A dream coming true: Mobilizing African sisters for systemic change

Global Sisters Report
by Eucharia Madueke, SNDdeN

eucharia-m-2015I was received into the novitiate on April 1, “April Fools’ Day,” despite my disapproval of the date. In her effort to ease my discontent, my postulate director told us of a saint she considers a fool for Christ, Maximilian Maria Kolbe, a Polish Conventual Franciscan who became a martyr of charity for volunteering to die in place of a stranger in Auschwitz, a World War II Nazi concentration and death camp. Although this story did not assuage the poor choice of a date for the novitiate reception, it left a lasting impression on me. The story enlarged my mind about other ways of serving humanity. Kolbe’s love of God in the other, his recognition of the dignity and worth of the person, and his giving up his life choices and opportunities for the other were indeed inspiring.

Everyone is born with worth and dignity, choices and opportunities. Unfortunately, some individuals enlarge their own choices and opportunities at the expense of others by creating unjust systems and structures. This deprivation of the humanity of others became clearer to me as a provincial of my religious community some years ago. Part of my job was to listen to sisters’ stories, conduct intake interviews for young women wishing to enter a religious community, seek employment for sisters after qualification, and set up new ministries and projects. In the process of doing these tasks, I came face to face with the reality of life for ordinary Nigerians. I witnessed the threats to the dignity of the human person and the pervasiveness of structural injustice that has eroded the peoples’ choices and opportunities.

I had no solution to propose during my term as provincial, as neither my social nor my religious formation had prepared me to handle structural and systemic issues. Nevertheless, I was convinced that systemic injustice stands in the way of sustained progress of the people; progress that could come about through the sisters’ services.

In my desire for sustainable change and being conscious that my social and religious formation had not adequately prepared me to tackle structural injustice beyond prayer and service, I started thinking of building my capacity in this area so I could pass this on to other sisters. After my leadership ministry, I enrolled in a social work program, concentrating on social justice and social change. Concentrating on how I myself could engage as well as mobilize other sisters for systemic change, I also studied development and public policy in relation to Africa.

One of the greatest gifts I received was having the privilege of being employed at NETWORK where I studied the intersection of faith and politics as well as practical ways of working toward structural change from the standpoint of Catholic social tradition. Witnessing NETWORK’s influence on shaping public policies and its effort to ensure that U.S. policies have a human face, I came to the conclusion that sisters acting on behalf of justice by exerting political influence must complement their provision of services for people in need. As a result, I became more convinced that African sisters, like their counterparts in the U.S., could become a formidable force for change if they are mobilized for collective action on behalf of justice on the African continent. This idea took form for me thorough my year at NETWORK.

It was like a dream come true when, at the end of my time in NETWORK, AFJN invited me to coordinate its women empowerment project, designed to empower African sisters for collective action on behalf of justice so that they in turn will mobilize other women. Working with AFJN interests me because we hold a common belief that African sisters could be a formidable force for change by giving their leadership in providing critical and essential services– education, healthcare, pastoral and social services– to families, mostly women and children. As individuals and groups, sisters represent a unique social diversity that is essential for ending poverty, protecting human rights and building a fair society. In fact, most Africans, especially women, can attribute their education and standing in society to the sisters’ educational ministries.

To harness African sisters’ enormous potential to work for a more just society and to engage in action for justice requires rallying their political will in this direction. So from April through the month of June this year, while I was visiting Nigeria, AFJN sponsored my travelling around the country to speak with some leaders of women’s religious communities, both individually and in groups, to ascertain their willingness to address systemic injustice. AFJN also sponsored a one-day sisters’ forum on “Just Governance and the Common Good: Religious Vocation and Faithful Citizenship.” More than 50 sisters from over 23 congregations gathered to discuss Nigeria’s socio-political reality, the intersection of faith and politics, and the possibility of expanding the sisters’ mission of service to include working for systemic change.

At the end of these meetings with the sisters, most especially the one-day sisters’ forum, I was pleasantly surprised at the sisters’ level of awareness of systemic injustice and its negative impact on the people, as well as their recognition of the need for something more than providing service to the victims. I was also astonished at the excitement with which the sisters kept referencing Pope Francis’s challenge to religious during the celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life in 2015 to “wake up the world.” It was very revealing.

The sisters affirmed their having been brought together, not as a congregation, but as Nigerian Catholic sisters to discuss this issue of great concern. Their vibrancy and eagerness to work together for change showed their understanding of the power of associational relationships and networking. Despite fear of being misunderstood by church leaders and ordinary Nigerians, the sisters showed an enthusiastic desire to raise their voices and hands against the sorry situation of Nigerian women and children. They demonstrated readiness and determination to engage the endemic systemic structures in the nation.

