Maggid: Telling Our Story of Resistance

This Resistance Passover is created by Rebecca Ennen and Rabbi Elizabeth Richman of Jews United for Justice. Visit www.jufj.org to learn more.

Telling Our Story

Reader:
In every generation we must each see ourselves k’ilu hu yatzah mi-Mitzrayim / as though we ourselves were freed from Egypt. This year the story speaks for itself:

All:
Long ago, a new king rose over Egypt. ‘Behold!” he said. “The people are too many and too mighty. Let us deal shrewdly with them.” He set over them taskmasters to afflict them and to make their lives bitter and harsh. We became slaves to Pharaoh in Mitzrayim.

Had God not brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, we and our children and our children’s children would still be servants to Pharaoh.

Reader:
There arose in America a President who did not know the real promise of this country, who did not recognize the beauty of our American ideals. He made our lives harsh with schemes of registers, walls, deportations, and humiliation. He embittered our lives: trampled the poor, cut our safety nets, and flouted the rule and protections of law. He afflicted and enabled the forces of hate. He feared that we, the people, were too numerous – and he tried to divide us from each other.

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@Pontifex on Your Right to a Decent Job

Pax Christi co-president Marie Dennis and Pope Francis
Pax Christi co-president Marie Dennis and Pope Francis
Today Pope Francis met with members of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Here’s what he said:

“… The State of social rights must not be dismantled, and in particular the right to work must be protected. This must not be considered a variable, dependent upon financial and monetary markets. It is a fundamental right for dignity, for the formation of a family, for the realisation of the common good and for peace.

Education and work and access to welfare for all are key elements both for development and for the just distribution of goods, for achieving social justice and for belonging to society, and for participating freely and responsibly in political life, understood as the management of the “res publica.”

Ideas that claim to increase income at the cost of restricting the job market and creating further exclusion are not coherent with an economy at the service of man and the common good, or with an inclusive and participatory democracy”.–Pope Francis 

Read the whole statement here: To Justice and Peace: rising inequality and poverty endanger democracy (Oct. 2, 2014)

Leslie Fields: Obama Honors Cesar Chavez

Obama-at-Chavez-dedication
Official White House photo by Pete Souza

By Leslie Fields, Sierra Club

On October 8, on a gorgeous early autumn day in the oak-dappled foothills of California’s Tehachapi Mountains, President Obama formally designated the César E. Chávez National Monument. The designation is the fourth of Obama’s presidency, but the first-ever national monument dedicated to a Latino.

Below, the president with Helen Chávez at her late husband’s gravesite at Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz (Our Lady Queen of Peace), or La Paz, in the town of Keene, California, site of the new national monument.

Obama-with-Helen-Chavez
Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“César Chávez was a true labor and environmental champion whose work helped result in the passage of landmark laws that protect our air, water, land, and—most important—people,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. “His work helped link people’s health and the environment, and his fight for environmental justice is one that the Sierra Club remains committed to today.” …

Read the rest of  Monument to a National Treasure by Leslie Fields.

Rose Marie Berger: Israel Judge Rules Rachel Corrie’s Death an ‘Accident’

In the spring of 2003 I made myself a T-shirt. It said: ‘We Are All Rachel Corrie.’ I wore it as a constant reminder of the cost demanded of those who are peacemakers.

On March 16, 2003, 23-year-old Rachel Corrie, a member of the International Solidarity Movement stood with others to defend a Palestinian home from demolition by Israeli Defense Forces. The photos of Rachel, in her bright red ISM jacket, confronting the Goliath earth mover were some of the first indications Americans had of how the IDF was using bulldozers as weapons of war. Though Rachel was plainly visible to the driver he continued to move forward, using his machine to crush her to death.

On August 28, 2012, Israeli judge Oded Gorshen ll invoked the “combatant activities” exception, noting that IDP forces had been attacked nearby and ruled Corrie’s death an “accident.”

Corrie was one of a group of around eight international activists acting as human shields against the demolitions. According to witness statements made at the time and evidence given in court, she clambered on top of a mound of earth in the path of an advancing Caterpillar bulldozer.

“She was standing on top of a pile of earth,” fellow activist and eyewitness Richard Purssell, from Brighton, said at the time. “The driver cannot have failed to see her. As the blade pushed the pile, the earth rose up. Rachel slid down the pile. It looks as if her foot got caught. The driver didn’t slow down; he just ran over her. Then he reversed the bulldozer back over her again.”

Tom Dale, an 18-year-old from Lichfield in Staffordshire, said: “The bulldozer went towards her very slowly, she was fully in clear view, straight in front of them. Unfortunately she couldn’t keep her grip there and she started to slip down. You could see she was in serious trouble, there was panic in her face as she was turning around. All the activists there were screaming, running towards the bulldozer, trying to get them to stop. But they just kept on going.”

