Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Day 2010 Immigration Reform Rally - DC - Part 2

More photos from today's immigration reform rally and civil disobedience at the White House in Washington, DC.

May Day 2010 Immigration Reform Rally - DC - Part 1

Here are some photos from today's immigration reform rally in front of the White House in Washington, DC. The star was indisputably Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois who, after delivering a scathing and sarcastic response to President Obama's assertion that Congress was too tired to tackle immigration reform, crossed the street and was arrested outside the President's residence along with a couple of dozen other protestors including CASA de Maryland director Gustavo Torres and Maryland State Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez.

The World People's Conference

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

As you know, in December 2009 the World Conference of States on climate took place in Copenhagen. It did not reach any consensus because it was dominated by the logic of capital and not by the logic of ecology. This means that the delegates and heads of state present attended more to their economic interests than to the real or global interests of their people. The question for them was: how much I stop earning by accepting ecological precepts that seek to purify the planet, thus ensuring the conditions for the continuity of life. One could not see the whole, life and earth, but the particular interests of each country.

Ecological logic perceives the collective interest, since it seeks a balance between man and nature, between production, consumption and the ability to replenish the resources and services of Earth. When one breaks this equation, which the capitalist mode of production has been doing for centuries, unwanted effects occur, called "externalities": the devastation of nature, grave social injustice, disregard for the needs of future generations and the irreversible effects of global warming that, in the end, may ruin everything.

In Cochabamba (Bolivia) exactly the opposite was seen: the triumph of the logic of ecology and life. Between April 19 and 23 the Peoples' World Summit on Climate Change and the Rights of the Mother Earth was held. There were 35,500 representatives of the peoples of the Earth, coming from 142 countries. The center was occupied by the Earth, thought of as Pachamama, the great Mother, her dignity and rights, life in all its immense diversity (overcoming any anthropocentrism), our common responsibility to ensure the ecological, social and spiritual conditions that allow us to live, without threats, on this planet.

The 17 workshops, unlike Copenhagen, reached an extraordinary consensus, since all had in mind and heart the love of life and Mama Pacha "with whom we all have an indivisible, interdependent and complementary and spiritual relationship" as the final document says.

Instead of competitive capitalism, progress and unlimited growth, hostile to the balance with nature, we put the 'good life', a main category of Andean cosmology, as a real alternative for humanity, which is living in harmony with oneself, with others, with the Pachamama, the energies of nature, air, soil, water, mountains, animals and plants and in harmony with the spirits and with the Divine, supported by an economy that is decent and sufficient for everyone, including other beings.

They drafted a Declaration of the Rights of the Mother Earth that provides among other things: the right to life and existence; the right to be respected; the right to continue her life cycles and processes free of human disturbance; the right to maintain her identity and integrity with her distinct and interrelated beings, the right to water as a source of life, the right to clean air, the right to wholistic health, the right to be free from contamination and pollution, toxic and radioactive waste, the right to full and immediate restoration for the violations inflicted by human activities.

It also foresaw the creation of an International Court of Climate and Environmental Justice, with the legal and binding capacity to warn, prosecute and punish states, companies and individuals for acts or omissions that pollute and cause climate change, and who commit serious assaults on the ecosystems that ensure the "good life."

It was resolved to bring the results of this Summit of Peoples to the UN so that their contents are reflected upon at the next World Conference which will take place in November/December of this year in Cancun (Mexico).

The deeper significance of this summit is the growing conviction among the people that we can not trust the destiny of life on Earth to the heads of state, who are hostages of their capitalist dogmas. Unfortunately, Brazil did not send any representatives, since for the present government the "acceleration of growth" seems more important than ensuring the future of life. The People's Summit rightly pointed out the direction for a bio-civilization in equilibrium of all with everyone and everything.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Director of Radio Progreso in Honduras Receives Death Threats

Yesterday, we wrote about Fr. Javier Giraldo, a Colombian Jesuit and human rights activist who has been receiving death threats and we asked for prayers for Fr. Giraldo. Writing a comment on the post, a friend in Honduras asked: What about Fr. Ismael Moreno, aka Padre Melo, the Honduran Jesuit who directs Radio Progreso? Padre Melo has been receiving death threats too.

