Written for U.N. Women to celebrate International Women’s Day, “One Woman” is sung by acclaimed singers and musicians to celebrate the mission and work to improve women’s lives around the world.
To hear the song, click here.
Yesterday, President Obama signed a reauthorization of the 2013 VAWA act. The Senate passed the bill on Feb. 12 and, the House passed the Senate bill on Feb. 28.
As President Obama signed the bill he stated, “All women deserve the right to live free from fear, that’s what today is about.”
Watch Vice President Joe Biden speak about the bill and the signing below. Read the act HERE.
The myth that President Barack Obama closed Guantanamo his first year in office persists, but four years later the detainees are still there. Can justice be served?
I wanted to find out for myself. Over the past month, the Obama administration has started prosecuting some of the Guantanamo prisoners. They are tried in a specially constructed courtroom at Guantanamo, under military commissions rules touted to restore the rights absent under former President George W. Bush’s tribunals.
The trial logistics are a challenge: the tribunals convene periodically on the Guantanamo naval base under tightly controlled conditions. Additionally, the hearings are simulcast to military bases in the U.S. where members of the public and press are allowed to view.
I went to the Ft. Meade army base in Maryland to view the proceedings via closed circuit TV. While I was there, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, alleged ringleader in the September 11, 2001, attacks, and four other men charged with various crimes related to 9/11, were on trial. The government is asking for the death penalty for all five men.
On Saturday, Feb. 23, Bradley Manning marks his 1,000th day in prison without a trial. Manning, the 23 year-old Army intelligence analyst accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks while stationed in Iraq, spent a full 600 days in prison before he even saw a judge, even though military law requires arraignment within 120 days of a person being detained. (Amid the material that Manning released was the now famous video showing two American military helicopters shooting civilians in Baghdad in 2007, killing two Reuters journalists.) During his confinement, Manning has been subjected to abuse and humiliating treatment.
Amnesty International wrote, “We’re concerned that the conditions inflicted on Bradley Manning are unnecessarily severe and amount to inhumane treatment by the US authorities. Manning has not been convicted of any offense, but military authorities appear to be using all available means to punish him while in detention. This undermines the United States’ commitment to the principle of the presumption of innocence.”
U.S. law is based on the presumption that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Our Constitution guarantees all persons in U.S. custody (not just citizens — Cole, D., Enemy Aliens, 2003) the rights to due process of law, humane treatment, and a speedy and public trial. Bradley Manning is only one example of how the U.S. is failing our own constitutional standards.
Violence against women at protests is at a chronic level due to security breakdowns and mass protests that are not policed. As Heba Morayef, Egypt director for Human Rights Watch says organized, opportunistic men are raping women and they are getting away with it. Furthermore, the culture of silence that blames the victims rather than the perpetrator prevails from members of the upper house of Egypt’s parliament and other women which further violates these women.
However, as the number of victims increase, these women are rising up and speaking up against the violence. To read and to hear more, visit NPR.
WASHINGTON — Foes of same-sex marriage are warning the Supreme Court that lifting state or federal restrictions would threaten their own economic and religious freedoms and lead to social and political upheaval.
In about three dozen briefs filed in recent weeks, groups ranging from U.S. Catholic bishops and evangelicals to state attorneys general and university professors argue that upholding gay marriage could lead to penalties against objecting employers, military officials, and others.
Briefs from supporters of gay marriage are due by early March.
“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.
The Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act, picking up 16 additional Republican support and passing the bill 78 to 22.
Created in 1994, VAWA exists to help programs and services of domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. While it typically gets reauthorized easily, Congress failed to do so last year because of provisions in the Senate bill that included protection for LGBT, Native American and limited provisions to undocumented immigrants. The VAWA bill that was passed today includes protection for LGBT and Native Americans but protection for undocumented immigrants was not included. A few amendments were added on to the bill which includes a provision targeting human trafficking and a provision to ensure child victims of sex trafficking are eligible for grant assistance.