Catholic Sisters in Nigeria and in Africa have always been an integral part of the social fabric in their various societies. They have shown their leadership potential and proven that they can become formidable agents of change through their efficiency in providing services. Enabling them to expand their leadership in society into the socio-political arena in their various communities will go a long way toward dismantling structures that hurt the people the sisters serve. The sisters’ engagement with the structures of injustice, as well as their service provision, is indeed their mission of “bringing life in full” that is at the heart of religious life. It also restores their right to participate in shaping the affairs of their society.

[Eucharia Madueke is a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur in the Nigerian Province with expertise in social analysis, grassroots mobilization and organization. She coordinates women project of the African Faith and Justice Network.]

Archbishop of Detroit says special ‘Mass of Pardon’ for the sins of the diocese

The Tablet
usaArchbishop Vigneron said the purpose of the Mass was to receive pardon and prepare the Church for evangelisation

Archbishop of Detroit says special ‘Mass of Pardon’ for the sins of the diocese
A Mass for the sins and transgressions of the Archdiocese of Detroit was held last week, recalling instances in the Catholic Church’s history when it failed to live up to God’s calling, namely neglect of the poor, failing to protect children from abuse and failing to combat racism.

In attendance were Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron and Detroit Auxiliary Bishops Michael Byrnes, Arturo Cepeda and Donald Hanchon, who solemnly processed down the nave of the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament while the congregation stood silent calling to mind their own part in the transgressions.
The four men lay prostrate before the altar, humbling themselves before God, and in view of the flock they are called to shepherd.

The “litany of pardon” included:
• “For ignoring the word of God, living and effective, and hiding behind policies and procedures.”
• “For our failures to take to heart the Lord’s condemnation of those who scandalise ‘the little ones,’ and for failing to protect children from sexual abuse.”
• “For all the times we have not welcomed others to our parishes, especially for the times we have refused to allow African-American Catholics into our parish communities.”

Each invocation was answered with “Kyrie eleison” — “Lord have mercy”.

The ‘Mass for Pardon’ on 7 October at the cathedral is a step on the archdiocese’s path to “unleash the Gospel”, Archbishop Vigneron explained, saying how the Mass was a necessary step on the road to becoming a “band of joyful missionary disciples”. “We have been summoned by Pope Francis to do what it takes to be a band of joyful missionary disciples,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “And that is what tonight is about. We have been summoned in a very particular way.”

Before a packed cathedral, Archbishop Vigneron addressed in his homily the necessity for the Mass for Pardon, linking repentance as an inseparable part of the Gospel message. “Repent and believe in the good news, this is an inseparable prayer”, Archbishop Vigneron said. “In this computer age, you may call it a binary prayer. The two is really one. As we share in the mission of Jesus Christ, we can never siphon these truths.

“We can never proclaim the good news without calling for repentance. And we can never call for repentance without the invitation of the good news. That’s what tonight is about.”
Archbishop Vigneron said the Mass wasn’t a time for Catholics to beat themselves up for past transgressions or forget that sin has occurred within the church.

Rather, the purpose of asking for and receiving pardon is to prepare the Church to become the group of evangelisers God is calling it to be.

“We’re repenting so that we can receive the good news and share the good news,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “To be a band of joyful missionary disciples, we must first be evangelized. And to be evangelized, we must first repent.”

During the buildup to the “Mass for Pardon,” Archbishop Vigneron related how a reporter asked him what he most anticipated. The archbishop admitted he was taken aback by the question at first, but then replied he most anticipated Jesus being present in the cathedral in the form of the Blessed Sacrament.

“I most anticipate what will happen when I receive your gifts of bread and wine and are prepared and placed on the altar, when the Holy Spirit comes down upon them and takes the form of the body and blood of Christ,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “I anticipate offering the Holy Sacrament, because here, through the Holy Spirit, our true high priest is present.
“Present in his body, present in his blood. Offered with the sins we have confessed and will still confess again. To offer our prayers, with His one self, to the Father,” he continued. “So I tell you, I know, I am certain, that our sins are expiated, because we have a high priest who has risen from the dead and pleads for us at the right hand of the Father.”

