Category Archives: Human Rights

SYRIA: Pax Christi USA signs onto letter to help Syrian refugees

refugeesPax Christi USA recently signed on to an organizational letter to help Syrian refugees being circulated by the Refugee Council USA. The letter was sent to President Obama.

The letter reads, in part:

Our recommendations are as follows:

1. In light of the continuing escalation of the dire refugee crises in the Middle East, contributing to the largest number of refugees since World War II, we urge the United States to increase the number of refugees that we resettle to 200,000 for FY 16, with 100,000 of them being Syrian. This would not be the first time that the United States proudly carries out our historic tradition of welcoming refugees in large numbers. After the end of the wars in Southeast Asia, the United States resettled 111,000 Vietnamese refugees in 1979 and then essentially doubled that number to 207,000 in 1980. The United States’ rising to the occasion now would both encourage European nations to live up to their refugee protection obligations, and help to prevent further deterioration in the protection climate in the countries bordering on Syria that are currently hosting millions of Syrian refugees…

To read the entire letter, click here.

IMMIGRATION: Pax Christi USA signs onto solidarity letter in support of pro-immigrant policies

Pax Christi USA has signed onto this letter being circulated by the Immigrant Justice Network.

Justice and dignity for all immigrantsOur organizations stand behind the hundreds of state and local policies protecting localities from intrusive collusion, monitoring, and policing by federal immigration authorities.

These policies emerged after years of reasonable discussion and debate amongst community groups, local officials, and police and sheriff departments, as hundreds of cities, towns and states grappled with the harm of deportation programs, like the failed Secure Communities (S-Comm) now renamed the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP). Our communities rightly concluded that local pro-immigrant policies not only protect public safety and constitutional rights—they are integral to fostering diverse and thriving communities.

The scapegoating of immigrant communities and attacks on local pro-immigrant policies and the officials who enacted them reflects a hardening racism and xenophobia in American politics that we must eliminate, not foster. These attacks may score some political points in the short-term but strike against good governance and inclusive democracy…

Click here to read the entire letter.

SYRIA: Waves of displaced Syrians only “tip of the iceberg” in larger crisis

from the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor

Geneva – As EU officials continue to squabble over how to respond to the growing wave of migrants and refugees, the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor is releasing an in-depth report using Lebanon as a case study of the larger crisis increasingly facing the global community.


“Most of the current debate has focused on the immediate crisis of the moment: how to stop smugglers and which countries should accept how many asylum seekers,” states the executive summary of the report. “However, there is an ever-growing problem that in the long run will exact an even higher price: the expanding proportion of refugees and forced migrants for whom displacement has become a chronic state.  In fact, the average period of time that a refugee spends out of his or her country now is 10 years.”

The Euro-Med report focuses on Lebanon because it now hosts more refugees per capita than any other country in the world (232 per 1,000 inhabitants), as well as the oldest population of long-term refugees (the Palestinians, living in limbo for 60 years now).

“Syria is currently the world’s biggest producer of both internally displaced people and refugees,” notes Pam Bailey, the researcher for Euro-Med who compiled the report. “And Lebanon is home to an estimated 1.5 million of these refugees—the highest per capita number of all the countries serving as haven. This huge influx is stressing local economies and generating xenophobia in Lebanon and other host countries, thus intensifying the drive to take tremendous risks by crossing the Mediterranean to try their chances in Europe.”…

Click here to read the rest of the story and the report.

REFLECTION: Pope Francis – “It’s violence to build walls to keep out people seeking peace”

from Zenit

Pope Francis at the apartheid wall between Israel and the Palestinian territories

Pope Francis at the apartheid wall between Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Pope Francis says that it is “violence” to build walls to keep out those seeking peace, and to widen the gulf between those who have so much they waste what’s extra and those who lack what they need.

The Pope said this in a message dated Aug. 29 and directed to the International Meeting for Peace, organized each year by the Sant’Egidio Community.

The meetings, as Pope Francis’ message recalled, follow in the wake “traced by Saint John Paul II with the first historic Meeting of Assisi in October of 1986. Since then a pilgrimage of men and women of different religions has developed.”

