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Laudato Si – All Praise be Yours

9 Jul

st francisPope Francis just came out with this encyclical around Climate Change and Ecology to provide input to the world around the moral dimensions of Climate Change. This is to coincide with the Council of Parties meeting to be held in Paris, France from November 30, 2015 to December 11, 2015.   The Conference of Parties (COP) is the supreme body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It currently meets once a year to review the Convention’s progress and establish the rules of its implementation. This will be an incredibly important meeting to establish specific criteria to reduce greenhouse gasses and other promoters of climate change at a time when we are at the brink of being unable to change the course.
In the Encyclical, Pope Francis uses St. Francis’ Canticle of Creation as an example of someone who understood the interconnection of our environment and human ecology. Human ecology refers to how we treat human beings on this earth. He notes how we have not only become a throw-away society when it comes to our refuse and use of the earth; we have also chosen throw-away people. The Church demands a preferential option for the poor. Yet our societies seem to have chosen a preferential option for those who are wealthy. We are not balanced in this world. He points out that 2008 would have been an opportune moment to change our economic systems to make sure that the poor in our society were protected. Yet this was another opportunity mixed.

Pope Francis does not demonize technology. Technology has offered advances in medicine, etc. “It is right to rejoice in these advances and to be excited by immense possibilities which they continue to open before us…” 102 Pope Francis is concerned that “our immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience.” 105 The technological paradigm exalts the use of logic to gain control over an external object. It is confrontational rather than communal. It also looks at the world as though there is an infinite supply of goods, which is just not true.

He challenges the world leaders to reach decisions to reduce our impact on climate change through treaties, etc. But to also have a sense of accountability with real consequences attached to any agreement. (He could be speaking directly to the Council of Parties.)He encourages individuals to do what they can. Every little bit we can do helps. If you lead a simple life, you provide an example that can help our planet.

Actions, demonstrations, educational events, etc. are being planned during the months of October and November leading up to the Council of Parties meeting. Stay tuned. Further info will be coming.

For more information go to http://unfccc.int Council of Parties; www.catholicclimatecovenant.org; www.globalclimateconvergence.org; to order your copy of the encyclical go to www.usccb.org

Questions for reflection:

What are you willing to do to help develop a communal approach to climate change?

What systems need to be changed in order to bring earth’s ecology and human ecology in balance?

 

 

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“Right to Work”

20 Mar

chi-fight-for-15-20130424Right now unions are under attack. Wisconsin just signed the “Right to Work” Act. There are 25 “right to work” states. Illinois’ new Governor Bruce Rauner is attempting to make Illinois 26.

“Despite its misleading name, this type of law does not guarantee anyone a job and it does not protect against unfair firing.  By undermining unions, so-called ‘Right to Work’ laws would weaken the best job security protections workers have – the union contract.

A ‘right to work’ law is a state law that stops employers and employees from negotiating an agreement – also known as a union security clause – that requires all workers who receive the benefits of a collective bargaining agreement to pay their share of the costs of representing them.  Right to Work laws say that unions must represent every eligible employee, whether he or she pays dues or not.  In other words, ‘Right to Work’ laws allow workers to pay nothing and still get all the benefits of union membership.

‘Right to Work’ laws aren’t fair to dues-paying members.  If a worker who is represented by a union and doesn’t pay dues is fired illegally, the union must use its time and money to defend him or her, even if that requires going through a costly, time-consuming legal process.  Since the union represents everyone, everyone benefits, so everyone should share in the costs of providing these services.  Amazingly, nonmembers who are represented by a union can even sue the union if they think it has not represented them well enough!” AFL-CIO

So why are unions even needed? “CEOs Earn 331 Times As Much As Average Workers, 774 Times As Much As Minimum Wage Earners. With CEO compensation analysis season in full swing, the AFL-CIO released data this morning stating that American CEOs in 2013 earned an average of $11.7 million–an eye-popping 331 times the average worker’s $35,293.”Apr 15, 2014 Forbes Magazine.

In the meantime minimum wage workers are fighting for a $15 minimum wage. Unions have supported this “Fight for Fifteen.” No longer are the jobs at McDonalds and other minimum wage jobs for students trying to pick up a few bucks. They are for all of those people who have lost jobs during the recession and because of companies moving their companies overseas for even cheaper labor.

Are these laws really “right to work” or “right to exploit.” Remember that they also called the MX nuclear missile the “Peacekeeper.”

“Let the Children Come to Me”

26 Jun

immigrant children3 Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

There has been a lot of press as of late speaking of the influx of children coming into the United States from Central America. Since 2009, there has been an a dramatic rise of unaccompanied children coming from Central America.  Why?

