Posts Tagged olive branch

Young Professionals Board of Legal Aid of Western Missouri: It’s Not Just for Lawyers

By Blake Heath, Chair of the Young Professionals Board of Legal Aid of Western Missouri

Since September of 2011, I have had the privilege of serving as the chair for the newly formed Young Professionals Board of Legal Aid of Western Missouri (YPB).  The goal of the YPB is to support the mission and programs of Legal Aid of Western Missouri through social events, fundraising initiatives, and community outreach efforts.  Many people are unfamiliar with the work that Legal Aid does or they assume that the organization is just a bunch of lawyers so there is no need or way for them to get involved.  The YPB hopes to spread the message of what Legal Aid does and to change the perception that the organization is just for lawyers.   Below is more information about the YPB and a brief description of some of the work we have done and will be doing in the future.

In December of 2010, the staff at Legal Aid put together a small focus group of various young professionals in the Kansas City area to explore ways Legal Aid could raise awareness about the mission of Legal Aid, recruit volunteers, and raise financial support.  Legal Aid recognized that older more established attorneys made up the majority of its volunteer and financial support base.  Legal Aid wanted to expand that base to younger individuals, and Legal Aid wanted to find support outside the legal profession.  After several more meetings, the YPB was officially formed to help Legal Aid recruit young professionals willing to further the mission of Legal Aid.

While Legal Aid’s primary purpose is to provide access to the legal system for clients who are normally shutout of the legal system, the work has a much deeper impact on our community.  For instance, Legal Aid is a leader in converting abandoned properties in the urban core of Kansas City into occupied, high quality housing.  Every year, their Economic Development team works with the City and other not-for-profit agencies to bring litigation that brings 80-100 abandoned properties up to code.  Legal Aid’s work in obtaining Protective Orders and divorces for hundreds of victims of domestic violence every year has been proven to be one of the most effective ways of stopping the cycle of violence.  And, every year they get hundreds of people who are permanently and totally disabled access to long-term, pro-active medical care by getting them onto Medicaid when their benefits have been wrongly denied or terminated.

To help support these programs and the mission of Legal Aid, the YPB has been active since its formation in September of 2011.  We have participated in the annual Party with a Purpose, held informational sessions where Legal Aid staff attorneys described their practice areas, assisted with the construction of a one-of-its-kind playground for children with disabilities, and participated in the Run for Justice 5K put on by the Lawyers Association of Kansas City.  In addition to these events, we will be sponsoring a charity bingo event this summer, we have tables for our members at the Legal Aid Justice for All luncheon, we will promote and participate in Legal Aid’s annual golf tournament, and in the fall we will travel to rural Lafayette County Missouri to volunteer with Legal Aid’s Migrant Farm Workers Project Monday Night Outreach.

If you would like to find out more about the YPB or any of our upcoming events, then please feel free to contact me at blake@boughlawfirm.com.  You can also find us on Facebook at Young Professionals Board of Legal Aid of Western Missouri.

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A review of Sr. Maria Riley’s paper: “Can We Talk about Social Protection?”

A review of a paper by Sr. Maria Riley, O.P. of the Global Women’s Project of the Center of Concern, Washington, D.C.

Once again Sr. Maria Riley, O.P., from the Center of Concern’s Global Women’s Project brings a thoughtful, forceful paper for our reflection and response.  In “Can We Talk about Social Protection?” she discusses how to improve our current social safety net system so that a true and viable social protection system exists for all citizens.  This paper is a follow-up to last month’s “Shredding the Social Safety Net.”

In this paper, Sr. Maria points out that these are difficult times in the United States.  Vulnerable people in our society are plagued by unemployment, growing poverty – extreme poverty in some 1.4 million households – as well as hunger and food insecurity.  The society is also witnessing a growing crisis of care-giving across the generations from child care to chronically ill and disabled care to elder care and the growing inequality both in levels of income and in access to services.

At the same time it seems public concern and political commitment to care for those most in need is diminishing. The will to ease the suffering of the most vulnerable through social welfare that was ushered in from the Great Depression through the 1970s has gone sour. Social welfare has changed from being considered a social good to being attacked as a negative burden supporting the “lazy and undeserving.” The concept of entitlement as a right or need has shifted to being seen as a privilege that many do not merit. And the responsibility of government “to promote the general
welfare” as stated in the Constitution has been degraded to accusations of intrusion by “big government.”

