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May 8, 2018, Washington, D.C. – Sister Patricia Erickson, OP, a Justice Promoter for the Florida Mission Chapter of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, was one of about 700 people to attend a four-day conference in Washington, D.C., in preparation for effective lobbying for just policies for people who have been displaced.
Sister Patricia was attending the 2018 Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Justice with Peace, an annual national conference that prepares Christians and others of good will to bring the attention of their legislators to a particular social justice issue. The focus for 2018 was “A World Uprooted: Responding to Migrants, Refugees, and Displaced People.”
“I was surprised by how many young people were at the conference,” Sister Patricia said. “I never expected so many people to be interested in advocacy for immigration. They were not only interested in the immigration issue but in climate change and everything else that influences why people leave their countries.”
The objective of the conference was to give participants the information and input they needed for their visit to their state legislators on Monday, so that they could effectively advocate for a just immigration system, Sister Patricia explained. While she could not attend the formal legislative day on April 23, Sister Patricia attended several break-out sessions that offered information and insights that helped her in her advocacy work at home and as a Justice Promoter.
The conference offered plenary sessions, as well as break-out sessions that focused on the various regions in the world; U.S. domestic policies regarding immigration and migration; ecojustice; global economic justice; peace and global security; and skills training in advocacy.
During the opening celebration on the evening of April 20, Dr. Elizabeth Conde-Frazier, Vice President of Education and Dean of the Esperanza College at Eastern University, a Christian university near Philadelphia, noted that the current “missionary theology” operating today “prevents us from speaking the truth of oppression today,” Sister Patricia recalled.
The first full day, April 21, emphasized U.S. policies toward immigration. In the plenary session, Dr. Elizabeth Ferris, of the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University, spoke on xenophobia, fear of the other. She emphasized that refugees are not victims but survivors and heroes, Sister Patricia said.
Sister Patricia attended break-out sessions that focused on faithful solidarity with border communities and migrants; justice threats to unaccompanied minors coming into the United States; and the U.S. role in driving displacement and deporting immigrants back to Mexico and Central America. She came away with some suggested approaches to these issues: work with people and groups on the border when setting policies; help youth who are fleeing violence by strengthening families and building community support; and help migrants who are returning home to develop small businesses and to know their rights.
A highlight of April 21 was a Mass sponsored by the Columban Fathers and Brothers. The presider was Bishop Ricardo Ramirez, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and director in the 1970s of the Mexican-American Cultural Center in San Antonio, Texas.
In the plenary session on April 22, representatives of three nations spoke: South Sudan, hosting 2 million refugees and dealing with violence and lack of food and medical care; Tuvalu, a Polynesian island nation midway between Australia and Hawaii, dealing with little employment and the danger of rising seas; and the Philippines, dealing with low employment, corruption of political dynasties, danger from typhoons, and human rights violations.
“Monday was the day that groups went to Capitol Hill to advocate for change,” Sister Patricia said. The groups, organized by state, were given two talking points:
“From what people say, the message was as well received as it could be,” Sister Patricia said. “At least, they were listened to.” She herself wrote letters to her legislators, focusing on the talking points. People throughout the country who could not attend the conference were invited to call their senators and representative with the same message.
For action that you can take on behalf of immigrants and in other areas of justice and peace advocacy, visit the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Action Alert page.
April 27, 2017, Washington, D.C. – Sister Kathleen Nolan, OP, Director of the Adrian Dominican Sisters Office of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation, along with Dominican Volunteer Holly Sammons, were among hundreds of clergy and lay leaders who took part in the April 24 Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) in Washington, D.C.
The faith leaders gathered for a prayer vigil in front of the United Methodist Building at noon to urge Congress to reject President Donald Trump’s federal budget proposal, which makes drastic cuts to programs that address human needs in order to increase the Pentagon’s defense spending.
During the vigil, participants marched to the Hart Senate Building, where they knelt and prayed in the atrium to draw attention to the magnitude of the harm the budget will cause vulnerable populations in our nation.
In the Christian tradition of fasting to petition God in dire circumstances, EAD participants fasted from sunup to sundown on April 24.
“The theme for this conference is ‘Confronting Chaos, Forging Community: Challenging Racism, Materialism, and Militarism,” Sister Kathy said. “Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of these three ‘isms’ as the principle challenges of the time. We are still being confronted by these ‘giant triplets.’ ”
In the advocacy portion of the event, Sister Kathy and Holly were among many of the participants who visited the Capitol “to ask our legislators to make budget decisions that advance the common good,” Sister Kathy said. “We urged them to reject increased military spending and instead preserve robust funding for programs that support people living in poverty and other vulnerable persons in America and abroad, address systemic racism, and exercise responsible care for Earth.”
Douglas Grace, director of EAD said, “It’s important for us to send a strong message to Congress and the President that this budget is immoral, and we will do all we can to oppose it. We will not be silent or stand idly by while those most in need are harmed. We will not watch as families are ripped apart through mass deportations and our air and water are polluted because of corporate greed and deregulation.”
EAD is a movement of the ecumenical Christian community and its more than 50 recognized partners and allies, grounded in biblical witness and shared traditions of justice, peace, and the integrity of creation. Through worship, theological reflection, and opportunities for learning and witness, EAD’s goal is to strengthen Christians’ voice and to mobilize for advocacy on a wide variety of U.S. domestic and international policy issues.
Feature photo: Holly Sammons, left, Dominican Volunteer, stands with Springfield Dominican Sister Marcelline Koch, OP, North American Dominican Co-promoter of Justice, Peace, and Care of Creation, during a walk to the Pentagon April 23.