Every two years I have the privilege of meeting with Dominican Justice Promoters from North America and International Co-Promoters. We met at the Divine Word Retreat Center in Techny, Illinois, March 25-27 with a full and challenging agenda.
Ever present on everyone’s agenda—Iraq and its future. Mike Deeb, International Co-Promoter of Justice from South Africa focused on what must happen for Iraq to achieve peace and stability. He emphasized three actions that must happen:
"Those who surrender to the service of the poor through love of Christ will live like the grain of wheat that dies. It only apparently dies. If it were not to die, it would remain a solitary grain. The harvest comes because of the grain that dies...We know that every effort to improve society, above all when society is so full of injustice and sin, is an effort that God blesses; that God wants; that God demands of us." - Archbishop Oscar Romero
March is that time of year when basketball fans come alive. Tournaments around the country draw hundreds of thousands of fans who spare no expense to support their favorite teams. The madness that concerns me is of another kind. This exciting basketball season often brings with it a spike in commercial sex trafficking, specifically, human trafficking.
"I do know one thing about me: I don’t measure myself by others' expectations or let others define my worth." - Sonia Sotomayer
They are scientists, professors, astronauts, civil rights leaders, engineers, aviators. They are women. March 2015 is the 35th anniversary of the Women's History Movement. Women have made great contributions in all the professions listed above, but few would know that from reading mainstream history. "Weaving the Stories of Women's Lives," the theme of this year's Women’s History Month, provides an opportunity "to weave women's stories, individually and collectively, into the fabric of our nations' history." Knowing women's achievements challenges stereotypes and discards assumptions.
Recently sports fans mourned the death of Dean Smith, legendary coach of the University of North Carolina basketball team. He was a Hall of Fame coach, but more important, a Hall of Fame human being. As tributes poured in, one stood out, pointing to his living a life of justice and integrity. He began his career in segregated North Carolina and was determined to challenge the system of segregation by inviting an African American friend to dinner at a local restaurant. After a delay, both were finally served. He knew keeping integrity intact was more important than success on the basketball court.
In their annual report, Bread for the World states: "Discrimination against women is a major cause of persistent hunger. Women are the primary agents the world relies on to fight hunger. Discrimination is the reason women are paid less than men, have lower levels of education and fewer assets, and have to spend more time on unpaid care. Thus, development policies and programs that empower women contribute directly to ending hunger."
Every year Bread for the World provides a clear and comprehensive report on hunger, its causes and solutions. The plight of women living in poverty and denied basic human rights remains a cornerstone of the problem, and the need for a change in attitude toward women remains an ongoing challenge.
The most recent horrific actions of ISIS make watching the news extremely difficult. From beheadings to setting a human on fire, torturing, raping and killing children and strapping explosives on mentally challenged children, making them suicide bombers, ISIS rage seems to know no bounds. It is challenging to get beyond the brutal, barbaric actions of extremists to understand the why of such actions. Religion is a pretense used to serve as a reason for such action. ISIS will cite the U.S. initiating a war against Iraq, torturing Muslims at Guantanamo Bay, using drones that have killed many civilians, as well as having a military base in a holy site in Saudi Arabia as reasons for a "holy war." Regardless of reasons given, there is no justification for torture. It is, however, important to understand the validity of the complaints and outrage expressed.
Cash Cow, Payday Plus, Fast Buck. These are just a few of the predatory lenders or "loan sharks" that continue to prey on the working poor around the United States. The stories are similar: a pharmacy tech in Virginia borrowed $800 to pay bills, car loan, etc. She managed eight $50 fee payments and another $280 toward the balance, for a total of $680; however, interest at $212 a month brought her repayment to $1,249.
Earl Milford lives on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico and depends on a civil service pension and veterans disability benefit check. He spends $1,500 each month to lenders just to cover the interest on what he intended to be a "short-term" loan.
For some, demonstrations are a symbol of the 1960s. The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act did not become a reality because of luck or good timing, but through the relentless effort of African Americans and people of many cultures who demonstrated in the streets, in restaurants, schools and other areas off limits to African Americans. This was "holy work" because it was a model of nonviolence, prayer and a refusal to demonize those who upheld segregation.
"We have inherited a big house, a great world house in which we have to live together—black and white, Easterners and Westerners, Gentiles and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, Muslims and Hindu, a family separated in ideas, culture, and interests, who, because we can never again live without each other, must learn somehow, in this one big world, to live with each other." - Martin Luther King, Jr.