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Office of Peace, Justice and the Integrity of Creation, Advisory Board
Notes from The OPJCC Director

June 22, 2017

According to the United Nations, every minute 24 people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution or terror. There are several types of forcibly displaced persons:

Refugees flee their home and country for fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Many refugees are in exile to escape the effects of natural or human-made disasters.

Asylum Seekers flee their homes as refugees do, but their claim to refugee status is not yet definitively evaluated in the country to which they fled.

Internally Displaced Persons have not crossed an international border but have moved to a different region than the one they call home within their own country.

Stateless Persons do not have a recognized nationality and do not belong to any country. Statelessness situations are usually caused by discrimination against certain groups. Their lack of identification — a citizenship certificate — can exclude them from access to important government services, including health care, education or employment.

Returnees are former refugees who return to their own countries or regions of origin after time in exile. Returnees need continuous support and reintegration assistance to ensure that they can rebuild their lives at home.

World Refugee Day is held every year on June 20. Let us commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of our refugee sisters and brothers. Let us show our support in our cities, states and nation for families forced to flee.

Debbie Weber, OPJCC director


June 8, 2017

June 12, 2017 is World Day Against Child Labor. The intention of the International Labor Organization (ILO) is to focus attention on the global extent of child labor and the action and efforts needed to eliminate it. The ILO defines child labor as work that deprives children and adolescents of their childhood, their education or training, their potential, their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.

Around the world, large numbers of children are engaged in paid or unpaid work. These children can be particularly vulnerable to exploitation and human trafficking. Their work is often hidden from the public eye, they may be isolated, or they may be working far away from their family home.

Poverty, along with lack of an education, is a social condition that makes it easier for human traffickers to operate. Children are often employed and exploited because, compared to adults, they are more vulnerable, cheaper to hire and are less likely to demand higher wages or better working conditions. Some employers falsely argue that children are particularly suited to certain types of work because of their small size and “nimble fingers.”

Let us unite and renew our efforts to remove the causes of this modern slavery that deprives millions of children of certain fundamental rights and exposes them to serious dangers. Today there are many child slaves in the world. Pope Francis, June 2016

Sources:
International Labor Organization
United Nations
Vatican City
World Fair Trade Organization

Debbie Weber, OPJCC director


May 25, 2017

Every June, human rights and faith organizations join together to mark Torture Awareness Month, for on June 26, 1987, the nations of the world took a major step against the immoral and abhorrent practice of torture.

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) invites you to join people of faith throughout
the world in commemorating Torture Awareness Month. NRCAT believes “torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions, in their highest ideals, hold dear. It degrades everyone involved including policy-makers, perpetrators and victims. It contradicts our nation’s most cherished ideals. Any policies that permit torture and inhumane treatment are shocking and morally intolerable.”

NRCAT has provided an online petition calling for government officials across the country to take steps to end the use of prolonged solitary confinement: nrcat.org/torture-in-us-prisons/statement.

A Prayer for Those Affected by Torture

God who is the source of all life, we pray for our sisters and brothers.
For those affected by torture, whether physical or mental.
For those who suffer brutal violence.
For those who are mocked and humiliated and disempowered.
For those who are shown no mercy.
For those who are forced to exist in a state of perpetual terror.
For those whose precious humanity is taken away.
For those who are not given the chance to live the gift of life,
but instead fear for that life
every moment.
Guide the nations and peoples of the world to turn from policies and practices
that violate one another. Move us to act in that cause. We pray in Jesus’ name.
Amen.

Katie J. Anderson, Racial Ethnic Young Women Together

Debbie Weber, OPJCC director


May 11, 2017

May 21 is World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialog and Development. The day provides an opportunity to help individuals and communities understand the value of cultural diversity and learn how to live together in harmony. It was adopted in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Three-quarters of the world’s major conflicts have a cultural dimension. Bridging the gap between cultures is urgent and necessary for peace, stability and development.
Below are a few things we can do to celebrate World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development … or any day:

  • Speak up when you hear inappropriate cultural or ethnic jokes or comments. Don’t be a “silent supporter.” Let people know that biased speech is always unacceptable.
  • Attend diversity-focused events, workshops or conferences.
  • Explore the linguistic and cultural composition of the U.S. by looking at the Modern Language Association’s Language Map: arcmap.mla.org/mla/default.aspx.
  • Be culturally sensitive toward our sisters and brothers in the U.S. who have been recently forced to flee their homelands. They may be in culture shock and grieving over the “loss” of their cultures and families. Ask, “How would I feel if I were in their shoes?”

