We Might Extinct Ourselves- A Living Room Dialogue Reflection

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Continuing our new program Our Common Ground we held our first Living Room Dialogue. The group present shared personal stories based on the question “How has your relationship with the earth changed or developed?”. Fiona Murray, a junior in college and youngest member of the group shared the following story.

“I felt a deep connection with the earth from childhood. I was raised by environmentally conscious parents and grew up eating organic food and food from farmer’s markets, and playing outside all of the time. When I went to college, I started learning more about and becoming more interested in doing self-research in the issues of the environment.

One of the things I noticed from my increased awareness was the dichotomy of my experience living in New York City. People mainly move to New York for their own self-gain, usually in terms of a career (just as I did in moving for college), however by moving to New York people are possibly much more environmentally friendly then they were before, since they probably take public transportation and live in smaller spaces. There is a strange disconnect between not being surrounded or physically close to nature, but generally being more environmentally friendly then those who live surrounded by nature.

Because of some of my insights into the environmental issue, I have made changes in my life to benefit the environment. For example, I no longer eat shrimp for both environmental and human trafficking reasons.

In terms of our relationship with the earth we are harming ourselves and the earth will continue long after us.
‘We might just extinguish ourselves’.”

By Fiona Murray

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Let Me Try to Enlighten You

“Slavery: Here and Now,” a panel discussion on human trafficking, hosted in St. Aloysius Church, was a heart-wrenching and enlightening turning point of my life.  It was held on October 23rd, and attracted a good number of males, females and people from numerous backgrounds. State Senator Perkins opened the panel, where he quoted a renowned trafficking defendant, Kate Mogulescu on how we should not use the word “slavery,” when it comes to the issues of human trafficking. But how else do we correctly term such a demeaning experience; a practice that subjugates beings perceived to be not as worthy as everyone else?

I found it to be heart-wrenching because of the cases raised about human beings who were and still are, being treated this way. I felt anger towards the traffickers who got away with it.  I tried to think about the restrictions and abuse a person goes through when put in such circumstances. And then something inside me clicked.

I realized how back home in Bangladesh, labor trafficking is so common we tend to completely ignore it. I am not talking about the garments industry, which of course can also be discussed at great and heated length.

Many middle-income to upper-class Bangladeshis employ household help. In many cases they are children and women, though we should not forget the men in the picture too. The children are paid very low, overworked, and verbally and physically abused. I thought about these instances during the discussion in St. Aloysius Church and asked the panelists if this was “human trafficking” too. A smart answer to this was that the signs of a trafficked person should not be confused with some sort of check list to prove whether he/she meets such a category. This was my moment of enlightenment.

I was quite oblivious to this in Bangladesh. It was on October 23rd that I realized what was happening there is just completely wrong. The traffickers of these so-called “helpers” do not dominate others for any monetary gratification, but rather abuse and humiliate others because, well it is normal in our society. What I took from that day is my critique of a collectivist society: you need others’ approval of what is ethical.

And now I need to enlighten others.

~Maisha Maliha

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Tainted Beauty

We love our clothes. We love to look good, learn about trends; what colors complement our skin tones and seasons. There is nothing wrong with vanity and wanting to look beautiful. As long as we have a sense of vision, we will be intrigued by all things eye-catching. We will spend money on beautiful people, clothes, homes, even food.

I am free to indulge on what I find attractive. This saying is devoid of moral layers. However, if we strive for prettiness, we cannot close our eyes to who is responsible for it. The Greek busts we see at the Metropolitan Museum of Art were carved by sculptors whose backgrounds, lives and appearances are sometimes unknown. We are unable to dig that old in time.

When visiting the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, I remember the tour guide telling me how the pyramids’ colossal building blocks of stone were transported from miles away by “slaves.” Their lives were bound to these so-called Egyptian VIPs. I was mesmerized by how beautiful these structures looked against the scorching, sandy background, but sad at the sacrifices that had been made.

Luckily, we have the resources and the Internet to obtain such information today. And we should use this for our benefit. I believe that our worlds’ collective ethical consciousness has become better (for most parts) when compared to times before the abolition of slavery. Slavery still lurks today though, and if something is made and obtained by the hands of a human, it may be tainted.

Free2work.org provides graded evaluations for industries according to the visibility of their supply chains. The more an industry discloses how and where their products are made, the higher their grades are. The industries are not limited to just apparel, but electronics and coffee are also reported on in the site.

