Category Archives: Human Rights

HUMAN TRAFFICKING: PCUSA signs onto letter in support of The End Modern Slavery Initiative Act

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Pax Christi USA has signed onto a letter in support of The End Modern Slavery Initiative Act, which was introduced in the Senate this past week.

This groundbreaking legislation would authorize $250 million in U.S. funds to leverage a $1.5 billion dollar global fund to combat human trafficking around the world. This would be the most dramatic increase in funding for anti-human trafficking efforts we have ever seen, through leveraging U.S. leadership and foreign aid to attract investments from the private sector and foreign governments.

Click here to read the letter.

NEWS: Pax Christi International Peace Award recognizes Colombia’s Women, Peace and Security Collective for Reflection and Action

from Pax Christi International

Women, Peace and Security Collective for Reflection and Action (Colombia)

Women, Peace and Security Collective for Reflection and Action (Colombia)

The 2015 Pax Christi International Peace Award has been granted to the Women, Peace and Security Collective for Reflection and Action (Colectivo de Pensamiento y Acción Mujeres, Paz y Seguridad) in Colombia for making visible and encouraging the essential contribution of women to peacebuilding in their country and for their work to promote an ethical transformation of Colombian society as the path towards sustainable peace. Established in 1988, the Award is funded by the Cardinal Bernardus Alfrink Peace Fund and honours contemporary individuals and organisations who make a stand for peace, justice and non-violence in different parts of the world.

Founded in October 2011, the Collective is a women’s network that currently brings together women from different social and professional backgrounds (religious, ex-combatants, indigenous, afro-descendants, journalists, academics, human rights defenders, union leaders, etc.), as well as organisations committed to a revolution in ethics as the basis for sustainable and lasting peace in Colombia. With a mission to foster conditions for a permanent and re-humanising dialogue among various sectors – including those traditionally opposed to each other – in different regions of the country, the Collective is in itself an example of how diversity can be embraced and used for positive change in a highly polarized society…

Click here to read the entire press release.

LENT 2015: Opportunities for prayer, study and action on immigrant rights during Lent

from Justice for Immigrants

jfiPax Christi USA is a partner in Justice for Immigrants, a project of the USCCB.

This Lent, Justice for Immigrants is offering a toolkit to be used during the season. The toolkit is available online at http://www.justiceforimmigrants.org/documents/JFI-Lenten-Toolkit-2015.pdf

A Spanish-language version of the toolkit is also available on the site.

Also, Justice for Immigrants is hosting national call-in days to Members of Congress’ district offices on Ash Wednesday through the end of the week. We are asking that you use this toll-free number to call Congress, 1-855-589-5698, and leave this message:

“Please oppose including language in a DHS funding bill which reverses the President’s executive actions on immigration and please pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

NEWS: Activist nun, 84, imprisoned in jail hellhole for breaking into nuclear facility

by Linda Stasi, NY Daily News

Beige is the new black for imprisoned Sister Megan Rice, an 84-year old Catholic nun and anti-nuclear activist.

The nun, who spent 40 years teaching in the poorest parts of Africa and returned to the U.S. due to malaria, is now living in deplorable prison conditions, wearing a beige uniform and stuffed in with 111 other women into a single room at a federal prison right here in New York City.

nun18n-17-webHer criminal odyssey began in 2012, when she and two other activists from the Plowshares anti-nuclear organization — Michael Walli, 63, and Gregory Boertje-Obed, 57 — were dropped off in the middle of the night outside the Y-12 Oak Ridge nuclear facility outside Knoxville, Tenn.

It’s one of the largest nuclear facilities in the United States, and she was there to bring to the attention of all Americans the dangers of unimpeded nuclear proliferation.

Armed with spray paint, bolt cutters and a few other supplies, they first hung large banners on the facility’s chain-link fence, then cut 14-inch inverted L-shape openings in the three fences that “protect” the facility.

They crawled through the openings they had cut, then stood up and walked to the building — easily avoiding any electronic motion sensors and video cameras — without encountering a single guard…

Click here to read more of the story.

ISRAEL-PALESTINE: Bishops call human dignity basis for peace in the Holy Land

from the USCCB

WASHINGTON—The path to peace in the Holy Land requires respect for the human rights and dignity of both Israelis and Palestinians, said bishops from Europe, South Africa and North America, gathered in the Holy Land to pray for peace, January 15. The Co-Ordination of Episcopal Conference in Support of the Church of the Holy Land has met every January since 1998 to pray and act in solidarity with the Christian community in the Holy Land.

11oped_span“After the failed negotiations and ensuing violence of 2014, we urge public officials to be creative, to take new approaches, to build bridges, not walls,” the bishops wrote in a statement signed by the 16 gathered representatives. “We must humanize the conflict by fostering more interaction between Israelis and Palestinians. Peace will only come when all parties respect the fact that the Holy Land is sacred to three faiths and home to two peoples.”

Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, represented the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at the gathering, which toured areas including Gaza and the Cremisan Valley.

“Many tens of thousands of families in Gaza lack adequate shelter. In the latest freezing weather, at least two infants died of exposure,” the bishops wrote. “The continuing blockade dramatically impedes rebuilding and contributes to desperation that undermines Israelis’ legitimate hope for security. It also creates intolerable levels of unemployment and pushes ordinary people into deeper poverty.”…

Click here to read the rest of the release.

