IMMIGRATION: PCUSA signs onto letter for child welfare professionals at the border

childrenattheborderbutton-smallPax Christi USA has joined with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services and other social justice organizations in signing onto a letter asking the Department of Homeland Security to consider having child welfare professionals at the Customs Border Protection (CBP) stations at the southwest border.

The child welfare professionals would assist unaccompanied children and accompanied children migrating to the U.S. These professionals would advocate in a humanitarian way for the safety and protection of these children.

Click here to read the entire letter.

REFLECTION: My future in prison

by Kathy Kelly
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

The Bureau of Prisons contacted me today, assigning me a prison number and a new address:  for the next 90 days, beginning tomorrow, I’ll live at FMC Lexington, in the satellite prison camp for women, adjacent to Lexington’s federal medical center for men.  Very early tomorrow morning, Buddy Bell, Cassandra Dixon, and Paco and Silver, two house guests whom we first met in protests on South Korea’s Jeju Island, will travel with me to Kentucky and deliver me to the satellite women’s prison outside the Federal Medical Center for men.

In December, 2014, Judge Matt Whitworth sentenced me to three months in federal prison after Georgia Walker and I had attempted to deliver a loaf of bread and a letter to the commander of Whiteman Air Force base, asking him to stop his troops from piloting lethal drone flights over Afghanistan from within the base.  Judge Whitworth allowed me over a month to surrender myself to prison; but whether you are a soldier or a civilian, a target or an unlucky bystander, you can’t surrender to a drone.

Photo by Shane Franklin

Photo by Shane Franklin

When I was imprisoned at Lexington prison in 1988, after a federal magistrate in Missouri sentenced me to one year in prison for planting corn on nuclear missile silo sites, other women prisoners playfully nicknamed me “Missiles.”  One of my sisters reliably made me laugh today, texting me to ask if I thought the women this time would call me “Drones.”

It’s good to laugh and feel camaraderie before heading into prison.  For someone like me, very nearly saturated in “white privilege” through much of this arrest, trial, and sentencing process, 90% (or more) of my experience  will likely depend on attitude.

But, for many of the people I’ll meet in prison, an initial arrest very likely began with something like a “night raid” staged in Iraq or Afghanistan, complete with armed police surrounding and bursting into their home to remove them from children and families, often with helicopters overhead, sequestering them in a county jail, often with very little oversight to assure that guards and wardens treat them fairly.  Some prisoners will not have had a chance to see their children before being shipped clear across the country.  Some will not have been given adequate medical care as they adjust to life in prison, possibly going without prescribed medicines and often traumatized by the sudden dissolution of ties with family and community.  Some will not have had the means to hire a lawyer and may not have learned much about their case from an overworked public defender.

In the U.S., the criminal justice system disproportionately incarcerates people of color for petty offences. Many take plea bargains under threat of excessive, punitive sentences. If I were a young black male, the U.S. penal system quite likely would not have allowed me to turn myself in to a federal prison camp.

I’ll be incarcerated in a satellite camp outside a medical facility where I expect the wards are crowded with geriatric patients. How bleak and unnecessary it is to confine people for decades. My friend Brian Terrell, who was incarcerated in Yankton, South Dakota for six months after crossing the line at Whiteman AFB, told me that while in prison he saw signs on the walls recruiting prisoners to train for medically assisting geriatric male prisoners. I shudder to think of our culture’s pervading callousness, pointlessly consigning so many aged people to languish in prison.

I will be free in three months, but our collective future is most assuredly shackled to a wrongheaded criminal justice system.  I hope this compulsively vengeful and diseased criminal justice system will change during my lifetime.  And I hope that my short sojourn inside Lexington’s prison walls will help me better understand and perhaps help shed some small light on the systems that affect other people trapped there.

During recent visits with concerned communities focused on drone warfare, many have helped me see a connection between the drone killings across Central Asia and the Middle East and the casual executions and incarceration of young black males in our own country.

In Afghanistan, where the noise of air strikes and civil war have faded to the buzz of drones and the silence of empty promises, our friends in the Afghan Peace Volunteers (APVs) continue their peace building efforts.  Last week, eighty street children walked from the APV center to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission office to assert their right to education.  Their signs expressed their determination to help create a school for street children.  One sign said, “We don’t want your charity.  We want dignity.”

