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Spotlight on the Summit 2015: The Elders

by Katherine Marshall, by Marie Dennis 07-10-2015
Elders time of blessing, The Summit. Image via Sojourners.

Elders time of blessing, The Summit. Image via Sojourners.

Much more than an event or a conference, The Summit was the growing edge of the beloved community — a gathering of emerging leaders with deep reach into neighborhoods and communities that are outcast but vibrant, marginalized but standing tall. It was creative and radically inclusive, bringing together people with very different experiences in the struggle for a more just and peaceful world.

To be included as an elder for such an event was a humbling and lovely experience — even more so to share that experience with such wise and faithful disciples as C.T. Vivian and Eliseo Medina, Heidi Neumark and Terry LeBlanc, Katherine Marshall and Roy Sano. I gained much more from each conversation than I could possibly have given!

When the Fighting Stops

by Marie Dennis 01-03-2014
What does it take to reintegrate combatants into society?

(deepblue-photographer / Shutterstock)

MARIE-LOUISE IS a 34-year-old single mother of three living in Bujumbura, the capital of the southeast African nation of Burundi. When she was 15 years old, she joined a rebel movement during the civil war in her country. “Following my demobilization,” she said, “my family welcomed me back warmly, but my neighbors did not think much of me. I still go around with a firearm ... Even my old friends find it hard to trust me. I have been branded because I am a female ex-combatant.”

Around the world, several armed conflicts are showing signs of winding down, at long last—there is renewed hope that the M23 rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo will stop fighting; the government and the FARC rebels in Colombia are making progress in negotiations toward peace after 65 years of civil war; the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have agreed on a pact to end the fighting.

These events bring into focus the tremendous challenge of reintegrating former combatants into society. The process is especially difficult when they have been forced to commit atrocities against their own people. Think of Guatemala, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia, to name just a few.

The unique characteristics of each conflict make generalizations difficult, but in the stabilization and peace-building process, attention must be given to a complex of transitional justice issues, such as truth-telling and accountability for human rights violations. Other important factors include disarmament, the reintegration and rehabilitation of former combatants, security sector reform, economic justice and jobs, gender equality, the impact of the armed conflict on children (including child soldiers), and the political context.

Calling of the Shepherd

by Marie Dennis 03-14-2013
A prayer for the new pope to fulfill, in fresh ways, the promise of Vatican II.

(Timothy R. Nichols / Shutterstock)

WHEN POPE BENEDICT XVI unexpectedly announced his resignation in mid-February, many expressed admiration for the decision's honesty and humility, and much speculation followed about the reasons for it—and the consequences it would have.

As transition takes shape in the Vatican, Catholics around the world are commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, which took place from 1962 to 1965 and which redefined the church's relationship to the world. Vatican II's final document said: "This council can provide no more eloquent proof of its solidarity with, as well as its respect and love for the entire human family with which it is bound up, than by engaging with it in conversation about these various problems," referring in part to the "profound and rapid changes ... spreading by degrees around the whole world." Half a century ago, few could have predicted the dramatic changes that were to follow in science, technology, global integration, and social mores.

Catholics know that in the last 50 years the institutional church has been at the forefront of calls for a more just, compassionate, and sustainable world. Catholic social and ecological teaching is well developed and clearly articulated. The church has offered analysis and challenging proposals for financial reform, arms control, care for creation, and multilateral political structures of accountability in response to globalization.

We want the new pope to continue, deepen, and make much more visible—including to Catholics around the world—the church's prophetic work for social and economic justice, for environmental sustainability, and for wise, just, and inclusive peace. We want the new pope to engage the Islamic world, respectfully cooperating in response to orchestrated fear, enemy-making, and all forms of religious extremism. We want him to promote cultures of peace in a world that is increasingly violent. We want him to be open to new cosmological insights that are transforming human consciousness; shifting our understanding of earth community and of our planet's place in the vast, expanding universe; and maturing our reflections on the One who is Creator, Incarnation, and Spirit of love.

