The weekend following the Fourth of July, the immigrant community continues to prepare itself against the terrorizing threats of ICE raids made by Donald Trump. I spent my Fourth of July, preparing a deportation packet for my family and me. The packet includes all our important information in case one of us is deported. My calls home have become shorter in an effort to avoid my mom’s questions about my emotional well-being. I prepare to train community members and inform them of their rights in case they are detained by an ICE agent, but I can’t bring myself to share the same information with my parents without feeling like I am already sentencing them to their deportation. Anti-immigrant legislation is not new, tied with the criminalization of Black and Brown bodies. The reports of death seem so familiar to us; it’s almost as if we’re desensitized from the heavy reality of what another death in our community means.
The death of Oscar Martinez and his daughter, Valeria, has been weighing heavily on me. It was a trigger that I hadn’t experienced before. I crossed the border at the age of four. I crossed the same river where the bodies of Oscar and Valeria laid with my own mother. The image shown across various news articles continues to make me sick, and it sent me back to the night that I crossed, the water weighing down my jeans, being constantly assured by my mother that Mickey Mouse was on the other side of the river and all I had to do was to be quiet…
“Love is creative and redemptive. Love builds up and unites; hate tears down and destroys. The aftermath of the ‘fight with fire’ method…is bitterness and chaos, the aftermath of the love method is reconciliation and creation of the beloved community… Yes, love, which means understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill, even for one’s enemies.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Two weeks ago, an amazing gathering took place all across the nation. Young people who crossed the border years ago as children with their immigrant parents gathered by the hundreds in dozens of cities to share their stories. They are known as “the dreamers,” recipients of an administrative decree known as DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a decree that permits them to pursue their dreams of work and study and family.
Together the dreamers number about 800,000 people, from many nationalities; and together with people of faith, including you our readers, we have been advocating with them during this Summer of Action for their right to partake of their dream. But time is running out for them, and for their families. Soon the administration will decide whether all of them, and their families, will stay.
Fittingly, one of the largest groups of dreamers is called “United We Dream.” For those of us with immigrant roots, their dreams are the dreams of our ancestors, and remind us of the words engraved on the Statue of Liberty, that great beacon of hope: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”…
My best moments of reckoning come when I allow myself to let the spirit speak to me. Recently, I was called to proclaim a reading at liturgy and the words “… though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen, do not incur sin because of them …” seeped through my soul. The current social and political environments continue to call me to reflect and examine how I direct myself to model the light of Christ, how I respond to the gospel and how I stand in solidarity and unity for what is right and just.
Our response to building a nonviolent community challenges our imperfections. I believe we must be intentional in acknowledging, naming and sharing our personal internal challenges that bring about our awareness and our failures. How we approach our vocation as peacemakers with our sisters and brothers throughout the world may become the light we need to examine as we journey with our sisters and brothers, especially when our perspectives differ as well as our method of living out our baptismal call to care for one another and love one another as we love ourselves. I try to remember that my best chance to understand others is to learn from their experiences as well as my own experiences. I try to stay true to my personal vow of 40-plus years ago, to love the Lord, to dowhat is right and just, and walk humbly. I don’t have all the answers and my answer may not be the way of others. This is my challenge every day. Sometimes the immediate response is not always the right approach to addressing injustices. But focusing on justice with peace and peace with justice keeps me grounded in our proclamation to witnessing the gospel.
Striving to live in the light of Christ and being the light of Christ for others is our journey. This journey is not always easy but it is our path. Thanks be to God for God’s love and patience with all of us.
Cathy Woodson is the chair of the Pax Christi USA National Council.
by Scott Wright
Director of the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, USA
We live in a world radiant with beauty and one that is also crying out for redemption. The entire Creation is filled with the beauty and colors of the seasons of Creation; at the same time it is groaning under the impact of climate change: extreme weather events, devastating floods and severe droughts, rising sea levels and melting glaciers, disappearing habitats and disappearing species of life. But this drama is not confined to the impact of climate change alone. Transnational mining companies, and the hydroelectric dams that provide electricity for their mining ventures, are ravishing the lands and polluting the waters, and indigenous communities across the Americas are making a stand to protect Creation.
But something new is happening here; there are new “signs” on the horizon. The stakes – the fate of the Earth and future generations – are higher; the protagonists are new – with indigenous communities and women playing a crucial role; and the spirituality of nonviolence is deeper and more holistic – rooted in the gift of Creation. The recent history of nonviolent resistance is filled with inspiring examples, from Gandhi’s independence struggle in India to Martin Luther King’s struggle for civil rights and Cesar Chavez’s struggle for farmworker justice in the United States.
Pope Francis pointed to these emerging “signs of the time” when he adopted the name Francis, and pointed to what would become his commitment to poor and indigenous peoples, to peace and nonviolence, and to protecting all of Creation.