Our young friends wish to provide a better life for the very children whose only other ways off the streets may well include joining the Taliban, criminal gangs, or some other militia.  Meanwhile, the United States’ vengeful stance as a nation, concerned with protecting its wealth and status at all costs and its safety above all considerations of equity or reason, destroys the lives of the impoverished at home as it destroys those abroad.

The “Black Lives Matter” protests need our support, as do the March 4-6 protests to “Shut Down Creech” Air Force Base.  Our friends in the Afghan Peace Volunteers will continue to do vital work for peace and solidarity, in Kabul, that needs our support. It’s encouraging to know that thousands upon thousands of committed people seek and find work to make our world less like a prison for our neighbors and ourselves.

My address for the next three months is

Kathy Kelly 04971-045
FMC LEXINGTON
FEDERAL MEDICAL CENTER
SATELLITE CAMP
P.O. BOX 14525
LEXINGTON, KY  40512

Kathy Kelly co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence.  For more information, please contact VCNV atinfo@vcnv.org.

NEWS: New book on nonviolence from PCUSA Ambassador of Peace Nancy Small

CASCADE_TemplatePax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace Nancy Small has just published a new book, Seizing the Nonviolent Moments: Reflections on the Spirituality of Nonviolence Through the Lens of Scripture, available from Wipf and Stock.

Nancy is a hospice chaplain, spiritual director, writer, retreat leader, and a seeker of peace. She is known for her work in the areas of spirituality, scripture, pastoral ministry, prayer, and ritual. Her peace work is deeply rooted in the spirituality of nonviolence and focuses on the areas of reconciliation and right relationship. She is a former national coordinator and a current Ambassador of Peace with Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic peace movement. She served as a regional Pax Christi coordinator with Pax Christi Metro New York and was a member of the Pax Christi USA national council prior to being named national coordinator. Nancy is an Oblate of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie who holds a Masters of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary and a spiritual direction certificate from the Center for Spirituality and Justice. Her commitment to social justice began during her years as a Jesuit Volunteer, when she witnessed poverty first-hand as a pastoral minister and as a legal advocate for people in need. She lives in Worcester, MA with her husband, Carl.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Life is filled with opportunities to practice nonviolence. If we kept track, we’d be surprised at how often we get to choose a violent or nonviolent response to a given situation. Seizing these moments is a spiritual practice that shapes a nonviolent heart. Many people doing this together shapes the heart of a nonviolent world.

This book is a humble and accessible approach to nonviolence based on the belief that no one is perfectly nonviolent. We are all works in progress. Each chapter presents an imaginative interpretation of a scripture story about seizing a nonviolent moment that sheds new light on nonviolence and its spirituality.

Stories of contemporary peacemakers woven throughout offer lessons for living a spirituality of nonviolence for our times. Prophetic words from the US Catholic bishops emphasize the essential role of peacemaking in renewing the earth. Questions following each chapter inspire personal reflection and make the book a welcome resource for classrooms, parishes, and small groups.

The more we seize the nonviolent moments in our lives, the more we are transformed by them. And the more we experience the power of nonviolence within ourselves, the more we believe in its potential to transform our troubled world.

Click here to read endorsements and reviews and order online.

INTERVIEW: Deacon Denny Duffell, called to a life of nonviolence

Denny Duffell is a deacon living in NE Seattle and a Pax Christi USA local group leader. A Matter of Spirit (AMOS), the journal of the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center, asked him a few questions about his commitment to nonviolence.

AMOS: What encounters have led you to a nonviolent lifestyle?

dennyDENNY DUFFELL: I was short and scrappy as a kid, but a fight on asphalt, when I threw another kid to the ground and knocked him out, instantly replaced my anger with a dread that I had hurt someone seriously—and it changed my life. I still remember that day.

I matured as a student in the late ’60s, influenced by the civil rights struggle and the anti-war movement. I was raised Catholic, and my reflections on Jesus’ life and teachings led me to reject war, war-making and preparing for war. I sought and received Conscientious Objector status. Instead of serving as a soldier in Vietnam, I spent four years as a Jesuit Volunteer, embracing practical poverty, living in community and working to make a difference in the lives of the poor.

