It is hard to know how to begin this NewsNotes with so much going on around the world. I will focus simply on our charism. Sunday, October 2, was the International Day of Nonviolence, designated as such because it is the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. Today, October 4, is the Feast of St. Francis who lived in nonviolently with all of humanity, and with the created world.
Has the need for nonviolence been greater?
Leaders of the church realized that and for April called a Conference on Nonviolence and Just Peace calling on the Church to take up its rightful role in preaching teaching the Gospel of nonviolence throughout the church and witness it to the world. The 'just war' theory has been a failure and is not rooted in the gospel of Jesus.
We as a congregation were challenged in the Chapter of 2008 by Rev. John Dear, S.J. to be mystics, teachers and prophets of nonviolence..."because that is who our constitutions say we are." The state of our world and of the church so needs us to live up to our charism laid out in our constitutions, in the Chapter Acts of 2008, and in the Chapter Call of 2014. That is by definition what we are asked to witness to the world.
Whether we are focused on eliminating nuclear weapons from the world's arsenals, ending wars that cause the refugees crisis, seeing to the care of those forced to leave their homelands, dealing with the racism and bigotry that are on the rise worldwide, countering the isolationist and xenophobic messages of hate in the U.S. election cycle, or demand protection of Earth from her continued rape by fossil fuel companies, we are called to work for peace through justice; and that requires using tools of nonviolence that do not add to the injustice within our world.
If you need help in learning ways to build your nonviolent skillsets, please contact me. There are too many resources available to list here. I will do my best to help you find what you need and develop those skills to make our congregation an ever more prophetic witness of peace and nonviolence to our families, church and society.
On Monday, September 23, Francois Holland, President of France, urged by pressure from his political right, announced he would close the refugee camp at Calais before winter. This dismantling of the camp will begin as early as October 15.
Bryan Johns, CSJP-A writes from Calais,
The people in the camp are in shock after Hollande's speech. No tension-just worry. No one has any idea what will happen, but we sense we are in the middle of history in the making. Interesting but eerie...
The announced plans are to move residents to smaller "reception centers" for 50 to 100 persons. These reception centers which are to be built around the country, are already being protested as soon as residents realize work is begun on them.
No one expects that most of those from the Jungle will want to give up their dreams of going to England. However, England is paying France over £20 million to keep the Calais refugees out of England. In addition, work has begun on a wall along the highway adjoining the Jungle to keep refugees from trying to board trucks bound for the UK. A 14 year old was killed recently when he jumped on top of a truck, was thrown from the truck by the driver's maneuvers and landed in front of a moving car which hit and killed the young man. The car and truck kept going.
London officials have not processed paperwork for over 350 unaccompanied youth in Calais who are eligible to go to the UK under existing law. It is feared, that as happened in February and March when the southern part of the camp was dismantled, unaccompanied youth will go missing. A recent census revealed that fully 10% of the Calais refugees are unaccompanied minors.
The National Peace and Justice Network (UK) Sign-up
Are you interested in joining and supporting the National Peace and Justice Network in the UK? Membership is open to all who share their aims and values. Membership is £12 a year, but welcome any extra you can give.
News about the Vatican Conference on Nonviolence and Just Peace held in April has been reported here earlier. There are some updates. There is now a website where organizations and individuals can sign up to affirm the Appeal, the document produced at the end of the conference. Our Congregation has signed on. We encourage you to consider signing on as an individual and asking groups you belong to to do the same. The Appeal calls on the church to abandon the just war theory and to teach nonviolence in its schools, parishes and in its liturgies.
Sister Sheila wrote to Pope Francis, and Cardinals Turkson and Parolin on behalf of the congregation affirming the Appeal. A copy of the letter sent to Pope Francis can be seen on our website. We received an affirmative reply letter from Cardinal Parolin.
It appears that the Pope is taking seriously the message of the Conference. His Peace Day message for Jan 1, 2017 will be on "nonviolence as a political path to peace." No Pope has never before focused a message on the use of nonviolence.