Archbishop Vigneron concluded his homily with a summart of what the Mass for Pardon — and indeed reconciliation itself — is all about: not an erasing or forgetting of sin, but the transformation that is offered through the healing power of faith in Jesus Christ.
“It’s about transforming those faults in our sins, the wounds we bear that bear death, and transforming those wounds into new sources of life,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “That’s what pardon is in the kingdom of God. It’s not about forgetting, it’s about transformation. Transforming our lives though Jesus Christ, now and forever.”

AFJN Women’s Empowerment: The Story of Sr. Theresa Anyabuike

AFJN

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After I attended the “National Conference on Just Governance: The Nigerian Biosafety Act and GMOs – Implications for Nigerians and Africa” organized by AFJN in collaboration with other Nigerian NGOs in Abuja, May 24−26, 2016, I was moved to action, particularly after listening to the lack of government guidelines and regulations on the introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in Nigeria, as well as the environmental, social and health implications of this way of growing the food. Feeling strongly that no one has the right to colonize the Nigerian food system, I know I have to do something to let the people know what is going on in our country.

At the end of the conference, I knew that the people I work with, the Community Self-help Association of the Justice Development and Peace Mission, Oro, Ilorin Diocese, Kwara State Nigeria, should be made aware of the danger ahead of them in relation to the food we consume and the way the food is grown. On July 23, 2016, I held an awareness workshop where fifteen people comprising of farmers and civil servants attended.

At the workshop, I shared with the participants what I learned at the Abuja conference: the loopholes in the Nigerian biosaftey laws, the government granting Monsanto a sweeping concession to introduce genetically modified crops in Nigeria and target Nigeria’s major crops, and the overall implications of genetically modified crops for the nation. Mostly, I expressed my fears on the activities of big corporations like Monsanto which is nothing other than the colonization of our nation’s food system.

During the workshop, the participants shared their experiences in relation to their fears about GMOs. One of the farmers shared how the crops he had in his farm didn’t do well because of the chemicals he used. He confirmed that some persons gave him and other farmers from his locality the chemicals they used which affected their crops. Another said that the maize (corn) he planted earlier produced a bumper harvest, but the recent ones were diseased. He lamented, “I know that some people are giving out crops and chemicals for farmers to use. I got some, and now my crops are no longer the same.”  Further, another participant shared that there was a period in which some farmers brought abnormally large tomatoes to the market. He told them that the tomatoes were GMO because they were bigger than the natural organic tomatoes, but they didn’t listen to him. Others said that Agrochemical agents advised them to use chemicals on their farms.

The participants were shocked at the level of government insensitivity, to allow Monsanto and GMOs (and the chemicals that come with them) into the country. They expressed concern that they have consumed or planted some genetically modified produce.

At the end of the workshop, I felt confident that the group saw the danger ahead if GMOs are allowed to take over the Nigerian way of growing the food we eat, which is healthier and more sustainable. I was also delighted that they pledged not to allow anyone control to their food system. They committed themselves to going back to their rural areas and localities to disseminate the information as well as to educate other farmers to be vigilant and not to be deceived by anyone who comes promising bumper harvest by altering their natural way of growing. The participants also pledged to stand against anyone who wants to sell the nation to big corporations and anyone who wants to subject the country to a new form of colonization, one where outsiders control our seed, land and way of growing food.

Fossil Fuels: At What Price?

InterPress Service
By John Scales Avery
The author was part of a group that shared the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize for their work in organising the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. He is Associate Professor Emeritus at the H.C. Ørsted Institute, University of Copenhagen. He was chairman of both the Danish National Pugwash Group and the Danish Peace Academy, and he is the author of numerous books and articles both on scientific topics and on broader social questions. His most recent book is Civilization’s Crisis in the 21st Century.env

A petrochemical refinery in Grangemouth, Scotland, UK.| Author: John from wikipedia | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

OSLO, Sep 7 2016 (IPS) – We often read comparisons between the prices of solar energy or wind energy with the prices of fossil fuels. It is encouraging to see that renewables are rapidly becoming competitive, and are often cheaper than coal or oil. In fact, if coal, oil and natural gas were given their correct prices renewables would be recognized as being incomparably cheaper than fossil fuels.

Externalities in pricing
The concept of externalities in pricing was first put forward by two British economists, Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900) and Arthur C. Pigou (1877-1959).
In his book “The Economics of Welfare”, published in 1920, Pigou further developed the concept of externalities in pricing which had earlier been introduced by Sidgwick. He proposed that a tax be introduced to correct pricing for the effect of externalities.

An externality is the cost or benefit of some unintended consequence of an economic action. For example, tobacco companies do not really wish for their customers to die from cancer, but a large percentage of them do, and the social costs of this slaughter ought to be reflected in the price of tobacco.

