ADVENT 2014: Reflection for the First Sunday of Advent, November 30

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by Simone Campbell, S.S.S.

Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b, 64:2-7 | 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 | Mark 13:33-37

Why do you let us wander, O God? (Is 63:17)

As we begin this season of Advent, of waiting and preparing, it seems comforting to think of God as the potter, and we, the clay. If we could just relax, and maybe just sit quietly, and stay still long enough, we could be shaped into exactly what God intended. Ready as a sturdy pinch pot to live the awareness of incarnation! But like Isaiah, I wish that knowing God in our midst just took a little silent reflection time. Hearing this lament – “Why do you let us wander, O God?” – I must smile because I know my hunger for God, yet how willful I am to do it MY way.

Why must we wander? Can’t God just tell us all what to do? For better or for worse, even when Jesus walked the earth, this wasn’t the plan, Our God of love won’t come stomping down the heavenly staircase to set straight our wandering. Paul tells us that through God we are “enriched in every way … not lacking in any spiritual gift.” We have started our journey with a guide in our very being. God hums us at every moment. We just need eyes to see and ears to hear. We can’t shy away from decisions we face or the work to be done and simply wait for God to come. God is already here. Through our wanderings, our questions, our encounters with beauty and with pain, the God within us is revealed. Advent is waking up to God in our midst. It is in the wandering that our eyes are open to the deeper truth. So let us not sleep through Advent. Let us wander with our eyes open, ready for adventure.

What surprising gifts have wandering brought to you?

How have you seen God alive in your seeing the pain of our world?

STATEMENT: Pax Christi USA official statement following the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown shooting

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Pax Christi USA is deeply disappointed and saddened by the grand jury decision not to indict Office Darren Wilson in the murder of Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri. An indictment would have moved the process of justice forward, allowing Officer Wilson to be tried by a jury of his peers and the events that led to the death of Michael Brown fully considered. It is our opinion that the failure to indict is another failure of the justice system in protecting the rights of people of color in our nation.

Pax Christi USA stands with the people of Ferguson and Michael Brown’s family in the hope for a nonviolent resolution to a volatile situation.  The people of Ferguson, as well as communities of color all across our country, are rightfully angry, and they have a right to peacefully demonstrate and to demand further action.  Protestors have a right to engage without militarized intimidation from law enforcement. Police have a duty to nonviolently help to defuse tension where necessary, without recourse to overtly militant and provocative actions, including the use of tear gas and pepper spray. All citizens have the right to expect that their homes, churches and businesses will be safe from raids, destruction and looting.

Pax Christi USA joins the throng of voices, led by the organization ColorOfChange, asking President Obama, Attorney General Holder and the Department of Justice to take action so that justice may be served for Michael Brown and his family. We encourage our members and all people of good will to take part in actions to increase public pressure to see that justice is done.

We call for the demilitarization of our civilian police forces. We call for the creation and empowerment of citizen review boards which can engage in police investigations in a robust manner and hold police accountable for the safety of all communities. As our brothers and sisters at ColorOfChange have pointed out, law enforcement in the United States kills Black Americans at nearly the same rate as Jim Crow-era lynchings (see http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/25/mike-brown-shooting-jim-crow-lynchings-in-common). The casual disregard for the lives of the poor, especially young black men, should be an affront to all of us who believe that human beings are created in the image and likeness of God.

Most of all, we mourn, as our chapter in St. Louis so eloquently has stated, “the lack of clear accountability for the taking of a young man’s life.”  We join with Pax Christi St. Louis and others in calling every citizen in our nation to take thoughtful and prayerful action to end systemic racism and structural oppression, locally and nationally. Such actions would be an apt legacy for Michael Brown and all those who have been systemically marginalized in our communities and paid for that marginalization with their lives.

STATEMENT: Statement from PC-St. Louis on the Grand Jury decision in the Michael Brown shooting

from Pax Christi St. Louis

To the Citizens, Police, Criminal Justice System and Political Leaders in St Louis County and Missouri:

#13In light of the recent Grand Jury decision, we are disappointed and saddened because of the lack of clear accountability for the taking of a young man’s life.  We thoughtfully and prayerfully call for actions to end systemic racism and structural oppression, locally and nationally. The casual disregard for the lives of the poor, especially young black men, is a moral scandal. Our laws, policies and regulations must be revised so those currently disenfranchised need no longer fear injustice and the implicit threat to their lives.

