Category Archives: International Peacemaking

Blog: REJOICE! Federal Judge Orders Release of Names of SOA/ WHINSEC Graduates

REJOICE! Federal Judge Orders Release of Names of SOA/ WHINSEC Graduates

Marge Clark
April 23, 2013

NETWORK continues to be supportive of the School of the America’s Watch (SOAW), in opposing our nation’s training of military leaders from Central and South America. Many NETWORK members are at Fort Benning with me each November, in prayerful protest to this violent, abusive use of our tax dollars.

Each year SOAW friends come to Washington and pressure members of Congress to close the School, to cut its funding, and at the very least again demand public release of graduates of the School. Once, in what seems a long time ago, we got the release of names and nations of graduates, and release of the texts used: books of torture techniques.

At the point that the name of the school was changed to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), the text cites were withdrawn and names and nations of students and graduates were kept secret.

But, now a great success! See below, from

Oakland, CA – In a rare reflection of judicial independence, United States District Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton from the Northern District of California ordered the Pentagon to release the names of who trains and teaches at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (SOA/WHINSEC), a U.S. military training school for Latin American soldiers that has been connected to torturers, death squads and military dictators throughout the Americas. Human rights activists had taken the U.S. government to court over its refusal to release the information, and won.



Marge Clark, BVM
August 27, 2013

My heart sinks with an ache as I read and hear language of:

  • There were some very strong signals over the weekend that the United States might have been seriously considering, or even imminently prepared to launch, a series of limited strikes against Syria, most likely cruise missiles. (Washington Post, Aug. 26)
  •  President Obama is weighing a military strike against Syria that would be of limited scope and duration, designed to serve as punishment for Syria’s use of chemical weapons and as a deterrent, while keeping the United States out of deeper involvement in that country’s civil war, according to senior administration officials. (Washington Post, Aug. 26)
  • In an interview with The Associated Press in Damascus, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad said airstrikes or other action against Syria would also trigger “chaos” and threaten worldwide peace and security. (CBS News, Aug. 26)

Has there been a time in recent years when U.S. use of military force has not escalated the level of violence and death in a nation?

There seems little doubt that hundreds of people were victims of poisonous gas in Syria last week. There is evidence that the government of Syria holds such chemical weapons. However, can we prove without a doubt that it was the government that released the gas? Is there some chance that it was some rebel group hoping to escalate the violence, taking and using the weapons?

And, what will be accomplished by military action against Syria? Who will be harmed? Will those who made the decision be the ones harmed by our retaliation? I fear the victims of retaliation would be people such as those already killed by the chemical weapons.

What would really be accomplished?

Blog: What Are You Doing to Heed the Message of World Water Day? – March 22, 2014

What Are You Doing to Heed the Message of World Water Day? – March 22, 2014

By Carolyn Burstein
March 21, 2014

Water is the lifeblood of the planet, vital for reducing the global burden of disease, and critical for socio-economic development, healthy ecosystems and human survival itself. Water is also at the heart of adaptation to climate change and is a key factor in managing risks such as famine, migration, epidemics and inequalities. Access to water supply and sanitation, however, is very unequal, whether this is measured between urban and rural areas or between disadvantaged groups and the general population.

Some disheartening statistics about water are almost mind-boggling. The United Nations (UN) and the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) tell us that over 1.7 billion people are currently living in river basins where water usage exceeds recharge, leading to the depletion of ground water and the degradation of ecosystems. Over 80% of wastewater is discharged into bodies of water without treatment. Added to these facts is the related problem that the potential demand for water is projected to increase by 55% by 2050. OECD claims that water-related disasters are the most economically and socially destructive of all natural disasters. Since the first World Water Day in 1993, floods, droughts and storms have affected 4.2 billion people worldwide, including millions in the U.S., and caused $1.3 trillion of damage.

For those of all faiths, water is the symbol of God’s generosity and blessings. In the psalms, loved by Christians, Jews and so many others, God is praised as the good shepherd who leads one to quiet waters. In Matthew 5:45 we read that God sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous. In John 4, Jesus asks the Samaritan woman for a drink of water. And there are so many other instances in the beloved books of all faiths about the significance of water, which for many Christians is also a symbol of baptism.

