Friday, February 12, 2016

Called to Live Mercy in Our Common Home

By Jennifer Reyes Lay

The weekend of January 23rd-26th I traveled to Washington D.C. to attend the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering on behalf of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word.  The theme for the conference was “Called To Live Mercy in Our Common Home,” drawing on both the Year of Mercy and Pope Francis’ encyclical Ladato Si’.  It just so happened that Blizzard Jonas was also visiting Washington D.C. that same weekend, but that didn’t stop the 200 or so of us from attending, and thanks to technology we were still able to connect and hear from most of the major keynote speakers! 

The Conference brought together various social ministries throughout the United States, some national organizations like Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities, and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, and other smaller, local groups like state Catholic Caucuses, justice coordinators, campus ministers, and students from Catholic Universities. 
A major part of the first two days were Keynote presentations.  The opening keynote was given by Bishop Nelson Perez, a member of the USCCB subcommittee for Hispanic Affairs and subcommittee for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).  Bishop Perez talked about the power of encounter, how Christ doesn’t make appointments but just shows up in our lives in unexpected ways in the form of our brothers and sisters, in the form of the poor.  We are called to be the living Mercy of God, and there is transformational power in these encounters we are invited to have during this Year of Mercy. 



The following day Sr. Kathleen McManus, OP, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Portland gave the Slat and Light Plenary on the Global Suffering of Women as an Ethical Imperative for the Church.  She used the Scripture story of the bent over woman in Luke who is healed and can stand straight as an example of encounter on the periphery with those who are suffering, and the transformative journey to freedom and liberation.  She offered some powerful and challenging testimony on how the patriarchal theologies of the Church function to reinforce the global suffering of women.  She also shared about the power present in acts of resistance which is the power of the resurrection, of life saying no to death.  After her talk there was a powerful panel of women witnesses who shared about their own experiences as women, particularly through the lens of their other identities as women of color, immigrants, or differently abled. 

There were various workshops to choose from and I attended one on Living the Jubilee year of mercy and Global Solidarity presented by Fr. David Garcia (from San Antonio!) and Laudato Si in Action presented by Eli McCarthy and Joan Rosenhauer.  Fr. Garcia gave a wonderful presentation on the context for declaring a Jubilee Year of Mercy and global solidarity as a response to what Pope Francis has called the globalization of indifference.  Eli and Joan talked about the work being done in Catholic communities throughout the U.S. to implement Laudato Si.  Participants in the workshop also shared about their own experiences sharing Laudato Si in their parishes, schools, and congregations, including what has worked well and what challenges have come.  I was able to share about the community conversations we have been having throughout the CCVI Congregation and Institutions in the U.S., Mexico, and Peru.  There are many opportunities and resources to implement the call of Laudato Si in our lives, and it was wonderful to hear about what others around the country are doing. 

A big focus of this conference was on advocacy, and putting our faith into action through political participation, advocating for policies that support our Catholic values.  Most of Monday was spent on political education preparing for Congressional visits the following day.  Unfortunately the Congressional visits were cancelled due to the blizzard, but we still received good information to take home for local congressional visits.  Some of the main topics identified were relating to immigration, climate change, criminal justice reform, and the budget.  This was an important part of the conference that was a good reminder about the power of our collective action and appealing to values over partisan politics.  I learned that the number of Catholics in the Democratic party and the Republican party are very similar in both the House and the Senate.  This shows that Catholic values could be a unifying bridge, appealing to their common values, in what is currently a very divided Congress.  We were also reminded that you don’t have to be an expert to contact your representative or senator and tell them what you care about and why you want them to vote a certain way.  Our elected officials need to hear from us, and value what we have to say, even if at the end of the day they don’t vote how we want them to.  


Overall despite the blizzard raging outside, we kept warm and fired up inside with engaging discussions and challenging presentations, motivated to carry what we learned with us back into our communities and also back into our local and national politics.  I am grateful for the opportunity to have participated in this Conference, and was able to make a lot of wonderful contacts with potential future partners whose organizations are also working to incarnate the love of God in the world by responding to the suffering of the poor and most vulnerable throughout our world.  

IT Staff Set Goal of 100% Recycling for all Electronics

The IT staff of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word have already been living out the challenge of Laudato Si to better care for our common home, through their goal of recycling 100% of the technology and electronic equipment that the sisters use so that nothing goes to the landfill.  Carlos Dominguez and Hans Breitbarth, in collaboration with Robert Martinez from Maintenance, shared some of the ways that they have achieved this goal.  

They found a company, STS Electronic Recycling Inc., that guarantees 100% of the items turned in to them will be recycled.  They have also donated about 25 old computers to Catholic Charities for use by the immigrant and refugee populations they serve.  Holy Rosary Catholic School has also received some of the Congregation’s old computers.  For battery recycling they use the company All Techs, or for computer batteries they can be sent back to the manufacturers where they will be recycled and refurbished.  Ink toners can also be sent back to either the manufacturer or to Office Depot for recycling.  
If you have any old electronics lying around that you no longer use, make sure you don’t throw them out!  Just contact Carlos or Hans and they will work with Robert to come pick it up and make sure it is recycled.  Thank you to this wonderful team that is helping our Congregation to put into practice caring for our common home!! 

San Antonio Sisters and Collaborators Gather to Discuss Laudato Si'

On Friday, Feb. 5th a group of around 40 CCVI Sisters and Collaborators came together in the Heritage Hall meeting room at The Village to discuss Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si and share ideas about how we can incorporate this important call and challenge from the Pope into our daily lives.  Jennifer Reyes Lay, Assistant Director of the Congregational Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Office began with a summary power point of the encyclical, highlighting what is going on in our common home.  Then the attendees broke into small groups to discuss their own reactions to the encyclical, how our spirituality influences our lifestyle, and concrete actions we could take on a local, state-wide, and national level. 

There was lots of wonderful discussion and positive energy flowing about how we can respond together!  Some of the ideas shared in the large group discussion included riding the bus once a week to see where the bus lines could be improved, analyzing our energy use in all CCVI buildings and then coming up with a plan to reduce our energy or switch to more renewable energy sources, planting more community gardens, buying fair trade coffee, tea, and chocolate, reducing our meat consumption and having protein alternatives served in our dining facilities, and using real dishes/silverware/cups at meetings instead of disposables. 

Dr. Dennis Gonzalez speaks about the work of
CHRISTUS Santa Rosa
Howard Homan from Headwaters shares about
their work caring for our common home at the Headwaters
We were also blessed to hear from local CCVI ministry representatives about the great work they are doing in their respective institutions to care for our common home.  Dr. Dennis Gonzalez shared about the mission of CHRISTUS Santa Rosa and how that connects to the spirituality of the sisters and caring for our common home.  Dr. Jeff Crane from the University of Incarnate Word (UIW) Sustainability Office shared about many of the actions taken by the university to be more sustainable including having their engineering students build a 100% solar house on campus, increasing the community garden space on campus, and installing water fountains that make it easier to re-fill reusable water bottles, along with increased efforts at recycling throughout the campus.  Howard Homan, Volunteer Coordinator for Headwaters spoke on behalf of The Headwaters Sanctuary about their many efforts to preserve the area of the Headwaters, involving many volunteers from various CCVI ministries and institutions to help them care for this important piece of our common home!
Dr. Jeff Crane shares about the many sustainability projects
going on at the University of the Incarnate Word.

