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We Must Have Faith
By Ed Nuñez

Sometimes I feel defeated and hopeless. As a recent college graduate, I have been told that I can do anything. The world is my oyster. My generation can “change the world.” While this has merit, there are times when I hear stories of social injustice—migrant families being broken up at the border or the neighborhood distraught by violence.

I lose faith and hope; it is then that I feel that the justice that so many people work for is for naught.

But then I remember one thing: that our God is not a God of death or injustice, but a God of life, faith, hope, and joy. The Book of Wisdom tells us that “God did not make death.” Jesus says in the Gospel of Mark, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” These simple words have profound implications. As we continue to work for justice in our communities, neighborhoods, schools, cities, and organizations, we must have faith in God who will always be with us in the task of making this world a better place for everyone.

We must have courage in the face of adversity and fear.

We must have hope that one day people will be able to live in peace—because that is who God is.

When we see, hear, or experience injustice in our communities, may we remember that God is a God of Life and a God of Love. May this be our motivation, therefore, to go out and be that Love for and with others.

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UN Human Rights Office condemns US border separation of families

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By Courtney Grogan

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Washington D.C., Jun 7, 2018 / 03:42 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Maria had been a victim of sex trafficking and abuse by a local gang when she fled Guatemala. Taking her 3-year-old son, Jose, she made the trek to the U.S. border, seeking asylum in the United States.

But when she arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border in December 2017, she was apprehended by Customs and Border Protection. Agents separated her from her son, who was grouped together with “unaccompanied minors” by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, while Maria was transferred to adult detention.

Maria’s story, as related by the Migration and Refugees Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is not unique.

At least 700 migrant children have been separated from adults claiming to be their parents since October 2017, according to data from the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which takes custody of the children. More than 100 of these children were under the age of 4.

Katie Kuennen is the associate director of children’s services for the U.S. bishops’ migration and refugee services, which operates a shelter for unaccompanied children in Texas.

“The vast majority of the kids coming into our residential programs are experiencing the trauma of family separation,” said Kuennen, who has observed increasing numbers of family separations at the border in recent months.

“We know from our work here in child welfare and social work that the impact of such a separation … can be extremely devastating both developmentally and psychologically on the child,” Kuennen explained in an online webinar on family separation on May 30.

On June 5, the United Nations human rights office condemned the U.S. practice of separating migrant children from their parents at the border as “a serious violation of the rights of the child.”

“The practice of separating families amounts to arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life,” said UN spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani, who called on the U.S. to “ immediately halt this practice of separating families.”

Prior to the UN condemnation, the U.S. bishops released a statement on June 1, urging the U.S. government to keep migrant families together.

“My brother bishops and I understand the need for the security of our borders and country, but separating arriving families at the U.S./Mexico border does not allay security concerns,” wrote Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin.

“Rupturing the bond between parent and child causes scientifically-proven trauma that often leads to irreparable emotional scarring,” continued Bishop Vasquez, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ committee on migration.

“Children are not instruments of deterrence but a blessing from God,” said the bishop.

On May 4, the Department of Homeland Security began referring all people crossing the border illegally to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution.

This “zero-tolerance policy” was implemented in response to a report that there had been a 203 percent increase in unauthorized border crossings in the past year. The majority of people arriving at the U.S. border had fled Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, according to the UN.

The goal of the policy is prosecuting 100 percent of the people who cross the border illegally, said Melissa Hastings, a policy advisor for the U.S. bishops’ migration and refugee services.

While adults over the age of 18 await prosecution in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, any children who had been traveling with them will be designated as “unaccompanied” and transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The policy “does not have any exceptions for families who are coming in and willingly turning themselves over to border patrol seeking protection” by applying for legal asylum, said Hastings.

“In the majority of these cases it is noted that CBP had never asked the parent if they could verify the relationship at the time of apprehension,” added Kuennen, who said that parents are not being asked for documentation or evidence of their kinship before separation.

Once a child is separated and their parent detained, Kuennen has found it to be very challenging to facilitate communication between family members because the shelters caring for the children have to identify where the separated parent has been detained and establish contact.