Let us do our part to promote culture in its diversity and in all of its forms, based on the principle that “tolerance and respect for cultural diversity and universal promotion and protection of human rights, including the right to development, are mutually supportive.” United Nations General Assembly

Sources:
Catholic News Service
United Nations

Debbie Weber, OPJCC director


April 27, 2017

Global trade is not inherently bad. However, it often focuses on efficiency at all costs, lower prices, and little consideration for social, economic and environmental impacts. Large-scale consolidation of power in supply chains has resulted in fewer options for consumers, farmers and workers, and unprecedented wealth controlled by few.

May 13, 2017 is World Fair Trade Day. Fair trade focuses on inclusion, empowerment, human rights, and transparency. It is about mutually beneficial relationships rooted in trust and respect spanning geographic and cultural boundaries.

But even the fair trade movement has its problems. Many small-scale producers are hurt by strict certification requirements and high costs that result in uneven economic advantages. And, larger corporations often succumb to the corporate push for productivity and profit and therefore violate the certified standards. Fair Trade International and Fair Trade USA conduct audits of their certified producers. When violations are found, certification is suspended until corrections are addressed.
Despite its issues, as a global movement, fair trade brings attention to people around the world who work under exploitative conditions and highlights environmental damages and the true costs of goods in global supply chains. It is a tangible contribution to the work of caring for all creation.
Catholic Relief Services is dedicated to ethical trade. Join their staff in prayer and consider going to the website to learn what they are doing and how you can live your faith by consuming with your conscience: www.ethicaltrade.crs.org.

Sources:
Fair Trade Federation
Fair Trade International
Fair Trade USA
World Fair Trade Organization
Stanford Social Innovation Review

Debbie Weber, OPJCC director


April 13, 2017

Over the past several years, Sisters of Charity (SC) and Associates have nurtured wonderful relationships with several Cincinnati neighbors who are from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Many have been guest presenters at the Motherhouse, informing us about what is currently happening in the DRC.

One friend in particular is Claver Pashi, Ph.D. He, like our other Congolese friends, works for various justice issues here in the United States as well as in the DRC.

Dr. Pashi travels each year to the DRC to teach three classes at the National Pedagogy University to help pay back what he received from his university education there.

Most of his students face several barriers to obtaining their degrees. One such barrier is money to buy books. To assist the students, Dr. Pashi creates a syllabus that contains all the information taught in his courses. The “book” fee per class for the syllabus is $15. This is much more affordable than buying textbooks, but is still impossible for some students to purchase.

For several years the SC family has supported Dr. Pashi’s efforts to provide a syllabus to his students who cannot afford it. He tells us that there is always a joyous outburst of applause when he announces the gift of free “books.” It is, for many, the first time they have experienced such generosity.

Dr. Pashi extends his gratitude and appreciation to the SC family for ongoing prayers and monetary support that have assisted the students in the DRC to obtain books for their classes.

Debbie Weber, OPJCC director


March 30, 2017

In 1987 U.S. Congress designated the month of March as “Women’s History Month.” To close this month, OPJCC invites you to remember the following sample of prophetic women. If you are unfamiliar with a particular woman, we urge you to research more about her.