At the end of our gathering all attendees came together for a moving prayer, traveling the stations of the earth in lament for the ways we harm our mother earth and praise for all of the gifts she so generously shares with us to sustain life.  Participants ended reciting the Pledge of St. Francis which can be found here: http://www.catholicclimatecovenant.org/pledge.  You too can take the pledge to pray, act, and advocate on behalf of our common home. 


Following our final Laudato Si workshop in Peru, the Congregational JPIC Office will be sending out a report to all of the sisters, summarizing the workshops, resources, and ideas expressed about actions we could take as a Congregation to be better stewards of our earth.  Please keep an eye out for this document in the coming weeks, and continue to take actions every day to care for our Mother Earth! 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Experience of Mission in Ciudad Juarez

By Sr. Petra Peña Matias

Dear Sisters and Brothers: 
I would like to share with you part of my recent experience living and working in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

This experience has been one of giving myself to support people in marginalized neighborhoods, who suffer abuse, injustice and violations of their rights. In accompanying these families through prayer and reflection on the Word of God; I have discovered that they are people with many values, with leadership skills to get ahead, but because of the lack of resources they have not had the opportunity for adequate education. We Sisters who are part of Tonantzin Women’s Center, have supported and encouraged women, children and young people through various workshops and believe that it is possible for these people to live with greater dignity as sons and daughters of God.

We thank God that many of these women, children, and youth have benefited and are becoming free from oppression, poverty and marginalization.  Even though some are illiterate, they are happy people able to engage in dialogue and conversation, they know how to question, and no longer remain silent as before. We have some young people who have completed University, thanks to the support of generous donors who collaborate monthly with the Center for the education and training of young people and children, to make them better citizens to serve society. Support is also provided to seniors.

The environment in which these families live has changed.  Their homes have improved, they have planted trees to improve the environment, and orchards are planted to have organic and healthy food. Fruit trees were planted; families have been encouraged to raise backyard animals such as: chickens, rabbits, sheep, and goats for their own consumption and also to sell to improve their own financial situation.

Building ecological toilets and filters for recycling gray water has helped the growth of these trees and care for creation. I have given workshops on ecology and alternative medicine (herbal) to various groups of women. I am filled with joy and gratitude in the Lord, to now see them as they make their syrups, ointments, tinctures, micro dosage, etc., for the most common diseases in the area: diarrhea, flu, fever, infection of the stomach, throat, cough, aches, bruises; all this to help their families and also to sell.

In one neighborhood, women make bread and sell it to help maintain the Center. In two other neighborhoods women learned sewing; they make uniforms for their children and other work they are asked to do which helps their finances.

This is how we, the Sisters who form the Tonantzin Women’s Center, are making real the presence of the merciful love of the Incarnate Word, walking together with these our brothers and sisters.  We seek justice and dignity for the sons and daughters of God, we want to be the hands that support and sustain, that embrace, that comfort and accompany our Lord Jesus Christ who suffers in the multitudes of our brothers and sisters.

My experience in this mission fills me with life, energy, and joy. I want to share with you all that I am very happy to live with these families.  Thanks be to God who gives me the opportunity to serve in this mission.

With love,

Sor Petrita 

Prayer Resources for Lent

As we focus as a Congregation on the issues of Human Trafficking and Care for our Common Home, we encourage you to check out these prayer resources on those topics to help guide you in your Lentan practice this year:

Maryknoll OGC Lenten Reflection Guide logo
Come pray, study, act with us.
The Lenten Reflection Guide from the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns contains reflections, questions, prayers, and actions based on each week’s Gospel reading and the teachings of Pope Francis in his latest encyclical, Laudato Si’.


Click here to download the Maryknoll OGC Lenten Reflection Guide.


Lent offers us all a special opportunity to grow in our relationship with God and to deepen our commitment to a way of life, rooted in our baptism.  Use this 16-page guide individually or in small groups to reflect upon our life patterns, to pray more deeply, and renew our spirits to face the realities of our world.


Lentan Fast for Climate Justice

For Lent 2016 (starting on February 10th) we are organizing another global Lenten Fast for Climate Justice (as we did in 2015). Catholics from around the globe will fast during each of Lent’s 40 days, joining the interfaith Fast For The Climate and the Green Anglicans’ Carbon Fast. We will fast and pray for bold action to solve the climate change crisis. Our fast coincides beautifully with the Pope’s February prayer intention to care for creation (see video).
During each day of Lent, Catholics from a different country will fast for climate justice. GCCM will highlight the impacts of climate change on that country through social media and other communications. 
Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 8.48.00 PMDon’t see your country? Let us know here.
Following Pope Francis’ invitation above, this Lent let’s commit to overcoming our indifference to the climate change crisis and its victims. Let’s pray and fast for the renewal of our relationship with creation and with our brothers and sisters in poverty who are already suffering the impacts of climate change.
- See more at: http://catholicclimatemovement.global/lenten-fast/#sthash.nRGwxYJM.dpuf 


Unanima: Lentan Prayer Resources on Human Trafficking

Out of a reported 4 million people who are trafficked annually both within and outside their country, 80% are women and girls and 50% are children. Over 90% of trafficked persons are sexually exploited. As part of UNANIMA’s work on the NGO Committee to Stop Trafficking in Persons and the NGO Working Group on Girls, we pursue the recognition and protection of the rights of these women and children. We also have an ongoing international campaign to STOP THE DEMAND for Trafficking in Women and Children.


Way of the Cross - Human Trafficking Story



Experiencia de Mision en Ciudad Juarez

Por la Hermana Petra Peña Matias

Queridas Hermanas y Hermanos: 
Quiero compartir con ustedes parte de mi vivencia más reciente   en Cd. Juárez.

Esta ha sido de entrega y acompañamiento a las personas en colonias marginadas, las cuales sufren abusos, injusticias y violación en sus derechos.  Al acompañar a estas familias  a través de la  oración y reflexión de la palabra de Dios;  he ido descubriendo que son personas con muchos valores, con capacidad de liderazgo para salir adelante, pero por la falta de recursos no han tenido la oportunidad de una adecuada preparación. Nosotras las Hermanas que participamos en el Centro Mujeres Tonantzin, hemos promovido a las mujeres, niños, niñas y jóvenes a través de diferentes talleres y constatamos que es posible que estas personas puedan vivir con más dignidad como hijas e hijos de Dios.

