Human Rights

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

A man holds up posters for alleged Wikileaks perpetrator Bradley Manning outside DOJ. PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

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.

Aimee Kang 02-22-2013

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

Richard Wolf 02-19-2013

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.

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.

Aimee Kang 02-12-2013

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.” 

Elizabeth Palmberg 02-11-2013

Frank Mugisha

Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda

Alessandro Speciale 02-08-2013
Photo by Stefania D'Alessandro/Getty Images

Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia attends 'Che Tempo Che Fa' Italian Tv Show in 2010. Photo by Stefania D'Alessandro/Getty Images

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.

Elaina Ramsey 01-21-2013
Photo: Anti-trafficking concept,  mypokcik / Shutterstock.com

Photo: Anti-trafficking concept, mypokcik / Shutterstock.com

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.

Lisa Sharon Harper 01-14-2013
Person standing out in a crowd, © Leigh Prather / Shutterstock.com

Person standing out in a crowd, © Leigh Prather / Shutterstock.com

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. 

Duane Shank 01-09-2013

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.”

JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images

Christian Maronite church in Aleppo, hit by a rocket in September. JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images

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.

Aimee Kang 01-07-2013

Feb. 14 "One Billion Rising" events aim to end violence against women.

Monika Wisniewska / Shutterstock

Praying priest with rosary in his hands. Monika Wisniewska / Shutterstock

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.”

Christian Piatt 01-07-2013
Perry Ferrel singing with Jane's Addiction in 2012. Mat Hayward / Shutterstock.c

Perry Ferrel singing with Jane's Addiction in 2012. Mat Hayward / Shutterstock.com

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.

Brandon Hook 01-02-2013
John and Lillian Lewis in 1988. Atlanta Journal Constitution file/Johnny Crawfor

John and Lillian Lewis in 1988. Atlanta Journal Constitution file/Johnny Crawford

 

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.

Julie Clark 12-26-2012
Photo: Hummus plate, © Dan Peretz / Shutterstock.com

Photo: Hummus plate, © Dan Peretz / Shutterstock.com

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. 

Larisa Friesen Hall 12-19-2012
 PavelSvoboda / Shutterstock.com

Photo: Unidentified young boys work hard as porters instead going to school: PavelSvoboda / Shutterstock.com

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.

12-18-2012

HOW TO MAKE schools work for all children is a hot topic these days—and a vital one for people of faith called to love our neighbors. While the vast majority of private schools are faith-affiliated, nearly  90 percent of U.S. children attend public schools. Their quality is key to the common good.

Emily Nielsen Jones 12-18-2012
Woman behind veil praying, © Blend Images / Shutterstock.com

Woman behind veil praying, © Blend Images / Shutterstock.com

Editor's note: This essay has been adapted from Gender Balancing our World.You can read the full article HERE.   

We had barely gobbled down our last bite of turkey and pumpkin pie before the familiar lines of carols began to ring in our ears and warm our souls. Joy to the world!  Peace on earth!  Good will to all!  Let heaven and nature sing! I don't know about you, but as I string up lights, pull out the advent wreath and boxes and boxes of ornaments and tangled lights, the lofty words of our beloved carols have a way of triggering a paradoxical mix of joy, generosity, and enlarged spiritual vision, yet also a fairly predictable malcontendedness about the state of things. 

How strange it is that Christmas carols can make me want both to buy an iPhone 5 and a Mac Airbook and in the same moment want to save the world? I admit that I keep Santa’s Amazon elves very busy this time of year, yet in quiet moments the contradictions between the high ideals of the season and the harshness of our egregiously unjust world nag at my soul. 

Photo: Lasse Kristensen / Shutterstock

Gay Marriage Illustration. Photo: Lasse Kristensen / Shutterstock

CANTERBURY, England — The British government unveiled a proposal on Tuesday that excludes the Church of England and the Church in Wales from planned legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry in churches.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller told Parliament the new plan would allow gay and lesbian couples to marry in some churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques, but definitely not in the established church, where both the outgoing and incoming archbishops of Canterbury insist that marriage remain between a man and a woman.

"We will write on the face of the bill a declaration that no religious organization, or individual minister, can be forced to marry same-sex couples or to permit this to happen on their premises," Miller told the House of Commons.

Religious groups, including Quakers, Unitarians, and some liberal Jewish groups, welcomed the news because they favor same-sex marriage. The Church of England, the Church in Wales, the Roman Catholic Church, most Muslims, and Orthodox Jews oppose the move.

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