Changes in attitude have many roots in our culture, from an extreme sense of individualism, to the ascent of economics as the prime political and social concern, to politics and ideology and to lack of information or misinformation.

To read Sr. Maria Riley’s entire paper, go here.

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Summing up the American Losses at the VI Summit of the Americas, La Paz, Bolivia — May, 2012

By: Rev. Michael Gillgannon, a Kansas City – St. Joseph diocesean priest who has served the people of Bolivia for nearly 40 years

Pope Benedict XVI went to Cuba in March to continue the pastoral dialogue of the Catholic Church with the Cuban government which Pope John Paul II had so successfully initiated in 1999. Despite some not so well informed critics, Pope Benedict’s visit, including fruitful dialogues with both Fidel Castro, and his brother, President Raul Castro, had some quite interesting results symbolized by the regime making Good Friday a national holiday for workers to take part in religious observances. Pope Benedict reiterated his condemnation of the international economic embargo of Cuba while noting that the former Marxist ideology had become outdated in Cuba and elsewhere. Cuba has been in a process of deep economic and political change for some time and it became a pivotal point in the recent VI Summit of the Americas meeting. The difference of the patient dialogue of the Church and the unfortunately outdated Cuban, and Latin American, diplomacy of the United States was quite evident in their different results.

President Obama spent three days in Cartagena, Columbia for the Summit meeting of Hemispheric Presidents. Some cited this as a change in attitude, if not in policy, because few presidents had given that much time to Latin America before. The Summit event was inaugurated in the Clinton Administration in 1994 to promote free trade agreements like NAFTA all over the Western Hemisphere. The agenda this year was once again to promote trade (to seal and applaud such an agreement with the host country, Columbia, recently approved by both countries) but also to respond in new ways to the failed policies of years to curb the continental scourge of the drug trade and the cartels which control them throughout the Americas. The low point for the American President was not the scandalous behavior of the Secret Service agents accompanying him (Interestingly, prostitution is legal in most Catholic countries of the Americas. But, also interestingly, they outlaw the death penalty). Rather, it was the fact that university students in Columbia, reflecting popular sentiment against American policies, mounted demonstrations against him which forced the closing of the universities. And worse, the American agenda for Cuba, for trade, and for drug control, were all roundly rejected by the assembly.

The rejection included, unusual for this meeting, closed door diplomacy which was not able to reach a consensus agreement on a final document. So none was given. The democratically elected Presidents of Latin America and the Caribbean islands, representing over 600 million people, rejected the policy of not including Cuba in the Summit. Only the United States and Canada refused to budge on the fifty year-old policies of exclusion and embargo. Most analysts, north and south, repeated the truism that North American policies on Cuba reflect not intelligent and professional diplomacy but political deference to the influence of the Miami Cuban exiles on Florida and national American politics and policies. President Carrea of Ecuador boycotted the Summit because of the exclusion of Cuba. President Ortega of Nicaragua held a massive support for Cuba rally in Managua paralleling the Summit with thousands in attendance. The Latin American presidents ended by telling the North Americans that they would not attend another summit (in Panama in 2015) without the participation of Cuba.

The Columbia-U.S. Free Trade agreement, years in discussion, was offered as a benefit to the Columbian hosts for the occasion. But President Obama in his 2008 campaign had said he was opposed to such an agreement because of Columbian government policies against workers rights and trade unions. The Washington Office for Latin America recently published their study on such policies documenting that 30 union leaders were assassinated last year in Columbia. Since 1986 almost 3000 such organizers have been killed. And only 5% of such cases have resulted in penalties for their perpetrators. So much for workers benefits and social justice in the free trade agreements which the United States has imposed in the last 20 years on Mexico and Central America. Despite these contradictions, the U.S. policy makers seem tone deaf to the strong voices of so many progressive Latin American countries, like Ecuador and Bolivia, which are organizing political and economic trade blocs of their own excluding both the United States and Canada.

Among other serious disputes continue to be immigration. U.S. immigration policies seem to be unplanned, contradictory, and often, inhuman. A poem of Robert Frost questioned the saying “good fences make good neighbor” by intimating fences and walls are needed only because neighbors quarrel and lack mutual confidence. Building frontier walls and allowing States and municipalities to dictate national foreign policy does not seem to be wise when such laws are seen as unjust and insulting to human dignity. Latin governments ask, “Is the United States becoming a huge ‘Gated Community’ to keep out “the others”? Is fear and “national security” making a once welcoming people…“send us your homeless tempest-tossed”…a nation of selfish and closed citizenry? Latin Americas’ peoples and governments have every reason based on real experiences to think so despite the positive efforts of many Church people and others to change such unjust laws.