Yet in today’s economy, we often do not share water generously and with compassion. It is being appropriated and is a source of contention – even frightening crises – between neighboring peoples. Demand for this life-giving element is ever increasing, fuelled by the growth of people living on this planet, climate change, as well as our methods of production and our lifestyles that often serve an unquestioned pursuit of profits and gratification. Because contaminated water is a major cause of illness and death, water quality is a determining factor in human poverty, education and economic opportunity.

Responding to these challenges requires a range of interventions. Preventing water pollution is critical to improving drinking water quality. But prevention also includes disinfecting water at the household level as well as water management at the community level. In some situations, more than one type of intervention is needed. For example, both improvements would be required for piped water systems, even with intermittent service.

We are all aware of the degradation of the water catchment areas due to deforestation through agricultural and industrial development. This has caused unnecessary flooding, severe illnesses and death. We see images on TV and our computers about droughts in Ethiopia, Somalia, or Kenya, causing widespread migration and a steady stream of refugees searching for water. Yet, despite the lack of rainfall, water is available in those countries – 1,000 feet below the ground – if the equipment were available. We read about communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in rural India, and other poor countries in Southeast Asia or island countries like Haiti, which use rivers as a drinking fountain, swimming pool, laundromat and public toilet. Yet, every day, women fill pails and old cans with this same contaminated water and take it back to their families.

The foregoing is only an abbreviated description of the global water crisis. In numerical terms, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are about 785 million people who do not have access to clean water; 2.5 billion people who lack access to adequate sanitation; and, over 800,000 children who die each year from various forms of diarrhea due to unsafe water and sanitation, making diarrhea the second leading cause of death among children under the age of 5. The good news is that since 1990, the number of persons able to access improved drinking water and sanitation resources has increased by about 2 billion. We are now talking about improving the situation for the “bottom billion.”

But are we also aware how interdependent and interlinked water and energy are, the theme of this year’s World Water Day? The United Nations, the sponsor of World Water Day, reminds us that energy generation and transmission requires utilization of water resources, particularly for hydroelectric, nuclear and thermal energy sources, on which so much of the world depends. Conversely, about 8% of global energy generation is used for extracting, treating and distributing water to various consumers. Thus, the water-energy nexus should be focused on wholeheartedly, especially in addressing inequities for those who live in impoverished areas without access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation and sufficient energy services.

On World Water Day this year (as well as throughout the year), the UN is asking us to begin a policy dialogue that focuses on the synergy between water and energy and how they impact one another. The increasing demand for fresh water and energy will strain resources in nearly all regions, especially in developing and emerging economies. Thus, the UN is calling for actively engaging key stakeholders in helping to improve coordination between water and energy planners, which can lead to a reduction in inefficiencies and greater innovation in policies that lead to improvements in both their services. The UN is paying particular attention to identifying best practices that can make a water/energy-efficient “green industry” a reality across the globe.

An example of the type of innovation the UN is seeking is solar sanitation, described by the CDC as an “inexpensive, innovative, and effective form of human waste treatment that uses concentrated solar energy to treat waste so it can be safely discarded or potentially used for fertilizer or fuel.” (

Each year during the week preceding World Water Day, a large conference of several thousand people from professors to college students, from advocates to interested people, convenes in Stockholm to discuss the topic associated with the year’s World Water Day’s theme. This year, as the time limit for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) draws to a close and the global community is taking stock of how it can move towards a sustainable future, these discussions may serve as input for the water/energy nexus of that future.

Already, various UN groups have developed a major publication under the auspices of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) presenting a global goal for water to replace the water goal in the MDG that expires in 2015. The MDG goal, agreed in 2000, aimed to halve the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation between 1990 and 2015. However, the WHO/UNICEF monitoring team, although applauding the increase in people’s access to improved drinking water (see statistics above), are clear in their assessment that, despite progress, existing indicators do not address the safety and reliability of water supplies.