“We recently had a 5-year-old girl from El Salvador who was separated from her biological mother. In this particular case, it took over 30 days to establish initial contact with the mother,” said Kuennen, noting that the child had been extremely traumatized by the initial separation.

“We’ve heard also some cases of extremely young children, infants, nursing babies who have been separated from their parents and caregivers,” said Kuennen.

For young children, this traumatic separation can lead to long-term physical and mental health consequences, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which released a statement condemning family separation in May.

“[H]ighly stressful experiences, like family separation, can cause irreparable harm, disrupting a child’s brain architecture and affecting his or her short- and long-term health. This type of prolonged exposure to serious stress – known as toxic stress – can carry lifelong consequences for children,” the academy warned.

There is also an issue of judicial efficiency, added Ashley Feasley, director of policy for the U.S. bishops’ migration and refugee services.

Previously, a mother could claim her children as derivatives on one asylum application and court claim. The family separation policy forces each individual to have their own claim, multiplying the number of court cases at a time when “our judicial immigration system is already overrun,” Feasley said.

She encouraged Catholics to help by contacting Congress, volunteering with immigrants through their local Catholic Charities, or even volunteering to foster a separated or unaccompanied child.

“Right now, in this initial phase, given the strong statements by DHS and the fact that Congress does have a small, but important oversight role, we are really pushing Congress to push back on this issue at this time,” she said. “We think it is crucial.”



Migrants drown off Tunisian coast after boat sinks

Rescuers off Tunisia have saved at least 60 lives after a vessel with about 180 migrants onboard sank.

By Nathan Morley

The vessel was literally packed to the rafters, with 180 people squeezed onboard. Once the boat hit trouble and began sinking, the captain fled.

The tragedy killed 47 people.

Miraculously, 68 others were rescued off Tunisia’s southern coast, but the death toll is expected to rise, as authorities suspect many bodies have been washed away.

Most of those onboard were Tunisian. Some survived by clinging to debris for over 10-hours, others were lucky enough to be wearing flimsy life jackets.

So far this year, around 660 people have died or gone missing whist attempting to reach Europe in un-seaworthy boats.

IOM, the UN Migration Agency, reports that 32,080 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea through the first 150 days of 2018.





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Why does our economy leave so many behind?

In its reflection on the world economic system published May 17 (“Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones”), the Vatican seeks to promote dialogue about the moral questions related to globalization, particularly the role of new and complex financial structures that have left so many excluded and still poor.

It is therefore unfortunate that the Tribune editorial “Pope Francis’ mistrust of free markets: A Chicago retort” criticizing this document failed to engage its areas of concern: the human costs of inequality and the moral questions raised by increasing dominance of the financial sector over the world economy. Instead, the editorial attempted to provide a counterpoint to Pope Francis’ call for economic justice, concluding that what is “certain is that capitalism incentivizes people to work, creates wealth and improves lives.”





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Yes, and the statement welcomes the progress that has been made. But the Vatican document is posing more fundamental questions: Why does the current economic system leave so many behind? What structural reforms can mitigate the fact that the world is still divided into the haves and the have-nots — and that the difference between the two is growing at an alarming rate?

The Vatican recognizes that the Great Recession was not simply a financial crisis, but a moral one. A handful of financial institutions and traders began selling exotic securities that were largely unknown, poorly understood and enormously profitable. Greed and lack of accountability triggered a global economic collapse that devastated families in Chicago and around the globe — impacting the poorest most of all.

A more substantive response would offer a welcome opportunity to explore how we might structure our economy to protect the weak and promote the common good, or to serve a middle class ground down by wage stagnation. Instead the editorial jokes that Chicago is not Francis’ kind of town. In fact, Chicago is very close to his heart. He knows that the city includes both the streets that serve its economic centers of power — and the many that make up our richly diverse neighborhoods.

The pope’s desire to promote a moral global economy is neither radical nor new for people of faith. For as long as there have been market economies, the Catholic Church has maintained that every economic system must ensure that markets serve the common good. As the Vatican document states: “Well-being must therefore be measured by criteria far more comprehensive than the gross domestic product of a nation and must take into account instead other standards, for example safety and security, the growth of human capital, the quality of human relationships, and of work.”