  • St. Hildegard of Bingen, OSB - writer, composer, philosopher, mystic, visionary
  • Chipeta - Ute Indian leader, diplomat, peacemaker
  • Marie Curie – scientist, Nobel Prize recipient
  • Marian Wright Edelman - children’s rights activist
  • Dolores Huerta - labor leader and civil rights activist
  • Gwen Ifill – journalist, newscaster, author, mentor
  • Mary Harris “Mother” Jones - labor and community organizer
  • S. Karen Klimczak, SSJ - human dignity and peace activist, martyr
  • Aung San Suu Kyi - political leader, diplomat, author and Nobel Peace Prize recipient
  • Tegla Loroupe – athlete and promoter of peace, education and women’s rights
  • Wangari Maathai - environmental and political activist
  • Graciela Olivarez - civil and human rights activist
  • Dame Miriam Louisa Rothschild - nature conservationist, civic, social and political activist
  • S. Blandina Segale, SC, Servant of God - humanitarian, peacemaker
  • Marian Alexander Spencer - community servant, civil rights activist
  • Edith Stein, also known as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, OCD - philosopher, author, martyr
  • Annalena Tonelli - social activist, Catholic volunteer of 33 years, martyr
  • Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga - lead researcher of the investigation into the Japanese American internment camps
  • Malala Yousafzai – education and women’s rights advocate

Debbie Weber, OPJCC director


March 16, 2017

According to the United Nations (UN) racial and ethnic profiling is defined as “a reliance by law enforcement, security and border control personnel on race, color, descent or national or ethnic origin as a basis for subjecting persons to detailed searches, identity checks and investigations, or for determining whether an individual is engaged in criminal activity.” Refugees and migrants are particular targets of racial profiling and incitement to hatred.

In September 2016, UN Member States strongly condemned acts and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance against refugees and migrants, and committed to a range of steps to counter such attitudes and behaviors, particularly regarding hate crimes, hate speech and racial violence.

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is Wednesday, March 21. Stand up for someone’s rights – for racial discrimination, but also for all forms of discrimination. Take the UN’s Pledge to:

  • • Respect and uphold someone’s rights regardless of whom they are and/or if you disagree with them.
    • Stand up when anyone’s rights are denied.
    • Raise your voice, take action and use your rights to stand up for another’s rights.

In an October 2013 address, Pope Francis said, “I wish to emphasize that the problem of intolerance must be confronted in all its forms: wherever any minority is persecuted and marginalized because of its religious convictions or ethnic identity, the wellbeing of society as a whole is endangered and each one of us must feel affected. Let us join forces to promote a culture of encounter, respect, understanding and mutual forgiveness.” Simon Wiesenthal Center, Rome

Sources:
standup4humanrights.org
United Nations
Vatican

Debbie Weber, OPJCC director


March 2, 2017

I will close Black History Month and begin Women’s History Month honoring one of only three orders of predominantly black nuns in the U.S.

The Franciscan Handmaids of the Most Pure Heart of Mary were founded in Georgia in 1916 after a state law was proposed to bar whites from teaching black children. It was under these circumstances that S. Mary Theodore Williams, an African-American nun, cofounded the Handmaids.

The Handmaids were intended to be an order of teachers in parochial and public schools to teach black children should the bill become law. The proposal never passed, so black and white nuns taught side by side in Georgia’s schools.

However, the Handmaids lived according to the South’s social order where blacks and whites, even those in communities of shared faith, lived apart. The nuns worshiped separately, and black nuns often endured ridicule from white Catholics who did not think them worthy of wearing habits.

In 1924, the Handmaids moved to New York City to open a day nursery for working families in Harlem. The St. Benedict Day Nursery continues to be the order’s primary charity.

Today, the Handmaids also operate a food pantry on Staten Island. They promote Catholic social justice teaching, advocate for victims of social in-justice, and work toward education for all - especially for the most vulnerable.

The Franciscan Handmaids of the Most Pure Heart of Mary was founded as a Black congregation but today they are a multicultural congregation that welcomes women from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

Happy 101 years of service, Sisters!

Sources:
Handmaids of the Most Pure Heart of Mary
U.S. Catholic

Debbie Weber, OPJCC director


February 16, 2017

February is Black History Month. We remember and celebrate the following three people:

Servant of God Mary Lange (1784-1882) was an immigrant and educator who cofounded the Oblate Sisters of Providence, a religious congregation established in Baltimore, Maryland, to allow African-American women to enter religious life in the Catholic Church; the first in the U.S. The order sought to evangelize the black community through Catholic education. In addition to schools, the Sisters later conducted night classes for women, vocational and career training, and established homes for widows and orphans.

Venerable Henriette Delille (1813-1862) was a Creole nun whose great-great-grandmother was brought from Africa as a slave. S. Henriette founded the Roman Catholic order of the Sisters of the Holy Family in New Orleans, which was composed of free women of color. The order provided nursing care and a home for orphans. They also established schools and opened the first Catholic home for the elderly in the U.S.