This year’s meeting was held in Tirana, Albania, and the Pope’s message recalled his own visit there.

“In no other country of the world was the decision so strong to exclude God from the life of a people: just one religious sign was enough to be punished with prison if not death. This very sad primacy marked the Albanian people profoundly, until the moment of their rediscovered freedom, when the members of the different religious communities, tried by the common suffering endured, met again to live together in peace,” he said.

Living together in peace is the spirit of Assisi, the Pope said, adding that “prayer is always at the root of peace!”…

Click here to read the entire article.

REFLECTION: No school days for working children

Tony Maglianoby Tony Magliano

It’s that time again when adults take off to celebrate Labor Day, and kids head back to the adventures a new school year.

But for millions of children worldwide the adventures of a new school year remain but a dream. Sadly, these children will never learn to read or write. They will not acquire computer skills. They will not experience singing in chorus, going on field trips, or playing at recess. Their classrooms will be sweatshops, farm fields, and battlefields. Their days will be filled with long, dirty, dangerous work. And the lessons they will learn are that life is cruel and unfair.

According to the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) latest report “Global child labor trends 2008 to 2012,” approximately 168 million children aged 5-17 were involved in child labor – that is, labor not in legal accordance with ILO Conventions – in 2012.

And even worse, nearly half of all child laborers – 85.3 million – work in hazardous conditions, or what the ILO terms as the worst forms of child labor.


According to the ILO, “Hazardous work includes night work and long hours of work, exposure to physical, psychological or sexual abuse; work underground, under water, at dangerous heights or in confined spaces; work with dangerous machinery, equipment and tools, or which involves the manual handling or transport of heavy loads; and work in an unhealthy environment which may, for example, expose children to hazardous substances, agents or processes, or to temperatures, noise levels, or vibrations damaging their health.”

Selling and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom, forced recruitment of children for armed conflict, child prostitution, pornography, and drug activities are among the worst forms of labor millions of children are trapped in.

And according to the ILO every year about 22,000 children are killed while working.

Globalization is a key factor to child labor. Children are cheap to employ; they are docile and easily controlled, and do not organize to defend their human rights. To unscrupulous corporate executives, child labor offers an attractive incentive to keep labor costs down in a highly competitive global market.

When money is the bottom line – as is virtually always the case in the corporate world – children are simply tools to be used and abused. Many companies like Disney and Wal-Mart either know, or don’t care to know, that their products are often made at the expense of suffering children.

In a Maryknoll Magazine article, “Stunting child labor,” we read how “girls of 16 sew Disney garments for subcontractors in China and Bangladesh, getting paid 12 cents an hour for 15-hour days, seven days a week. In Honduras, 14-year-old girls get 43 cents an hour, far below a living wage, in miserable conditions to make Wal-Mart clothing.”

Let work to change all of this injustice against millions of children.

We can vote for compassionate politicians, and urge sitting legislators to: greatly increase international poverty-focused assistance, establish fair trade policies with all poor nations, pass loophole-free legislation severely penalizing corporations that take advantage of sweatshop workers, give tax incentives to companies that financially help their suppliers provide a living wage and decent working conditions for their employees. And we can patronize Fair Trade certified companies.

Furthermore, we can visit to learn about kids helping kids, and how we can help their efforts.

Let’s tirelessly work for the day when cruel and dangerous children’s work gives way to school work and homework!

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. Please contact your diocesan newspaper and request that they carry Tony’s column. Tony is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings about Catholic social teaching. His keynote address, “Advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century,” has been well received by diocesan gatherings from San Clemente, CA to Baltimore. Tony can be reached at

ISRAEL-PALESTINE: Thirty-five aid organizations & 150,000 people launch public call to end the Gaza blockade


Reconstruction of Gaza could take 17 years with just 5% of building materials allowed in one year

NOTE: Pax Christi International is an endorser of this effort.

More than 150,000 people from around have today joined 35 aid, faith, development and human rights organisations in backing an unprecedented joint call urging world leaders to press the Israeli government to lift the blockade on Gaza and remove the restrictions on basic building materials needed to reconstruct the coastal strip.

