USCCB President And Bishop Chairmen Urge DHS To Defer Deportation Of Refugees Who Have Escaped Religious Persecution

From the USCCB:

WASHINGTON—The President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston as well as the Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, have sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, John F. Kelly, urging him to defer deportation of those persons to Iraq, particularly Christians and Chaldean Catholics, who pose no threat to U.S. public safety.

The letter has been sent to specifically address the pending deportation of dozens of Christian and Chaldean Catholics in Michigan and Tennessee.

While the bishops recognize that some of the individuals may have orders of deportation because they have committed criminal offenses in the past, they are gravely concerned that they would then be sent back to a country where religious persecution and persecution against ethnic minorities remains an ongoing threat. The letter states that “the fact that they have a significant risk in experiencing persecution, and even possible bodily harm because of their faith is, from our moral perspective, an important factor to be weighted in the calculation to deport.”

The full letter to Secretary Kelly can be found here: https://justiceforimmigrants.org/uncategorized/1287/

From the USCCB: U.S. Bishops’ Conference Chairman Urges Senate Passage Of “Iraq And Syria Genocide Emergency Relief And Accountability Act”

WASHINGTON—Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, has urged the Senate to pass the “Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act” (H.R. 390). The proposed legislation calls for much needed assistance for survivors of genocide, especially in Iraq and Syria, and would allow faith-based organizations (such as Catholic Relief Services) that are already providing humanitarian assistance to these populations, to access U.S. government funding in their work, increasing aid to those desperately in need.

In a letter to U.S. Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Benjamin Cardin, Ranking Member, Bishop Cantú wrote, “I commend you for your efforts to support those suffering persecution in Iraq and Syria and trust that swift Senate consideration and passage of H.R. 390 will contribute to a longer-term solution to the crisis in the region.”

From the Order: A Grand Imam and a Dominican Unite Against Christian Persecution in Pakistan

With persecution against Christians rife as the result of radicals and militants,  the Grand Imam of Pakistan’s second largest mosque, Badshahi Mosque in Lahore,  Imam Syed Muhammad  Abdul Khabir Azad, and a Dominican priest, Father James Channan OP, are working together to protect the country’s embattled Christian minority. Father Channan is the Director of Peace Center, Lahore, whereas, Imam Abdul Khabir Azad serves as a board member and close collaborator of Peace Center.

In an exclusive joint interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Imam Abdul Khabir Azad and Father Channan described the conditions in Pakistan and their work together.

See more at: http://www.op.org/en/content/grand-imam-and-dominican-unite-against-christian-persecution-pakistan#sthash.ZGVMx1hI.dpuf

Aug 24 Update from the Iraqi Dominican Sisters

This originally appeared on website of the Dominican Order.)

Dear all,

We continue to share our daily struggle with you, hoping that our cry will reach the world. We are like the blind man of Jericho (Mark 10: 46-52), who had nothing to express himself, but his voice, asking Jesus for mercy. Although some people ignored his voice, others listened, and helped him. We count on people, who will listen!

We entered the third week of displacement. Things are moving very slowly in terms of providing shelter, food, and necessities for the people. There are still people living in the streets. There are still no organized camps outside of schools that are used as refugee centres. An unfinished, three story building has also been used as a refugee centre. For privacy reasons, families have made rooms using UNHCR plastic sheets in these unfinished buildings. These places look like stables. We all wonder, is there any end in sight? We appreciate all efforts that have been made to provide aid to the displaced people. However, please note, that providing food and shelter is not the only essential thing we need. Our case is much bigger. We are speaking about two minorities (Christian and Yezedians), who lost their land, their homes, their belongings, their jobs, their money, some have been separated from their families and loved ones, and all are persecuted because of their religion.

Our church leaders are doing their best to solve the issue. They have been meeting with political leaders, with the President of Iraq and Kurdistan, but initiatives and actions of these political leaders are really slow and modest. Actually, all political meetings have led to nothing. Until now, there has been no decision made about the current situation of the displaced minorities. For this reason, trust in the political leaders has diminished, if it exists, at all. People cannot tolerate it anymore. It is too heavy of a burden. Yesterday, a young man expressed that he would rather die than live, without dignity. People feel that their dignity has been stripped from them. We are being persecuted because of our religion. None of us ever thought we would live in refugee camps because of that.

