Oblate Voices is a JPIC blog that follows stories of hope and is about how Oblates and associates live and experience mission work in the spirit of the Oblate founder, St Eugene De Mazenod of responding to the needs of poor and most abandoned around the world.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

From the Lips of Children and Infants - By Fr. Zweli Mlotshwa OMI

Fr. Zweli Mlotshwa OMI reflects on the upcoming 2014 general elections in South Africa. Fr Zweli is currently working in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg and also served as a missionary to Zimbabwe. 

Like a couple about to expecting a birth of a child, South Africa stands at a pivot moment waiting in anticipation for the 20th general elections that will take place on the 07th of May 2014. 

Like modern day couples exposed to the advances of technology, which already know the gender of the baby, and maybe even some other features of the baby like whether they will be tall or short, and even whether the baby will have any deformities or will be healthy.  South Africa is at that moment, we all wait in anticipation for the results of the upcoming elections but we all know that the African National Congress (ANC) is going to win and so the anxiety is lessened somewhat. 

However if the political commentators are to be believed, although the ANC will win the elections it is expected that they will face a decrease in voters.

With this 20th general election the focus is not just on the ANC but on the people who were born in the South Africa of the ANC era, these are the so called “ Born frees’. These are young people who have never experienced Apartheid. Many of them will be voting for the first time in this election. Again if we can believe the political commentators these are the people whom it is believed will tip the scale away from the ANC, unlike their parents and elder siblings, this generation has no sentimental attachment to the ANC as the liberator party.

Speaking to my 10-year-old nephew about politics in South Africa he asked me which party I support amongst the three major parties in South Africa, the ANC, Democratic Alliance, DA and the new party the Economic Freedom Fighters, EFF.  The way in which he asked me one would have thought that was asking which soccer team I support. I responded by saying the ANC; and he was not impressed with my answer. He then proceeded to give me a political lesson about how he does not trust the DA, because it has many white South Africans. This sentiment echoes the fear of some Black people who think the party will bring back Apartheid, the DA they say stands for Double Apartheid.

The born free continued to tell me that I should not vote for the ANC because it is a party for old people and most importantly their leader steals money and I as a priest should not support them.  I responded by saying I support the party and not the president, this was unthinkable for him as the two could not be separated.

If he were to vote he said he would vote EFF or the Economic Freedom Front lead by the former president of the ANC Youth League a Mr. Julius Malema. This party it seems has attracted young people many of whom are disgruntled by the ANC, which has brought political but not economic freedom.

The EFF promises to change that situation, for some young people they have no idea of the principles or policies of the party but like my 10 year old nephew the attraction is the vibrancy of a party that is led by a young person, who dares to challenge the status quo. Whether the EFF will still be there when my 10-year-old nephew goes to vote for the first time?  

That is still to be seen but the ANC on the other hand based on the surety of its president it will not just be there but it will still be in power because Mr. Zuma declared that the ANC will rule South Africa until Jesus comes.  However with the growing tide of resentment towards the ANC, especially from the born frees the Jesus of the ANC might come sooner than they expect.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Faith Consistent Investing: Not an Abstract Concept      

By Christina C. Herman

An important aspect of the work of the Missionary Oblates JPIC Initiative is our engage­ment with corporations on social and environmental sustainability issues. This corporate engagement ranges across many areas, from the pricing of essential medicines for the poor, to the impacts of corporate water use; from the enforcement of labor standards in factories to eq­uitable access to capital and credit; from pressing for the rights of indig­enous communities in mining oper­ations, to encouraging corporations to fight human trafficking.

Large corporations - whether they are making cell phones or ham­burgers – obtain their inputs from smaller companies scattered across the world. As we know, manufactur­ing is truly global, with much of the actual manufacturing taking place outside the US – in low-wage coun­tries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Guatemala – and of course, China. Because countries vary in terms of how well they enforce worker safety laws, environmental regulations, minimum wage requirements, etc., worker rights and the environment are often inadequately protected.

