Category Archives: Human Rights

PRESS RELEASE: Missouri judge convicts peace activists for protesting drone warfare

For immediate release          

Contact: Buddy Bell  312 647 9345
Voices for Creative Nonviolence  773 619 2418

Jefferson City, MO—On December 10, a federal magistrate found Georgia Walker, of  Kansas  City, MO and Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace Kathy Kelly guilty of criminal trespass to a military installation  as a result of their June 1 effort to deliver a loaf of bread and a citizens’ indictment of drone warfare to authorities at Whiteman AFB.  Judge Matt Whitworth sentenced Kelly to three months in prison and Walker to one year of supervised probation.

In testimony, Kelly, who recently returned from Afghanistan, recounted her conversation with an Afghan mother whose son, a recent police academy graduate, was killed by a drone as he sat with colleagues in a garden. “I’m educated and humbled by experiences talking with people who’ve been trapped and impoverished by U.S. warfare,” said Kelly. “The U.S. prison system also traps and impoverishes people. In coming months, I’ll surely learn more about who goes to prison and why.”

During sentencing, prosecution attorneys asked that Walker be sentenced to five years of probation and banned from going within 500 feet of any military base. Judge Whitworth imposed a sentence of one year probation with a condition that Walker refrain from approaching any military base for one year. Walker coordinates an organization that provides re-entry services to newly released prisoners throughout Missouri. Noting that the condition to stay away from military bases will affect her ability to travel in the region, Walker expressed concern that this condition will limit her work among former prisoners.

Kelly’s work as a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence places her alongside people in a working class neighborhood of Kabul. She said that the day’s proceedings offered a valuable opportunity to shed light on experiences of Afghan families whose grievances are seldom heard. At the conclusion of the sentencing, Kelly said that every branch of U.S. government, including the judicial branch, shares responsibility for suffering caused when drones target and kill civilians.

HONDURAS: Impunity in Honduras

from America Magazine

DSC09058In a small Central American country, campesinos agitating for land rights, journalists challenging the status quo and attorneys and advocates working for social justice face continual threats or acts of violence and intimidation. Scores have been murdered, driven into exile or “disappeared” in the night. Catholic priests and deacons speaking out in defense of the vulnerable are rewarded with death threats; a Jesuit-sponsored radio station has been threatened with destruction; and a civilian government has proven itself unable—or unwilling—to rein in public and private security forces acting in the shadows for the powerful.

This description is not, sadly, an exercise in historical memory, 25 years after the savagery of the Jesuit murders at the University of Central America in 1989, nor a recollection of the dreary prelude to the full-blown civil war in El Salvador in the late 1970s. This is a brief précis on contemporary Honduras.

The high-profile murders of María José Alvarado, Miss Honduras 2014, and her sister, Sofía, at the hands of the former’s jealous boyfriend in November briefly trained the U.S. media spotlight on the senseless violence that afflicts the country. But even astute news consumers probably did not read of another murder in Honduras that same week. On Nov. 11, Juan Ángel López Miralda, a Colón-based agrarian leader, was gunned down in the street by two men, who escaped on a motorcycle. Mr. López was a leader of the Movimiento Unificado Campesino del Aguán, a fighter for the land rights of campesinos in that troubled region…

Click here to read the entire article.

REFLECTION: A Christmas gift for suffering South Sudan

Tony Maglianoby Tony Magliano

The world’s newest nation is in big trouble.

After more than 20 years of civil war between the southern and northern areas of Sudan, the southern part of that country on July 9, 2011, became the independent nation of the Republic of South Sudan.

But the situation on the ground soon looked like South Sudan had not been born, but instead was still suffering intense labor pains.

The many years of war brought not only much death, but also drained South Sudan of valuable resources leaving it an extremely poor nation.

According to South Sudan’s National Bureau of Statistics 51 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, 73 percent are illiterate and 45 percent do not have access to improved sources of drinking water.

But if conditions weren’t bad enough, last year – 10 days before Christmas – civil war broke out in South Sudan amid a struggle for power between President Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar who was dismissed months earlier by Kiir.

According to the International Crisis Group the civil war has claimed over 10,000 lives, and more than 1 million have been displaced. And it warns that the current humanitarian crisis threatens many more.

According to “The Sudd Institute: Research for a peaceful, just and prosperous South Sudan,” 4 million people are facing a serious risk of famine and starvation.  And that approximately 100,000 people are already experiencing desperate, humiliating circumstances in U.N. camps.

