Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Oh, THAT Woodstock

The Woodstock Theological Center is an independent research institute located at Georgetown University that carries out theological and ethical reflection on the most pressing human issues of the day. Drawing on the Roman Catholic tradition, the Woodstock Center is ecumenically open, multi-disciplinary, and collaborative with, among others, the business community, government, religious groups, universities, other research centers, and the media.

The January issue of the Woodstock Report has several examples of the way in which religion can play a positive role in the way our country navigates the rough waters of policy change. Articles include “Reforming Health Care, Faithfully” and “Educating Ourselves about Immigration.” You can read them here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Justice for Farmworkers

We received the following from the Labor-Religion Coalition. It is a statement by Rural and Migrant Ministry, on behalf of the Justice for Farmworkers Campaign:
The Senate rules reforms hold great promise for action on long-pending, important human and civil rights issues that-despite widespread support-have never been brought to the Senate floor for a debate and vote. With massive popular support and a bipartisan group of 28 sponsors from all across New York, the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act is Exhibit A in this regard.

The Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act would remove the labor law exclusions that for decades have denied farmworkers the same rights as other workers. Results of a statewide poll conducted last month show that New Yorkers overwhelmingly support extending overtime (79%), day of rest (91%), collective bargaining (69%, with only 17% opposed), and disability insurance (85%) protections to farmworkers. Support was consistent across upstate and downstate regions.

In a letter dated June 21 asking Governor Paterson to include farmworker rights on the special session agenda, former farmworker and longtime leader in the Justice for Farmworkers Campaign Librada Paz wrote, "The Justice for Farmworkers Campaign has had many years of marching, praying, hoping, and lobbying. Farmworkers should not have to wait any longer. This year we must harvest all of our efforts." The Governor responded by including the equal rights bill on his special session proclamation.

In a letter to the Senate, Mayor Bloomberg's Director of Legislative Affairs, Michelle Goldstein, writes, "This Act would go a long way towards correcting an injustice that has left farm workers without the basic protections that are taken for granted by other workers...For too long farm workers have labored with only minimal protections...It is our hope that you will act quickly to ensure the passage of this important and overdue legislation."

The entire statement is available here. We urge you to contact your legislators. Just type your Zip Code into the box on the right and you will receive the contact information for your elected officials (not just Congress).


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Building Peace with Justice

Building Peace with Justice is a brief, weekly bulletin reflection on Catholic social teaching written by members of a Rochester Diocese Public Policy sub-committee. This is the reflection for July 26, 2009.

In his recent encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, "Charity in Truth," Pope Benedict reminds us of our responsibility to the world’s poor: “Life in many poor countries is still extremely insecure as a consequence of food shortages, and the situation could become worse: hunger still reaps enormous numbers of victims among those who, like Lazarus, are not permitted to take their place at the rich man's table…. Feed the hungry (cf. Mt 25: 35, 37, 42) is an ethical imperative for the universal Church, as she responds to the teachings of her Founder, the Lord Jesus, concerning solidarity and the sharing of goods. Moreover, the elimination of world hunger has also, in the global era, become a requirement for safeguarding the peace and stability of the planet….” (#27)

Reflection: How can I imitate Jesus’ compassion and strong sense of justice in responding to the world’s greatest needs?


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Future of Christianity

Bruce Gardiner, a member of the Commission on Peace and Justice, also is the local contact person for Contemplative Outreach in the Albany and upper Hudson Valley area. He will present a Centering Prayer Morning Retreat on Saturday, July 18, from 9 a.m. to noon at St. Vincent's Church, 900 Madison Avenue in Albany.

Agenda for the Day

8:45 Arrival
9:00 Opening Prayer
9:10 Centering Prayer (Two 20-minute periods)
(brief introduction to Centering Prayer for newcomers)
10:00 Break
10:20 Fr. Thomas Keating & Ken Wilber in dialogue:
"The Future of Christianity: Religion & Spirituality"
(Video and Discussion)
11:40 Centering Prayer
12:00 Adjourn



Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Take Action!

