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.
Sanctuary has a long and revered history in the Christian community. The original concept gave security and assistance within the confines of the church building. Through the centuries, building on the Jewish concept of care for the widow, orphan and stranger, Christian communities have welcomed those seeking refuge from various forms of persecution and have offered them safety, security and community. Modern implementation of sanctuary sees the church community as the place where the oppressed and marginalized can be offered to those who today seek protection, assistance and justice.
In the late 1990s, a renewed sanctuary movement stirred in the faith communities in the U.S. While no longer offering protection and asylum for political activists, the new refugees were coming to the U.S. seeking economic opportunities. They came here seeking work as migrant farm workers, in sweatshops, the poultry industry, as service workers. They took jobs where employers would turn a blind eye to fact that many were undocumented, instead seeing a bottom line where they could employ these men, women and children in unsafe conditions, requiring long hours, no health care, paying them wages far below minimum wage, and avoiding paying taxes, turning high profits at the expense of human dignity.
Responding to the human crisis, Christians communities and other communities of faith and those concerned with defending human dignity, have renewed the sanctuary movement for the men, women and children who are coming here seeking economic opportunities. … Churches have opened their doors to welcome the new migrants into their faith communities providing them with a spiritual and social network that can bring comfort to those who find they are living in an often hostile environment.
The U.S. Catholic Bishops, along with leaders of many other faith communities, have made the protection of the rights of undocumented workers a primary focus of advocacy and action. Bishop Thomas Wenski, Bishop of Orlando said to the U.S. Congress, "The so-called ‘illegals' are not so because they wish to defy the law; but because the law does not provide them with any channels to regularize their status in our country – which needs their labor: they are not breaking the law, the law is breaking them."
Until the law changes, many people of faith
will provide support and assistance, housing and food, advocacy and action,
to defend the dignity
and rights of those seeking economic opportunity. The New Sanctuary Movement
will cry out "come to me all you who are weary and find life burdensome
and I will give you rest."
[The following accounts were sent by a CMSM member.]
Sept. 5. More and more Christians are being plundered and set on fire the last 3 days. Death threats are made against Christians if they practice their faith.
The anti-Christian pogrom the state of Orissa shows no signs of let-up: six churches have been attacked, set on fire and destroyed: hundreds of Christian-owned houses have been devastated and then torched. The number of refugees and missing people is rising. Most Christians have fled into the forest or found refuge in makeshift shelters. In one village the Christians have been forced to carry out Hindu ceremonies and have received threats if they dare practice Christianity. The state government is suspected of letting radical Hindus meet, disregarding security concerns.
Hindu radicals have targeted relief camps set up in Orissa to shelter harassed Christians. They also marked families of Catholic priests and nuns. The situation is tense and there is a grave threat for Christians even in the relief camps. Great panic spread after someone apparently put poison in the water tank. "They are targeting me," said a tribal priest, who works for the social development of local converts, mostly people from lower castes. The Hindu fanatics "can't tolerate" the social development of these Christians who were once considered "untouchables and outcastes," he added.
Mahatma Gandhi's India, a land of tolerance and democracy, has been shamed. "It is a disgrace for our country," said the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The toll so far is a heavy one and bound to rise.
For Tribals who are often worked like slaves in farming, and Dalits or untouchables, Christianity is way out of their situation; a way to have their rights protected; a way to finally have some dignity as human beings. To some extent the degree of persecution is a measure of the Christian Mission's success.
The call by Italian bishops to a day of prayer and fasting—5 September—on behalf of India's Christians and in remembrance of the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta is part of this commitment to the truth and love.
Sept 20. After 3 weeks of Orissa killings (45), burnings, destructions, raping, and 40,000 people in the wild forest, 4,000 destroyed homes and 56 churches, 11 schools and 4 NGO offices, 18,000 wounded, now there is going on a very painful "re-conversion." Three hundred villages have been attacked.
