Peace & Justice

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

Monday, February 27, 2012

Save the date: Pathways to Peace

In March, three Israeli Defense Force (IDF) veterans will be in town to present their perspectives on the impact of the Israeli military presence in the West Bank on Israel’s welfare and how U.S and Israeli policies should be changed to facilitate a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. From the news release:
The three IDF veterans, Hadas Cohen, Amir Nathan and Noam Wiener will discuss their experiences in the Israeli military and their vision for Israel’s path to peace. Following this discussion, the group will answer questions from the audience.

This program will be offered twice in the Greater Albany area,: at 7:30 PM on Saturday March 10th at Congregation Berith Shalom (167 Third St. Troy, N) and at 1:30 PM on Sunday March 11th at the Golub Center (184 Washington Ave. Ext. Albany NY). Media coverage is welcome.

Between the veterans, they have served in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Lebanese border and throughout Israel. They also have professional and academic backgrounds in political science, international law and human rights issues. The combination of these experiences gives them a unique perspective in challenging conventional understandings of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its prospects for resolution.

J Street is the political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans fighting for the future of Israel as the democratic homeland of the Jewish people. We believe that Israel’s Jewish and democratic character depend on a two-state solution, resulting in a Palestinian state living alongside Israel in peace and security.

J Street advocates forcefully in the policy process, in Congress, in the media, and in the Jewish community to make sure public officials and community leaders clearly see the depth and breadth of support regarding Middle East policy among voters and supporters in their states and districts.

For more information, please call Barbara Dworkin 518-526-0618

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Redistricting, redistricting

Gerald Benjamin, former director of the Center for the New York State and Local Government Studies at SUNY's Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany, has written an article about the current status of our on-going redistricting experience.
The partisan character of the Legislature's work has not just been asserted, it's been clearly demonstrated in an analysis by the Center for Urban Research. So there is a basis for judgment and comparison. It's clear that competitive districts can be drawn. They can meet federal one person, one vote and Voting Rights Act requirements and take account of the state's regional and demographic communities of interest — and result in fairer elections.

. . . we must pass a state constitutional amendment placing redistricting beyond the reach of change by the ordinary state legislative process. We need to entirely replace what are an outdated, arcane, substantially invalid constitutional provisions.

A constitutional amendment must provide for an independent commission with an odd number of members (5 to 13) appointed by a diversity of authorities exclusively from a pool of interested citizens. Lobbyists, elected officials and those directly or indirectly dependent upon them for employment could not serve. Members would reflect the political and demographic diversity of the state.

They would have a clear timetable and employ clear criteria, including in order of priority: compliance with federal requirements, observance of the integrity of the state's regions — defined by its natural and built environment — and recognition within regions of social and demographic communities of interest.
As we have noted previously, perhaps, if more people contacted their representatives to express outrage, legislators might be more responsive. You can be one of those people by contacting the Senate switchboard at 518-455-2800 and the Assembly switchboard at 518-455-4100. Feel free to tell someone you read about it here.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Building Peace in South Sudan

Janice McLaughlin, M.M., president of Maryknoll Sisters, celebrated her anniversary by helping the world's newest nation prepare for the future, and then writing about it in the latest issue of Maryknoll magazine.
I was filled with excitement and curiosity last summer as the plane approached the airport in Juba, capital of the Republic of South Sudan. Just two weeks earlier—on July 9, 2011—this newest nation in Africa had achieved independence after 38 years of civil war. Landing in Juba, I discovered a kind of Wild West town with unpaved streets, one-story buildings and people on the move—on foot, motorbikes and horse-drawn carts—as huge trucks were bringing in supplies from Kenya and Uganda. The scars of war were everywhere—from bombed out buildings to fragments of wrecked planes. The scars were less visible in the people. Still celebrating their hard-won freedom, they exuded a spirit of hope and enthusiasm despite their extreme poverty.
The entire article is here.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Try a little kindness this Lent

In his monthly column in The Evangelist, Bishop Howard J. Hubbard writes about one way we may enter into the season of Lent, which begins today:
In a past era, we were encouraged "to give up something." The key to Lent, however, is to view it less as a burdensome obligation and more as an opportunity to do something positive. Indeed, a good theme song for Lent would be Glen Campbell's "Try a Little Kindness."

Jesuit educator Rev. Peter Schineller opines "that kindness entails an ability to reach out beyond our own situation, good or bad, to show compassion toward others."