From Catholic Charities of Albany County:

Take Action - Ask Congress to Confront Global Poverty Now
Ask Congress to Confront Global Poverty
Take Action!
Let's ensure Congress knows how important these programs are to poor and vulnerable.

The House of Representatives soon will be voting on legislation that provides funding for poverty-focused international assistance programs that confront poverty and save lives. The $48.8 billion FY 2010 State, Foreign Operations Appropriations bill is already $1.2 billion below last year's level and $3.2 billion below the President's request. Any more cuts to this budget could affect efforts to help people living in poverty worldwide. We need to ensure Congress knows how important these programs are to poor and vulnerable people around the world and that they are supported by American Catholics.
Please contact your Representative now by entering your zip code into the box on the right.

Building Peace with Justice

Building Peace with Justice is a brief, weekly bulletin reflection on Catholic social teaching written by members of a Rochester Diocese Public Policy sub-committee. This is the reflection for July 19.

“I am the bread of life.” Each Sunday we gather around the table to receive Jesus, the nourishment that provides true life. In their 2002 document, A Place at the Table, the U.S Catholic Bishops tell us, “It is Christ’s sacrificial meal that nourishes us so that we can go forth to live the Gospel as his disciples. Too often, the call of the Gospel and the social implications of the Eucharist are ignored or neglected in our daily lives. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church insists, ‘The Eucharist commits us to the poor. To receive in truth the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must recognize Christ in the poorest.’”

Reflection: How does the Eucharist call you to encounter and serve the poor?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Save one, but not a million?

Nicholas D. Kristof, columnist for The New York Times, recently wrote about the reasons why it can be so easy to raise money to save one person, but so difficult to raise money to save many more.
There’s growing evidence that jumping up and down about millions of lives at stake can even be counterproductive. A number of studies have found that we are much more willing to donate to one needy person than to several. In one experiment, researchers solicited donations for a $300,000 fund that in one version would save the life of one child, and in another the lives of eight children. People contributed more when the fund would save only one life.

“The more who die, the less we care.” That’s the apt title of a forthcoming essay by Paul Slovic, a psychology professor at the University of Oregon who has pioneered this field of research.

Yet it’s not just, as the saying goes, that one death is a tragedy, a million a statistic. More depressing, appeals to our rationality actually seem to impede empathy.

For example, in one study, people donate generously to Rokia, a 7-year-old malnourished African girl. But when Rokia’s plight was explained as part of a larger context of hunger in Africa, people were much less willing to help.

Perhaps this is because, as some research suggests, people give in large part to feel good inside. That works best when you write a check and the problem is solved. If instead you’re reminded of larger problems that you can never solve, the feel-good rewards diminish.
The rest of the article, with additional examples, is here.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Albany Presentation on Life in the Holy Land

Brother Jack Curran, FSC, a Troy native who served for seven years as an administrator at Bethlehem University in the Holy Land, is returning to the Albany Diocese for a presentation on life in the Middle East. The talk will be at 7 p.m. on Monday, July 13, at the Albany Public Library, 161 Washington Avenue.

The Evangelist reports that Brother Curran “hopes to help clarify the complex and controversial situation in the Middle East, while explaining how life in the Holy Land differs from its portrayal in the media.”
He will also discuss the significant role played by Bethlehem University as “an oasis of peace in the midst of a difficult socio-political situation.”

Jointly founded in 1973 by the Vatican and the De La Salle Christian Brothers, Bethlehem University is the first university established in the West Bank and the only Catholic university in the Holy Land. Brother Curran has been vice president for development since 2003.

Brother Curran said the University works to attain peace in the Middle East by “advancing understanding, building respect for others, and promoting justice in all that we do.”

The student body, which is approximately two-thirds Muslim and one-third Christian, is encouraged to “build bridges and foster relationships through understanding and education.”

As an administrator, Brother Curran is involved in growth and development efforts, and often meets with religious and political leaders who visit the university.

However, he said his work and interaction with the students is “what keeps me going.”
You can read the entire article here.

