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February 11, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – The General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters was among members of a wide coalition of faith-based communities that signed on to a statement supporting the January 22, 2021, entry into force of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), the “first international treaty to comprehensively ban nuclear weapons.”
In the statement, the faith leaders applaud the 86 signatory nation states – which does not include the United States – and note that the treaty “addresses the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapons on women and on indigenous peoples.” The statement further references the “existential threat to humanity” posed by nuclear weapons and the need to eliminate all nuclear weapons to ensure the safety of the planet.
The faith leaders encourage all nation states to sign the treaty and invite all people to join them in their efforts eliminate nuclear weapons. “At this historic moment, we must act decisively to strengthen the power of the TPNW upon its entry into force, and to work for peace, cooperation, and common security,” they write.
Sister Kathleen Nolan, OP, Director of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Office of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation, said the TPNW and its support by faith leaders is an important step in helping to make the world safer. “The UN treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons might be our last chance to end the insanity of the possibility of nuclear war,” she said.
Even the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) – extended in 2019 by Russia President Vladimir Putin and supported by President Joe Biden – doesn’t go far enough, Sister Kathleen said. It would reduce each country’s arsenal to 1,550 deployed nuclear weapons and 700 deployed missiles and bombers. “Why would we need even one nuclear warhead?” she asked.
The stated purpose of the arms build-up – deterrence, to prevent either side from using nuclear weapons – “defies all logic,” Sister Kathleen said. “[The existence of nuclear weapons] poses so many dangers. I wonder how many close calls have happened, where we were by mistake seconds away from an accidental nuclear catastrophe.”
While the issue of nuclear weapons has received little attention in recent years, Sister Kathleen said it is again recognized as a major issue. “People can easily forget that this is a constant threat,” she said. “We got away from worrying about nuclear weapons – until North Korea started testing. These past few years, Japan and South Korea were very threatened because of the saber-rattling and the rhetoric between North Korea and the United States.”
Highlighting the seriousness of the issue, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists earlier in January 2021 announced that it is keeping the hands of its famous Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds to midnight – less than two minutes to a possible global catastrophe.
“That’s the closest [to “midnight”] that it’s ever been,” Sister Kathleen said. “The scientists say unchecked climate change and nuclear weapons arsenals pose a continued threat.” This threat, she added, demonstrates the significance of the TPNW and the statement that the General Council signed.
Nuclear disarmament has been an issue for the Adrian Dominican Sisters for a long time, Sister Kathleen said. The Congregation’s Motherhouse Campus has been set apart as a nuclear-free zone for years.
In 2007, the Sisters approved a corporate stance on nuclear disarmament. “In corporate stances, you make a statement and then, more importantly, you work toward the implementation of the statement,” Sister Kathleen explained. “It becomes more than words on a page. It becomes something that you are aware of and act on.” Sisters and Associates have continued to take action for nuclear disarmament through the years, she said.
The Congregation’s stance and the recent statement by the coalition of faith- based groups reiterate a recent statement by Pope Francis during his visit to Hiroshima, that “the possession of nuclear weapons is immoral,” Sister Kathleen said. The Catholic Church has spoken out against nuclear war for years, at least from the time of the Second Vatican Council. Gaudium et Spes (The Church in the Modern World) states that the nuclear arms race “is an utterly treacherous trap for humanity, one which ensnares the poor to an intolerable degree” (No. 81).
To learn about individual actions that may be taken against nuclear weapons, visit the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Action Alert page and scroll down about half of the page.
February 10, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – The General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters is among 320 national, state, and local organizations to sign on to a letter calling on President Joseph Biden to restore access to the health insurance benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to young immigrants with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status.
DACA recipients, often also called Dreamers, are U.S. residents who came to the United States as children with their parents and without legal documentation. Some immigrants who came as children have not received DACA status and are at risk of being deported to their native country. In many cases, the United States is the only home they remember.
The letter calls on President Biden to restore the access to ACA benefits to DACA recipients within the first 100 days of his presidency. Taking this action is critical, the signatories write, “for any additional delay in healthcare access during the COVID pandemic puts the health of DACA recipients, their families, and the wider community and risk.” Without access to those benefits, the signatories argue, the DACA recipients cannot obtain health insurance under Medicaid or CHIP or purchase insurance through the ACA or its health insurance marketplace.
Restoration of this healthcare benefit to DACA recipients is a matter of justice, said Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, an immigration attorney and Director of Office of Immigration Services for the Adrian Dominican Congregation. “So many of our DACA people are out there on the front lines,” Sister Attracta said. “They are the ones doing so much of the work just to keep the country going.”
Sister Attracta said that all people in the United States – citizens, residents, DACA recipients, and immigrants who have no legal status – should be vaccinated to keep the country safe from the COVID-19 virus. Her stance was supported in a recent statement by the Department of Homeland Security. The department said it supports “equal access to the COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine distribution sites for undocumented immigrants. It is a moral and public health imperative to ensure that all individuals residing in the United States have access to the vaccine.”
Sister Attracta held up the contributions made by people who live in the United States with no legal status. “We’re relying on them every day to do some of the hard work, [providing us with] food and all the other essentials. We don’t even begin to appreciate what they do.”
Sister Attracta also spoke of the need to reform the immigration system to make it more just, one that “welcomes immigrants and that keeps families together and allows people like those who are newly arrived and other people who have lived here for generations to more fully contribute to the country – which they would do if they felt safe.”
In addition, she spoke of the need to reunite families that were separated at the border. “Some of the parents are back in their home country and their children are here,” she said. “Clearly it is damaging to the parents, but it is way more damaging to the children.”
Sister Attracta spoke on February 2, 2021, hours before President Biden announced further steps to reform immigration in the United States. Among those steps were the creation of a task force to reunify the families separated at the border; development of a strategy to address “irregular immigration across the Southern border”; and re-establishment of a Task Force on New Americans to ensure a “fair and efficient” immigration system.
Immigration reform has long been an issue of concern for the Adrian Dominican Sisters. The Congregation invites all people of good will to speak out for immigration reform and on a number of social justice issues through its Action Alert page.
Feature photo: Sisters Judith Benkert, OP, left, and Maurine Barzantni, OP, speak out for justice at the border of Nogales, Arizona, and Mexico during the 2018 School of the Americas Watch Convergence at the Border. Adrian Dominican Sisters File Photo