Tuesday, December 30, 2008

African Americans and the Auto Industry

As we have been hearing much about the automakers' bailout by the US Government, I thought it interesting to share this article from the New York Times in today's (12/30/08) issue and offer it up to all of you for prayer and reflection.

Some of the statistics that are offered in this article really highlight the difference between this industry and say, the financial/banking area. "In all, blacks made up 14.2 percent of the total automotive work force in 2007, according to the policy institute report, compared with 11.2 percent of the overall American work force."

A study from the US Equal Opportunity Employment Commission states the following statistics: Within the Financial Industry subsectors, the percentage of African American officials and managers is highest in the Banking/Credit subsector (7.0 percent) with over 9.7 percent in overall professional jobs in this sector. In the Securities subsector, African Americans made up 4.4 percent in officials and managers but 7.0 percent of the professional jobs. The highest percentage of professional positions in the financial industry subsectors for African Americans is in the Central Banking area at just about 13.3 percent.

So, as we move forward in 2009, with this economy and the hard economic times ahead, let us remember that our language does matter and that we need to be aware of the complexity of these situations. I can't help but imagine that the commentary on the auto industry has been vitriolic because of our own prejudices about minorities, labor unions and the competition between the middle class and the poor.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Poverty Rates -- Curious where MI and OH rank?

I really appreciate the collation of data by the site, Kaiser State Health Facts. As you can see from visiting the above link, there are a number of ways to view the information on the left hand side.

Regardless, what we are viewing is the fact that rates and of poverty are increasing. Not an easy thing to see or witness, regardless of how its presented.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Where are the Auto Jobs?

As one would suspect, the situation of the major automotive companies (Ford, GM and Chrysler) is of tremendous interest to many Jesuits, partners and institutions in the Ignatian family.

Attached to this is a link to a diagram that shows the number of jobs that could be affected by a dissolution of the automakers.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Jesuits Issue Urgent Appeal for Zimbebwean Assistance!

The new Zimbabwe provincial, Fr Stephen Buckland, SJ, has issued an urgent appeal for aid to starving Zimbabweans. Buckland is trying to get two shipments of food, valued at just over $300,000 each, to the country before Christmas. So far, the British Province's Jesuit Missions has helped raise enough funds for the first shipment, and has made a significant contribution toward the second shipment.

"While the protracted political continue, most ordinary Zimbabweans are starving," explained Fr Tim Curtis, SJ, director of Jesuit Missions. "Their currency is worthless and their salary does not even pay their bus fare to get to work." Buckland's inaugural homily as provincial stressed the need for Jesuits to respond to this hunger, instability and unrest, violence, and poverty in Zimbabwe. [Independent Catholic News, 6 August 2008]

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Jesuit Contribution to Orissa Peace Building Process

India Update:

Since anti-Christian violence broke out in the Indian state of Orissa on 23 August, Jesuits have been involved in many kinds of activities to mend the broken communities. Soon after the first outbreak of the violence, Mike T. Raj SJ (the Provincial of Jamshedpur), Prakash Louis SJ and Xavier Jeyaraj SJ went for a week to the area to coordinate the initial response together with civil society groups, international NGOs, faith-based groups and the Jesuits of Orissa.

In the course of the weeks that followed, Jesuits and their colleagues in social centres all over the South Asian Assistancy mobilised people for rallies and other direct action to protest the violence in Orissa, while the website www.jesaonline.org and frequent emails were used to report news from the ground. In mid-October, the triennial Convention of Jesuits in Social Action took place (see Headlines 10-2008) and the participants adopted a number of recommendations, which were subsequently supported by the Jesuit Conference of South Asia.

Click here to read their statement: http://jesaonline.org/forum22.html S. Tony Raj SJ and his team of Jesuits in Orissa are coordinating the work in Bhubaneswar and in the relief camps in Kandhamal. A coordination centre run by S. Tony Raj has been set up, which will house the documentation, media and legal work of the archdiocese. Jesuit lawyers have volunteered to help the victims file the all-important First Information Reports (FIR). Apart from financial help, the Jesuits intend to take up 30 villages (750 families) in Kandhamal district where they are working already, and to continue their peace building and rehabilitation work in the region.