Monday, July 06, 2009

What Sustains Me

Sojourners magazine has an article in its latest issue titled “What Sustains Me,” in which seventeen activists and church leaders talk about the disciplines that keep them girded for the struggle. This is the link.

Here are some of entries:

Let Jesus Love You, by Tony Campolo

I try to start each day by setting aside about 20 minutes for centering prayer. I empty my mind of the 101 things that are apt to start spinning in my head the moment I wake up. Then, focusing on Jesus, I let him love me. I wait to feel myself enveloped by his presence. I silently yield to being saturated by his Spirit. In my morning prayers, I say nothing to God and I hear no words from God. But in these times of “waiting upon the Lord,” my spiritual strength is renewed.

Secondly, at the end of each day I practice the Ignatian prayer of examen. Lying in bed I reflect on all the good and God-honoring things that I did during the day and thank God for allowing me to be an instrument of love and peace. Following Philippians 4:8, I remember whatever I did that was true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. Only then, after such affirmation, am I prepared to review the day a second time, recalling everything I said that was hurtful to others and fell short of God’s will. In accord with what I read in 1 John 1:9, I ask not only for God’s forgiveness, but also for God’s cleansing. I ask Christ to reach out from Calvary, across time and space, and absorb out of me the sin and darkness that accumulated within me during the day.

I believe that because the Holy Spirit is holy, the Holy Spirit is frustrated coming to dwell in dirty temples. Thus, Christ’s cleansing of my temple at the end of the day is a requisite for receiving the infilling of Christ’s Spirit during centering prayer the next morning. Without Christ’s Spirit in me, I lose heart and lack the energy to do justice and evangelism.

Tony Campolo, professor emeritus at Eastern University, is founder of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education.

Open Yourself to Community, by Soong-Chan Rah

When we’re in places of activism, we tend to be unable to look or reflect inward. One practice I’ve really attempted is to be in places of community where I’m challenged not just to think outside of the typical ways of thinking, but where my spiritual life is challenged. I’ve been really blessed to have some mentors in my life who have spoken to me about my intellectual and pastoral development. But what has been most helpful to me is how they’ve addressed my spiritual development. They’ve spoken to me about the ways that the work that I do is also tied into who I am in Christ.

Soong-Chan Rah is assistant professor of church growth and evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary in Illinois.

Say Thank You, by Vincent Harding

I seek out quiet whenever I can, wherever I am. Another spiritual discipline is to just practice being grateful. I spend a lot of time saying thank you, because my life has been so rich and I know that the richness has been a gift, most often a divine gift through very human beings. I cannot do anything else but say thank you. That’s central to my practice.

Vincent Harding is professor emeritus of religion and social transformation at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Building Peace with Justice

Building Peace with Justice is a brief, weekly bulletin reflection on Catholic social teaching written by members of a Rochester Diocese Public Policy sub-committee. This is the reflection for July 12, 2009:

Jesus sends out the Apostles to heal and to preach the Good News of God’s wonderful love and justice. He encourages them to take only the essentials and warns them that they, too, may be rejected just as the prophet Amos.

In exactly the same way we are also sent to be healers, teachers and witnesses of God’s justice and charity. On the journey we don’t need a lot of ‘stuff,’ only the truth of the Gospel and the understanding that when we preach the message of justice we, too, may be rejected.

Reflection: Does the ‘stuff’ in my life hinder me from living and witnessing to the message of love and justice proclaimed by Jesus? What do I need to get rid of, or share with others, in order to bring about a more just society?

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Saturday Peace Prayer Gatherings

The Oneness in Peace Spiritual Center, an Ecumenical Holistic House of Prayer, is offering Saturday Peace Prayer Gatherings for Personal, National and Global Needs on July 15 and August 8 in the Center, 49 Main Street in Germantown.
Prayer gathering includes: Opening Ritual, Hymn, Psalms, Scripture reading, Reflections, and Quiet Communal Prayer. Coffee and companionship follow immediately. Everyone is welcome. Registration is not necessary. Free will offering grateful received.
For more information, please e-mail the Center at