National Catholic Reporter

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Peace & Justice

The Nobel War Lecture

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Viewpoint

In accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, President Obama, one of the world’s great orators and purveyors of hope, gave a speech that must reflect the divisions within himself and his personal struggles to reconcile them. It was a surprising speech for the occasion. Rather than a speech of vision and hope, it was a speech that sought to justify war, and particularly America’s wars. It was largely an infomercial for war, touting not only war’s necessity but its virtues, and might well be thought of as the “Nobel War Lecture.”

Peacemakers also see the world as it is

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As with a berg of ice in a shipping lane, Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech in Oslo, Norway, was a collision between peacemaking and war-making.

Several times he mentioned Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. “There’s nothing weak, nothing passive, nothing naive in their creed or lives,” he said. But the praise was faint, the tone patronizing. “I face the world as it is,” said the nation’s latest war president, implying that Gandhi and King were dwellers in another world where they and the rest of dream-driven pacifists have their heads either in the clouds or in the sand. “There will be times,” Obama said, “when nations, acting individually or in concert, will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”

Afghanistan: Speaking Truth to Power

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Commentary
There’s a phrase originating with the peace activism of the American Quaker movement: “Speak Truth to Power.” One can hardly speak more directly to power than addressing the Presidential Administration of the United States. This past October, students at Islamabad’s Islamic International University had a message for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. One student summed up many of her colleagues’ frustration. “We don’t need America,” she said. “Things were better before they came here."

The students were mourning loss of life at their University where, a week earlier, two suicide bombers walked onto the campus wearing explosive devices and left seven students dead and dozens of others seriously injured. Since the spring of 2009, under pressure from U.S. leaders to “do more” to dislodge militant Taliban groups, the Pakistani government has been waging military offensives throughout the northwest of the country. These bombing attacks have displaced millions and the Pakistani government has apparently given open permission for similar attacks by unmanned U.S. aerial drones.

Report: Executions rise as death sentences decline

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The number of state-sponsored executions jumped 41 percent in 2009 even as the number of death penalty sentences dropped, according to a new report from the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center.

Last year's 52 executions nationwide represented a 41 percent increase from the 37 executions in 2008, the DPIC said in its annual report on capital punishment trends.

Medicating and medicalizing dissent

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Commentary

In “Sir! No Sir!” David Zeiger’s 2006 documentary about G.I. resistance to the war in Vietnam, Bill Short tells how revolted he was by having to count the bodies of enemy dead for his unit. When he refused to do it any longer, he was sent for psychological counseling. At the moment he thought he was about to be remanded for psychiatric confinement, the shrink, as Short refers to him, pulled a copy of the Nov. 9, 1969, New York Times from his desk and pointed to a full-page advertisement against the war signed by 1,365 active-duty GIs. Bill didn’t need a diagnosis, he needed a social movement — and there it was.

Campaign aims to increase number of Hispanics in Catholic schools

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SOUTH BEND, IND. -- A campaign launched last month to enroll 1 million Hispanic students in Catholic schools by 2020 is “a challenge to the church to get the word out and spread the good news in the Hispanic community,” said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ education committee.

“As in the past, Catholic schools are a gift to the Catholic immigrants to America. We rejoice in and celebrate that fact,” Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Curry of Los Angeles, head of the Committee on Catholic Education, said in a Dec. 15 statement.

Aid agency pledges to serve Hmong in Laos

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BANGKOK -- The Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Refugees (COERR) has pledged to continue to help more than 4,000 ethnic Hmong asylum-seekers who were recently repatriated from northern Thailand to Laos.

COERR, the only aid group assisting the asylum-seekers, was refused access to Huay Nam Khao camp in Phetchabun province as the Thai army deported them on Dec. 28.

“We don’t have any capacity to stop the (forcible repatriation) as it’s the right of the government,” said Bishop Joseph Phibul Visitnonthachai of Nakhon Sawan, COERR executive director.

Nevertheless, COERR is “discussing with UNICEF about getting permission to go to Laos and work with (the deportees) for some time to ensure that they are safe, able to live there and treated humanely,” he told UCA News.

The Hmong had claimed they would be victimized by the Laos regime if they were returned. Thailand has said it has assurances from the Laotian authorities that they would not be mistreated.

The UN has urged the Thai authorities to detail those assurances.

Union wins plurality at Calif. Catholic hospital

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SAN FRANCISCO -- A union seeking to represent service and technical workers at Catholic-run Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital in northern California won a plurality in a hard-fought election.

In three-way balloting Dec 17 and 18, the National Union of Healthcare Workers received 283 votes versus 263 votes against forming a union. A second union on the ballot, the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, received 13 votes.

Las Posadas call to action

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Commentary

In the days leading up to Christmas in Latino communities throughout the hemisphere, re-enactments are held commemorating Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter in Bethlehem -- a place for Jesus to be born. The tradition is called Las Posadas, which literally means “the inns” in Spanish. Each night, from Dec. 16 through Dec. 24, a man and woman, playing the roles of Mary and Joseph, go from house to house. At each home, they are turned away. Finally, the couple reaches a place, often a church, where they are allowed to enter. A celebration begins which includes such things as food, piñatas, prayers and songs.

For people of faith who are concerned about the plight of immigrants, this ancient ritual has become a call to action.

During the past week, faith groups around the country, including Albuquerque and Washington DC, have held candlelight vigils commemorating the plight of the Holy Family, who sought room at the inn and were turned away.

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July 18-31, 2014

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