Activist, lecturer and author Daniel Rudd (1854-1933) was born a slave on a Kentucky plantation owned by a Catholic man. Rudd embraced his master’s religion and in 1886 established a weekly newspaper in Cincinnati to advocate Catholicism as the path to social equality for African-Americans. The newspaper was the American Catholic Tribune. Rudd described the newspaper as “the only Catholic journal owned and published by colored men.” It was one of the most successful black newspapers in the country.

Sources:
A Cry for Justice: Daniel Rudd and His Life in Black
Oblate Sisters of Providence
Sisters of the Holy Family

Debbie Weber, OPJCC director


February 2, 2017

Wednesday, Feb. 8 is International Day of Prayer for Victims and Survivors of Human Trafficking. It is also the Feast Day of St. Josephine Bakhita who was kidnapped and forced into several years of slavery. Once Josephine was freed, she dedicated her life to sharing her testament of deliverance from slavery and comforting those who were suffering and living in poverty.

Catholics all over the world are encouraged to pray for the emotional, physical, and spiritual healing of those that have been trafficked, and make a personal commitment to work against human trafficking.
We offer this prayer from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, California: God of hope and peace, touch our hearts and energize our ongoing efforts in abolishing this crime against humanity so that every victim is freed and every survivor’s life rekindled. You blessed St. Josephine Bakhita of Sudan with mercy and resilience. May her prayers comfort and strengthen the women, men and children who are in search of freedom.

We ask for transformation of heart for those who inflict pain, anguish and grief on our sisters and brothers. Give them compassion, generosity and the courage to stand in solidarity with others so that together we heal the hearts and lives of all your people. Amen.

Sources:
Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, California
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Debbie Weber, OPJCC director


January 19, 2017

World Interfaith Harmony Week, Feb. 1-7, is a United Nations week of observance founded on the recognition that the moral imperatives of all religions, convictions and beliefs call for peace, tolerance and mutual understanding. The need for dialogue among different faiths and religions is needed to enhance mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among people.

Based on two common fundamental religious Commandments, Love of God and Love of the Neighbor, ‘Love of the Good’ was added to the spirit of this week to include all people of goodwill. This addition invites everyone and excludes no one.

It is hoped that this annual week of observance provides a focal point from which all people of goodwill can recognize that the common values they hold far outweigh the differences they have, and thus provide peace and harmony to their communities.

If you are interested in learning about an inter-religious nonprofit, visit the United Religions Initiative: uri.orgThis organization promotes interfaith cooperation to end religiously motivated violence and to create cultures of peace, justice and healing for Earth and all living beings.

Sources:
United Nations
United Religions Initiative

Debbie Weber, OPJCC director


January 5, 2017

Jan. 8–14, 2017, is National Migration Week. The Catholic Church in the United States encourages us to reflect on the circumstances confronting migrants, including immigrants, refugees, children, and victims and survivors of human trafficking. The theme for National Migration Week 2017, Creating a Culture of Encounter, draws attention to Pope Francis’ call to look beyond our own needs and wants to those of others around us.

Migration Week in the U.S. precedes the World Day for Migrants and Refugees on Jan. 15, 2017. Pope Francis has chosen the theme: Child migrants, the vulnerable and the voiceless. He is focusing our attention on migrant children because they “are the first among those to pay the heavy toll of migration, almost always caused by violence, poverty, environmental conditions, as well as the negative aspects of globalization. The unrestrained competition for quick and easy profit brings with it the cultivation of perverse scourges such as child trafficking …”

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Notice that the word “trafficking” is used in the above two paragraphs. According to End Slavery Now, “The most vulnerable people of human trafficking in our world today are refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons.” They are often forced out of their homes with no identification documents and often travel to countries where they do not know the language. Human traffickers are known to wait for desperate and vulnerable migrants at the destination country and then exploit them upon arrival.

In his message for the 2017 World Day for Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis states that it is “absolutely necessary” for all of us to understand, and work to end, the root causes of forced migration and human trafficking.

Debbie Weber, OPJCC director