Category Archives: Human Rights

PETITION: Stop Congress from targeting sanctuary cities

from Church World Service

Children at our border

Children at our border

Faith leaders across the country are standing together in solidarity with immigrants and demanding that Congress oppose any legislation that would force local police to serve as immigration enforcement officers or repeal local community-based policing ordinances.

Join us in telling Congress to respect the efforts of local law enforcement to build trust and protect all members of our communities.

We cannot allow the tragedy in San Francisco to undo the intentional efforts of law enforcement to create trust and safety in all communities, regardless of immigration status.

Add your name and congregation so that we can demonstrate strong faith community support for our immigrant sisters and brothers.

Deadline to sign: 1PM EST Wednesday, July 22, 2015

ISRAEL-PALESTINE: Gaza one year later – the quest for accountability

from the U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation

This mural in Aida Refugee Camp in the Occupied West Bank lists children killed in Israeli's Gaza offensive in July 2014.

This mural in Aida Refugee Camp in the Occupied West Bank lists children killed in Israeli’s Gaza offensive in July 2014.

One year has passed since “Operation Protective Edge”, Israel’s attack on the Palestinian Gaza Strip which killed more than 2,200 Palestinians and devastated its infrastructure.

Today Gaza remains under Israeli blockade, unreconstructed, teetering on the verge of humanitiarian catastrophe.

Write and call your Members of Congress and ask them to support this “Dear Colleague” letter to Secretary of State John Kerry calling for the United States to hold Israel accountable for its use of U.S. weapons to kill Palestinian children and wantonly destroy Palestinian homes.

And ask your Members of Congress and their staff to attend this Capitol Hill briefing on July 29 examining Israel’s failure to hold itself accountable through domestic judicial proceedings, and the options and need for the United States and the international community to do so.

Click here to take action.

IMMIGRATION: Report on the abuse of solitary confinement in immigration detention in NJ


from New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees

NEWARK, N.J. – An investigation of the use of solitary confinement in New Jersey’s immigration detention centers finds an unnecessarily harsh and unfair system that violates state and international standards. The report “23 Hours in the Box, Solitary Confinement in New Jersey Immigration Detention” is released by New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees, a coalition of community-based groups that support immigration and detention reform, and NYU School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic.

23HoursInBox_1The investigation examined hundreds of documents from public record requests and found that solitary confinement is applied far too often and far too long to immigrant detainees in New Jersey. Investigators also found an unnecessarily harsh system severely limiting due process and fraught with violations of state regulations and international standards.

“This task force has done a good job bringing these complex issues to the forefront. I look forward to working with all of the interested parties to improve the overall system. These complex issues deserve proper attention,” said Assemblywoman Nancy J. Pinkin (D-Middlesex), a sponsor of an Assembly version of a legislation to reform solitary confinement in New Jersey, A. 4510.

“As we continue to advocate for change in the way counties use disciplinary confinement, we need to remind counties and the federal government that immigrant detainees are held on civil violation of immigration laws and that they should not be detained in the first place. We are calling for an end to the use of solitary confinement in immigration detention,” said Alix Nguefack, Program Coordinator for American Friends Service Committee Immigrant Rights Program and the New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees.

These initial findings include the analysis of data from hundreds of documents provided by Bergen, Hudson counties and the Department of Homeland Security in response to the investigator’s public records requests. A second set of findings will be published later this year based on Essex County’s recent compliance after six months of repeated refusals to comply with our records requests. The report also raises serious due process concerns, highlights the civil nature of immigration detention and the noncompliance with state regulation and prison’s hearing procedures related to solitary confinement.

“Using solitary confinement on immigrant detainees is an additional affront to the human dignity of people which the state has no legitimate interest in incarcerating. Further after reading the report one can only conclude that the county jails are engaging in torture which is an intrinsic evil,’’ said Kathy O’Leary Region Coordinator for Pax Chisti New Jersey, a region of Pax Christi USA.

Specific recommendations include the renewed call to remove these civil detainees from detention especially from county jails which are designed as short term penal facilities. Interim recommendations include the need to strengthen NJ law, which would further limit the use and duration of solitary confinement, implementing mental health screenings and providing meaningful and authoritative community and state oversight to the county jails.

“In 2015, solitary confinement should not and must not be used without proper justification” said Senator Peter J. Barnes III (D-Middlesex), a prime sponsor of legislation to reform solitary confinement in New Jersey, S. 2588. “There are too many cases where solitary is becoming the default punishment for relatively minor infractions, this is not justice, this is inhumane.”

The research for the report was conducted in New Jersey through open records requests to Hudson, Bergen and Essex County jails. While Bergen and Hudson timely responded to the requests, at the time the report was written, Essex had failed to comply with records requests.

“There are so many reasons not to use solitary confinement: the often permanent mental trauma, the increased violence, the added difficulties prisoners face upon reentry,” said Bonnie Kerness, director of the American Friends Service Committee’s Prison Watch Program. “The isolation and lack of human contact is considered no-touch torture, and for the sake of human rights, civil rights, and political rights, we must abolish it. The report contributes to the growing number of advocate organizations protesting the use isolated confinement.”

