Peace & Justice

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

Monday, April 26, 2021

Follow-up to indigenous threats webinar

Many thanks to Franciscans International, the non-governmental organization that represents the Franciscan family at the United Nations, for organizing yesterday’s webinar on “Justice and Accountability in the Context of Extractive Industries: Indigenous Women Human Rights Defenders from Guatemala, Brazil, Indonesia, and Bangladesh.” 

Although there were some minor technical glitches, the session was an opportunity to appreciate the threats that indigenous people face from these industries and from corrupt officials who do not defend human rights.

For those who were not able to attend, several on-line resources are available. These include a backgrounder on efforts to create an international treaty to regulate, in human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises that deal with indigenous people.

In 2011, the UN Human Rights Council adopted the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which are voluntary or non-legally binding. These Guiding Principles prioritize three pillars: the State duty to protect, the corporate responsibility to respect, and the need for victims’ access to effective remedies. Respect for human rights by business enterprises means that “they should avoid infringing on the human rights of others and should address adverse human rights impacts with which they are involved.”  

Efforts to create a legally binding treaty are underway. Some of the issues that are being addressed include access to justice and protection of affected communities, due diligence and sanctions to be imposed when this is violated, legal liability and burden of proof when there are cases of violation. 

A separate document, Intimidation and reprisals for cooperation with the United Nations in the field of human rights, provides an insight into the threats faced by indigenous peoples and others who demand their rights. 

Over the past years, the number of reprisals against individuals and groups engaging with the UN have increased. They take on different forms, such as:

- Travel bans
- Threats and harassment, including by officials
- Smear campaigns
- Surveillance
- Introduction of restrictive legislation
- Physical attacks
- Arbitrary arrest and detention
- Torture and ill-treatment, including sexual violence or denial of access to medical attention
- Killings 

Other documents about abuses of human rights are available here and here.

Finally, we were provided with this document regarding the impact of hazardous wastes on indigenous peoples. The mandate on hazardous substances and wastes was first established in 1995 by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Based on decades of work under the mandate, these 15 principles have been developed to help States and other actors protect workers from toxic exposures, and provide remedies for violations of their rights.

Earlier this year, the Escazú Agreement entered into force. It is the first binding document of this kind in the Latin America and Caribbean region following the steps of the Aarhus Convention. Its importance lies with its innovative content as it binds States to provide access to environmental information, fosters public participation in environmental decision-making, and offers measures for the protection of environmental activists.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Threats to indigenous people

The title of next week’s gathering may be intimidating, but the issue is important and worth your time.

The topic is “Justice and Accountability in the Context of Extractive Industries: Indigenous Women Human Rights Defenders from Guatemala, Brazil, Indonesia, and Bangladesh.” The gathering is organized on August 26 by Franciscans International, the non-governmental organization that represents the Franciscan family at the United Nations. 

In a nutshell, extractive industries remove raw materials such as oil, coal, gold, iron, and copper from the earth, usually by such means as drilling, pumping, and mining. It has been reported that “extractive activities within indigenous peoples’ lands and territories undertaken without adequate consultation or consent are the main source of serious violations of their human rights, including violence, criminalization and forced displacement.”

How bad is the situation? Last year in Guatemala alone, there were 17 murders and 22 attempted murders.

According to Franciscans International, here are some key issues: 

-       The risks and dangers faced by indigenous peoples, particularly in the context of industries, and the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on their already precarious situation. 

-       The experiences of women human rights defenders from indigenous communities in Guatemala, Brazil, Indonesia, and Bangladesh, facing human rights abuses in the context of extractive industries. 

-       The challenges and risks to indigenous peoples as human rights defenders and their struggles when accessing justice. 

-       Recommendations to guarantee the participation of indigenous peoples in developing mechanisms to strengthen the rule of law and achieve justice for human rights violations against their communities in the context of the implementation of SDG16.

The webinar begins at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, April 26. To learn more or register, click here.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Limits on refugee admissions

America’s bishops have issued a statement in response to the announcement last week that the Biden Administration will not increase the historically low number of refugees who can be resettled in the United States for the current fiscal year. While making that announcement, the Administration also said that it will restore the long-time practice of allocating refugees from every region of the world, thus opening resettlement to some who were not included in the more restricted categories of the previous Administration. 

Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, expressed disappointment that the refugee admissions number for the fiscal year will continue to be at a historic low but he also expressed appreciation that a number of persecuted refugee families who could not previously travel will finally be permitted resettlement in the United States.

His statement is available here.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Praying with the Pope in April

In the video that announced his prayer intention for April, Pope Francis stated, “Defending fundamental human rights demands courage and determination.”

His prayer intention this month is the following:

“Let us pray for those who risk their lives while fighting for fundamental rights under dictatorships, authoritarian regimes and even in democracies in crisis, that they may see their sacrifice and their work bear abundant fruit.”

