Tuesday, February 5, 2013

May we be filled with the vision of peace.

War is STILL not the answer. Occupation is not liberation.

We pray to let go of the belief that we need wars...

A War Never Ends...
an interfaith response from

by Phil Bentley of Jewish Peace Fellowship,
Rabia Harris of Muslim Peace Fellowship, and
Janet Chisholm of Episcopal Peace Fellowship

We are Americans, US citizens
Followers of many spiritual traditions
Compelled to speak, for ourselves and for others.
Convinced that war achieves neither freedom nor peace.
Called to speak the truth as our faiths demand.
May we be filled with the strength to seek peace.

War will not end when the guns are silent.
Violence can never lead to peace.
Our government does not faithfully represent us
Therefore it is our obligation to speak.
We will bear the responsibility.
We will willingly accept what is required.
We will stand against the forces of death.
We will stand for life.
May we be filled with the courage to seek peace.

Duty calls upon us to prohibit violence
Directed at our helpless brothers and sisters
To limit the monstrous domination of war
To repair the ruin, whenever, wherever we can:
The direct horrors inflicted on the people
The damage to their homes, lands, heritage, institutions
The disruption of their eating, drinking, traveling,
breathing, living
May we be filled with the compassion to seek peace.

We grieve for the harm to our own country
The degradation suffered here in common
The contagion of fear and distrust
The restriction of our freedoms
The quashing of our dialogue and dissent
We grieve the terrible wounding of sisters and brothers sent to fight
Children captured by the demons of war
Who will suffer illness of body and spirit
Whose families too absorb the blows of violence
We grieve the rupture of families when a member is killed
Parents, spouses, infants overcome with grief
Losing a source of sustenance and survival
May we be filled with the endurance to seek peace.

War will not fulfill those government promises.
For it is based on lies, and lies have been told.
Here we stand on truth, and stand together.
United as one humanity, here we are.
We grasp the horror of war in all its fullness.
And embrace it with our joined compassion.
May we be filled with the vision of peace.

Recognizing our weakness
We call on the Spirit of Mercy to guide us now.
Nothing is stronger. The spirit will prevail.


Light a Candle for Peace  on your own or GO to:


What we need besides prayer

Contemplative nonviolence should be a key to prayer

Long ago, Daniel Berrigan told me a tragic story about being invited to speak to a packed church of cloistered nuns somewhere on the East Coast in 1965. They wanted him to read from his latest book of poetry. He did, but then began to quietly denounce the growing U.S. war in Vietnam. The congregation exploded. "How dare you attack our country?" they shouted. "If we don't kill those communists, they'll invade and take over," they said.

Dan was shocked. Here were holy contemplative women who spent seven hours a day in prayer and liturgy advocating death in another land by our country. How could this be? he thought. How is it that prayerful women can support the worst violence of our most violent men? Why do we compartmentalize our private spiritual life, even our communal prayer life, from our public work in the world and the evil that nations do? Shouldn't these North American contemplatives be the first to see the children of Vietnam as our sisters and brothers?

For decades now, Dan Berrigan and I have reflected on the shocking disconnect between prayer and peacemaking. We see it every day everywhere we turn, among every one of us, especially our religious leaders. I, too, could tell many stories about devout religious people who are gung-ho with the latest round of killing our nation's enemies. I'll share one other story.

Years ago, while making a retreat at a contemplative monastery, I met the former abbot and struck up a friendly conversation. He knew of my work for peace and how I had co-authored the Pax Christi "Vow of Nonviolence" and proudly told me how he and three other monks had professed that vow of nonviolence at a liturgy in January 1991, just as the U.S. was embarking upon its first killing spree in Iraq. I was happy to hear this, but then I grew disturbed.

"Only four monks professed the vow of nonviolence?" I asked. "What about the rest of the community (some 30 other monks)?" He put his head down and whispered sadly, "The rest of them were all in favor of the war. They are die-hard, patriotic Americans, and fully supported the killing of Iraqis, and I don't know what to do about it."

These extreme examples highlight our common disconnect between prayer and the spiritual life and our support for war and killing. It's an age-old problem -- from the devout Pharisees who fasted and prayed and were hell-bent on killing those who didn't meet their standards to those pious Christians who burned women at the stake and held slaves to the priests who say Mass at the Pentagon or bless nuclear weapons at Los Alamos, N.M ...Each year before commencement, ROTC cadets gather at the Alumni Memorial Chapel at Loyola University in Baltimore to profess the U.S. military oath (in front of the Blessed Sacrament) in what I call a "Mass for War." midst of wolves," not "wolves sent into the midst of lambs."

There is something radically wrong if we are spending time in prayer, going to church on Sundays, reading the Bible, and at the same time hurting others, supporting war, even actively working for war and weapons manufacturers. Contemplative prayer, as Merton taught, leads us to the God of peace, which means it leads us out of the culture of war to the point that it starts to disarm the roots of war within our own broken hearts.