Such kindness doesn't have to take on dramatic forms. It can be as simple as a pleasant greeting at the checkout counter, to the bus driver, to the bank teller, to the security guard at the mall or to the person entering church with us.

It might find expression in listening to our spouse, children, coworkers or friends more patiently and sensitively. It might heed the advice of Rev. Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Jesuits, who suggests that before speaking you should ask three questions about what you will say: "Is it true; is it kind and gentle; and is it good for others?"
The entire column is here.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Black Catholics

There are black Catholics, and they have a story to tell.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Strategies for a New Economy

The New Economics Institute is convening Strategies for a New Economy, a conference June 8-10th at Bard College, located in Annandale-on-Hudson.
It will gather together what are often diverse and scattered efforts to reshape our economic system, place them under one tent, and raise the flag to announce that transitioning to a new economy will mean engaging politicians, researchers, media, educators, citizen activists, business leaders, financial experts, scientists, union workers, cultural leaders, advocates for the disenfranchised, and youth -- all working together to achieve a common goal.

The three-day conference will include over 60 workshops, plenary gatherings, and participatory strategizing sessions organized in 10 theme areas (see below). "Strategies for a New Economy" will highlight best research and best practice under each theme and ultimately demonstrate that a decentralized, sustainable, cooperative economy is already taking shape, offering a strategy for action.
Details about registration and workshops was available here.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Worse than we thought?

The Times Union has an article today (from The New York World) that shows how partisan the redistricting process has been in New York:
The new boundaries for state Senate and Assembly districts proposed by New York's legislative redistricting task force would increase the number of seats held by the majority parties in both chambers, an analysis by The New York World has found.

In the closely contested state Senate, the Republican Party's precarious 32-to-30 majority would expand to 34 to 29 if each 2012 voter cast his or her ballot in support of the same party as in the 2010 elections.

In the Assembly, the comfortable 98-to-50 advantage the Democrats enjoyed following 2010's elections would also increase, to 102-to-48.

"You can't put a good face on this," said Douglas Muzzio, a professor at the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College and an expert in New York politics. "It gives real empirical weight to the argument that there is total partisanship in redistricting."
We realize that some people may find this discouraging. However, we think it should energize those of us who favor a less partisan process. Since one of the co-chairs of the task force that devised this scheme is a local legislator, we suggest that you call his office to express your dissatisfaction. That legislator is Jack McEneny, and his office telephone number 518-455-4178.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Priests choose to stay in Syria

According to the Vatican's nuncio to Syria, Archbishop Mario Zenari, some priests have decided to stay in battle-scarred Homs, even as government forces intensified their strikes against the heart of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad. From Catholic News Service:
Archbishop Mario Zenari told Catholic News Service in an email Feb. 9 that he had been in almost daily contact with priests in Homs and that "with respect to their safety, the situation is, in certain respects, uncertain."

"The decision to remain is theirs," Archbishop Zenari said. "This morning a priest told me that it was impossible to leave the city. Various Catholic families have left the city of Homs in recent days.

"In situations where their own lives and those of their family members are at risk, as is now the case in Homs, the choice to remain or depart must be left to each individual," he added.

The archbishop also advised Christians throughout much of the rest of Syria to remain in the country "except for situations in which one's own life and those of one's family members are in danger."
The rest of the article is here.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Scarves for Africa

Sister Marian Hamwey, DC, a member of the Commission on Peace and Justice who spent 31 years ministering in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, formerly called Zaire), writes in The Evangelist about the current situation there and what we can do to help.
Tragically, in the eastern part of the country, the rebel factions, the Congolese army and even "peacekeepers" are perpetrating some of the most heinous violence and sexual abuse in human history against women and children: Rape and torture have become ordinary means of revenge or of exercising control in many villages.

Our sisters from the area as well as human rights advocates do their best to make public these ongoing atrocities, which occur far from the media's cameras.

Toward the end of 2011, representatives to the United Nations from the Sisters of Charity in the U.S. and Canada formed a project to support the violated women and girls of Eastern Congo: Since, by their mid-teens, most girls in the DRC wear a head covering, we took the simple step of collecting and distributing colorful scarves to express our solidarity with them and affirm their dignity and value at a time when their self-esteem is profoundly wounded.

The Women of Charity are not saving the whole world, but they surely are giving solace and joy to our Congolese sisters during their personal crises. Numerous other groups in the U.S. and Canada have joined in this project, sending scarves of all sizes and colors, purchased or handmade, and contributions to assist with shipping.

As part of your Lenten observance, I invite you to send a scarf or monetary donation to the Albany Diocese's Commission on Peace and Justice. The commission will ensure that the scarves reach their destination.
The entire article is here.


Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Public Policy Day

The New York State Catholic Conference’s 2012 public policy day, Catholics at the Capitol, will be held on Tuesday, March 13, at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany.

There is no registration fee. An on-line registratiion form is available here. Trainnig materials will be available here in coming days. You will be contacted with further information regarding buses and local training sessions. (Note: the Albany and Ogdensburg Dioceses will not be providing transportation.)

Additional note: Knights of Columbus members and their families who are coming to Albany with their councils, and who are not planning to participate in legislative meetings, should not register through the NYS Catholic Conference or their diocese. Please contact Marty Ryan, State Chairman, at for bus information and other details.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Rest in peace, Bishop Estabrook

Catholic News Services reports on the death of Bishop Joseph W. Estabrook, a priest of the Diocese of Albany:
Auxiliary Bishop Joseph W. Estabrook of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services died Feb. 4 in Houston following a lengthy illness. He was 67 years old. A priest of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y., where he was born, he was ordained an auxiliary for the military archdiocese in July 2004. He had been a chaplain in the Navy since 1977, earning the rank of captain in 1995. He retired from the Navy in September 2004. His body was to be received the evening of Feb. 9, followed by prayer, at Good Shepherd Church in the Washington suburb of Alexandria, Va. A funeral Mass was to be celebrated at the church the next morning.

A Memorial Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. on Saturday, February 11, 2012 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany. Viewing hours will be held in Albany at the Cathedral on Saturday, February 11 from 9:30 a.m. until 11.a.m.. Interment will take place at Calvary Cemetery in Glenmont, New York following the Memorial Mass.

Bishop Howard Hubbard, who will be the principal celebrant of the Memorial Mass, said: “Bishop Estabrook was a man of solid spirituality and pastoral sensitivity, and his premature passing marks a real loss for the Church and for the military. As a priest of the Albany diocese, he ministered effectively both in parish work and as director of our diocesan office of family life. As a Navy chaplain, he blended a gentle disposition with moral strength; as a result, military men and women frequently sought him out at times of special stress. He also served as an effective retreat master for Navy personnel and their families, as well as a capable recruiter of military chaplains. My sympathy goes especially to Bishop Estabrook’s dear mother and his family, and my prayers accompany him as he goes to his reward in the peace of God’s presence.”

The homilist at Saturday’s Memorial Mass will be Rev. Richard Vosko, a nationally-recognized liturgical architect who is an Albany diocesan priest and a classmate of Bishop Estabrook.


Monday, February 06, 2012

Redistricting cynicism?

City & State, the only publication in New York devoted solely to covering government and politics in the city and state, has an interesting article about the status and future of redistricting, and it does not seem promising.
This was the year redistricting was supposed to work. Guess what?

Everyone but the winners in New York State’s unfair system of drawing election districts agrees New Yorkers deserve better. This was the year they were supposed to get it. But nothing has changed.

In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one, the Legislature has once again drawn maps that will all but guarantee they have to split the spoils of running the Assembly and Senate.

The lawmakers who promised to do better went back on their word. The governor who promised to veto unfair lines may be going soft. The good-government groups that hoped for change have once again been ignored.


Cuomo and the Senate Republicans will survive the lie, experts predict. Republicans have vastly outraised Democrats in Senate fund-raising, and with the defection of four Democrats from the conference, there is little chance they will regain the majority. Part of an announced compromise could include a constitutional amendment, but many people doubt it will pass.

“It’s a smokescreen,” one prominent Republican said. “They always say ‘constitutional amendment’ when they want a good talking point. It has to pass two consecutive Legislatures and then put it on the ballot. There’s no way that ever happens. I wouldn’t fall for that. That doesn’t happen. That just doesn’t happen.”

Cuomo, he said, will say he did all he could.

“He throws his hands up, life goes on, next issue. A couple of bad editorials come out, the public doesn’t give a damn, and then you’ve got 10 years to recover from it,” the Republican said. “If you polled, you’d be lucky if you got one or two percent of the people that care about that.”

The consultant paused a moment, and then apologized for sounding so cynical, before predicting the way it would go down over the next few weeks.

“It’ll be two days of outrage,” the source said, “and then it’s on to the budget.”
Perhaps, if more people contacted their representatives to express outrage, legislators might be more responsive. You can be one of those people by contacting the Senate switchboard at 518-455-2800 and the Assembly switchboard at 518-455-4100. Feel free to tell someone you read about it here.