Another sore point is the international drug trade and the failed United States police and military policies of control both at home and in Latin America. A mounting wave of criticism is asking for a revision of these policies because they have not worked for years. And many international voices are saying it is time to look for international collaboration and coordination to control the illicit trade now destroying not only persons but national States.

“The Economist”, a journal usually critical of the economic and political policies of progressive Latin American governments, had a pointed comment on the Summit worth noting…

”If Latin America is doing so damn well all of a sudden, why does it not just get on with the business of standing on its own feet? As for the tricky issues of immigration, drugs and Cuba, can’t those southerners see how things stand north of the border? Don’t they understand that the thorny domestic policies of the United States make serious action on them impossible? They can see. They do understand. But in recent decades some of the countries of Latin America have managed against great odds to summon up the courage to overcome their own impossible domestic politics. It may be time for the United States to follow their example for a change.”

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A letter of farewell from Sr. Jeanne Christensen

Dear Friends,

In 2006, the Kansas City Olive Branch was launched by Michael Humphrey and Dan Meyers, members of the Salvadoran Faith Accompaniment Group, who were concerned about the continuity of the work of the Diocesan Peace and Justice Office.  This concern arose because both Fr. Frank Schuele and I were leaving the office.  I was humbled and pleased that they wanted to continue providing a strong resource to the peace and justice community in the greater Kansas City area.  With the help of dedicated individuals who served on the Visioning Board,   KC Olive Branch became a virtual reality.  Over the years religious women and men’s communities and individual donors have provided financial support.  Many have offered their ideas, encouragement, informational resources, and/or written articles.

In 2008, after both Mike and Dan experienced career changes, I became editor and successfully fulfilled that role only with the outstanding assistance of Clare Murphy Shaw – web mistress par excellent!!  Over the last several weeks, Mike, Clare and I have exchanged emails regarding the future of KC Olive Branch – the conversation was initiated when I expressed my need to resign as editor due to my additional ministry responsibilities.  I am continuing my Mercy community justice ministry from Kansas City, so you will still see me around.

I will miss my involvement with this wonderful virtual peace and justice community.  June 2012 will be the last edition that I edit.  How KC Olive Branch moves into the future is still being discussed.  If you have ideas or suggestions, feel free to send them to Clare, Michael or me; and I will see they get included in the conversation.

I hope that KC Olive Branch has been helpful and perhaps inspiring to you.  Thank you for being part of our community, working to make the world a more peaceful and just place for all.

Peace and blessings.

Jeanne Christensen, RSM

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The 2012 Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace is… Ruben Garcia

Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic peace movement, has recognized the life and witness of Ruben Garcia, naming him the 2012 recipient of the Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace Award.  Pax Christi USA first gave the award to Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, in 1978 and has since recognized some of the most significant U.S. Catholic activists for peace and justice of the past 3 decades, including actor Martin Sheen; poet and priest Daniel Berrigan, S.J.; and Dead Man Walking author Sr. Helen Prejean, C.S.J.  Garcia is one of the founders and the current director of Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas.

During his career at Annunciation House, Garcia has personally welcomed more than 100,000 migrants to his home and community, putting into practice and personally embodying the radical hospitality that Jesus exemplified to the poor, the marginalized, and the excluded. In his nomination of Garcia, Scott Wright, author and biographer of Archbishop Oscar Romero, wrote that Garcia “teaches peace by embodying peace, welcoming the stranger, and inviting others to share in this community where the least have a place at the table. From the experience of welcome and hospitality, comes an awareness and a commitment to address the root causes of injustice that push migrants to flee from the political violence in their countries, or conditions of economic disparity that condemn their families to die in conditions of extreme poverty and misery.”

“PCUSA is pleased to be honoring Ruben Garcia with the 2012 Teacher of Peace Award. For more than 35 years, he has been an inspiring teacher of peace, exemplifying by his life witness the teachings of the Gospel and the spirit of the Beatitudes,” stated Sr. Patty Chappell, SNDdeN, Executive Director of Pax Christi USA. “Ruben’s faith continues to be an inspiring witness to the best of Catholic traditions, social teachings and practices.”

In addition to his work at Annunciation House, Garcia has welcomed and met with hundreds of delegations to the border, teaching by inviting them into the world of the poor and the migrant, and allowing them to see and hear firsthand the stories of immigrants.  He invites them to commit themselves to address the root causes that deny to the immigrant the justice that is due to them in their homeland and in the United States.