Some believe that they are coming here because they are looking for a better life and have heard that the U.S. is easier on children than adults.

Why would children risk crossing deserts, going hungry, risking the possibility of being trafficked, etc.?  Why would parents allow this?

The United Nations has been asking these same questions.  Brian Resnick of the National Journal questioned Leslie Velez , senior protection officer at the U.N. High Commission for Refugees.  “The normal migration patterns in this region have changed,” Ms. Velez stated. They are not coming for economic opportunity.  They are fleeing for their lives.”  The U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees surveyed 404 children from Mexico and Central America.  The report states that “no less than 58 percent of the 404 children interviewed were forcibly displaced” to a degree that warranted international protection. If the U.S. refuses these children, it could be in breach of U.S. conventions.  These are refugees no more or less than we are seeing in the Middle East. This time we are the receiving country.

Why are they fleeing for their lives?  In 2009, the democratically elected President of Honduras was overthrown by a military coup ( some of whom are graduates of the School of the Americas).  The U.S. has provided support ever since in the form of arms and support for the corrupt government that emerged after dubious elections in 2009 and 2013.

“Since 2008, the U.S. has spent over $800 million in security aid to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador through ‘Central American Regional Security Initiative’ (CARSI) in addition to millions more in bilateral military and police aid to each country.” (SOA Watch 6/19/2014)

Violence in Honduras is so high that people are scared for their lives.  Children are being recruited by gangs and drug cartels in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.  They are given little choice because of their vulnerability.  Adult gang members and drug pushers feel that children provide them with safe cover.  These children  don’t want to be in gangs or to be involved with the drug cartels so they flee.  This is similar to the child soldiers we heard about in Uganda.

It is easy to think that children are coming to the United States from Central America for a better economic life.  It appears that, at least for 60% of them, they are just coming for a chance to live.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious just came out with a statement on this.  https://lcwr.org/media/lcwr-statement-children-crossing-borders-alone

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have had several testimonies given to Congress. http://www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/

You can also give testimony to your congressperson.  Let them know that the humanitarian approach to this is to treat the children as refugees and increase funding for immigrant services.

 

SOA/WHINSEC Name Change — Same Shame

23 Jan

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“Stemming from our Franciscan values and the fact that all life is interconnected, members, vowed and non-vowed are encouraged to be engaged in ministry with those living on the margins of society and struggling to live with dignity.” 26th General Chapter Congregational Commitments 2013

“The 2013 November Vigil energized the movement. The weekend gathering was vibrant and featured creativity in many different facets. Many participated for the first time in the annual vigil. On Sunday, November 24, thousands walked in a solemn funeral procession and commemorated those who have been killed by SOA/ WHINSEC graduates and U.S. militarization. The procession transitioned into an upbeat celebration of life and resistance, after Oscar Romero’s last sermon was blasted through the stage speaker system, and a banner with our message, and thousands of soap bubbles crossed over the barb-wired fence. The vigil weekend included for the first time a Peoples Movement Assembly (PMA) on Saturday morning. As part of the PMA, hundreds of movement activists gathered in small groups and discussed questions about the role of nonviolent direct action in the context of an increasingly militarized prison system. SOA Watch activists are taking the discussion back to their communities. The questions that we are focusing on are: is there a need to shift to other creative ways of continuing the tradition of direct action? What are your thoughts on nonviolent direct action and prison witness considering both our movement’s history and today’s context? The other main question focused on our grassroots organizing strategies. The conversations continue and we are looking forward to everyone’s input.” SOA Watch

I went to the SOA Watch gathering and demonstration the weekend of November 22-24,2013.  It was amazing to see the diversity of age, gender, race represented by those present for this weekend.  Nonviolence was present throughout the weekend by the demonstrators.  Infiltration of movement by plain clothes police officers was readily apparent.  Some were the same officers who infiltrated the group last year and then testified at the trial.  We  counted about 10 officers, but the commander suggested there were quite a few more.  A police helicopter buzzed the group (flew at about 100 feet above) causing some to duck from fear of being hit and causing some of the vendors to run after t-shirts that were now flying around the concrete.

When does national security become a pretext for attacking freedom of speech?  SOA Watch has filed a Freedom of Information request with the Columbus Georgia police to get any files they might have on the demonstration/demonstrators.

Our message remains the same.  Shut Down the School of the Americas by any name.  It has caused the grief and torture of our brothers and sisters in Latin and Central America for too long.   This continues and so shall we continue to protest it.  Our faith demands this of us.

For more information go to soaw.org