Abercrombie and Fitch, Express, Forever21, Lacoste, and Sketchers received grades below a D, while Adidas, Eileen Fisher, Gap and H&M are rated above a B. These are all places we shop from, completely unaware of how slavery is used to produce the things we shop for. More information is provided in the site itself and I found it extremely resourceful for myself since afterwards I stopped shopping at the low graded shops. I did this for my personal peace of mind, and want to share it to my fellow humans who care.

~ Maisha Maliha

 

Posted in Community/Environment, Dialogue, Human Trafficking, Immigration, Peace, Sex Industry, Women's Rights/Human Rights | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Looking for Good News

How happy I am to witness “good news”.  Too often my heart laments the painful conditions, conflicts and violence that are happening in so many places in the world.  Yet, what many believe as the most grievous concern is the question of the sustainability of the resources which support everyone in the world. No one is safe from drastic change in climate.  A phenomenal transformation needs to occur for the earth to continue to nourish humanity.  What a sign of hope to see actions taken to move us toward this transformation.  

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It gave me great hope that such a decision was recently decided by the board of the University of Dayton when they announced to begin divesting coal and fossil fuels from its $670 million investment pool. It is believed to be the first Catholic university in the nation to take this step. This is a great symbolic act that hopefully other universities can follow.

My brother is a professor at the University of Dayton.  He loves the spirit there, the essence of community and his colleagues.  It is a Catholic University faithful to Catholic social teaching.

In their statement President Daniel J Curran said: Continue reading

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We Remain Faceless

Ever since I was a child, my mother told me to be accepting of all human qualities except cruelty and greed. I still follow her advice today. When I came across the New York Times article released on Monday about the two sex traffickers who brought women from Mexico and forced them to prostitute themselves here, I realized the universality of those two characteristics.

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How does it come to the point where people want to be out of their own homelands so bad that they agree to do anything to be in America–land of the free? Soon after they arrive, some immigrants find out that they are not free; they are manipulated, blackmailed, abused and terrified of dying. They remain faceless.

Continue reading

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Peace Through Dinner Dialogue – LGBTQ Families Day

2014 LGBT Families Day

LGBTQ Families Day

If there is one community that can promote peace in a small and powerful way, it is the family, especially when sitting around the dinner table.  A family can offer the love, support, and understanding that makes asking questions and talking about offbeat topics at the dinner table a safe place to discuss them.  When I was growing up, dinner time was a time for my family to be together, sharing a meal and the events of the day.  We would talk about school, work, friends, other family members, and current events.  The dinner table gave us somewhere to feel comfortable speaking our minds, asking questions, and having productive conversations that impacted my childhood in a huge way.

Today, family dinner is not as generically viewed as the setting for the nuclear family, but a place where lots of different and unique families are coming together at the end of the day.  And with these different and new family dynamics, the table is opening up to lots of new dialogue.  A friend of mine who teaches kindergarten discusses these different families in her classes as part of efforts to create acceptance and understanding at an early age.   These discussions on different types of families make sense, for the more that people are aware of different families at a young age the more there will be individuals who are open to different viewpoints.

2014 LGBT Families Day

The Family Dinner Table

 

That’s what makes the dinner table an ideal place for various kinds of families to engage in table talks.  Every family has its own unique aspect that provides different conversations to the table, and not all conversations are going to solve the world’s great dilemmas.  However, the support and love that the family provides can nurture the positive and active dialogue that will bring all families one step closer to acceptance and open-mindedness.

Tonight in celebration of LGBTQ Families Day, as a side dish for dinner, plan to have a conversation around the family table to talk about different types of families or any topic that opens the doors for understanding and acceptance.

 

— Erica Griffin

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“Prostitute?” “Sex Worker?” “Trafficked Person?” What Language Should We Use?

Network for Peace through Dialogue, Women's Rights, Human Rights, Peggy Ray

Not long ago I was traveling the subway system in New York around midnight. A lighted board told me that my train would be delayed, so I found a seat on a bench next to a very striking young woman.

She was quite tall with porcelain skin and hair dyed platinum blonde. She wore heavy makeup, a miniature skirt and spike heels. Despite her provocative dress, her facial expression was one of the utmost innocence as she sat quietly reading a book, seemingly unaware that there was nobody remotely like her on that subway platform in Harlem.

What was her life like? What was she doing there? To my great regret, I was too shy to strike up a conversation. I just pondered.

At the Network for Peace through Dialogue in recent years, colleagues have raised my awareness about sex trafficking or “modern slavery” as they call it, and we have had many discussions about what language to use in discussing those – usually women but not always – who exchange sex for cash, food or a place to spend the night.

