REFLECTION: How do we transform our world? Return violence and hate with love

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

I think sometimes when we first hear the words of Jesus of today’s Gospel, we might wonder, “Well, is Jesus really expecting us to become like little children? Doesn’t he expect us to grow and become all that God wants us to be — fully mature people?” Well, the answer is yes, God does want us to become all that God has made us to be. But there is something about children, little children, that makes them good models for us in what Jesus is trying to teach us.

See, children at a young age are curious. They want to find out more. They want to listen and learn. They’re anxious to know, discover new things. And sometimes as we grow older, we begin to think we know it all. We can’t learn anything new; we’ve got the answers. Jesus says that he gives thanks to God because God has actually revealed to little ones — those who listen, those who are open to hearing a new word from God. They’re the ones that are blessed. In fact, Jesus, a little bit later on, says, “Unless you become like little children, you’ll never enter the reign of God.”

So we must become like children, ready to listen, to learn, to grow in what Jesus wants to teach us. There’s an important reason for this because if you look back in the book of the prophet Isaiah, you find the prophet saying, “My thoughts” — speaking for God — “my thoughts are not your thoughts. My ways are not your ways. As high as the heavens are above the Earth, so high are my thoughts above your thoughts, and my ways above your ways.” What Isaiah is telling us is that God’s ways are different, profoundly different, from what we’re used to, from what our human ways are….

To read this entire article, click here.

SPECIAL APPEAL: Please give! Pax Christi USA needs your help!

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Dear Companions on the Journey,

Greetings of Peace! We just recently concluded an amazing weekend that brought together five groups of Pax Christi USA members to discern and develop strategies on how to build our movement stronger, as well as to celebrate together and honor this year’s Teacher of Peace, Mary Meg McCarthy. Our new office in Washington, D.C. was buzzing with the meetings of our Pax Christi Regional Leaders, our Anti-Racism Team (PCART), our National Council and the National Staff — the first time all these groups gathered for focused discussion in the same room, as well as doing their respective committee work. The Momentum event brought in many more Pax Christi USA members and collaborators. (Click here to see photos & more from the event.)

It feels as if we’ve “been to the mountaintop” — able to see the potential of all that we can be and do to make a difference in building a more just and peace-filled world. Yet we simply cannot realize this potential without your financial support.

Can youarrow-red-small help us right now? Can you make a donation to deepen and grow our ability to create the change we all hunger for? Click here and give right now, securely, quickly through our website.

We all know that our Catholic movement for non-violence is urgently needed in this broken world, and we are uniquely poised to grow it stronger and broader. (Click here to see how our 2013 annual report demonstrates our readiness for the challenges ahead.) We also know that through the guidance of Pope Francis there are new openings to build the prophetic edge of the Church.

These statements below reflect how we’re on that prophetic edge, speaking truth to power on some of the issues our country is wrestling with right now:

  1. Statement on the Crisis in Iraq
  2. Statement on the U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding the Voting Rights Act
  3. Statement regarding the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut

At our meeting, we also became acutely aware of the need to shore up our financial resources in order to be able to secure our movement and address the stresses around being sustainable for the long run. The economy has taken a toll on all non-profits, and in addition, the grant we had applied for to cover the costs of our gathering did not come through. We went forward, because many who were able donated their own travel costs and more, and we knew we had to go forward to chart the work for this next period.

Our message to each of you reading this letter is: PCUSA needs YOU!

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Help put this movement in position to raise the voice of Gospel non-violence everywhere where people are suffering. Click here and help us raise the funds we need to lift this movement up.

This is, thus, a special appeal to ask for your financial support and collaboration. Often donations drop in the summer, but NOT the expenses it takes to do the work. We are feeling the stress of seeing the “mountaintop” view, yet we are unable to put the “wind in the sails” fully unless we can raise more funds. Let’s keep the beacon of non-violence guiding the church and society as we face military conflicts, nuclear weapons, fleeing refugees, and violence against God’s creation.

If Pax Christi doesn’t speak out, who will? Again, Pax Christi USA needs YOU.

Please darrow-red-smallig as deep as you can and make a significant contribution at this time. You can click here to donate right now and help build a foundation for today and for tomorrow.

Thanks for your donation to fuel the vision.

