Category Archives: Front Page

NETWORK Reflects on the Do Not Be Afraid March and Vigil in El Paso

Tenemos Esperanza! Choosing Compassion in a Time of Scapegoating

Colin Martinez Longmore
April 4, 2024

A beacon of hope shone brightly in EL Paso, Texas, the evening of March 21, 2024 as hundreds gathered for the “Do Not Be Afraid” March and Vigil for Human Dignity, hosted by the Diocese of El Paso and Hope Border Institute. The march and vigil, a show of solidarity with asylum seekers and migrants, powerfully displayed unity in the face of adversity.

Ruben Garcia, Annunciation House, “Esta noche, todos somos Casa Anuncion (Tonight, we are all Annunciation House)”

Ruben Garcia speaks at the “Do not be afraid” march and vigil. Mary J. Novak is second from left holding the banner.

Over the past few months in the U.S., persistent hostility and scapegoating of migrants–and the direct service providers who aid them–has taken a sharper turn, particularly in Texas. Annunciation House, a network of shelters that receives and assists vulnerable asylum seekers, was targeted in unjust political probes.  Additionally, troubling state legislation like S.B. 4, which would allow local law enforcement to racially profile and arrest anyone suspected of being an undocumented migrant, was also signed into law (although it has not taken effect yet due to court challenges). Despite these actions, faith and borderland organizations showed they were unafraid. At the invitation of El Paso Bishop Mark Seitz, NETWORK Executive Director Mary J. Novak and I were proud to join them in offering support and prayer from the NETWORK community, and our help strategizing a way forward.

Bishop Mark Seitz, Diocese of El Paso said, “The work of God can never be made illegal”

Bishop Mark Seitz, Diocese of El Paso

The rally began in San Jacinto Plaza and drew a diverse crowd, including many Catholic Sisters, religious and clergy, students, leaders from different faith traditions, as well as local and national organizations serving migrants.

NETWORK Reflects on the Do Not Be Afraid vigil and march in El Paso, Texas

left to right, Elvira Ramirez (Executive Director, Maryknoll Lay Missioners), Mary Novak (Executive Director, NETWORK), and Sister Genie Natividad (Vice President Maryknoll Sisters)

Hope as a form of resistance against fearmongering was emphasized by the speakers who also held up the shameful criminalization of compassion; welcoming the stranger — a fundamental principle of faith — cannot be made illegal. We proclaimed in one voice, which rang out through the plaza: We have hope!Tenemos Esperanza! 

Marchers at the "Do Not Be Afraid" Vigil

Marchers at the “Do Not Be Afraid” Vigil

From the plaza, the crowd moved to Sacred Heart Church, where we filled every pew. The interfaith vigil, led by the Bishops of El Paso, testified to the city’s resilience and unity. Local leaders from across religious traditions, migrant organizations, and even asylum seekers spoke powerfully of solidarity and led the community in prayer.

The "Do Not Be Afraid" Vigil for Human Dignity at Sacred Heart Church

Attendees of the “Do Not Be Afraid” Vigil at Sacred Heart Church, El Paso, TX

The Holy Spirit’s presence was palpable throughout the evening, encouraging everyone to reject the fear and division often weaponized against communities like El Paso. As we enter this election season, we have clarity about the continued challenges that lie ahead for our migrant siblings and the communities that welcome them. However, our time in El Paso reminded us there is light and hope in the collective compassion and actions of communities standing together.

 

Equally Sacred Multi-issue Voter Checklist

Equally Sacred Multi-issue Voter Checklist

Download and share the multi-issue voter Equally Sacred Checklist in English, large print English, and Spanish

Multi-issue Voters Vote Our Future, So Everyone Thrives. No Exceptions!

How can we know we are voting for candidates who promote the common good? Pope Francis makes it clear: Catholics and all people of good will are called to be multi-issue voters, not single-issue voters, in the 2024 elections and in our continued participation in public life. This resource can support you in educating yourself as a faithful voter on the issues and concerns that are “equally sacred.”