Cluster Bomb Manufacturer Ceases Production
(from Peace Action)
Textron, the last remaining U.S. company producing cluster bombs, has announced that it will end production of these terrible weapons.
Cluster bombs are deadly indiscriminate weapons that disperse bomblets over large areas, making their use over civilian areas particularly atrocious. They also leave unexploded bomblets strewn across those areas - functionally landmines - that civilians can stumble upon and accidentally detonate.
Some of these bomblets even look like toys
, leading children to pick them up and play with them. For these reasons, cluster bombs have been banned internationally by 119 states, but not the U.S. or Saudi Arabia. Now that the last U.S. manufacturer of these weapons is ending production, the time is ripe for the U.S. to join the convention banning their use.
The U.S. has not been using cluster bombs, but had been selling them to Saudi Arabia. The Guardian reported in May that a British cluster bomb was found in Yemen having been dropped by a Tornado jet sold by the U.K. to Saudi Arabia.
The clash between the pipeline constrictors and the water protectors have fallen from the news despite the gathering at the pipeline site remaining the largest gathering of Native Americans in over a century.
The immediate objection was to the destruction of burial sites sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux Nation without their even being consulted. The courts sided with the pipeline company but the President Obama intervened and brought the work to a stop, at least temporarily, in and around the sacred burial sites.
Of larger concern to the native tribes is the damages that could be done to water supplies from any leaking or damage to the pipeline which is planned to go under the Missouri River and over critical aquifers. Additionally, the tribes object to the additional damage that will be done to Earth by fracking, pumping, refining and burning the fossil fuel.
The native tribes which have included members of tribes in relationship with our sisters in the West, have been employing nonviolent practice in standing up for their rights and in stopping the pipeline construction. They should be applauded and we ought to follow their work and learn what we can from their so far successful use of nonviolent resistance.
Do Black Lives Matter?
If we say "All lives Matter" we are factually correct. However, we miss the point that black lives appear not to matter in the same ways as the lives of others because of how they have been and are still perceived in American culture.
Again the U.S. News is filled with stories of young black men shot to death by police officers. The news reaps huge benefits from these stories by way of ratings, yet the systemic injustices are rarely even mentioned much less understood. Moreover, the news reporting typically sets the story up as an individual confrontation. By casting it as blacks vs. police in a zero sum game, the news coverage continues to distract from the underlying problem and continues to promote division within American society.
Many of these underlying racial issues are not limited to the U.S. and can be applied to blacks or migrants in other nations. However, the American gun culture makes these biases far more deadly, and because of the ratings, far more evident in the news cycle.
UN Summit on Migrants and Refugees
On September 19, the the UN held a high level summit on the migration of peoples. Heads of state and lead diplomats from nations across the globe gathered to give their input and to come together on a plan to mitigate the current refugee crisis.
A "New York Declaration for September 19, 2016 High-Level Meeting to Address Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants" was released for that summit as a consensus plan for nations to affirm and which they would be
encouraged to follow to resolve the current crisis. If you are interested, you can download and read the New York Declaration here.
We heard voices that bridged wide gaps. Most nations wanted to find a way to relived the current crisis. Lebanon cried out for help. "More Syrian babies are being born in Lebanon that Lebanese babies. Lebanese are denied hospital beds because the Syrian refugees have greater needs." He appealed for the world to do more to Lebanon.
On the other hand, Hungary's diplomat express outrage that anyone would dare cross their borders and promised harsh treatment for those who did. Furthermore, he decried the attempts to export democracy since in Hungary's view, the experiments of the Arab Spring have obviously failed.
Sweden Welcomes Refugees
Rather than end on a negative note, you are encouraged to read this article that describes how Swedes have rallied to welcome and assist refugees into their country.
As I began to wonder why that nation would be so welcoming, it occurred that it is a democratic-socialist nation that provides the basic necessities for its citizens, including health care and education. Since there are so few Swedes living in poverty, there is less demand to "take care of our own."
What do you think makes the difference?
"So yes, we are forever beginning, and the best we can do is be very grateful that each new beginning is one more chance to grow. "
Margaret Byrne, CSJP
Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace
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