In peace,

Sr. Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN        Sr. Josie Chrosniak, HM
Executive Director                                             Chair, National Council

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.

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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.

REFLECTION: This summer, a focus on the role of women in church history

schenkby Christine Schenk, NCR

It’s summer and time for my annual retreat. Talk to any nun. Most of us would rather forego our vacations than miss this precious interlude of quality time with the One who got us into this mess to begin with.

Most years, I go to a quaint hermitage on the bucolic grounds of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine near Ohio’s Amish country.  I watch the sun rise on one side of my solitary abode and set on the other. From the front porch, you can see a huge weeping willow overhanging a placid pond, unsettled only by wide-mouthed frogs that urp and splash whenever I wander by.

urnature-retreat-1_r1y2P_11446I love this place. A priest friend told me about it when I was pondering whether to enter the Cleveland Sisters of St. Joseph. So I set aside a weekend each month to consider God and me and where it all was going. After a year, I roamed the grounds for a glorious week in the fall, searching out my final answer. When it was time to leave, I was so filled up, it left me uncharacteristically speechless. A beloved sister-spiritual director helped me sort it out: “Chris,” she said, “I think you’re in love.” Who knew? It made no sense at all and actually seemed sort of goofy at the time. But there it was, and I couldn’t deny it.

I love this sacred hermitage space not only because of its association with my nun roots, but also because subsequent years brought new chapters in my God quest. Retreat is a time to reconnect with the God-mystery at a deeper level. A frequent dynamic for me is the gentle uncovering of places in my heart that I have walled off, either because the pain was too much to deal with at the time or, well, who wants to look at pain when the World Cup is on TV?

But there you are in your hermitage. You, you and (now I’m really bored) you. And, well, yes, there’s that pesky God person. God loves us so much, God can’t help but lead us to healing and a bigger love, even though the process is sometimes painful. So my hermitage walls reverberated with cries of sorrow, grief and anguish when my mother died. They frequently witnessed my fiery anger and, worse, despair at the slow pace of church renewal and reform. Why aren’t you doing this faster, God? (Did I mention how important a good spiritual director is for times of retreat?)...

To read this entire article, click here.

BORDER CRISIS: Mexican bishop calls for resolving the root causes of migration

from Zenit

“The phenomenon of migration can be addressed and resolved at the root only when the causes that force men, women and children to leave their countries in search of the ‘American dream’ are dealt with,” says Bishop Ruy Rendón Leal of Matamoros. Matamoros shares the US-Mexico border with Brownsville, Texas.

The bishop said this at the inauguration of a home to provide care for migrants, established in the border town of Reynosa.

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As reported by Fides, the prelate urged at the inauguration that “reflection and interventions today must go beyond mere material aid or a better treatment of migrants.”

“Economic injustice and social inequality in our Latin American countries are the main causes of this migration,” Bishop Rendón Leal affirmed. “In fact, families do not find the basic conditions to meet the basic needs of life in their countries of origin.”

The bishop observed that at times multinational companies are part of the root cause of the immigration phenomenon, as they “come to our country to seek only labor at low cost.”

“But wages should be fair,” he insisted, saying that it is “necessary to ensure better economic and working conditions.”

Click here to read the entire article.

IRAQ: Patriarch Sako – “Iraq won’t remain a single state”

from Zenit

The patriarch spoke with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need on June 28. The patriarch spoke from Ankawa, near Erbil, the Kurdish capital in Iraq, where the Chaldean bishops had been for a synod to discuss the crisis in their country.

Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako

Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako

Q: Have you any hope that Iraq can remain a single state?

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: No. Perhaps a symbolic unit and the name of Iraq will continue to exist. But de facto there will be three independent zones with their own budgets and armies.

Q: What are the consequences of the disintegration of the state for Christians in Iraq?

Patriarch Sako: That is the question. To be honest we bishops are somewhat at a loss at the present time. The future may lie in Kurdistan. Many Christians are already living there after all. But there are also many who live in Baghdad, and there are also some in Basra in the Shiite south. We must wait and see how things develop.

Q: On Friday the synod of the Chaldean Church in Erbil came to an end. Did you decide on any measures in view of the crisis of Christian refugees from areas occupied by ISIS or otherwise under threat from them?