The bill now heads to the House where it is unclear how they plan to proceed. As Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement,
“Delay isn’t an option when three women are still killed by their husbands of boyfriends every day. Delay isn’t an option when countless women still live in fear of abuse, and when one in five have been victims of rape. This issue should be beyond debate—the House should follow the Senate’s lead and pass the Violence Against Women Act right away.”
VATICAN CITY — A top Vatican official blamed the media for “derailing” his recent remarks on possible legal protections for unmarried couples, while reaffirming his support for British and French bishops who have been vocal opponents of same-sex marriage.
Speaking at a Vatican press conference on Monday, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, had acknowledged that nations could find “private law solutions” to protect the rights of unmarried couples — including, potentially, gay and lesbian couples.
Paglia also said the church should support the repeal of laws that criminalize homosexuality in various countries.
His remarks were widely repeated, with some interpreting it as a softening of the Vatican’s stance just as bishops in France and Britain are furiously opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage.
As our nation celebrates the legacy of Martin Luther, King Jr., I can’t help but wonder what injustices Dr. King would fight against today.
Would he rail against the “New Jim Crow” of mass incarceration, which disproportionately targets African-American men? Perhaps he would continue to speak out against the “most segregated hour of Christian America” — 11:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. After watching Les Miserables, I’d like to believe that Dr. King would focus on abolishing modern-day slavery.
Known as ‘Humankind’s Most Savage Cruelty,’ human trafficking is a global phenomenon driven by the profitability of sexual exploitation. From China to Washington, D.C., millions of men, women, and children are forced into sexual slavery each year.
Likewise, in Les Mis, we meet Fantine who unjustly loses her factory job and then, out of desperation, turns to prostitution to support her child. While she chooses to sell her body, the realities of poverty do not leave her with other options to earn a living. Not much of a choice, I’d say.
On New Year’s Eve I wrote “The Top 10 things I’m thankful for in 2012” on my Facebook page. Number four was “Clarity of call and message.” A friend asked in a comment below the post: “How in your own life has this played out? I'm at a crossroads here and It's difficult for me to discern this right now … Feel like I'm just drifting.”
Many of the people sitting in pews across America understand what my friend is going through. “Drifting,” that’s how he put it. In fact, I think it’s a question many people are wrestling with in their daily lives. There are so many issues out there. There are so many hills to die on. There is such deep division in our politics and in the church. Wading through the sound bites gets tiring. How can one make sense of it all? It’s tempting to just give up and disengage like the many Christians did in the mid-20th century.
But we cannot.
Open Doors, a non-denominational Christian group that supports persecuted Christians, reminds us what real persecution is. There are more than 65 countries where Christians face imprisonment, torture, or death because of their faith. Reuters Faith World reports
“About 100 million Christians are persecuted around the world, with conditions worsening for them most rapidly in Syria and Ethiopia, according to an annual report by a group supporting oppressed Christians worldwide.
“Open Doors, a non-denominational Christian group, listed North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan as the three toughest countries for Christians last year. They topped the 50-country ranking for 2011 as well.”
WASHINGTON — The persecution of Christians “vastly rose” in 2012 as radical Islamists consolidated power in Africa, according to Open Doors, a Christian missionary organization which publishes an annual list of offending nations.
Increasing threats to African Christians can be seen in focused attacks, such as the killings of Christians in Nigerian churches by the radical Muslim group Boko Haram, but also in the greater prevalence of radical Muslims in government, according to the California-based Open Doors.
In Mali, for example, which made the biggest leap on the “World Watch List,” from unranked in 2011 to No. 7 in 2012, a coup in the north brought fundamentalist Muslims to power.
“The situation in the north used to be a bit tense, but Christians and even missionaries could be active,” said Open Doors spokesman Jerry Dykstra.
