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Peace & Justice

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.

Church shuns decorations to help the poor

GAINES TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Passers-by have called Redeemer Covenant Church the "church of lights" for its magnificent outdoor and indoor displays during the holidays.

But this year's decorations are all on the inside: canned goods, lining the steps leading to the altar along with large piles of hats, gloves and scarves.

The Rev. Jack Brown said as he and some congregation members planned this year's celebration at the church, spending between $200 and $300 on poinsettias alone just didn't seem right.

"The more we talked about it, the more we realized it wasn't responsible -- given the way the people in the church are hurting and how people in the community are hurting," he said.

One person suggested using gifts to others as the Christmas decorations. The congregation loved the idea, Brown said.

"It's really what the whole church has been doing: focusing on what happens in the community and trying to be helpful," he said.

Bishops back Obama Afghanistan strategy

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's goal of a "responsible transition" in Afghanistan must serve as the "overall ethical framework for U.S. actions" there, the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace told the national security adviser.

In a Dec. 18 letter to retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones, Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, N.Y., called for the development of "specific criteria" for troop withdrawal, as well as efforts to help the Afghanis "secure an adequate basis for future political and economic stability."

He urged that "each course of action taken by the U.S." in Afghanistan be "weighed in light of the traditional moral principle of 'probability of success.'"

Obama's Nobel speech reveals humble, thoughtful president

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The following is the text of President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, delivered today in Oslo, Norway, as provided by the White House:

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Distinguished Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, citizens of America, and citizens of the world:

I receive this honor with deep gratitude and great humility. It is an award that speaks to our highest aspirations — that for all the cruelty and hardship of our world, we are not mere prisoners of fate. Our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice.

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September 12-25, 2014

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