Indigenous activists from Idle No More San Francisco (SF) have been working with 350.org to stand up to Big Oil for years. These brave warriors live near 5 oil refineries in what is known as the “refinery corridor.” This corridor includes California’s largest refinery, owned by Chevron. A 2012 explosion put this refinery on the map, sending 15,000 people to the hospital with respiratory problems.
In response, Idle No More SF organized 16 “healing walks” over the last four years. These healing walks have brought to life a beautiful vision of different communities coming together to pray for clean air, clean water, and clean soil for all who live alongside these refineries. Many of the communities near the refineries are people of of color, poor people, and Indigenous Peoples. These communities experience high rates of respiratory problems, cancer and other health conditions due to the extreme air pollution the refineries create.
350.org has proudly partnered with Idle No More SF in organizing and supporting past healing walks. In the months ahead Idle No More SF will be joining with 350.org and other partner organizations to begin work to stop new tar sands fossil fuel infrastructure projects. Together, we are also organizing to make sure that CA Governor Brown’s 2018 Climate Summit lives up to its promises to communities in the refinery corridor.
Thank you for supporting Idle No More SF and 350.org’s ongoing work to shut down these refineries and keep fossil fuels in the ground in the name of public health and a safe climate for all.–350.org
“…although you live in the colony of time, your ultimate allegiance is to the empire of eternity. … Therefore, your ultimate allegiance is not to the government, not to the state, not to the nation, not to any man-made institution. The Christian owes his ultimate allegiance to God, and if any earthly institution conflicts with God’s will, it is your Christian duty to take a stand against it. You must never allow the transitory, evanescent demands of man-made institutions to take precedence over the eternal demands of the Almighty God.”—Martin Luther King, “A Letter to Christians” (3 June 1958)
“The reasons for moving made sense – closeness to family and new work, but my heart had not consented.”
(5 minute video)
I’m so grateful for the moments I’ve spent with Maria Teresa Gaston and her son, Martin (former Sojourners intern). And so proud that Maria Teresa participated in the Catholic Women Preach video series.–Rose
FIRST READING: 1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12
PSALM: Ps 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130
SECOND READING: Rom 8:28-30
GOSPEL: Mt 13:44-52
Maria Teresa is an organizational psychologist and ICA certified ToP facilitator specializing in facilitation of collaborative discernment and decision-making. She received a BA in theology from Marquette University, an MA in Hispanic/Latinx theology and ministry through Barry University, and an MA/PhD in industrial/organizational psychology from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Maria Teresa served for many years in social ministry in Immokalee, Florida and at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. She and her spouse, John Witchger, have three sons Felipe, Martin, and Luke and two grandchildren, Micaela and Theo. Maria Teresa lives in Durham, North Carolina where she directs Foundations of Christian Leadership, a formation program for Christian social innovators through Leadership Education at Duke Divinity School.
At a panel on People Power and Peacebuilding, I asked the panelists: “Pope Francis has encouraged a process to look at how the Catholic Church can scale up its nonviolent action. The Catholic Church is in a unique position as a supranational entity as well as a highly locally identified entity. And, in it’s most positive formation, has a long experience of peacebuilding, but what he’s encouraging now is how to bring nonviolent action alongside that. What kind of impact do you think a Vatican council or Vatican department on Nonviolent action and peacebuilding could have in various conflicts around the world?”
Anthony Wanis-St. John (associate professor at the School of International Service at American University) responded first, followed by Véronique Dudouet (Program Director, Conflict Transformation Research, Berghof Foundation; Member of ICNC Academic Council), and then Maria Stephan (Director, Program on Nonviolent Action, U.S. Institute of Peace).
Description: In recent years, nonviolent movements have filled streets and dramatized crises to force political and social change from Tunisia and Egypt to Nepal or Liberia. Such civil resistance campaigns inevitably will need skills—of dialogue and negotiation—that are honed and taught by practitioners of peacebuilding. After decades in which the fields of nonviolent action and conflict resolution have evolved separately, new reports underscore that they need to collaborate to prevent social conflicts from turning violent and to build more inclusive societies. Learn more about People Power and Peacebuilding.
