Category Archives: Action

Kiev monastery fights coronavirus with homemade hand sanitizer

Screenshot_2020-03-25 Kiev monastery fights coronavirus with homemade hand sanitizer
A clergyman of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine packs bottles of hand sanitizer at the Vydubychi Monastery in Kiev, Ukraine March 21, 2020. Priests and students of the theological seminary produce hand sanitizer and donate it to the elderly and people in need to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

KIEV, – The black-robed Orthodox clerics sit in a line under an icon in one of Ukraine’s oldest monasteries, mixing up batches of hand sanitizer to distribute to the poor and the needy.

Wearing purple disposable gloves, the clergy and students in the 11th-century Vydubychi complex concentrate as they follow the recipe set out by World Health Organization and use sterilised gear to fill row after row of plastic bottles.

The monastery in Kiev started the operation after hearing people were struggling to get enough sanitizer to protect themselves against the coronavirus, Roman Holodov, head of the social assistance department at the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, said.

“People are in a panic, especially poor people who have no access to sanitizers,” he told Reuters.

Hundreds of bottles filled with clear liquid are boxed up in a room that used to be a Sunday school.

They are then sent to destinations scrawled on a whiteboard – cities from Odessa in the south to Mariupol in the east, close to the frontline of Ukraine’s simmering conflict with Russian-backed separatists.

Churches across the denominations have started adapting to the coronavirus which at the last count has infected 73 people in the country and killed three.

The Orthodox Church of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic church broadcast Sunday services online to comply with restrictions on gatherings. Priests have asked the faithful to stop kissing crosses or relics.

Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the Major Archbishop of the Greek Catholic Church, delivered his sermon in the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ of Sunday. The chairs were mostly empty, but more than 20,000 people watched on YouTube.

The spoon he used to administer communion to the few worshippers who were present was disinfected after each use.

“At our request, at our call, people stayed at home. And in my opinion, it shows their Christian and civic sense of responsibility,” he told Reuters after the service.

 

Church’s social justice teachings inspire young climate activist

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Isabella Johnson demanded the city of Chicago declare a “climate emergency” at the Oct. 7, 2019, Youth Climate Strike. Johnson, 17, leads the organization that planned the event. Her pin reads “There is no planet B.” (Zack Fishman)

Climate activist Isabella Johnson is planning a massive Earth Day protest that requires permits and other paperwork with the city of Chicago. But she is finding it challenging to get to the city’s offices before they close at 4:30 p.m.

That’s because she is still in high school.

As the leader of the Illinois chapter of the Youth Climate Strike organization, 17-year-old Johnson has helped organize four Chicago protests that are part of an international movement that encourages students to skip school to advocate for action on global warming and environmental justice.

Johnson, a senior at Benet Academy, a Catholic prep school about 35 miles west of
downtown Chicago, oversees 20 volunteer staff and regularly takes a train downtown to meet with adults from partner organizations. She squeezes in responses to media during homeroom and lunch.

“I try to fit in my homework somewhere in there, too,” she said.

Now Johnson is working on what she hopes is her biggest youth protest yet, the April 22 event that could attract some 15,000 or more Chicago-area youth.

“I’m really passionate about all these things,” she told NCR’s Earthbeat. “I saw something that needed fixing in the world, so I decided to spend my time fixing it.”

Johnson is quick to share facts about the seriousness of the crisis, citing the estimate that the world has about 12 years to avoid disastrous consequences from global warming.

“I think climate change is one of the most important issues of today, just because it is so time sensitive,” she said. “We’re damaging the earth. It’s our home; it’s our earth; it’s God’s creation.”

But being in the spotlight has not always been easy for Johnson, who grew up in nearby Naperville. She has faced online bullying and struggles with her own mental health.

What keeps her grounded — and motivates her activist work — is her faith.

Youth stepping up

Last fall, while in Colorado checking out prospective colleges, Johnson had the chance to meet Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg while backstage at that state’s climate strike.

Johnson thanked Thunberg and apologized for President Trump, who had publicly mocked the activist during her visit to the U.S. Thunberg, in turn, thanked her and the other Colorado activists.

The whole experience was “mind-blowing,” Johnson said. “Without her, I would not be doing what I’m doing.”

Johnson also owes her activism career to her older sister, Olivia, who in 2018 took her to her first protest after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. For the first time, “I felt like I could create change, too,” she recalled.

Johnson began to educate herself about the issue of gun violence and about politics. That’s when she decided to trade her involvement with track and cross country for political activism, especially around environmental issues.

“Because the adults and the politicians aren’t doing enough about this, it’s been left to the youth,” said Johnson. “Most youth activists say they don’t want to do this, but we’ve been forced to.”