The United Nations Children’s Fund warns that without greatly increased emergency international assistance, over 50,000 children under the age of five will soon die of starvation.

But long-term development aid is also indispensable.

from un.org

from un.org

John Ashworth, who serves as an advisor to the Catholic bishops of South Sudan, wrote in an emailed to me that many international donors are reducing their development aid to South Sudan due to a lack of progress in the peace talks among the warring parties.

Ashworth said that seven of the ten states in South Sudan are not directly affected by the conflict, and it is both unfair and counter-productive to deny development aid to those people.

The heroic Bishop Emeritus Paride Taban often says that development is peace, and there is thus a fear that reducing development aid will create the conditions for insecurity to spread.

A U.S. State Department official, who wanted to remain anonymous, told me how important it is for us to contact our congressional delegation urging them to increase funding for both emergency and development assistance – that would support critical programs aimed at justice and reconciliation, education, infrastructure and food security.

Ashworth said, “I would highly recommend making a donation to Catholic Relief Services (CRS) which is very active in South Sudan. I work closely with them.”

To send a Christmas donation to suffering South Sudan please go to Give to CRS South Sudan or call 877-435-7277.

During this Advent season, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our savior, Christ the Lord, let us also remember the birth and infancy of the world’s youngest nation.

As the wise men brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus, let us bring Christmas gifts of prayer, money and advocacy to suffering South Sudan.

And let’s not forget, that by giving gifts to the South Sudanese, we are ultimately giving Christmas gifts to Jesus who said, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

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 Salt Lake City to Baltimore. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

REFLECTION: This country needs a truth and reconciliation process on violence against African Americans, right now

by Fania Davis, YES! Magazine

I am among the millions who have experienced the shock, grief, and fury of losing someone to racial violence.

handsupWhen I was 15, two close friends were killed in the Birmingham Sunday School bombing carried out by white supremacists trying to terrorize the rising civil rights movement. Only six years later, my husband was shot and nearly killed by police who broke into our home, all because of our activism at the time, especially in support of the Black Panthers.

As a civil rights trial lawyer, I’ve spent much of my professional life protecting people from racial discrimination. In my early twenties, I devoted myself to organizing an international movement to defend my sister, Angela Davis, from politically motivated capital murder charges aimed at silencing her calls for racial and social justice. Early childhood experiences in the South set me on a quest for social transformation, and I’ve been a community organizer ever since, from the civil rights to the black power, women’s, anti-racial violence, peace, anti-apartheid, anti-imperialist, economic justice, political prisoner movements, and others.

After more than three decades of all the fighting, I started to feel out of balance and intuitively knew I needed more healing energies in my life. I ended up enrolling in a Ph.D. program in Indigenous Studies that allowed me to study with African healers.

Today, my focus is on restorative justice, which I believe offers a way for us to collectively face this epidemic, expose its deep historical roots, and stop it.

The killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York have sparked a national outcry to end the epidemic killings of black men. Many note that even if indictments had been handed down, that wouldn’t have been enough to stop the carnage. The problem goes far beyond the actions of any police officer or department. The problem is hundreds of years old, and it is one we must take on as a nation. Truth and reconciliation processes offer the greatest hope…

Click here to read the entire story.

VIDEO: Pax Christi USA’s SOA speaker, Padre Melo, at the Ignatian Famly Teach-in last month

from the Ignatian Solidarity Network

NOTE: Below is a video taken at the Ignatian Family Teach-In in Washington, D.C. The video is of Padre Melo who spoke at Pax Christi USA’s gathering at the School of the Americas two weeks ago.

Rev. Ismael Moreno Coto, S.J., popularly known as Padre Melo, is a Jesuit priest and human rights activist in his native Honduras. He directs Radio Progreso (radio station) and E.R.I.C, The Team for Reflection, Research and Communication, whose work encompasses: grassroots radio programming; training on human rights, community organizing, and empowerment; the formation of leadership committed to social change; and aiding migrant families.

Padre Melo’s broadcast station, Radio Progreso, shut down by the military around the time of the June 2009 coup, has been occupied several times since. During this same time, over 50 journalist and social commentators have been murdered in Honduras, and many more have been kidnapped, tortured, or suffered death threats.

In April 2014, one of the Radio Progreso team members, Carlos Mejia, was brutally murdered. In a press conference following the tragic event, Melo stated at a press conference that 16 ERIC/Radio Progeso employees, including Mejia, have received significant death threats since the 2009 Honduran coup. Fr. Moreno has also previously testified before the U.S. Congress at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission regarding the human rights situation in Honduras and the fear he and his staff and others in the journalism sector experience.

