Category Archives: Human Rights

TAKE ACTION: Today is the National Day of Prayer for the Wendy’s Boycott

from the Alliance for Fair Food

[NOTE: Pax Christi USA has signed on as a supporter of this effort.]

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The farmworker-led Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) has launched a national boycott of Wendy’s in response to the fast food company’s decision to reject the Fair Food Program, a worker-designed, proven human rights program that is preventing violence, wage theft, sexual assault, and slavery in the Florida tomato industry and beyond.  As news breaks that Wendy’s has moved its tomato purchases from Florida to a supplier in Mexico where slavery was uncovered in 2013, farmworkers and consumers around the country are responding to express their deep dismay.

In preparation for Wendy’s Annual Shareholder Meeting, join thousands of people of faith around the country for a Wendy’s Boycott National Day of Prayer on Monday, May 23.  Acting on our faith that calls us to justice, together we pray that Wendy’s executives will do what is right by farmworkers in their supply chain…

Click here to take action today.

PRISON REFORM: Pax Christi USA signs on to letter in support of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act

from the Interfaith Criminal Justice Coalition

NOTE: Pax Christi USA signed onto this letter. The letter was directed to Sens. McConnell and Reid. The opening paragraphs are below with a link to the full text of the letter.

Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Reid:

72539-death-row-prisonerLast week sponsors of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (S. 2123) announced new changes to strengthen their bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation. Indeed, eight new senators last week joined the long list of cosponsors. The 60 undersigned faith organizations are delighted by the progress made in advancing this critical legislation and the broad bipartisan consensus calling for an end to the federal prison crisis. We urge you to support S. 2123 and to act quickly to bring the legislation to a floor vote this month.

Our faith communities are on the front lines in neighborhoods ravaged by a broken criminal justice system. From our vantage point, we see this nation’s reliance on mass incarceration to solve drug addiction, poverty, mental illness and joblessness as an affront to justice and human dignity. As people of faith, we are called to comfort and serve those harmed by crime and support accountability, rehabilitation and restoration for those who offend. To that end, we are joined in our commitment to advancing the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act….

Click here to read the entire letter.

IMMIGRATION: Pax Christi USA signs onto letter against raids under Operation Border Guardian

Pax Christi USA has joined with a number of other organizations in signing on to a letter to the White House and the Department of Homeland Security regarding the ongoing raids happening under Operation Border Guardian. This letter reacts to the March 9 DHS press release announcing additional raids and focuses on the lack of due process afforded the individuals and families who are being targeted as well as the negative impact on immigrant communities as a result of the raid program.

You can read the entire letter by clicking here.

REFLECTION: Jesus the executed speaks to us

Rev. Chris Ponnetby Rev. Chris Ponnet
Pax Christi Los Angeles

[NOTE: The following homily was given on Good Friday.]

Today is the most obvious day for us as Christian Catholics to reflect and for us a priest to preach against the death penalty. Jesus the executed speaks to us and tells us to kill no more. It is part of the Respect for Life vision and flows from the Catholic Social Justice teachings on the DIGNITY OF EACH PERSON as found in Jesus: love your neighbor as yourself. The Beatitudes (Matthew 5) and Jesus view of the Last days (Matthew 25) remind us that God always is expecting more from us as God’s children. We are in a Year of Mercy and the core teaching of this year is not about us but about GODS’ MERCY and we reflect and live God’s mercy out to all. It is mercy of abundance without limitations, unconditional, no walls no barriers of time, space, age, religion, language, culture, legal status, general, sexual orientation, health or racial divisions.

No death penaltyWe clearly can say no to executions for innocent persons but the real challenge of faith is to even day NO to executions for the guilty. Jesus was charged and found guilty. He was executed for breaking the laws of the Sabbath and claiming to be King so the civil laws of treason were broken. We as Christians have romanticized his crimes and the execution and death but it was brutal and his family and friends were traumatized.  Isaiah says: He was spurned and avoided by people, a man of suggesting, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom people hide their faces, spurned, and we help him in no esteem.”  (Isaiah 52)The letter to the Hebrews says: “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered…” (Hebrew 5:7-9) The Gospel of the Passion (John 18:1-19:42) is filled with the reality of Jesus being judged, condemned, attempted to be released, executed and then buried. We are reminded of the prayer of Jesus “Father into your hands I commend my spirit….”  And the words of the fellow criminals, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

2016 is a year when executions can be ended in the state of California with the JUST THAT WORKS 2016 initiative. Please sign today and or get others to do before the deadline next month.  Then we need to encourage persons to vote in the county that we pride those who give their lives in service while only 20% of the population votes and 80% including people of faith, first responders and veterans choice not to vote. We gather to be in stillness and fasting today, to honor the execution and death of Jesus.  We hold that stillness as hold the pain of the world of hatred, racism, abortion, bigotry, war, torture, domestic and international violence. Jesus reminds us today: “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.” (John 18)

We gather knowing this remembrance still holds the promise of Resurrection.  We will stand with the victims of violence and also those on death rows and their families. We will stand with the refugees and the immigrants who are caught in the midst of personal, economic and structural situations. We stand with those left out or marginalized due to their handicap, their HIV status, their sexual orientation, the legal or sacramental marital status. We will stand with those in faithful marriages and long term religious vows and those who trying to make blended families to a safe place and new communities committed to serving the vulnerable.