“We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice in the world.” —Pope Francis, Gaudete et exsultate, par. 101

Equally sacred checklist for multi-issue voters in English
English
English, large print

Multi-issue Voters Vote Our Future, so Everyone Thrives. No Exceptions!

¿Cómo podemos saber que estamos votando por candidatos que promueven el bien común? El Papa Francisco lo deja claro: los católicos y todas las personas de buena voluntad están llamados a ser votantes de múltiples temas, no votantes de un solo tema, en las elecciones de 2024 y en nuestra participación continua en la vida pública. Este recurso puede ayudarlo a educarse como un votante fiel sobre temas e inquietudes que son “igualmente sagrados”.

“No podemos defender un ideal de santidad que ignore la injusticia en el mundo.” —Papa Francisco, Gaudete et exsultate, párr. 101

The Equally Sacred Checklist for Multi-issue Voters in Spanish
Spanish

Take Action After Watching White Supremacy in American Christianity

White Supremacy and American Christianity, Part 4

Toward the Beloved Community

Discussion Guide

Bring the discussion to your community with a resource guide designed by NETWORK’s Grassroots Mobilization team.

TAKE ACTION!

Join us for an elections season training series for justice-seekers

What is White Christian Nationalism?

NETWORK partner, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC), released a joint project with the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) detailing Christian nationalism’s prominence in the January 6 insurrection. In it, Amanda Taylor of BJC shares, “Christian nationalism is a political ideology and cultural framework that seeks to merge American and Christian identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy. Christian nationalism relies on the mythological founding of the United States as a ‘Christian nation,’ singled out for God’s providence in order to fulfill God’s purposes on earth. Christian nationalism demands a privileged place for Christianity in public life, buttressed by the active support of government at all levels.

Christian nationalism is not Christianity, though it is not accurate to say that Christian nationalism has nothing to do with Christianity. Christian nationalism relies on Christian imagery and language.”

Watch Previous White Supremacy and American Christianity Conversations

White Supremacy and American Christianity, Part 3

Discussion Guide for Part 3

Bring the discussion to your community with a resource guide designed by NETWORK’s Grassroots Mobilization team.

White Supremacy and American Christianity, Part 2

In October 2022, ethics professor Fr. Bryan N. Massingale and author Robert P. Jones participated in an enlightening conversation ahead of this year’s midterm for an exploration on the influence of  White Supremacy in American Christianity on our politics. The conversation was moderated by NETWORK’s Joan F. Neal.

White Supremacy and American Christianity, Part 1

In April 2022, NETWORK engaged experts working at the intersection of racism, nationalism, and Christianity for a conversation on the poisonous effect that White Supremacy has on American Christianity. Fr. Bryan N. Massingale, Dr. Robert P. Jones, and NETWORK’s Deputy Executive Director and Chief Equity Officer Joan F. Neal were joined by Georgetown University’s Dr. Marcia Chatelain.

White Supremacy and American Christianity Guest Speakers

Darcy Hirsh is the Senior Director of Policy & Advocacy at Interfaith Alliance, (Part 3) where she leads the organization’s policy work at the local, state, and federal levels, as well as its critical advocacy in the courts.

Dr. Robert P. Jones is the President and Founder of PRRI, and author of White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity. Robert P. Jones speaks and writes regularly on politics, culture, and religion in national media outlets including CNN, NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and others. Dr. Robert Jones’s latest book is a New York Times best-seller. You can buy it here: The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy and the Path to a Shared American Future and follow Dr. Jones through his newsletter at https://www.whitetoolong.net/.

Fr. Bryan Massingale is the James and Nancy Buckman Professor of Theological and Social Ethics, as well as the Senior Ethics Fellow in Fordham’s Center for Ethics Education and author of Racial Justice and the Catholic Church. Fr. Massingale is a noted authority on social and racial justice issues, particularly in Catholic spaces. Read Fr. Massingale’s Op-Ed in National Catholic Reporter, “As the election cycle cranks up, Christians need to call out white Christian nationalism” and his keynote address at the 2022 Outreach Conference: “Intersectionality and LGBTQ Ministry”

Professor Marcia Chatelain, Ph.D., is the winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in History (Part 1) her book Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America. She is a professor of history and African American studies at Georgetown University and the leading organizer behind the #FergusonSyllabus, an online educational resource that has shaped educational conversations about racism and police brutality since 2014. 

