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Fracking and Earthquakes: “A number of earthquakes have occurred in places where significant seismic activity is unusual, and additional studies have demonstrated the link between fracking and waste disposal and earthquakes.  In Arkansas, Colorado, Texas, Kansas and Ohio, earthquakes have been linked with injection wells used in disposing of fracking waste.  But nowhere has this received more attention recently than in Oklahoma, which recorded over 200 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or higher during the first half of 2014 – significantly more than California, which had recorded 140 during the same period. To put this in perspective, between 1975 and 2008, Oklahoma averaged just one to three quakes of that size annually. And, the U.S. Geological Survey released a study earlier this year linking a 5.0 quake and 5.7 aftershock to injection well activity. 

“The earthquakes are having real impacts – damaging property when they occur but more significantly, hitting the pocketbooks of homeowners.  In Oklahoma, earthquake insurance has skyrocketed to over $12,000 annually according to a report in Time magazine – essentially a tax on homeowners to subsidize big oil and gas industry projects. Communities are rising up and fighting back.  With state-based partners in Oklahoma, we are launching a campaign to stop injection wells, and we have been working with coalition partners in Ohio on a similar campaign for the past year and a half.  Earthquakes are another reason why fracking should be banned, and why we need to continue to organize and build political power to make that happen.”

(From eat, drink & act, Food & Water Watch, Fall 2014)

Too Much Corporate Influence?: “Corporate influence, through money and lobbying, is a given in setting public policy.  But faith leaders and public interest groups are wondering how much corporate influence is too much.  Organizations such as the Franciscan Action Network and Common Cause have banded together to organize around the issue.  Their message: Unlimited political spending by corporations undermines democracy. For Patrick Carolan, the network’s executive director, it’s a moral and religious issue that deserves the attention of people of faith.  He told the Catholic News service that unlimited spending mutes the voices of the poor and marginalized in favor of those with the largest bankroll. …‘As faith leaders we care because we are all intimately connected with the troubles people face daily,’ Carolan said.  ‘Faith leaders experience firsthand the results unlimited money in politics has on almost every issue.  No matter what issue we work on, issues like immigration reform, climate change, gun safety, one of the things we’ve discovered is every one of those issues is connected to money in one way or another.’ …

“The issue of growing corporate power and influence has reached as far as the Vatican. Pope Francis has said that the ideology of money has become a new golden calf.  He has challenged people to find ways to use political power, influence and financial resources to aid poor people. …” Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, told CNS (Catholic News Service) the common good is threatened when political debates and policymaking is dominated by a few voices who are able to shape outcomes to their liking and to the detriment of society. “‘For us Catholics, politics is supposed to be about promotion of the common good, so we engage the citizens in political life for the common good of the whole community.  There’s no way to think about money but to recognize that money is directly counter to that.  It’s about the representation of special interest in politics.  It’s about private interest, not the common good,’ Schneck said during a conference break.”

(From America, Oct. 3, 2014)

Microbeads are a Macro Problem: Many products that we use every day are causing significant damage to the environment. “[Shivani] Kharod discovered that her face wash, body scrub and even her toothpaste contained ‘microbeads,’ tiny plastic pieces that eventually end up in our oceans.  In fact, a tube of face wash can contain more than 330,000 beads.  Smaller than 5 millimeters, microbeads wash down the drain, slip through most wastewater treatment systems and eventually end up in the sea where fish, mussels, crabs and more mistake them for fish eggs and eat them.  Not only do the beads interfere with digestion and deprive wildlife of necessary nutrients, they can also carry known carcinogens, like PCBs, DDT, flame retardants and other industrial chemicals. 