The true environmental costs of fossil fuel use are much greater than those of smoking. Unless we stop burning fossil fuels within one or two decades, we risk a situation where uncontrollable feedback loops will lead to catastrophic climate change regardless of human efforts to prevent the disaster.

If we do not act very quickly to replace fossil fuels by renewables, we risk initiating a 6th geological extinction event. This might even be comparable to the Permian-Triasic extinction, during which 96 per cent of all marine species and 70 per cent of all vertebrates were lost forever.

Subsidies to fossil fuel companies
Far from being penalized for destroying the global environment and threatening the future of all life on earth, fossil fuel companies currently receive approximately $500,000,000,000 per year in subsidies (as estimated by the IEA).
They use part of this vast sum to conduct advertising campaigns to convince the public that anthropogenic climate change is not real.

Betrayal by the mainstream media
If we turn on our television sets, almost nothing that we see informs us of the true predicament of human society and the biosphere.

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John Scales Avery

Programs like “Top Gear” promote automobile use. Programs depicting ordinary life show omnipresent motor cars and holiday air travel. There is nothing to remind us that we must rapidly renounce the use of fossil fuels.
A further betrayal by the mainstream media can be seen in their massive free coverage of US presidential candidate Donald Trump, who is an infamous climate change denier.
Despite the misinformation that we receive from the mainstream media, we must remember our urgent duty to leave fossil fuels in the ground. If threats to the future are taken into account, the price of these fuels is prohibitive.

The statements and views mentioned in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of IPS.

Naomi Klein, Oliver Stone, Noam Chomsky, Others Condemn ‘Coup’ in Brazil

Common Dreams
“Brazil has only emerged from dictatorship some 30 years ago and these events could set back the country’s progress towards social and economic inclusion by decades”
Nika Knight, staff writer

brazil
Naomi Klein, Oliver Stone, Noam Chomsky. Twenty-two public intellectuals, writers, actors, and activists sent a letter to Brazilian government roundly condemning the impeachment of leftist President Dilma Rousseff. (Photos: Adolfo Lujan/flickr/cc, Matt Sayles/AP, Andrew Rusk/flickr/cc)

Naomi Klein, Oliver Stone, Noam Chomsky, Susan Sarandon, Arundhati Roy, and 17 other human rights activists, intellectuals, and public figures on Wednesday sent a letter to the Brazilian government condemning the impeachment of the country’s President Dilma Rousseff, and demanding that Brazil’s senate “respect the October 2014 electoral process which over 100 million people took part in.”

In the letter, which was published by the U.K.-based group No Coup in Brazil, the luminaries argue that “Brazil is a major regional power and has the largest economy in Latin America. If this sustained attack on its democratic institutions is successful, the negative shock waves will reverberate throughout the region.”

Rousseff’s impeachment trial began on Thursday, and was suspended briefly on Friday when the proceedings devolved into a shouting match.

“It is widely expected that, within a few days, senators will vote to definitively remove [Rousseff] from office,” notes Maria Luisa Mendonça, director of Brazil’s Network for Social Justice and Human Rights.

“The impeachment—labeled a coup by many Brazilians—has generated outrage and frequent protests in Brazil,” Mendonça adds.

“We stand in solidarity with our fellow artists and with all those fighting for democracy and justice throughout Brazil,” the letter says, adding that “Brazil has only emerged from dictatorship some 30 years ago and these events could set back the country’s progress towards social and economic inclusion by decades.”

Rousseff’s removal would end 13 years of Workers’ Party rule, as Common Dreams reported, and bring about the confirmation of “the unelected, right-of-center Temer” as president until 2018, the rest of Rousseff’s term.

“We are concerned about the politically motivated impeachment of the president, which has installed an unelected interim government,” the letter writers say. “The legal basis for the ongoing impeachment is widely contested and there is compelling evidence showing that key promoters of the impeachment campaign are seeking to remove the president to stop the corruption investigations that they themselves are implicated in.”

Prominent organizations have also joined in the condemnation of Rousseff’s impeachment. On Tuesday, 43 grassroots environmental, labor, and religious groups in the U.S. issued a statement decrying the “legislative coup.”

“We join social movements and millions of people in Brazil and worldwide calling for a return to democracy and the rule of law in Brazil, the return of the legitimately-elected President Rousseff to office, the reinstatement of Brazil’s critical social programs, and the recognition of human rights,” the groups declared.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Our Consumption Of Earth’s Natural Resources Has More Than Tripled In 40 Years

Huffington Post
Dominique Mosbergen Reporter, The Huffington Post

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We’ll need 180 billion tons of material annually to meet demand by 2050 if the world continues to use resources at the same rate it does today, the UN report finds. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Limestone and steel for our homes, wheat and vegetables for our dinner, fossil fuels for our industries: we rely heavily on our planet’s natural resources to survive.

