Category Archives: Human Rights

ISRAEL-PALESTINE: Better than hatred – a bereaved father’s call for peace

IzzeldinAbuelaish2by Izzeldin Abuelaish
in The Plough

I was born and raised in a Palestinian refugee camp. As a child I never tasted childhood. I was born to face misery, suffering, abject poverty, and deprivation. However, the suffering in this world is man-made; it’s not from God. God wants every good thing for us and he created us for the good. But just because suffering is man-made, there is hope. It’s the hope that we can challenge this man-made suffering by not accepting it, and by taking responsibility. I can’t challenge God, but I can challenge someone on earth. And you can do the same.

Izzeldin Abuleish lost his three daughters when an Israeli tank shelled their apartment in Gaza in 2009.

Izzeldin Abuelaish lost his three daughters when an Israeli tank shelled their apartment in Gaza in 2009. Photo credit: WTSP

People can deprive you, imprison you, or kill you, but no one can prevent any of us from dreaming. As a child, I dreamed of being a medical doctor. Through hard work I achieved my dream. Now I fight on a daily basis to give life to others. There are others who live to fight. Is this the purpose of our existence: to fight and to end others’ lives? A human life is the most precious thing in the universe. I know from my practice as a gynecologist how hard we work to save one life. Someone else can put an end to a life in seconds with a bullet. Each human being is a representative of God on earth, God’s most holy creation. We must value human life and be strong advocates of saving human life.

This world is endemic with violence, fear, and injustice. We often mention that one hundred, one thousand, or ten thousand people have been killed here or there. But people are not numbers or statistics: we need to zoom in to think of each of them as a beloved one. Each person who is killed has a name, a face, a family, a story.

I was the first Palestinian doctor to practice medicine in an Israeli hospital. Many Israelis see Palestinians only as workers and servants. I wanted them to see that Palestinians are human and that we are not so different. Medicine has one culture and one value: the value of saving humanity. Within the walls of a hospital we treat patients equally, with respect and privacy, wishing them to be healed. We don’t design treatment according to their name, religion, ethnicity, or background, but according to their disease and their suffering….

Read this entire article by clicking here.

TAKE ACTION: Tell President Obama and Congress not to deport innocent children

from Presente.org

Screen_Shot_2014-07-17_at_3.22.32_PMThe situation is dire. The Obama Administration has started to deport the refugee children back to Central America. And the House and Senate are ramming through a bill, deceptively named the ‘HUMANE Act’, that would speed up their deportations. If it passes, President Obama is likely to sign it — despite a pledge not to send kids back home to their deaths.

The media needs to hear the voices of folks like you: people who will stand up to any effort to throw families and innocent children back to extreme gang violence and poverty.

Tell President Obama and Congress: Do not deport innocent refugee children. Do not pass the HUMANE Act!

Click here to sign the letter.

STATEMENT: Pax Christi USA official statement on the violence in the Middle East

“Peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare. It calls for the courage to say yes to encounter and no to conflict: yes to dialogue and no to violence; yes to negotiations and no to hostilities; yes to respect for agreements and no to acts of provocation; yes to sincerity and no to duplicity. All of this takes courage, it takes strength and tenacity.”

~Pope Francis, June 8, 2014

As the number of dead and wounded continues to rise in Gaza, Pax Christi USA calls for an immediate cease-fire by all parties in order to open the possibility for negotiations to end the senseless violence and address the underlying causes which fuel the decades-long tragedy in the Middle East.

Pax Christi USA mourns the loss of life on both sides of the conflict. We stand with all those who have been victimized by violence. Our hearts are broken over the death and destruction which only serves to terrorize hundreds of thousands of civilians in Gaza, those who call this relatively small piece of land home. We join with Pax Christi International members around the world in offering “our sincere condolences to all those in mourning and pray that those who have been killed will be the last to die violent deaths in this escalation of hatred and vengeance.”

As the violence escalates and broadens, we are witnessing, in some cases, the perishing of entire families, and the dismantling of what little infrastructure was still intact in the service of the basic human needs of the people who live in Gaza. The attack on Gaza has created a humanitarian disaster which is marked all the more tragic by the inability to provide the assistance needed because of the ongoing violence.

Pax Christi USA has been unequivocal in insisting that for peace to be possible, there must be an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, a dismantling of the barrier wall built on Palestinian land, and an end to the Gaza blockade. We have asserted that the policies of our own government have functioned to provide the support that enables the occupation and that we must continue to pressure our political leaders for a change in those policies. U.S. policy and aid must be tied to respect for human rights and the safeguards provided by international law for the human dignity of all. Even as the violence rages in Gaza, as U.S. citizens we have a responsibility to hold our own government accountable for its complicity in this conflict, as well as U.S. corporations which benefit from protecting the status quo.