Soon afterwards I met and was deeply moved by Cesar Chavez and his nonviolent struggle for justice, with its strong spiritual roots. I began to read seriously the writings of King, Merton and Dorothy Day.

In the late ’70s and early ’80s my wife and I lived with the Seattle Catholic Worker community and helped campaign against the Trident nuclear submarine base at Bangor. My “day job” was at an inner city parish, first staffing a food bank and eventually learning neighborhood organizing. Of course, Archbishop Hunthausen was a terrific inspiration; his picture is still on my wall.

Circumstances moved us from our parish and community, but the changes led to my current ministries at St. Bridget Church and Children’s Hospital in Seattle, where I minister as a chaplain. This is a precious gift to my life, and the families have taught me much. One cannot work there without being moved to compassion. This work has taught me that building peace and holding the broken heart are very similar…

Read the entire interview by clicking here. It begins on page 9.

REFLECTION: State of the Union 2015

Jim Hugby Jim Hug, S.J.

“And Jesus looked around the room,
angry and grieved at their hardness of heart.”  [Mk. 3:5]

After listening to the State of the Union address and several Republican responses, I also find myself depressed, angry, grieving at the hardness of heart our politics spews at us.

Through a full hour of claiming some successes and promoting “middle class economics,” President Obama could not [dared not?] once mention the poor of the nation or the world.

Just 2 hours before, PBS posted a news Bulletin:

“The 85 wealthiest people in the world
have more wealth than the poorest 3.6 billion”
[which is half the world’s population].

Not one mention from the president.

And the Republicans who spoke kept insisting that it’s tax breaks for the wealthy that will eventually be what helps the middle class.

“And Jesus looked around the room,
angry and grieved at their hardness of heart.”  [Mk. 3:5]

REFLECTION: We are beloved

Nick Meleby Nick Mele

As I write, the United States is angry, anxious, saddened and split over the shooting of a young, unarmed black man by a white policeman several months ago. At the same time, another, younger black child has just been shot because he was at a playground with a toy gun which closely resembled a real weapon. We live in the midst of a stew of fear and violence. News outlets headline stories about scary epidemics, war, mass executions. Social media memes—cleverly chosen images and sayings propagated over the internet—cater to stereotypes, polarization and fear. Popular culture promotes the myth that violence can solve almost any problem and protect individuals as well as nations from any threat. As theologian Walter Wink wrote in Engaging the Powers, “Violence is the ethos of our time. It is the spirituality of the modern world. It has been accorded the status of religion, demanding from its devotees an absolute obedience unto death.” Violence and threat breeds fear, fear of others, fear for our safety, fear that we will not be able to stand against the threats screaming from headlines and television news and talk shows.

stop violenceTo climb out of the morass of violence in which we live requires courage, creativity, effort, persistence, personal integrity and a sense of humor. We must start by honestly examining and healing the violence within ourselves. The first step is cultivating awareness of how we have internalized the violence we experience daily and inflict it on ourselves and others.

The violence we experience is not confined to news headlines or fiery talk show panelists. We also hear threats and violence daily from our families, our friends, our teachers, our supervisors and from our co-workers. The myth that violence solves problems, that a kind of purification or even redemption comes through violent behavior dominates our attitudes and behavior. Over time, we internalize the messages of threat and violence and speak harshly to ourselves. To be sure, often the violent words we hear are not intended to threaten or induce fear, they are simply the consequence of the “ethos of our time” described by Wink. For example, an exasperated parent seeking some support for housecleaning might say to his child, “Pick up your toys!” in a tone of voice that the child hears as an implicit threat to withdraw love or impose punishment. Over time, we impose limits on ourselves in anticipation of others’ disappointment, disapproval or withdrawal. As we do so, we also strive to earn approval and love and to exceed what we think others expect of us….

Read the entire article here, beginning on page 6.

REFLECTION: Inside the uniform, under the hood, longing for change

Kathy Kellyby Kathy Kelly
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

From January 4 – 12, 2015, Witness Against Torture (WAT) activists assembled in Washington D.C. for an annual time of fasting and public witness to end the United States’ use of torture and indefinite detention and to demand the closure, with immediate freedom for those long cleared for release, of the illegal U.S. prison at Guantanamo.

