“May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life.”

– Pope Francis, World Day of Peace Message 2017

PEACE AND NONVIOLENCE.

We (can) see how our simple actions (can) have far reaching effects. Our institutions and ministries are noted for theirefforts to be places of peace and nonviolence. We create places of respect, practice honesty, promote justice and nurture wholesome relationships.

Statements from the JPIC Office

“CAN NONVIOLENT CIVIL RESISTANCE STOP PUTIN?”  This article by Isak Svensson and guest contributor Sebastian van Baalen was published in Political Violence at a Glance on March 11, 2022. Indeed, history has demonstrated over and over again that lasting peace with justice can truly be achieved through non-violent, non-collaboration, and non-cooperation with unjust oppressors. 

Read the article: CAN NONVIOLENT CIVIL RESISTANCE STOP PUTIN?

Daniel Hunter’s article linked below is very inspirational and shows how brave, unarmed resistance is being used in the Ukraine to resist the Russian invasion and stop the brutality of war.  It shows the power of civil non-cooperation and resistance to “disarm” an invading army by appealing to their shared humanity.  This stance of non-violent resistance is not without risk and many may die in this effort to bring peace, but it is a way to resist without contributing to the violence of war.  War cannot bring about lasting peace.  Only recognition of our shared humanity has the power to do that.

Ukraine’s secret weapon may prove to be civilian resistance by Daniel Hunter

Click here to read the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) statement released on February 3, 2022 condemning the racism and resultant threats to Historically Black Colleges that have escalated in recent days and months.

As members of LCWR, the Wheaton Franciscans stand with other women religious in the USA in calling for our nation to begin a dialogue about the racism that affects us all, and asking all of us to begin facing our history of racism honestly, so that healing can begin.  No healing is possible until we are willing to face our own history through truth-telling and until we begin to explore realistic restorative justice.

Another Lethal Virus Ravages the United States
By Beatrice Hernandez, OSF—Wheaton Franciscan JPIC Coordinator

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we in the United States are facing an even more deadly virus that threatens all of us—the insidious and lethal virus of racism.

As of June 1, 2020, COVID-19 has already claimed 107,000 lives in the US, with over 1.8 million confirmed cases country-wide.  Black, brown, and native American communities have been the hardest hit due to racial disparities in dangerous work environments, access to adequate housing, nutrition and healthcare.   These disparities are not accidental but are the result of over 400 years of racism against these very same communities of color.  The COVID-19 crisis brought to the consciousness of every American just how costly, in terms of human life, racism can be.  It was during this devastating pandemic that violence in the United States erupted again in an all too familiar way.

On May 24, 2020, at a little after 8 PM, George Perry Floyd was arrested after being accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill at a market in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Mr. Floyd, while handcuffed and face down on the cement pavement of the street, was murdered by Minneapolis police officers, one of whom pinned Mr. Floyd down with his knee against Floyd’s neck while another officer held down his legs and another compressed his back.  While Mr. Floyd pleaded for them to stop, saying “I can’t breathe,” witnesses standing nearby also yelled for the police to stop, saying, “You’re going to kill this man!!”  Still, Officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on the right side of Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, including 2 minutes and 53 seconds after Mr. Floyd became unresponsive.  A young girl bystander had the courage to film the entire incident with her cell phone in order to document the injustice she was witnessing.  This graphic and disturbing video has been shown over and over again on TV and social media, causing untold anguish and pain to all who see it—another black man murdered in broad daylight, before many witnesses by the police.  Indeed, the officer at one point looks directly into the camera, his left hand in his pocket, seemingly without a care in the world, while his knee is killing a human being.  And he has reason not to fear repercussions for his actions.  There have been innumerable episodes of police brutality and extrajudicial police killings of unarmed black men and women in their custody, without convictions, and often without charges even being filed against the perpetrators.  Even when video recordings have been used to document these crimes, convictions almost never happen!  Not only killings of black men by police, but also by white civilians almost never result in convictions.   The shooting of unarmed Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman on February 26, 2012, simply walking home from a store through a neighborhood where he was visiting relatives, resulted in a not guilty verdict after Zimmerman claimed “self-defense.”  More recently, three white men cornered and the shot a black man, Ahmaud Arbery on February 23, 2020, while he was out for a jog near his home.  The men claimed they “mistook him” for a suspect in some recent neighborhood break-ins.  These men were not even arrested until May and have not yet come to trial.  The video of Floyd’s death brings to mind a litany of innocent black lives taken with impunity by police or white civilians:  Amadou Diallo, Manuel Loggins Jr, Ronald Madison, Endra James, Sean Bell, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Samuel DuBose, Freddie Gray, Natasha McKenna, Walter Scott, Michael Brown, Laquan McDonald, Tamir Rice, Yvette Smith, Rekia Boyd, Kendra James, LaTanya Haggerty, Atatiana Koquice Jefferson ….  It seems the list never ends. 