INVITATION: Join Pax Christi in the Holy Land in May 2015

Pax Christi International World Assembly &
Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation Pilgrimage

May 10-23, 2015

pci-hcef-bethlehem-smallPlease join other Pax Christi USA members for a unique experience of attending the Pax Christi International (PCI) World Assembly in Bethlehem from the evening of May 13th to the morning of May 17th in Bethlehem.  Before and after the PCI conference, be part of a Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) Living Stones pilgrimage which will take you to many of the places where Jesus and his disciples walked as well as providing the opportunity to meet Living Stone Christian (as well as Muslim and Jewish) peacemakers in the Holy Land and find out more about how we can help them in their march to peace and justice in our time!

For an informational packet which includes the itinerary of the trip, click here. (revised 12-17)

Please send any questions you have about the trip to pilgrimage@hcef.org.

Please send in your application and deposit check as soon as possible. There are only 40 spots available for this pilgrimage. Join with many other PCUSA peacemakers from around the country and meet with Pax Christi leaders from countries around the world!

The trip includes airfare to and from Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C., all lodging costs and three meals per day, as well as ground transportation and entry fees into various Holy Land sites. Incidental expenses and tips for the bus driver and tour guide will be the only extra expenses.

We will fly on Turkish Airlines, which in 2014 was voted the best airline in Europe for the fourth consecutive year. We will meet with many Holy Land Christians whose families go back to the time of Christ (and before)!

This pilgrimage will combine our spiritual heritage with increased knowledge of the conflicts in this region, which affect the whole Middle East and the world, and explore ways we can help resolve this conflict.

The first 40 people to provide their down payment will be included on this trip. Please do not miss this two-week adventure!  There may not be one like it during any of our lifetimes!

For the informational packet and itinerary of the trip, please click here. (revised 12-17)

As Catholics from the United States, we need to learn more about the on-going conflicts in the Middle East and help our brothers and sisters in Christ who live in the Holy Land (while there are still some there!). We owe it to all of the people of Israel and the occupied territories to walk in solidarity with them and help them secure justice for all!

Visit Bethlehem, East Jerusalem, Nazareth, Jericho, Hebron and many other sites on the West Bank.

Download the itinerary, including the registration form by clicking here. (revised 12-17)

Whether or not you can make the trip for any reason, please let any family and friends who might be interested know about this trip! If you would like, please provide us with their names and e-mail addresses and we will send them a personal invitation to take part in this life-changing trip.

ADVENT 2014: Reflection for Human Rights Day, Second Wednesday of Advent, December 10

advent2014banner

by Shannen Dee Williams, Ph.D.

Isaiah 40:25-31 | Matthew 11:28-30

Our God is God from of old, creator of the ends of the earth.
God does not faint or grow weary, and God’s knowledge is beyond scrutiny.
God gives power to the faint, abundant strength to the weak. (Is 40:28-29)

Today’s reading from Isaiah serves as a powerful reminder of the awesome and strengthening power of faith in the most difficult of times. Founding members of the National Black Sisters’ Conference, who fought tirelessly to rid the Catholic Church of racism and sexism in the late sixties and seventies, used to greet one another with the following exchange:

First Sister: Do you have the strength, Sister?
Second Sister: I do, if you do.
Together in Unison: Then, we’re strong!

Many of these sisters had desegregated the nation’s historically white Catholic sisterhoods as teenagers and endured years of racial isolation and discrimination in their orders. Many had been forced to degrade their racial heritage, and some had even been forced to profess their vows and live separately from their white counterparts during their training years. Many also had their ministries severely limited because their counterparts refused to live with them on an equal basis or because the communities in which their congregations labored fiercely opposed the presence of black nuns.

Yet, the will of God and the call to serve Jesus Christ is always stronger than racism, sexism, and any corruption of Catholic social teaching that seeks to justify oppression and systematically exclude people of color from the full life of the universal Church.

Today, as we continue in our Advent preparations, let us rejoice in the awesome power of God who has brought us all this far!

Do I have the faith and strength to challenge discrimination and oppression wherever I see it, especially within my Church?

Do I trust God’s plan for my life, especially in the most trying times?

*This reflection is from this year’s Pax Christi USA’s Advent reflection booklet, Waking Up to God in Our Midst: Reflections for Advent 2014. The booklet is still available for purchase as a download by clicking here.