There are set up refugee camps for 12,000 people . But there is no security at all and thousands of Catholics have fled again to the forest. The local government avoids any kind of help for all these victims and they will not allow any kind of help from outside. There is only one aim: "to kill and disperse and re-convert all the Christian population."
night a Carmelite convent was attacked in Madya Pradesh. The convent
guard was injured while trying to protect the sisters. The culprits shot
him with air guns. A statue of our Lady of Lourdes was destroyed. The
culprits broke the statue of the Virgin Mary and the panels. Christians,
Muslims, and Hindus venerate the Statue of the Virgin Mary. In a nearby
church they burned Bibles, missals, prayer books, music instruments,
desecrated the tabernacle, destroyed the crucifix, the icons and statues.
They poured kerosene on the curtains to burn the building.
From Orissa, the violence is spreading to Madya Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala.
The last two days 20 churches were ransacked in Mangalore by radical Hindus of the group Sang Parivar. A Christian has been killed and dozens of homes have been burned. Fresh incidents of violence started and are expected to spread to others districts and neighboring States.
"May the Lord strengthen His little and poor people through our prayers to Mother Mary and Mother Teresa."
[From the September issue of SJS Headlines, newsletter of the Jesuit Social Apostolate in Rome.]
The Christian community of the state of Orissa has been at the center of international attention after sporadic episodes of violence against Christians which Headlines covered in July 2008. Large-scale attacks and brutality against Christian communities by Hindu fundamentalist movements have not stopped since 23 August, when the murder of a Hindu leader by Maoists was blamed on Christians. The aggression has been directed against Tribal and Dalit Christians, whose houses and entire villages have been burnt and the inhabitants beaten, raped and tortured, resulting in the death of about 40 people. Churches, schools, religious houses and social centers have also been destroyed.
By 7 September, about 12 Jesuits working in Kandhamal district had to flee from their places of residence and close down their institutions. An estimated 20,000 people are currently in refugee camps with little access to food and shelter and without proper sanitation and health facilities. The violence is ongoing and has spread to other Indian states, including Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala. Jesuits are active in church based and civil society groups to prevent further violence and to help in the refugee camps. Check the Jesuits in Social Action (JESA) website for up-to-date information in English: www.jesaonline.org.
NEW YORK CITY, NY//Sept 26, 2008// For the past three decades, members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) have worked with financial institutions to address the needs of the poor to obtain access to capital for sustainable development, affordable housing in the U.S. and responsible lending in developing countries. ICCR is a coalition of nearly 300 faith-based institutional investors, representing over $100 billion in invested capital.
Today, Rev. Séamus Finn, OMI, a longtime representative of his community at ICCR, issued the following statement on behalf of members of the organization:
The key issues raised in these meetings included:
Invariably, in response to the issues raised, executives of financial institutions assured representatives of ICCR that policies, procedures and internal controls already in place were able to meet these challenges and that much of the requested information was already disclosed in the numerous filings the companies were required to submit to different regulatory agencies. Furthermore, the concern about disclosure and transparency in relationship to new investment tools was usually answered by claims of protecting 'proprietary information.'
It is now clear that most, if not all, financial institutions still do not know the magnitude of real and potential losses. Recent interventions by the Federal Government to provide $950 billion dollars to aid several financial institutions, and a further $700 billion that Treasury Secretary Paulson proposes to purchase illiquid mortgage-backed debt, only begin to provide a very rough estimate of the impact of these systemic failures in policy, disclosure and risk management.
For ICCR, any Congressional and government response both now and in the new Congress should be based on the following principles:
(1) Making sure that the consequences of the response
do not impose additional burdens on the marginalized and poorest who
are at the periphery of the
workings of financial markets;
ICCR will continue to engage the remaining corporations in the financial sector around the core issues that flow from their mission to build a more just and sustainable world for people everywhere."
CONTACT: Patrick Mitchell, (703) 276-3266 or email@example.com.