Carla Koppell – Opening Remarks
Vice President, Applied Conflict Transformation, U.S. Institute of Peace
Maria J. Stephan, Moderator
Director, Program on Nonviolent Action, U.S. Institute of Peace
Anthony Wanis-St. John
Associate Professor, School of International Service, American University
Program Director, Conflict Transformation Research, Berghof Foundation; Member of ICNC Academic Council
Egyptian activist and political commentator; consultant, Program on Nonviolent Action, U.S. Institute of Peace
Nepali Journalist/Lawyer and Former Prisoner of Conscience
“[Fiction] is a way of seeing. A way of thinking, it is a prayer, it is a song.”–Arundhati Roy, interview in The Hindu
“You know, Anjum, who was Aftab, or the book in general, is—you know, she’s not a signifier. This is not a sort of social history of the trans community. I mean, she’s a character, like many other characters in the book, very unique, very much herself. And when she’s born in the walled city and grows up, and then when she—she actually moves out of her home to a place close by called Khwabgah, which in Urdu means “the House of Dreams,” where she lives with a community of other people, none of whom is like herself. You know, even inside the Khwabgah, though there are many trans women, people who are—Anjum, for example, she’s a hermaphrodite, but there are others who are men, who are Muslim and don’t believe in having surgery, some who do. There are Hindus. There are Sunnis. There are Shias. So, they themselves are a very diverse community. But they look at the world and call it duniya, which means “the world” in Urdu, which is something else. But they have a history of being sort of inside and outside the community, which sort of predates the kind of Western, liberal, rights-based discourse, though, even in the story, as it modernizes, you know, there is that feudal story overlapping with the new, modern language and so on.
But actually, Anjum, though she does have this incendiary border of gender running through her—all the characters have a border, which is, for example, one of the—she moves into the graveyard, and she builds—eventually, she builds a guest house, called Jannat, which is the Paradise guest house. And one of the people who becomes a very close comrade of hers is a young man who was—who is a Dalit, who has watched Hindu mobs beat his father to death, as is happening every day now with Muslims and Dalits, because he was transporting a carcass of a dead cow, and so he’s beaten to death by people who call themselves cow protectors. And he converts to Islam, and so—and calls himself Saddam Hussein, because he’s very impressed by this video he sees of Saddam’s execution and the disdain he shows for his executioners. So Saddam has this border of caste and religious conversion—incendiary in India—running through him. The other major character is a woman called Tilottama from the south, and she is also a person of indeterminate origins as far as India is concerned. There’s Musa, who is now a Kashmiri, fighting, with the national border running through him.
So, it’s not conceptual. I mean, what happens is that India is a society of such minute divisions, such institutionalized hierarchies, where caste is a mesh that presses people down and holds them down in a grid. And so, all these stories somehow are about people who just don’t fit into that grid and who eventually create a little community, and a kind of solidarity emerges, which is a solidarity of the heart. You know, it’s not a solidarity of memorandi or academic discourse, but a solidarity which is human, which is based on unorthodox kinds of love—not even sexual love or anything, it’s just based on humanness.”–Arundhati Roy on her novel The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, from Democracy Now.
Earlier in July, more than 500 people gathered in a hot and dusty Pennsylvania cornfield yesterday to join the Catholic sisters of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ for the dedication of a new outdoor chapel, built on land about to be seized from them by a corporate developer planning to build a natural gas pipeline. (Read more.)
This past week, five Lancaster County landowners, including the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, were in US District Court in Reading, PA, fighting to keep the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline off their land. Transco/Williams seeks immediate possession of these properties, even though the eminent domain process is far from finalized, according to a press release.
After two full days of testimony and argument, the hearing came to an end. Judge Jeffrey Schmehl said he would review the cases and “render a ruling at an appropriate time.”
Organizers identified key takeaways from the court hearing:
*The Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline (ASP) still lacks permits from the Pennsylvania DEP that must be obtained before construction begins. David Sztroin, project manager for the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline, testified at the hearing that those permits—assuming they come—are not expected until early- to mid-September.
*Furthermore, the PA DEP could ultimately deny Williams the necessary water permits to begin construction, effectively derailing the project. Why should Williams be granted advance access to landowner properties for a project that might never be built? In early 2016, the state of New York denied similar permits for the Constitution Pipeline. That project remains stalled to this day.
*Attorney Michael Onufrak conclusively demonstrated that the ASP is largely designed to export Marcellus fracked gas overseas. This fact clearly undercuts the legitimacy of FERC’s approval of the project, as well as the use of eminent domain.
*On Friday, July 14, the Adorers of the Blood of Christ filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against FERC. The suit alleges that a fracked gas pipeline through their farmland in West Hempfield Township violates their long-demonstrated religious commitment to environmental justice.
The Adorers, whose religious practice includes protecting and preserving creation, which they believe is a revelation of God, allege that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and its Commissioner, Cheryl La Fleur, have violated a federal law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, by forcing the Adorers to use their land to accommodate a fossil fuel pipeline. Such use is antithetical to the Adorers’ deeply held religious beliefs.
The Adorers allege that FERC’s action places a substantial burden on their exercise of religion by taking their land, which they want to protect and preserve as part of their faith, and forces the Adorers to use their land in a manner and for a purpose they believe is harmful to the earth.
“How do we learn to live in circumstances that are uncomfortable for us? The early monks again remind us to think of those who live in circumstances much worse than ours and who cannot change their circumstances. It is easy for many of us to forget the difficulties of others, especially when we find ourselves in circumstances that we find difficult. For instance, even though I find the summer heat difficult at the moment, there are many people who live in much worse conditions of heat and can do nothing about it. Normally I have the conveniences of a shower and in the evening the temperatures cool down. Lots of people don’t have that. So one way of dealing with my own circumstances, when I find them difficult, is to think of others who are in a worse situation.