Whatever goals and targets are finally selected to replace the MDGs, they must be amenable to being tailored to different national policy contexts, and that includes many areas in the U.S. that are vulnerable to flooding, drought, water pollution and problematic waterways. And they must be strong enough to drive progress in eradicating poverty in the post-2015 world where water is fast becoming the “gold” of the 21st century.

Let us undertake our advocacy roles first, by heeding the message of World Water Day to focus on the meaning water holds for the global community, especially for those either without access to what most of us take for granted, or for those suffering from water-related disasters. After reflecting on the goal of “Securing Sustainable Water for All” and how we might contribute to its achievement, we may then be ready for the action implied in Matthew 25: “I was thirsty and you gave me drink.”

Blog: National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)

Blog: National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)

Marge Clark, BVM
May 20, 2014

The National Defense Authorization Act prioritizes the direction that will be taken by the Pentagon as it puts forward programs and weapons systems, continuing some that are in existence and authorizing the development of new ones.

At this time, when the war in Iraq has ended and the war in Afghanistan is to end by the end of this calendar year, NETWORK feels strongly that it is a time to pull back on some existing practices. Three areas are of particular concern to NETWORK:

  • Afghanistan War: This war is ending. Our troops are coming home by the end of this year. Once this mission is over, it is critical that any further U.S. mission be required to come to a vote in Congress. Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA), Walter Jones (R-NC) and Adam Smith (D-WA) are offering an amendment to bring this about.
  • Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) passed in 2001 gave unprecedented powers to the president to use force against any organization or person in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the U.S. This has given rise to the situation at Guantanamo (uncharged individuals held indefinitely), massive surveillance within and outside the U.S., and drone attacks against individuals and communities where there is suspicion of a terrorist. Representatives Barbara Lee and Adam Schiff are offering amendments to repeal the AUMF.
  • The Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund, created to have money quickly available for unexpected military needs during war. This fund is “off-budget” and unaccountable (many consider it a slush fund). It has grown exorbitantly over the last few years, and has begun to be used for weapons and other materials which should be covered within the base Pentagon budget. The need for additional systems was anticipated, but this fund allows spending over and above the amounts curtailed in the Budget Control Act and sequestration. Even with the ending of wars, the request for money into this fund increased for FY2014, and is projected to increase in FY 2015. This is the only such fund available to any entity. NETWORK and many of our partners are calling for reduction of the OCO, and eventually elimination – requiring that all military funding be within the Pentagon base budget.

Blog: In Iraq, Ancient Christian Communities Are Being Destroyed

In Iraq, Ancient Christian Communities Are Being Destroyed

By Carolyn Burstein
July 08, 2014

Christians in Iraq are one of the oldest surviving continuous Christian communities in the world. The vast majority are Aramaic-speaking Assyrians, Armenians, Arabs, Kurds and Turcoman. These are the lands in which Jesus’s apostles and their disciples made some of the first Christian converts. In an interview in Christian Today (July 2, 2014), Iraq’s leading bishop, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael I. Sako of Baghdad lamented, “We are losing our community. If Christian life in Iraq comes to an end, this will be a hiatus in our history … the future of Iraq’s Christians is under threat.” Like Iraq’s ancient Jewish community before them, the world’s oldest Christian community may soon cease to exist, due to the exodus to Iraqi Kurdistan (on the cusp of declaring their independence) and to Jordan.

Christians numbered over 1.5 million in 2003, representing over 5% of the population, and an even higher percentage in 1987 (about 8% of the population). Yet, in 2013, the number of Christians had dropped to less than 450,000 and now in July 2014, they are even less. No one is quite sure exactly how many are left in Iraq because the situation, especially around Mosul (historically known as Nineveh), where many Christians live, is so chaotic. The terrorist group, known as the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (ISIL, also called ISIS), has imposed strict Islamic law and prohibitions on the practice of Christianity, according to the Associated Press.

After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Christians were among those targeted by Islamic extremists. Reports of abductions, torture, bombings of churches, unofficial pogroms, mob violence and killings rose among the Christian population. Christians were pressured to convert to Islam under threat of death or expulsion and women were ordered in many communities to wear Islamic dress. Several prominent priests, ministers and bishops were murdered between 2004 and 2013. The number of churches in Iraq has declined to less than 57 from over 300 before 2003, as Christians fled to Syria, Jordan and other countries.

