans were allowed to vote. “That’s a hypothetical question,” Lewis said. “I don’t know the answer to that.”

Lewis, a charter school executive, said he never ran for office in a regular primary “because I never wanted to be a politician.”

He said one reason he probably won is he had support from Hispanic voters, many of whom are Democrats.

Despite being rejected by the voters in the district, Pearce said he would not have done anything any different since he was first elected to the Legislature in 2000.

“We’re Number One in the nation in Second Amendment liberties,” said Pearce, who helped push through laws allowing any adult to carry a concealed weapon. “We’re one of the top in the nation in laws that protect the unborn. So what else would I do differently? I’m pretty proud of that record.”

Pearce blamed his defeat in part on “heavy outside money” from liberal groups and unions, but at the same time boasted about the fact that he received donations from contributors in 40 states.

Lewis, for his part, said he waged a clean race, suggesting Pearce supporters had not done the same.

“I was told from the beginning it would be very hard hitting, below the belt. I just didn’t realize I’d have padlocks thrown below the belt as well,” he said, in a reference to a July incident where someone threw a lock at him. “That was a symbol of things to come,” he said.

But Lewis said he has no animosity for the man he beat.

“I still love him, he’s my brother,” he said of Pearce. “And I still consider him a friend, and I hope that we can work together in bringing about a fresh voice for Mesa.”

The recall election, forced by a petition drive, was the first for an Arizona legislator.

Tuesday’s vote has statewide implications in other ways. It means the 21 Senate Republicans – now including Lewis – will have to pick a replacement for Senate president.

That could shuffle the power within the chamber as would-be contenders try to line up support and promise plum committee assignments to supporters.

Arizona Daily Star reporter Carmen Duarte contributed to this report.

Wanted to share some info and perspectives on the Occupy Wall Street movement and how it is seen from an international lens (video below from Russia Today News) to locally a reflection from Noam Chomsky. Watch, read and ponder…are we making history?

Noam Chomsky, Truthout | Speech

 (This article is adapted from Noam Chomsky’s talk at the Occupy Boston encampment on Dewey Square on Oct. 22. He spoke as part of the Howard Zinn Memorial Lecture Series held by Occupy Boston’s on-site Free University. Zinn was a historian, activist and author of “A People’s History of the United States.”)

Delivering a Howard Zinn lecture is a bittersweet experience for me. I regret that he’s not here to take part in and invigorate a movement that would have been the dream of his life. Indeed, he laid a lot of the groundwork for it.

If the bonds and associations being established in these remarkable events can be sustained through a long, hard period ahead, victories don’t come quickly, the Occupy protests could mark a significant moment in American history.

I’ve never seen anything quite like the Occupy movement in scale and character, here and worldwide. The Occupy outposts are trying to create cooperative communities that just might be the basis for the kinds of lasting organizations necessary to overcome the barriers ahead and the backlash that’s already coming.

That the Occupy movement is unprecedented seems appropriate because this is an unprecedented era, not just in this moment but since the 1970’s.

The 1970s marked a turning point for the United States. Since the country began, it had been a developing society, not always in very pretty ways, but with general progress toward industrialization and wealth.

Even in dark times, the expectation was that the progress would continue. I’m just old enough to remember the Great Depression. By the mid-1930s, even though the situation was objectively much harsher than today, the spirit was quite different.

A militant labor movement was organizing, the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations) and others, and workers were staging sit-down strikes, just one step from taking over the factories and running them themselves.

Under popular pressure, New Deal legislation was passed. The prevailing sense was that we would get out of the hard times.

Now there’s a sense of hopelessness, sometimes despair. This is quite new in our history. During the 1930s, working people could anticipate that the jobs would come back. Today, if you’re a worker in manufacturing, with unemployment practically at Depression levels, you know that those jobs may be gone forever if current policies persist.