Participants in our eight day fast started each day with a time of reflection. This year, asked to briefly describe who or what we had left behind and yet might still carry in our thoughts that morning, I said that I’d left behind an imagined WWI soldier, Leonce Boudreau.

I was thinking of Nicole de’Entremont’s story of World War I, A Generation of Leaves, which I had just finished reading.  Initial chapters focus on a Canadian family of Acadian descent. Their beloved oldest son, Leonce, enlists with Canada’s military because he wants to experience life beyond the confines of a small town and he feels stirred by a call to defend innocent European people from advancing “Hun” warriors. He soon finds himself mired in the horrid slaughter of trench warfare near Ypres, Belgium.

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I often thought of Leonce during the week of fasting with WAT campaign members.  We focused, each day, on the experiences and writing of a Yemeni prisoner in Guantanamo, Fahed Ghazi who, like Leonce, left his family and village to train as a fighter for what he believed to be a noble cause.  He wanted to defend his family, faith and culture from hostile forces.  Pakistani forces captured Fahed and turned him over to U.S. forces after he had spent two weeks in a military training camp in Afghanistan.  At the time he was 17, a juvenile.  He was cleared for release from Guantanamo in 2007.

Leonce’s family never saw him again.  Fahed’s family has been told, twice, that he is cleared for release and could soon reunite with his wife, daughter, brothers and parents.  Being cleared for release means that U.S. authorities have decided that Fahed poses no threat to the security of people in the U.S. Still he languishes in Guantanamo where he has been held for 13 years.

Fahed writes that there is no guilt or innocence at Guantanamo.  But he asserts that everyone, even the guards, knows the difference between right and wrong. It is illegal to hold him and 54 other prisoners, without charge, after they have been cleared for release.

Fahed is one of 122 prisoners held in Guantanamo.

Bitter cold had gripped Washington D.C. during most days of our fast and public witness.  Clad in multiple layers of clothing, we clambered into orange jumpsuits, pulled black hoods over our heads, our “uniforms,” and walked in single file lines, hands held behind our backs.

Inside Union Station’s enormous Main Hall, we lined up on either side of a rolled up banner.  As readers shouted out excerpts from one of Fahed’s letters that tell how he longs for reunion with his family, we unfurled a beautiful portrait of his face. “Now that you know,” Fahed writes, “you cannot turn away.”

U.S. people have a lot of help in turning away.  Politicians and much of the U.S. mainstream media manufacture and peddle distorted views of security to the U.S. public, encouraging people to eradicate threats to their security and to exalt and glorify uniformed soldiers or police officers who have been trained to kill or imprison anyone perceived to threaten the well-being of U.S. people.

Often, people who’ve enlisted to wear U.S. military or police uniforms bear much in common with Leonce and Fahed.  They are young, hard pressed to earn an income, and eager for adventure.

There’s no reason to automatically exalt uniformed fighters as heroes.
But a humane society will surely seek understanding and care for any person who survives the killing fields of a war zone.  Likewise, people in the U.S. should be encouraged to see every detainee in Guantanamo as a human person, someone to be called by name and not by a prison number.

The cartoonized versions of foreign policy handed to U.S. people, designating heroes and villains, create a dangerously under-educated public unable to engage in democratic decision-making.

Nicole d’Entremont writes of battered soldiers, soldiers who know they’ve been discarded in an endless, pointless war, longing to be rid of their uniforms.  The overcoats were heavy, sodden, and often too bulky for struggling through areas entangled with barbed wire.  Boots leaked and the soldiers’ feet were always wet, muddy, and sore. Miserably clothed, miserably fed, and horribly trapped in a murderous, insane war, soldiers longed to escape.

When putting on Fahed’s uniform, each day of our fast, I could imagine how intensely he longs to be rid of his prison garb.Thinking of his writings, and recalling d’Entremont’s stories drawn from “the war to end all wars,” I can imagine that there are many thousands of people trapped in the uniforms issued by war makers who deeply understand Dr. Martin Luther King’s call for revolution:

A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war, ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’ This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love.”

This article first appeared on Telesur.  

Kathy Kelly (Kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org). On January 23rd, she will begin serving a 3 month sentence in federal prison for attempting to deliver a loaf of bread and a letter about drone warfare to the commander of a U.S. Air Force base.