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Peace & Justice

Priest arrested after breaking into Kansas City nuclear weapons facility


KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A priest who has spent almost two decades in jail for acts of nonviolent protest against the country's nuclear weapons complex faces another possible year and a half in prison after his actions on Wednesday.

Fr. Carl Kabat, a 78-year-old member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, faces three criminal charges after cutting through a fence and entering the grounds of the Kansas City Plant, a major new nuclear weapons facility under construction, to call attention to its building.

Kabat's action represents the latest in a years-long campaign by activists to call attention to the facility's construction.

Protests at the site, which is estimated to cost $1.2 billion and scheduled to be partially operational by early 2013, have been led in part by area Catholics who have also been leading petition campaigns to remove funding from the site.

One of the petitions, focused on developing a plan for reuse of the facility should it be abandoned in light of weapons cuts, was unanimously passed by the local city council in March.

Wild Goose Festival focuses on prayer, social justice


SILK HOPE, N.C. -- A Catholic priest told a family their disabled son was too noisy to bring to Mass. Sarah Cunningham lives a double life as a progressive Christian writer and speaker who must keep her true self a partial secret from her Southern Baptist fundamentalist pastor father. Iraqi war veteran Logan Mehl-Laituri isn't entirely sure what the consequences might be to his psyche from a 14-month tour in a war he now opposes. Gareth Higgins has faced depression while working to bring the Good News of God's love to people searching for holiness.

Ecuador stops sending troops to U.S. military training


Ecuador will no longer send troops to the U.S. military training school at Fort Benning, Ga., formerly known as the School of the Americas (SOA), whose graduates who have been implicated in human rights abuses, the country’s foreign minister announced Wednesday afternoon.

The announcement, first reported by the Spanish news agency EFE, comes after a meeting Wednesday between Ecuadoran president Rafael Correa and members of SOA Watch, a group founded by Maryknoll Fr. Roy Bourgeois to work for the closure of the military training school.

Confirming the news Wednesday, Ecuadoran foreign minister Ricardo Patiño posted on Twitter in Spanish that "Ecuador will no longer send members of its armed forces nor its police to the sadly famous former School of the Americas in the United States."

Hendrik Voss, SOA Watch’s national organizer, said in a phone interview Wednesday that the group first became aware of the news when several of its members met with Correa in the Ecuadoran capital, Quito, earlier that day. When the members, including Bourgeois, arrived for the meeting, Correa immediately told them of the decision, said Voss.

Former death row inmate seeks justice and an apology



I almost didn't go to the lecture. Ungraded research papers tugged at my conscience, and my kids tugged, literally, at me as I walked out the door. But I had promised the coworker who had organized the event that I'd attend. Besides, how often do you get to hear the firsthand story of someone who almost died?

That someone is Nathson "Nate" Fields, who had been scheduled to be executed for a double murder for which he was later exonerated -- but only after spending 18 years in prison, more than 11 of those years on death row in Illinois.

Fields, now a speaker for the Witness to Innocence project, shared his story on April 19 with criminal justice students and others at Aurora University, where I teach, as part of a discussion about the death penalty and wrongful convictions.

"You guys will be the future judges, the future lawyers, the future presidents," Fields told the audience, citing the "human factor" as the reason he believes the death penalty should be abolished.

DePaul's new social justice archive shows how 'action liberates'


CHICAGO -- Inside a room on the third floor of the John T. Richardson Library at DePaul University is a display that includes some heavy boots and a thick belt -- not the kind for holding up pants, but rather the kind to which prisoners’ hands are shackled. They’re part of a small representation -- in this most unlikely place -- of the iconography of capital punishment in the United States.

Priests meet in Chicago to discuss labor ministry


CHICAGO -- Twenty-seven priests from around the country met in Chicago May 21-25 for the first Priest Laborer Social Justice Continuing Formation, a project developed to recruit priests to labor issues and create a network of support for one another and the workers they intend to reach.

“The concerns of workers have always been close to the church,” said Fr. Clete Kiley, director of immigration policy at UNITE HERE and a founder of the labor priests project, which emerged through the National Federation of Priests’ Councils.

NATO summit, protests provide lessons for Catholic school students

CHICAGO -- With world leaders descending on Chicago for the NATO summit May 20-21, some Catholic school teachers were incorporating lessons about the political-military alliance for their students.

And with thousands of people coming to the city to demonstrate and draw attention to focus on issues that include war, the environment and poverty, they included a lesson or two about the history of protests, too.

"Since the time of Christ, people have been protesting," said Mary Lee Calihan, principal of Old St. Mary's School. "What's a useful form of protest? What have people done? What has been effective?"

Calihan's school and a few others were closing for a couple days during the summit, which was to include the leaders of the 28 NATO countries as well as other world leaders. The meeting was taking place at McCormick Place convention center along the lakefront.

Security measures coupled with demonstrations promised to make getting around the downtown area and South Loop a nightmare. Churches in the area planned to stay open, but DePaul University's downtown campus was closing.

Military strategists call for reduction of U.S. nuclear weapons


An influential panel of U.S. military strategists on Wednesday called for an 80 percent reduction in the number of the nation's nuclear weapons, saying current policy "unnecessarily incurs risks of unintentionally initiating a nuclear conflict," a conclusion many in the Catholic community, including activists and bishops, have supported for decades.

Afghanistan's massacred innocents have names



With opinion polls showing high disapproval of the U.S. war in Afghanistan and in the wake of the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago, President Barack Obama's trip last week to Afghanistan was intended to demonstrate to the American people and its allies that the war in Afghanistan will soon end. Instead, Obama's visit, in the dark of night, signaled a continuation of U.S. military involvement into the future and more tragedy for the Afghan people.

The nightmare of unspeakable suffering for the Afghan people caused by the war only seems to worsen with each passing day. On Friday, a mother and her five children were killed by U.S./NATO strikes in the Helmand province. And on Monday, it was reported that eight more civilians died from another U.S./NATO airstrike in the Badghis province.

This Friday marks two months since the massacre in Kandahar province of 17 civilians, including nine children. It was reported that three women and nine children were killed in their sleep, and some of the victims' bodies were burned beyond recognition.



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