INTERVIEW: Words lie at the heart of poet’s worldwide social justice ministry

Interview with Luke Nephew, poet

by Sr. Camille D’Arienzo

Luke Nephew

Luke Nephew

SR. CAMILLE: Luke, a mutual Jesuit friend alerted me to your stupendous talent as a poet and added that this gift is one way you live your faith. Please tell us what that means.

LUKE NEPHEW: That was generous of him. I am guilty of being a poet. And I think our poems are often our promises. I recently sat on a stoop in Brooklyn to rest my legs. As I sat there in the shade of a huge oak tree, I spoke to an old woman about God. We laughed and debated for an hour. At the end of the conversation, she said, “Yes, God is love in action, but what pushes us into action is words.” Exactly. My poetry is my push. It comes from the same place within me that my courage and my compassion live. When words emerge from there, they take the shape of a map. If I rap about the need to stop mass incarceration, then I hear about a protest of solitary confinement or the school-to-prison pipeline, well then, that map tells me right where I need to be.

SR. CAMILLE: Can you identify the source of your concern for others?

NEPHEW: I was raised by a tradition of Catholicism that is all about compassion leading to this kind of action. That said, my relationship to organized religion has had enormous changes over the years. While I became disillusioned by a hierarchy that abused power and maintained oppressive structures of patriarchy, I could always hold on to the courageous action that was taken by some in the name of their faith. From Jesuit priests who put their lives on the line to organize and fight for justice to the Missionaries of Charity who dedicate their entire lives to joyfully loving our brothers and sisters who are in severe pain and danger, I have worked with people who live their faith. And so, while my relationship to anything that might happen in Rome faded away long ago, my spiritual and revolutionary practice of love continues to be informed by mentors, teachers and friends who practice Catholicism past the dogma and into the gritty challenges of a world full of war and oppression….

To read the entire interview, click here.

IRAQ: Needed – An international strategy in Iraq

by David Cortwright, God’s Politics Blog

IraqCrisis-smallThe crisis in Iraq poses two challenges — a humanitarian effort to rescue persecuted minorities, and a security mission to suppress the extremist threat posed by the forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The U.S. is right to play a leading role in aiding the Yazidis, Christians, and other threatened minorities in Iraq. The immediate threat against the Yazidis has eased, but minority groups in the region remain endangered by violent extremism. The Obama administration should work through the United Nations to turn this into a genuine international rescue effort. The greater the degree of international participation and support for the aid mission, the more beneficial and legitimate it will be for the recipients.

The U.S. is also right to call attention to the threat posed by ISIS, but we need to do more to mobilize international pressure against the group. The Islamic State is in many respects more dangerous than al Qaeda. It has conquered Mosul and other major cities, taken control of dams and oil facilities, and is steadily expanding its sphere of influence in Syria and Iraq. It has formed a terrorist army with an estimated 10,000 fighters and is now armed with tanks and advanced U.S. weapons stolen from the Iraqi army. The group poses a significant threat to the security of the region and the world.

The Obama administration does not appear to have a coherent strategy for countering the Islamic State and has made no effort to organize effective international cooperation in this effort through the United Nations…

Click here to read this entire article.

STATEMENT: PC International member organizations on the crisis in northern Iraq

pcilogonewfrom Pax Christi International

On Thursday 14 August, Pax Christi Member Organisations in Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States have sent letters to their Ministers of Foreign Affairs calling for an immediate action to safeguard the right of life of all vulnerable populations in Northern Iraq.

IraqCrisis-smallPax Christi members are extremely concerned with shocking reports of displacement of peoples and mass slaughter threatened by the self-proclaimed Islamic State against numerous minority groups in Iraq. The news coming from the country is horrendous: thousands of people, mostly minority groups including Christians, Yazidis, Shabak and Turkmen have been brutally driven from their homes; innocent children, women and men are suffering violence of every kind. The ongoing conflict has already displaced some 1.2 million people, mostly minority communities who have fled the northwest of Iraq.

Pax Christi Member Organisations made an appeal on three counts to safeguard the right of life of all vulnerable populations in Northern Iraq:

  • to act to protect people by moving them to places of safety – either within Iraq or outside its borders. This should include the possibility of accepting Iraqi refugees in their own countries.
  • to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to those who are displaced, either within Iraq or outside its borders.
  • to actively support a solution which can only be legitimated by the United Nations and not by individual states.