‘“These persistent organic pollutants are hydrophobic, meaning they repel water and stick to the beads,’ says Kirk Havens, a Virginia Institute of Marine Science researcher.  These toxic pollutants also collect in animal tissues.  This means that animals higher on the food chain face greater health risks because they eat and store more pollutants. Some states are starting to try to ban the use of nonbiodegradable microbeads, found in many popular brands, including Aveeno, Clean and Clear, and Crest. …Meanwhile, some companies are getting the message: Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson and others have agreed to stop using microbeads by 2017.  They’re looking to biodegradable alternatives such as cocoa beans, apricot shells, ground nut shells and salt crystals.”

(From Defenders, Defenders of Wildlife, Fall 2014)

Global Warming’s Effect on Oceans Significant: “The world’s upper oceans may have stored far more heat from the warming climate than previously thought, according to a new study that purports to provide the first rough estimate of the amount of heat researchers have missed in their attempts to measure changes on the oceans’ heat content. If the results hold up to additional scrutiny, they suggest that global warming’s effect on upper ocean temperatures between 1970 and 2004 has been underestimated by 24 to 58 percent, largely the result of sparse long-term measurements in the southern oceans, according to Paul Durack, the lead author of the study conducted by researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.  Getting ocean heating right is important to estimating the amount of sea-level rise caused by the expansion of seawater as it warms and the amount attributed to melting land-based glaciers and ice sheets, researchers say.

“Ocean heat storage also influences estimates of how sensitive the climate system is to changes in greenhouse-gas levels, a key piece of the puzzle climate models must have to project possible trajectories for human-triggered climate change.  Regionally, it influences the pace at which glaciers carrying ice from the world’s major land-based ice sheets on Greenland or Antarctica flow to the sea.  Ice shelves along the coast, which act as breaks on the pace of ice loss from these outlet glaciers, melt from underneath as warm water wells up from depth and flows beneath the shelves. Just as the oceans absorb a significant proportion of the carbon-dioxide humans add to the atmosphere, mainly through burning fossil fuels, the oceans take up about 90 percent of the heat attributed to this build-up of greenhouse gases.  Southern-hemisphere oceans represent about 60 percent of the world’s oceans.”

(From The Christian Science Monitor, Oct. 6, 2014)

Children Still Starving: “Fifty years after Norman Borlaug helped launched [sic] the modern era of high-yield, input-reliant agriculture that has saved millions of lives – known as the Green Revolution – we confront the stark reality that 8,000 children worldwide still die each day because they don’t have enough to eat.  Nearly 1 billion of the world’s inhabitants are hungry, and another 2 billion are poorly nourished. Sadly, much of the world’s hunger is focused in one already troubled region.  In sub-Saharan Africa, the rate of chronic hunger is 1 in 4 – double the worldwide average.  Even more worrisome is the fact that half of the world’s anticipated population growth over the next three decades, from 7 billion to more than 9 billion people, is expected to take place in Africa. There are many causes for the persistence of hunger.  Most are obvious: drought, conflict, natural disasters.  Some are less so: market speculation, corruption, crop and food waste, and policies that sacrifice food security for export profit-chasing. Looking toward agricultural production that will be able to meet the needs of the future, current policy remains heavily influenced by ag-industry and biotech solutions. 

“This is especially true in the United States, which retains an outsized influence on policies in the developing world where most of the hungry live.  One example is the growth of crops genetically modified to tolerate pesticide dousing.  The Obama administration has been active in promoting food security in a world challenged by the agricultural effects of climate change.  But a test of the sincerity and efficacy of programs like the administration’s ‘Feed the Future’ will be how well their counsel to developing world agriculturalists is based on local interests and listening in regions like sub-Saharan Africa, and how much is dictated out of the home offices of agricultural conglomerates in the American Midwest.  …Market reforms and direct assistance to the world’s subsistence farmers, who still do most of the heavy lifting in local food production, are just as important as exporting high-yield crop strains….We have a world of neglected and undomesticated food options lying at our feet, but food production remains the captured domain of industry technocrats and suppliers because of their unyielding power.  This has to change.”

