by Thomas Reese, S.J., NCR
Jesuit Frs. Peter Balleis and Michael Zammit were in Washington in April, making the rounds of nongovernmental organizations and government offices to inform policymakers of the humanitarian crisis in Syria. Balleis is the international director of the Jesuit Refugee Service, and Zammit works with refugees and internally displaced people in Syria. They were also visiting JRS-USA, which is based in Washington. The interview was edited for length and clarity.
NCR: What is the Jesuit Refugee Service? What does it do?
Balleis: Jesuit Refugee Service is an organization around 35 years old. Today, we are working in 46 countries and last year reached out to around 760,000 people.
We move according to the crises in the world. Thirty-five years ago, during the Cold War, it was Asia-Pacific, helping refugees from Cambodia and Vietnam.
Then in the mid-1990s when Africa exploded, we continued in Asia-Pacific and other places like San Salvador, El Salvador, but the main focus became Africa with the Rwanda crisis, the Great Lakes crisis, Sudan and so on. More recently, the conflicts in Africa are more in the Sahel Zone. We work in the Central African Republic, Chad, and we have started in Cameroon. We are going to engage with the refugees who are victims of the Boko Haram...
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Posted in Bread for the Journey, Human Rights, Middle East, Reese, Reflection, Syria, War
Tagged Jesuit Refugee Service, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, NCR, Syria, Thomas Reese SJ
by Joan Chittister, osb
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace
The power of the 24-hour news cycle is that sometimes we hear a story so often that we stop hearing it at all. Unless it comes leaping off the screen at us. Unless it breaks through the headlines for some reason, appears again after its few seconds on Twitter and comes alive outside itself. In us.
I have just had that experience. Out of nowhere, a story that had become dimmed appeared in front of me: I got a letter from a Yazidi woman.
I had met Ummaya in a women’s interfaith peace program in New York City in 2003. The Global Peace Initiative of Women brought Iraqi women to the United States to meet with American women from across the country. The hope was, of course, that we would make personal connections between us that would advance interfaith understanding and build bridges between two countries locked in a senseless war. More than that: Women, we thought, might be able to reach across the ethnic boundaries there, too, soften the anger, and forge new bonds in a country seriously divided and dangerously entrenched.
Now, 12 totally silent years later, I was holding a letter to us from one of the women in that first meeting whose face I could barely remember but whose voice came through loud and clear. It made real that day so many years ago in New York. It read in basic and sometimes inverted English and took careful interpretation…
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Pax Christi USA has signed onto a new statement initiated by Sojourners regarding the April 2nd Framework Agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Leaders of the faith community are playing significant roles in helping to give this diplomatic process a chance to succeed. The statement is titled, “Hope but Verify: Christian Leaders Support the Iran Framework Agreement”, and was run as a full-page ad in Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper catering to Members of Congress.
The statement begins:
As Christian leaders in the United States, we welcome and support the Framework Agreement, announced by seven nations on April 2, to dramatically restrain the capacity of Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. We believe this diplomatic path and process should be ardently pursued and given a chance to succeed. We do so not as politicians but as those whose deep faith commitments compel us to speak clearly, with moral and practical wisdom, about any possibility that restrains the threat of war and opens pathways toward peace. Indeed, the One whose words and life we follow said “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Mathew 5:9).
As followers of Christ, we begin with the things that Jesus instructed us to do. Whenever Christians are responding to situations of conflict, to issues of war and peace, Jesus must always be our starting point. On matters of both personal relationships and public policy, we must start with the question, “What can we best do to make peace?”…
Click here to see the ad and read the entire statement.
by Pat Elder for US Catholic
During the 2nd Battle of Fallujah in November of 2004, 1st Lieutenant Jesse A. Grapes saved the lives of three wounded Marines in his platoon by entering a burning house, where he encountered the enemy soldier who had been firing at his troops. Six years later, when Grapes was named headmaster of Benedictine College Preparatory, a Catholic military school in Richmond, Virginia, the school’s newspaper, The New Chevron, called him a “patriotic war hero” in their June 2010 issue.
In describing the new headmaster’s Iraq War exploits, Benedictine’s student newspaper dismissed the fact that Grapes was accused of ordering marines under his command to shoot four captured prisoners. Grapes was discharged from the Marines after refusing to talk to government investigators, citing his Fifth Amendment rights, and declined to take a polygraph test to disprove allegations made against him. “If my word isn’t good enough,” The New Chevron quoted him as saying, “nothing would be.”
It’s quite a lesson for students at Benedictine, which is kind of a poster child for the modern militarized Catholic school. Every year Benedictine requires all juniors take the military entrance exam. The school operates an Army JROTC program and has a student organization that teaches small arms. Of course, these are expected activities in a military school. The question is whether these activities are appropriate in a Catholic school…
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from Pax Christi International
Syria’s popular uprising started in the city of Dara in March 2011. The merciless actions of the Syrian Government – whose campaign of violent repression against what were originally peaceful protesters began four long years ago – have now morphed into wave upon wave of pitiless assaults by all sides. The Syrian conflict has killed well in excess of 200.000 people, and continues to kill more every day. It has involved the torture and ill-treatment of countless others; forced millions to flee; and deprived even more of the basic conditions for a decent life, including the rights to education, food, healthcare and housing.
The conduct of an ever-increasing number of actors is characterised by a complete lack of adherence to the norms of international law. Human rights are being violated to a shocking degree. The State, which is responsible for the security of its citizens, has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity against its citizens; radical non-State armed groups are doing the same.
Humanitarian aid has been instrumentalised for military gain. In many cases, aid to civilians living in areas under the control of non-State armed groups is not delivered. The conditions imposed by the State and by some armed groups on the delivery of humanitarian assistance use civilian suffering as a retaliatory measure, which is immoral…
Read the entire statement by clicking here.
Pax Christi USA has endorsed Spring Rising: An Antiwar Intervention in D.C. March 18-21. Spring Rising is four days of creative resistance; theater, teach-ins; rallies and marches marking the anniversary of the United States’ “shock and awe” attack on Iraq and its invasion and occupation in a completely illegitimate, immoral war. Together we will use this time to oppose the plans and calls for growing military intervention.
Click here for more information.