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A Passover Tragedy

April 16, 2014, 10:56 am | Posted by

On Sunday, a former Ku Klux Klan leader attacked two Jewish centers in Kansas City, taking the lives of the three people just before the beginning of Passover. Such horrors are difficult to comprehend at any place and time, but especially so in religious communities around holy days. It is a time for grief and prayer.

This Holy Week was already filled with somber remembrances of senseless violence in our nation, from last year’s Boston Marathon bombing to the anniversaries of the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings. But as our friends at Faiths United to End Gun Violence have noted, we must also remember another anniversary: one year ago this week the U.S. Senate failed to stand up to the NRA and pass commonsense background check legislation.

Such legislation might have stopped Sunday’s killing spree. The shooter in Kansas City purchased his gun through a so-called “straw buyer” – someone with a clean background who buys guns for others – a practice that the Senate bill would have cracked down on.

While scripture reminds us there is a time for everything, clearly this is a time to act to end this needless destruction of innocent life. Faith in Public Life stands with groups like Faiths United to End Gun Violence and PICO National Network’s Lifelines to Healing campaign in calling on Congress to act now to prevent gun violence. As we enter the 2014 election season, we must keep these life and death issues close to our hearts and lift up our voices until they echo in the halls of power.

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University of Dayton students attend “Fast for Families” visit

April 9, 2014, 5:37 pm | Posted by

When “Fast for Families” tour rolled into Cincinnati, students from the University of Dayton made a trip to meet up with the bus. University of Dayton student Abigail Lambert wrote about her experience, as well as her school’s continuing work around immigration reform.

On the rainy Saturday morning of March 29, three University of Dayton students braved the elements to support the “Fast for Families Across America” bus as it arrived at Xavier University.

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The “Fast for Families” bus tour calls for immigration reform to be voted on and passed in Congress. They spread the message of DREAMers and the need for new immigration laws. There have been “Fast for Families” rallies in cities all over the country, sharing DREAMers’ stories and letting Congress know that immigration issues are important, and immigration reform has widespread support from constituents.

On Saturday, after songs, clapping and cheering, a DREAMer spoke about her experience as an immigrant in the United States. She gave a moving speech about getting through college in spite of the hardships of immigration. Her name is Fabiola, and the Flyers for Immigration Reform movement has contacted her to speak again at the University of Dayton in April.

In the week leading up to the rally in Cincinnati, Flyers for Immigration Reform was very active, spreading the F4F message, urging Congressman Mike Turner to support immigration reform legislation and praying the rosary for the group. The previous Wednesday, 20 students, faculty and alums fasted in solidarity with immigrants and in preparation of the tour stopping in Cincinnati.

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“Fast for Families” stops at Gonzaga University

April 8, 2014, 11:17 am | Posted by

The “Fast for Families” bus made a stop at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. Two of the student organizers there, Mariel Rodruguez and Grace Johnson, wrote a post for us about their experience planning and taking part in this stop on the tour. Here’s what they wrote:

In the midst of mid-terms and excitement for the upcoming spring break, students and faculty from Gonzaga University joined community members to stand in solidarity for immigration reform. Around noon on March 7, the university welcomed the “Fast for Families Across America” bus tour on the steps of the Crosby Student Center.

Fasters Dae Joong and Rudy Lopez shared their stories and experiences as they reached 22 days of fasting. Their powerful words and their passion for immigration reform were heard by students walking by, encouraging them to take a moment to listen. To make this experience close to our hearts, a Gonzaga sophomore, Manny Lopez, talked about growing up in a household with an undocumented mom and sisters. Here’s a video of Manny telling his story:

The event closed with prayer, and Rudy Lopez created a call to action: to fast each Wednesday during Lent, whether it was one meal or all meals.

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The group met again later that evening. The audience consisted of students, University Ministry, Spokane community members and a group that came from Mattawa, Washington. Members of the “Fast for Families” tour talked more about their time on the road and the stories they have heard. Gonzaga student Mariel Rodriguez spoke about being an organizer on campus, and the difficulties and beauties of educating and advocating for change.

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Bishop Blasé Joseph Cupich spoke in Spanish and in English about his commitment to this change. After the speeches, the crowd began chanting, and finished off with dancing to the mariachi band that played beautiful music.