As a state leader, she created an ambassador program that allows students outside the core team to get involved at a lesser level. Illinois now has more than 100 ambassadors, and the program has been replicated by other state chapters.

 

 

 

 

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/churchs-social-justice-teachings-inspire-young-climate-activist

University of Notre Dame converts tons of dining hall leftovers into energy

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University of Notre Dame senior Matthew Magiera stands in front of one of the school’s 5,000-gallon holding tanks of ground-up food. (William E. Odell)

Notre Dame, Indiana — On the campus of the University Notre Dame with its “Fighting Irish” mascot, green is undeniably the school color during football season. But in recent years, the 177-year-old university with about 12,000 students has been going green in other ways — reducing its carbon footprint and working towards sustainability.

In 2016, the university adopted a comprehensive sustainability strategy that featured six major areas the university intended to work on. One of them was a commitment to reduce waste, including food waste. At Notre Dame, food waste comes primarily from its two main dining halls and from campus catering events. Food waste was painfully visible on home football game weekends. Thousands of fans came to campus to cheer, eat, drink — and discard what they didn’t consume.

“One of the first things I realized when I started working at the university was that we were generating an awful lot of waste on campus, and most of it was food,” recalled Allison Mihalich, senior program director at Notre Dame’s Office of Sustainability.

Until two years ago, Mihalich worked for the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. She’s found campus culture very different than the EPA environment. Not everyone on campus is well informed about or even interested in environmental issues. But she saw that Notre Dame administrators had a growing commitment to sustainability and wanted to both recycle and rescue food.

Mihalich said she first encountered Matthew Magiera, a chemical engineering major from Pittsford, New York, in the university’s sustainability office conference room. His research notes and calculations were spread out across the table and floor. Collaborating with Campus Dining and the Office of Sustainability, Magiera had been tasked as an intern with calculating the amount of food waste from dining hall food trays and from catering.

It was quite a challenge for a sophomore college student, even an exceptionally committed and capable one. For months, “waste weighs” of food were painstakingly recorded, analyzed and re-analyzed.

“We realized that we were generating a ton of food waste a day,” Mihalich told NCR’s EarthBeat. “Literally an actual ton of food waste every day from the two dining halls and the catering facilities!”

Two years later, Magiera shies away from taking much credit for his critical food waste research. Nonetheless, the research soon led to Notre Dame’s installation of three Grind2Energy systems, one near each of the two dining halls and one by the catering office.

Last year, Notre Dame began utilizing the Grind2Energy systems in order to process its food waste and then send it to another site for anaerobic digestion, the biological break-down of organic material that produces biogas that can be used to generate electric power.

 

 

 

 

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/university-notre-dame-converts-tons-dining-hall-leftovers-energy

Under attack from climate change, Colombia’s farmers befriend nature

Screenshot_2020-02-22 Under attack from climate change, Colombia's farmers befriend nature
A group of farmers stand near wetlands at the village of El Torno in northern province of Sucre, Colombia. February 11, 2020. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Anastasia Moloney

SUCRE, Colombia, – Forced to leave his small farm a decade ago to escape the worst floods in Colombia’s recent history, Manuel Jimenez knows the destruction torrential rains can inflict only too well.

“The floods left behind a desert, a cemetery of dead trees and poisonous snakes. Everything was destroyed. We lost our home, crops and animals,” said the 43-year-old farmer in Pasifueres, a remote village in the northern province of Sucre.

“We lived through a cruel tragedy,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Ten years on, as climate change bites, local farmers are learning to adapt to the impacts of wilder weather by working with nature, from restoring wetlands to planting trees and growing hardy rice varieties, backed by international funding.

The 2010 flooding, triggered by heavy downpours, killed about 300 people and displaced 2.2 million more, causing billions of dollars in damages across 1 million hectares (3,860 square miles).

Hardest-hit were poor farming communities in La Mojana, a region stretching across four northern provinces.

Aid officials warn extreme weather, from torrential rains to drought, will strike again and likely become the new normal.

Some parts of La Mojana are prone to drought, while others are experiencing more intense rains, said Jimena Puyana, who heads work on sustainable development in Colombia for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

But rural communities are fighting back.

With nearly $8 million of U.N. funding since 2013, about 6,000 farming and fishing families in three municipalities of La Mojana have introduced a series of measures to adapt to climate shifts and cope better with extreme weather.

The approach focuses on so-called “nature-based solutions” – which involves improving ecosystems, including forests, wetlands and watersheds – led by village farmer associations, rather than building infrastructure like dikes and levees to contain floods.

One of the main methods is to restore the wetlands and waterways that regulate the local water supply so that they can act as natural drainage systems and buffers against storms.