One of the more remarkable nonviolent struggles in recent years came to light when a young indigenous leader and mother of four children was assassinated in La Esperanza, Honduras. On the night of March 3, 2016, Honduran environmental and indigenous leader Berta Cáceres was brutally murdered in her home. As co-founder of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), Berta had led the Lenca people and other indigenous communities in a nonviolent struggle for the integrity of their territories and their sovereignty…
“And do this because you know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.” Romans 13:11
Who or what do we wait for?
Advent is a strange time. We wait for the One who has already come. We wait for the One who is in our midst struggling and living among us. We wait for the One who beckons us from an unknown and unimagined future.
We wait, sometimes quietly, sometimes perched on tiptoes, sometimes in the midst of frenzied activity, sometimes not sure what we are waiting for, but always with the expectation that something will happn that will give our waiting purpose and meaning.
The Isaiah reading has the people climbing a mountaintop waiting to be instructed in the ways of God. In Romans, we read that the people are waiting for the dawn to reveal how to live honorably. In the Gospel we are told to anticipate the unexpected and to be prepared to find the Promised One in the most unlikely places.
In the ebbing time of 2016, where are the unlikely people and places where the Promised One is to be found?
In the neighborhoods that we tell our children not to go into…
In the people we ignore because fear holds us hostage…
In those who dress differently and speak with an accent, who we claim have no right to be in our country…
In communities that challenge us to confront our privilege…
The swords and spears of our time are drones, military hardware, and systemic racism, along with malicious gossip, judgement towards others. back-biting, grudge-holding, and bullying.
What is these swords were turned to acceptance, respect, trust and peace-with-justice activities? Advent would no longer be a strange time.
What are the swords and spears in my life that need conversion?
In September of this past year, Pax Christi USA lost one of our most spirited long-time leaders. Carol Ann Breyer passed away in her sleep at a motel, on the way to a retreat with long-time friends associated with the Sisters of Mercy, with whom she had spent a significant part of her life.
Carol Ann has been with Pax Christi USA a very long time, from her time living in and around Washington, D.C. to later life when she was the state coordinator for Pax Christi Florida, one of the regions of PCUSA.
I had first gotten to know Carol Ann and her husband Lee while a young man in my early twenties. I was new to Pax Christi, and in attending the retreats and conferences with the section in Florida, I found myself surrounded with opportunities to be mentored and taught by people who had marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., been arrested at actions protesting our nation’s nuclear weapons with Fr. Daniel Berrigan, worked alongside Dorothy Day in Catholic Worker soup kitchens, and practiced lifestyles rooted in gospel nonviolence for decades. Carol Ann was one of these people who broadened my own understanding of what it meant to follow Jesus and how to live one’s life as a witness to the peace and justice for which he had lived, died and rose.
Carol Ann is typical of many of the Pax Christi people I have met, from all parts of the United States. She was active in the civil rights movement, started continuing education programs for adults, and developed small communities focused on renewing the Church. She helped to coordinate and organize international election observers for Florida during the 2004 presidential election, turning upside down the practice of U.S. citizens undertaking such missions in countries in Africa and Latin America and shining a light on the hypocrisy of our own government’s claims to conduct free, fair elections without voter discrimination or suppression.
Carol Ann helped establish the community college system for Florida, opening up opportunities for education for millions who otherwise would not have been able to afford to continue their education after high school. She worked with the homeless and those in prison, and she was one of the first Catholics I knew to connect seriously our work for peace with the burgeoning climate justice movement of the 1990s. To that end she and Lee built Mercy-on-the- Manatee, a house that won awards for energy conservation and environmental sensitivity and served as a gathering place for activists committed to environmental justice.
In reflecting on Carol Ann’s life, it occurred to me that it is in just how typical Carol Ann is of many Pax Christi USA members that the atypical nature of Pax Christi members stands out within the larger culture of the United States. This is part of the gift and grace of Pax Christi USA within the heart of the first world, the Global North.
Carol Ann’s life, extraordinary in and of itself, is echoed by the lives of people like her who make up Pax Christi USA from New York City to Honolulu, Alaska to Florida. Carol Ann’s own life intersected personally and professionally with so many of these people, and they—like her—were emboldened and challenged and encouraged and supported in finding others who share the same heart, the same soul for creating a “more peaceful, just and sustainable world.”
I have been on staff at Pax Christi USA for 14 years now and I am proud to find myself part of a people who carry on the witness and passion—embodied every day in thousands of ways—for which Carol Ann stood. Here at the beginning of 2015, I give thanks for Carol Ann’s life and witness, and for the lives and witness of all the members of our movement here in the U.S. and throughout the world. With our partners and our friends, may we continue to strive to make a difference in a world which hungers for the peace of Christ.
Johnny Zokovitch, Pax Christi USA Director of Communications