In response to the ruling by the Haifa court, the American ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, restated a position that the U.S. government has long held: “Israel’s investigation into the death of American activist Rachel Corrie was not satisfactory, and wasn’t as thorough, credible or transparent as it should have been.”

“The lawsuit is just a small step in our family’s nearly decade-long search for truth and justice,” said Craig Corrie, Rachel’s father, in a press statement. “The mounting evidence presented before the court underscores a broken system of accountability – tolerated by the United States in spite of its conclusions that Israel’s military investigation was not ‘thorough, credible, or transparent.’”

Oral testimony in the case began March 10, 2010. There have been 15 court hearings since with 23 witnesses testifying. The trial has exposed serious chain-of-command failures in relation to civilian killings and indiscriminate destruction of civilian property at the hands of the Israeli military in southern Gaza.

“This trial is an attempt to hold accountable not only those who failed to protect Rachel’s life but also the flawed system of military investigations which is neither impartial nor thorough,” said Hussein abu Hussein, the family’s attorney. “Under international law, Israel is obligated to take all feasible precautions to spare civilians from the dangers of military operations. The Israeli military flagrantly violated this principle in the killing of Rachel Corrie and it must be held accountable.”

Rachel Corrie’s courageous witness – only one story among thousands of Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals who demand justice for Palestinians and peace for Israel – didn’t stop with her death. American churches initiated a boycott of Caterpillar, the supplier of bull dozers to the IDF. Rachel’s parents have spoken at thousands of venues, continued the civil and criminal court cases, and started the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice. Many, like me, include Rachel Corrie on our “martyrs roll,” remembering her as one who died in service of others defending justice and peace.

Rose Marie Berger, author of Who Killed Donte Manning? is a Catholic peace activist and a Sojourners associate editor. She blogs at rosemarieberger.com.

Catholic Sisters Say Vatican Report Has ‘Caused Scandal and Pain’ in Catholic Church

Sr. Dolorosa Bundy

The national board of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) met in Washington, D.C., this week to review and plan a response to the Vatican report issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith last April.

When I was up at LCWR offices a few weeks ago to deliver letters of support from Sojourners and Faithful America ago they were preparing for this meeting and said the wide-ranging support from around the world would be a centerpiece of their conversations. I appreciate the thoughtful and faithful way these dedicated and wise women disciples are modeling a mature Catholicism.

They released their first public response to CDF’s report this morning:

The [LCWR] board members raised concerns about both the content of the doctrinal assessment and the process by which it was prepared. Board members concluded that the assessment was based on unsubstantiated accusations and the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency. Moreover, the sanctions imposed were disproportionate to the concerns raised and could compromise their ability to fulfill their mission. The report has furthermore caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and created greater polarization.

The board determined that the conference will take the following steps:
• On June 12 the LCWR president and executive director will return to Rome to meet with CDF prefect Cardinal William Levada and the apostolic delegate Archbishop Peter Sartain to raise and discuss the board’s concerns.
• Following the discussions in Rome, the conference will gather its members both in regional meetings and in its August assembly to determine its response to the CDF report.

The board recognizes this matter has deeply touched Catholics and non-Catholics throughout the world as evidenced by the thousands of messages of support as well as the dozens of prayer vigils held in numerous parts of the country. It believes that the matters of faith and justice that capture the hearts of Catholic sisters are clearly shared by many people around the world. As the church and society face tumultuous times, the board believes it is imperative that these matters be addressed by the entire church community in an atmosphere of openness, honesty, and integrity.

Joan Chittister: A Story on Beauty

by Rima
There was a special prison In Uruguay for political prisoners. Here they were not allowed to talk without permission or whistle, smile, sing, walk fast, or greet other prisoners; nor could they make or receive drawings of pregnant women, couples, butterflies, stars or birds. One Sunday afternoon, Didako Perez, a school teacher who was tortured and jailed “for having ideological ideas,” is visited by his five-year-old daughter Milay. She brings him a drawing of birds. The guards destroy it at the entrance of the jail.

On the following Sunday, Milay brings him a drawing of trees. Trees are not forbidden, and the drawing gets through.

Her father praises her work and asks about the colored circles scattered in the treetops, many small circles half-hidden among the branches: “Are they oranges? What fruit is it?”

The child puts her finger to her mouth, “Shh.” And she whispers in her father’s ear, “Don’t you see they are eyes? They’re the eyes of the birds that I’ve smuggled in for you.”Eduardo Galeano

Beauty, we’re told, is a basic human instinct, the kind of thing that separates us from the animals, a kind of intrinsic quality of the human soul, the irrepressible expression of contemplative insight. It has something to do with what it means to be alive. But is this true? And how do we know that?