Worldwide Christians Fast for Peace in Syria

by Marie Dennis 02-14-2013
JM LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Syrians wait for bread at a bakery in the northern city of Aleppo on December 31. JM LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to lose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” wrote the ancient prophet Isaiah (58:6). As Christians around the world enter the season of Lent, the challenge of the prophets is to not enter into empty rituals, but to recommit ourselves to fearless acts of justice.

This Lent Christians are standing in solidarity with Syrians by joining a rolling fast launched by Pax Christi International. The acute suffering of civilian communities in Syria has been made immeasurably worse by a shortage of bread, Syrian’s staple food, caused in part by the deliberate bombing of bakeries.

Open to anyone concerned about the anguish of local communities caught in Syria’s civil war, the campaign, called “Bread is Life – Fast for a Just Peace in Syria,” is a direct response to the fact that many Syrians feel abandoned by the rest of the world.

As the World Bank Turns

by Marie Dennis 07-01-2012

The Bank's new head has community-level anti-poverty expertise—and many challenges to face.

Fighting Fire with Water

by Marie Dennis 02-01-2012

With U.S. troops now in Africa to escalate the fight against the Lord's Resistance Army, clergy in the region express concern.

Hubble, Hubble, Climate Trouble

by Marie Dennis 08-24-2011

For the past 30 years, through my work with Maryknoll and Pax Christi International, I've come to know grassroots communities around the world in situations of war and poverty. My mission focus base been largely international, but people, were in the "center of my screen." The environment, I thought, would have to wait.

A few weeks ago, I went with two of my grandchildren, Lauren (10) and Bobby (9), to see the documentary Hubble, which is about NASA's final shuttle expedition to repair a a broken part of the Hubble telescope. We watched in awe at the spectacular photos of the expanding universe. What an amazing sense these photos give of our own location as humans who are part of a larger earth community, who are part of a cosmos with which our own future is inextricably linked.

Terrible Twins

by Marie Dennis 08-01-2011

Hiroshima and Fukushima remind us that civilian and military nuclear technology go hand in hand.

Toward The Fullness of Life

by Marie Dennis 02-01-2011

Listening for God's voice at each new stage of life.

Broken Hearts and Deep Concern for Honduras

by Marie Dennis 08-27-2009
They were a very diverse group -- students, a lawyer, Sisters of Mercy and Notre Dame, a union organizer, a teacher, survivors of the brutal 1980s in Honduras.

Zimbabwe: A Nation Waits

by Marie Dennis 04-01-2008

The patience of the people of Zimbabwe is absolutely incredible. They've been living a nightmare for years (inflation is so high that a second cup of coffee in half an hour can cost twice as much as the first) and they just endured a election campaign with serious instances of vote-rigging - from ghosts on the voters' registry to bribes offered for voting for the ruling party (ZANU-PF) - yet amazing hope was the dominant emotion as people went to the polls on March 29. The voting process was [...]

In Defense of Peace

by Marie Dennis 08-01-2007
Pushing back efforts to remilitarize Japan.

Big is Beautiful?

by Marie Dennis 03-01-2007
The World Bank's top-down approach.

A Courageous Witness

by Marie Dennis 08-01-2005
Maryknoll Father Ron Hennessey was courageous,

Maryknoll Father Ron Hennessey was courageous, open to life, funny, welcoming, wise, a brilliant political strategist and holy - very holy. Simply put, he was one of the best human beings I have ever known. He survived years of extremely dangerous mission

From El Salvador to South Africa

by Marie Dennis 03-01-2005

Challenges to the church in the global South.

A Few of My Favorite Things

by Marie Dennis 01-01-2002

She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse, by Elizabeth Johnson (Crossroad/Herder & Herder).

In the Chaos Everyone Was Equal

by Marie Dennis 11-01-2001

The United States will never be the same again; these are watershed days of irreversible change.

Something to Celebrate!

by Marie Dennis 01-01-2001
Considering that two years ago Congress had little interest in the issue, the action is nothing short of a miracle.

A Growing Clamor for Relief

by Marie Dennis 09-01-1999
Jubilee 2000 and the debt debate.

For a Dignified Life

by Marie Dennis 05-01-1998
The worldwide movement for debt relief is rooted in Jubilee.