Padre Melo has gone into hiding after he and one of the radio station's reporters, Gerardo Chévez, were threatened. The latest messages came in the form of text messages sent to Chévez's cellphone: "jaja les están quebrando el cu. . . a los periodistas habla mier. . . como vos" ("haha they are breaking the butt of journalists who talk s--- like you") and "estamos eliminando a los Chévez después siguen los curas" ("we are eliminating the Chévezes and then the priests"). The threats have been taken very seriously because six reporters and an announcer have already been killed in Honduras in the last two months: Jorge Alberto Orellana (April 20), Luis Chévez Hernández (April 11), José Bayardo Mairena Ramírez and Manuel Juarez (March 26), Nahún Palacios Arteaga (March 14), David Meza Montecinos (March 11), y Joseph Hernández Ochoa (March 1).

In a statement issued April 19th, the Jesuit superiors of El Progreso (Fr. Valentín Menéndez, SJ), Yoro (Fr. Carlos Solano, SJ) and Tocoa (Fr. Juan José Colato, SJ) denounced the threats and indicated that they believe it is retaliation for humanitarian assistance and protection provided by Padre Melo to a young woman, Irma Melissa Villanueva, another Radio Progreso journalist, who was beaten and raped by police during a resistance march in Choloma last August. Her case is known to the District Attorney and national and international human rights organizations.

The Jesuits have filed a formal complaint with the Special District Attorney for Human Rights in San Pedro Sula, asking for a thorough investigation into the death threats and that those responsible be brought to justice.

So, yes, please keep Padre Melo and Gerardo Chévez in your prayers as well. It's a crying shame that in the Year For Priests members of the clergy are being targeted only for doing what Jesus commanded: standing up for the lives and well-being of their flock.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Psalm of the Dispossessed

With this post, I'm sure many will think that this blog has fallen from the margins of the Church into the great sea of the unwashed. I come upon the strangest things (usually while looking for images to illustrate Fr. Hoyos' blog) and this time it was this song (I have an affinity for variations on the Lord's Prayer) and the Spanish Celtic heavy metal band that produced it, Mägo de Oz ("The Wizard of Oz).

Mägo has been around since 1988 and their founder, Txus di Fellatio (yes, it's a stage name and blasphemous), is nothing if not a fabulous lyricist -- somewhat in the Leonard Cohen tradition. They have more than ten albums out, including a religious rock opera, Jesús de Chamberí, which deals with the theme of Jesus' return as a homeless man on a bench in the Madrid neighborhood of Chamberí. As the title song would have it, Jesus selects 12 disciples including 2 prostitutes, 5 ex-cons, 2 black immigrants, a rock poet, Peter the hobo and a juvenile drug addict. And he tells them:

"Escuchad mi palabra
un mandamiento nuevo os doy:
derribad las naciones,
con tolerancia y a golpes de amor"...

"Listen to my word
I give you a new commandment:
overthrow the nations,
with tolerance and blows of love"...

Well, you get the idea...Anyway, Mägo's theology departs significantly from the institutional Catholic Church, which gets a bad rap in their lyrics for its rigid moralism. A case in point would be En Nombre de Dios ("In the Name of God"), a song from their Gaia II album (2005), which is a devastating medley of the Church's homophobic teachings and the general failure to keep celibacy vows. Mägo sheds an unforgiving light on the institution's hypocrisy.

This opposition to institutional religion is picked up again in Creo. Mägo's credo is succinctly summed up in the second verse:

No creo en un altar que salve mi fe,
ser honesto es mejor que un cielo lleno de himnos.
No creo en un líder que dirija mis pies,
mi rey es mi voluntad, mi patria mi hogar.

I don't believe in an altar that saves my faith;
to be truthful is better than a heaven full of hymns.
I don't believe in a leader who guides my feet,
My will is my king; my country, my home.

Politically, Mägo is environmentalist, anti-death penalty (Gaia) and anti-American cultural imperialism (Yankees Go Home). The band leans towards a sort of carpe diem animism, and more than occasionally flirts with the Satanic. The psalm which we share below (also from Gaia II) follows immediately on the Cantata del Diablo / The Devil's Cantata. But read the lyrics carefully. Are Mägo really Devil worshippers or are they just bringing out the diabolic elements in our Church?

Finally, before I go on, a technical note: I have created hyperlinks to a site called The Land of Oz -- a fan page that purports to translate Mägo's songs into English. It is useful for the lyrics in Spanish which you can get for the individual songs and without commercial interruption -- unlike on most lyrics sites. DO NOT trust the English translations. They are very poor and frequently downright wrong. I'm stunned that Wikipedia links to it. I have made my own translations for this post.