NEWS: Pax Christi Central MA partners with prisoners for unique group

by Brian Ashmankus, Pax Christi Central Massachusetts

blackmenjail(1)Two years ago, Pax Christi Central Massachusetts was contacted by a group of parishioners from Our Lady of Guadalupe Community in Shirley, MA who wanted to know more about Pax Christi and its vision. After an initial introduction about Pax Christi and our small group efforts, they eagerly encouraged us to come back so they might learn more and become a part of our group. This past August we began meeting regularly with them and have officially integrated them as Pax Christi Central MA/Our Lady of Guadalupe. What took so long? Our Lady of Guadalupe is located inside of the medium security prison at MCI Shirley and its members are all inmates.

Pax Christi was born inside a prison of French resisters during World War II when Bishop Theas called on them to love their enemies – Germany. Now we are bringing Pax Christi full circle with (as far as we can find) the first chapter located inside of a prison, precisely where the ideals of justice, peace and nonviolence are needed most (and often the most difficult to follow).

Although we will never be able to actually join both groups together, we have tried to maintain a unity in our activities. We use Mary Lou Kownacki’s book Love Beyond Measure: A Spirituality of Nonviolence as a basis for instruction and adapt the chapters for the prison environment. Meanwhile the rest of our group “on the outside” meets monthly to discuss the book but without the editing. Pax Christi Massachusetts has generously given us a grant to purchase copies of this wonderful book for 30 inmates.

The three of us who visit our new Pax Christi members in the prison agree that this has been a very rewarding experience. When we signed up for the task, we expected it to be a ministry TO the inmates; now we realize it is a ministry WITH the inmates. Together we are journeying to be more understanding, more forgiving, and more nonviolent in thought, word, and deed. Together we will work to make this world, wherever we find ourselves, a more nonviolent and just place by prayer and, when we can, by our actions. We are also most humbled and honored that we are able to share the Eucharist after each session.

Even before our invitation to the prison, the congregation of Our Lady of Guadalupe was and still is very active in numerous ministries, and we are only adding to the work already being done by God through them. They raise money each year for Toys for Tots by receiving pledges to walk multiple miles around the exercise yard. And they have gone cell to cell seeking donations to help stock food pantries in the local area outside of the prison. In this effort they told us of an inmate who gave $1 of the $1.50 he had in his account toward the cause, an excellent example of Christ’s teaching of the poor widow in action. In addition, they do letter campaign writing of support and change. A recent effort was to allow dying, long-term prisoners to be home with their families. It is interesting to note that besides being the first chapter of Pax Christi in a prison, they are also the first chapter in a prison of the Thomas Merton Society, and both were started at approximately the same time.

This ministry is not without its great and unique challenges. We do not know which way to go next or where it will ultimately lead. We have no particular expertise. As Bishop Oscar Romero said, “We plant seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.” But we have a desire to do God’s work both inside and outside of this prison and a mantra that we repeat together before every session: “Holy Spirit, go before us and lead the way.”

Because we have no actual prison resources to work with, we hope to develop a handbook so that future Pax Christi groups will have the benefit of our experience if they too are led by the spirit to prison ministry. But we are still in the early stages of our work and we ask for prayers and support of our fellow Pax Christi members.

Article written with the collaborative efforts of Brian Ashmankus, and Charlotte and Roger Stanley of Pax Christi Central MA.

ISRAEL-PALESTINE: Normal life does not exist in Gaza; people need to come and see

by Paul Lansu, Pax Christi International

Since about 10 years I attend the annual meetings of the Holy Land Coordination. I do that in my capacity as Senior Policy Advisor of Pax Christi International.

Part of the programme of this year’s Holy Land Coordination was a visit to the Gaza Strip on 11 and 12 January 2015. This was my third visit to Gaza. The first one was in 2007, and then again in 2014 and 2015. In the past six years, Gaza has suffered three consecutive wars, thousands of people have been killed, hundreds of thousands are wounded, and the people live in an aftermath of destruction and despair. Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are left to sink deeper and deeper into poverty and misery. The destruction of that small piece of land is complete. The Palestinian expression “Go to Gaza” means “Go to hell!”

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Prior to our visit we received a briefing about the situation in Gaza from the Pontifical Mission and Catholic Relief Services (CRS). CRS as a humanitarian aid organization arranged the permits with the Israeli Ministry of the Interior. Already in early December 2014, all the details of the passports had been passed to the Ministry. Nevertheless, on Sunday 11 January 2015, we had to wait for 6 – 7 hours to receive permission to start proceeding in the direction of Gaza through the Israeli Erez border. The exit border closed at 3.30 pm and most of the delegates got the permission between 3 and 3.30 pm. After a walk of about 1 km through no-man’s land, we ended up at the Gaza border, where CRS staff welcomed us.

The Gaza Strip, (technically a ‘pene-exclave’) is a region of Palestine on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea that borders Egypt on the southwest for 11 km and Israel on the east and the north along a 51 km border. Gaza has a population of about 1,8 million people. The Christian community has only about 1500 faithful, most of them Orthodox and a minor Catholic community of about 150. We visited the Catholic Parish and celebrated liturgy in the church that was luckily not touched by Israeli rockets during the latest war…

Read the entire report by clicking here.