Many Iraqi Christians have for centuries lived in the Nineveh Plains in the North and especially in the city of Mosul and its surrounding towns and villages. It is precisely this area that has recently been captured by ISIL. The Tablet, a British Catholic newsweekly, described a scene of chaos and devastation, with churches being looted and burned, people fleeing for their lives, and tanks captured from Iraqi forces moving into Christian villages and causing total carnage. Facing total war, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul Amel Nona said his city was now at “the mercy of the attackers.”

Britain’s Catholic Herald said on Friday, June 27, 2014: “This is the final scene in the grotesque, theatrical death of Iraqi Christianity. A people who once numbered more than a million, who just a decade ago enjoyed the use of more than 300 blossoming churches, now faces extinction.” The ancient monastery of Mar Behnam as well as many other churches have fallen into the hands of the insurgents and numerous Christians have been killed. Archbishop Amel Nona worried that the threats which caused Christians to flee might mean that they will never return, especially in light of the fact that from ISIL-controlled regions in Syria have come reports of Christians being forced to pay the Islamic Jaziya tax and pressure to convert to Islam.

The Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Irbil told Vatican Radio that “it is not just about being a Christian, it is about being a human being and being a minority,” referring also to the many other minorities within Iraq who have no protection against either revenge killings or persecution from those in power.

The U.S. certainly bears some responsibility (at least was complicit) in this catastrophe, since our country oversaw the creation of Iraq’s postwar government and did little to protect minority faiths. Even church leaders outside the Middle East are afraid to speak out, partly because they fear precipitating more violence. After Pope Benedict XVI quoted an ancient criticism of Islam in an academic speech in Germany, seven Christian churches were fire-bombed.

Nor is Mosul the only Iraqi city, or the Nineveh Plains the only area under siege. The Vatican Radio reports that a mood of fear in Baghdad after the rapid advance of ISIL and its allies hovers over all Christians who have already hunkered down since 2003. The Sunni militants have already seized several cities south of Mosul and north of Baghdad and have vowed to march to Baghdad.  Many Christians living in Baghdad have fled the city for the Kurdish enclave in the north, other areas of Iraq or even Jordan and beyond because they fear a civil war. “Caritas Iraq” and many other charitable nonprofits are mobilizing their resources to help care for the tens of thousands of displaced people, including Christians, who are forced to flee their homes in fear of the Islamic militants.

NETWORK has received emails describing the pain, suffering and uncertainty of what lies ahead for the Christian communities in Iraq. The news from our friends, the Dominican Sisters of Iraq, is very distressing. We learned that they were forced to flee from Qaraqosh, the largest Christian community in Iraq just east of Mosul, where they were building a new Motherhouse. The Sisters and many other Christians have been caught in the crossfire between ISIL (and their tribal allies) and the Peshmerga, armed Kurdish fighters claiming the villages near but outside their current borders. To the extent they have been able, the Sisters have been helping some people who had nowhere to go. So many have next to nothing. The Church is providing food and mattresses for them to sleep on in nearby schools that have opened their doors to them. The situation is fraught with danger and the people are upset that the media seem to have forgotten them.

For many Americans, the human and financial cost of our eight-year war in Iraq has not been recognized. But for Iraq’s Christians, the personal cost of that war and now its aftermath have been far too great. As we can see from the foregoing, minorities in Iraq, especially Christians, live in a culture of fear and violence rather than a culture of relationship and community. If Christians are to feel secure in the land of their fathers and mothers they must be able to live and thrive in a peaceful and just society, one where human rights are defended. While many Americans are prepared to use the violence of war to wreak vengeance on the Islamic militants, I would rather advocate the peaceful diplomatic approach of mediating between the peoples affected and the militants, for the time will come when the people living in these regions will demand not only their economic wellbeing, but also their basic human rights. Do we really want to see the continuation of targeted drone strikes throughout this war-torn country? Our plea should be for peace and human rights.