El Salmo de los Desheredados (El Dios de los Tristes)

Padre nuestro, de todos nosotros,
de los pobres, de los sin techo
de los marginados y de los desprotegidos,
de los desheredados
y de los dueños de la miseria,
de los que te siguen
y de los que en ti ya no creemos.

Baja de los cielos,
pues aquí está el Infierno.
Baja de tu trono,
pues aquí hay guerras, hambre, injusticias.
No hace falta que seas uno y trino,
con uno sólo que tenga ganas de ayudar,
nos bastaría.
¿Cuál es tu reino?¿El Vaticano?
¿La banca?¿La alta política?
Nuestro reino es Nigeria, Etiopía,
Colombia, Hiroshima.
El pan nuestro de cada día
son las violaciones, la violencia de género,
la pederastia, las dictaduras,
el cambio climático.

En la tentación caigo a diario,
no hay mañana en la que no esté tentado
de crear a un Dios humilde,
a un Dios justo.
Un Dios que esté en la tierra,
en los valles, los ríos,
un Dios que viva en la lluvia,
que viaje a través del viento
y acaricie nuestra Alma.

Un Dios de los tristes, de los homosexuales.
Un Dios más humano
Un Dios que no castigue, que enseñe.
Un Dios que no amenace, que proteja.

Que si me caigo, me levante,
que si me pierdo, me tienda su mano.
Un Dios que si yerro no me culpe
y que si dudo me entienda.
Pues para eso me dotó de inteligencia,
para dudar de todo.

Padre Nuestro, de todos nosotros,
¿por qué nos has olvidado?
Padre Nuestro, ciego, sordo y desocupado,
¿por qué nos has abandonado?

Psalm of the Dispossessed (God of the Sorrowful)

Our Father of all of us,
of the poor, of the homeless,
of the marginalized and the vulnerable,
of the dispossessed
and the owners of poverty,
of those who follow You
and those of us who no longer believe in You.

Come down from Heaven,
because down here is Hell.
Come down from Your throne,
because here there is war, hunger and injustice.
It is not necessary for You to be One and Triune,
just One who wants to help
would be enough for us.
What is Your Kingdom? The Vatican?
The banks? The political elite?
Our Kingdom is Nigeria, Ethiopia,
Colombia, Hiroshima.
Our daily bread is
rape, domestic violence,
pederasty, dictatorships,
climate change.

I fall into temptation daily,
there will be no day when I am not tempted
to believe in a humble God,
a just God.
A God who is on earth,
in the valleys, the rivers,
a God who lives in the rain,
who travels on the wind
and caresses our Soul.

A God of the sorrowful, of homosexuals,
a more human God...
A God who does not punish but instructs.
A God who does not threaten but protects.

Who picks me up if I fall,
Who, if I am lost, lends me a hand.
A God who does not blame me if I err,
and understands when I am in doubt.
Because for this, He bestowed intelligence upon me,
to doubt everything.

Our Father, of all of us,
why have You forgotten us?
Our Father, blind, deaf, and idle,
why have You abandoned us?

Death Threats to Colombian priest and human rights activist Javier Giraldo, S.J.

The Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular-Programa por la Paz (CINEP/PPP) yesterday issued a communique condemning graffiti that have appeared since April 22, 2010 in various locations in Bogota, Colombia, against Jesuit priest and CINEP/PPP researcher Fr. Javier Giraldo Moreno.

The graffiti include death threats against Fr. Giraldo, who has reported 201 crimes and murders committed by the armed forces, paramilitary groups and guerrilla in the Comunidad de Paz de San José de Apartadó since July 9, 1996. He has also sent 18 claims denouncing a number of crimes, almost all of which have remained unpunished.

CINEP/PPP said: "We reject these threats against Fr. Giraldo, who has tried to defend human rights and not leave unpunihsed the crimes and violations of International Human Rights that have been and continued to be committed in Colombia. These threats are clearly a response to his unwavering commitment to the victims of this violence."

CINEP/PPP, a Jesuit organization, is demanding that the Colombian government investigate who is responsible for these threats and clearly outline what means of protection it is offering to those affected, without which the work of the defenders of human rights cannot be truly secure.

In an interview with the Associated Press, the 66 year-old priest said that he had not personally seen the threatening graffiti but that he thought it might be the work of someone he had denounced in the past. He said he does not plan to report the threats because he has no faith in the Colombian justice system which he characterized as "very corrupt".