I remember being shocked into a new sense of what it means to be human in an inhuman environment in the worst slum in Haiti. Here people live in one room hovels made of corrugated steel over mud floors. They bear and raise one child after another here. They eat the leftovers of society. They scrounge for wood to cook with. They sleep in filth and live in rags and barely smile and cannot read. But in the middle of such human degradation they paint bright colors and brilliant scenes of a laughing, loving, wholesome community. They carve faces. They paint strident colors on bowls made out of coconuts. They play singing drums across the bare mountains that raise the cry of the human heart. They manufacture beauty in defiance of what it means to live an ugly, forgotten life on the fringe of the United States, the wealthiest nation the world has ever known. They are a sign that a society that can make such beauty is capable of endless human potential, however much struggle it takes to come to fullness. They are a sign of possibility and aspiration and humanity that no amount of huts or guns or poverty or starvation can ever squelch. –Sr. Joan Chittister

From 40 Stories to Stir the Soul by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB

Interview with Jennifer Sleeman, Catalyst for Sept 26: “A Sunday Without Women”

Jennifer Sleeman, Cork, Ireland

Jennifer Sleeman’s call for Sept. 26 to be “A Sunday Without Women” on behalf of justice for women in the Catholic church, is picking up steam around the world. Sleeman, an 80-year-old Catholic convert from Clonakilty in Cork, Ireland, is an active member of her Catholic church. She is also the person mainly responsible for Clonakilty becoming the first Fair Trade town in Ireland and has received an award from the Cork Environmental Forum, in recognition of her “outstanding contribution to sustainability in Cork city and county through partnership and participation in the promotion of environmental care.”  I interviewed her last week over email.

Rose: What was the context for you suggesting the Mass-boycott day? What prompted you and why did the media pick it up?

Jennifer: Rose, I’m delighted to answer your questions. It is so exciting seeing the idea traveling world wide! I was aware that a lot of individuals and groups have been campaigning for equal rights in the Catholic Church and the idea of Boycott was to pull it all together. I was greatly encouraged and helped by friend who had a mailing list. It never crossed my mind that Sept.  26th is just after the Pope’s visit to England. I have been wondering a lot why I decided to risk it and why now — is there a spirit at work?

Rose: Other than the media, who has responded to your call?

Jennifer: I have had the most fantastic support from both women and men. Letters (proper ones on paper!), cards, emails, phone calls. 99.9% positive.

Rose: What are your plans for Sept. 26? Will you gather with others?

Jennifer: I don’t know what I will do on the 26th.

Rose: Is there any message you’d like to send to Catholic women around the world?

Jennifer: We are the majority. Together we have strength and our absence, the empty pews will be noticed. I would love the focus to go away from me and onto all women and men who see the great need for change in the Church. If people have ideas to gently reinforce the message, go for it.

The movement to “boycott Mass” for justice for women in the Catholic church may not be the perfect instrument. But in the language of social movements it would be considered a “weapon of the weak” — a nonviolent way that a subordinate class wields power over a a dominant power structure that purports absolute control (See James Scott and Karl Gaspar). Sleeman’s call is not only for justice for women but fits in a stream of actions and speeches that are geared to confronting the “restorationist” movement happening within the institutional hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

South African Catholic bishop Kevin Dowling described it this way:

“Restorationism: the carefully planned dismantling of the theology, ecclesiology, pastoral vision, indeed the ‘opening of the windows’ of Vatican II — in order to ‘restore’ a previous, or more controllable model of church through an increasingly centralized power structure; a structure which now controls everything in the life of the church through a network of Vatican congregations led by cardinals who ensure strict compliance with what is deemed by them to be ‘orthodox.’ Those who do not comply face censure and punishment, e.g. theologians who are forbidden to teach in Catholic faculties.

Lest we do not highlight sufficiently this important fact. Vatican II was an ecumenical council, i.e., a solemn exercise of the magisterium of the church, i.e. the college of bishops gathered together with the bishop of Rome and exercising a teaching function for the whole church. In other words, its vision, its principles and the direction it gave are to be followed and implemented by all, from the pope to the peasant farmer in the fields of Honduras.”

Read Bishop Dowling’s entire talk here. And let me know if you are taking action for women on Sept. 26. I’ll add you to the map.

Video: Salvadoran Archbishop Romero Last Sunday Sermon (The Appeal to Soldier to Lay Down Their Guns)

Here’s a very moving 3-minute video of images (some graphic) from El Salvador’s war and the voice over of Archbishop Romero’s last Sunday sermon on March 23, 1980,  in which he appeals to the members of the Army to put down their weapons. Romero was shot and killed while celebrating Mass the following day.

The 30th anniversary of Romero’s assassination will be in March 24, 2010. I’ll be interviewed on NPR’s Latino USA by Maria Hinojosa with Salvadoran theologian Ernesto Valiente who teaches at Boston College. The English translation of an excerpt of Romero’s sermon is below the video.