You've Seen the Conversation, Now What Can You Do?

Note: These were actions to take after White Supremacy and American Christianity, Part 2 in Fall 2022.

Pray for Reparations during Black History Month 2023

A federal reparations commission must be established by March 2023 to allow 18 months of work (as prescribed in H.R.40) to be completed without risk of a new administration disbanding it. We must pray!

In November 2022, Jewish and Christian faith leaders gave spirited calls for reparations to finally repair the harm that racist policy and laws unleashed during and after slavery. Storytellers from the field shared why their communities deserve redress for education, homes, and more loss because of racist government action.

Learn why reparations are needed now. NETWORK staff and keynote speaker, Rev. Jacqui Lewis, Ph.D, tell us the history of H.R.40, give us Christianity’s faith foundation for reparations, and help us learn to talk to friends and family about race and reparations. Reparations can heal the economic prosperity divide and lingering pain from Jim Crow, disenfranchisement, discrimination in tax policy, biased home lending, restrictive covenants and more.

Keep Up with NETWORK

Just Politics Catholic Podcast Season 2

Move Past the Unserious

Move Past the Unserious

People Who Want Action on Immigration Should Look to These Proposals

Ronnate Asirwatham
April 2, 2024
NETWORK Government Relations Director Ronnate Asirwatham, a woman in a pink jacket, holds a microphone and speaks from behind a podium with a sign, "Invest in Welcoming Communities." Many other advocates with similar signs stand behind her.

NETWORK Government Relations Director Ronnate Asirwatham at the September 2023 Welcoming Communities press conference on Capitol Hill

Words have consequences. And almost nowhere is that truer than when dealing with immigration.

People like to think they are true to their word when they say they want action on immigration and care about finding practical solutions. After all, immigration is a serious issue that touches millions of lives and practically every community. We should adopt serious proposals. But what does it mean to be serious?

Many people, especially elected officials, betray their unseriousness by how they talk about immigration. Unfounded claims of a “migrant crime” wave are dangerous and inaccurate. These claims feed into racist tropes by fueling fear and hatred towards immigrants and people of color, making our communities less safe.

Fearmongering gives cover to politicians wishing to pass or enact terrible policies. The recent legal attack by the Attorney General of Texas on Annunciation House—a series of shelters that serve migrant people across the Southwest—is one small example of right-wing extremists attacking people seeking safety, as well as the people of faith who serve them.

We have also seen this type of attack in extreme bills against immigrants and people who welcome them in the state legislatures of Arizona, Idaho, and Georgia and the U.S. Congress. Instead of putting forward workable solutions, Congressional extremists keep pushing for unworkable, failed proposals that the American public has rejected. They think this is a good way to pass unpopular policies, but providing a veneer of legality for attacking immigrants makes everyone less safe.

This xenophobic rhetoric is like that which brought gunmen to the Pittsburgh synagogue and the El Paso Walmart. Unserious people can still create serious threats, and the policies of deterrence and the rhetoric of racism these politicians are proposing will make all who live in the borderlands and people of racial and religious minorities everywhere unsafe.

We must focus on what constitutes a serious immigration policy proposal; luckily, we have plenty of examples. At the end of January, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus released its immigration principles for the second session of the 118th Congress. These principles, comprised of 18 policy proposals within a framework of four pillars—immigration reform, jobs and the economy, border safety, and regional migration concerns—are what serious immigration policy looks like and what people of faith and goodwill should push Congress and the Administration to adopt.

