Justice Group Presents
First Study Day and Call to Action
John Morris, OP., Srs. Diane Momeka, OP, Rihab Mousa, OP,
Arlene Flaherty, OP BELOW: small group discussion
California, October 27, 2008 -- The
Western Dominican Justice Promoters are taking decisive action
in their region to promote awareness and understanding, as well
as collaborative action, with respect to key issues from the North
American Dominican Call to Justice.
The Promoters study and preach on human rights issues, specifically
related to war, immigration and human trafficking. These three
issues were selected for focus because they affect the lives of
most people in the western region, either directly or indirectly.
On October 4 the Western Dominican Justice Promoters held their
first public event. Father David Farrugia, OP and the parishioners
of St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Berkeley generously extended their
hospitality. Exploring the Iraqi refugee crisis, the day was provocatively
titled Where Can 4 Million Displaced Persons Find Homes?
The hard realities of the status of millions of Iraqis, resulting
from five years of U.S. military action, were presented by three
Dominican sisters. Sister Arlene Flaherty, a member of the Blauvelt,
New York Dominicans, has been a justice promoter and an educator
for more than 25 years. She is currently working with Catholic
Relief Services (CRS). Her first trip to Iraq was in 1999 when
she participated in a delegation to document the impact of the
sanctions and embargo on the country’s children. Those findings
were reported to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in
Geneva. Earlier this year she traveled with a CRS delegation to
Syria and Lebanon to investigate the plight of Iraqi refugees.
Sister Arlene is actively working to influence U.S. lawmakers and
others to formulate a realistic and humane policy towards the displaced
victims of the war, “the
largest humanitarian crisis in the world today.”
Sister Diana, a member of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine
of Siena in Mosul, Iraq, has been studying and living in Michigan
since 2006. Sister Rihab, also a Dominican sister from Mosul, has
been studying in the U.S. since 2002. They both described in graphic
and often disturbing terms what life is like now for the people
of Iraq. Electricity, when available, runs only a few hours a day.
infrastructure, including water supply and roads, is severely damaged
by bombing. Violence is episodic and random; both Sister Diana
and Sister Rihab have family and friends who have experienced it.
In a culture in which education is highly valued and a university
system has existed since the 13th century, today teachers and students
at all levels are hampered by lack of supplies, safe transportation,
and fear of kidnappings. Medical equipment and supplies are extremely
difficult to find. People have been forcibly removed from their
homes, jailed and/or tortured.
These are some of the reasons why so many Iraqis are now refugees;
as many as two million are displaced within Iraq. At least that
many have fled to Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria and Turkey, but
without legal status they are unable to rebuild their lives. The
resources of the host countries are now strained. Many of the refugees
are Christians, a religious minority that had peacefully co-existed
with Muslims for a long time.
The study day was designed to provide the group of 75 attendees
with an overview of the situation for Iraqi refugees and the human
rights and justice issues involved. There were opportunities for
questions, personal reflection, and small group discussions. In
the afternoon Father John Morris, OP, professor of Theology at
St. Mary’s College in Moraga and Promoter of Peace and Justice
for the Western Dominican Province, joined the panel for a discussion
of the ways in which one’s faith and spirituality informs
our response to the plight of the Iraqi refugees. Father John provided
the group with four key principles as a Gospel context and guide
to action. 1.God created me as a human with the right
to dignity. 2. Every other human, also created by God with the
same right, is my neighbor. 3. In living with my neighbors,
I ultimately will be judged by how I treat the weakest and most
vulnerable. 4. The purpose of a society of neighbors must
be the common good.
Before the day concluded with a sung blessing, attendees were
encouraged to do whatever they could to keep the Iraqi refugees
and their desperate needs in full view of the human family. Everyone
addressed postcards to their congressional representatives, advocating
for 30,000 visas for Iraqis in the coming year.
Sisters Diana and Rihab both hope to return to their country and
minister to their people. They see great possibilities emerging
from relationships between Iraqi and American people. “After
all,” they said, “we have a very long history, which
you don’t. And you have a clear future, which we don’t.
Perhaps we can share.”
Western Dominican Justice Promoters: Dominican
Laity, Western Region, Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose, Dominican
Sisters of San Rafael, Western Dominican Province, Dominican Sisters
of Tacoma, Dominican Sisters of Oakford, Adrian Dominican
Director of Communicaitons
Dominican Sisters of San Rafael