Blog: Grounds for Better Understanding and Dialogue with Islam

Grounds for Better Understanding and Dialogue with Islam

By Sr. Eucharia Madueke
March 10, 2015

At a timely lecture jointly sponsored by Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN) and THE Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies (IPRCS) of the Catholic University on March 6, Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald, M. Afr, explored “Grounds for Better Understanding and Dialogue with Islam.” At the event which attracted people from advocacy network organizations, media, universities and religious communities around Washington DC, Archbishop Fitzgerald (former Apostolic Nuncio, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and past Vatican Delegate to the Arab League) acknowledged the fundamental differences between the two religious leaders – Jesus and Mohammad; differences, he opined, that pose problems for fruitful dialogue. Nevertheless, he expressed optimism about gainful dialogue despite such hindrances, if only diversity is respected.

To help the audience to understand the fundamental differences, the Archbishop compared Jesus and Mohammed, noting that both leaders came to preach conversion but in different ways. Jesus, who was never a statesman, preached conversion with tolerance and peace, and his followers were independent of any political powers. Mohammad, a prophet and a statesman, preached renewal and formation of a new community where religion and politics are inseparable. Unlike Jesus’s followers who must be free from political power and must tolerate others, Mohammad’s must strive for God and for the community. In other words, they must struggle to establish pure Islam, not only as a religion, but also as a state religion. Thus, the rise of various Islamic revivalist movements such as Wahabbism in central Arabia in the 18th century, the current Boko Haram sect in Nigeria, acting as instruments for the regaining of perceived Islamic politico-religious power and purity.

The Archbishop recognized the division in Islam, which began after the death of Mohammed, who left no clear successor. As a result, disagreement ensued about whom to consider as a political and religious leader after Prophet Muhammad. This situation, the Archbishop stated, makes it impossible to achieve political unity among Arab States, even with the formation of the League of Arab States in 1948. Nevertheless, he suggested that there is a consensus in the Islamic world about Sharia Law, the Qur’an, and the traditions of the prophet (Sunnah and Hadith) as legislative texts. Yet, he observed that unfortunately, the current jihadists do not respect/follow the above teaching; rather, they wage physical war against unbelievers and enemies of the Islamic faith (such jihad is mentioned only three times in the Qur’an) as compared with the “great Jihad” of waging war with one’s inner self, one’s tongue, and one’s hand.

Despite divisions in Islam, conflicts and violence, which seem to be making dialogue impossible, the Archbishop pointed out the possibility of fruitful dialogue with Islam at the levels of life, action, discourse and spiritual experience.

The Dialogue of Life

The dialogue of life is a call to live in open, harmonious and neighborly spirit among people of different faiths, showing interest in and support of the other. He recognized that this effort, which has existed in many ways. The Archbishop cited the current “Muslims for Lent” movement in the U.S. that shows Muslims’ interest in and support for Christians during lent.

The Dialogue of Action, or Cooperation in the Service of Others

The Archbishop pointed out that harmonious living naturally leads to actions undertaken in common, leading to Christians and Muslims working together for the common good. He cited cases where Christians and Muslims worked together to build a mosque or church, cared for people with disabilities, took action against AIDS, formed interreligious councils, etc. A concrete example he gave was “the House of the Family” in Egypt, created to counter interreligious violence.

Dialogue of Discourse, or Theoretical Foundations

The Archbishop also noted that dialogue is a form of cooperation and that dialogue is occurring where specialists of various religions seek together to deepen their understanding of their respective religious heritages and work together to appreciate each other’s spiritual values. He referenced meetings of imams and priests working together to discuss justice in international trade through their religious lens, the Vatican meetings to discuss both theological and practical topics, and the “Building Bridges” program in Bristol, where the community comes together to discuss the community’s problems and potential solutions.

The Dialogue of Religious Experience

Here, Christians and Muslims share the spiritual riches that are rooted in their own religious traditions such as prayer, contemplation, faith and ways of searching for God for the purpose of bonding and peace. Language of the heart such as “act justly, work humbly, love tenderly” are discussed by this group. Together, they pray and build peace.