Yet we’re using up these resources at such an unsustainable pace that we may be “irreversibly” depleting some of them ― and critically damaging our Earth in the process, according to a new United Nations report.

The report from the International Resource Panel, part of the UN Environment Program, said extraction of primary materials has more than tripled in 40 years. Rising consumption driven by a rapidly growing middle class is fueling the rate.

In 1970, about 22 billion tons of primary materials were extracted from the Earth. These included metals, fossil fuels like coal, and other natural resources, such as timber and cereals. In 2010, that number had ballooned to 70 billion tons.

We’ll need 180 billion tons of material annually to meet demand by 2050 if the world continues to use resources at the same rate it does today, the report estimates.

“The alarming rate at which materials are now being extracted is already having a severe impact on human health and people’s quality of life,” said IRP co-chair Alicia Bárcena Ibarra in a press release about the report, published late last month. “It shows that the prevailing patterns of production and consumption are unsustainable.”

“We urgently need to address this problem before we have irreversibly depleted the resources that power our economies and lift people out of poverty,” she added. “This deeply complex problem, one of humanity’s biggest tests yet, calls for a rethink of the governance of natural resource extraction to maximize its contribution to sustainable development at all levels.”

The increase in the use of fossil fuels, metals and other primary materials fuels climate change, according to the IRP. Other dire environmental consequences include higher levels of acidification and eutrophication of soils and water bodies, increased biodiversity loss, more soil erosion and increasing amounts of waste and pollution.

There’s an urgent need to significantly reduce the amount of primary materials used to lessen these impacts, the report said. Material efficiency needs to improve to do this and “decoupling escalating material use from economic growth is … imperative.”

Decoupling ― the ability of an economy to grow without a corresponding increase in its environmental footprint ― “requires well-designed policies,” the report said. Investments in research and development, as well as improved public policy and financing, will be critical.

The report also revealed the enormously uneven distribution of material use worldwide. “The richest countries consume on average 10 times as many materials as the poorest countries, and twice the world average,” it said.

The IRP ranked countries by the size of their per capita material footprints, or the amount of material required for total consumption and capital investment.

Europe and North America, which had annual per capita material footprints of about 20 and 25 tons respectively in 2010, topped the list. In contrast, the footprints for Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean were between 9 and 10 tons. Africa’s was below 3 tons.

Black women faced racism in pursuing religious vocations, says speaker

Catholic News Service
By Andrew Nelson | Catholic News Service

ATLANTA (CNS) — Black women desiring to serve a life devoted to the Catholic faith were not welcomed by religious communities with anti-black acceptance requirements from the early 19th century to the middle of the 20th century, said historian Shannen Dee Williams.

GEORGIA LCWR ASSEMBLY
Shannen Dee Williams, assistant professor in the department of history at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, addresses the Leadership Conference of Women Religious assembly in Atlanta Aug. 10. She spoke about racism and U.S. religious life. (CNS photo/Michael Alexander, Georgia Bulletin) See LCWR-VOCATIONS-RACISM Aug. 16, 2016.

Those who could gain admittance faced discrimination from their fellow sisters, she added.

“Black sisters matter, but they constitute a dangerous memory for the church,” said Williams, assistant professor of history at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

She was joined by Sister Anita Baird, a Daughter of the Heart of Mary, and Sister Dawn Tomaszewski, general superior of the Sisters of Providence, on an Aug. 12 panel discussing racism in religious life at the assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in Atlanta.

Williams upcoming book is called “Subversive Habits: Black Nuns and the Long Struggle to Desegregate Catholic America.” It was the subject of her doctoral dissertation at Rutgers University.

Later, scores of sisters walked from the LCWR assembly being held in the Hilton Atlanta to Centennial Olympic Park to pray on the plaza outside the Center for Civil and Human Rights, which is dedicated to the achievements of the U.S. civil rights and worldwide human rights movements.

Earlier, the participants wrote on slips of paper when they and their religious communities have not welcomed people of color. The slips became a “chain of bondage,” which was later broken after prayers of lamentation and a blessing.

Williams’ presentation was titled “Shattering the Silence: Black Women and the Challenge of History.

Continue reading Black women faced racism in pursuing religious vocations, says speaker