Prolonged flooding and sediment build-up from illegal gold mining have damaged the wetlands around farming villages, disrupting the water’s natural flow and channels.

“What we are seeking to do is to recover the capacity of the region’s water systems,” said Francisco Charry, head of climate change at Colombia’s environment ministry, which is leading the project in partnership with the UNDP.

Climate change is worsening the conditions faced by vulnerable communities that are prone to flooding, he added.

“(They) need to find a way to adapt to this new reality,” he said.

 

 

 

 

https://news.trust.org/item/20200222082405-lome9/

Healthcare networks launch anti-human trafficking training

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Stock image. Credit: HTWE/Shutterstock

– A new partnership is aiming to expand training for medical professionals on how to identify and assist victims of human trafficking.

Global Strategic Operatives for the Eradication of Human Trafficking (Global Strategic Operatives) announced a new collaboration and partnership with the Selah Way Foundation, a global network of leading anti-sexual exploitation service providers at a press conference on Thursday, Jan. 30 in Washington, D.C.

Deb O’Hara-Rusckowski, one of the co-founders of Global Strategic Operatives, told CNA that the organization decided to go into the medical field because studies have shown that about 88% of victims of human trafficking seek medical treatment at some point while they are being trafficked.

As a member of the Order of Malta, a lay Catholic religious order, O’Hara-Rusckowski said she considers her work in combating human trafficking to be an ideal way to live out the three charisms of the order: caring for the sick, caring for the poor, and defending the faith.

“My whole life right now is living out my faith,” she said. “I can’t think of any better way of taking those charisms and really combining them to live out my faith.”

A pilot program has already begun at six hospital systems located around the country–Baptist Health in Florida, Advocate Aurora Health in Illinois, Hackensack Meridian Health in New Jersey, Harris Health System in Texas, Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, RWJ Barnabas Health in New Jersey, and Northwell Health in New York. These locations were chosen due to higher-than-average rates of human trafficking in their areas.

Staff members at hospitals in these healthcare systems have been trained to spot signs that a person may be a victim of human trafficking.

Representatives from each of the six hospital systems, Homeland Security Investigations (a branch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security), as well as Congressmen Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Ross Spano (R-FL), spoke at the press conference in praise of Global Strategic Operatives.

Karen Stanford, the manager of the emergency department at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL, told CNA that the reality of human trafficking was brought home to her after her daughter was approached by a potential trafficker two years ago. Her hospital is part of the Advocate Aurora Health system.

“We live in a gated community, and so it was a bit of a shock,” she said. The experience prompted her to reach out to Paula Besler, vice president of Selah Freedom, looking to bring some sort of educational program to Lutheran General to better identify survivors of human trafficking.

“Then we had this awesome opportunity to partner with CommonSpirit Health, who brought some of their tools forward. And then we were able to fly in survivors to provide us with education and disbanding some of the [misconceptions] that were barriers to identifying,” said Stanford.

CommonSpirit Health is a Catholic health system that received a grant in 2019 to help combat human trafficking. It partners with Global Strategic Operatives.

As a healthcare professional, Stanford told CNA that there is a tendency to be “non-judgemental,” which has resulted in some red flags going unnoticed.

“If somebody comes in [to the emergency room] who we are suspecting is using drugs or prostituting, we’re oftentimes thinking that it is a choice, when the reality is, and what we’ve learned so very much around here, is that’s not necessarily true. It’s because they’re being forced into it,” said Stanford.

Since the training was put in place at her hospital, Stanford said that there have been increased identifications of people who were trafficked, and next month, the entire health system will launch a task force to further expand the program to 25 additional sites.

“I’m really excited to help that move forward,” said Stanford. “Now that there’s this recognition, there’s a great amount of momentum in emergency medicine to start the education and planning.”

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/healthcare-networks-launch-anti-human-trafficking-training-49853

Nuns’ retreat house, built by Muslim benefactor, signifies interfaith bond

House
Scripture text adorns a wall of the monastery for the Carmel of Mary, Queen of the Universe and of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus in Zamboanga City, Philippines. Ibrahim Nuño, a Muslim civil engineer whose family has helped the community, constructed a new building for the Carmelite monastery, for free. (Charity Durano)

Zamboanga City, Philippines — A two-story retreat house built by a Muslim benefactor opened a new stream of income for a community of Carmelite nuns in the southern Philippines and is the most visible sign of long-standing ties between the nuns and their Muslim neighbors.