Accordingly we join others in calling for full accountability any time a life is taken. Police officers in particular should be models when enforcing the law.  Citizen review boards, formed to assure equality of all, should be established to provide oversight to police departments, and Quality Policing Initiatives brought forward from the community should be reviewed and implemented.

We call for a demilitarization of the police force. While we do not condone destruction of property, looting, or violent behavior of any kind, we hope that better police methods can be used, while still protecting the right to protest and the lives of all citizens.

We do not believe that police officers should be trained to ‘shoot to kill.’

And finally, we believe that police departments should represent the communities they police, both racially and geographically.

May the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s ‘nonviolent social change to build the beloved community’ be the central theme in how we interact with one another.  And, may the Peace of Christ be paramount in our hearts.

SOA: Report-back from the SOA Vigil and Action

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Pax Christi USA members from Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Minnesota, New Jersey, Texas, Wisconsin, Wyoming and elsewhere gathered at the School of the Americas this past weekend for the annual vigil and action to close the SOA.

Friday evening, Pax Christi USA hosted its 14th annual program, entitled this year “Pax Christi USA at the SOA: Resisting the Militarization of our Youth—from Central America to Ferguson.” The gathering drew over 250 participants and featured presentations by Rev. Ismael Moreno Coto, S.J., popularly known as Padre Melo, a Jesuit priest and human rights activist in his native Honduras and Tony Neal, currently President/CEO of Educational Equity Consultants who has served as faculty and trainer for numerous Dismantling Racism Institutes of the National Conference for Community and Justice.

On Saturday, over 1,000 participants gathered in Lumpkin, Georgia for a march to the Stewart Detention Center. Stewart is one of the largest immigrant prisons in the U.S., currently warehousing 1,800 men for profit. These detainees’ only “crime” was to flee the economic and political violence in their home countries, violence created by U.S. policies and training like at the SOA/WHINSEC.

On Sunday, 2,500 human rights activists braved the rainstorms and converged at Fort Benning to call for an end to militarized state violence in the U.S. and abroad. Featured presenters came from Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Venezuela, and the US.

Following the stage program, a solemn funeral procession commemorated those murdered at the hands of School of the Americas/WHINSEC graduates, including the two women and six Jesuit priests who were massacred in 1989 at the University of Central America (UCA) in El Salvador, as well as activists from Honduras, Mexico and Colombia killed earlier this year.

For photos and more from the SOA weekend, click here.

REFLECTION: Ellacuria – Are we really dead?

Jim Hugby James Hug, S.J.

Are we really dead??

“The one who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars says this: ‘I know your works, that you have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.’”  ~Revelations 3:1

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This line fits us more than we can imagine. We have just celebrated the 25thanniversary of the martyrdom of the Jesuits and their 2 colleagues at the UCA in San Salvador. In relation to that celebration, I read a statement from one of Ignacio Ellacuría’s last talks that brought those words from Revelations straight home to me:

“From my point of view – and this may be simultaneously somewhat prophetic and paradoxical – the United States is in a much worse situation than Latin America. Because the United States has a solution, but, in my opinion, it is a bad solution, both for them and for the world in general.” ~Ignacio Ellacuría, S.J.

What is that solution? The capitalist market system we live in and the democracy that governs it (and vice versa).

Why is that a bad solution both for us and for the world in general?…

Click here to read the entire article.

ISRAEL-PALESTINE: Call on Congress to help end violence, foster a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians

from the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy

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

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Violence in Israel and the occupied West Bank is escalating, leaving Israelis and Palestinians dead and injured and fanning the flames for even more violence. Tensions on the Haram al Sharif/Temple Mount complex have led to violence and threaten to further erupt. Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem expressed concern in a November 6 statement in which they called for protection of sites and preservation of access.

At the same time, land confiscation, settlement expansion, and home demolitions continue in the West Bank, with Israel resuming its practice of demolishing homes as a punitive measure. And in Gaza, while some restrictions have been eased, the crippling blockade continues.

As people of faith who believe in the value of every human life, we must speak and act to preserve life and prevent further suffering. We must condemn all violence and all calls for revenge. To prevent even more loss of life, it is crucial to address the underlying causes for the violence.

To that end, a Capitol Hill briefing will be held on November 24, on the issue of land confiscation, specifically the recent actions threatening Wadi Foquin and neighboring areas near Bethlehem. This is an important opportunity for members of Congress to become informed on the broader issues that end up leading to what can seem like sporadic violence.

