August 2016 NewsNotes
Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace
This edition of NewsNotes comes to you from our vacation rental on Long Beach Island, NJ. Our family is enjoying life on a sand-bar/island in the Atlantic for two weeks. Our first day included a traditional breakfast at Kelly's Diner at lighthouse followed by a climb of the 216 steps to the top of the lighthouse. The beautiful views (see picture) make it evident how fragile the island really is. This morning's downpour and flash flooding illuminate the point.
When I look out any of the windows of this house, I see a mangled mess of electric wires, cable and phone lines servicing all the homes packed onto our block. As fragile as the island is, we continue to develop it, rebuild damaged homes and make it more attractive to prospective renters and owners. This week our grandkids have been able to watch as dredging ships pump sand from the ocean floor back onto the beach, fighting the natural movements of nature.
I can't help but think of the environmental challenges that face us as a global village. 2015 offered some positive, hopeful signs like the Pope's encyclical, Laudato Si, and the Paris Climate agreement negotiated at the end of the year. Yet in 2016, there are reasons to be concerned. One of Theresa May's first actions as new Prime Minister of the U.K. was to eliminate the Department of Energy and Climate Change and replace it with a new Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The names alone signal a shift in priorities. In the U.S., the Democratic platform promises climate change action but platforms are often little more than window dressing. There are rumors that the Democratic nominee will not oppose passing the TPP trade package during a lame duck session. Once that deal is done the international corporations may have more to say about our environmental agenda than will our elected leaders.
Yes, Long Beach Island is a beautiful, often peaceful place. But knowing how fragile it is and how many risks there are to its survival moves the needs of our planet to the front of my mind.
Peace through Justice Facilitator
- Follow Up to: Welcome Immigrants and Refugees
- Four CSJPs Heading to Calais
- Vatican Conference on Nonviolence
- Fair Trade Chocolate
- National Peace and Justice Conference UK
- Arms Sales to the Middle East
- Palestine, Israel and Nonviolence
Follow Up to: Welcome Immigrants and Refugees
Our congregational statement Welcome Immigrants and Refugees was shared with clerical leaders from the pope to our local ordinaries. (A copy of the letter to Pope Francis is on the website.) Responses expressing gratitude and appreciation were received to date from the following: Archbishop Antonio Mennini, Papal Nuncio to the U.K.; Archbishop Christoph Pierre, Papal Nuncio to the U.S.; Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Papal Nuncio to the United Nations, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster; Bishop Joseph Toal, Bishop of Motherwell (Scotland); Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; and Archbishop Myers of Newark (NJ).
Another Optional Response
Perhaps during the Campaign Nonviolence week, September 18-24, or another time that is convenient, each of us can consider welcoming immigrants or refugees to our tables for a simple meal and conversation. There is nothing like opening our doors and sharing conversation with people on the margins to understand the struggles they face.
Our charism of peace
challenges us to prophetic risk
so that God's reign may be more fully realized.
If you are willing or able to host guests that week, or if you have any questions, please Frank at email@example.com
Four CSJPs Heading to Calais
The days can now be counted on one hand before the first of us leave for Calais, France to serve refugees in the "jungle." We will be counting on the congregation's prayerful support as we move into this new adventure. CSJPs will be staying at the Catholic Worker House in Calais.
Maria Skobtsova Catholic Worker House
170 Rue Anatole France
62100 Calais, France
Here are the final dates of service by CSJPs as planned:
Sr. Sheena George, CSJP August 6 - 26
Frank McCann, CSJP-A August 6 - Sept 3
Donna Clifford, CSJP-A August 30 - Sept 20
Bryan Johns, CSJP-A September 15 -October 15
We will do what we can to communicate what is happening in France with the congregation. Look for postings on Facebook.
Plans call for opening a second house sometime in late August or September. It is also probable that the camp itself may be demolished by French authorities in late September at which time the ministry to refugees will adjust to the new circumstances...
A recent communication from Brother Johannes tell us that the police have been visiting the camp again. They are arresting any within the camp who have set up their own businesses such as restaurants or barber shops as a means of self-support. Equipment in use is also confiscated. Thankfully, the refugees are not fighting back. Those who are now volunteering at the camp are acting as peacemakers helping the refugees accept their situation and doing what they can to make the refugees' stays in the jungle more tolerable.
The next edition of NewsNotes will come from Calais (if it is sent on time.)
Vatican Conference on Nonviolence
As reported earlier, there was an April conference at the Vatican on abandoning the just war theory and encouraging church leadership to adopt and teach nonviolence and just peace. Recently, letters affirming the statement released at the end of the conference were sent from Sr. Sheila to Pope Francis, the Vatican Secretary of State and to Cardinal Turkson, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Copies of the statement issued at the end of the conference and of the letter to Pope Francis will be found on our website.
Pax Christi International reports that hundreds of people have signed onto the statement calling the Catholic Church to reaffirm the centrality of gospel nonviolence. A website was initiated to serve as the central hub for follow up actions and resources promoting the message of nonviolence and just peace.
The website includes background papers and videos from the conference itself and reflection questions, as well as an opportunity to sign onto the main conference statement, "An appeal to the Catholic Church to re-commit to the centrality of Gospel nonviolence". To visit the website and to add your name to this important effort, click here.
Many of us already choose to buy fair trade coffee. We want to eliminate slavery from the production cycle of all products we buy and to be assured those producing the coffee at all levels receive fair wages for their work.