At the end of the lecture, the Archbishop concluded that the difficulty in dialogue comes as a result of reciprocal ignorance of each other’s beliefs and practices. He also acknowledged the limits placed on the effort to dialogue by current conflicts and violence coming from Islamic extremists. However, the Archbishop has called for and encourages intentional interreligious dialogue, which he sees as building trust in the Christian-Muslim relationship. He insists on the importance of religious working, talking, praying and building peace together and emphasizes the good that comes when those of different religions tackle problems together.

Blog: Today, 9/11

Today, 9/11

By Bethan Johnson, Grassroots Mobilization Associate
September 11, 2015

Two weeks ago as I boarded the Metro to work, I read that Marcy Borders had died of cancer at the age of 42. Her name likely is not particularly familiar to most Americans, since the media has called her ‘The Dust Lady’ for the last 14 years. The photograph of her as she evacuated the North Tower—her fancy dress and shoes coated in white dust, the hint of her pearl necklace still visible, and the overwhelming look of confusion and fear on her face—has been used in artistic efforts tocapture the national mood in the wake of the attacks.

As I finished the article, without thinking, I started calculating how long it would take to walk to work from my apartment so that I could avoid public transportation. I started typing a note on my phone to call my parents and siblings to check in on where and how they were on the 11th (it’s a lingering result of the hours I watched my father pace around the house calling my mother’s cell phone trying to hear if she had gone into the Trade Center to do business that day, as she sometimes did, only to get a busy signal for hours). In the space of two Metro stops, I had totally planned out how I would mark the anniversary and it was entirely based on fear, and, for two weeks, I was committed to that plan.

But when I woke up this morning to participate in a moment of silence and watch a portion of the commemoration ceremony online, I realized that there was a much better way for me to spend this day. I remembered was that, in the midst of all the discussions about the federal budget and the planning for the papal visit, another key piece of legislation was under consideration that could honor those who suffered the effects of the terrorist attacks.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act—named after a New York Police Department officer who died of respiratory disease often attributed to his work as a rescue and recovery worker at Ground Zero—is set to expire this month. Although the law includes its own $1.6 billion health care and monitoring mechanisms, the act also created the funding necessary to establish the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, which uses its $2.75 billion to help first responders pay for medical expenses related to the terrorist attacks. Covering costs related to the development of dozens of forms of cancer, respiratory problems, and other long-term medical issues, the funding has already helped thousands of first responders gain the access they need to adequate medical coverage and is still reviewing thousands of more cases. Currently, there is no state without a survivor of the attacks and only six Congressional districts without a registered survivor or responder.

Passed in 2010, the law’s five year authorization timeline will soon expire. While some believe that the fund has enough money to survive for a few months without the reauthorization of the act, if Congress fails to renew the law, the money will soon dry up and leave many without the money they need to survive or remain healthy. First responders and survivors are now calling on Congress to pass The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act, which not only reauthorizes the 2010 act, but also makes it permanent. Next week, more than 100 first responders will come to Congress to lobby for just this policy, for essentially the lives of their friends and family.

While supporting EMTs, fire fighters, police officer, and survivors who had risked their lives and health in the face of terrorism may seem to be without any real opposition, the reauthorization of this act and with it the funding it provides is no small order; while the rhetorical bipartisan support exists, acting on these feelings may prove more challenging. The bill famously languished in Congress and faced a filibuster for a long period of time before passing almost ten years after the attacks. Moreover, given the gridlock in Washington and the focus remaining on the large issue of the entire federal budget, the reauthorization plan could face an uphill battle without a reminder from We the People.

First responders’ call for government action speaks to me, reverberating in my bones, for many reasons. Catholic Social Tradition has taught me that we are called to stand in solidarity with those in need and compels us to advocate for human dignity. When I try to imagine the actions of these responders, all I think of is Jesus’s lesson to the apostles “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13) I feel compelled to live out Jesus’s call in this small way in the face of the need of those who heeded his commandment in the most dramatic of circumstances.

