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

Posts tagged ‘FSPA’

All are welcome here

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

A green new deal

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

All life is sacred

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.

From SOA Vigil to jail to court

On Saturday after the rally some members of the School of the Americas Watch community took action within the city of Columbus. They chose to take their message to Columbus instead of the military base. They chose a different space but the reasons for the action were the same: to close the SOA and bring justice to its victims. The police had a strong reaction to what they felt was the abuse of the permit. As people were attempting to leave the vigil site the police responded by arresting more than seventeen individuals who were doing nothing more than leaving the space – all together 26 folks were arrested.

I have attended the vigil for six years and never have I seen anything like what happened on Saturday. The police were directing people to leave and then accusing them of refusing to disperse and placing cuffs on them.  They picked up journalists, high schoolers, and even a member of their own Columbus community who simply stepped out of a barber shop near the road.

We began immediately to mobilize, to gather money for bond. We received our second shock of the weekend: the police had piled charges on the folks they arrested. Even though they were all facing misdemeanors their bonds were set as high as $5500. This would mean that roughly we would have needed over $100,000 to get our own people out of jail. 

Between Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning we worked to get in touch with family and friends of those who had been arrested and to raise money for bond. By Sunday afternoon, after the vigil as we headed to the court for the arraignment hearings, we had managed to raise close to $20,000. Not all of what we needed but an amazing outpouring from those who were there.

We reached court and received our third big shock of the weekend: the judge!  He  said that if anyone whispered or passed notes they would spend the night in jail. We witnessed an arraignment hearing that was treated as a trial and when the judge was asked about this particular disparity he told us it was his court and he could do whatever he wanted.

After several hours of “trials” the judge retired to his chambers to watch police video footage of the arrests. The defense attorneys went to the back to watch the videos as well. The defendants were never allowed to see the evidence against them and several of them never even heard the police testimony against them.  The judge then came out and found every single person guilty (except one).  He applied hefty fines, sent some of the charges to the State court and  adjusted bonds.

After his threat to give all of them jail time the outcome of fines and a continuance of charges was a relief. However it was very difficult to feel that any justice had been served. Arrestees were denied a right to testify on their own behalf, the police were not made to provide the burden of proof and the judge ran the courtroom like a king rather than a public official.

It was difficult and discouraging. And yet, and yet…

Around ten thousand people gathered to remember those who were victims of the school. Four members of the SOAW community crossed the line onto the base. Seven people were willing to risk an arrest in the Columbus community and the other 19 who were arrested accidentally still stood by the call for justice of vicitms of the school. We raised all the money we needed to bond people out, supported them in court and will continue to support them as they get ready for state court.

Watching people gather in support, pitch in time, money and witness was amazing. It is community and community is the antithesis of arrest and the court process we experienced.  Community is the antithesis of the mindset and logic of the School of the Americas. It is a sacred sense of relationship that opens doors for change.

As Bill Quigley, a lawyer for the movement, qouted St. Agustine, “Hope has two beautiful daughters.  Their names are anger and courage.  Anger at the way things are and courage to see that they do not remain as they are.” 

We must be angry at the injustice we see but then also have the courage to change it!

Gathering in Peace: SOA Vigil

So we gathered from all across the country some even from other countries to begin our vigil, our presence at the gates of Ft. Benning.

We gathered together to hear the testimony of survivors, the stories of those who are currently in the struggle and the poetry and music of many groups of resistance.

The stories from stage reminded us of why we gather. We heard of the human rights violations, the stolen land, the communities broken by militarization, and the fear created by oppression.

We also heard of creative resistance, alternative economies, loving rebuilding of communities. It was a day of energizing grace.

As we left the space, the police attitude changed. There were aggressive arrests,  as people tried to make their way to their cars. Theirs was an attitude of control and suspicion that was the antithesis of the nonviolent open space that had been created by the community.

This is our struggle, how do we create change when speaking out is seen as threat? When calling for justice is seen as violent? How do we walk our road?

The day teaches that we walk it together, we walk it in peace, we walk it because this is who we are called to be.

Coming to Georgia: SOA Vigil

Watching everyone come into town for the SOA vigil is one of the best parts of the weekend. You see folks from all over pull up in busses and cars, they spill out in lobbies and restaurants, and everyone is greeted like an old friend.

We begin immediately to build a new space. A space that is not dependent on power or privilege but rather a space that thrives on creative open relationship. A radical idea that community exists in each of us (like breath) and we are able even in a crowd of thousands to say we, in this moment, are one.

It is always a joy to me each year to watch this space open over the days of the weekend. To watch as all the elements of organizing come together and the key ingredient of the people arrive and gently like a bloom another world rises before our eyes.

I think of Francis and how he did this everyday. He held open space for a radical loving community and watched as a different world bloomed before his eyes. A world built on the foundations of trust, love and complete equity. We carry on, grateful for our inheritance from this particular peacemaker.

We are here, working to build that world and I will do my best through this blog to have the world bloom for you, too! Many blessings and much gratitude for the support of the FSPA community!

p.s. I’ve learned that the FSPA sponsored bus has left La Crosse, Wis., and is headed for Georgia.

This picture was captured this morning as the Franciscan Sisters blessed the students before they boarded the bus!

FSPA bless the students departing for the SOA Vigil.

 

 

Memory and Resistance! 21st annual School of the Americas Watch Vigil

This week I leave for Columbus, Georgia, to join the vigil at the gates of Ft. Benning.  We will gather to remember and resist as we approach the 30th anniversary of the four women who were killed in El Salvador.  We will gather to celebrate and commemorate  as we move forward with the challenge of creating full peace with justice.

This year I will blog each of the days leading up to the vigil. I invite you to journey with the School of the Americas Watch Movement as we ready to Close It Down (subscribe if you want to get my posts right in your inbox)! To get us started I would like to offer the following excerpt from a letter by Ita Ford, M.M. to her niece.

A Letter from Ita to her niece

Dear Jennifer,

The odds that this note will arrive for your birthday are poor, but know I’m with you in spirit as you celebrate 16 big ones…

What I want to say…some of it isn’t too jolly birthday talk, but it’s real…yesterday I stood looking down at a 16-year-old who had been killed a few hours earlier. I know lots of kids even younger who are dead.  This is a terrible time in El Salvador for youth. A lot of idealism and commitment is getting snuffed out here now…

Brooklyn is not passing through the drama of El Salvador, but some things hold true wherever one is at, and at whatever age. What I am saying is, I hope you come to find that which gives life a deep meaning for you…something worth living for, maybe even worth dying for…something that energizes you, enthuses you, enables you to keep moving ahead. I can’t tell you what it might be – that is for you to find, to choose, to love.

I can just encourage you to start looking and support you in the search. Maybe this sounds weird and off-the-wall, and maybe, no one else will talk to you like this, but then, too, I am seeing and living things others around you are not.

I want to say to you: don’t waste the gifts and opportunities you have to make yourself and other people happy…I hope this does not sound like some kind of sermon because I do not mean it that way. Rather, it is something you learn here, and I want to share it with you.

In fact it is my birthday present to you. If it does not make sense right at this moment, keep this and read it sometime from now. Maybe it will be clearer.

A very happy birthday to you and much, much love…Ita

Ita Ford, Presente!

Tag Cloud