We believe that even in tragedy lies hope. Our hope for the Palestinian and Israeli peoples is for a future built in recognition of their shared humanity, where the security of all is rooted in the practice of justice for all. Let this be the last of the bloodshed in this region which has suffered for so long. Let this tragedy awaken the consciences and loose the voices of the great majority of Israelis and Palestinians who yearn for peace. Let these be the last throes of the old hatreds and prejudices, and let the evil of this violence give way to the birth of a new day and a just peace for the Middle East.

TORTURE: Pax Christi Metro New York observes Torture Awareness Month

Rosemarie Paceby Rosemarie Pace
Pax Christi Metro New York Coordinator

June was Torture Awareness Month. During June, many Pax Christi groups around the country engaged in a variety of activities to honor this somber time. Pax Christi Metro New York (PCMNY) was one of those groups.

As a proud member of the Metro New York Religious Campaign against Torture (MNYRCAT), we hosted one of two MNYRCAT events to address this inhumane issue. On June 11th, four professional actors, including the PCMNY Board President, Margaret Flanagan, presented the play, If the SHU Fits, at St. Joseph’s Greenwich Village Church. SHU refers to Special (also Security) Housing Units where prison inmates are kept in solitary confinement. If the SHU Fits gives voice to several incarcerated men and women being held in isolation. They poignantly share the horrific impact of solitary confinement on their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Isolated confinement is being recognized more and more as torture by both civil and religious society, including the Catholic Church. It is also being recognized more and more as misused, ineffective, and actually harmful in many, if not most, cases. After the performance, Five Mualimm-ak, a former inmate who spent five years in isolation, spoke eloquently about the experience and the work being done by groups like the New York Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement. He encouraged us to visit www.nycaic.org for more information and action suggestions.

no-tortureThe other event hosted by MNYRCAT during Torture Awareness Month was “Broken on All Sides,” a film presentation that examined mass incarceration, “justice,” and the “New Jim Crow.”

In addition to these two informative, heart-wrenching, and motivating events, there was one more that was at least as important. While not hosted by MNYRCAT, three of us who are members of the Steering Committee were privileged to attend an interfaith breakfast sponsored by T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights and the National Religious Campaign against Torture (NRCAT). At this breakfast, the newly appointed Commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction (DOC), Joseph Ponte, spoke. He came to NYC from the Maine Department of Correction where, as Commissioner, he significantly reduced the use of solitary confinement. Commissioner Ponte talked about his experience in Maine, his intimate knowledge and understanding of the prison system, and his hopes for the NYC DOC. He answered questions openly and honestly. Some of his key points follow.

Commissioner Ponte raised three fundamental questions for himself and all those involved in Correction: Why do we incarcerate? What do we do with the incarcerated? How do we keep them safe? He referred to safety as the main concern, along with care of juveniles.

He acknowledged that there was resistance to his reduction in the use of solitary confinement in Maine, but said that ultimately, due to its positive impact, resistance declined and support increased.

Commissioner Ponte went on to say that locking people up solves nothing. Blaming people is not constructive. Rehabilitation is critical. It is important to normalize life as much as possible. It is also important for outside support, like chaplains, to “show up.” And there must be sensitivity to diverse cultures and religions. Inmates need more programming to occupy their time and more positive reinforcement and incentives, rather than punishments for every little infraction.

Of course, there are some serious challenges. A primary one is the mentally ill. Some mentally ill inmates are dangerous, but not all. And, not all inmates are mentally ill. Distinguishing which is which and providing for their disparate needs is critical. A second major challenge is gangs. A third is women. Women are a challenge because they have different needs, but are generally treated the same as men. And most imprisoned women are not only criminals, but also victims. They are more likely to have mental illness, but less likely to be violent. Addressing all these variables requires tremendous skill and compassion.

Some of the attendees at this breakfast do prison ministry. To them, Commissioner Ponte advised: Communicate with the Correction Officers. Avoid being seen as an opponent or enemy.

Ultimately, Commissioner Ponte admitted that his approach to Correction in not cheap, easy, or quick. What it does seem to be is invaluable if incarcerated people are to be treated with dignity and hope for a better life outside the confines of jail or prison.

BORDER CRISIS: Pax Christi USA signs onto interfaith letter regarding unaccompanied minors at the border

The following letter was coordinated by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition. The letter is being sent to the President and Members of Congress today, July 18. Pax Christi USA is a signatory to the letter.

Dear Mr. President and Members of Congress,

Our faith traditions challenge us to welcome the immigrant through scriptures such as Leviticus 19:34, “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born.” Many of our organizations are living out this command by working tirelessly in bus stations and shelters to assist vulnerable children and families coming from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and in ministries dedicated to human rights and sustainable development in the Northern Triangle.

While we appreciate the U.S. government’s attention to the humanitarian crisis faced by migrants from Central America, we strongly object to proposals to detain families with children and to any move to roll back the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) in order to effect expeditious deportations. Forcibly and hurriedly returning people in need of international protection back to the dangerous situations they fled without adequate due process would undermine our obligations under international law and our position as a global humanitarian leader and would be a moral disgrace.

