Tag Archives: Nick Mele

REFLECTION: Ambassador Kennedy and the dolphins

Nick Meleby Nick Mele
Pax Christi USA National Council member

When the new U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, tweeted her concern about Japan’s drive hunting of dolphins, that was a good thing. Sure, she upset the Japanese government and the fisher folk who earn money from the trade in dolphin meat but most Americans, particularly those who have seen the documentary film about this annual hunt, sympathize more with the dolphins. Her concern for the humane treatment of animals is praiseworthy, but it is only a first step.

It would be better for Ambassador Kennedy to expand her concern for marine life to the waters of Henoko, Okinawa, where the U.S. military plans to destroy several square kilometers of precious marine habitat important to soft corals and dugong, an endangered mammal similar to our manatees, in order to construct a Marine Air Base to replace the controversial Futenma Base, which the Clinton Administration committed to moving or closing in 1996. Eighteen years later, the best the U.S. can do to honor that pledge is to destroy sea life in another part of Okinawa and disrupt an existing community that has already lived next to a U.S. Munitions Depot since 1959. The new base will be larger than the Futenma air field it will replace, and much larger than the munitions depot, so it is hard to see the change as anything other than part of the U.S. military “pivot” to Asia, a move that the present government of Japan wholeheartedly supports…

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ON THE LINE: December 2013 edition features actions on the death penalty, immigration reform, SOA and more

Compiled by Johnny Zokovitch

Each month, “On The Line” features news items and announcements from around the nation featuring Pax Christi members, local groups, regions and partners. These are gleaned from articles in local newspapers, websites, magazines, and elsewhere.

PC AUSTIN (TX) CO-SPONSORS ANTI-DEATH PENALTY OBSERVANCE: (by Bob Rankin) “This year, Pax Christi Austin joined with the Friends Meeting of Austin (Quaker) and the Episcopal Peace Fellowship to plan and sponsor our annual Sant’Egidio ‘Cities For Life’ Vigil on Nov. 30th. We gathered at the Plaza in front of Austin City Hall where we prayed, reflected on the death penalty in Texas, the United States, and sang. We had approached a City Council Member asking for a proclamation and received one. Finally we processed through a few city blocks of restaurants and business with ‘No More Executions!’ signs and ‘sandwich boards’ with the names of the 507 executed in Texas since 1976.”

Pax Christi Austin (TX) members march against the death penalty as part of "Cities for Life" in November. Photo by Bob Kinney

Pax Christi Austin (TX) members march against the death penalty as part of “Cities for Life” in November. Photo by Bob Kinney

PCUSA TEACHER OF PEACE BISHOP GUMBLETON SHARES ADVENT HOMILY WITH NEW PC GROUP IN MISSISSIPPI: (in NCR) “During this day, when we are spending time as a Pax Christi group (at St. Richard’s Parish), trying to determine how we can best live out the commitment we make when we join Pax Christi, it is very clear that our Scripture lessons provide us with very important ideas and important things for us to reflect on, think about, to become truly peacemakers, making Pax Christi the peace of Christ come about in our world. We’re celebrating the season of Advent, of course, and I’m sure all of us remember that and realize and experience that this is a season of hope — hope for the coming of Jesus. But we also have to remember that Jesus came historically almost 2,000 years ago, and we can hardly hope for something that has already happened. So what are we hoping for?”… Read more at http://ncronline.org/blogs/peace-pulpit/give-violence-prepare-final-coming-god

MICHAEL WALLI NAMED PEACEMAKER OF THE YEAR: (by Joshua McElwee in NCR) “It was the kind of celebration that, six months ago, Michael Walli might have enjoyed: Simple plates of spaghetti and salad, gathered friends, and an award for a noted local peacemaker. Except that award went to Walli himself, who could not accept because he is imprisoned some 700 miles away in a private detention facility in Georgia. Members of the DC/Baltimore chapter of the international Catholic peace group Pax Christi awarded their annual peacemaker of the year award to Walli Sunday anyway, honoring him in absentia and organizing their members to write to the judge urging leniency for the activist and the two others in his group…” Read more at http://paxchristiusa.org/2013/11/30/regional-event-pax-christi-metro-dc-baltimore-honors-peacemaker-of-the-year/

Seven plowshares activists seen together at the Pax Christi Metro DC-Baltimore Peacemaker of the Year event. They are holding a sign created by the late Philip Berrigan, who participated in the first action in 1980. Photo by Ted Majdosz