Damos gracias a Dios porque varias de estas mujeres, jóvenes y niños, se han beneficiado y van logrando liberarse de la opresión, pobreza y marginación; a pesar de que algunas no saben leer y escribir, hoy son personas felices capaces de entablar un diálogo, una conversación, saben  cuestionar, ya no se quedan calladas como antes. Ya tenemos algunos jóvenes que han terminado la Universidad, gracias al apoyo de personas generosas que colaboran mensualmente con el Centro, para la educación y formación de los jóvenes, niños y niñas, para que sean mejores ciudadanos para servir a la sociedad. También se apoyan a personas de la tercera edad.

El entorno en que viven estas familias ha ido cambiando, sus viviendas han mejorado, hemos plantado árboles para mejorar el ambiente, sean sembrado huertos para tener una alimentación orgánica y sana. Se plantaron árboles frutales; se motiva a las familias para la crianza de animales de traspatio como son: gallinas, conejos, ovejas, cabras,  para  autoconsumo y  vender algo para  mejorar su economía.

La construcción de sanitarios ecológicos y filtros para reciclar las aguas grises ha ayudado al crecimiento de estos árboles y cuidado de la creación; También he dado talleres de ecología y medicina alternativa (de hierbas) a varios grupos de mujeres. Me lleno de alegría y gratitud en el Señor, al verlas actualmente como ellas elaboran sus jarabes, pomadas, tinturas, micro dosis, etc.,  Para las enfermedades más comunes de la zona; diarrea, gripa, temperatura, infecciones del estómago, de la garganta, tos, dolores, golpes; todo esto para atender a sus familias y para vender.
En una colonia, las mujeres hacen pan y lo venden para el mantenimiento de su centro, en otras dos de las  colonias las mujeres aprendieron corte y confección,  ellas hacen los uniformes de sus hijas y algún trabajo que les piden, esto les ayuda en su economía.

Es así como nosotras las Hermanas que formamos el Centro Mujeres Tonantzin, estamos haciendo presencia del amor misericordioso del Verbo Encarnado, caminando juntas con estas hermanas y hermanos nuestros, buscamos la justicia y la dignidad de hijas e hijos de Dios, queremos ser esas manos que apoyan y sostienen, que abrazan, que consuelan y acompañan a nuestro Señor Jesucristo  que sufre en esta multitud de hermanos y hermanas.

Mi experiencia en esta misión me llena de vida, energía, gozo, alegría, quiero compartirles que soy muy feliz al convivir con estas familias, Gracias a  Dios que me dio la oportunidad de servir en  esta Misión. 

Con cariño.

Sor Petrita.

Fracking y Los Derechos Humanos

Estimados miembros del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Derechos Humanos y Empresas Transnacionales y Otras Empresas Comerciales de las Naciones Unidas:

Nosotros, y los 511 suscritos individuales, institucionales y coaliciones, de diversos rincones del mundo, nos contactamos con ustedes para transmitirles una creciente preocupación mundial que afecta a la plena realización de los derechos humanos debido a la evolución de una actividad empresarial de alto riesgo social y ambiental llamada fracturación hidráulica.

La fracturación hidráulica o el fracking, es una tecnología industrial desarrollada recientemente, pero que evoluciona rápidamente en la industria del petróleo y gas. Consiste en perforar al suelo e inyectarle agua, sílice y productos químicos tóxicos a niveles profundos de la geología (en piedras de esquisto) a muy alta presión, con el fin de abrir grietas en el esquisto, lo que libera el petróleo y el gas atrapados en el roca.

A diferencia de las operaciones de petróleo y gas convencionales, la fracturación del esquisto (el fracking) emplea cantidades voluminosas de agua dulce, hasta 20,000,000 litros de agua por pozo. También genera grandes cantidades de residuos tóxicos líquidos para los que no existen instalaciones de tratamiento y eliminación segura y adecuada. Los residuos del fracking, que son a veces radiactivos, comúnmente se descartan mediante la inyectan en pozos bajo tierra. A veces esta agua contaminada genera retornos a superficie contaminando el agua de subsuelo. También se han registrado temblores causados por estas voluminosas y pesadas inyecciones. O, simplemente los residuos de esta agua contaminadas se entierran en los mismos sitios donde se hace el fracking o en rellenos sanitarios municipales que no están equipados técnicamente para recibir estos efluentes industriales. Todos estos procesos generan grandes riesgos para el ambiente y para las personas.

Desde que empezaron las preocupaciones por las operaciones de fracking durante la última década, han aparecido más de 600 estudios científicos y miles de informes periodísticos que han demostrado que la fracturación hidráulica provoca impactos adversos significativos. Estos incluyen la contaminación del agua y del aire, terremotos, deforestación, la contaminación de aguas superficiales y subterráneas por químicos utilizados en el fracking, hidrocarburos, residuos de petróleo y residuos radiactivos, así como cicatrices en la tierra. También se ha registrado contaminación lumínica, contaminación acústica, el aumento de accidentes de tránsito y muertes, la caída en valores de la propiedad, la rápida industrialización de zonas residenciales y de la vida silvestre, la fragmentación de la comunidad, y otros típicos efectos negativos que conlleva el rápido desarrollo industrial. También y aun más preocupante son los impactos registrados en la salud, incluyendo enfermedades respiratorias, lesiones en la piel, nauseas, y malformaciones de nacimiento.

A nivel local, las personas que viven cerca de las zonas donde se realiza la fracturación hidráulica, informan de una amplia gama de efectos adversos para la salud que se pueden atribuir a la exposición a productos químicos utilizados en el fracking, entre estos hidrocarburos y otras emisiones provenientes de operaciones tanto en la exploración como en la extracción del combustible por este método. Los productos químicos utilizados en las diferentes etapas de la fracturación hidráulica, pueden dañar y deteriorar todo el sistema humano. La Agencia de Protección Ambiental de Estados Unidos (EPA) y científicos independientes han identificado más de 1.000 ingredientes químicos utilizados como fluidos de fracturación hidráulica, que se inyectan en el suelo. La EPA señala los riesgos de la fracturación hidráulica para la salud debido a la posible contaminación de cursos de agua, citando "casos específicos en los que uno o más mecanismos provocaron impactos sobre recursos de agua potable, incluyendo la contaminación de los pozos de agua potable."

Los más notorios estudios de fracking documentados provienen de la propia industria de petróleo y gas, mostrando, por ejemplo, que las cañerías y recubrimientos de cemento subterráneas, por las que fluyen los combustibles fósiles extraídos junto a los fluidos del fracking que contaminan las fuentes subterráneas de agua potable, y emanan metano a la atmósfera, estallan o se agrietan con frecuencia asombrosa. Aproximadamente el cinco por ciento de todos los pozos de petróleo y gas producen fugas inmediatamente después de la perforación inicial y en casi el 60% de los casos se producen fugas después de un período de 30 años, según un estudio sobre fugas realizado por una conocida empresa de petróleo y gas. Una presentación de La Sociedad de Ingenieros de Petróleo informó recientemente que aproximadamente el 35% de todos los pozos de petróleo y gas en el mundo evidencian fugas.