  • Increase funding for asylum processing and legal representation programs for adults and guarantee access to counsel for asylum seekers in federal custody.
  • Create family reunification programs for additional countries to assist with backlogs.
  • Facilitate access to work authorization for newly arrived immigrants.
  • Fund community-based case management programs that decrease immigration detention.
  • Protect Dreamers and DACA recipients.
  • Provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented individuals.
  • Update the registry cutoff date through H.R. 1511, the Renewing Immigration Provisions of the Immigration Act of 1929.
  • Advance immigration protections through H.R. 3194, the U.S. Citizenship Act.
  • Establish a humanitarian visa for pre-screen asylum seekers.
  • Expand protections for minors seeking to be reunited with parents holding legal status in the U.S.
  • Protect undocumented spouses or parents of military members by providing a path of legal residency and eliminating the threat of deportation.
  • Advance protections for agricultural workers through the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2023.

These are serious proposals that can create real change by actually addressing the problems created by our broken immigration system. Any person, elected or otherwise, who claims to be serious about the border and immigration but isn’t embracing these proposals is not serious. In fact, they are very likely trying to use the plight of suffering people to get you to buy into a “solution” that will only cause more suffering and put more people in danger. And that’s serious.

This story was published in the Quarter 2 2024 issue of Connection.

2024 State of the Union BINGO Card

2024 State of the Union Bingo

March 7, 2024

Based on NETWORK’s Build Anew policy agenda, and our advocacy for a multiracial, multi-faith, inclusive democracy–where everyone, in every community thrives–we’ve created a 2024 State of the Union BINGO Card. Please use it during President Biden’s third State of the Union Address to Congress on Thursday, March 7, 2024.

Download your BINGO card in color or download your BINGO card in black and white.

Make sure you have your BINGO card ready when you watch the State of the Union Address live to track how President Biden’s speech addresses important policy areas for our country.

NETWORK hopes to see President Biden address the work needed to dismantle systemic racism, cultivate inclusive communities, root our economy in solidarity, and transform our politics with policies that will let all of us thrive–no exceptions!

The Ripple of One Person’s Vote

The Ripple of One Person’s Vote

Contribute to the Love That Saves the World

Sr. Erin Zubal, OSU
March 5, 2024

Sr. Erin Zubal, OSU, NETWORK Chief of Staff

Waiting in line outside a school gymnasium in the early morning hours. Feeling the chill of November in the air. Greeting the poll workers. Making selections on an electronic menu screen. The experience of voting is many things, but not many people would probably think of it as helping us grow holiness. But listening closely to Pope Francis, it’s clear that this election year offers yet another opportunity for many people to journey closer to the God who loves and saves the world.

In his 2018 letter on the call to holiness, Gaudate Et Exsultate (“Rejoice and Be Glad”), Pope Francis waded into explicitly political waters when he cautioned against limiting one’s political concern and advocacy to just one or two issues, as so many Catholics tend to do in the U.S. “Equally sacred,” he affirmed, are the lives of people in poverty and all who are rejected and discarded by society. “We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice in the world,” he wrote.

That same year, the Vatican’s doctrine office also published a document on “certain aspects of Christian salvation.” This document rejects “individualistic and merely interior visions of salvation” as being against the “economy through which God willed to save the human person.” People must journey beyond themselves, out into the world, to participate in the grace of the salvation story that culminates when “each person will be judged on the concreteness of his or her love.” (Placuit Deo #13)

This, too, is political.

See NETWORK’s 2024 Equally Sacred Checklist to support you in educating yourself as a faithful voter on the issues and concerns that are “equally sacred.”

Voting is concrete. It is an act. It is a choice. It’s an imperfect choice because voters are often not faced with specific policy proposals but with individual office-seekers who may be better on particular issues than others and whose performance, once elected, can be unpredictable. Will they advocate for people on the margins? Are they able to be bought by wealthy corporate interests? Do they take the weight of responsibility of their office seriously? The answers to these questions can and do produce wildly different outcomes.

But what remains is this: In the act of voting, a person creates a small ripple in the social fabric, a ripple that may end up part of a more significant current or movement that impacts the lives of millions of other people– for good or ill.

Using one’s vote for ill often means voting as a means of lashing out against people or groups of people whom voters have been told to fear, such as migrants and other people struggling to survive on the peripheries of society.

Voting may take only an instant, but the harm inflicted by bad immigration policy compounds over the years. It is felt in the lives of families and children who might never recover from the devastation they experience.