Corporate Impacts on Water

An issue of growing concern is the impact of water use by corporate op­erations on local communities and ecosystems. Freshwater supplies are increasingly limited in many parts of the world, and water access and allocation are already proving to be areas of conflict. Negative corporate impacts can come from the direct use of water and water pollution, but also from the use of energy, which requires water for its production.

In water-rich areas, heavy water use is not necessarily a problem, al­though we need to think – and plan into the future - to insure mainte­nance of those now-adequate sup­plies. But in water stressed and water scarce areas, water use by corpora­tions and agribusiness poses a risk both to the local population and the company. Population growth and the impacts of climate change (caus­ing both drought and flooding) have combined to increase the pressure on existing water supplies to a point of crisis in some areas. Groundwater, in particular, is being used at unsus­tainable rates in much of the world.

When we engage a company in a di­alog on water, we focus on risk, and encourage them to measure their water use, so they can determine which of their facilities and what parts of their supply chain are locat­ed in water-scarce areas. If the com­pany has taken this step (and many have not), we then ask if they are taking action to decrease and off­set their direct water use - to reduce negative impacts on the watershed. Measuring and reporting - transpar­ency - are important first steps in re­ducing corporate impacts on water.

Supply Chain Risk

A major challenge, even for compa­nies well along this path of aware­ness and water risk management, is to get a handle on just what the risks are in the supply chain. A company’s supply chain consists of the companies that supply it with materials, and so is not under a company’s direct con­trol. The lack of a direct relationship makes it harder to both measure and reduce risk. But pressure com­panies do, with significant results. Wal-Mart, for instance, is pushing elements of sus­tainability down their supply chain, and hav­ing a huge im­pact, just by dint of their vast buy­ing power.

Managing water use in the supply chain is particu­larly important for large food and beverage companies, because 70-90% of the world’s freshwater use is for agricultural production, which forms most of their inputs. Yet, it is also a difficult challenge, one that even companies deeply concerned about water-related risks are still trying to manage.

Community Engagement

A very important focus for faith-based investors is the extent to which companies engage local com­munities on the impacts of their operations. Is the company working with other large water users, the lo­cal government, and the community in that particular watershed to fig­ure out better ways to manage the scarce resource? Have all elements of the community, including the disenfranchised, been included in this process?

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) hosted a Roundtable on the Human Right to Water and commu­nity impacts of corporate operations in New York in February of 2012. The goal was to start a more robust conver­sation about issues affecting both communities and companies, as well as how the needs of affected com­munities can be addressed. Much work has gone into determining how to measure the environmental impacts of corporate operations, but the determination of social im­pacts is far less developed. 

ICCR has started this conversation with the publication of its Social Sustain­ability Resource Guide. Further work is needed to develop processes that will respect the particular needs of poor com­munities. As always, concern for the people affected by corporate opera­tions, and the ecosystems on which they depend for their well-being, is what drives our faith-consistent in­vestment work.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


By Mary O'Herron, OMI JPIC Staff.

Listen to Jesus reading from the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth:
“The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives…” Luke 4 18-21

Human Trafficking is used to describe modern slavery because of the mobility of both victims and perpetrators. Right now slavery is increasing in the United States and around the world. There are more people in slavery than ever before in the world’s history – over 27 million.

The Sisters of the Divine Savior (Salvatorian Sisters) have crafted a website for parishes to use to combat today’s slavery. It is an amazingly complete resource.  It is called Breaking the Snares. It is a comprehensive packet of items that a parish can use to work against this scourge. The easiest way to find it is to google Breaking the Snares.

Among the many things it offers are:

-     Outlines of homilies to go with some readings used during the liturgical year
-     Scriptural motivations for taking action
-       Potential activities
-       Items in English and Spanish
-       Bulletin announcements
-       How to identify possible victims
-       Lists of videos and other resources

This website will save hours of effort – it has so many resources in one place. Many thanks to the Salvatorian Sisters!