REFLECTION: Charleston church witnesses to a love stronger than death

schenkby Christine Schenk, NCR

Like much of the country, I have been transfixed these past weeks by the tragedy unfolding in Charleston, S.C. First, I groaned with despair as blatant, violent racism held me in its icy grip. I, who grew up in the midst of civil rights marches, assassinations — and hard-won victories, — mourned the reality that despite our hundreds of thousands of chanting voices, black and white together, we have yet to overcome.

People participate in a candlelight vigil at Marion Square near the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina(Brendan Smialowski/AFP)

People participate in a candlelight vigil at Marion Square near the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina (Brendan Smialowski/AFP)

And then I was transfixed by the triumph of a faith community grieving mightily but not destroyed. A community that loved, mourned and miraculously forgave the man accused of the shooting, Dylann Roof. This community — Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church — witnessed as powerfully as any second-century martyr that love is stronger than death, good more powerful than the worst evil imaginable, and that God’s love is greater than human hatred.

It began on June 19, when family members of victims spoke directly to Roof via video feed at a bond hearing in Charleston. Again and again, they gave voice to their pain and, miraculously, their forgiveness. Nadine Collier, the daughter of one of the victims, church sexton Ethel Lance, said:

“You took something very precious away from me. I will never get to talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you, and have mercy on your soul.”

To read this entire article, click here.

REFLECTION: How the bishops should respond to the same-sex marriage decision


by Thomas Reese, S.J., NCR

With the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage throughout the United States, the U.S. Catholic bishops need a new strategy going forward. The bishops’ fight against gay marriage has been a waste of time and money. The bishops should get a new set of priorities and a new set of lawyers.

Some opponents of gay marriage are calling for civil disobedience, telling government officials to ignore the decision and not to perform same-sex marriages. Others are calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision. Many have argued that the court decision will not put the issue to rest any more than Roe v. Wade ended the abortion debate.


First, let’s make clear what the decision does not do. It does not require religious ministers to perform same-sex marriages, nor does it forbid them from speaking out against gay marriage. These rights are protected by the First Amendment. The court has also made clear that a church has complete freedom in hiring and firing ministers for any reason.

The legal status of gay marriage is similar to that of remarriage after divorce. Divorce and remarriage is legal in every state of the union, but if a church is against remarriage after divorce, its ministers are not required to perform such weddings, and its preachers can continue to denounce divorce from the pulpit. If a minister gets divorced, his church can fire him or her.

The divorce analogy is apt. The bishops would do well to look at the record of their predecessors who opposed legalizing divorce but lost. These bishops eventually accepted divorce as the law of the land while not permitting remarriage without an annulment in their churches

Read the entire article by clicking here.

LATIN AMERICA: Invitation to participate in upcoming delegations to El Salvador, Honduras

from Jean Stokan.
SHARE board member and Pax Christi USA National Council

1) SHARE invites Pax Christi members to participate in the 35thcommemoration of the 4 U.S. Churchwomen in El Salvador

Icon of the churchwomen martyred in El SalvadorSHARE El Salvador and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) are inviting you to join us and share the news about our 35th anniversary delegation to El Salvador to celebrate the lives of Ita, Maura, Dorothy, Jean, Carla and all the martyrs.

Delegation dates: November 28 to December 5.

Use this link to see the flyer and letter of invitation:

Please email Jose at or Lora at​ ​ or call our office at (510) 848-8487 with any questions.  If you cannot come on the delegation, let us know if you can organize a local gathering to commemorate the 35th anniversary on Dec. 2nd and we will be in touch.
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Help us remember them and continue their spirits of struggle for peace with justice. Ita, Maura, Dorothy and Jean, PRESENTE, PRESENTE, PRESENTE, PRESNTE!

2) Invitation to human rights delegation to Honduras

SOA Nelly w crossesDelegation to Honduras, Dec. 5-11.  Immediately following the “Dec. 2 Commemoration delegation” to El Salvador, a delegation to Honduras is being organized to examine the human rights situation and accompany faith communities and human rights defenders who are being threatened for their social justice work.  For more information, contact Jean Stokan at Sisters of Mercy of the Americas,  For more information on Honduras, see Friendship Office of the Americas (

IMMIGRATION: Pax Christi USA signs onto letter calling for an end to family detention

from the Coalition on Human Needs

childrenattheborderbuttonMothers and children shouldn’t be jailed for seeking asylum in our country. And yet, that’s exactly what’s happening. Vulnerable mothers and children fleeing extreme violence in Central America have come to the U.S. to seek asylum – only to be locked up in deplorable family detention facilities by our government. It’s wrong, and it has to stop.

For years, families seeking asylum met their legal requirements without the harm of detention. A very high percentage of the families who have had a chance to present their stories have been granted asylum or have been found to have a credible fear of persecution. None of these families should be incarcerated in woefully inadequate facilities while they wait for the chance to tell their stories.

Pax Christi USA has signed this letter urging President Obama to end the practice of family detention.