(From U.S. Catholic, October 2014)

South Sudan’s Bishops Call for End to Conflict: “South Sudan’s bishops reiterated their call for an end to fighting in their country and warned of a humanitarian disaster. ‘The fighting and killing must stop immediately and unconditionally,’ the bishops said on Sept. 25, at the end of a three-day meeting that coincided with the renewal of peace talks in Ethiopia.  Last December, conflict erupted between forces loyal to South Sudan President Salva Kiir and those loyal to the rebel leader Riek Machar, Kiir’s former vice president.  The fighting soon split the country along tribal lines.  Thousands of South Sudanese citizens had been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.  The bishops said displaced people were living in appalling conditions and warned that a famine is looming in parts of the country. ‘Once again we declare this war immoral, and we demand an immediate end to all hostilities so that these humanitarian concerns can be addressed,’ they said.  The bishops urged the international community to continue to support development in the country because ‘freezing funds meant for development is an invitation to more insecurity and suffering.’”

(From America, Oct. 13, 2014)

The Minority Majority: “If you want to know what the United States will look like in 30 years, consider the changing complexion of its public schools.  This fall, Latino, African-American and Asian students will outnumber their white K-12 peers for the first time.  According to projections by the U.S. Department of Education, non-Hispanic whites will make up slightly less than 50 percent of the student body in 2014-15, and their share will continue to shrink for the foreseeable future, thanks in large part to the population growth of U.S.-born Latino and Asian children. But students settling into new classrooms this September are unlikely to notice this enrollment milestone.  That is because, despite the greater diversity of the school age population overall, individual schools and districts have become increasingly segregated by race and income.  According to a report by the U.C.L.A. Civil Rights Project in 2012, three-quarters of black children and 80 percent of Latino children attend mostly non-white schools, and both groups are likely to go to schools where roughly two-thirds of the students qualify for free or reduced price lunches. 

“On average, black and Latino students are more likely to attend under-resourced and failing schools, be taught by less experienced teachers, have fewer advanced classes and be less likely to graduate from high school. The growth of majority-minority schools presents unique challenges.  In the short term, districts will need to invest in more English as a second language programs, diversify mostly white workforces and reach out to minority parents, who often feel alienated from their children’s schools.  Moving forward, the United States must continue to address the persistent geographic segregation and racial inequalities that are at the root of the academic achievement gap.  Sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, separate is still unequal.”

(From America, Sept. 15, 2014)

Alabama Prisoners Dying from Lack of Health Care: “One Alabama prisoner died of prostate cancer because his illness went untreated.  One died after getting an injection that sent him into cardiac arrest – and no one present knew how to use the emergency medical equipment that was on hand.  Another suffered constant pain because a catheter and colostomy bag that was supposed to be removed after six months was still there eight years later.  Numerous prisoners have had toes, feet or portions of legs amputated as a result of poor diabetes care. These are just a few of the shocking findings of an investigation by the SPLC into conditions within Alabama’s massively overcrowded prison system. … ‘When a person is sentenced to prison, they are not stripped of their humanity and they are not sentenced to the pain, agony or death that can result from the lack of health care,’ said Maria Morris, managing attorney of the SPLC’s Montgomery office.  ‘Whenever Alabama determines a person must be incarcerated, it must accept the legal – and moral – responsibility that comes from imprisoning a human being.’

“But that is not happening. At nearly 200 percent capacity – the result of decades of harsh policing and sentencing policies that fall disproportionately on young black men who live in poverty – the state’s prison system is the most overcrowded in the country.  Yet, Alabama is near the bottom of states in the amount it spends on health care per prisoner. It’s no surprise that its prisoner mortality rate is among the highest in the country. …The prison system contracts with Corizon Inc. to provide medical care and MHM Correctional Services to provide mental health care.  In 2012, when the ADOC [Alabama Department of Corrections] requested bids for a new health care contract, the overriding consideration was cost.  The ADOC renewed its contract with Corizon, which provided health care in its prisons since 2007, even though the company failed every major audit of its health care operations in Alabama prisons under its first contract.”