Seven plowshares activists seen together at the Pax Christi Metro DC-Baltimore Peacemaker of the Year event. They are holding a sign created by the late Philip Berrigan, who participated in the first action in 1980. Photo by Ted Majdosz

PAX CHRISTI MEMBERS FROM ACROSS THE NATION CONVERGE ON THE SOA: “On Friday night, 200 Pax Christi USA members and friends gathered at the Columbus Convention Center for Pax Christi USA’s annual gathering at the SOA. This year’s presentation was entitled, ‘Gun Violence Has No Room in the Spirituality of Peacemaking,’ with presentations from Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace Kathy Kelly and Pax Christi USA Executive Director Sr. Patty Chappell, SNDdeN. The evening started with a welcome from Cathy Crosby, former member of the Pax Christi USA National Council, and Carole Lacour of Pax Christi Atlanta, with both serving as the emcees for the evening…” Read more at http://paxchristiusa.org/2013/11/26/soa-report-back-from-the-annual-vigil-and-action-at-the-soa/

PC New Mexico members Ellie Voutselas and Bud Ryan at the SOA. Photo by Johnny Zokovitch

PC New Mexico members Ellie Voutselas and Bud Ryan at the SOA during Sunday’s funeral procession. Photo by Johnny Zokovitch

PC METRO NY ISSUES ADVENT REFLECTION: “Hurry up and wait!  Sadly, this could be the theme for many each Advent. We hurry to shop. We hurry to write Christmas cards. We hurry to cook and bake. We hurry to decorate. We hurry, hurry, hurry. Then we wait. We wait on lines in stores or on the web. We wait for deliveries. We wait in traffic. We wait and wait and wait. Actually, Advent is about preparing, which we’re doing when we do all that scurrying about, and it’s about waiting, but the preparation and the waiting are a bit different…” Read more at http://www.nypaxchristi.org/reflection.html

PC METRO DC-BALTIMORE MEMBERS JOIN FAST4FAMILIES: (by Scott Wright) “On November 12, faith, immigrant rights and labor leaders announced the launch of “Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform and Citizenship,” taking place on the National Mall, steps away from the Capitol. On that day, Eliseo Medina, DJ Yoon, Christian Avila, and Lisa Sharon Harper began a fast to move the hearts and compassion of members of Congress to pass immigration reform with a path to citizenship. In their statement the four fasters asked: “What is our faith, our words and our history worth if not translated into action, sacrifice and redemption?” … Read more at http://paxchristiusa.org/2013/12/13/reflection-a-light-shines-in-the-darkness-immigrant-fast-for-justice/

PC ILLINOIS MEMBERS ACT FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM: (by Tom Cordaro) “For years immigrant communities and their supporters have been marching, canvasing, writing letters, lobbying politicians, holding educational events, telling their stories and praying for an end to the pain, suffering and fear caused by our broken immigration system.  In spite of all this effort nearly 2 million undocumented immigrants have been forcibly deported leaving nearly 3 million children without a parent. In the face of so much preventable human suffering there comes a time when good order must be interrupted so the cries of children can be heard. This is why I joined 141 immigrant activists in blocking a major intersection in downtown Chicago on November 6th…” Read more at http://paxchristiusa.org/2013/11/19/immigration-this-is-what-america-looks-like/

Pax Christi Illinois members (including Tom Cordaro, PCUSA Ambassador of Peace, bottom right corner) join the immigration reform action in Chicago.

Pax Christi Illinois members (including Tom Cordaro, PCUSA Ambassador of Peace, bottom right corner) join the immigration reform action in Chicago.

Upcoming or Ongoing Events:

Dec. 28 – Feast of the Holy Innocents actions and observances

Jan. 1-31 – January is Poverty Awareness Month, http://www.usccb.org/about/catholic-campaign-for-human-development/povertyusa/upload/poverty-awareness-month-calendar.pdf

Jan. 6-13, Jan. 11 – Witness Against Torture’s Fast for Justice from the 6th through the 13th and Jan. 11th actions to Close Guantanamo. Visit  http://witnesstorture.org/blog/2013/12/05/december-wat-trial-january-action-dates-announced/ for more information.

Jan. 26 – Peacemaking through the Arts: “Luke Live!” with PC-Metro New York Board member,  Fr. James DiLuzio, CSP. “Luke Live!” is a dramatic proclamation of the Gospel of Luke interspersed with Song Meditations, highlighting the peace and justice components in Luke’s Gospel. At St. Joseph’s Greenwich Village Church from 2:30 to 4:30pm.

