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placeholder November 23, 2015   •   VOL. 53, NO. 20   •   Oakland, CA

The opening keynote discussion featured Lorin Peters, moderator, and panelists Sister Megan Rice, Elizabeth Murray and Rivera Sun.
COURTESY PHOTO

Pax Christi Assembly inspired by panelists, presenters

More than 100 people gathered on Oct. 17 at the Pax Christi Northern California Assembly to consider the housing crisis, global climate change, gun violence, human trafficking, immigration, stockpiling of nuclear weapons and alternative ways of restoring justice to injured persons.

"Creative Nonviolence: Peacemaking in the 21st Century" was a day-long gathering at St. Elizabeth High School, Oakland, featuring a rich blend of speakers and workshops.

An opening keynote panel featured Sister Megan Rice (missionary and Ploughshares Activist), Rivera Sun (author and nonviolence trainer for Pace Bene) and Elizabeth Murray (retired Central Intelligence Agency Middle Eastern intelligence officer and current volunteer at the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Direct Action in Tacoma).

They addressed questions posed by retired Bishop O'Dowd High School teacher Lorin Peters. Drawing upon their unique experiences, each panel member spoke to the related problems of politically, fear-driven agendas that exploit public ignorance, the lack of critical evaluation of what truly constitutes security and the indifference and apathy that sadly characterizes the sentiments of far too many good people who feel disconnected and powerless to take steps different from those proposed by the principalities and powers.

Other presenters offered information and suggestions for action echoing themes from Catholic social teaching.

These included Marylia Kelley, executive director of Tri-Valley CARES and Chelsea Collonge of the Earth Abides Catholic Worker, who addressed the critical need for the worldwide abolition of nuclear weapons, which The Vatican advocated in its statement last December.

Tim Iglesias, a law professor at the University of San Francisco who specializes in housing law, offered insight from Catholic social teaching and suggestions for participants in his workshop how to become affordable housing advocates.

Sister Caritas Foster, a Holy Family Sister whose congregation is engaged in educating and challenging human trafficking, presented identifying characteristics of possible human trafficking victims, most of whom are found in low-paying industries like textiles, food services, nail salons and even panhandling.

David DeCosse of Santa Clara University offered a sublime presentation on Pope Francis' new encyclical "Laudato Si," Rev. Deborah Lee provided practical opportunities to accompany immigrants echoing themes found in the U.S. and Mexican Catholic bishops pastoral letter of 2003 "Strangers No Longer: Together on a Journey of Hope.' Cat Willet of Catholic Charities Restorative Justice program outlined actions to promote restorative justice; Rev. Damita Davis-Howard, coordinator of the Friday Night Community Walks which promote a call to end the gun violence in East Oakland, described the three-point collaborative strategy to reduce gun violence promoted by several East Oakland clergy, the Oakland police department and concerned Oakland and Alameda County citizens. Rivera Sun spoke to the power and success of nonviolent movements in deposing tyrants. Elizabeth Murray explored her own conversion from disillusionment with international foreign policy making during the Bush Administration to her new more hopeful role as a nonviolent activist and speaker as part of Retired Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. Jose Artiga, executive director of the San Francisco-based SHARE Foundation and this writer revealed their discoveries of the root causes of immigration from Honduras and Guatemala as provided by a wide array of Catholic and Protestant clergy and laity they met as part of the "Root Causes Pilgrimage" organized by Rev. Deborah Lee which spent 10 days in the two countries in August.

The day concluded with the awarding of Pax Christi Northern California's Peacemaker Award to Lorrain Taylor founder of "1000 Mothers to Prevent Violence."
Pax Christi Northern California is the regional chapter of Pax Christi USA (www.paxchristiusa.org) and Pax Christi International (www.paxchristi.net). Pax Christi formed in the waning days of World War II when a French bishop incarcerated in a German concentration camp and a French lay woman began contemplating how to reconcile French and German Catholics after the war ended.

(Tom Webb is a staff member of the Oakland Catholic Worker, a regional council member of Pax Christi Northern California and a community journalist for the Oakland Voices project of the Oakland Tribune.)

 
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