In the video, which can be viewed here, Pope Francis says that he is referring to “actively combatting poverty, inequality, the lack of work, land and housing, and the denial of social and labor rights.” He laments that human rights are often not equal for all, saying there are “first-, second-, and third-class people, and those who are disposable.”

He invites all people of goodwill to pray for those who “risk their lives fighting for fundamental rights.”

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The Cardinal and the Amazon

This Thursday, you are invited to join Cardinal Pedro Barreto, who was among the chief architects of the Synod of Bishops on the Amazon, as he joins an international cast of environmental activists seeking to engage and guide the Biden administration towards effective action regarding the Amazon rainforest.

The event is free, and no pre-registration is required. It can be viewed here beginning at 1 p.m.

According to an article on the website of Crux, Cardinal Barreto has drawn a link between the Amazon rainforest and the current coronavirus pandemic.

Barreto has been among the most outspoken Latin American prelates on the need to protect the poor and vulnerable during the coronavirus outbreak in the region, particularly in his native Peru.

During a largescale virtual assembly of more than 3,000 indigenous leaders, small farmers, environmental activists, and women from the nine countries composing the Amazon region, Barreto spoke directly to indigenous communities about the impact of the coronavirus, saying the Church, “will live and die with you” if necessary.

. . . 

Barreto compared the impact of the coronavirus, which targets the respiratory system, on the lungs of those who are infected to the ongoing “attack” on the lungs of the planet, saying, “The virus gets into our lungs and suffocates and kills us.”

“In the history of humanity, the virus of greed and extractivism and a lack of respect for human beings has corroded the Amazon and nature and destroyed by genocide the Amazon culture and original peoples,” he said, but stressed that, “Life is much stronger than the virus.”

Other speakers included Carlos Nobre, an author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Climate Panel, which won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize; representatives of various indigenous groups and government officials from various nations. And for those who like celebrities, there are a few of them as well.

A list of speakers is available here.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Catholic nuns are saving the planet

For many years, Catholic Sisters have led efforts to protect the environment and address climate change. On Tuesday, April 13 at 3 p.m., you can join two of the leaders of this effort for a free hour-long on-line discussion of how Catholic Sisters are helping to save the Earth, and how you can join them.

Presenters include Sr. Sheila Kinsey, a member of the Wheaton Community of the Franciscan Sisters, Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Among her many accomplishments, she, has served as the executive co-secretary for the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Union of Superior Generals and International Union of Superior Generals since 2015. She is coordinator of the UISG campaign, “Sowing Hope for the Planet,” which promotes the integration of Laudato Si’ by religious congregations. She serves on the steering committees of the Global Catholic Climate Movement and is a member of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

Sr. Melinda Roper became a Maryknoll sister in 1957 served as president of the congregation from 1978 to 1984. In 1985 she began living in the tropical rainforest of Darién, Panama. Along with other Maryknoll sisters, she formed a team with the Claretian priests and laity in the area. These years of experience led to the formation of eco spirituality retreats, the Web of Life, for the people of Darien as well as for international participants.

Here is the link to register.

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, April 09, 2021

Town Hall on racism in the Catholic Church

The Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary, the oldest and largest Black Catholic organization in the United States, will present a Town Hall Forum about racism in the Catholic Church on Saturday, April 17 at 2 p.m. 

Issues to be addressed include racism as a life issue, diversity in diocesan leadership, and Catholic education.

For more information or to register click here.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Praying at the border

Sister Norma Pimentel has been called the Pope’s Favorite Nun and the Mother Teresa of South Texas. Tomorrow (April 7) at noon you can join her and other faith leaders as they come together to pray for families separated at the border under the Trump administration, and urge the Biden administration to take action to reunite families in his first 100 days.


Additionally, they’ll call for the administration to provide immediate deportation relief and support a pathway to citizenship for all separated families. Faith leaders will be praying for families still waiting to be reunited and justice for all families who have been separated. 


Sr. Norma, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, was surprised by Pope Francis a few years ago when he singled her out on a video meeting to thank her for her work with immigrants. Here is the video


Among others participating in tomorrow’s event are Rev. Jennifer Butler, CEO of Faith in Public Life; Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, Scholar-in-Residence, National Council of Jewish Women; Imam Ali Siddiqui, Executive Director, Muslim Institute of Interfaith Studies and Understanding; Sonny Singh, Musician and Social Justice Educator; and Rev. Traci Blackmon, Associate General Minister of Justice & Local Church Ministries, The United Church of Christ.

Here is link to register.


The event is organized by Faith in Public Life, a national movement of clergy and faith leaders united in the prophetic pursuit of justice, equality and the common good. Their network of 50,000 leaders engages in “bold moral action that affirms our values and the human dignity of all.”