Please keep Fr. Giraldo and other human rights activists in your prayers.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Arizona: Take Action Now

For those of you who might have missed the Rachel Maddow Show last night on MSNBC, Rachel did a very good job exploring the financial and authorship connections of Arizona's new anti-immigrant bill to white supremacist groups and ideologues. The anti-immigrant group FAIR is taking partial credit for the authorship of SB 1070 and Rachel shows how this group in its inception was funded significantly by the Pioneer Fund which believes in the genetic superiority of Caucasians. She also offers considerable exposure to the racist views of FAIR's founder, Dr. John Tanton. And she exposes the bill's main sponsor Senator Russell Pearce's anti-Semitism. It's not pretty and you can read the transcript here.

And if all this leaves you thoroughly disgusted, here are two things you can do right now:

1. We desperately need comprehensive federal immigration reform legislation and Rachel is saying that our Congressional representatives don't want to touch it. We voted them in and we have to keep the pressure on. This Saturday, May 1st, there will be rallies and marches for immigration reform throughout the country. Click here to find a rally near you. In the metropolitan Washington area, we will be gathering at 2 p.m. at Lafayette Park across from the White House (Metro: Farragut West or McPherson Square). Let's show the racist politicians in Arizona that there are more of us than there are of them. Let's tell our Congressional representatives to make immigration reform a priority or we will boot them out in November.

2. Go to and sign the pledge to boycott Arizona until such time as this racist law is repealed. The text of the pledge which will be e-mailed on your behalf to the governor, and state and local tourism and commerce officials, says simply: "As long as racial profiling is legal in Arizona, I will do what I can to not visit the state and to avoid spending dollars there."

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Trampled Vineyard of Benedict XVI

This assessment of Pope Benedict XVI's pontificate by the well-known and respected Spanish theologian Juan José Tamayo is brutal. -- RG

by Juan José Tamayo (English translation by Rebel Girl)
La Nación

For Pope Benedict XVI, elected five years ago, absolute rule has not proved difficult. The Pope has received almost unanimous support from cardinals, archbishops, bishops and the Roman curia, and almost total silence from the few dissenting church leaders.

This was precisely the strategy designed jointly by John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger and followed by the latter during the five years of his pontificate: to replace the progressive bishops with bishops of a conservative, and in some cases, fundamentalist bent.

The criteria for episcopal appointments have been faithfulness to doctrine, obedience to the Pope, and observance of liturgical form.

Where are the gospel exemplariness, the option for the poor, the struggle for justice, and church reform advocated by Vatican II?

The long-awaited and necessary reform of the Curia has been reduced to a series of changes that have further strengthened centralism and the conservative orientation of the Catholic Church.

The appointment of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone as Vatican Secretary of State is a good example of the cloning of Pope Benedict XVI himself in the authoritarian government of the Church, in the ideological reproduction of his thinking, in the harsh concept of dogma and ritualistic litugical practices.

Benedict XVI has surrounded himself with a praetorian guard that gives him a distorted view of reality and tries to protect him from criticism not only from the secular world but from within the Catholic Church itself.

This is the same guard, for example, that instead of recognizing the serious criminal nature of the pedophilia cases among priests and religious, and helping the pope to take effective measures to eradicate such practices, dares to say that the very act of bringing them to light is part of a perfectly orchestrated anti-clerical campaign by secularist sectors, hatred and persecution of the Church and the desire to discredit and undermine the prestige of the Pope.

But the praetorians don't worry about the suffering of the victims and even less about bringing the abusers, who are the real butchers, to court. By this attitude, what they are doing is protecting the perpetrators.

The Pope has around himself a bunch of intellectually mediocre advisers, who are morally reprehensible and ignorant, or worse, distorters of history, which says very little about the much-vaunted intellectual prestige of Joseph Ratzinger. Two examples serve as evidence of this:

One is the preacher who, during Holy Week, compared the Pope's suffering from the criticism he has received due to the sex abuse cases with the Holocaust.

The other, Cardinal Bertone, number two at the Vatican and Benedict XVI's right hand man since his days at the CDF who, with the intention of demonizing homosexuals, has linked homosexuality with pedophilia while, in order to defend the anachronistic and unfounded imposition of celibacy on priests, has denied any relationship between it and the sexual abuse of some priests.

With consultants and collaborators such as these, it's not surprising that the spokesman for the Church devotes more time to drawing away from foolish things and nonsensical opinions than to providing objective information about the activities of the Vatican.