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Homily for Second Sunday of Advent, December 9, 2012

Today’s Readings

John the Baptizer is a rather odd duck. Rather than living in town, he lived in the desert. He wore strange clothes and ate weird food. He was hardly a warm fuzzy preacher. His words were harsh, and his call conversion to God, displayed an immediate urgency. He did not simply tell people what they wanted to hear, but spoke the truth so sharply, he made enemies. And yet perhaps because of this honesty, people found in his message a call to conversion they eagerly embraced. As Jesus says in another part of the gospel, tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners embraced the message.  And in getting ready for the coming of Jesus, John tilled the soil of people’s hearts in a way that required brutal honesty.

It should not surprise us then,we too are called on the second Sunday of Advent to an honest assessment of our need for conversion. Even a cursory look at our world, indicates that we, as Christians convicted by the words of Christ, have too often not reached out to serve the poor, have not healed hearts riddled by too much violence, or have not lived simply, seeking money or material possessions,  we forget the real important priorities of our lives, even the priority of those whom we love.

There are times in our lives we need such a harsh preacher. And while such words may not always seem pleasant when first spoken, in retrospect they can be the type of words that bring us joy and lasting peace. Perhaps it is because of experiences like the one described in the first reading. There are moments in our own lives where we too are called to shake off those events of misery and sadness, to recognize a new joy of living. And often times it takes a preacher such as John to get our attention.

The Philippian community, to whom Paul writes in the second reading Elicits a different type of response. When I first began teaching, it was not unusual to be told that teachers should feel the same way about every student. Some teachers, this admonition caused great conflict, because as human beings, teachers do have their favorites. What should’ve been said, is that every teacher should treat fairly every student. Like any teacher, Paul too had his favorites. This community at Philippi was certainly one of them. They bring him great joy, that Paul experiences simply in recallalling them, remembering experiences he’s had in their midst. Unlike other communities, such as the Galatians, whom he describes as stupid, Paul has nothing but high praise for the community at Philippi. Throughout this letter of the Bible, Paul’s affection for the Philippians shine through again and again.

These two contrasting preachers remind us that the word joy can be used in a variety of contexts. There are those moments of inexpressible joy such as the birth of a child that we find it difficult to express in words. There is another type of joy that we experience when hard work manifests itself in a project well done. And there is yet another type of joy, such as when someone addicted to alcohol or drugs is able to turn their life in healthier directions. While we use the same word to describe each experience, these experiences varying degrees of intensity. But the readings remind us about today, is the just is the same word joy can describe many different realities of human emotion, so too can we experience God in a variety of ways.

There are times in our lives where we need to hear the sharp challenging words of the John the Baptizer.there are other moments, where we need to experience the fondness of our God as evidenced in the kind words of St. Paul to the community at Philippi. The beauty of our God is his deep knowledge of each one of us. As a result, God’s invitation the said event is as unique as each one of us, each of us is called to accept this invitation in a personal way, one that leads to our salvation.

Homily for Friday, August 10, 2012

Readings for Today

Go big or go home.  Go all in.  Leave it all out on the field.  There are any number of phrases that are used to describe that for things that are perceived to be really big, it simply is not possible to hold back.  For things that really matter, we have to make our commitment total.  No where is this more true than when we discuss our vocation.

Think about it.  We do not praise married couples if they only are sort of committed to each other.  It is not true parenthood if one is a sometimes parent.  We have experienced on many levels the deep pain betrayal of religious vows has been for the community in the Church.  When we see leaders more concerned for themselves than for others, we know it is not an “all in” statement of faith.

The first reading is very blunt.  The way to be all in is to be attentive to the poor.  God has a special place for the poor, and time and again we hear that it is our treatment of the poor that is essential as Christians.  More than once I saw on Facebook the saying that Christians certainly were not to be seen at a soup kitchen or a food bank.  And while we do not do things for show, we must consider carefully the words of Jesus that we will become known for our love.

Many Christians that I know are all in.  They volunteer in soup kitchens, donate to food banks, provide free medical and dental care to the poor, they literally try to live Jesus admonition that how we treat one another is the way we treat Jesus.  But this is not simply a club of community service.  It is important to find that time, that quiet reflective time where we allow God to shape us, to form us, into an even deeper reflection of himself.

“Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies”, unless we allow God to mold the worst parts of ourselves away in love, so that we can reflect the images of the divine in what we do, we remain less than we could be.  Many major religions have this dynamic as an important consideration of faith.  For Buddhists, for example, it is eliminating the things to which we are attached, that is the important task of a life of meaning.

Today’s readings, on this feast of St. Lawrence, who gave his life for the faith, reminds me that I too need to give all for the faith.  But that is not far away.  It is as close as the poor person in need, the person who reminds me to seek out always the face of Jesus in the poor.