(From SPLC Report, Southern Poverty Law Center, Fall 2014)

Water Crisis Real in the South: “I live at the corner of the United States and Mexico, just at the point where the Rio Grande makes a sharp turn to the southeast and becomes the border between our two countries.  To my disappointment, the riverbed is empty again after an oh-so-brief summer season of irrigation.   We enjoyed water in the great river from late May until early August.  The drought of the past six years has severely lowered the water levels in the reservoirs along the Rio Grande, causing the authorities to cut back the allocations to farmers and municipalities, hence the dry riverbed that will soon become littered with tumbleweeds and trash.  Living in the desert where we can expect 300-plus days of sunshine and nine inches of rain a year, water is not something we take for granted.  It comes as no surprise that water is predicted to become the most critical commodity of the 21st century. …The difference in landscape and lifestyle due to the availability of water is striking as you drive south along the river towards the border. 

“Colonias, the poor rural neighborhoods on the outskirts of both El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, have variable access to all utilities but most critically, water.  In 1995 we built a primary care clinic at the end of the water line for a tiny town southeast of El Paso.  It was central to nine colonias, and only one had water service when we started.  Our patients used to fill their jugs and water barrels from the spigot behind the clinic.  Concern for the safety of water supplies in the home led us to offer educational programs specifically directed at those practices and to help communities access grants for household water tanks and pumps. Finally in September 2013 the last of the colonias was connected to the municipal water supply. …The situation in Mexico is of course even worse. …Last year when our congregation became a partner in the Water with Blessings program …we were first in line to participate. The program connects mission-minded donor groups in the U.S. with mothers of small children in developing countries where water quality is poor.  The mothers are trained as ‘Water Women,’ learning to use a simple but effective water filtration system that is portable and requires no electricity.”

(From Global Sisters Report, Oct. 7, 2014)

Mercy Housing Closes Affordability Gap: Lynsey Christianson escaped an abusive marriage and has been able to rebuild her life with her two children thanks to a program which helped her get a subsidized apartment and an education. “The apartment building that Christianson calls home is part of a network of housing options owned and operated by Mercy Housing, one of the nation’s largest non-profit affordable housing developers.   Its founding was steeped in Catholic duty to help the poor, and today remains under the sponsorship of eight communities of Catholic sisters.  Currently Mercy Housing, headquartered in Denver, operates in 21 states and serves more than 152,600 people on any given day.  In addition, it has helped develop more than $2.8 billion in affordable real estate across the nation. But more than just a place to live, Mercy Housing properties takes a holistic approach to help break the cycle of poverty, offering services to residents that can range from stress management to parenting classes or job readiness counseling to computer labs and GED preparation – all with on-site child care.

“At Decatur Place there is a food bank and a place for residents to ‘shop’ for donated clothing and household goods.  Christianson said she especially likes the yoga classes to stave off anxiety.  Her assigned advocate also guides her through the bureaucratic maze of community services and assistance. …Today, according to U.S. Census figures, 46 million people in this country live in poverty, 16 million of them children.  Advocacy groups add that nearly 15 percent of all Americans do not know where their next meal is coming from.  Among industrialized nations the United States has the highest number of homeless women and children.  By some estimates as many as 1.6 million children will be homeless at least once during the coming year.  Countless other families teeter on the brink where one stretch of bad luck will push them from their homes with no affordable options. …A recent report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition states that a full time minimum-wage worker can no longer afford a one-bedroom apartment at fair market rate anywhere in the country, save a handful of counties.”