The Tribune’s response to this call for renewed moral scrutiny is that “the nature of capitalism … makes it imperfect: Opportunity doesn’t guarantee success. Competition creates winners and losers.” The Vatican calls us to move beyond the stale ideological rhetoric of “winners” and “losers,” a blithe, if not callous term for those whose very lives are threatened by an economy of exclusion.

Market mechanisms have lifted many out of poverty. They have also left millions behind as a result of unrestrained greed, excessive materialism and massive inequality. The Tribune editorial has nothing to say about that. The Catholic Church does. It is unswerving in its conviction that we must make sure our markets build an economy for all and do not accelerate injustice and grave inequity. In this time of globalization and dominant and often unaccountable financial institutions, we need to bring together technical knowledge and human wisdom. In Catholic thought, moral principles must guide the market. Protecting human life and dignity comes before the unlimited pursuit of profit. This is a vital and timely message for a divided world — and Chicago.

— Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, archbishop, Chicago

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Are We Known as Friends?
By Alex Mikulich

As I reflect on the words of Jesus, literally translated as “put your life on the line for your friends,” I am struck by the contrast between the communal love Jesus calls disciples to and the violence of our world.

The companions of Jesus knew that they faced death and persecution for being disciples of Jesus (John 16).

The companions of Jesus knew that he brings new life to friends like Lazarus (John 11).

And they also knew that the world will hate them like it hates Jesus (John 15:18-25).

I have witnessed this hatred with black brothers and sisters standing against a barricade of police adorned with riot gear.

A current advertisement asks “is it enough to be a good friend?” The ad says that being a good friend is not enough. What you really want is to be on “top of the hill,” in “power” just like “a boss.” That ad summarizes the ethic of the U.S. empire. In the same way that Jesus’ radical practice of compassion led to his torture and crucifixion, so disciples who practice the love at the heart of the Gospel risk persecution, torture, and even death in the midst of the U.S. empire.

The image of police in full riot gear surrounding and arresting Ieshia L. Evans as she peacefully protests the police killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge comes to mind. So does the joyful face of Jerome Succor Aba, a Muslim peace activist from Mindanao, Philippines, who, although he was invited by the USCCB and Sisters of Mercy to attend an ecumenical justice conference and was granted a Visa by the U.S., claims he was tortured during his 28 hour detention at the San Francisco airport. The question of John’s Gospel concerns the entire faith community.  Does our faith community stand on the side of the ethic of the U.S. empire or are we known as friends by people who suffer persecution, torture, and death?

The question goes to the heart of Jesus’ intimate love for each of us and the world.



          “They (the New Gnostics) think of the intellect as separate from the flesh, and thus become incapable of touching Christ´s suffering flesh in others, locked up as they are in an encyclopedia of abstractions. In the end, by disembodying the mystery, they prefer “a God without Christ, a Christ without the Church, a Church without her people” (GE 37)

“It can be present within the Church, both among the laity in parishes and teachers of philosophy and theology in centers of formation” (GE 39).

“Gnosticism by its very nature seeks to domesticate the mystery” (GE 40).

“When somebody has an answer for every question, it is a sign that they are not on the right road . . .  God infinitely transcends us; he is full of surprises . . . Someone who wants everything to be clear and sure presumes to control God´s transcendence.” (GE 41).

“Still, some Christians insist on taking another path, that of justification by their own efforts, the worship of the human will and their own abilities. The result is a self-centered and elitist complacency, bereft of true love. This finds expression in a variety of apparently unconnected ways of thinking and acting: an obsession with the law; an absorption with social and political advantages, a punctilious concern for the Church’s liturgy, doctrine and prestige, a vanity about the ability to manage practical matters, and an excessive concern with programs of self-help and personal fulfillment (GE 57).

“It can affect groups, movements and communities, and it explains why so often they begin with an intense life in the Spirit, only to end up fossilized . . . or corrupt” (GE 58).