Was this young woman a “prostitute?” My colleagues don’t like that word because of the stigma usually associated with such a one, the assumption of degradation and “filth.” Traditionally, this stigma allows people (especially women!) to see themselves as morally superior to those “selling their bodies.” However, once you learn something about the poverty, emotional deprivation or, in the case of trafficked people, the “force, fraud and coercion” that they have undergone, you look for another term.

How about “sex worker?” Many suppose that this language avoids the stigma and some maintain that it is appropriate for those who choose that occupation in its many varieties — direct sexual services, escort, stripper, pole dancer, actor in porn movies, phone or virtual sex purveyor, etc. This term seems to be favored by some feminists and in much journalism. It also seems to be favored by some international organizations struggling to fight sex and labor trafficking or the spread of HIV/AIDS. Many advocates for women engaging in prostitution maintain, however, that this is not a choice for most. Most say they are doing this because they saw no other choice for survival.

I don’t like “sex worker” very much for another reason. If it came to seem like just another ordinary occupation, I would not like my daughter to wonder whether she would like to be a doctor, a teacher or a sex worker when she grew up. Servicing sexual obsessions for a living is dangerous and bad for your health besides.

Ok. How about “trafficked person” or “person being prostituted,” the favored terms of some colleagues. I don’t like this one because it suggests someone completely under the control of others, victimized and powerless, with no agency of her own. I believe that no matter how exploited and abused, humans can and do manage to hang onto a sense of their own dignity underneath it all.

“Prostitute,” “sex worker,” “trafficked person.” Just suppose the young woman on the subway platform was “none of the above” — just a woman who liked to wear tiny skirts and spike heels. I had to ask myself why I needed to put a label on her at all.

I was reminded of this experience the other day when I attended a meeting of UN Stop Trafficking in Persons, an anti-trafficking group, where I had a chance to hear a talk by Kate Mogulescu, a public defender in New York City and founder of the Trafficking Victims Advocacy Project at the Legal Aid Society. She told the group that what she sees as the main reason for prostitution in New York City is poverty and that her clients always say “I had no other choice.” They are usually poor women of color who have had limited education and are faced with a lack of employment opportunities. They need material help and she said she doesn’t think the criminal justice system can be expected to “save” them.

At the end of the meeting, I had the chance to ask her about the term “sex worker.” She responded that it was a term used by a sophisticated elite and not one that her clients would understand or relate to.

Perhaps because a criminal record in New York State is never expunged and follows a person throughout her life or perhaps reflecting on a need to find a category or label for a person, she observed, “I don’t think people should be defined forever by the moment they became trafficked.”

The meeting was over and she did not elaborate on this comment, but what I took from it was this: There is an innate spirit in all of us that survives the sometimes harsh conditions of life and that we can always choose to recognize our essential humanity in one another.
The “none of the above” option.

–Peggy Ray

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Why I Act to Oppose Human Trafficking

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While viewing the documentary, “Singers in the Band,” I suddenly began to cry. The film was shown during an event co-sponsored by the Network for Peace through Dialogue in conjunction with the U.N.’s Commission on the Status of Women meetings last month.

I cried because I had just witnessed a drama that brought back to me painful memories of a past visit to the Philippines. In 1987, I was there with colleagues to determine the effects on the country of American military bases and visited Olongapo City which overlooked the beautiful Subic Bay. Here the American Navy docked several times a year for repair of its battleships and time for the “rest and relaxation” of the sailors.

Olongapo was the home of the US Navy fleet and thousands of Navy men lived in this huge base. From all areas of the Philippines women, very young and very poor, came to Olongapo to work in bars which were all actually brothels. Many of these young women came with the hope they would meet and marry a U.S. sailor. Father Shay Cullen of the PREDA Center, our host, had briefed us and told us how the military officers on the ships would hype the sexual possibilities that could be had in Olongapo to the younger sailors.

During our visit our group would go “downtown” at night to see what was happening. Tiny young women, scantily clothed, were standing at the doors outside the bars or inside. Looking in, we saw them dancing in dim light around poles or sitting at the bar next to what seemed like gigantic American sailors. The women looked so tiny in comparison. The sailors themselves, although big, did not seem fully grown, aged 18-19. I remember thinking, “What would their mothers at home in America think to see them now!”