Quicklinks:

PC Metro DC-Baltimore member Donna Grimes’ son was featured in an article in The Washington Post following the Trayvon Martin verdict earlier this year … For Human Rights Day, Dec. 10, Pax Christi El Paso (TX) collaborated with El Pasoans Against the Death Penalty and the El Paso chapter of CURE to protest the death penalty, mass incarceration, and abuse of solitary confinement, demonstrating in front of the county courthouse … PCUSA Program Director Sr. Anne-Louise Nadeau, SNDdeN presented at the Ignatian Family Teach-in in November in DC … PC Massachusetts member David O’Brien reflects on the legacy of JFKFormer Pax Christi USA Policy Director Jean Stokan had a letter to the editor published in The Washington Post regarding the ongoing situation in Honduras … PC Pacific NW member Nick Mele writes on the negotiations with IranPC Metro DC-Baltimore member Judy Coode has co-edited a book of reflections for next year’s liturgical readings for Orbis Press … PC Illinois members protested outside Rep. Roskam’s office after he repeatedly refused to meet with them … Former PCUSA interns Amy Watts and Manuel Padilla are now working in Chad with Jesuit Refugee Services and writing a blog about their experiences … PCUSA Teacher of Peace and PC Birmingham (AL) member Jim Douglass was featured on the Peace Talks radio programPax Christi USA gives thanks for the life of Nelson MandelaPax Christi International’s December 2013 newsletter is online … See more local and regional updates in the Fall 2013 edition of The Peace Current

IRAN: Talking about the agreement with Iran

Nick Meleby Nicke Mele
Pax Christi Pacific Northwest

For the last few days, the news and commentary has featured a good deal of back and forth about the utility and viability of the recently-announced short-term agreement with Iran on its nuclear development program. Several key factors do not get discussed by either critics or defenders.

First of all, there is very little historical or geopolitical context mentioned. One reason Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries are critical of the agreement is that most of these Islamic nations are ruled by a Sunni majority or plurality; the population of Iran is Farsi and overwhelmingly Shi’a. It is not necessary to know the historic and theological roots of the split in Islam but it is germane to Arab reactions to the prospect of a nuclear-capable Iran to know that in many of the most powerful Arab nations, Sunni majorities have treated their Shi’ite as second-class Muslims. Fear of an ascendant , non-Arab Shi’a nation influences attitudes toward Iran.

In the West, the history is not as long but Iran was a place where Britain and Russia (and later Germany) sought access and influence at first because of its geographic location and later its petroleum reserves. Iran fell well within the Czarist Russian sphere of influence throughout most of the nineteenth century, a fact which does much to explain Russia’s contemporary role there and in Syria. The history of Iran relayed via our media is superficial but not trivial, focused more on the last 30 or so years but not on the U.S.-engineered 1953 coup that installed the Pahlavi family as monarchs or the dark side of the Shah’s rule, which led directly to the Islamic Revolution in Iran…

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SYRIA: Thoughts on Syria

Nick Meleby Nicke Mele
Pax Christi Pacific Northwest

Two essays on Syria drew my attention on the same day. The first, by Nicholas Kristof, is a heartfelt argument in favor of military intervention, and specifically airstrikes. The second, equally heartfelt, from Jim Wallis, argues for immediate massive humanitarian aid to the millions of refugees from this conflict and against the use of military force in response to Syria’s passion.

A few days earlier, a friend who is a leader in the peace and justice community where I live asked why there are no mass demonstrations against military intervention. Reading the Kristof and Wallis essays, I saw why: most of us cannot imagine an effective non-military solution. Kristof writes, for example:

I received a mass e-mail from a women’s group I admire, V-Day, calling on people to oppose military intervention because ‘such an action would simply bring about more violence and suffering. … Experience shows us that military interventions harm innocent women, men and children.’

Really? Sure, sometimes they do, as in Iraq. But in both Bosnia and Kosovo, military intervention saved lives. The same was true in Mali and Sierra Leone. The truth is that there’s no glib or simple lesson from the past. We need to struggle, case by case, for an approach that fits each situation…

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REFLECTION: Militarizing our police

Nick Meleby Nick Mele
Pax Christi Pacific Northwest

A few nights ago, my wife and I went for a walk. We noticed a helicopter that flew over once, twice, many times, circling lower and lower each time. It seemed to be a police helicopter and we theorized that the police were looking for someone but this was an extraordinary intrusion. Police helicopters may routinely patrol the skies over major cities like Chicago, Los Angeles or New York, but we were not even aware there were police helicopters in our city of about 80,000 people.