(From Global Sisters Report, Oct. 15, 2014)

Small Progress on U.S. Poverty: “For the first time since the Great Recession threw the United States and then the world into an economic tailspin, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the U.S. poverty rate experienced a year-over-year decline, falling from 15 percent in 2012 to 14.5 percent in 2013.  The last time the rate declined similarly was 2006.  Though an improvement, the 2013 U.S. poverty rate was still 2 percentage points higher than it was in 2007, the year before the recession began. Even better news was a substantial reduction in America’s child poverty rate which fell from 21.8 percent in 2012 to 19.9 percent in 2013.  According to the Census Bureau’s annual analysis of poverty and income in the United States, released on Sept. 16, the number of children in poverty declined from 16.1 million to 14.7 million. This was the first time since 2000 that the child poverty rate declined.

“The report suggests that there is plenty of reason to remain concerned with poverty in the United States.  The overall number of people in poverty was unchanged at 45.3 million – about one third are children – and real median household income remained stagnant for the second year in a row, suggesting that average Americans are still waiting for relief years after the nation’s economic recovery began in 2009.” Catholic Charities USA reports that while the number of people seeking assistance has declined, the people who do come have more needs. They are especially concerned about the increase in the number of seniors who seek services for the first time. “More people may have found jobs as the nation’s recovery continues…but many of them are now earning wages that are far below what they had been receiving before the recession.”

(From America, Oct. 6, 2014)

Families Still Struggling: “How much have things changed since the U.S. bishops issued their pastoral, ‘Putting Children and Families First.’ Not so well, said Dino Durando, director of the Office of Family Life in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.  Some areas that the bishops highlighted in their 1991 document have gotten better, though they are far from ‘good.’  Others have not changed at all.  And other areas have gotten even worse since the bishops issued their call for public policies that put the welfare of children and families squarely at the center. And then there are other challenges, particularly technology, that weren’t even around 23 years ago.  Durando, the father of nine, held up his smartphone to his audience at an Oct. 4 workshop during the Missouri Catholic Conference Assembly.  ‘We should be raising children to be in communion not only with God, but with each other,’ he said. ‘When I go home, and I am checking my e-mails, I am not at home.  I am still at the office.  Communion is not being formed.’” Though there has been progress in some areas since 1991, a number of situations have stayed the same or worsened.

“Twenty percent of U.S. children lived in families with incomes below the poverty line in 1991. Today the number is 22 percent. Some 11.5 million children were hungry or underfed in 1991.  Today, the number has soared to 15.9 million.  There were 2.5 million cases of physical, sexual or emotional abuse of children in 1991.  In 2013, there were more than 6 million cases reported.  And on the ‘haven’t changed’ side: The U.S. infant mortality rate is still the highest among 20 industrialized nations. In 1991, 76 babies died every day before they reached their first birthday.  The leading cause of death among adolescent males of all races and ethnicities is still gunshot wounds.  The U.S. still has the highest divorce rate, the highest teen pregnancy rate, the highest child poverty rate, and the highest abortion rate in the industrialized world. This is symptomatic of a society that is seeking fulfillment in relationships other than with God and with each other, Durnado said.”

(From The Catholic Key, Oct. 14, 2014)

Church in Liberia Fights Ebola: “Two months after the Ebola outbreak spiraled out of control in West Africa, small signs of change are beginning to appear in the Liberian capital of Monrovia: buckets of diluted chlorine for hand washing are outside many buildings, Ebola-specific treatment centers are opening, and now people bow to greet each other from a distance instead of embracing or shaking hands.  Slowly, proper information and education is trickling out to even the most remote areas, contributing to a growing understanding of the deadly virus. In the early days of the outbreak, people were scared to go to hospitals and clinics. ‘They didn’t trust the health system,’ explained Sr. Barbara Brilliant of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.  ‘Because why?  Health workers were dying, and they thought these are the people who are giving it to us, not trying to save us,’ she said.  …As fear and confusion gripped the country over how to deal with the killer virus, Liberia’s already shaky health system collapsed.  In small local clinics, sometimes entire staffs of eight or 10 people were killed within days.  The Catholic church’s biggest hospital in the capital of Monrovia, which employs over 185 staff, was forced to close after nine of their top doctors and administrators died of the virus. …