(Source: Xavier Jeyaraj SJ jesadelhi@gmail.com)

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Colombian Jesuit work receives death threats

Colombia: Death threats against Jesuit project
On 10 April, the Development and Peace Programme of Magdalena Medio (Programa de Desarrollo y Paz en Magdalena Medio - PDPMM) was the second Colombian Jesuit programme to be targeted by a rearmed wing of the AUC paramilitary group, which calls itself the "Black Eagles - The Rearmament."

In this most recent communication the paramilitaries threatened priests, parishes, human rights groups and humanitarian workers with death, claiming the peace workers targeted were named by Colombian government sources as allies of the guerillas. The Black Eagles have been responsible for deaths and displacements throughout the Atlantic Coast and Southern regions of Colombia in the past year and appear to be growing in size and strength.

The message describes the parish priest of the Regidor municipality (in southern Bolívar, Colombia) as "an obstacle to the municipal government," the parishioners of Tiquisio and Arenal as "war workers," and members of the Development and Peace Programme of Magdalena Medio as "perpetrators of criminal acts against democratic security". The Catholic Dioceses of Barrancabermeja and Magangué and the Jesuit-run Development and Peace Programme of Magdalena Medio responded on 15 April with a joint statement addressing the threats against priests, parishioners, and humanitarian workers. Condemning the ongoing violence, the statement denounces the killing of over 2,000 people in the region since 1986, including 28 workers of the PDPMM.

The public statement can be found here: http://www.sjweb.info/documents/sjs/docs/PDPMM_ENG.pdf (in English) and here: http://www.sjweb.info/documents/sjs/docs/PDPMM_ESP.pdf (in Spanish); and on the website of the PDPMM http://www.pdpmm.org.co (in English, Spanish and German).

Thursday, April 3, 2008

'Health Care Sunday' in Michigan -- 'Get your parish involved'!

April 27 is "Health Care Sunday" in Michigan

This spring, Catholics committed to social justice in Michigan are joining thousands of other individuals in placing a proposal on the November ballot called "Health Care for Michigan." This proposal would require the Michigan Legislature to enact policies that control health care costs and ensure that all Michigan residents have basic health insurance. Click here to view the petition.

In conjunction with Cover the Uninsured Week, over 200 congregations from across the State of Michigan will be participating in "Health Care Sunday" the weekend of April 26-27. All across the state, announcements will be made about the Health Care Campaign and interested parishioners will be invited to sign the petition after Mass.

To sign on as a participating congregation or to help support the proposal, please contact Vicky Kovari vkovari@catholicsinalliance.org or Brian Peck bcpeck@umich.edu for more information on Health Care Sunday. If your parish wants to participate but is unable to do it on April 26-27, there will be an alternative weekend before the June 1 filing deadline.

The support of Catholic congregations and other people of faith will be essential to the success of this initiative. We hope you will seriously consider joining the hundreds of other faith communities in Michigan to support health care as a basic right. More information on the campaign is available at: www.healthcareformichigan.org.

Monday, March 17, 2008


At his Palm Sunday homily, Pope Benedict issued a strong statement in opposition to the war in Iraq --- statements that should quell any Catholic's questions over the Church's position in this area.

"Pope Benedict XVI issued one of his strongest appeals for peace in Iraq on Sunday, days after the body of the kidnapped Chaldean Catholic archbishop was found near the northern city of Mosul. The pope also denounced the five-year-long war, saying it had provoked the complete breakup of Iraqi civilian life.

"Enough with the slaughters. Enough with the violence. Enough with the hatred in Iraq!"
Benedict said to applause at the end of his Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square.

On Thursday, the body of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was found near Mosul. He had been abducted on Feb. 29. Benedict has called Rahho's death an "inhuman act of violence" that offended human dignity. On Sunday, Benedict praised Rahho for his refusal to abandon his flock despite many threats and difficulties. Benedict said Rahho's dedication to the Catholic Church and his death compelled him to "raise a strong and sorrowful cry" to denounce the violence in Iraq spawned by the war that began five years ago this week.

We join with our Chaldean brothers and sisters in sorrow for the loss of their beloved shepherd, Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho. His witness to stay with his people is an especially strong symbol during this Holy Week --- and similar to another tremendous pastor who's assasination anniversary is on March 24, 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero (El Salvador).

