Category Archives: Education

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.]

Webinar: A Faithful Response to Fast Track June 10th 12pm (EST)/ 9am (PST)

Stop! TPPThe past few weeks have allowed us a glimpse into the heavily politicized world of trade politics. Last month, the Senate narrowly passed the undemocratic “Fast Track” trade promotion authority.  Now the trade fight is headed to the House.

We, as people of faith, have an opportunity to reframe the debate to ensure that marginalized communities and God’s earth are at the center of U.S. trade policies. With negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership nearly complete, corporate interests have trumped any form of public participation.  As a result,  access to medicines, good jobs, food security, and environmental protections are all in jeopardy.

Join the Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment to hear a play-by-play on the Senate vote and the latest on the House fight. Learn what small actions you can take back home that can have a big impact on the global economy. Sign up here.

Speakers
Laura Peralta-Schulte – NETWORK: A Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Lacey Kohlmoos – Public Citizen, Global Trade Watch
Chloe Schwabe – Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns (Moderator)
Maryknoll Alert Link

Chloe Schwabe
Faith Economy Ecology Program Director
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
200 New York Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
202-832-1780
cschwabe@maryknoll.org 
www.maryknollogc.org 

Humble Pie à La Mode

AMERICA MAGAZINE
By Valerie Schultz

shutterstock_134052872_0When you go hiking up a mountain with your fit husband and fit daughter and find that, between the altitude and the steep grade, you can’t keep up with them, even though it’s a hike you’ve done before, you eat a little humble pie. Then, when your boot slips on some rocks on the way back down and you fall and bruise your tailbone, you eat a big slice of humble pie. You see by the solicitous looks on their faces that you have in fact aged while you were not paying attention, and maybe you should stick to activities more suited to your abilities. It’s a day for humble pie a la mode.

I must admit that I am surprised by physical limitations. I am used to feeling in control, at the top of my game, the super mom who can handle anything life proposes. Curtailing a hike due to waves of nausea and a pounding heart, and ending it clumsily on my butt, are not the kinds of events that jive with my self-image. And facing my shortcomings is not my idea of a pleasant morning.  More…

“Protect the earth, dignify humanity”

INDEPENDENT CATHOLIC NEWS

The Blue Marble -- taken during Apollo 17 lunar mission 1972. (Google Image/unknown)
The Blue Marble — taken during Apollo 17 lunar mission 1972. (Google Image/unknown)

World leaders meeting at the Vatican for a conference on climate change have issued a final statement today, declaring that “human-induced climate change is a scientific reality” and “its decisive mitigation is a moral and religious imperative for humanity.”

The statement says that humans have the technological and financial means, and the know-how, to combat human-induced climate change, while at the same time eliminating global poverty.

The conference, entitled ‘Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity: The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Humanity’ was organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, SDSN and Religions for Peace.

Declaration of Religious Leaders, Political Leaders, Business Leaders, Scientists and Development Practitioners
More…

EPA issues new rules to protect Americans drinking water, streams

THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR
By Mary Clare Jalonick, ASSOCIATED PRESS

President Obama said in a statement Wednesday that the rules will provide needed clarity for business and industry and ‘will ensure polluters who knowingly threaten our waters can be held accountable.’

WASHINGTON

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy speaks in Washington Nov. 19, 2014. The Obama administration issued new rules Wednesday to protect the nation's drinking water and clarify which smaller streams, tributaries, and wetlands are covered by anti-pollution and development provisions of the Clean Water Act. McCarthy said the rule will only affect waters that have a 'direct and significant' connection to larger bodies of water downstream that are already protected.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy speaks in Washington Nov. 19, 2014. The Obama administration issued new rules Wednesday to protect the nation’s drinking water and clarify which smaller streams, tributaries, and wetlands are covered by anti-pollution and development provisions of the Clean Water Act. McCarthy said the rule will only affect waters that have a ‘direct and significant’ connection to larger bodies of water downstream that are already protected.

Drinking water for 117 million Americans will be protected under new rules shielding small streams, tributaries and wetlands from pollution and development, the Obama administration said Wednesday.

The White House said the rules would provide much-needed clarity for landowners, but some Republicans and farm groups said they go much too far. House Speaker John Boehner declared they would send “landowners, small businesses, farmers, and manufacturers on the road to a regulatory and economic hell.”

The rules, issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, are designed to clarify which smaller waterways fall under federal protection after two Supreme Court rulings had left the reach of the Clean Water Act uncertain. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the waters affected would be those with a “direct and significant” connection to larger bodies of water downstream that are already protected. More…

Film: We Are Many

INDEPENDENT CATHOLIC NEWS (ICN)

By Jo Siedlecka

From the opening moments, Amir Amirani’s WE are Many is a powerful documentary, revisiting the demonstrations against the war on Iraq, that took place in 789 cities – one after another around the globe – across 72 countries, plus Antarctica, on 15 February 2003.

Besides the rousing crowd scenes, there is vintage footage of Blair and Bush together and apart, repeating the story of those weapons of mass destruction.

Then there’s testimony and reminiscing from Jerry Corbyn, Noam Chomsky, Tony Benn, Jesse Jackson, Clare Short, Ken Loach and Tariq Ali, Sir Richard Branson, Susan Sarandon, UN weapons inspector Hans Blix and many more.

It was good to hear again what I think is of the finest moments in Parliamentary history – Robin Cook’s resignation speech.

Tony Blair, who can no longer walk down a British street without a bodyguard, turned down an invitation to take part in the film. An aide said he was too busy running his three charities and working for peace in the Middle East. David Blunkett and Lord Falconer wheel out the weary old ‘now we know so much more’ defence. More…

New World Information Order, Internet and the Global South – Part I

IPS/ International Press Service
By Branislav Gosovic

VILLAGE TUDOROVICI, Montenegro – More than four decades ago, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) launched the concept of a New International Information Order (NIIO).

Children surf the net in a remote island community in the Philippines where fishing is the main source of income. Credit: eKindling/Lubang Tourism.
Children surf the net in a remote island community in the Philippines where fishing is the main source of income. Credit: eKindling/Lubang Tourism.

Its initiative led to the establishment of an independent commission within the fold of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), which produced a report, published in 1980, on a New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO).

Incomprehensible to the general public and not suitable for consideration in multilateral policy forums, the Internet governance deliberations have largely been under control of the world superpower and its cyber mega-corporations from Silicon Valley.

The report, titled “One World, Many Voices,” is usually referred to as the MacBride Report after its chairman.

The very idea of venturing to criticise and challenge the existing global media, namely the information and communication hegemony of the West, touched a raw political nerve, apparently a much more sensitive one than that irked by the developing countries’ New International Economic Order (NIEO) proposals. More…