We trust we will arise. We breathe as we await resurrection. We advocate for justice for all. We stand in the reality of Resurrection even on this “Good Friday” as we pause in stillness, prayer and action. We will arise with Jesus.

Fr. Chris Ponnet is Pastor at St. Camillus, a board member of Death Penalty Focus and Catholics Against the Death Penalty, and long-time member of Pax Christi Los Angeles and Pax Christi Southern California.

REFLECTION: Christian genocide happening now

Tony Maglianoby Tony Magliano

For many of us who strive to seriously practice faith in Jesus Christ, and to extend that practice out into the marketplace, the political square and society at large, persecution rarely means more than being ridiculed, verbally harassed, and to a certain degree socially and politically marginalized.

But for so many other Christians throughout the world who courageously refuse to deny Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior – with all that that means – persecution means torture, rape, enslavement and death.

stop-genocideIn his well-researched book, “The Global War on Christians,” Catholic journalist John Allen, cites studies that indicate the number of Christians killed for the faith every year ranges from 7,300 to 100,000 worldwide.

Even the lower figure of 7,300 people murdered every year because of their faith in Christ is shocking, and sadly alarming.

While other non-Christian religious groups also suffer persecution, Allen notes that according to the German-based International Society for Human Rights, an estimated 80 percent of all religious acts of discrimination around the globe are aimed at Christians.

Allen cites the Me’eter concentration camp in the Eritrean desert as a horrific example of the numerous inhumane situations many Christians are trapped in around the world.

At Me’eter members of Christian churches not authorized by the state, are packed like sardines into metal shipping containers. The metal containers are bone-chilling cold at night, and like ovens in the desert daytime heat.

Because prisoners are given very little water, they are sometimes forced to drink their own sweat and urine to survive.

Why is there virtually no news about this anti-Christian atrocity and the many others like it?

Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel said, “We must take sides. … Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

It is incumbent on those of us who are safe and sound to tirelessly pray, advocate for, and work on behalf of hurting and vulnerable Christians.

While followers of Jesus have a strict obligation to help all people in need to the best of our ability people – regardless of their race, ethnicity, nationality or religion – we have a special responsibility to reach out to our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ.

For as St. Paul teaches, “So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all, but especially to those who belong to the family of the faith” (Gal 6:10).

Allen writes, “Christians today indisputably are the most persecuted religious body on the planet, and too often their new martyrs suffer in silence.”

During his three-nation South American pastoral visit last year, Pope Francis lamented, “Today we are dismayed to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus.

“In this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place, and it must end.”

So, what should we do to help end the genocide?

Pray!

Every day let’s remember in our personal and liturgical prayers those who suffer in any way – especially for their faith in Jesus.

Parishes can sponsor a refugee family. Pope Francis has asked every parish in Europe to do just that. In the spirit of Francis, let’s open our parishes as well to our persecuted brothers and sisters. It’s not as difficult as it may sound.

And many of us can increase our individual contributions to help. An excellent international Catholic organization dedicated to helping persecuted Christians worldwide is Aid to the Church in Need. Please go to this link to make a donation http://bit.ly/25dsdoy.

Bill O’Keefe, vice president for government relations and advocacy for Catholic Relief Services shared with me that it is also essential for every believer to email and call (Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121) their congressional delegation urging them to provide significantly increased humanitarian funding and support for the immediate and long-term needs of refugees in the Middle East, full support for a negotiated peace in Syria, and a comprehensive plan to rebuild Syria once the fighting ends.

The U.S. Catholics bishops have urged the U.S. government to grant asylum to 200,000 refugees annually – with 100,000 coming from Syria.

But according to U.S. State Department figures, since March of 2011 — when the Syrian conflict started – approximately 1,550 Syrians have been admitted through the U.S. refugee resettlement program. The U.S. can certainly do far better than this, especially since it has just recently declared that the Islamic State is committing genocide against Christians and other minorities (see: http://bit.ly/1R2lt2A).

As I write, the solemness of Good Friday is close at hand. And many of the followers of the crucified Jesus are being crucified with him. Let us do everything we can to remove them from their crosses, and lighten the weight of our Lord’s cross who suffers with them.

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 San Clemente, CA to Baltimore. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

REFLECTION: Slavery in the 21st century

Tony Maglianoby Tony Magliano

Slavery ended in the 19th century, right? Wrong.

It’s an easy enough mistake to make. After all, the end of America’s civil war and the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – both in 1865 – brought an end to slavery in the U.S. And the British Slavery Abolition Act in 1834 ended slavery in the West Indies, Mauritius, and South Africa.