How much more do we need to see to draw connections between the violence and destruction of these two sacred yet war-torn countries?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Future of PEPFAR Help in an African Context

Please read the following reflection from Fr. Terry Charlton, S.J. on his work with children who have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS in Nairobi. It's particularly helfpul to consider as Congress looks at PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) and its future funding.
Africa Needs an Effective Approach to AIDS

By Fr. Terry Charlton, S.J.
Jesuit Vocation Director, Kenya
National Chaplain, Christian Life Community, Co-founder and Chaplain, St. Aloysius Gonzaga Secondary School, Kibera

I work in one of the largest slums in Africa, Kibera, located in Nairobi, Kenya. Some years ago I started St. Aloysius Gonzaga Secondary School to educate young people who have lost either both parents to the AIDS-pandemic, or one parent and the remaining parent is infected. I am proud to say we now have 265 students, and we are supporting another 50 graduates to go on to college.

Kenya and several other countries have made real progress in fighting AIDS, with US support. On his recent trip to Africa, President Bush rightly received recognition for getting the ball rolling on expanding access to AIDS services in our region of the world, especially treatment and care for the sick and orphaned.

But, quite frankly, I am alarmed at how far removed from African reality his proposal is for the next five years of the program. Since Congress is now debating what direction to take this program, along with programs to address many health and development issues related to AIDS, I want to share what I have seen in Kibera and make a plea for realism.

We have learned a great deal about AIDS since 2003, when the U.S. first began its emergency response to the crisis in Africa. Anyone visiting us in Kibera would see that the AIDS issue cannot be viewed in isolation. My students, teachers and their extended families face inter-related problems rooted in poverty, issues of gender and a
broken-down health system. A smart U.S. response must address this context, including the dearth of qualified medical personnel and community health workers. And, to be effective, it would confront tuberculosis head on, since, as we have seen in Kibera, TB is what actually kills most people living with AIDS.

But the Bush approach, now taken up by the Republican leadership in the House, ignores these lessons. It does not seriously address any of these related issues and, worst of all, freezes funding at the current level for the next five years, even as the world is racing to meet the goal of universal access to all AIDS services by 2010.

This funding freeze would have a devastating impact on programs that serve the children I work with every day. So far, the U.S. AIDS initiative has provided crucial funding for programs that provide care for children, including school feeding programs, which have a broad impact. Yet, the President and his allies in the Congress would have these programs frozen in place instead of expanding them to meet the growing need.

Fortunately, an alternative is available. Congressman Tom Lantos, as chairman of the Committee responsible for AIDS programming in the House, understood that significantly greater funds are needed to fight AIDS and address basic capacity issues. One of the last things he did before he died of cancer was to propose five-year legislation which would update the U.S. response and provide $50 billion, not only for AIDS but also for children's programs, TB and malaria.

The Lantos proposal would also better meet the needs of women and girls. It would allow voluntary family planning services to women who are HIV positive and who do not wish to become pregnant. We can agree or disagree about the morality of contraception, but the truth is that helping women who may be weak and ill to avoid a dangerous pregnancy is about saving lives, and it would not promote abortion, as some pro-life groups have inaccurately stated.

The Lantos approach also eliminates the requirement that one-third of all HIV prevention dollars be spent on abstinence and fidelity. This funding restriction has been shown to not be workable on the ground. As someone profoundly committed to promoting abstinence and fidelity, my experience is that I can do my job most effectively when young people have the freedom to make moral choices. I am glad to see the Lantos bill still requires the U.S. to promote abstinence and fidelity as a part of a comprehensive approach.

Working in Kenya, I see people suffering and dying all too often from a disease that can be prevented. It is crucial that this program not become a political football, and I hope members of Congress of good will, from both sides of the aisle, can find a way to work together for the sake of Africa. Unless the U.S. AIDS program goes forward, together with programs that address the broader context of the epidemic, the ones who suffer the most will be the children I work with every day.

Terry Charlton, S.J.
Email: charlton@jesuits.net

Fr. Terry Charlton, S.J.
Jesuit Vocation Director, Kenya
National Chaplain, Christian Life
Co-founder and Chaplain, St. Aloysius
Gonzaga Secondary School, Kibera