J/P Alert is the newsletter of the Justice and Peace office of CMSM. It is intended to inform and stimulate discussion and involvement among the members. Its contents do not necessarily represent official positions of CMSM.
Today, the world's most impoverished countries send more than $100 million each day in debt payments to wealthy governments and financial institutions like the World Bank and IMF. In countries where the majority of the population lives on less than $1 per day, this money should be spent on clean water, basic health care, and education, not sent to the world's wealthiest financial institutions.
In 2000 and again in 2005 world leaders came together to cancel billions of dollars of debt in dozens of impoverished countries around the world. The money freed by debt cancellation so far has been used to fight global AIDS, enroll children in school, provide clean water, improve rural infrastructure and more. But there is still much more that needs to be done – dozens of impoverished countries around the world are still waiting for debt justice!
The most important and prophetic debt legislation in 7 years, the Jubilee Act will expand access to debt cancellation to all the countries that need it to fight extreme poverty. Without debt cancellation, it will be nearly impossible for many countries to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015.
The Jubilee Act also requires that debt cancellation be provided without harmful economic policy conditions attached, calls for the initiation of a responsible lending framework, and requires a debt audit in countries like South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo which have a heavy burden of odious debt.
March 8, 2008; Washington, DC— With spiritual and social transformation on their mind, more than 130 representatives of the new social advocacy organization, Franciscan Action Network, celebrated a transformation of their own— one from shared idea to joint reality. Michael Perry, OFM, formerly with Franciscans International, was one of the evening's two keynote speakers. Fr. Perry, a friar from the Sacred Heart Province in the nation's heartland, touched on the theme of an idea whose time has already come.
" Much like the Franciscan movement of the 12th and 13th centuries, the Franciscan Action Network arises at a particularly critical moment in the course of human history," said Fr. Perry. "It comes at a moment when the future of the planet and its inhabitants is being decided."
Fr. Perry put the nascent network, called "FAN," into this context of a world in crisis, a world in need of faith-based innovation. The speaker implied that partnership with the UN-based non-governmental agency, FI, and other like-minded non-profit organizations, would be a part of the new network's overall strategy.
FAN's kickoff celebration, slated as a halftime event at Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD), underscored another part of that strategy. From March 7th to the 10th, EAD played host not only to FAN, but to over seven hundred other religious advocates in a weekend that culminated in 250 visits to congressional legislators on Capitol Hill. During the visits, EAD participants from all religious denominations advocated for a truer vision of security, one based on human and ecological well-being rather than fear and mistrust.
"It is just this type of integrated awareness— of faith with social responsibility— that our new network seeks to facilitate," said Russell Testa, executive director of FAN. Mr. Testa, a layperson, cited the support of fellow ecumenical leaders as crucial to the organization's ability to realize its full potential.
"Many people don't know it, but St. Francis was ecumenically-minded, to employ a modern term," he said.
"In reaching out to a leader of the Muslim faith by traveling to Egypt and Syria during the 13th century, Francis demonstrated the kind of moral courage from which we hope to draw inspiration." Mr. Testa said that FAN is dedicated to bringing a Franciscan approach to Christian-based social advocacy. Over the next few years as it grows, FAN will help the more than 450 Franciscan ministries in the U.S.
P.O. Box 29053, Washington, DC 20017; Phone 202-527-7575; Fax 202-527-5276.
The continued humanitarian crisis in Colombia is arguably the most urgent in the Americas, stemming from an armed conflict of over forty years and resulting in the second largest internally displaced population in the world. As many as 200,000 additional persons are forcibly displaced from their homes in Colombia annually, bringing the total number of internally displaced Colombians to well over three million. Additionally, many Colombians have sought refuge and protection in other countries, namely Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama, and Costa Rica among other destinations.…
The Colombian government's response to the humanitarian needs of internally displaced persons demonstrates a sharp disconnect between stated policies and government action and implementation. Increases in funding at the central government level have not translated into concrete results locally. Municipalities receiving high numbers of people fleeing violence and fighting fail to prepare properly for expected displacements, provide adequate humanitarian assistance when they occur, and assist those displaced to integrate into the local communities. We recommend that UNHCR be supported in its efforts to strengthen and improve the functioning of the territorial committees established to assist and register new waves of displaced people.