BORDER3As we read through the Administration’s supplemental appropriations request, we are pleased to see an increase in funding for the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), as increased funding is needed so that ORR can adequately serve both unaccompanied children and refugees. However, we urge Congress to provide more funds in the supplemental to increase legal services for unaccompanied children in the United States and enhance programs to reduce violence in sending countries so that individuals, particularly children and families, are not forced to undertake dangerous journeys in the first place. We are also deeply concerned about language in the supplemental request that would discourage persecuted individuals in Central America from seeking asylum and protection, and that would expand the detention of children and families without addressing the unacceptable conditions of these facilities. Additionally, we oppose any proposals that would restrict these children’s access to life-saving protection or return them to unsafe situations in which they could be further exploited.

This is a regional humanitarian crisis, not a U.S. immigration enforcement problem. Since 2009 asylum requests by Hondurans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans seeking refuge in Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Belize have increased sharply. In fact, compared to 2008, UNHCR registered a 712% increase in the number of asylum applications in the region in 2013. Many of the Central Americans arriving in the United States today are people primarily fleeing violence. The current crisis thus demands both a humanitarian response in the short-term and, in the long-term, policies to address complex root causes…

Click here to read the letter in its entirety.

REFLECTION: Unaccompanied minor children need our help

Tony Maglianoby Tony Magliano

Tens of thousands of children fleeing desperate conditions have entered the United States asking for help. And many more are coming. What kind of welcome is being offered to them? The answer to that question is still largely undetermined.

According to Human Rights Watch the U.S. government predicts that 90,000 unaccompanied migrant children will cross the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal year 2014, more than 10 times the number who crossed in 2011. And thousands of other children have crossed with a parent, also an increase from previous years.

Reportedly, more than 90 percent of these children are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, where pervasive drug/gang violence and poverty have made their lives dangerous and miserable.

bordercrisis

It is said that drugs go north and guns and money go south. Therefore, it is essential in the U.S. that adequate treatment for addiction replace jail time for non-violent drug users, that all loopholes in gun export laws be closed, that serious gun-control laws – such as a total ban on all assault weapons – be passed, and that greatly increased U.S. aid to these Central American nations for schools, job creation through clean industry and agricultural development, infrastructure and fair trade practices become realities.

Injustices resulting from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) are contributing factors towards the flow of unaccompanied migrant children.

According to Barbara Briggs, associate director of the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights (http://www.globallabourrights.org/), these “free trade” agreements in many cases greatly boost American corporate profits, while undercutting poor workers, domestic industries, and agriculture south of the U.S. border.

Under NAFTA and CAFTA U.S. companies are often building factories where they are permitted to pay the cheapest wages and lowest benefits to poor workers. These U.S. corporate injustices are in many cases contributing factors driving Latin Americans – adults and children – to seek fairer working and living conditions in the U.S., said Briggs.

The “Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act” would greatly correct many American corporate injustices abroad. Please ask you congressional delegation to reintroduce this legislation.

While addressing the root-causes of unaccompanied migrant children is essential, we need to also kindly address the immediate needs of these young brothers and sisters.

Instead of viewing these children as criminals who are illegally entering the U.S., a totally humanitarian Christ-like response is needed.

A coalition of immigration and faith-based organizations – including the Catholic Legal Immigration Network and Catholic Charities – sponsored by Human Rights First recently sent President Barack Obama a letter opposing plans to expedite deportation of migrant children.

They wrote, “The administration’s recent statements have placed far greater emphasis on deterrence of migration than on the importance of protection of children seeking safety.”

Please urge President Obama and your congressional delegation to insure that these children get all the help they need.

And sign up to receive legislative alerts from the bishops’ campaign for immigrants by going to www.justiceforimmigrants.org.

Responding to unaccompanied migrant children seeking asylum in the U.S. Pope Francis recently wrote, “This humanitarian emergency requires … these children be welcomed and protected,” and that policies be adopted to “promote development in their countries of origin. …

“A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed … moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization – all typical of a throwaway culture – towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world.”

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.

BORDER CRISIS: Urgent petition to protect the children arriving at the U.S. southern border

Pax Christi USA has signed the following petition initiated by Jennifer Harbury on Change.org. We encourage our members, groups and regions to add their names to this effort.

bordercrisis

Please join us in asking President Obama for immediate protections for the refugees arriving at the southern border of the U.S. Most are young mothers, children and teenagers, and many are fleeing the drug wars in Central America and Mexico.

As set forth in our petition, we are asking for temporary protected status for these refugees, and for all unaccompanied minors to be provided with lawyers. No child should be subjected to expedited removal to a dangerous homeland. To deport an unrepresented and at-risk child, without full proceedings, is unconscionable.

Please click here to sign and share with as many friends as possible.