“Without waiting for me to finish the appeal he said that he would build it completely free,” recalled Sr. Mary Agnes Xavier Guillen of the Discalced Nuns of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, who meets with visitors from outside the community. She was speaking of Ibrahim Nuño, a Muslim civil engineer with roots in Zamboanga City, and whose family has helped the community of Catholic nuns in various ways. When the St. Teresa Hall next to their chapel needed urgent repairs to its roof, Guillen reached out to Nuño, who offered to construct a completely new building that was completed last year

“We have formed friendships with the Muslims through the years. They come to share their concerns, their problems and to ask for prayers,” said Guillen. She noted the common devotion of Christians and Muslims to Our Lady of the Pillar, patroness of Zamboanga City, one of the largest cities in the country. (The devotion to La Virgen del Pilar, originally brought by the Spanish colonizers in the 1700s, remains the most popular Marian devotion in the region, where she is revered as a miracle-worker and a guardian.)

“I remembered the kindness and the offer of our old friend to help if we needed anything,” said Guillen, who reached out to Nuño, president and managing director of a Luzon-based construction company known for malls, office and residential buildings.

“Carmel’s presence in Zamboanga is a witness to the value of prayer in the life of everyone, Christians or Muslims,” said Guillen.

Founded in 1956, there are 18 Carmelite nuns who make up the Carmel of Mary, Queen of the Universe and of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus in Zamboanga City. Their average age is over 60 years old, with the youngest member in her 40s. It is one of 23 monasteries of the Discalced Nuns of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, or OCD, in the country, seven of which are in the Mindanao region, including the one in Zamboanga City, according to the 2019 Catholic Directory of the Philippines.

For 49-year-old math teacher Ruth Guerrero, “the presence of a Carmelite monastery connotes a kind of spiritual assurance, that is, we have prayer warriors.” Guerrero, who teaches at the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Zamboanga University in the city and is a member of the formation team for first-year students, added, “whenever I happen to be around the area or pass by where their monastery is, even without entering their compound, I feel a quiet assurance of serenity.”

Guerrero still remembers how her mother offered prayers at the monastery when Guerrero took her board exams, as well as at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Pillar. “The practice has always been there since we believe that is their vocation to devote time for prayer. It’s also like we want to make sure the Lord hears us.”

The Santa Teresa House of Prayer is the second project that Nuño has done for the Carmelite community. According to Guillen, “[Nuño] has expressed to us that building it is an honored privilege for him, one that will bring blessings to him and his family.”

The impetus to initially repair and then build a new retreat house came out of a need for extra space. Guillen said that diocesan and religious priests often ask to stay at the monastery for a retreat but they have had to turn down some requests because they only had two guest rooms.

The new house of prayer means that they can accommodate more priests and members of other religious communities in its seven guest rooms. The open space ground floor can be used by Catholic schools for gatherings for their staff, faculty and students. Guillen adds that it is another source of income for their community.

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/people/nuns-retreat-house-built-muslim-benefactor-signifies-interfaith-bond

Stella Maris supports seafarers facing unseen crisis at Christmas

Seafearer
Stella Maris port chaplain with seafarer

While most businesses and companies have started winding down operations in preparation for the Christmas holidays, global maritime charity Stella Maris (Apostleship of the Sea) will be busy supporting the many seafarers who face unseen difficulties this time of year.

The organisation’s port chaplains and ship visitors in Great Britain and around the world are working through Christmas to ensure that crew members, and particularly those going through crises, receive vital pastoral and practical support.

In one recent case, Stella Maris stepped in to help the Kenyan crew of a vessel who lacked food and water and had received death threats from the ship’s owner. The charity arranged with the local church for the crew to be visited and is working with colleagues to get the situation resolved.

“This will be a hugely stressful time for not only the crew but for their families back home too. Christmas can be a lonely time for many seafarers, without family around, but for those caught up in such awful circumstances, the effect upon their mental wellbeing is huge,” said Martin Foley, Stella Maris European Regional Coordinator.

Last week, a Stella Maris chaplain in Southern Africa learnt about a fishing vessel that was arrested in port with six seafarers on board who are without sufficient food and water. They have also not been paid their wages for a few months now.

The local Stella Maris team intervened, providing emergency food and water supplies. One of the seafarers was shivering from the cold so the chaplain gave him his own warm jacket for which he was really grateful to have. Stella Maris continues to monitor the situation.

Martin said, “Sadly, situations like these are not unfamiliar with Stella Maris port chaplains and ship visitors, as the charity’s HYPERLINK “www.apostleshipofthesea.org.uk/life-sea-report” Life at Sea Report – the second edition of which will be published next year – has shown.”

He added: “The sight of a Stella Maris port chaplain or ship visitor going on board a ship is a welcome one for many seafarers, especially at this time of year when we ensure that seafarers are not forgotten and show our appreciation for the sacrifices they make throughout the year.”

 

 

 

https://www.indcatholicnews.com/news/38585