“As the country struggled through the early days of the virus in August and September, the Catholic church kicked their network into high gear.  The church has 18 clinics and hospitals in the diocese of Monrovia.  Even in the worst days of the outbreak, they kept 15 open. …The church’s clinics were able to stay open because of ‘good staff and committed people,’ Brilliant explained by Skype for Monrovia. …In the chaos of a developing disaster in an impoverished country, the women religious and Catholic organizations were at the forefront of organizing a response, Brilliant explained. …’Churches are here.  You can have the best international non-governmental organization in the world, but you know they’re going to leave. We’ve used the foundation of the church to get out and mobilize and treat early. That’s the blessing we have.’”

(From Global Sisters Report, Oct. 8, 2014)

U.S. Catholic Bishops Committed to Dialogue with Muslims: “The Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) reasserted their commitment to dialogue with other religions and Muslims in particular in a statement developed between October 2013 and its release on August 19 this year.  The committee, which is chaired by Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden of Baltimore, listed tensions between Christians [and] Muslims in different parts of the world as a primary reason for reaffirming the need for dialogue. ‘We understand the confusion and deep emotions stirred by real and apparent acts of aggression and discrimination by certain Muslims against non-Muslims, often against Christians abroad,’ the bishops wrote.

“‘Along with many of our fellow Catholics and the many Muslims who themselves are targeted by radicals, we wish to voice our sadness, indeed our outrage, over the random and sometimes systematic acts of violence and harassment – acts that for both Christians and Muslims threaten to disrupt the harmony that binds us together in mutual support, recognition and friendship.’… The bishops affirmed Pope Francis’ words of November 28, 2013, to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, that ‘dialogue does not mean renouncing one’s identity’ nor accepting compromises on faith and morals.  They wrote: ‘Like the pope, we are convinced that the encounter and dialogue with persons different than ourselves offers the best opportunity for fraternal growth, enrichment, witness, and ultimately peace.’”

(From Independent Catholic News, Sept. 2, 2014)

Church Supports Argentina’s Indigenous: “As the global economy pushes giant soybean fields and petroleum operations farther into previously untouched regions of South America, church activists in Argentina are standing alongside indigenous communities seeking to defend their land and culture from the destruction that such development has often entailed. ‘The buzzards are circling, wanting to seize the land from those to whom it belongs,’ said Consolata Fr. Jose Auletta, who coordinates indigenous ministries for the diocese of Nueva Oran in northern Argentina. ‘The buzzards are arriving with their agricultural projects, and they’re taking over thousands of hectares of indigenous land.  They have a piece of paper granting them title, so they say they can do what they want.  They’re doing away with the forest in the last part of Argentina that still has forest.  They’re destroying the lungs of Argentina’s North,’ Auletta told Catholic News Service.  With growing international focus on deforestation in the Amazon basin to the north, foreign corporations seeking land to feed China’s hunger for soybeans have come to the Chaco, a semi-arid forest that stretches across portions of Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina. 

“Auletta said anyone who stands up to the intruders is labeled a subversive. …Ever since Argentina emerged from dictatorship in the 1980s, the Catholic church has pushed hard for a variety of legal measures to guarantee indigenous land rights, but Auletta said those legal changes have only been effective when the government possessed the political will to implement them.  So the church has had to immerse itself in the complicated minutiae of land struggles while also battling a public perception that the indigenous in Argentina had all died off. ‘It’s been a difficult process.  We’ve been told for a long time that there were no indigenous in Argentina, and so we had to discover them anew.  We’ve discovered them among the poor, or, more exactly, among those who have been made poor by the rich.  As a church we’ve moved from protecting them to accompanying them, an important step for us because it means developing a respect for both their culture and their spirituality,’ Auletta said.”