“Ruben’s commitment to the radical hospitality of Jesus, welcoming all to the table, with preferential option for migrants, teaches peace moment by moment,” stated Cathy Crosby, Pax Christi USA National Council member and chair of the Teacher of Peace committee. “The PCUSA National Council celebrates the opportunity to recognize Ruben’s many years of humble service.  We hope that the work of Ruben and Annunciation House continues to inspire others to work for justice and peace, as we each recognize the countless small ways we are called to build God’s kingdom here and now.”

The Teacher of Peace award will be presented at a special ceremony honoring Garcia in Washington, D.C. in September 2012.

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Notable Excerpts: Shredding the Social Safety Net

The March Global Women’s Project’s Briefing Paper, Shredding the Social Safety Net by Sr. Maria Riley, OP, provides not only excellent information but ample food for thought that may leave you uncomfortable.

In her briefing paper, Sr. Maria says in part:

Americans are living in two worlds which are often at odds with each other: the world of political rhetoric and the world of lived reality. This dualism cuts through almost all current issues be they climate change, food security, economics, social welfare, the middle class, poverty, or U.S. superiority, to name a few. One particularly pernicious example is the current political attack on people in poverty. While politicians of every stripe are debating about cutting entitlement programs from social security to Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and extended unemployment insurance, the number of people in poverty is escalating.

The briefing paper includes specific information on poverty, an overview of U.S. social welfare:

The shifting focus from people to the economy and points out that in the U.S. Catholic Bishops Pastoral, Economic Justice for All, they said an economy is to be judged on what it does for people, what it does to people and how people participate in it (#1).  Sr. Maria observes, “Based on those simple criteria the U.S. economy is not doing very well. It is time to renew the social contract between the government and its people with special attention given to those living in extreme poverty.

The April 2012 Briefing Paper will examine alternative approaches to social protection as part of the Global Women’s Project effort to refocus the U.S. economy on human well-being and ecological sustainability.

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The Affordable Care Act

March 27, 2012

By:  Jeanne Christensen, RSM

Editor of KC Olive Branch and Justice Coordinator, Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community

The Affordable Care Act was passed as a reform law that would require all insurance plans to cover preventive care at no cost.  This included free check-ups, free mammograms, immunizations and other basic services.  This is important because many women cannot afford these basic preventive health care services; and it saves lives and money –- for families, for businesses, for government, for everybody.  It is a lot cheaper to prevent an illness than to treat one.

It included, based on a recommendation from the experts at the Institute of Medicine, women’s preventive care should include coverage of contraceptive services such as birth control.  In addition to family planning, doctors often prescribe contraception as a way to reduce the risks of ovarian and other cancers, and treat a variety of different ailments.

Because some religious institutions, particularly those affiliated with the Catholic Church, have a religious objection to directly providing insurance that covers contraceptive services for their employees, the original bill exempted all churches from this requirement -– an exemption that eight states didn’t already have.

In February, 2012, compromise rule was enacted.  Under the compromise rule, women will still have access to free preventive care that includes contraceptive services, no matter where they work.  So that core principle remains.  But if a woman’s employer is a charity or a hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the insurance company -– not the hospital, not the charity -– will be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care free of charge, without co-pays and without hassles.

The result will be that religious organizations won’t have to pay for these services, and no religious institution will have to provide these services directly.  These employers will not have to pay for, or provide, contraceptive services.  But women who work at these institutions will have access to free contraceptive services their insurance companies pay for; and they’ll no longer have to pay hundreds of dollars a year that could go towards paying the rent or buying groceries.

Religious liberty will be protected, and a law that requires free preventive care will not discriminate against women.   We live in a pluralistic society where we’re not going to agree on every single issue, or share every belief.  That doesn’t mean that we have to choose between individual liberty and basic fairness for all Americans.

To overturn the Affordable Care Act to rid it of the contraception mandate, for which there is now a workable compromise, will endanger thousands of Americans.  Those already covered under the Affordable Care Act will lose their coverage.  This includes children up to age 26 who are now able to remain on their parents’ insurance, children with pre-existing conditions, restrictions to participation in Medicaid programs and the like.  It would further penalize the most vulnerable among us.  Many not-for-profit organizations who serve the poor support the Affordable Care Act for this reason.  Is it not our moral responsibility to provide for the most vulnerable among us?

 

 

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