When I saw the video of Floyd’s death, my heart broke and my stomach lurched!  This man, immobilized and helpless on the ground was having his life taken by police officers who are sworn to serve and protect.  Civilian witnesses pleaded for them to stop—pleaded for his life—to no avail.  George Floyd repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe,” reminiscent of Eric Garner’s last words, to no avail.  Most heart wrenching of all was George Floyd’s calling out to his Mother, who died over 10 years ago.  Why call on her at that moment—because a mother is the one who protects us when fear overwhelms us; a mother soothes and comforts us when we suffer; a mother loves us when hatred seems to engulf us.  But in this case, I couldn’t help but think that George called out to his mother because he knew he was dying.  He called out to her to help him face his own death and to welcome him into her loving arms as he crossed the threshold between death and new life.  Sadness, anger, and frustration washed over me as I saw human life and breath taken from a black man by the knee of a police officer on his neck.  The scene, all too poignantly, has come to symbolize the yolk of racism that black Americans have borne for the last four centuries. 

While I am somewhat heartened by the multiracial makeup of the peaceful protesters that have marched across the country demanding justice for George Floyd and an end to racism and the acceptance of white privilege that allows these tragedies to continue, I am also outraged that violence and looting have hijacked the righteous indignation of so many of us and turned the media’s attention to reinforcing the stereotype of black people as lawless, threatening vandals (even though some of those destroying and looting were white).  It is time for all of us to examine how we personally benefit from white privilege.  Do we hesitate to call the police when we need help?  Do we worry about the safety of our loved ones every time they leave home?  When driving, do our stomachs knot with fear when being pulled over for a traffic violation?  If an officer asks us for our driver’s license, are we afraid to reach into our purse to retrieve it—for fear the officer will mistake our wallet for a gun?  When walking or jogging, do we fear being stopped and questioned about a recent crime in the area?  When looking to buy a home, do we consider our race before we decide where we might be able to purchase a home, or is our first concern the price and whether we can afford it?  There are so many ways that white privilege benefits us in everyday life.  Until we are ready to insist that black lives really do matter and that black men and women deserve to be treated as equals of white Americans, nothing will change.  Until we come to love and accept the equal dignity of all human beings, nothing will change, and we will continue to experience the ugly power that racism continues to exert in our society.  We need to reflect on our own lives and do the hard work necessary to change our hearts.  Actions proceed from the values that we hold.  The values that influence our everyday choices will only change with honest introspection.  Structural societal change will only come when we are able to see injustice, speak out against it, and work to build “a more perfect union.”  We must be willing to stand together and shout from the highest rooftops:  BLACK LIVES MATTER!   

June 3, 2020

We consider all the conditions necessary to accept the basic dignity of the human person and provide a non-threatening and safe place.  We are conscious of welcoming people and offering basic courtesies. We are mindful of the ways we can build-up or help destroy a person’s self-worth by our actions. As Mother Clara has requested of us: love is the queen in our lives. We seek to find ways to resolve our conflicts early.

We desire to know the truth. By our study, reflection and engaging in conversations, we seek to become persons of wisdom. We honor the importance of honest and timely communications. We seek out ways for people to truly come to know themselves and to realize what they have to offer others. Our helpfulness is not imposed but intended to encourage the ability of the person to accept and to respond to their situations. We enrich our understandings as we prepare educational and spiritual programs.

Our actions for justice are imbued with peace. To create the common good, we negotiate in fairness. We look to honor both the challenges of responsible actions and freedom of options.

In our efforts to establish wholesome relationships, we seek to provide adequate resources so that a job can be done well. Resources can include equipment, time, skill training and mentoring. We call attention to the ways that trust, and support is being demonstrated. In especially difficult and tense situations, trust and support has to be developed and monitored.