Los procesos que llevan a emprendimientos de fracturación hidráulica raramente consultan a las partes interesadas en las decisiones relativas a los usos del suelo o sobre la expansión de sus operaciones, incluyendo por ejemplo en tierras indígenas. En algunos casos, las decisiones de inversión en la fracturación hidráulica se realizan en el marco de negociaciones secretas entre empresa y Estado mientras que las comunidades que deben enfrentar los impactos del fracking son víctimas de represión brutal de la policía cuando legítimamente exigen participar en las decisiones que gobiernan la inversión.

A nivel mundial, el impacto acumulativo de la fracturación hidráulica también es profunda. Pese a las afirmaciones de la industria que la extracción de gas natural mediante la fracturación hidráulica ayudará a hacer frente a las tendencias de cambio climático mediante la sustitución de energías que emiten CO2. La realidad es que la tecnología empleada actualmente por empresas que realizan fracturación hidráulica es inadecuada, y resulta en la significante emisión de metano fugitivo a la atmósfera. Teniendo en cuenta que el gas metano es aproximadamente 72-100 veces más potente como gas de efecto invernadero que el CO2, la fracturación hidráulica está exacerbando el cambio climático, no mitigándolo.

Evidentemente, los impactos de la fracturación hidráulica coloca prácticamente a todos los derechos humanos en situación de riesgo, incluyendo el derecho a la salud, el derecho al agua, el derecho a la alimentación, el derecho a la tierra, el derecho a la propiedad, y a un medio ambiente sano, el derecho a la libre determinación, al trabajo, a un nivel de vida digno, y el derecho al acceso a la información y al acceso a la justicia, así como a la libertad de expresión y participación. Inclusive, el derecho humano más esencial y más básico, el derecho a la vida está en riesgo por las operaciones de fracturación hidráulica.

Considerando la gravedad de los riesgos implicados en la fracturación hidráulica, muchos gobiernos, entre ellos las provincias de Texas, Nueva York, Colorado, Maryland, Vermont, New Brunswick y Quebec, así como los países de Francia, Bulgaria y Alemania, han adoptado una posición cautelosa ante la actividad. Después de fundadas consideraciones y numerosos estudios que revelan los peligros del fracking, estos gobiernos o bien han prohibido la actividad o decidido suspender las operaciones de fracking hasta poder evaluar la información existente sobre los riesgos e impactos sociales y ambientales de la actividad.

Otros gobiernos, a pesar de estos riesgos, han preferido cortar camino y arriesgar respecto a estos impactos desarrollando políticas energéticas que incluyen fracturación hidráulica sin consultar las partes interesadas, mientras que muchas empresas han ignorado procedimientos de debida diligencia para identificar, evaluar y abordar las dimensiones de derechos humanos afectadas por esta actividad industrial.

Solicitud al Grupo de Trabajo: 

El propósito de esta carta es advertir al Grupo de Trabajo sobre Derechos Humanos y Empresas Transnacionales y Otras Empresas Comerciales sobre los riesgos de la fracturación hidráulica respecto a la plena realización de los derechos humano, y para pedirle al Grupo de Trabajo que registre y aborde este tema. Nos gustaría hacer hincapié en que el fracking es de importancia primordial para el mandato del Grupo de Trabajo, dadas sus profundas implicaciones para la realización de los derechos humanos, entre estos, en relación con el deber del Estado de proteger los derechos humanos, la responsabilidad empresarial de respetar los derechos humanos, y los derechos de las víctimas a tener acceso a la remediación efectiva en casos donde la fracturación hidráulica ha causado violaciones de derechos humanos.

Las operaciones de fracturación hidráulica, incluidas las actividades de exploración, extracción, procesamiento, almacenaje, y transporte, están en aumento en todo el mundo. Visto que esta práctica está en etapa evolutiva, su relevancia en cuestiones de derechos humanos seguirá siendo importante y por su gravedad en los impactos sociales y ambientales que conlleva, estará en el centro de conflictos locales donde se pretende realizar esta práctica industrial. Por esta razón, es importante que el Grupo de Trabajo participe en esta discusión, que adquiera conocimientos sobre la práctica y sus consecuencias para la sociedad a fin de que pueda comprender los riesgos que supone para los derechos humanos, y lo más importante, para ayudar a guiar a la sociedad, a Estados y a empresas, a hacer frente a estos impactos antes de que se materialicen y para remediarlos una vez que los impactos ya hayan ocurrido.

Proponemos al Grupo de Trabajo: 


  • Adoptar un enfoque preventivo sobre la fracturación hidráulica y teniendo en cuenta la información ya ampliamente disponible y documentada sobre los impactos en la salud y en el medio ambiente de la actividad, emitir una declaración de preocupación sobre los impactos potenciales de las operaciones de fracking a los derechos humanos; 
  • Colaborar con los Estados, con académicos, con el sector de petróleo y gas, con organizaciones de derechos humanos y con otros grupos interesados, a identificar las cuestiones pertinentes de derechos humanos implicadas por operaciones de fracturación hidráulica; 
  • Colaborar con socios afines y buscar ayuda para elaborar un informe sobre las implicancias para los derechos humanos, los riesgos y los impactos de la fracturación hidráulica; 
  • Colaborar con especialistas para el desarrollo de materiales de orientación para los Estados y para las empresas de petróleo y gas, para considerar de forma adecuada los impactos en los derechos humanos y realizar evaluaciones antes, durante y después de cualquier operación de fracturación hidráulica prevista o en curso; 
  • Invitar a que grupos de interés envíen información respecto a sus experiencias con la fracturación hidráulica, incluyendo presuntas víctimas individuales y comunitarias de las operaciones de fracking para informar al Grupo de Trabajo en cuanto a sus preocupaciones sobre los riesgos de derechos humanos reales, potenciales o supuestos y los impactos causados por operaciones de fracturación hidráulica; 


Estamos a disposición para asistir al Grupo de Trabajo con estas tareas.

Respetuosamente,
 Josh Fox  -  Director de Gasland
Jorge Daniel Taillant  -  Director Ejecutivo CEDHA/CHRE
Paloma Munoz Quick  -  Asesora en Empresas y Derechos Humanos

(AQUI la lista completa de organizaciones firmados)

Fracking and Human Rights

Dear Members of the UN Working Group on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises:

We and the 511 undersigned individuals, organizations and coalitions from around the world, contact you with a growing global human rights concern due to the evolution of a socially and environmentally highrisk corporate activity called hydraulic fracturing.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a recent but rapidly evolving industrial process carried out by the oil and gas industry. It consists of drilling into the ground, injecting water, silica, and toxic chemicals deep into layers of shale rock at very high pressure, opening joints and cracks in the shale, that in turn mobilize oil and gas trapped in this source rock.

Unlike conventional oil and gas operations, fracking shale formations employs voluminous quantities of fresh water, typically over 20,000,000 litres for each well. It also generates large quantities of liquid toxic waste for which there are no adequate safe disposal facilities. This liquid fracking waste is usually disposed of in underground industrial waste injection wells, can be radioactive, and can also leak into groundwater. Such wells have also been shown to induced seismicity. Fracking waste water is also sometimes flushed into surface water through wastewater treatment plants incapable of handling such waste. Solid fracking waste, which can also be radioactive, is simply buried into the ground at fracking sites or at landfills. All of these processes generate large-scale human and environmental safety risks.