Benedict XVI has regressed many centuries, but not to the time of Jesus at Lake Tiberias or to the origins of Christianity, nor to the medieval prophetic movements, but rather to the Counter Reformation Council of Trent (1545-1563) and the First Vatican Council (1870), which defined the dogma of the infallibility of the Pope. His pastoral point of reference for his pontificate has not been the tolerant figure of John XXIII, or even the Hamlet-like attitude of Paul VI, but the decidedly anti-modernist behavior of Pius X.

The result? Vatican II held hostage, theology gagged, a walled-in church that protects itself from imaginary opponents -- in short, a "trampled vineyard", as Benedict XVI himself would say, not by non-existent secularizing "wild boars", but by many believers and church leaders who have squandered the liberating ethical legacy of Jesus of Nazareth and replaced it with a neo-liberal theology of the market. The solution? It is not in my hands. We must think together. It will be the subject of another article.

Boycott Arizona

Economic fallout is already starting following the passage in Arizona of the nation's toughest anti-immigrant legislation last Friday. Calls for an economic boycott of the state have come from:

  • Rep. Raúl Grijalva (AZ-7): "We are calling on organizations not to schedule conventions or conferences in the state until it reverses this decision. This is a specifically targeted call for action, not a blanket rejection of the state economy. Conventions are a large source of visitors and revenue, and targeting them is the most effective way to make this point before it’s too late. Just as professional athletes refused to recognize Arizona until it recognized Martin Luther King Jr., we are calling on businesses and organizations not to bring their conventions to Arizona until it recognizes civil rights and the meaning of due process."

  • San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera: "San Francisco should lead the way in adopting and aggressively pursuing a sweeping boycott of Arizona and Arizona-based businesses until this unjust law is repealed or invalidated. My office is fully committed to work with San Francisco city departments and commissions to identify all applicable contracts, and to pursue termination wherever possible. And my office stands ready to assist in any legal challenges in whatever way it can."

  • La Opinión (Los Angeles, CA): "We express our outrage in the face of this abuse of power. We call for a boycott of all goods and services from Arizona and pledge to avoid tourism in the state as well. Let's send a signal of our disgust with an arrogant state government that asserts powers it does not have in order to persecute a minority population."

Some have already moved to direct action:

  • About 70 independent truck drivers based in California and Arizona have agreed to stop moving loads into or out of Arizona in protest of the new law. About 40 percent of the Mexican-grown produce that's consumed in North America comes through Nogales and a revolt among independent truckers would create backlogs in moving that produce out of Nogales warehouses.

  • The Board of Governors of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), moments after Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law the harshest anti-immigration bill passed in the U.S. in more than a decade, instructed its Executive Committee to move the Association’s fall 2010 conference, previously scheduled for Arizona, to another state. “We cannot in good conscience spend association dollars in a state that dehumanizes the people we represent and fight for. What Governor Brewer has done by signing this bill into law is to validate all of the irrational fears by people who are not willing to acknowledge the economic and cultural benefits of immigration to our country.”
Others are contemplating legal challenges to the law:

  • Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson: "I will be asking the Office of the General Counsel of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to study the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act” that was signed into law last Friday by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. It is my hope that the Conference would consider, when appropriate, filing a “friend of the court” brief in connection with suits that may be filed to challenge the constitutionality of the Act."

  • Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon on Friday said that the city may file a lawsuit to halt the toughest law in the nation targeting illegal immigration. The Democratic mayor said he has requested the City Council on Tuesday to consider suing the state on grounds the new immigration law is "unconstitutional" and "unenforceable."
Stay tuned...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

My Mother's Three Words

Today I visited my mother who has advanced dementia in her assisted living facility. It has been a long process over the last few years of watching as one ability after another slips away from her.

Now she is losing her speech. The all-but-dissertation sociology PhD student, the master Scrabble player and worker of crosswords, the ace proofreader, the woman who could speak two languages fluently and three others to varying degrees is gone. Now my mother is tired of words and sits in silence with her hand folded to her chest like a little Quaker nun. Like my grandmother before her, she seems only to be waiting for God to take her home. I worry and fuss over her but can only elicit nods or head shakes and the odd thumbs up. It's heartbreaking.

But then I find the key that opens her up. I sit so that I am looking directly into her eyes and say those time-worn words: "I love you, Mom". She looks back at me and in a barely audible voice pronounces the only words she will say in our two-hour visit before retreating to her inner silence: "I love you." The words we need the most, the only words that really matter.