Patriarch Sako: We have been closely concerned with this. We also assigned a commission of five bishops from the areas affected whose task is to ensure initial aid for the refugees. The American and French consuls were here to help us and to develop a vision. But everything is still in a state of flux. I and other bishops are of the opinion that the situation will deteriorate. At present there are three fragments of Iraq, a Sunni one, a Kurdish one and a Shiite one. The Kurds already enjoy autonomy anyway. The Shiites do as well in a sense. Now the Sunnis are following suit. Iraq will therefore be divided up. If this is the case it will be better to sit down together and find a consensus in order to prevent further fighting and loss of human life.

Q: Is this the darkest hour for Iraqi Christianity?

Patriarch Sako: It is the darkest for everybody. There is no persecution of the Christians. Many more Muslims have fled from Mosul and the surrounding area. But what worries us greatly is the fact that the exodus of Christians from Iraq will increase. When I was in Turkey recently ten Christian families from Mosul arrived. And in the space of only one week 20 families left Alqosh, a completely Christian town not far from Mosul. This is very serious. We are losing our community. If Christian life in Iraq comes to an end, this will be a hiatus in our history. Our identity is threatened.

Q: Should western countries give Iraqi Christians a visa or not?

Patriarch Sako: The tragedy is that the families are split up. Many are already in the west. The children are constantly asking their parents why they are still there and not following them. You can’t stop this trend. It’s impossible.

Q: So there’s no hope?

Patriarch Sako: Perhaps the older ones will return when the situation has stabilized. But the young ones will stay outside the country. In ten years there will perhaps be 50,000 Christians left. Prior to 2003 this figure was about 1.2 million. Within ten years we have shrunk to a community of perhaps four to five hundred thousand faithful. We don’t have exact figures.

Q: What can we Christians in the west do?

Patriarch Sako: The Christians in the West are very weak. There are good Christians there who support us with their prayers and in material terms. But their influence is slight. On the whole the West is doing nothing at all. We are very disappointed. They are just uninvolved observers. They find football more interesting than the situation here or in Syria. Western policy only pursues economic interests. The international community should put pressure on Iraqi politicians to make them find a political solution and form a government of national unity.

Q: Can you, as someone who is not directly involved, play a mediatory role in the present situation? When you were Archbishop for the town of Kirkuk, which was the subject of contention between the Arabs and the Kurds, your house was open to all parties.

Patriarch Sako: I have continued with this in Baghdad. All the important decision-makers are based there. For example, I visited the president of the Parliament. But the time for this is now past. The divisions are worse than ever. How should I get to Fallujah in the Sunni Anbar Province? The problem is that the Sunnis do not have a real leader in Baghdad who can speak for them.

Q: Do you think that the majority of Arab Sunnis support ISIS?

Patriarch Sako: Yes. Quite clearly. They do not necessarily share their ideology. But they support the political goal of regime change and the foundation of their own state. ISIS intends to found an Islamic state with oil wells in order to islamicize the world.

Q: Is this also a danger for the West?

Patriarch Sako: I think this is a danger for all.

Q: There are calls for American intervention to stop the advance of ISIS. What do you think?

Patriarch Sako: No. I don’t view it like that. The Americans have been here and they made a lot of mistakes. The current situation is their fault. Why replace a regime by something even worse? This is what happened after 2003. The Americans deposed a dictator. But under Saddam Hussein at least we had security and work. And what do we have now? Confusion, anarchy and chaos. The same thing has happened in Libya and Syria. If you want to change the situation here you have to educate the people in the schools, media and mosques in matters of freedom, democracy and the construction of their own country. It is impossible to install a democracy on the Western pattern here. Under the old regime prior to 2003 we had no denominational problems. We were all Iraqis. Now we talk about Sunnis, Shiites, Christians, Arabs and Kurds.

Q: But wasn’t it only like that because Saddam held the different groups together with an iron fist?

Patriarch Sako: Perhaps in the present context we need in the Middle East a strong leader who is at the same time just and not only looking out for his family or tribe.

Q: This strong leader isn’t there at the moment. But do you still see a chance of stopping the disintegration of Iraq and finding a political solution?

Patriarch Sako: Such a possibility will still exist if the west and our neighbors such as Iran, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia want it to.

BORDER CRISIS: Do not deport the children!