We met a friend, and as we talked about the situation, my wife noticed that a police car had stopped at the intersection nearest our home. A few minutes later, a jeep with Border Patrol markings pulled up to ask us whether we had seen a man running past. We had not, but the Border Patrol presence changed our perception of the situation. Suddenly, the police were not out in force looking for a suspect in a possibly violent crime, they were pursuing someone whose offense was that he lacked proof of legal residence in the United States.

Apart from the question of justice for immigrants, what is going on here? At least two police agencies, one local and one national, cooperated in pursuit of someone on foot, using police cruisers, an armored SUV and a helicopter. At least four police officers were involved from what we saw, not counting dispatchers and, perhaps, the staff of our local police’s Incident Command Center. Since our local paper carried no mention of the incident, it seems reasonable to assume this inter-agency force sought someone whose lack of citizenship or legal residence documentation carries a sentence of up to six months for a first offense. Why the disproportionate deployment of resources? 

Read more of this article by clicking here.

REFLECTION: The Forgotten War

Nick Meleby Nick Mele
Pax Christi Pacific Northwest

This week, people are commemorating the anniversaries of the only war time use of nuclear weapons, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Last week, a different anniversary passed almost unnoticed; July 27 was the 60th anniversary of the signing of the ceasefire agreement that marks the end of the Korean War.

Veterans groups and some commentators, including President Obama, took the opportunity to memorialize the military personnel who were wounded, taken prisoner or killed in the conflict, and to extol, rightfully, the sacrifice of those who fought so hard and long. Few remembered to mention that there is no peace on the Korean Peninsula, or to ask why tens of thousands of American and Korean troops still face each other along the Demilitarized Zone created by the armistice. In South Korea, however, a collection of non-governmental organizations are seeking a peace treaty that will truly end the conflict before it stretches into its seventh decade.

Why bother after sixty years? Here are several good reasons…

Read more of this article by clicking here.

REFLECTION: The heart of the immigration reform debate

Nick Meleby Nick Mele
Pax Christi Pacific Northwest

Yesterday morning I sat down to write a reflection on the Immigration Reform Bill passed by the Senate but I received a series of e-mails from a local non-profit group and then personal appeals from several friends, all calling for support for a group of striking farm workers nearby. So my wife and I dropped our plans and headed for the workers’ camp. Because we were part of a small group who planned and walked a 140 mile pilgrimage for immigration justice a few years ago, there were several people who know us in the group. It was both a reunion and a refresher course since our first intensive exposure to the lives and stories of migrant workers before and during the pilgrimage.

The workers are striking for better pay, as many other workers have before them. Many, maybe a majority, are undocumented migrant workers and their families. That is relevant, because behind this strike lies the workers’ fear that their employer will replace them with guest workers who are documented and who will be paid the state-mandated price for their work, calculated not as an hourly wage but as the amount of berries the workers pick; that’s about twice what the striking workers were being paid. The economics are clear and the workers’ fears are real since the grower in this case has refused to raise the rate the undocumented workers get for their labor.

All of the signs I saw at the strike bore one or more of these words: respect, justice, dignity. This is at the heart of the workers’ grievance, and at the heart of the immigration reform debate. Why is it legal to label some human beings as “illegal”? No human being is illegal, only some human actions are. Why are there so many different voices in the immigration reform debate? Because so many of the people whose lives will be changed by a new law fear their dignity and right to just treatment will be disregarded.

That includes the legal immigrants patiently waiting for an inefficient and overburdened system to grant them their green cards. It includes the children brought here as minors who have watched the promise of the DREAM Act fade repeatedly. It includes Border Patrol agents and other federal officials charged with safeguarding our borders: they know that the undocumented workers are not criminals but they also know it is worth their jobs to point out the solution is just immigration reform. It includes the farm owners, who depend for their livelihood on their ability to hire and retain reliable workers.

The immigration bill passed by the Senate last month is not perfect and certainly does not address some central problems such as the long delays in granting legal-resident status to those who have obeyed existing immigration laws, but it is a step forward. The House’s unwillingness to pass a version of the Senate bill that might begin to address the longing for dignity expressed by the strikers’ signs is not simply discouraging, it is sinful. It behooves each of us to demand of our representatives that they stop playing games and start acting in the common interest by passing a more just version of the immigration reform bill as a way to respect the citizens, legal residents, and undocumented workers who are tired of waiting, tired of being exploited and tired of epithets thrown at them by the children and grandchildren of earlier waves of immigrants.

Read more from Nick’s blog, The Disconnect, by clicking here.