Another way of dealing with difficult circumstances is to use the opportunity to identify more completely with Jesus during His passion and death. Most likely I won’t die from difficult circumstances, but I can use whatever suffering and pain that I might have to come closer to the Lord and offer this suffering and pain for others. For me, the most recent experience of this was in my illnesses, where the pain level was completely out of control and all I could do was cling to a crucifix and ask the Lord to help me. It took extra energy to go out of myself and offer that pain for the good of others. Even in those circumstances, there are surely people who had more pain and suffering than I did.
Another way to deal with difficulties is to offer them in reparation for my own sinfulness. We can use very simple phrases such as: “O Lord, may this suffering unite me to you and also purify me from all my own sinfulness.” Or, perhaps: “O Lord, may this pain and suffering cleanse me of all my sins, past and present, so that I may be more faithful to you.”
I think that all of us can see that the secret to pain and suffering is simply to get out of ourselves and be with the Lord and to find ways to love others through the suffering. That ability to be with others through pain is a real gift and I pray that I can hold on to it in the times of profound pain and suffering! Right now my pains are pretty minor.”–Abbot Philip, OSB (Abbot’s Notebook – 19 July 2017)
(Apparently, some people are dedicated to using their twitter powers for good, not for sowing strife!)
The update on the Catholic sisters of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ in Lancaster County, Penn., is the judge approved the fossil-fuel company’s right to take a portion of the nuns’ land by eminent domain, but then the nuns filed a religious freedom injunction!
Now, circling back to Margaret Atwood: Hag-Seed is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series published by Hogarth Press (founded in 1917 by none other than Virginia Woolf and her husband). It includes Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time (on The Winter’s Tale), Anne Tyler’s The Vinegar Girl (on The Taming of the Shrew), and Howard Jacobson’s Shylock is My Name (on The Merchant of Venice). And due out soon is Tracy Chevalier on Othello!
It’s all mixed up to quote Margaret Atwood and the land defending Catholic nuns in the same blog post. But it comes together for me in this line from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, when Cleopatra realizes that, with the death of her love, the earth shall pass away and–I would add–the icecaps will melt shedding tears across the world:
“O see, my women, The crown o’ th’ earth doth melt. My lord!”–Cleopatra in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra (Act 4, Scene 15)
“If you asked me what it is I know, I would be hard pressed to tell you. All I know is that there is a deep “okayness” to life—despite all the contradictions—which has become even more evident in the silence. Even when much is terrible, seemingly contradictory, unjust, and inconsistent, somehow sadness and joy are able to coexist at the same time. The negative value of things no longer cancels out the positive, nor does the positive deny the negative.
Whatever your personal calling or your delivery system for the world, it must proceed from a foundational “yes” to life. Your necessary “no” to injustice and all forms of un-love will actually become even clearer and more urgent in the silence, but now your work has a chance of being God’s pure healing instead of impure anger and agenda. You can feel the difference in people who are working for causes; so many works of social justice have been undone by people who do all the fighting from their small or angry selves.
If your prayer goes deep, your whole view of the world will change from fear and reaction to deep and positive connection—because you don’t live inside a fragile and encapsulated self anymore. In meditation, you are moving from ego consciousness to soul awareness, from being driven by negative motivations to being drawn from a positive source within.”–Richard Rohr
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor provided an elegant dissent recently to the ruling in Utah v. Strieff, which revolved on the matter of “reasonable suspicion” in a police stop.
“This case involves a suspicionless stop, one in which the officer initiated this chain of events without justification. As the Justice Department notes, supra, at 8, many innocent people are subjected to the humiliations of these unconstitutional searches. The white defendant in this case shows that anyone’s dignity can be violated in this manner. See M. Gottschalk, Caught 119–138 (2015). But it is no secret that people of color are disproportionate victims of this type of scrutiny. See M. Alexander, The New Jim Crow 95–136 (2010). For generations, black and brown parents have given their children “the talk”— instructing them never to run down the street; always keep your hands where they can be seen; do not even think of talking back to a stranger—all out of fear of how an officer with a gun will react to them. See, e.g., W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903); J. Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963); T. Coates, Between the World and Me (2015).
By legitimizing the conduct that produces this double consciousness, this case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time. It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged.
We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by police are “isolated.” They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere. See L. Guinier & G. Torres, The Miner’s Canary 274–283 (2002). They are the ones who recognize that unlawful police stops corrode all our civil liberties and threaten all our lives. Until their voices matter too, our justice system will continue to be anything but. I dissent.”—Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court Justice (https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/15pdf/14-1373_83i7.pdf)