What was visible to us at night was not all that the sailors could buy in Olongapo. During the day we would see many children roaming around the city. They roved in groups begging from the sailors and other visitors. Most of these children were orphans of the U.S. sailors who came and went over the years. Father Shay had shared with us that several years before he had uncovered an organized child prostitution ring that was trafficking woman and these children and supplying them for sexual exploitation to the U.S. sailors. Everything was legal. The town mayor gave operating permits and licenses to the sex clubs and bars. Some U.S. naval officers had even made investments and profited financially. Seldom was anyone arrested or prosecuted. It was a hideous and sinful situation as an estimated 16,000 children were trafficking and prostituted in the sex bars.

Many of us in the peace movement believed that if the US bases closed down, the women and children in the Philippines would be safer. Indeed in 1992 the U.S. did close both the Navy base in Olongapo and the air base in Pampanga. It was seen as a victory for justice and decency.

(Another story is how again after only three years the Filipino authorities allowed the reopening of the sex bars and clubs by international Mafia and the gambling syndicates, inviting overseas sex tourists and traveling sex tourists to come to the Philippines from many countries.)

All this was in my heart and memory as I viewed the film “Singers in the Band.” I watched excited young Filipina women, lured by promoters with the promise of work in Korea as singers in social clubs, practicing their singing, buying new clothes and incurring other debt. With government support these promoters then arranged all their papers in order to enable foreign travel.

When they got to Korea, there were no social clubs, no music, only brothels which are designated only for U.S. military personnel. Alone and vulnerable, the only way to pay their debt was to be prostituted. As in Olongapo the U.S. military arranged, supported and protected those brothels created for only their people. Again there were so many people collaborating to violate and to abuse young Filipina women. This was so painful to see.

I follow Jesus because I am a Christian. The Scriptures tell us what Jesus said about those who oppress, violate and cause injustice in the world. He was not silent. Many times He said they would be judged for their evil. I believe that this judgment begins when the evil is confronted and acted against so that the poor will have others to stand up for them and oppose the structures of injustice. That is why I act to stop human trafficking.

The documentary was filmed by David Goodman over many years and will soon be released. You can find out more about it at https://www.facebook.com/SingersInTheBand.

You can find out more about Father Shay Cullen’s work at http://www.preda.org/en/about-preda-foundation/preda-history/

–Kathleen Kanet, RSHM

Posted in Community/Environment, Dialogue, Human Trafficking, Sex Industry, Social Justice/Non-Violent Protest, Women's Rights/Human Rights | 1 Comment

Locker Room Bullying: An Analyis

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Jonathan Martin – the player for the Miami Dolphins who left football, at least temporarily, as a result of relentless locker room bullying – has prompted some voluminous soul-searching. (Whether it leads to meaningful action remains to be seen.) I want to suggest that there have been two profoundly wrong assumptions made in most coverage of this case, and end with a conclusion about how we, and he, should think of Jonathan’s Martin’s own behavior.

Continue Reading the Essay by Mark Lance here.

Image Courtesy:  Debbie May

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Response to President Obama’s address to nation on 12-14-13

obama, radio address, netwon, connecticut, gun violence

Response to  President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
December 14, 2013

In his weekly radio address on December 14, 2013 President Obama speaks of the terrible tragedy of Newtown and the sadness we feel over this and other school shootings.  He says too we must have a sense of resolve—that these tragedies must end, and to end them, we must change.

One change that is seldom or never talked about by President Obama nor most of the media is about how in our nation when we are threatened by violence or violence is perpetrated against us, we respond to the perpetrator with more violence.

Unfortunately we as a nation prepare for war not for peace. We don’t have a Department for Peace!  Preparing for war, our soldiers are taught to kill and then sent out to other nations to kill their people.  It destroys our soldiers  too. When they come home, so many of them show signs of stress and mental illness and are damaged in so many other ways.  In addition, our government, actually our president, each day sends out unmanned drone planes to fly to other countries to drop bombs which all too often  “accidently” fall on civilians at family parties.  Lots of stories about wedding parties being so disrupted! Families destroyed.

At home our laws allow us to send more people to prison than any other nation in the world besides one or two.   Prisoners who rebel or complain can be further punished by isolating them in solitary confinement.  How many people think about what solitary confinement is or what is does to one who is confined?  Policies are now being used in schools to punish children in the same way…by isolation.  I suggest that our policies and collective practices need more attention (and change) than just urging us to be nicer to one another. We must move to see the destruction of our policies and realize how destructive they are when our own young people in stress open fire with guns too easily bought in our schools and communities.  We need to analyze how that culture of violence in which we live negatively impacts us as persons and leads to thinking that violence will stop the pain.

Kathleen Kanet

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