But many countries didn’t outlaw slavery until the 20th century. In fact, it wasn’t until 1981 that Mauritania finally abolished slavery – becoming the last country on earth to end this dehumanizing practice.

But tragically, slavery did not completely end in 1981. It continues to this very day under a new name: Human Trafficking.

end-human-traffickingAccording to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, human trafficking is defined as “the recruitment, transport, transfer, harboring or receipt of a person by such means as threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud or deception for the purpose of exploitation.”

Throughout the world, and in many of our own communities, there are victims of human trafficking, trapped in domestic servitude, agriculture work, fishing, manufacturing, hotel services, construction, hair and nail salons and prostitution.

And of all the sad forms of human trafficking, the worst of the worst are those that enslave children.

According to the International Labour Organization, the worst forms of child labor/trafficking that must be eliminated without delay include: the sale of children, debt bondage and serfdom, forced labor, forced recruitment for armed conflict, child pornography, child prostitution, and the drug trade.

According to the anti-slavery/anti-trafficking organization Made in a Free World, 1.4 million children have been forced to work in the cotton fields of Uzbekistan. This cotton may be in some of the clothes you and I wear. Please go to https://madeinafreeworld.com/ and join me in taking a survey estimating how many slave laborers made the things we own; and what we can begin to do to be part of the solution.

An Associated Press investigation that brought to light the horrific conditions of poor fishermen – victims of human trafficking – from several Southeast Asian nations, lead to the rescue of over 2,000 men who in many cases were conned, kidnapped, sold and forced to poach fish in far off waters.

Many of the nearly 400 fishermen surveyed by AP “described being whipped with stingray tails, deprived of food and water and forced to work for years without pay”

The good news is that over 2,000 were rescued. The bad news is that countless other fishermen are still enslaved. To read the full article go to this link http://bit.ly/21Xr7OK.

To help end slave labor in the fishing industry, the Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking has developed two Lenten postcards addressed to StarKist and Costco, asking these companies to do all in their power to guarantee that their supply chains are free from all forms of forced and abusive labor practices.

To download the two postcards for yourself and to obtain printed versions of the postcards for your congregation go to http://bit.ly/1EfqP7d. The postcards will still have a positive effect even if sent after Lent.

The modern slavery of human trafficking is not only occurring in far off corners of the world, it is happening in our cities, towns and often in our own neighborhoods.

In her well-researched comprehensive book, “How You Can Fight Human Trafficking,” Susan Patterson expertly helps the reader to understand the full scope of trafficking – from how to spot it, to the pornography connection, to fair trade, to what anyone can do to help end modern-day slavery. I strongly recommend getting this book.

Another excellent resource is the Polaris Project (http://polarisproject.org).

To report suspected human trafficking activities call the Homeland Security investigative tip line (1-866-347-2423). Or call your local police department.

To help someone in the U.S. who may be the victim of modern-day slavery call, or urge them to call, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (1-888-373-7888). This hotline has multi-language capabilities.

For help outside the U.S. go to the Global Modern Slavery Directory website (http://www.globalmodernslavery.org/).

The dedication page of Patterson’s book has a photo of a product barcode imbedded on the back shoulder of a trafficked young woman – tragically indicating that she is for sale.

We have a lot of tools here to help us end the scourge of modern-day slavery. Let’s get involved. Let’s refuse to be indifferent to human trafficking.

For as Pope Francis said, “It is not possible to remain indifferent before the knowledge that human beings are bought and sold like goods.”

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 San Clemente, CA to Baltimore. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

SYRIA: Negotiations should end the conflict and bring political transition in Syria

cropped-hopesyria_header24

In March 2016 we mark the 5th anniversary of the popular uprising in Syria. The first cessation of hostilities after five years of war in Syria began on 27 February 2016. Although there have been dozens of violations of the ceasefire daily, many communities have for the first time in years witnessed a period of calm and respite from bombardments. This fragile ceasefire follows UN Security Council Resolution 2268.

Despite renewed diplomatic efforts, there is little hope for an early end to the fighting in Syria. This ongoing war presents one of the greatest political and moral challenges of our time. Now an international conflict, it has the potential for additional destabilisation at the regional and international level.

The World Council of Churches and Pax Christi International urgently appeal to all involved parties to demonstrate good will and to take part in negotiations in Geneva. A fundamental ingredient for peace, political will, has been lacking in Syria. We call upon those governments with influence in this conflict to address the root causes of so much death and destruction and that are driving so many people from their homes.

Hundreds of thousands of victims have been claimed by the violence in Syria, which has left many millions more without a home or means of sustenance. We urge the international community to seek an end to the violence and, at the same time, to engage in dialogue toward a political transition that enables the country to return swiftly to peace. The intra-Syrian talks which begin on 15 March in Geneva must create the conditions for such a political transition. The Syrian people must be at the centre of the resolution of the conflict.  Other states (in particular the members of the International Syria Support Group) and non-state actors must support a Syrian-led process…

Read the entire statement by clicking here.