Amy Woolam Echeverria, director, Columban Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Office
For years Columban missionaries have raised a voice of concern over the moral and ethical application of genetically modified organisms (GMO's) and subsequent patenting of seeds in agriculture. There are also scientific, environmental and health reasons to question the use of GMO's. Now, as the debate turns to the role of biofuels like GMO-based ethanol to fight global warming, we raise our voice again to caution against quick fixes and smokescreen solutions.
Despite claims from the agribusiness industry that GMO's will feed the world and end global hunger, Columbans see in the communities where we live and serve around the world that GMO patented seeds keep local farmers, their families and communities, and the Earth excluded from the Table of Life. By being unable to afford the patented seeds, or losing their farms to cheap imports, or seeing the rural landscape altered to suit the needs of large agribusiness and monocrops, farming communities and the environment are unfairly paying the real price for "cheap" food.
Today, we are faced with two crises: skyrocketing food prices and rising temperatures. The agribusiness industry has seized this moment as an opportunity to continue to promote GMO seeds, corn in particular, as the solution to the world's food needs, as well as claim that it has the answer to global warming in the form of corn-based ethanol production. As a result along with other facts, a global food crisis has emerged.
If there was any doubt about the connection between the promotion of GMO's and ethanol, recently some of the biotech industry's biggest players including Monsanto teamed up to form the Alliance for Abundant Food and Energy (AAFE). According to the AAFE, "Meeting the food and energy needs of an evolving planet are challenges that can be met simultaneously. The answer lies not in scaling back agricultural innovation and biofuels but continued investment in them."
We can be skeptical about the motives of such an alliance when the participating companies have such large financial gains at stake. The agribusiness industry sees ethanol production as a world of opportunity to increase profits while simultaneously appearing environmentally progressive. A top scientist at Dupont affirmed this notion when he said, "New strains of genetically modified corn will play a key role in meeting soaring demand as U.S thirst for ethanol fuel cuts into supplies." 1
The connection between biofuels and rising food prices is confirmed by a World Bank study released in July 2008: "The increase in internationally traded food prices from January 2002 to June 2008 was caused by a confluence of factors, but the most important was the large increase in biofuels production from grains and oilseeds in the U.S. and EU."2 We can take the link one step further and say that if the U.S. is one of the world's leading GMO corn-for-ethanol producers,3 then the U.S. is also one of the leading contributors to the global food crisis. This connection has serious implications for both our trade and agricultural policies.
GMO corn-based ethanol is not the only culprit contributing to the food crisis. GMO tree plantations are contributing to the cellulosic ethanol market, which in turn is impacting local communities' ability to meet their food needs. For example, in the southern region of Chile indigenous Mapuche communities are being pressured by the Chilean government to hand over their land used for farming to make way for GMO pine and eucalyptus plantations, which are then used for cellulosic ethanol.4 By altering the Mapuches' traditional way of life, they are losing their right to food sovereignty and being forced ever deeper into poverty and hunger.
We believe that communities around the world have the right to food sovereignty, to choose what and how their food sources are used. We believe that GMO foods and GMO-based biofuels deny people both of these two essential human rights. Columban missionaries, based on 90 years of sharing the table with communities who have been pushed to the margins of society because of the global systematic prioritization of profits over people, raise our concern yet again for any solution offered such as GMO's for food and ethanol as the silver-bullet answer to some of Earth's most serious challenges: climate change and world hunger.
Time and time again, Jesus invited the vulnerable, marginalized, and outcast of His time to come to the table to share in life-giving food and fellowship. We, as disciples of Christ, are called to keep the table sacred.
1 "Dupont Sees Key GMO Role in Ethanol Corn Challenge," Reuters,
February 9, 2007.
Now, more than at any other time in recent history, the
moral leadership of the United States depends on a foreign policy agenda
that creates more just relations between wealthy and impoverished countries.
As the presidential campaign enters the home stretch, this time of decision
and transition is a prime opportunity to reach the next administration
and call on them to make the fight against extreme poverty around the
world a priority. One of the ways we can do this is by participating
in the Jubilee USA Network's "Picture New Leadership" campaign.