Scott Wrightby Scott Wright
Pax Christi Metro D.C.-Baltimore

A Church that doesn’t provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn’t unsettle, a word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn’t touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed – what Gospel is that? – Archbishop Oscar Romero

There is a refugee crisis on the US-Mexico border, and a war in Central America and Mexico against children. It is being waged by gangs and drug cartels, corrupt police and corrupt government officials complicit with these non-state actors or governments unable or unwilling to fulfill their obligations to protect children from the violence directed against them.

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Children as young as two and their families are making a perilous journey north, fleeing violence in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala and seeking to reunite with their families in the United States. The numbers may approach 90,000 this year, and even more in the year to come, and they are fleeing from the countries with the highest murder rates in the world.

There is clearly a moral crisis in our nation, as Congress refuses to pass comprehensive immigration reform and President Obama asks Congress for more money for border enforcement and a change in the law that protects unaccompanied children so that he can expedite their deportation without judicial review.

Above all, there is also a spiritual crisis in the nation. Undocumented children have become the new scapegoats. Communities of faith, on the other hand, have been among the first responders offering these families and children shelter, and advocating for comprehensive immigration reform. Now we are being asked to take a stronger stand on immigration, and those who are asking are the children who are fleeing the furnace of violence in their home countries and crossing the border to reunite with their families.

bordercrisis2The bottom line is: do not sacrifice these children on the altar of a broken immigration system, political expediency, and the lack of moral courage. Do not deport these children. Protect them. Help them reunite with their families. Welcome the stranger. Welcome the children. Fix the broken immigration system so that families may reunite with their children who are at risk. But don’t sacrifice the children, and don’t pretend we are doing them a favor by deporting them back to the violence they are fleeing. Isn’t that what the Gospel asks of us in this moment? And isn’t that what the heroes of our faith ask of us as well?

 “The great need today is for Christians who are active and critical, who don’t accept situations without analyzing them inwardly and deeply. We no longer want masses of people like those who have been trifled with for so long. We want persons like fruitful fig trees, who can say yes to justice and no to injustice and can make use of the precious gift of life, regardless of the circumstances.” – Archbishop Oscar Romero

Cowardice asks the question: is it safe? Expediency asks the question: is it politic? Vanity asks the question: is it popular? But conscience asks the question: is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular – but one must take it simply because it is right. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

There are many reasons for this crisis, and they have political and economic roots going back decades and generations: support for military governments, free trade agreements that undercut local farmers leading to more poverty and increased migration, a military coup in Honduras, and the violence of corrupt police, drug cartels and youth gangs.

Every day an immigrant dies in the Arizona desert, and 1,100 immigrants are deported. Every day 34,000 immigrants are detained to fill a bed quota, many in for profit prisons, awaiting deportation. Every year, for the past several years, on both President Bush’s and President Obama’s watch, 400,000 immigrants are deported.

Immigrant-led movements, such as Fast4Families, targeted Republicans in Congress and called for comprehensive immigration reform, fasting for weeks on the National Mall last December. The National Day Labor Organizing Network (NDLON) joined with faith communities and led protests across the nation last spring calling on President Obama to stop the deportations that were dividing immigrant families. The Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) brought together African Americans from the Birmingham children’s march fifty years ago with the children of undocumented immigrants today who took their message to the White House in late spring and were arrested, calling on the conscience of the nation to do more.

Our immigration system is broken, and there is plenty of blame to spread around. Congress has failed to act, but so has President Obama. His strategy of reinforcing the US-Mexico border did not produce a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented in the country. Now he proposes to send more money to enforce the border and speed up administrative action to process and eventually deport the children.

Our message as people of faith must be unequivocal: do not deport the children. Protect them, offer them temporary protective or refugee status, and protect their families. Address the roots of the crisis in Central America and failed U.S. policies on immigration. Don’t blame the children. Press Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Take administrative action to end the deportations of immigrants until Congress acts. But don’t deport the children.

Thirty-five years ago, the martyred archbishop of El Salvador, Oscar Romero, in the midst of a difficult and bloody civil war, reminds us that something more is at stake here than politics:

 “Nothing is so important to the church as human life, as the human person, above all, the person of the poor and the oppressed. Besides being human beings, they are also divine beings, since Jesus said that whatever is done to them he takes as done to him. That bloodshed, those deaths, are beyond all politics. They touch the very heart of God.”