Since concern over fracking operations began to surface around the world over the past decade, over 600 peer-reviewed scientific studies1 and thousands of journalistic reports have shown that fracking causes significant adverse social and environmental impacts. These include numerous environmental impacts such as water contamination, air pollution, earthquakes, deforestation, contamination of surface and groundwater by fracking chemicals, hydrocarbons, petroleum waste products and radioactive waste, as well as land scarring, and impacts to wildlife areas. Fracking is also responsible for significant social impacts including noise pollution, property value decreases, increased traffic accidents and deaths, rapid industrialization of residential areas, negative boomtown effects and community fragmentation. Most worrisome are the human health related impacts of fracking, which include impacts such as respiratory illness, nausea, skin irritations and birth defects.

 At the local level, people living near fracking areas report a broad range of adverse health impacts attributable to exposure to fracking chemicals, hydrocarbon and other emissions from fracking drill sites and infrastructure. Fracking chemicals in particular can harm and impair every human system.2 The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and independent scientists have identified over 1,000 chemical ingredients utilized as fracking fluids, which are injected into the ground.3 The EPA notes the risks of fracking to health due to potential contamination of waterways, citing “specific instances where one or more mechanisms led to impacts on drinking water resources, including contamination of drinking water wells.”

The most notorious documented fracking studies come from the oil and gas industry itself, showing for example, that failed underground casings and cement sheaths, which allow fracking fluids and hydrocarbons to contaminate underground sources of drinking water and vent methane directly into the atmosphere, happen at staggering rates. About five percent of all oil and gas wells leak immediately upon drilling and nearly 60% leak after a 30-year period, according to one well-known oil and gas company’s study of leakage. A presentation sponsored by Petroleum Engineers declared that about 35% of all oil and gas wells in the world are currently leaking.

Fracking operations rarely engage stakeholders in decisions regarding land-use or expansion of operations, including into indigenous lands. In some cases, fracking investment decisions are made under secretive negotiations and communities face brutal police repression when trying to engage governments and companies on investment decisions.

Globally, the cumulative impact of fracking is also profound. Despite industry claims that fracked natural gas will help to address climate change by replacing other CO2 emitting energies with a more climatefriendly alternative, the inadequacy of technology currently employed in fracking operations results in in the release of large quantities of fugitive methane into the atmosphere. Considering that methane gas is approximately 72-100 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, fracking is exacerbating climate change, not mitigating it.

Evidently, fracking impacts place virtually all human rights at risk, including the right to health, the right to water, food, land, property, a healthy environment, self-determination, work, a decent standard of living, and access to information, access to justice, as well as to freedom of expression and participation. Even the most essential and basic human right, the right to life, is at risk from hydraulic fracturing.

In view of these risks, many governments, including in the states and provinces of Texas, New York, Colorado, Maryland, Vermont, and New Brunswick and Quebec, as well as countries like France, Bulgaria and Germany, have taken a cautious approach to the industry. After lengthy consideration and numerous studies, they have either banned or decided to suspend fracking operations until further information on the social and environmental risks and impacts is available.

Despite risks, other governments have cut corners in developing their energy policy, plans, and investments, failing to consult with stakeholders, including denying consultative and participatory rights to indigenous peoples, while companies have failed in their due diligence procedures to identify, assess and address the human rights dimensions of this industrial activity.

Request to the Working Group: 

The purpose of this letter is to bring the issue of hydraulic fracturing to the attention of the UN Working Group on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises, and to call on the Working Group to engage its focus on the potential human rights violations caused by business practices conducting hydraulic fracturing operations. We would like to stress that the types of impacts caused by hydraulic fracturing are of paramount significance to the mandate of the Working Group, given its profound implications to the realization of human rights, including in relation to the State duty to protect human rights, the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, and the rights of victims to access effective remedy for human rights violations they face in these practices.

Fracking operations, including exploration, extraction, processing, storage, and transportation activities, are on the rise across the globe. As this practice evolves, human rights issues will continue to be at the center of local conflict and debate about its evolution. For this reason, now is the time for the Working Group to engage, to acquire knowledge about the practice and its human rights implications, to understand the risks it poses to human rights, and most importantly, to help guide society to address these impacts before they materialize and to remediate them once they have occurred.

We encourage the Working Group to: 


  • Adopt a precautionary approach to hydraulic fracturing, and given the already widely available and documented information regarding health and environmental impacts caused by hydraulic fracturing, issue a statement of concern over the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing operations to human rights; 
  • Engage with States, academics, the oil and gas sector, human rights organizations and with other interested stakeholder groups, to scope out the relevant human rights issues involved in hydraulic fracturing operations; 
  • Engage with like-minded partners and seek assistance to develop a white paper on the human rights implications, risks and impacts of hydraulic fracturing; 
  • Engage with specialists to develop guidance materials for States and for oil and gas companies, to adequately consider human rights impacts and conduct assessments before, during and after any intended or ongoing hydraulic fracturing operations; 
  • Invite information from stakeholder groups, including alleged individual and community victims of hydraulic fracturing operations to inform the working group as to their concerns over actual, potential or alleged human rights risks and impacts caused to them by hydraulic fracturing operations; 


We stand ready to assist you in this endeavor.

Josh Fox  -  Film Director of Gasland
Jorge Daniel Taillant  - Executive Director, CHRE/CEDHA
Paloma Munoz Quick  -  Human Rights and Business Advisor

(See full list of Signers HERE)

“Close Guantánamo”: Organizations in the Region Demand an End to Impunity

In a joint statement, 59 organizations from 15 countries in the Americas demanded once again the immediate closure of the Guantánamo detention center. Exactly seven years ago, on January 22, 2009, US President Barack Obama signed an executive order to close Guantánamo that was never carried out. Today there are still 91 prisoners being held there. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights andUnited Nations experts have urged the government of the United States to effectuate this decision.

It is imperative that this measure finally be implemented and that truth, justice and reparation be ensured for the crimes committed by the United States in the name of fighting terrorism.
 
Civil Society Organizations from the Americas Urge the Closure
of Guantánamo on its 14th Anniversary 
 
On January 11, 2002, in the wave of counter-terrorism measures put in place by the United States government after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, former US President George W. Bush opened the prison of Guantánamo, located at the US naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Fourteen years later, the detention center remains open and lingers as a global symbol of lawlessness and injustice. Guantánamo is an aberration and a false solution to the terrorist threat. It is impossible for anyone to claim unawareness of the abuses committed against men once or still imprisoned there: from torture to indefinite detention.

We welcome President Obama’s renewed commitment to close Guantánamo. But this promise is not new. It was first made when he ran for president in 2008 and again once he took office in 2009. Now, he has just one year left in his mandate to finally close Guantánamo.