We note with urgent concern emerging evidence of the direct involvement of parts of the Colombian military in gross human rights abuses, extrajudicial executions, and forced displacement. In October 2007, Colombian human rights groups presented information before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission detailing preliminary investigations into hundreds of cases of alleged extrajudicial executions committed by the Colombian Armed Forces between July 2002 and June 2007. The cases reportedly occur in areas with a high level of military presence or where military operations are frequent or constant. The majority of victims have been rural residents who were named as known leftists or supporters of guerrilla groups. Many of the victims were local community leaders. Others involve rural agricultural workers, Afro-Colombians, and indigenous peoples, including women and children. After the events occur, State agents, particularly members of the army, engage in efforts to cover up their crimes and target family members. Those who are executed have been presented as guerrillas killed in combat, despite eyewitness accounts sustaining that most of these individuals were forcibly removed from their homes or places of work and were last seen dressed in civilian clothing. These illegal military tactics create greater instability, fear, and displacement among the rural population, and are contrary to the Colombian government's assurances of a robust commitment to human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.…
Colombian refugees face some general problems in the neighbouring States that receive the bulk of the Colombian refugee population. Concerns for the physical security of the Colombian refugee population are prevalent in all neighbouring countries, as the same porous borders that allow some refugees easy access to a State of refuge, allow persecuting irregular armed groups to pursue civilian targets and conduct trafficking operations in drugs, arms, and sometimes people. Lack of access to the labour market is a continuing problem facing many Colombian refugees seeking protection in most neighbouring countries, particularly for those awaiting a refugee status determination (RSD), and the large numbers of often invisible refugees yet to be reached by the UNHCR, who fear the refugee registration process or who do not yet understand their rights under international law. The lengthy waiting period before refugees receive responses to their RSDs causes legal deprivation, corrodes the possibility of local integration, and raises serious security concerns in both Panama and Venezuela. Educational qualifications obtained in Colombia are often not recognised in neighbouring countries leading to situations where refugees are not able to access university-level training— and at times are even denied admission to secondary school— even though they would have had all necessary qualifications in their country of origin. Such obstacles not only hamper the personal potential of the refugees themselves, but also the potential benefit a refugee with a tertiary education can have for the host community, as well as, upon return, for their country of origin.…
At the same time, we recognize the generosity and openness demonstrated by some States in the region when it comes to providing a broader space for international protection in the context of the implementation of the Mexico Plan of Action. The increased focus on human rights, adoption of national legislation to implement international refugee law, and the establishment of viable regional resettlement channels through the "Solidarity Resettlement Program" are efforts that the NGO community recognises and fully supports.…
In addition to the difficulties faced by Colombian and Haitian refugees in neighbouring countries, those who seek asylum in North American States do not necessarily find appropriate protection in those countries. In November 2007 the Federal Court of Canada found that refugees' rights are violated when they are forcibly returned to the United States under the Safe Third Country Agreement, because the United States does not fully comply with its non-refoulement obligations. The Court also found that certain groups, including Colombians, are discriminated against within the US asylum system because of specific measures such as the "material support" provision, which exclude people from asylum who have provided any support at all, even under duress, to "terrorist" organisations. Although this lack of protection for Colombian asylum-seekers has been mitigated somewhat by a duress waiver to the material support bar, issued in 2007, the US authorities do not apply the waiver to those refugees coerced into giving aid to some of Colombia's most notoriously brutal paramilitary factions, and the process for applying for a duress waiver remains opaque and impossible to navigate for many asylum applicants. Regrettably, the Canadian government is appealing the court's decision and in the meantime the Safe Third Country Agreement remains in effect. We encourage the Canadian courts to uphold the November 2007 decision in favour of the thousands of refugees originating in the Americas who may find protection in Canada if they are not de facto excluded at the US-Canada border.
Detention policies in the United States are inconsistent with standards on the treatment of asylum-seekers, unaccompanied minors, and non-criminal immigrant populations. We urge the US to redouble its efforts to work with UNHCR in adhering to these standards. We continue to be concerned about the US detention of asylum-seekers who are often confined in prison-like facilities upon their arrival at US airports and at the borders. Many are detained for months and sometimes years. These asylum-seekers are not given access to custody hearings before immigration judges. Instead, the decision to release or continue to detain them has been given to the detaining authority, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In some areas of the United States, asylum-seekers are routinely detained for extended periods of time. Securing legal representation within the detention environment is many times impossible for asylum-seekers, especially since US law requires asylum-seekers to secure their own legal representation, even though all asylum-seekers in removal proceedings are forced into an adversarial adjudicatory environment where they must defend themselves against a trained government attorney. These asylum and detention policies and practices are inconsistent with the UNHCR's detention guidelines, the Refugee Convention and its Protocol, and with human rights law prohibitions on arbitrary detention. We strongly urge UNHCR to continue to negotiate necessary reforms with the US government to help ensure federal agencies' respect of their obligations towards asylum-seekers, refugees, and victims of torture under international law.