Archbishop Romero:
“We want to greet the entities of YSAX, which for so long have awaited this moment which, thanks to God, has arrived. We know the risk that is run by our poor station for being the instrument and vehicle of truth and justice, but we recognize that the risk has to be taken, for behind that risk is an entire people that upholds this word of truth and justice….

We give thanks to God that a message that doesn’t mean to be more than a modest reflection of the spoken Word finds marvelous channels of outreach and tells many people that, in the context of Lent, all of this is preparation for our Easter, and Easter is a shout of victory. No one can extinguish that life which Christ revived. Not even death and hatred against him and against his Church will be able to overcome it. He is the victor!

As he will flourish in an Easter of unending resurrection, it is necessary to also accompany him in Lent, in a Holy Week that is cross, sacrifice, martyrdom; as he would say, “Happy are those who do not become offended by their cross!” Lent is then a call to celebrate our redemption in that difficult complex of cross and victory. Our people are very qualified, all their surroundings preach to us of cross; but all who have Christian faith and hope know that behind this Calvary of El Salvador is our Easter, our resurrection, and that is the hope of the Christian people….

Today, as diverse historical projects emerge for our people, we can be sure that victory will be had by the one that best reflects the plan of God. And this is the mission of the Church. That is why, in the light of the divine Word that reveals the designs of God for the happiness of the peoples, we have the duty, dear brothers and sisters, to also point out the facts, to see how the plan of God is being reflected or disdained in our midst. Let no one take badly the fact that we illuminate the social, political, and economic truths by the light of the divine words that are read at our Mass, because not to do so would, for us, be un-Christian….

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Pope Bummed About Failure at Copenhagen

PopecropThe Pope gave a talk on 11 January 2010 to the Vatican diplomatic corps in which he expressed how bummed out he was about the failure of the Copenhagen climate conference.

Of course, being the Pope, he says it all in a much more elevated language and puts it all in its broader moral framework. Below are some of the more significant pull quotes:

In my Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, I invited everyone to look to the deeper causes of this situation: in the last analysis, they are to be found in a current self-centred and materialistic way of thinking which fails to acknowledge the limitations inherent in every creature. Today I would like to stress that the same way of thinking also endangers creation. …

The denial of God distorts the freedom of the human person, yet it also devastates creation. It follows that the protection of creation is not principally a response to an aesthetic need, but much more to a moral need, in as much as nature expresses a plan of love and truth which is prior to us and which comes from God. …

If we wish to build true peace, how can we separate, or even set at odds, the protection of the environment and the protection of human life, including the life of the unborn? It is in man’s respect for himself that his sense of responsibility for creation is shown. As Saint Thomas Aquinas has taught, man represents all that is most noble in the universe (cf. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 29, a. 3). Furthermore, as I noted during the recent FAO World Summit on Food Security, “the world has enough food for all its inhabitants” (Address of 16 November 2009, No. 2) provided that selfishness does not lead some to hoard the goods which are intended for all. …

How can we forget, for that matter, that the struggle for access to natural resources is one of the causes of a number of conflicts, not least in Africa, as well as a continuing threat elsewhere? For this reason too, I forcefully repeat that to cultivate peace, one must protect creation! Furthermore, there are still large areas, for example in Afghanistan or in some countries of Latin America, where agriculture is unfortunately still linked to the production of narcotics, and is a not insignificant source of employment and income. If we want peace, we need to preserve creation by rechanneling these activities; I once more urge the international community not to become resigned to the drug trade and the grave moral and social problems which it creates. …

Among the many challenges which it presents, one of the most serious is increased military spending and the cost of maintaining and developing nuclear arsenals. Enormous resources are being consumed for these purposes, when they could be spent on the development of peoples, especially those who are poorest. …

On this solemn occasion, I would like to renew the appeal which I made during the Angelus prayer of 1 January last to all those belonging to armed groups, of whatever kind, to abandon the path of violence and to open their hearts to the joy of peace. …

The grave acts of violence to which I have just alluded, combined with the scourges of poverty, hunger, natural disasters and the destruction of the environment, have helped to swell the ranks of those who migrate from their native land. Given the extent of this exodus, I wish to exhort the various civil authorities to carry on their work with justice, solidarity and foresight. …

It is clear that if relativism is considered an essential element of democracy, one risks viewing secularity solely in the sense of excluding or, more precisely, denying the social importance of religion. But such an approach creates confrontation and division, disturbs peace, harms human ecology and, by rejecting in principle approaches other than its own, finishes in a dead end. There is thus an urgent need to delineate a positive and open secularity which, grounded in the just autonomy of the temporal order and the spiritual order, can foster healthy cooperation and a spirit of shared responsibility. …

Read the whole thing here.