(From National Catholic Reporter, Oct. 14, 2014)

African Church Leaders Respond to Climate Change: “As climate change devastates communities in Kenya, church leaders are helping to address the crisis locally while also calling on industrialized nations to own up to their responsibilities for spewing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. …People living in the ‘global south’ such as Kenya are suffering the worst consequences, climate experts say.  Droughts have become more severe and recurrent and are frequently followed by excessive rains or floods.  Temperatures are much higher and weather patterns are now unpredictable.  In conferences, church leaders and officials have heard from experts that greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide from industrial plants trap heat, slowing or preventing it from being lost in space.” Church leaders have developed programs such as a “massive tree planting project on church compounds and members’ farms”, giving talks on climate change, and “constructing structures known as sand dams…large concrete walls across a dry riverbed, stopping or slowing down the rapid flow of rainwater to the Indian Ocean. The simple structures – 231 have been built since 2009 – store water under the riverbed, so it can be used for irrigation, tree planting and domestic consumption throughout the year. …some people who did not have water can now access it and others who could not grow food are now capable of farming.”

(From National Catholic Reporter, Oct. 6, 2014)

Pope: War is Senseless Slaughter: “War is just ‘senseless slaughter’ and should never be seen as inevitable or a done deal, Pope Francis said. ‘War drags people into a spiral of violence which then proves difficult to control; it tears down what generations have labored to build up, and it sets the scene for even greater injustices and conflicts,’ he said in a written message to a world summit of religious leaders. ‘War is never a necessity, nor is it inevitable.  Another way can always be found: the way of dialogue, encounter and the sincere search for truth,’ he wrote.  …More than 300 leaders representing the world’s religions participated in the global summit, which was being held Sept. 7-9.  Its aim was to create an international alliance of religions dedicated to peace and dialogue and to countering fundamentalist ideologies and violence. …The pope urged the world’s religious leaders to cooperate in ‘healing wounds, resolving conflicts and pursuing peace.’

“Among those speaking at the summit in Antwerp was Ali Abtahi Sayyed Mohammad, a former vice president of Iran and current president of Iran’s Institute for Interreligious Dialogue. ‘Radicalism is the product of an alliance between tyrants and ignorant followers,’ Abtahi said Monday.  All conflicts based on presumably religious motives have shown that political leaders are the ones fomenting the violence, trying to convince ‘the devout that they are the only authentic religious group in the world and that the other religions are deviant and false.’  True religious believers, he said, ‘are those who understand the essence of religion’ and are ‘always against war and the hostility that religious radicalism spreads in the world.’”

(From National Catholic Reporter, Sept. 8, 2014)

Climate Change and National Security: “The Pentagon is integrating climate change threats into all of its ‘plans, operations, and training’ across the entire Defense Department, signaling a comprehensive attempt to tackle the impacts of global warming.  In a 20-page Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap released on Monday, the Pentagon details its strategic blueprint to address climate change, calling it a ‘threat multiplier’ that has the power to ‘exacerbate’ many of the challenges the U.S. faces today, including ‘infectious diseases and terrorism.’ ‘Among the future trends that will impact our national security is climate change,’ Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel writes in the report’s introduction. ‘Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict.  They will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe,’ he adds.

“The report asserts that climate change will affect the Pentagon’s ability to ‘defend the nation’ and ‘poses immediate risks to U.S. national security,’ which is why the department is factoring impacts into everything from ‘war games’ to ‘defense planning scenarios.’ The road map divides the Pentagon’s response into two sections: adaptation, or addressing current and future changes; and mitigation, or actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. …At home, the report states, the Pentagon is already studying the impact of increased demand for the National Guard after extreme weather events. Internationally, the department is considering how climate change could factor into the nation’s ‘rebalance’ to the Asia-Pacific. ‘Climate change is a global problem.  Its impacts do not respect national borders,’ Hagel states in the report. ‘Politics or ideology must not get in the way of sound planning,’ he adds. The report says instability created in other countries due to a lack of food and water, or the spread of disease, brought on by a warming climate ‘could undermine already fragile governments.’ In turn, ‘these gaps in governance can create an avenue for extremist ideologies and conditions that foster terrorism,’ the Pentagon roadmap states.”