Bogotà, March 13, 2008
The presidency of CLAR, given the events that have taken place during recent weeks among the countries of Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Ecuador, wish to express to the Religious of the Continent that:
May the Lord help us all to remain vigilant and give testimony of communion in the midst of our brothers and sisters, and may Mary, the brown Virgin of Guadalupe, cover with her mantle the pain and anguish of all the victims of violence on our continent.
P. Ignacio Madera Vargas, SDS
Hna. Ma. de los Dolores Palencia
Hno. Ángel Medina
Hna. Maris Bolzan
P. Pío Gonzàlez
Hna. Ma. del Socorro Henao, ctsj
National Catholic Rural Life Conference Names New Executive Director
Des Moines, Iowa (March 27, 2008)— Today Most Reverend Ronald Gilmore, president of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference (NCRLC), named James F. Ennis, executive director of the Des Moines-based nonprofit Catholic organization. "We look forward to Jim Ennis' professional experience, business skills, and faith experience to help NCRLC apply the teachings of Jesus Christ for the social and economic development of rural America," said Gilmore, Bishop of the Diocese of Dodge City, Kansas.
Ennis is currently Director for Food Alliance Midwest, a St. Paul, Minnesota-based affiliate of the national Food Alliance. Food Alliance operates a sustainable agriculture certification program for farms, ranches, and other food-based businesses interested in using 'sustainability' and related claims to differentiate and add value to food products, and to protect and enhance brands. Operating within 8 Midwest states, the program has grown under Ennis' leadership from four farms in 2000 to over 75 certified farms and processors throughout the Midwest in 2007.
Ennis has over 18 years of marketing and project management experience, leading cross-functional teams in marketing both food and consumer products with The Pillsbury Company and The Clorox Company, respectively. Ennis earned an MBA degree, with an emphasis in marketing from the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management and holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California, Davis, where he studied agricultural and managerial economics.
"I'm as passionate about sustainable agriculture as I am about the Catholic faith," said Ennis who spent six years in Christian ministry to college students including two years as a missionary assistant in Lusaka, Zambia in the late 1980s. "I look forward to providing spiritual, educational, and advocacy leadership to NCRLC as we support the ingenuity of rural people to shape their own destinies and lead lives of dignity," he added.
Ennis follows Br. David Andrews, CSC, as executive director of the organization that has been the rural voice of the Catholic Church for 85 years.
NRCAT is making June 2008 the month for "Banners Across America"! We are asking congregations of all sizes, from every state and all faiths, to join in a public witness against torture by displaying a banner outside their place of worship during Torture Awareness Month (June).
Click here for complete information about the project and to place an order. You can choose from two sizes and two designs, as well as an option to customize your banner to include the name of your congregation. The cost ranges from $100 to $175, including shipping.
You can also purchase a banner from another source or use one you already have. Just tell John Humphries (see below) that your congregation will display a banner in June, so we know that your congregation and your state will be participating.
Your congregation's participation will help to raise the visibility of our national campaign in at least 3 ways:
At the end of the project, we want to produce a poster with photos of banners hung on a variety of houses of worship. We would deliver a copy of the poster to every member of Congress and the President, and we will make it available for purchase.
You can help us achieve these ambitious goals by:
If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact NRCAT's Director for Program Coordination, John Humphries, at 860-216-7972 or email@example.com.
This year, AFJN celebrates its 25th year of policy analysis and advocacy for peace and justice in Africa. Workshops on health, trade, and conflict transformation will inform participants of the issues currently affecting Africa and what can be done to ensure a more just US-Africa policy. This four-day event also includes keynote addresses by Ishmael Beah and Jeffrey Sachs, a celebratory meal and award ceremony, a silent auction, an outdoor music concert, and a day of lobby visits on Capitol Hill.
Holiday Inn, Rosslyn at Key Bridge
Human rights defenders are under attack in Guatemala. Indigenous leaders, community organizers, environmentalists, union representatives, journalists, women's rights advocates, and church leaders are facing increasing threats and assaults. Attacks increased more than 370% from 2000 to 2006. Institutions have been raided and important equipment and files stolen. Some defenders have even been killed in cold blood. But ...
To answer these questions and more, this Delegation will:
Cost of the delegation, including transportation, food, lodging, interpretation, and honorariums, is $800. Delegates are responsible for their own travel arrangements to and from Guatemala City, as well as personal expenses. A non-refundable deposit of $100 is due May 23, 2008.
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.
T. Michael McNulty, SJ, editor
8808 Cameron St., Silver Spring, MD 20910