With the number of people supporting the call increasing by the hour, this has quickly become the largest ever global public push to end the blockade on the Gaza Strip, with international organizations and the public petitioning world leaders to uphold promises made to rebuild Gaza one year ago.

On the anniversary of the end of the conflict between the government of Israel and Palestinian armed groups, the organisations are calling for construction materials like wood, steel bars and cement to be allowed into Gaza to end so that hospitals, schools and homes can be urgently rebuilt.

Last year’s conflict saw over 19,000 homes destroyed, and left 100,000 people homeless. Donor governments have pledged $3.5 billion to rebuild Gaza, but a year on, Israeli restrictions on building materials continue to cause delays. Reconstruction has started on just over 2,000 of the 19,000 homes destroyed last year, and not a single home has been fully rebuilt.

Speaking in support of the campaign, Fadi Quran, Senior Campaigner of Avaaz said:

“It’s outrageous that a year on from the last Gaza war, not one home has been totally rebuilt and the world has left families in the rubble. Governments are allowing Israel to violate the most basic humanitarian laws and since the start of the blockade there have been three wars with hundreds of children killed. This massive public outcry shows people everywhere want their governments to act now to end this illegal, inhumane and dangerous blockade.”

The campaign launched by the global citizens movement Avaaz and the organisations says: “By placing restrictions on the movement of people and goods, the blockade is punishing innocent civilians for acts for which they bear no responsibility. There can never be a justification for leaving families without a home and the sick without a hospital.”

Speaking from inside Gaza, Ibrahem El Shatali of Gaza City said:

“Many of my friends and family members have been homeless for months now — how can we live like this, surrounded by rubble with no hope, no future and no prospect of things getting better? All we need are basic building materials and a fresh start.”

According to research carried out in a recent joint international NGO report, the illegal Israeli blockade has obstructed reconstruction efforts, worsening the humanitarian crisis inside the Gaza Strip:

  • Only 5% of the urgently needed 6.7 million tons of reconstruction materials needed to repair what was destroyed last summer in Gaza have been allowed in one year since the ceasefire. At this rate, reconstruction could take 17 years.
  • 559,000 students have been denied a quality education, as 11 schools and universities were totally destroyed and an additional 253 were severely damaged during the war.
  • 120,000 people still do not have access to the water and sewage network, with slow repairs to the 35,000 meters of pipelines damaged or destroyed. The sewage situation in parts of Gaza is appalling, with overflowing lagoons and untreated waste running through the streets.
  • 81 hospitals and clinics were damaged or destroyed by the conflict. Despite allocated funds to rebuild some of these facilities, needed construction material has not been allowed in.

Tony Laurance, CEO of Medical Aid for Palestinians said:

“What Gaza needs more than anything is reconstruction, yet the government of Israel restricts the entry of even the most basic building materials. These severe restrictions prevent the rebuilding of even the most vital infrastructure in Gaza, including hospitals and clinics. People across the globe are now saying ‘enough is enough,’ and are urging global leaders to push Israel to end the blockade now.”

The government of Israel holds the primary responsibility to lift the blockade, although agencies signing on to the campaign also recognize that reconstruction is hindered by the failure of Palestinian political parties to reconcile and prioritize reconstruction, and by Egypt’s closure of its border with Gaza.

The government of Israel justifies the restrictions on security grounds. However, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross have repeatedly asserted that the blockade is a violation of international law. Indeed, there can never be justification for collective punishment of an entire population and leaving tens of thousands of families homeless and hundreds of thousands of children without a school or health centers.

William Bell, Christian Aid’s Policy and Advocacy Officer for Israel and the Palestinians said:

“With sewage spewing onto pavements, electricity and water supplies still severely limited and schools that look more like bomb-sites than places children get an education, hope is dwindling and Gaza’s future looks bleak.  The blockade has helped to create some of the highest unemployment and aid dependency levels in the world, making the lives of 1.8 million civilians miserable, and needs to end now.”

The full petition text supported by the organizations can be seen here and calls on the leaders of the US and EU, amongst others, to push for an end to the blockade and desperately needed building materials, including wood, aggregate, steel bar, and cement.