We meet the 1st and 3rd Thursdays at St. Gertrude's Ministry Center
(6214 N. Glenwood), beginning at 8:00 p.m. Folks are welcome to join us at anytime.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Artisit's Rendition of Witness Against Torture photo

The photo above, taken by WAT's Mike Benedetti and adapted by an artist, is from a recent Truthout article by Andy Worthington. The photo is of Luke and myself when Kairos Chicago joined Witness Against Torture and the 100 Days Campaign in Washington D.C. last Spring. We performed some street theatre at the Navy Memorial off Pennsylvania Avenue that highlighted the continued use of force-feeding at Guantanamo and other prisons like the expanding Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. Our actions that day seemed like a small ripple, but perhaps the image above that accompanies Worthington's reporting and analysis is a bit of encouragement that our work is not for naught. I have noticed recently that much of the media images used for news stories on Guantanamo and torture feature photos from the resistance of Witness Against Torture.

For Immediate Release: Federal Judge Threatens NMD Volunteer with 25 Days Imprisonment

For Immediate Release: Federal Judge Threatens NMD Volunteer with 25 Days Imprisonment
**For Immediate Release**

Sarah Launius (520) 240-1641
(EspaƱol) Brook Bernini (413) 552-7661

Tucson, AZ--At a hearing on Friday, December 4, No More Deaths volunteer Walt Staton was threatened with 25 days imprisonment for leaving clean drinking water along known migrant trails in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (BANWR). Federal Magistrate Jennifer Guerin denied Mr. Staton's motion to modify or suspend his sentence pending appeal, and scheduled a probation violation hearing for December 21st.

Staton, a seminary student at Claremont School of Theology, was originally sentenced to 300 hours of community service on August 11, 2009. In a letter to the judge delivered prior to today's hearing, Staton stated that he cannot comply with the original sentence, adding: "When a government fails to respect and protect basic human rights--or, worse, is itself a violator--it is the responsibility of citizens to act in defense of those rights." A copy of the letter sent to Magistrate Guerin is available at www.nomoredeaths.org.

Following today's hearing, Staton stated: "I remain committed to upholding human rights while going through this process. I plan to take some time for personal reflection and discussions with family and faith advisers as I prepare to go back to the Court on December 21st and possibly go to prison." At the hearing, Magistrate Guerin suggested that Staton would be sentenced to 600 hours in prison--the equivalent of 25 days, or double the number of community service hours.

2009 was one of the deadliest years ever on the U.S./Mexico border. Since the mid-1990s U.S. border policy has channeled unauthorized migration into remote and fragile desert areas. This has resulted in more than 5,600 deaths along the U.S./Mexico border and damage to protected wildlife habitat. Many of these deaths have resulted from easily preventable heat illnesses and dehydration.

On Saturday, December 5, No More Deaths will hold a memorial action on BANWR. Members of the public and the media are invited to attend this action. A caravan will depart from Southside Presbyterian Church (9th Ave. and 23rd St.) at 8 am; participants are asked to bring a rock or bottle of water in order to help build an altar for those who have died along the Arizona/Mexico border in 2009.

No More Deaths continues to stand behind the position that "humanitarian aid is never a crime," and calls upon the government to recognize the human rights tragedy taking place along the border, suspend Walt's sentence, cease harassment of humanitarian aid workers and act quickly to achieve a Memorandum of Understanding with humanitarian aid groups to prevent needless death and suffering on public lands.

On January 12, 2010 at 9:30 am, 13 other humanitarian aid workers from a coalition of organizations will go to trial for placing water on BANWR. Since July 2009 these organizations have been involved in negotiations with officials from BANWR and the Department of the Interior, initiated by No More Deaths and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. No More Deaths calls upon the Department of the Interior to adopt a proposed Memorandum of Understanding that would facilitate cooperation with humanitarian organizations in responding to the human rights crisis taking place on public lands.

For more information:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Fear of Living a Radical Life...

I had a lot of time to think this weekend. Bus rides for hours, dreams I remembered and the life I lived…they all melt together, bringing me to a place of distant joy and constant vigil for El Salvador. It was only yesterday that I stood at the gates of Fort Benning in Georgia and wept for my friends in the land of the Savior.

Resurfacing my memories of the rose garden where the Jesuits were dragged on the lawn in 1989…the place I took the #46 bus to in search of clarity…or the sweat dripping heat of the mid-day sun as I stand on the place where the church women were buried in a shallow grave….and then la capilla, the cold marble and the community of nuns who give tours of Romero’s small house amidst the ever present pain of the cancer hospital that he gave his final sermon at. I am humbled by the people of El Salvador…blessed to share my existence with them…forever changed in the mystery of why my journey led me to such a place. And so as I stood at the gates, with the tears flowing with each breath, I remembered these realities…the current violence, poverty and migration…why does my emotion surprise me?

Back in August of 2005 I was a bit innocent and filled with vague concepts of job descriptions. I didn’t quite know what I got myself into answering this call to service. And yet I knew I was already ruined…living some life that I had no role models for…some beaten path of my own drum or something like that. It rained for days for the first month I was there…full on hurricane, earthquake and volcanic eruption…forget about the martyrs, THIS is the reality. And the real depth of my experience came with each day, building relationships and living a daily abundance of gratitude.

I spend my days back then stuck to a computer, buried in human rights files or chatting with high school kids in some dusty town about the American Dream that doesn’t really exist…somewhere past Mexico. There were no expectations of being something I wasn’t…I don’t think. I lived differently…more fully. And I was terrified and in love…all at once. Was this a radical life?

I protest at Fort Benning, holding up my cross with the names of Ignacio Martin-Baro (a Jesuit psychologist), Ida and Jean and Romero….my spirit sings Presente! And yet I don’t know how present I really am…I drift to memories and longing. At the Kairos meeting a question I pondered was, “If I was not afraid, what would I do?” I made a list in my head, now converted to paper…I realized that my life is too calculated. And despite my intentionality in life, I still falter in facing my fears.
If I were radical, I might consider taking up a few of these issues on my list. I might …put my life where my mouth is.

If I was not afraid, I would….
o Take time each day to write my thoughts down
o Speak up more in groups, class and conversations
o Spend money on things I want to do (travel)
o Give away my possessions to the poor
o Wake up early in the morning and pray
o Tell people how much I appreciate them
o Begin full discernment for Maryknoll
o Cry more often (good insight comes)