But, how about chocolate?
There is a letter drafted to Trader Joe's which offers far too few options for fair trade chocolate. To view a video on slavery in chocolate production click here
. To read and sign onto the letter to Trader Joe's click here
and help move us one step closer to eliminating human slavery in the 21st century.
National Peace and Justice Conference UK
Here a few items to update you with before the summer holidays begin in earnest:
1. For those of you who were unable to attend the recent National Justice and Peace Conference I am attaching a summary of the main presentations. The theme was: Justice, Power and Responsibility: How do we make Democracy work for the Common Good? The summaries make interesting reading, and the full texts of both Jon Crudass's and Jenny Sinclair's talks can be found at http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=30528 and
2. Our own diocesan AGM and conference will be picking up on this theme to a certain extent so please keep Saturday 15th October free. Although the venue is St Patrick's in Leicester, I am hoping that having former MP John Battle as our keynote speaker will entice lots of you to come along and join us. More information to follow.
3. For those of you in Lincolnshire/South East Leicestershire, don't forget the first of Bishop Patrick's awareness raising training events on Human Trafficking is taking place in Spalding on the evening of 28th September.
Arms Sales to the Middle East
Did You Know?
Sr. Shelia is part of a team from the International Union of Superiors General that is preparing a statement on U.S. arms sales to the Middle East. The request came from Dominican sisters in Iraq.
U.S. and U.K. arms sales to the Middle East have spiked in the last few years. Overall, the volume of international transfers of major conventional weapons grew by 16 per cent between 2005-2009 and 2010-14. Historically there has been a reluctance to "transfer" weapons systems to Gulf States to protect Israel's military superiority. Now, having ISIS as a common enemy and seeing Iran as a common threat, many restrictions on selling arms are removed. This coincides nicely with the needs of arms manufacturers to replace sales lost to the Pentagon's budget cuts. Boeing and Ratheon have gone so far as to open offices in the region.
Fueling the arms sales is the proxy war for influence in the region between Russia (Iran, Syria, Shia Muslims) and the U.S. or the West and Israel in combination with the Gulf Cooperation Council States (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates-all of which are predominantly Sunni Muslim nation).
Another looming threat is what neo-cons suggest (promote?) as an "inevitable" Sunni-Shia civil war in the region.
May we all join in prayer and work to forestall that possibility.
Palestine, Israel and Nonviolence
(This is a repeat of the story from last month's edition. Please copy or retain this story for discussion in a future CSG on the Palestine-Israel Conflict.)
News reports throughout most of the world report violent incidents perpetrated against Israelis by Palestinians. Less frequent are the news reports of Israeli violence against Palestinians. That violence begins with the ever-increasing occupation and confiscation of Palestinian land for the purpose of building Israeli settlements, the restriction of movements of Palestinians, and constant invasions of Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to search for and arrest alleged perpetrators of violence against Israelis. Israel also opposes peaceful nonviolent protests by Palestinians opposed to Israeli occupation.
These peaceful, nonviolent means being employed by Palestinians are rarely even covered as news stories by mainstream press even though some protests occur every Friday. Instead, the image of Palestinians as violent extremists and terrorists is perpetuated.
Here are a few stories of nonviolence being employed by Palestinians trying to achieve a minimum standard of human rights:
A major nonviolent effort being undertaken by and with Palestinians is called the BDS movement: Boycott, Divest and Sanction. A similar program was successfully employed against the apartheid movement in South Africa in the 1980s. Those in solidarity with the Palestinians are asked to boycott products of, and divest from companies that support the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. The four companies most often targeted are: Caterpillar, that provides machines used to tear down Palestinian homes and dig foundations for Israeli settlements; HP, that supplies and maintains the IT systems used by the IDF to monitor Palestinians; Motorola that develops the surveillance and communication systems for Israeli settlements; and G4S that provides security in Israeli prisons, settlements and checkpoints.
G4S, a British security company, has lost contracts worth millions of dollars due to their "reputationally damaging work" in Israel. In March of this year, they announced the sale of their Israeli subsidiary in the next 12-18 months. BDS may continue to protest G4S due to their participation in mass incarceration globally.
A rabbi from Jewish Voices for Peace spoke to those of us at the Ecumenical Advocacy Days in DC in April. Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, he said "First, they ignore you, then they laugh at you, they they fight you, then you win." Clearly those who support Israel without question now are fighting the BDS movement.
Over the last few months, politicians all over have mobilized to attack, slander, misrepresent, undermine, blacklist, and otherwise condemn the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement working to hold Israel to basic standards for international law and human rights. recently, Governor Cuomo of New York, and the NJ legislature have spoken out to condemn the movement and are trying to make it difficult for anyone receiving state funds to boycott or divest from Israeli companies, or companies supporting Israel's occupation.
The two articles below argue pro and con the anti-BDS boycott legislation proposed within the NJ legislature:
Among many mainstream protestant churches in the U.S., the Methodists, Presbyterians and United Church of Christ are taking the lead in supporting the nonviolent BDS movement. For example, in January, the Methodists blackisted those Israeli banks that lend mortgage money to Israeli settlers buying homes in Palestinian territories. It was important to target the divestment against those participating in the building of settlements and not just against Israel generally. This is a targeted campaign to achieve human rights for the Palestinians and is not driven by anti-Semitism, something the protesting churches want to make clear.