In the last 14 years, almost 780 men and even boys were held in Guantánamo – all Muslim. Today, there are still 91 prisoners. In a recent report, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has described the abuses (including torture and ill-treatment, indefinite detention, limited or no access to judicial protection, and trial absent basic elements of due process) endured by these men in Guantánamo for almost a decade and a half. The Commission urged the US government to fulfill its international human rights commitments by closing Guantánamo, appropriately prosecuting those responsible for human rights violations, and ensuring effective redress for victims. The IACHR reemphasized that continued and indefinite detention of individuals in Guantánamo without guaranteeing the right to due process is arbitrary
and constitutes a clear violation of international law.

Guantánamo is an example of unlawful actions, impunity, lack of due process and infringement of the right to truth, justice and redress. Its continued existence sends the dangerous message that there will be no consequences for future abuses.

Therefore, we urge the US government to shut down Guantánamo immediately and to: 1) ensure a timely and meaningful Periodic Review Board process for all detainees whose status is still pending; 2) shut down the unfair military commission system, by transferring pending cases to federal courts and opposing any efforts to broaden unlawful indefinite detention beyond Guantánamo Bay; 3) transfer and resettle without delay all detainees cleared for release* in a manner consistent with international law obligations. The US government must also guarantee an effective and independent criminal investigation and full accountability in all cases of torture and other ill-treatment against men who have been held in Guantánamo.

Latin America’s experiences with seeking truth and justice for crimes against humanity involving arbitrary detention, torture and other rights abuses should compel it to take action. The governments of the region must urge the US administration to close down Guantánamo. They can also contribute to resolving this human rights and humanitarian crisis by supporting a regional effort to receive Guantánamo’s detainees, responding to the call made by the IACHR in its latest report on closing Guantánamo. For years, rights groups have been calling for the closure of Guantánamo and it is high time this happened, as part of the much-needed process of accountability, truth and redress for the crimes committed by the United States in the name of fighting terrorism.
* As of January 18 2016, there are at least 34 men, almost all Yemenis, in this category. 

Endorsements
1. Abogadas y Abogados para la Justicia y los Derechos Humanos (Mexico)
2. Ação Educativa (Brazil)
3. Acción Solidaria en VIH/Sida (Venezuela)
4. Asociación Civil Fuerza, Unión, Justicia, Solidaridad y Paz (Venezuela)
5. Asociación MINGA (Colombia)
6. Asociación para la Prevención de la Tortura – APT (International)
7. Asociacion Pro Derechos Humanos - APRODEH (Peru)
8. Asociadas por lo Justo - JASS (Mexico)
9. Associação Brasileira de Defesa da Mulher da Infância e da Juventude - ASBRAD (Brazil)
10. Associação Nacional dos Centros de Defesa da Criança e Adolescente - ANCED (Brazil)
11. Capacitación social de Panamá (Panama)
12. Center for Constitutional Rights (USA)
13. Centro de Defesa da Criança e dx Adolescente Maria dos Anjos - CDCA/RO (Brazil)
14. Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos “Segundo Montes Mozo S.J.” (Ecuador)
15. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (Argentina)
16. Centro de Justicia y Paz – Cepaz (Venezuela)
17. Centro para la Paz y los DDHH de la Universidad Central de Venezuela (Venezuela)
18. Centro Paranaense de Cidadania – CEPAC (Brazil)
19. Civilis Derechos Humanos (Venezuela)
20. Coalición de organizaciones por los derechos a la salud y la vida (Venezuela)
21. Conectas Direitos Humanos (Brazil)
22. Convite (Venezuela)
23. Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación de la Compañía de Jesús (Honduras)
24. Espacio Público (Venezuela)
25. Espaço Paranaese da Diverside LGBT (Brazil)
26. Foro Universitário do Mercosul (International)
27. Frente Ecuatoriano de Derechos Humanos (Ecuador)
28. Fundación Ensayos para el Aprendizaje Permanente – FEPAP (Venezuela)
29. Gabinete de Assessoria Jurídica as Organizações Populares – GAJOP (Brazil)
30. Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra (Brazil)
31. Grupo de Estudos e Trabalho Mulheres Encarceradas (Brazil)
32. Grupo de Mulheres de San Cristóbal de las Casas (Mexico)
33. Grupo Dignidade (Brazil)
34. Instituto Brasileiro de Análises Sociais e Econômicas – Ibase (Brazil)
35. Instituto Brasileiro de Diversidade Sexual – IBDSEX (Brazil)
36. Instituto de Defensa Legal - IDL (Peru)
37. Instituto de Defensores de Direitos Humanos – DDH (Brazil)
38. Instituto de Estudios Legales y Sociales del Uruguay – IELSUR (Uruguay)
39. International Federation for Human Rights – FIDH (International)
40. International Justice Network (USA)
41. International-Lawyers.Org (International)
42. La Comisión Ecuménica de Derechos Humanos (Ecuador)
43. Laboratorio de Paz – LabPaz (Venezuela)
44. Latin America Working Group (USA)
45. Ligue des droits et libertés (Canada)
46. Movimiento Autónomo de Mujeres (Nicaragua)
47. Núcleo Especializado de Situação Carcerária da Defensoria Pública do Estado de São Paulo (Brazil)
48. Observatorio de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad de Los Andes (Venezuela)
49. Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones (Venezuela)
50. Pastoral Carcerária do Estado de São Paulo – CNBB (Brazil)
51. Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (Ecuador)
52. Provea (Venezuela)
53. Rede Gay Latino (International)
54. SomosGay (Paraguay)
55. Terra Mater (Ecuador)
56. Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos de Guatemala (Guatemala)
57. US Human Rights Network (USA)
58. Venezuela Diversa (Venezuela)
59. Washington Office on Latin America (USA)

"Cierren Guantánamo": Organizaciones de la Región Reclaman el Fin de la Impunidad

En una declaración conjunta, 59 organizaciones de 15 países del continente americano volvemos a reclamar el cierre inmediato del centro de detención de Guantánamo. Hace exactamente siete años, el 22 de enero de 2009, el presidente estadounidense Barack Obama firmó una orden ejecutiva para cerrarlo que nunca se cumplió. Hoy todavía hay 91 prisioneros allí. La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos y expertos de Naciones Unidas han instado al gobierno de Estados Unidos para que efectivice esta decisión.

Es imperioso que esta medida por fin se implemente y que se garantice la verdad, justicia y reparación por los crímenes perpetrados por Estados Unidos en nombre de la “lucha antiterrorista”.

Organizaciones de derechos humanos del continente americano urgen el cierre de Guantánamo en su XIV aniversario

El 11 de enero de 2002, siguiendo la oleada de “medidas antiterroristas” dictadas por el gobierno de Estados Unidos luego de los atentados del 11/9, el expresidente de ese país, George W. Bush, abrió el centro de detención de Guantánamo, situado en la base naval norteamericana en la Bahía de Guantánamo, Cuba.

Catorce años después, el centro de detención permanece abierto y pervive como símbolo mundial de la ilegalidad y la injusticia. Guantánamo es una aberración y una solución falsa a la amenaza terrorista. Es imposible que alguien alegue desconocimiento de los abusos cometidos contra las personas alguna vez o aún recluidas allí: desde torturas hasta la detención indefinida.

