Tag Archives: social justice

Bakhita: Model of Resistance – Prayer & Action Against Human Trafficking

Children raise their hands in front of a mural of St. Bakhita at  a displacement camp  near Khartoum
Children raise their hands in front of a mural of St. Bakhita at a displacement camp near Khartoum

Today (February 8) is the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita who has beatified by Pope John Paul II. Today has also been declared, under the leadership of Pope Francis, as the first International Day of Prayer and Action against human trafficking.  I wrote about the connection between these two important dates in my latest column on Global Sisters Report.

The column draws upon research I did for my Masters thesis, “Human Trafficking as Social Sin: An Ethic of Resistance.” I see Bakhita as a model of resistance and believe that her story can help evoke in contemporary people of good will the motivation needed to take actions of solidarity and resistance to human trafficking today.

The story of St. Josephine Bakhita invites us to take an honest look at our own connections to the social sin of human trafficking. What are the unjust social and economic structures and distorted social norms which allow human trafficking to thrive? What actions of resistance might we take to heal relationships distorted by human trafficking?

Here are some resources for this first ever International Day of Prayer and Action against human trafficking.

Human trafficking is a social evil perpetrated by human beings. Human trafficking is not inevitable. As St. Josephine Bakhita’s story tells us, it is possible to resist, and it is possible for ordinary persons to resist in solidarity with trafficked persons.  We can start today through our prayer and action against human trafficking.

Full Circle

Last night I attended an event at the Brother Darst Center in Chicago on supply chains. That in itself would be interesting, especially as it is so connected to my thesis topic, given that there is in fact so much forced labor in our supply chain that we are all connected to human trafficking just by the pervasive act of purchasing goods and services.

What made the evening extra special was that it was a special event co-hosted by the Chicago Justice Cafe.

The reason this is cool is that Justice Cafes are a program for young adults that I had a hand in creating when I was working at the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center in Seattle. Essentially they are a network of young adults committed to a spirituality that does justice who get together monthly to learn and share about important issues. The IPJC office puts together a discussion guide, prayer, etc… so it is ready to go right out of the box.

We started out small about 5 years ago with about 10 Justice Cafes mostly in the Pacific Northwest, although pretty early on through God’s providence we also had groups in California,  on the East Coast,  and even in Kenya and Nigeria.

It has been amazing to see something I helped to start continue to grow and expand. So when I saw that there was an event being co-hosted by the local Justice Cafe, I knew I had to go!

As I get ready to leave Chicago for new adventures, it was a nice way to tap back into earlier adventures and realize you never know what kind of impact you can have.

image

Lamenting Racial Injustice: Theology Quotes

blogquoteMassingale

I’m reviving a feature from my old blog, at least until I finish my present life as a graduate student in Catholic theological ethics.  From time to time, I’ve been sharing a quote from a theologian which I think people might find interesting, challenging, or otherwise important. This particular quote is from a book which I highly recommend, especially in light of the most recent manifestations of what the U.S. Bishops named in 1979 as “an evil which endures in our society and in our Church” (Brothers & Sisters to Us) … racism.

The book is called Racial Justice and the Catholic Church (Orbis Books, 2010) by Bryan N. Massingale.  Fr. Bryan Massingale is a highly respected Catholic moral theologian who has worked extensively both as an academic and as a practitioner on the issue of racial justice. I was lucky enough to take a very challenging course on the ethics of power and racial justice during my studies at Catholic Theological Union. Massingale’s 2010 book was one of our central texts for the course. It’s easy to read and yet nimbly engages the complex reality of racism, the challenge it poses for the church, and the promise of racial justice.

I found his book very challenging and incredibly important. I also found it empowering, especially his work on the need for a theology and practice of lament. Massingale astutely observes that racism engages us viscerally at the gut level. For this reason, we can’t merely rely on reason as we work for racial justice. The emotional responses on all sides to what’s been happening in Ferguson and across the country illustrate this key point.  Our shared history and present reality is just too messy to logically “fix” the enduring and embedded reality of racism.

Because racism and racial injustice hit us in the gut, they tend to be “impervious” to appeals to reason. If we cannot think, reason, or debate our way through this impasse, what do we do?

Massingale believes that we need to “lament the ambiguity and distortions of our history and their tragically deforming effects on ourselves. We need to lament, mourn, and grieve our history. … Lament has the power to challenge the entrenched cultural beliefs that legitimate privilege.  It engages a level of human consciousness deeper than logical reason.  Lamenting can propel us to new levels of truth seeking and risk taking as we grieve our past history and strive to create an ethical discourse that is more reflective of the universality of our Catholic Faith.” (Bryan Massingale, “The Systemic Erasure,” in Catholic Theological Ethics, Past, Present, and Future: the Trento Conference, ed. James F. Keenan, Orbis Books, 2011).

I share his insights because they have been powerful for me, informing both my prayer and my action as a white woman who experiences white privilege every day that distances me from the entrenched reality of racial injustice which my brothers and sisters of color cannot escape.  Massingale believes that not only the victims of racial injustice, but even the beneficiaries of privilege, can and should lament.