Bethlehem District Threatened by Land Confiscation in the West Bank

  • Monday, November 24, 2–3:30 p.m.
  • 2168 Rayburn House Office Building

Guests from Wadi Foquin will speak including Mayor and Village Council President Mr. Ahmad Sukar.

For more information: http://www.friendsofwadifoquin.com/

Contact your members of Congress and ask them to:

  • Attend this important briefing, to learn more about what they can do to address root causes, stop further violence, and promote a just peace for both Israelis and Palestinians;
  • Condemn all violence against civilians and calls for revenge by any person or party;
  • Oppose settlement expansion and other actions and policies that perpetuate the occupation;
  • Recognize the role of U.S. aid to Israel in enabling the Israeli occupation and take action to ensure that this aid is used in compliance with U.S. law and policy.

Use this link provided by the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns to let your elected officials know they have your support in acting to end the violence and foster a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians.

IMMIGRATION: Urge the president to expand deferred action for our undocumented community members

childrenattheborderbutton-smallAs President Obama prepares an executive order on immigration, urge him to inclusively expand deferred action for our undocumented community members.

Call the White House TODAY and every day until the President acts!

And tell Congress that you support the President taking action!

Immigrant rights groups and faith communities across the country have been urging the administration to take bold, concrete actions to stop the pain that families and communities face due to deportations. Such action has been promised and delayed, but it seems likely that President Obama will act soon. Every day the administration delays its executive order, more than 1,000 individuals are deported from their families and communities. The President’s action could look similar to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in which undocumented individuals who came to the U.S. as children can apply to temporarily be able to travel and work legally. Such action may condition relief on having a child who is a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), living in the United States for five or ten years, and/or other criteria. This could leave out a significant number of our community members who have lived here for less time, do not have U.S. Citizen or LPR family members, and individuals who have committed immigration infractions or crimes in the past but have accepted responsibility for their actions and turned their lives around. As people of faith, we do not define a person by how long he or she has been in the United States. We do not value family unity based on one family member’s immigration status. We believe in the power of redemption, repentance, forgiveness and rehabilitation, as all of us have made mistakes. Now is the time for the President to hear from us that administrative relief must be inclusive.

Some members of Congress have threatened to stop administrative action through legislation, legal action or blocking funding for implementation. It is important for Congress to hear from people of faith that we support the President expanding deferred action. President Obama has signed fewer executive orders than any president in 130 years. He has the authority to provide our undocumented community members opportunities to stay in the United States without fear of deportation. Deferred action is one of the many long-standing forms of prosecutorial discretion available to the Executive Branch. Indeed, every U.S. President has used their authority to offer temporary immigration relief to groups in need since at least 1956. Ronald Reagan used categorical grants of deferred action for large groups of undocumented immigrants in 1987, as did George H.W. Bush in 1990.  George W. Bush exercised prosecutorial discretion in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for over 40 percent of the then-unauthorized population.

Tell the White House that you don’t want to see your community members left out of administrative action!

And tell Congress that you support the President using his authority to expand deferred action!

Call the White House at 1-866-961-4293. You can also call the White House Comment Line directly at 1-888-907-2053.

“I’m from (City, State, Congregation/Community) and as a person of faith, I urge President Obama to inclusively expand deferred action. The President must act boldly and act now. Administrative Action should not be limited to individuals who have been in the United States for a long time, or those who have family members here. We seek broad, accessible relief for all of our community members.”

Then call 1-866-940-2439 to be connected with Your Representative. You can also call the Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121 or find your Representative’s direct line at http://www.house.gov

“I’m from (City, State, Congregation/Community) and as a person of faith, I support President Obama expanding deferred action. The President has the authority to act boldly and act now. I ask Congress to support the President’s decision to expand deferred action and to promote its implementation.”

Keep up the pressure on social media!

Ex: .@WhiteHouse As a person of faith I want you to use your authority to grant inclusive relief to our undocumented community members. #Not1More family separated

Ex:.@Raul_Labrador As a person of faith from Idaho I support the @WhiteHouse decision to expand deferred action for our #immigrant brothers and sisters (Find you Representative’s Twitter handle at house.gov)

Follow @InterfaithImm on Twitter and “like” the Interfaith Immigration Coalition on Facebook to receive up-to-date alerts.