Listening to the stories of survivors as they talked about how they were diagnosed with life-threatening or life-altering conditions, as a cancer survivor, I also saw in them brothers- and sisters- in-struggle. To date, the Center for Disease Control has reported detecting 4,385 cases of cancer in responders and survivors. Being unexpectedly and unavoidably under siege from your own body is traumatizing on its own and I feel strongly that no person should be forced to fight for their life and for recognition by the government at the same time.

Finally, as a resident of the United States, I have internalized a respect for those who serve our nation. The rhetoric of honoring the people who risk their lives for our nation’s safety that is so frequently used in politics now faces a real test of its veracity with The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act. To me, making the law and the funding it provides permanent is a way of acknowledging the hardships of responders and survivors and supporting efforts to recognize their continued bravery. This law now stands before all of Congress, which means that we all have a role to play in reaffirming our commitment to these ideals and expressing our solidarity for their struggles.

Today, I took the metro to work and will call my family at the end of the evening to ask them how their day was instead of where they were. After a moment of silent reflection, I spent the morning to reach out to my members of Congress to tell them how passionately I feel about their need to act on this issue. It took only a matter of minutes, but it entirely changed my day.

Today I used my passion to respect human dignity, I lifted up my voice to amplify the calls for justice and recognition by survivors, and devoted time to listening to the account of those lives the Fund saved, and, honestly, no scenic walk around the nation’s capital or few more moments of feeling secure could ever compare.

Blog: Concluding the 114th Congress, Moving Right Along to the 115th

Concluding the 114th Congress, Moving Right Along to the 115th

Sister Marge Clark
December 20, 2016

The 114th Congress ground to a halt about 1:00 a.m. on Saturday, December 10 after just barely managing to not shut down the government.  A vote passed extending 2016 funding levels into the seventh month of fiscal year 2017. We strongly believe, however, that one temporary Continuing Resolution (CR) after another is no way to responsibly fund our government.

As we prepare to enter 2017, NETWORK continues work to support all at the margins of society due to unemployment or under-employment, immigration status, health issues, and many other concerns. Our 2020 Policy Vision guides our lobbying, outreach, and education to mend the access and wealth and income gaps that are rampant in our nation.  With this Continuing Resolution in place, the only means of increasing funding where absolutely necessary is through an anomaly.

NETWORK’s 2020 Vision did not fare well in the Continuing Resolution.  We focused our efforts on three items desperately needing increased funding and  advocated forincreased funding in each of the three following areas:

1. Census 2020

This is one area that did receive an increase from 2016 funding in the CR. The Census Bureau will be allowed to spend money earlier in the cycle, in an attempt to meet urgent planning needs.  This does not give the Census Bureau additional money, as had been requested. Instead, it leaves them with the same uncertainty about long-term funding for comprehensive planning in many areas, including: the census communications campaign, development of in-language materials, updating address lists, and adequate enumerator training, not to mention making progress on updating all census IT systems and cyber-security protocols. Using this money will also reduce the funds available to conduct the annual American Community Survey which provides important data on economic and healthcare status used by many departments.

2. Refugee Resettlement

Meeting this grave responsibility requires sufficient funding for the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to welcome and support refugees as they strive to adapt and to thrive in the United States. In FY 2016, $1.67 billion in funding was calculated to serve 75,000 (and in the end assisted 85,000). The United States announced that, due to the global refugee crisis, we would accept 110,000. However, increased funding (a minimum of $2.18 million required to support the additional refugees, unaccompanied children and trafficking survivors) was not provided.

One allowance was made, if needed, for the housing and care of unaccompanied children, with the recognition that, due to the variability in the increased number of children coming into the country, it is possible that additional funds may be needed for this population.

3. Housing

Housing in the United States continues to be in short, and expensive, supply for households with low- or no-income. Federal rental assistance is critical for there to be available, affordable housing units. Thousands of public housing units are lost each year, from deterioration and lack of repair. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of families and individuals are homeless, living with others, in shelters, and even living on the streets. For many, they are unable to get rental assistance vouchers to help pay rent. NETWORK advocated for funding to at least be able to support the number of vouchers already in use, as well as funding to repair public housing. These requests, however, were not honored in the CR. The existing number of vouchers supported by the 2016 funds cannot be supported at 2017 costs. Additionally, owners’ costs will increase and those costs will be passed on to renters who are unable to cover that increase. This leaves federal housing assistance to cover the gap. Ultimately, with this CR, more households face homelessness.  A small increase was given for rural housing, in the Agriculture appropriation.