To sign the petition, click
You can find more information about Jubilee USA and the Picture New Leadership campaign at www.jubileeusa.org. Please call or email Carly Pildis at Jubilee USA at 202-546-4470/ firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – At an awards ceremony which included social justice advocates from across the United States, Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic peace movement, recognized the work of Mary Joan and Jerry Park by naming them the recipients of this year's Teacher of Peace Award. The Parks were honored for their long commitment to teaching peace and nonviolence to children through their Washington, D.C.-based organization Little Friends for Peace. Past Teacher of Peace Award recipients include Dorothy Day, Rev. Daniel Berrigan, SJ, Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ, and Msgr. Ray East, who was on hand to formally present the award to the Parks.
The Parks were honored by Pax Christi USA at a ceremony at the National 4H Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland. The couple has been working in the Sursum Corda neighborhood in D.C. for the past twenty years, and ten years ago they opened up the Peace Room in the Perry School in that neighborhood.
Several children, participants in Little Friends for Peace, were on hand to share in the ceremony, and Anne Little, a mom, teacher, and community worker who has worked with the Parks to curb violence, joined them as well. Leaders of Pax Christi USA regions, many of whom have had members attend one of the Parks' many peace camps, were also in attendance.
Also honored at the awards ceremony was Rev. Vien Nguyen, pastor of Mary Queen of Vietnam Church in New Orleans. Rev. Nguyen is the second recipient of the Eileen Egan Peacemaker Award, named for one of Pax Christi USA's founders and given to recognize an extraordinary witness during times of great crisis or conflict. Rev. Nguyen was recognized for his efforts at rebuilding and organizing his community in New Orleans following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Rev. Nguyen shared how his community stood up to the Bring Back New Orleans commission, explaining to the commission that they were making decisions which affected the lives of church members and that they deserved to have a place at the table and in the decision-making process. He went on to share how they continue to fight a new landfill which was placed just over a mile from their church, in their neighborhood, which is mainly African American and Vietnamese American.
Rev. Nguyen also shared about his community's efforts at development rooted in self-determination, including starting a school, two clinics, and plans to build a senior center and an urban farm.
SILVER SPRING, MD – With the campaigning for the U.S. presidential election at full swing, voters now have a resource to aid them in connecting on the issues of concern to many Christians. A weekly elections blog, along with prayer and voter preparation resources recently launched by the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, aims to help voters make a decision grounded in Christian principles when they go to the polls on November 4, 2008.
Each week through November 4, a new blog entry will be posted at www.sistersofmercy.org/electionsblog, examining the elections through the lens of a critical concern to many voters, including earth, nonviolence, immigration, racism, women, poverty and global impact. A complete schedule of the blogs is noted on the site. Persons of every faith are invited to participate in the dialogue by reading the blog each week and posting comments.
"We hope that by providing the faith-based perspective on key issues in an easily accessible online format, voters will more thoroughly examine their choices in November," said Susan Severin, RSM, justice team member, Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.
Additional election resources available on the site include:
The Center of Concern has made available on its home page new resources for understanding the financial crisis and then looking beyond it to the types of values and concerns we need to look at in crafting a new system after the bailout stops the panic. Additional material is available at CoC's Education For Justice site.
2009 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, February 22-25, 2009, with partner organizational meetings February 19-21, at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill. This year's theme "Christ Our Hope: Healing a Broken World," echoes the message of Pope Benedict's pastoral visit to our nation. More detailed registration information to come. Check your email or visit our website: www.catholicsocialministrygathering.org.
The 7th Annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days, March 13-16, 2009, Hilton Alexandria Mark Center. Visit: www.advocacydays.org to register.
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.
T. Michael McNulty, SJ, editor
8808 Cameron St., Silver Spring, MD 20910
This newsletter is sent to members and associate members of CMSM. It is also sent to justice and peace directors of CMSM member organizations, and to others who have expressed an interest. If you fall into the last category and no longer wish to receive this newsletter, send an e-mail to email@example.com, and you will be removed from the list.