That change in the American outlook has evolved since the 1970s. In a reversal, several centuries of industrialization turned to de-industrialization. Of course manufacturing continued, but overseas, very profitable, though harmful to the workforce.

The economy shifted to financialization. Financial institutions expanded enormously. A vicious cycle between finance and politics accelerated. Increasingly, wealth concentrated in the financial sector. Politicians, faced with the rising cost of campaigns, were driven ever deeper into the pockets of wealthy backers.

And the politicians rewarded them with policies favorable to Wall Street: deregulation, tax changes, relaxation of rules of corporate governance, which intensified the vicious cycle. Collapse was inevitable. In 2008, the government once again came to the rescue of Wall Street firms presumably too big to fail, with leaders too big to jail.

Today, for the one-tenth of 1 percent of the population who benefited most from these decades of greed and deceit, everything is fine.

In 2005, Citigroup, which, by the way, has repeatedly been saved by government bailouts, saw the wealthy as a growth opportunity. The bank released a brochure for investors that urged them to put their money into something called the Plutonomy Index, which identified stocks in companies that cater to the luxury market.

“The world is dividing into two blocs, the plutonomy and the rest,” Citigroup summarized. “The U.S., U.K. and Canada are the key plutonomies, economies powered by the wealthy.”

As for the non-rich, they’re sometimes called the precariat, people who live a precarious existence at the periphery of society. The “periphery” however, has become a substantial proportion of the population in the U.S. and elsewhere.

So we have the plutonomy and the precariat: the 1 percent and the 99 percent, as Occupy sees it, not literal numbers, but the right picture.

The historic reversal in people’s confidence about the future is a reflection of tendencies that could become irreversible. The Occupy protests are the first major popular reaction that could change the dynamic.

I’ve kept to domestic issues. But two dangerous developments in the international arena overshadow everything else.

For the first time in human history, there are real threats to the survival of the human species. Since 1945 we have had nuclear weapons, and it seems a miracle we have survived them. But policies of the Obama administration and its allies are encouraging escalation.

The other threat, of course, is environmental catastrophe. Practically every country in the world is taking at least halting steps to do something about it. The United States is taking steps backward. A propaganda system, openly acknowledged by the business community, declares that climate change is all a liberal hoax: Why pay attention to these scientists?

If this intransigence continues in the richest, most powerful country in the world, the catastrophe won’t be averted.

Something must be done in a disciplined, sustained way, and soon. It won’t be easy to proceed. There will be hardships and failures, it’s inevitable. But unless the process that’s taking place here and elsewhere in the country and around the world continues to grow and becomes a major force in society and politics, the chances for a decent future are bleak.

You can’t achieve significant initiatives without a large, active, popular base. It’s necessary to get out into the country and help people understand what the Occupy movement is about, what they themselves can do, and what the consequences are of not doing anything.

Organizing such a base involves education and activism. Education doesn’t mean telling people what to believe, it means learning from them and with them.

Karl Marx said, ‚”The task is not just to understand the world but to change it.‚” A variant to keep in mind is that if you want to change the world you’d better try to understand it. That doesn’t mean listening to a talk or reading a book, though that’s helpful sometimes. You learn from participating. You learn from others. You learn from the people you’re trying to organize. We all have to gain the understanding and the experience to formulate and implement ideas.

The most exciting aspect of the Occupy movement is the construction of the linkages that are taking place all over. If they can be sustained and expanded, Occupy can lead to dedicated efforts to set society on a more humane course.

© 2011 Noam Chomsky

The FSPA Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation Committee has been working for two years on the issue of immigration.

PBS is offering a great opportunity tonight to curl up in this great fall weather and watch a Frontline episode about the devastating impacts of detention on immigrant families and communities.

This is great opportunity to learn more about what is happening across the country as politicians refuse to reform the immigration system and instead are “creating” policy by default through extensive detention and deportation. Join with the JPIC Committee and commit to learning more about this human rights crisis tonight!

See below for more information and an action from Presente.org !

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

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