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Mass mobilizing against mass incarceration

April 3, 2014, 3:03 pm | Posted by

In a nation that keeps 2.2 million people behind bars — the majority for nonviolent drug offenses — the moral urgency of criminal justice reform is crystal clear.

And even though the scale of the problem is daunting, faith leaders are powering a movement that can overturn this deep institutional injustice.

Consider Louisiana, the state with America’s highest incarceration rate.

On Monday, diverse clergy leaders peacefully rallied at the state capitol to call legislation that ends unnecessary employment discrimination against ex-offenders, as well as sentencing reforms for nonviolent drug crimes.

This agenda is no pipe dream. Next door in deeply conservative Mississippi, Governor Phil Bryant just signed a new law that eases mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenses and gives judges more sentencing options besides prison, earning praise from across the ideological spectrum. This is an issue that transcends left and right.

Mass incarceration not only wastes billions of tax dollars, but also divides families and needlessly undermines the God-given potential of millions of human beings. And it’s disproportionately devastating in African-American and Latino communities.

It is all too often a “justice system” in name only. As people of faith, we must right this wrong. Together, this is one mountain we can move.

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Paul Ryan + Immoral Budgets = Public Service Award from a Catholic university?

April 2, 2014, 2:17 pm | Posted by

Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposals have been challenged in recent years by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, prominent Catholic theologians, a “Nuns on the Bus” tour and respected anti-poverty experts. When your guiding ideology seems to be making life harder for the working poor and coddling the super rich with more tax breaks, you better expect some moral scrutiny along the way.

This consistent Catholic pressure on Ryan doesn’t seem to bother Marquette University’s Les Aspin Center, which is hosting a luncheon tomorrow in Washington to honor the congressman with a distinguished public service award. Named in honor of Les Aspin, a Milwaukee native who served in the House of Representatives and as Secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration, the award honors a person who “serves as a role model for our nation’s future leaders.” Marquette has sold tickets and sponsorships for the luncheon, including a $25,000 “Gold Tier” buy in that gets you “priority seating.”

Marquette University has every right to give Rep. Ryan or anyone else an award. Universities should be settings that stimulate civil debate across the political and ideological spectrum. But you might expect officials at a Catholic university would think carefully about honoring and raising money off someone who perpetuates racial stereotypes about urban poverty, demonizes government and mocks those concerned about growing income inequality.

At a time when Pope Francis challenges ”trickle-down” economic theories and warns about “an economy of exclusion and inequality,” Ryan released a budget this week that slashes federal funding for low-income students, food assistance to hungry families and makes deep cuts to health care coverage. This is not a pro-life budget. It’s an ideological gimmick that reflects Ryan’s favorite intellectual hero, the libertarian icon, Ayn Rand. While Ryan has recently backed away from his encomiums to Rand, the congressman once praised Rand for doing “a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism.” He once cited her as “the reason why I got involved in public service.”

Ryan will be handed his public service award just two days after releasing a 2015 budget proposal that fails a basic moral test.

“This budget proposal doubles down on policies that hurt our nation and is even worse than Ryan’s earlier ones,” said Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, in a statement today. “Forcing the working poor to pay the price of addressing federal deficits while expecting nothing from those with the most wealth is wrong.”

Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said in a statement that Ryan’s budget is “an exercise in hypocrisy — claiming to boost opportunity and reduce poverty while flagrantly doing the reverse.” Here are just a few highlights (or lowlights) from the Ryan proposal, according to Greenstein:

-  Eliminates Pell Grants entirely for low-income students who have families to support, must work, and are attending school less than half time on top of their jobs.

- Resurrects the draconian benefit cuts in SNAP (food stamps) that the House passed last fall and adds $125 billion of SNAP cuts on top of them.

- Repeals the Affordable Care Act (ACA), taking coverage away from the millions of people who have just attained it, and cuts Medicaid by $732 billion (by 26 percent by 2024) on top of the cuts
from repealing the ACA’s Medicaid expansion.

- At least 40 million low- and moderate-income people — that’s 1 in 8 Americans — would become uninsured by 2024. They include the 25 million otherwise-uninsured people that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects will gain coverage through the ACA by 2024.

I’m not holding my breath that any of these inconvenient facts will be raised among the polite chatter and clinking silverware at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill tomorrow. I suppose it would ruin the mood.

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