Even more could be said about the pain intentionally inflicted on Black and Brown communities by the stoking of Christian nationalist and white supremacist narratives. What does it mean for this country that so many neighbors voted this way?

But the opposite is also possible. A person can use their vote to build up rather than tear down, show welcome rather than hostility, and contribute to love rather than hate. And in an election year that looks to be decided by a small number of people in a few states and localities, the choice of one person to choose solidarity, to make their vote an act of love, is as consequential as it’s ever been. It might just play a part in saving the world.

This story was published in the Quarter 1 2024 issue of Connection.

Honoring Melba Pattillo Beals

Honoring Melba Pattillo Beals

NETWORK Staff
February 29, 2024

NETWORK is honoring Black History Month this week with a spotlight on Melba Pattillo Beale with a re-post from our archives that reflected on Ms. Pattillo Beals’ experience with her classmates, known as the Little Rock Nine. These young activists hold a vaunted place in U.S. history. Their brave effort to integrate the all-white Central High in Little Rock Arkansas in 1957 following the Brown v. Board decision in 1954, made them some of our youngest Civil Rights-era heroines and heroes.

Mary Cunningham
February 9, 2018

“The task that remains is to cope with our interdependence – to see ourselves reflected in every other human being and to respect and honor our differences.”-Melba Pattillo Beals

Two years ago a friend and I got into a deep conversation about faith. We navigated the winding roads of what it means to believe in God, where we felt God’s presence, and how to maintain our faith when met with resistance. After our conversation my friend recommended a book to me – Warriors Don’t Cry, a memoir written by Melba Pattillo Beals about her experience integrating Little Rock High in Arkansas.

A few months later, I bought the book and was ready to delve in. As I sat down to read, Melba’s words washed heavy over me. I was pulled out of my own world of petty fears into the sharp reality of a young girl who feared for her life because of the color of her skin; at age 14, Melba was forced to grow up fast, saddened by the childhood experiences she never got to have. My friend and I talked about how to maintain faith during moments of resistance, but this was on a whole other level.

Melba Pattillo Beals was one of the Little Rock Nine, a group of African American students chosen to integrate the all-white Central High in Little Rock Arkansas in 1957 following the Brown v. Board decision in 1954. Upon entering Little Rock High School on the first day of classes, a huge white mob shouting racial slurs and threats greeted Melba and the other students. Melba and her mom barely escaped. Even when the students were finally able to enter the school, they were harassed and condemned by white peers, teachers and staff members. Melba had peanut and glass smeared on her seat, she was tripped, pushed, and almost blinded by a student who threw acid into her eyes. President Eisenhower sent in members of the 101st Airborne Division to accompany the students to and from their classes just because the violence was so bad. Physically and mentally tormented, Melba’s faith and her family support remained her inner strength. Despite all the hatred around her, she continued to push forward, paving the way for women and men of color who came after her.

Warriors Don’t Cry woke me up. It made me realize how powerful it is when men and women – particularly people of color — are brave enough to go against the grain to fight for their rights and whose inner strength defies the often negative, hateful world we live in. They are the ones pushing against, resisting, and reshaping our society. I am inspired by Melba who despite all the negative energy around her, not only managed to persist, but managed to trust in God and to forgive. Even when she was stripped down to survival mode, she prevailed.

The book also forced me to identify and confront my own white privilege. Melba and other women and men of color have made sacrifices and continue to make sacrifices that I know as a white woman I will never have to face. I will never undergo racial discrimination, physical attacks, or fear for my life because of the color of my skin. Instances of racism like the ones in Melba’s story may seem less prevalent in today’s society. However, they still exist – just in varying forms. Racism is entrenched in our society, its practices, its institutions. And white privilege continues to inform our outlook and our actions. In order to truly confront these issues, we need to go beyond our comfort zones, educate ourselves, and truly confront our own white privilege if we are not men and women of color. Black History Month is a great time to start this journey. I am honored to share Melba’s story in hopes that others will take the time to learn about the amazing African American men and women who have moved our nation forward and made us more racially accountable.