Celebramos el renovado compromiso del Presidente Obama de cerrar Guantánamo. Pero esa promesa no es nueva; la hizo por primera vez cuando se postuló a la presidencia en 2008, y una vez más cuando asumió sus funciones en 2009. Ahora, sólo le queda un año de mandato para finalmente cumplirla.

En los últimos 14 años, casi 780 hombres, e incluso niños, han sido detenidos en Guantánamo – todos ellos musulmanes. Actualmente, todavía hay 91 prisioneros en Guantánamo. En un informe reciente, la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH) ha descripto los abusos (incluyendo tortura y malos tratos, detención indefinida, acceso limitado o inexistente a la protección judicial y ausencia de elementos básicos del debido proceso) que han padecido los detenidos en Guantánamo durante casi una década y media. La Comisión ha urgido al gobierno estadounidense a cumplir con sus compromisos internacionales en materia de derechos humanos, cerrando Guantánamo, procesando adecuadamente a los responsables por las violaciones de derechos humanos y asegurando una reparación efectiva a las víctimas. La CIDH ha vuelto a enfatizar que la detención continua e indefinida de personas, sin garantizar el derecho al debido proceso es arbitraria y constituye una flagrante violación del derecho internacional.

Guantánamo es un ejemplo de acciones ilegales, impunidad, ausencia del debido proceso y vulneración del derecho a la verdad, justicia y reparación. Su continua existencia transmite el peligroso mensaje de que cualquier abuso futuro no tendrá consecuencias.

Por consiguiente, exhortamos al gobierno de Estados Unidos a cerrar Guantánamo inmediatamente y 1) Asegurar un proceso oportuno y significativo ante la “Junta de Revisión Periódica” (“Periodic Review Board”, en la denominación original en inglés) para todos los detenidos cuya situación procesal aún esté pendiente; 2) Poner fin al injusto sistema de comisiones militares, transfiriendo los casos en curso a los tribunales federales y oponiéndose a cualquier iniciativa que amplíe los casos de detención ilegal indefinida; 3) Transferir y reubicar sin demoras a todos los detenidos cuya liberación ha sido autorizada*, de una manera consistente con las obligaciones del derecho internacional. El gobierno de Estados Unidos también debe garantizar una investigación criminal efectiva e independiente, así como la plena rendición de cuentas en todos los casos de tortura y otros malos tratos contra las personas detenidas en Guantánamo.

Las experiencias de América Latina en la búsqueda de la verdad y la justicia por crímenes de lesa humanidad relacionados a la detención ilegal, la tortura y demás violaciones de derechos deben motivar a la región a actuar. Los gobiernos de la región deben instar a Estados Unidos a cerrar Guantánamo. Ellos también pueden contribuir a resolver esta crisis humanitaria y de derechos humanos apoyando un esfuerzo regional de acogida a los detenidos de Guantánamo, en respuesta al llamamiento hecho por la CIDH en su último informe sobre el cierre de Guantánamo. Durante años, distintas organizaciones de derechos humanos vienen requiriendo el cierre de ese centro de detención y es imperioso que por fin suceda, como parte del tan necesario proceso de rendición de cuentas, verdad y reparación por los crímenes perpetrados por Estados Unidos en nombre de la “lucha antiterrorista”.

* Desde el 18 de enero de 2016, hay por lo menos 34 prisioneros en esta categoría, casi todos yemenitas.

Adhesiones

1. Abogadas y Abogados para la Justicia y los Derechos Humanos (México)
2. Ação Educativa (Brasil)
3. Acción Solidaria en VIH/Sida (Venezuela)
4. Asociación Civil Fuerza, Unión, Justicia, Solidaridad y Paz (Venezuela)
5. Asociación MINGA (Colombia)
6. Asociación para la Prevención de la Tortura – APT (International)
7. Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos - APRODEH (Perú)
8. Asociadas por lo Justo - JASS (México)
9. Associação Brasileira de Defesa da Mulher da Infância e da Juventude - ASBRAD (Brasil)
10. Associação Nacional dos Centros de Defesa da Criança e Adolescente - ANCED (Brasil)
11. Capacitación social de Panamá (Panamá)
12. Center for Constitutional Rights (Estados Unidos)
13. Centro de Defesa da Criança e do Adolescente Maria dos Anjos - CDCA/RO (Brasil)
14. Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos “Segundo Montes Mozo S.J.” (Ecuador)
15. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (Argentina)
16. Centro de Justicia y Paz – Cepaz (Venezuela)
17. Centro para la Paz y los DDHH de la Universidad Central de Venezuela (Venezuela)
18. Centro Paranaense de Cidadania – CEPAC (Brasil)
19. Civilis Derechos Humanos (Venezuela)
20. Coalición de organizaciones por los derechos a la salud y la vida (Venezuela)
21. Conectas Direitos Humanos (Brasil)
22. Convite (Venezuela)
23. Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación de la Compañía de Jesús (Honduras)
24. Espacio Público (Venezuela)
25. Espaço Paranaese da Diverside LGBT (Brasil)
26. Foro Universitário do Mercosul (International)
27. Frente Ecuatoriano de Derechos Humanos (Ecuador)
28. Fundación Ensayos para el Aprendizaje Permanente – FEPAP (Venezuela)
29. Gabinete de Assessoria Jurídica as Organizações Populares – GAJOP (Brasil)
30. Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra (Brasil)
31. Grupo de Estudos e Trabalho Mulheres Encarceradas (Brasil)
32. Grupo de Mulheres de San Cristóbal de las Casas (México)
33. Grupo Dignidade (Brasil)
34. Instituto Brasileiro de Análises Sociais e Econômicas – Ibase (Brasil)
35. Instituto Brasileiro de Diversidade Sexual – IBDSEX (Brasil)
36. Instituto de Defensa Legal - IDL (Perú)
37. Instituto de Defensores de Direitos Humanos – DDH (Brasil)
38. Instituto de Estudios Legales y Sociales del Uruguay – IELSUR (Uruguay)
39. International Federation for Human Rights – FIDH (International)
40. International Justice Network (Estados Unidos)
41. International-Lawyers.Org (International)
42. La Comisión Ecuménica de Derechos Humanos (Ecuador)
43. Laboratorio de Paz – LabPaz (Venezuela)
44. Latin America Working Group (Estados Unidos)
45. Ligue des droits et libertés (Canadá)
46. Movimiento Autónomo de Mujeres (Nicaragua)
47. Núcleo Especializado de Situação Carcerária da Defensoria Pública do Estado de São Paulo (Brasil)
48. Observatorio de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad de Los Andes (Venezuela)
49. Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones (Venezuela)
50. Pastoral Carcerária do Estado de São Paulo – CNBB (Brasil)
51. Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (Ecuador)
52. Provea (Venezuela)
53. Rede Gay Latino (International)
54. SomosGay (Paraguay)
55. Terra Mater (Ecuador)
56. Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos de Guatemala (Guatemala)
57. US Human Rights Network (Estados Unidos)
58. Venezuela Diversa (Venezuela)
59. Washington Office on Latin America (Estados Unidos)