The letters also asked that international leaders should remain alert to events taking place in Iraq and should commit to supporting the Iraqi efforts to end this cycle of violence. The international community, working through the United Nations, should support Iraq on guaranteeing a framework in which the life and dignity of all Iraqis are respected.

Pax Christi members regret that religion is being misused in this crisis. Faith should not be used to demonize people of other faiths. Religious beliefs should nurture justice, human dignity, compassion and solidarity. Pax Christi supports urgent recent appeals from Patriarch Louis Sako I in Iraq and echo the call made by Pope Francis: “War is not to be waged in the name of God!”

REFLECTION: Making bad situations worse in the Middle East

Tony Maglianoby Tony Magliano

The heart wrenching tragedies throughout the Middle East are not the United States’ fault, that is, at least not entirely.

The fact that many Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims distrust each other, that the Allies established artificial national boundaries to suite their interests after World War I, and that ruthless dictators past and present have often oppressed their people are major reasons why much of the Middle East is broken and bleeding.  

But the U.S. has made several bad situations in the Middle East far worse.

Iraqi sisters look over the damage at a church in northern Iraq.

Iraqi sisters look over the damage at a church in northern Iraq.

In Egypt, according to the Congressional Research Service, since 1987 the U.S. has given that nation $1.3 billion per year in military aid despite the fact that it was long ruled by the dictator Hosni Mubarak.  

Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, its refusal to allow subjugated Palestinians to form an independent nation, and the strangling blockade and brutal invasion of Gaza would not be possible without the approximate $3 billion in annual American aid and the United States’ refusal to demand that Israel reverse course here.

While it is a sad truth that under the dictator Saddam Hussein many Iraqis suffered, it is an even sadder truth that the 2003 U.S. led invasion of Iraq, caused even greater suffering to countless Iraqis.

After nearly nine years of war, hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi children, women and men are dead, over 4,480 American troops were killed, and Iraq overall is in a far worse state.

Furthermore, the U.S. war with Iraq unleashed deadly Islamist attacks upon thousands of Iraqi Christians.

In a CBS 60 Minutes segment, Rev. Andrew White, an Anglican priest who has a long history of ministry in Iraq, said the situation there was clearly worse for Christians than under the Saddam Hussein regime.

And according to a Fox News report earlier this year, Fr. White said that in the past five years 1,096 of his own parishioners were killed.

He said that out of the 1.5 million Christians living in Iraq in 2003, only around 200,000 remain.

And now with the Islamic State controlling a large part of Iraq, the remaining Christian population is suffering even worse.

There can be no doubt that the U.S. invasion of Iraq made a bad situation far worse. 

Please help our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ by giving a generous donation to Catholic Near East Welfare Association (www.cnewa.org).  

And urge your congressional delegation and President Obama (www.whitehouse.gov) to grant emergency asylum to at least 300,000 Christians and other minorities fleeing the barbarism of the Islamic State. Yes, this would be a major undertaking, but the U.S. is capable of doing it. It’s mostly just a matter of will – good will.

To its credit, tiny Lebanon, with a population of approximately 6 million people, has according the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, taken in well over 1 million mostly Syrian and Iraqi refugees and asylum-seekers – with over 500,000 more expected by year’s end. That would be equivalent to the U.S. taking in over 50 million refugees and asylum-seekers.

Three years ago, the U.S. led an aerial attack against the regime of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi leaving that nation awash in weapons which continue to help fuel the warring militias that have since been unleashed.

While U.S. bombing helped end Gaddafi’s brutal reign, it didn’t stop the suffering of the Libyan people.

Bombs kill. They do not address the root-causes of conflict. Rather, they perpetuate the cycle of violence. Knowing that full well, and in response to President Barack Obama’s threats to bomb Syria last year, Pope Francis called on people of faith to observe Sept. 7, 2013 as a day of prayer and fasting.

On that day the Holy Father said to over 100,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, and to all of us, “Forgiveness, dialogue, reconciliation – these are the words of peace, in beloved Syria, in the Middle East, in all the 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.