Our elected officials have left Washington for their winter break – to be with family, celebrate the holidays, and perhaps vacation. The same enjoyment is not available for members of our communities who rely on some government assistance to live a life with dignity. This may be a person sleeping on the street, a refugee stuck in a camp somewhere in the world, or those who will not be counted in the 2020 census, leading to inadequate funding for future years of “promoting the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…”  We hope all legislators take a moment during their time away from Washington to reflect on the needs of the common good.

Our Advent Prayer: Let Us Support Dreamers in our Immigration Policy

Our Advent Prayer: Let Us Support Dreamers in our Immigration Policy

December 11, 2017

As we enter into the second week of Advent, we recall the time Mary and Joseph spent preparing for the birth of Jesus – time spent in joyful anticipation. Now, we wait in hopeful anticipation for Christ and strive to shape a world where all children are welcomed and cared for, including immigrant children and families.

As we prepare for the coming of Jesus, we are reminded of children across the country whose lives are affected by federal policies. This week, we explore the current reality for DACA-recipients who are facing enormous uncertainty during this Advent season.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”   -John 1:14, NIV

Personal Reflection from a Dreamer

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which protects young immigrants brought to the United States as children, runs out in less than three months. Now, more than ever, the security of Dreamers is at risk and we need a legislative solution from Congress. Dreamers are raising their voices to express their concerns and to vocalize the pain and suffering they have experienced. Heyra Avila, a Dreamer who lives in northern Kentucky, shares her experience as a Dreamer in our latest blog post, Dreamer’s Survival Fight.

“We all essentially live life day to day, not knowing what tomorrow will bring. We wake up, exist, and survive. Those are all blessings that get taken for granted too often and too easily. Surviving looks different for each individual. For me, surviving means fighting. My parents and I fought for survival and to break through poverty when we decided to cross the border without the proper documentation. We risked everything we had in search of a better life.

Fast forward to today: survival means justifying my humanity and worth as an “alien”, trying to fit into a foreign land I have called home my whole life. I’m surviving to fight and fighting to survive and not to just simply exist but also to thrive. The uncertainties of my tomorrows are plagued by anxiety, but also by very real possibilities of tragedies.” – Heyra Avila

Read the full reflection in NETWORK’s Emerging Justice Seeker blog


Discussion Guide for Talking about the Dream Act

Congress still hasn’t passed the Dream Act. It is time to engage in conversation! Check out Emerson Collective’s discussion guide on how to talk about the Dream Act with your family and friends this holiday here.


Read news on DACA, the Dream Act and Dreamers here:

The fight for the Dream Act is reaching its peak – but time is running out

‘This is the moment’: Dreamers face make-or-break push on immigration fight with Trump

Mother of three Dreamers holds fast on Hill for passage of DREAM Act

Thousands of immigrants are losing their DACA protections already

A Prayer for Immigrants, Dreamers and DACA

God of light and life,

We pray in great hope during this darkest time of the year that you shine your light on those living in the shadow of darkness, especially those who are undocumented with no path to permanent resident status or citizenship.

To those who say, “Throw them out. Keep them out.” we pray that you drive out their fear and change their hearts to be welcoming and inclusive. Enlighten our minds and hearts to welcome you in the “stranger” who is seeking  posada (shelter)  and knocking at our door.

We pray that members of Congress have the courage to pass a clean Dream Act to allow our immigrant brothers and sisters to reach their full potential. Open the doors of our hearts and minds to bring about compassionate immigration laws that will allow for the fullness of life and belonging.

May we bless all families and help us realize that every family is holy.

In this season of Advent and in the spirit of the prophet Micah 6:9, may we strive to “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.”


Written by Sister Bernadine Karge, OP