Danger Did Not Drive Us Out of Peru

By Sr. Martha Ann Kirk, CCVI

"These are our martyrs," said our Incarnate Word Sisters in Chimbote, Peru, as they showed us an image of three priests whose beatification ceremony they attended on December 5. These priests — Fr. Micael Tomaszek and Fr. Zbigniew Stralowski, Franciscans from Poland, and Padre Alessandro Dordi, from Italy —were murdered by the terrorist group, Sendero Luminoso, "the Shining Path," in 1991.  
I was on my fifth trip to Peru as a teacher from the University of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio, Texas, connecting students and faculty with realities in Chimbote where our sisters started working after Pope John XXIII begged North American religious to go to South America to help meet the needs.
In the 1950s, Chimbote had been a popular resort and prosperous fishing port. Things changed as thousands of indigenous people immigrated there seeking a better life. Some got jobs in fishmeal factories, but eventually these led to overfishing. Air, water and soil were polluted by factories. Now Chimbote is one of the poorest and most contaminated cities in the country, with about 400,000 inhabitants, many of whom do not have access to water, sewage or electricity. According to Worldwatch Institute, life expectancy in Chimbote is about 10 years lower than the Peruvian national average.
Abimael Guzman, the leader of Sendero Luminoso and a former university philosophy professor in Ayacucho, said they wanted to help the poor. He taught that violence and terror were the only ways to destroy the governmental system in Peru and bring in a new communist model. They began bombings and assassinations in 1980. Church workers, who tried to protect the people or advocate nonviolent approaches to change, were considered enemies.
The martyred priests were working among the poor and trying to teach peace. Our Sr. Grace O'Mara, who actively spoke for justice and peace, received a death threat from the terrorists. Sr. Rita Prendergast reflected, "The violent methods of the terrorists overshadowed their claims that they wanted to help the poor." Sr. Sarah Lennon noted, "Often, those working for peace and justice [were] caught in the crossfire between terrorists and government forces."
I remember the late 1980s and the reports of thousands being killed in Peru. Some of us were saying to our sisters in Peru, "Come home. Come back to the U.S. and Mexico. You can minister here. We do not need you dead in Peru. The Incarnate Word Sisters can minister other places."
On August 9, 1991, the two Franciscans were killed in a village not far from Chimbote. Sr. Rosaleen Harold had collaborated on diocesan projects with Fr. Dordi. He was killed 16 days later and the terrorists left a sign on his body, "This is how those who speak of peace die."
Two months later, our sisters gathered for a special assembly in Peru to discern what to do as more people were being killed. They remembered how the first six Incarnate Word Sisters began ministry in 1964 in health care, education, and accompanying the most vulnerable. They opened the Santa Clara Center where they offered basic medical services and received hundreds of sick people per week during the many cholera, typhoid and yellow fever epidemics. In 1982 the sisters extended their mission to Cambio Puente, a nearby rural zone where they helped protect the rights of farmers and developed catechists, literacy programs, health promoters, centers to feed the needy and other services.
Three years later, the sisters began a mission among the Aymara-speaking indigenous people in the Puno area in the Andes. The sisters accompanied those with physical incapacities and did prison ministry, and they also promoted religious education. In 1988 the sisters began ministering in parts of Lima as houses were opened to welcome and teach Peruvians wishing to be sisters, as well as lay persons seeking to be associate members of the congregation.
In the 1980s as the congregation became more firmly rooted in Peru, the terrorist group Sendero Luminoso was spreading. Finally Guzmán was captured and imprisoned in 1992. About 70,000 people were killed during 20 years of conflict in Peru. In 2003, the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission reported that although the government reacted with excessive violence and there were other terrorist groups, about 37,800 people were killed by Sendero Luminoso led by Guzmán.
Sr. Juanita Albracht said that when Guzmán was in prison, Fr. Jack Davis, a good friend of our sisters in Chimbote, went to talk to him. Father asked why the priests were killed. Guzmán replied, "Because of their faith; they were teaching peace." Sr. Grace O'Meara explained that Senderistas believed that violence was essential in the revolutionary process and that religion was "the opium of the people."
Despite the dangers, our congregation chose not to abandon its mission in Peru. Sisters there argued that if they left the people's side, they might never have a chance to go back.
If we would have let the danger drive the sisters out of Peru, what difference would it have made?
In the Andean area, there wouldn't be lay pastoral leaders for the 150 small communities in their parish that has only one priest, leaders who were taught and encouraged by our first Peruvian Sr. Hirayda Blácido.
Hospicio Santiago Apostol, the first hospice in Latin America, which was started by our sisters in 2002, wouldn't be bringing a holistic approach of spiritual and physical care, as well as assistance to the patients' families. Sr. Mirella Neira is now the administrator of the hospice program with both home-based care and a residential center.  
If the sisters had left, about 31,000 people would not have been served last year alone by the Incarnate Word Health System in Peru. Sr. Lourdes Gómez, a psychologist who works in mission effectiveness, guides over 70 lay collaborators in the clinic and hospice in the spirit and values of our congregation. She is also the coordinator of our sisters in Peru. Sr. Sofia Mamani, who sings beautifully in her first language of Quechua, is studying physical therapy.
In the Lima area, Sr. Mary Luz Cayo wouldn't be an early childhood teacher in San Viator School in Comas. We wouldn't have Carol Velarde Flores, our pre-novice, attending the inter-congregational formation program where women and men of over 20 congregations study. Sr. Katty Huánuco wouldn't be bringing her extensive skills in communications and her passion for justice as the director of our International Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation office. And we wouldn't have the opportunity to be proud of Sr. Pilar Neira, who is the executive secretary of CONFER, the national Peruvian organization of religious men and women.
If our congregation would have let danger drive us out of Peru, there would not be Peruvian Incarnate Word sisters, lay sssociate members, and lay missionaries from the U.S., Ireland, or Mexico volunteering for a year or two there, and over 70 lay collaborators working with them in the Centro de Servicios de Salud Integral Santa Clara and in the Hospicio Santiago Apóstol.
In the church yard of Cambio Puente people waiting for eye examinations; a woman, right, reads the eye chart on the tree that Dr. Jamie Matos is pointing to. (Martha A. Kirk)
If the sisters would have left, our 21-member university international service learning group, sponsored by the UIW Ettling Center for Civic Leadership and Women's Global Connection, wouldn't have had the recent opportunity to visit Peru. We shared workshops with early childhood educators and women trying to develop small businesses. We received information for pharmacy and nutrition collaborations in the future. We helped provide eye care to over 400 adults and children, many of whom had never had glasses before.
We were helping them to see, but more than that, they were helping us to see more of the beauty of the face of God that danger cannot dim.

Original article taken from Global Sisters Report:  http://globalsistersreport.org/column/ministry/danger-did-not-drive-us-out-peru-37021