CANTERBURY, England — The Church of England on Jan. 4 confirmed that it has dropped its prohibition on gay clergy in civil partnerships becoming bishops — but only if they agree to remain celibate.
Speaking on behalf of the Church’s House of Bishops, Bishop of Norwich Graham Jones said in a statement: “The House of Bishops has confirmed that clergy in civil partnerships, and living in accordance with the teaching of the Church on human sexuality, can be considered as candidates for the episcopate. There had been a moratorium on such candidates for the past year and a half while the working party completed its task.”
Jones added that the bishops agreed it would be “unjust” to exclude gay men from becoming bishops if they were otherwise “seeking to live fully in conformity with the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics or other areas of personal life and discipline.”
I know this sounds totally bizarre, but I had a moment of clarity about the value of human life in, of all places, a kid-themed pizza joint yesterday. No, they don’t exploit their workers (that I know of, short of submitting them to overstimulated kids all day). It took a few steps for me to get there, so bear with me.
Yesterday, my daughter, Zoe, turned four years old. It’s a crappy time of year to have a birthday party, since lots of people are out of town, and those who are around are more or less partied out from the holidays. On top of that, we just moved here a few months ago and hardly know anyone. So to try and make up for all of that, we let her pick anywhere she wanted to go for dinner.
Not surprisingly, she picked John’s Incredible Pizza Company, which is like Chuck E. Cheese on steroids. Not high on my list of choices, but hey, it wasn’t my birthday. Zoe’s grandparents are in town and they invited a couple other family members who live nearby to join us. One of Amy’s distant cousins brought along her husband or boyfriend (still not sure which), and I remarked after the dinner to amy that he bore a striking resemblance to the alt-rock front man Perry Ferrell, of Jane’s Addiction fame.
“What ever happened to Perry?” Amy asked. Short of founding the Lollapalooza Festival and hitting every Coachella festival ever held, I had nothing. So I Googled him.
Amidst the jubilation of the new year and a long awaited solution to the fiscal cliff crisis lies sad news: Lillian Miles Lewis, the wife of U.S. Rep. John Lewis, died Monday morning in Atlanta, his office announced. Spokeswoman Brenda Jones said John Lewis is returning to Atlanta but had no more details to release about the cause of death.
The Lewises had been married 44 years. They have one son, John Miles.
Freedom is hummus. Perhaps not to you. But to me, hummus is what freedom tastes like. The relationships I have built with survivors of human trafficking have propelled me to redefine freedom, as it exists from their perspectives.
Watching a survivor taste hummus for the first time brought so much joy to me. In a room of 25 survivors, no one had ever tasted it; many were hesitant to even dip a chip in it, let alone a carrot stick or pita bread. But the wide smile on the face of the first survivor who ‘dove in,' was all they needed to form a new love for this strange chickpea blend. And that one smile led the rest of the women into a new world of ‘healthful’ eating. It was a bold move early on by one of our volunteers — but she knows that part of her volunteer work is to continue to introduce the survivors to freedom and choices that have been unknown and unavailable to them.
Beau Underwood reminded us at this year’s Sojourners’ Christmas chapel that Jesus was not born into a calm, peaceful world in a serene nativity scene. It was a chaotic world in which the Jews were oppressed by Roman rule and Jesus’ very act of being born freaked Herod out, resulting in a mass genocide of baby boys. All was not calm and peaceful as the birth of Jesus challenged the sinful powers and structures of the world from the very start of his life.
This Christmas the world remains a very frightening and chaotic place for many children around the world. Jim Wallis and I met with former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown just a few days ago and Gordon told us about a group of children in Delhi, India who were being held in unspeakable conditions — forced to work for up to 15 hours a day making Christmas decorations.
Children! Forced slave labor, some of them as young as 8 years old, imprisoned, beaten, and required to make decorations intended celebrate the birth of the savior of the world. Making matters worse, these are only a few of millions of young children trafficked into slave labor around the world all year long. What horrible irony.