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, August 30, 2016

Ensuring no one is left behind; Eliminating the Trafficking of Children and Youth

    On July 13 a High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development was held for the first time since heads of states gathered last year at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
UN High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development

      World leaders pledged to implement 17 goals including: no poverty (1), quality education (4), gender equality (5), reduced inequalities (10), climate action (13), peace, justice and strong institutions (16), etc.

      These goals speak directly to issues affecting both people and planet, which is very much in line with Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si'. When Pope Francis delivered his message to the UN last year during his U.S. visit, he called on world leaders to address climate change if the global community is to make progress against poverty, hunger, war and inequality.

      The event I attended at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) was a side event on human trafficking hosted by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations titled, Eliminating the Trafficking of Children and Youth. Event participants discussed the best approach for combating the growing scourge of children and youth who are trafficked for sex or work. Archbishop Bernardito Auza was the moderator. He said the Catholic Church has long fought against human trafficking in its teachings and in its work on the ground. For example, ‘The Second Vatican Council, St. John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI all spoke out passionately and forcefully against the infamy of human trafficking and the widespread hedonistic and commercial culture that encourages this systematic exploitation of human dignity and rights,” Archbishop Auza said. He then added thatPope Francis has taken the Church’s action and advocacy “to another level,” denouncing it in his encyclicals and exhortations, in speeches and peace letters, and promoting it in numerous conferences in the Vatican and beyond.”
Holy See Human Trafficking side event 

      Guest speakers from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and various grassroots groups discussed the many forms human trafficking takes, including sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. Actual survivors of human trafficking also gave compelling testimonies of being subjected to abuse and trafficking, sometimes at the hand of family members. A 2015 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime shows that one in three known victims of human trafficking are children, with women and girls accounting for 70 percent of all trafficking victims worldwide.
            I appreciated being part of this informative gathering and I am pleased to know that Catholic-based organizations are at the forefront of raising awareness on this human dignity issue and addressing it from the local all the way up to the international level. In addition, Pope Francis' message to the global community strongly resonates with this event, that we "leave no one behind".

Sr. Nathanael Lee, LSHF, is from South Korea and a member of the Little Servants of the Holy Family congregation. She is interning at JPIC's office in Washington, DC. until 2017.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

White House Prayer Service of Repentance for the U.S. Nuclear Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

On August 6th, the 71st anniversary of the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and the feast of the Transfiguration, Sr. Nathanael Lee, LSHF, joined about 30 peacemakers at a prayer service outside the White House to repent for the U.S. nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and to call for the abolition of nuclear weapons. This peace event was organized by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, Pax Christi Metro-DC, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, Isaiah Project and the Sisters of Mercy— Institute Justice Team.

Read more about the vigil here.

August 6, 2016 White House Prayer Service of Repentance for the U.S. Nuclear Bombings of Hiroshima, Japan 71 years ago.  Art Laffin (center), a member of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House - Washington, DC leads the prayer service

Scott Wright (Center, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach) and Jean Stokan (center-left, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas) lead a ritual of repentance for the nuclear sin

Mr. Toshiyuki Mimaki, (Vice President of Hiroshima Prefectural Hibakusha Organization) gives a testimony of his experience and witness of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima

This report was submitted by Sr. Nathanael Lee, LSHF. Photos courtesy of Sr. Nathanael Lee.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Eye Opening Discussions on Challenges Facing Rural America: Bro. Antonio Reports

On June 29th, Meghan, Sr. Lee, Deaglan McKillop (summer 2016 intern) and I had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion focusing on Rural America.

When I think about America I think about the great Empire State Building, Beverly Hills or Hollywood. Most people today live in big urban cities. We have lost contact with the earth and we don’t know where our food comes from, or what we are eating.  But we cannot ignore the fact that roughly 48 million Americans reside in rural areas, about 15 percent of the population. Rural America supplies a lot of the food, energy and workforce that sustain our economy.

The Oblates have been pioneers in ministering to people in rural America. One example is the Oblates in Texas who served many of the local ranchers. As those rural areas transform they have moved to other places. Now there are Oblates in rural areas in Missouri, Minnesota and New York.

There are beautiful landscapes in rural America and life's rhythm probably is a little bit slower. They don’t need to be running all the time like we do in the city, trying to catch the metro or subway. But they are facing many challenges and barriers when it comes to ensuring economic opportunity.

The first part of the morning featured panelists whose expertise lay in rural America and they spoke about the many problems people are facing. They highlighted the fact that many people in rural America live in poverty due to fewer investments and high unemployment rates. People have great difficulty accessing medical help as there aren’t enough hospitals and roads may be in terrible condition. Recently they have been experiencing a lot of drug overdoses in small towns like Dixon, Illinois. Often by time the ambulance reaches patients it is too late.  In addition, local hospitals frequently do not have the capacity to save patients.  Education is very deficient and families move to urban areas to look for greater opportunities. As a consequence the population of rural America is decreasing.  It was mind-blowing to listen to all these problems. The fact that one does not have proper access to education, medical care or employment are issues that are similar to that of a third world country - but it is happening right under our noses.

(From left to right): S. Nathanael Lee, Little Servants of the Holy Family, Korea; Mr. Deaglan McKillop, law
student from Liverpool, England; Bro. Lester Antonio Zapata, OMI, Oblate School of Theology
The second part of the conference focused on some ideas to improve the quality of life for people in rural America.  The panel spoke about improving the public roads, education, health system and the importance of Wi-Fi in rural areas. The big challenge at the beginning of 20th century was to make it possible for every family in rural America to have access to electricity, whereas now the big challenge is that everyone has access to Wi-Fi. The panelists informed us how farmers now need to use Wi-Fi to connect to other farms for business, and to also improve the technology on their own farm. In today’s society, Wi-Fi also plays an important role in schools, as it is a crucial element in providing children with a good education.

Discussions surrounding these issues will increase as Congress begins to draft the new Farm Bill, likely as soon as next year. In advance of the Farm Bill, many states are already trying to introduce measures to bring Wi-Fi to rural areas. For example, some areas have implemented a “dig once” policy, which adds installation of fiber optic cables to road construction projects. Much remains to be done but it is encouraging to learn about the progress that is being made already.

Bro. Lester Antonio Zapata, OMI, joined the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 2010. He professed his first vows in 2015 and now is studying at Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. He is spending this summer with the JPIC office in Washington, DC learning about justice and peace issues.