(From The Hill, Oct. 13, 2014)

Philippine Sisters Foster Restorative Justice: “The grateful bride chose Sr. Zenaida Cabrera to be her wedding sponsor after the nun and fellow members of Servants of the Holy Eucharist had helped to free her father from prison. Cabrera told GSR that their work was representative of applying restorative justice, in this case to the bride’s family. Restorative justice is a method that includes prisoners, their families and a supportive community to help them ‘experience the transforming presence of Christ in their relationships.’ …The program was not always as broad as it is today.  Caritas Manila used to focus solely on the prisoners and their conditions in jail.  Little attention was given to inmates’ families or the communities where they live. ‘From prison ministry, there was a paradigm shift to restorative justice,’ Cabrera explained.  ‘We included in our program the correctional community, and the target is to bring inmates back to themselves and their families through their community.’

“Where ministry workers used to just bring groups together for prayer service and then give prisoners food, clothing and medicine, they now implement an expanded but integrated pastoral program that includes helping them adjust to life after their release. …Nuns and some 600 volunteers serve in 10 jails in Manila (five for men, five for women) in the Manila archdiocese, as well as 11 precincts and 13 jails in Cubao, northeast of Manila; 10 precincts and 13 jails in Antipolo diocese; and four precincts and the Malabon District Jail for women prisoners in Kalookan diocese. …Four centers in the program hold youth offenders. …Ministry teams also run seminars on Catholic social teaching and restorative justice for police and leaders, helping to explain how their system is working.  …For inmates, paralegals help with ‘sleeping cases’ …doing paperwork and research to refer cases to the public attorney’s office or the pool of lawyers at Caritas.  Last year, 108 prisoners were freed through this service.”

(From Global Sisters Report, Oct. 13, 2014)

SJB Friars Commit to Eco-Friendly Practices: At their Chapter in May 2014, the Franciscan Friars of St. John the Baptist Province passed the following proposal:

“We commit to increasing our personal and communal efforts regarding environmentally-friendly practices so as to promote, in concrete ways, more sustainable lifestyles. Each friary will choose and commit to at least two practices, either from the provided list or another source, and share these with the JPIC Office by October 2014. The JPIC Office will monitor this initiative and annually report its findings to the Province at large.”

SJB Friars Commit to Refugees, Migrants and Victims of Human Trafficking: The Franciscan Friars of St. John the Baptist Province based in Cincinnati, Ohio, held their 2008 Chapter at St. Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana May 19-23. Of the many proposals passed, the Chapter delegates affirmed a resolution to learn more about the issues of migrants, refugees and victims of human trafficking in order to better be able to respond to their needs. The resolution says:
 “We, the Franciscans of St. John the Baptist Province, commit ourselves to increase our awareness of issues surrounding refugees, migrants and victims of human trafficking in order to develop more proactive Franciscan responses on the provincial, friary and personal level.”
SJB Friars Commit to Non-violence: The Franciscan Friars of St. John the Baptist Province based in Cincinnati, Ohio, held their 2005 Chapter at the University of Dayton, May 23-27. Among the many proposals that were passed, the Chapter delegates affirmed a resolution introduced by their JPIC Office in which they committed themselves to “continued conversion to a life of Franciscan non-violence in support of a consistent ethic of life.” The complete resolution follows.
“As Franciscans, we affirm the sacredness of all human life and the inherent value of all creation. In a world where violence is rampant, we wish to be a sign of hope, actively promoting the preservation of life, peace among people and nations, justice for all and reconciliation. We commit ourselves to continued conversion to a life of Franciscan non-violence in support of a consistent ethic of life.”