REFLECTION: We must take up Jesus’ challenge to ‘give them something to eat’

Bishop Thomas Gumbletonby Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

Now in order to begin our reflection on today’s Gospel lesson, it’s important to remind ourselves once more where we are in this Gospel of Matthew that we read every Sunday this year. At the beginning of his public life in the Gospel, Jesus had proclaimed the good news: “The reign of God is at hand. Change your lives.” The reign of God is at hand; that’s what the good news is.

The reign of God: Remind yourselves that’s the dynamic rule of God’s infinite, unsurpassable love. It’s a situation where every human person — all of creation, in fact — are guided and made to develop and grow under this power of God’s love. It’s a time when the reign of God, when it comes to its fulfillment, every person will have a full human life. There’ll be peace and joy. All that we ever long for comes to fullness in the reign of God, and it’s at hand; it’s beginning.

In the last few Sundays, we heard teachings of Jesus to help us try to understand what we mean by the reign of God — the different parables. You can go back and reflect on those by rereading those Gospel lessons from the last three or four Sundays. But today, we move on. It’s not just teaching about the parables — Jesus shows what happens, how the power of God’s love works as the reign of God breaks forth…

To read this entire article, click here.

IMMIGRATION: Ann Coulter, Cardinal Dolan, and the discourse surrounding migrant children

by Scott Alessi, US Catholic

childrenattheborderbutton-smallThe waves of migrant children fleeing their homeland in search of safety and stability within the United States’ borders has been a major news story in recent months, but now it seems as if our public debate (or in some cases, shouting match) about the situation has become the bigger story.

Some Americans were ashamed and angered to see fellow citizens protesting the arrival of busloads of migrant women and children in California, chanting things like “go home” and “U-S-A” as the buses approached. Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert has called the children’s arrival an “invasion” and compared it to D-Day. We’ve even seen protesters use the slogan “Not our children, not our problem.”

Then came what the New York Times dubbed “the backlash to the backlash,” as religious leaders–especially Catholics–took a strong stand against this kind of rhetoric. The Catholic response to the migrants has been consistently one of welcome and aid, as Catholic Charities offices have been offering assistance along the borders and church leaders like Cardinal Francis George of Chicago have even offered up facilities to help house some of the children. Even Pope Francis weighed in, calling for unaccompanied child migrants to be “welcomed and protected” while condemning “racist and xenophobic attitudes” toward immigrants.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan wrote a blog post expressing his shame over the crowds of angry protesters, saying of their actions, “It was un-American; it was un-biblical; it was inhumane.” Dolan called for the recognition of the human dignity of the migrants, repeating the same stance the U.S. bishops have held throughout the immigration debate. “We might argue and yell about policies, processes, and politics,” Dolan wrote, “(but) we can never argue about the dignity of the human person or the sacredness of life, or yell at people who need our help.”…

Click here to read the rest of the article.

REFLECTION: The reign of God is like a treasure hidden in a field

Bishop Thomas Gumbletonby Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

As we listen to today’s Scriptures, in order to reflect carefully and get the deepest meaning out of them, we must remind ourselves again how this part of Matthew’s Gospel fits in with what has gone before. At the very beginning of the public life of Jesus, it’s recorded this way in Mark’s Gospel: Jesus begins his public preaching by proclaiming, “The reign of God is at hand. Change your lives.” The reign of God is at hand. Reign to bring forth, come into our human history, transform our world into as close an image of that reign of God as possible. It’s here; it’s ready to break forth.

field

And perhaps we have to remind ourselves, “Well, what do we mean by the reign of God?” Sometimes, especially in Matthew’s Gospel, it’s called the kingdom of heaven. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” But that makes us think of a place, maybe makes us think of heaven as the afterlife. But that’s not what Jesus is speaking of.

It’s better to remember from Luke’s Gospel how Jesus, there at the beginning of his public life and his first sermon at the synagogue in Nazareth, he proclaims the words of Isaiah: “The reign, or the spirit of God, is upon me. God sends me to proclaim good news to the poor, heal the broken-hearted, give the blind new sight, break the bonds of those who are persecuted and proclaim God’s year of favor — the jubilee year.” Jesus is proclaiming a time when all of creation — all of human life, every human person — will come under the dynamic power of God’s love…

To read this entire article, click here.