“For the beneficiaries of white privilege, lament involves the difficult task of acknowledging their individual and communal complicity in past and present racial injustices. It entails a hard acknowledgement that one has benefited from another’s burden and that one’s social advantages have been purchased at a high cost to others. Here lament takes the form of a forthright confession of human wrongdoing in the light of God’s mercy. It is a form of truth-telling and contrition that acknowledges both the harms that have been done to others and one’s personal and communal culpability for them.” (Racial Justice and the Catholic Church)

Until we recognize, lament, and mourn this unfortunately reality, we can never effectively counter the distorted denial of our God given equality or find our way to the path towards racial justice.  Until we recognize, lament, and mourn this unfortunate reality, we continue to get caught up on rational discussions of bias and prejudice, from which it is easy to distance ourselves, and fail to see the embedded and structural nature of racial injustice from which we cannot escape.

Infographics: Feminization of Migration

As I prepare for my oral comprehensive exams for my MA in Theology which are in three weeks, I am revisiting much of my research and writing from my courses these past two years in ethics and spirituality. Last year, I researched the phenomenon of the feminization of migration for my course on Women, Poverty, and Global Justice. Right now I’m engaging with the ethical reflection work I did on this reality, focused primarily on kinship and solidarity as ethical responses and ways toward immigration justice.

I was also reminded last night, re-reading the work of Gustavo Gutiérrez: “From the perspective of the option for the poor, theology is done not only about the migrants and their situation, but from their situation.”  So what is the situation of the feminization of migration? What can we learn from the experiences of women migrants themselves?  I am sharing below two infographics I made last semester as part of my own research and ethical reflection on this reality. If you find them helpful or engaging, please feel free to use them. My nerdiness is at your service, or really, in the service of justice for all God’s children.  If you do end up using them, please let me know.

[Here is a link to download my Feminization of Migration Infographic]

Infographic on the feminization of migration
Infographic on the feminization of migration
Infographic on women's experience of migration
Infographic on women’s experience of migration

No Longer Strangers … a Scripture reflection

ephesiansI was invited to give a reflection on Ephesians 2:12-22 today at an all school mid-day prayer service held in our chapel at Catholic Theological Union.  It was a wonderful opportunity to ponder the word of God in the context of our community. Here’s what I shared:

As a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace, I was delighted when I was invited to offer a short reflection on this reading from Ephesians, in which the theme of peace is so strong.

“For he is our peace … He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.”

I can’t help but hear echoes of my religious community’s Constitutions, where we say:

“Christ is our peace, the source of our power. United with him we engage in the struggle against the reality of evil and continue the work of establishing God’s reign of justice and peace.”

Christ is our peace, calling us to unity. But if we look around, so much divides us. Dividing walls abound, some of them quite literal like the ones we build on our borders.

Christ is our peace, but WE must make that peace known in our world. In the words of Paul VI who was beatified in Rome just this past weekend: “If you want peace, work for justice.”

As I have been sitting with this reading these past few days, I have been struck by another line from Ephesians:

“So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners…”

In 2003, the Bishops of the United States and Mexico crossed the dividing wall between our nations, united as one Church, to reflect on the reality of immigration and the need for immigration justice.

They called their joint pastoral letter: “Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope.”

In the letter, the Bishops reflect on themes of migration and hospitality in Scripture:

  • From Abraham and Sarah offering hospitality to three strangers, who were actually a manifestation of God
  • To the edict to welcome the stranger, remembering Israel’s own exile in Egypt
  • To the Holy Family’s own flight into Egypt
  • To the reading we have today, of which the Bishops say:
    “The triumph of grace in the Resurrection of Christ plants hope in the hearts of all believers and the Spirit works in the Church to unite all peoples of all races and cultures into the one family of God.”

Just look around our community here at CTU. Our students come from places that are far and places that are near.  We come from places of relative peace and prosperity and places that have experienced deep division and heart wrenching violence.

We come to learn to be unifiers, reconcilers, bearers of mercy and builders of peace.

CTU is now even a place of hospitality, welcoming immigrant women and families in the Marie Joseph House of Hospitality across the street.

We have also been invited to participate in a practical work of mercy this week through a winter clothing drive for our immigrant brothers and sisters.

As the CTU community, we are no longer strangers and sojourners, but fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God.

May we be reconcilers in our families and communities.

May we welcome the stranger and work for justice.

May we seek, build, live, and bring peace.

Amen.

Margaret Anna Fridays – Poverty

Mother Francis Clark (Margaret Anna Cusack)
Mother Francis Clare (Margaret Anna Cusack)

Periodically on Fridays I will share some words of wisdom from the founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. Known in religion as Mother Francis Clare, Margaret Anna Cusack was a prolific writer in her day. Happily, thanks to public domain and the many internet book projects, much of her writing is now available online.  She was a woman of her time and yet, ahead of her time in many ways.

“We are, then, put face to face with the great fact of Poverty, we are put face to face with the certain consequences of the continuance of such a condition of things, and if we have one spark of humanity we are put face to face with the question, What can we do personally and individually to lessen poverty, if we cannot abolish it?”

~The Question of Today: Anti-Poverty & Progress (1887) by M.F. Cusack