The contemplative life, therefore, is first and foremost a life of contemplative nonviolence. Contemplative prayer helps us see beyond the lies of the culture of war to recognize every human being on the planet as our sister and brother and to deepen that communion of peace that was given to us by the God of peace. Contemplatives, therefore, are by their very nature peacemakers, not war-makers.

(plz read the full piece if you have time -- I believe if you are a true peacemaker, you may not agree with all of this but in some way you will be comforted.)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

No bloody crusades BUT here's a very effective campaign

SumOfUs.org launched our website in January of last year, and since those first few days we have seen our membership shoot up to nearly 850,000 organized citizen-consumers in nearly every country around the world. We’ve been overwhelmed by your enthusiasm for our campaigns -- together we've taken over 5.5 million actions and counting -- and want to thank you for making all our fantastic victories possible.
And we’re not kidding about fantastic victories -- just in the past three months, we’ve won some campaigns that no one thought possible, like getting the FCC to regulate predatory prison phone companies, and getting Whole Foods to create a certification process to help chocolate producers remove child labor from their supply chains. You’re also helping us achieve progress on a host of other campaigns, from siding with striking Walmart workers to stopping Uganda’s horrific gay death penalty bill.
We wanted to take some time to catch you up on everything that we’ve been pouring over these past few months, and let you know that your actions are having a real impact on the lives of others. Thank you for all that you do.
--Kaytee Riek, Campaigns Manager, SumOfUs.org

Campaign updates

MAKING WAVES! Walmart: End factory deathtraps in Bangladesh
Background:Fire aftermath In November, a fire tore through the Tazreen garment factory, a Walmart supplier in Bangladesh. Emergency exits were locked from the outside, and managers told workers to return to their sewing machines as smoke filled the factory. 112 workers were killed. Weeks later, the New York Times revealed that Walmart executives had been aware of the dangers in their Bangladeshi factories, but had blocked a program to improve fire safety.
Partners: The International Labor Right Forum, United Students Against Sweatshops, Corporate Action Network, Change To Win, and Jobs with Justice.
What we want: We want Walmart to sign onto the Bangladeshi Fire Safety Agreement, an independently monitored program which requires global retailers to provide funds for improved fire safety in their Bangladeshi suppliers.
Current status: Over 110,000 of us signed a petition calling on Walmart to strengthen fire safety in the factories it buys from worldwide, and we delivered the petition during a rally at Walmart's lobbying headquarters. Walmart has claimed that it toughened rules governing its Bangladeshi suppliers, but these reforms are meaningless without independent monitoring funding for basic safety measures. So now we're raising the stakes by collectively donating $20,000 to bring both a Bangladeshi labor activist, and a survivor of the deadly Tazreen factory fire to confront Walmart executives.
Read More: The original petition | Shareable graphic | Fundraiser | Petition delivery photos
Press coverage: Huffington Post

VICTORY! No child labor at Whole Foods
Whole FoodsBackground: Whole Foods, America’s largest organic retailer, likes to brag about its efforts to popularize fair trade goods. But Whole Foods shelves were partially stocked with cheap chocolate produced by forced child labor.
Partners: The Teamsters and the International Labor Rights Forum
What we want: We wanted Whole Foods to commit to only selling certified fair trade chocolate, since only independent supply chain certification can guarantee that chocolate is free of child slavery, which runs rampant in the cocoa industry. Additionally, we wanted Whole Foods to stop doing business with companies that continue to profit from child slavery in the chocolate industry.
Current status: Whole Foods agreed to create a certification process to help chocolate producers monitor and control their supply chain. Whole Foods will challenge suppliers to improve working conditions in their fields, by creating quality-based ratings system. This system will help encourage any companies that sell to Whole Foods to remove child labor from their supply chains.
Read More: The original petition

VICTORY! FCC: Regulate prison phone rates
Prison PhonesBackground: A small handful of telecom companies with monopoly contracts can impose exorbitant phone costs -- upwards of $1 a minute -- on prisoners and their families. Most states do not regulate rates, since they frequently receive kickbacks from highly profitable phone operators. These rates exploit vulnerable people, including the 2.7 million children with an incarcerated parent, and, by cutting them off from their families, increase the rate convicts will commit another crime upon release.
Partners: The Prison Policy Institute and the Center for Media Justice
What we want: We want the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to protect incarcerated people and their families from exploitation by regulating interstate phone call rates.
Current status: After circulating the petition to our list, we received over 36,000 signatures and more than 2,000 original comments to the FCC. On the day we delivered the comments, the FCC announced that it would be issuing new rules to lower long distance rates for prisoners.
Read More: The original petition
Press coverage: Afro

MARKED PROGRESS! Pepsi: Speak out against the Uganda Kill the Gays bill
Background:Uganda protest Ugandan legislators are considering legislation that would institute the death penalty for gays and lesbians, and allies in Uganda felt that if multinational companies spoke out publicly against the bill, it would sway Members of Parliament (MPs) on the fence to vote against it. Pepsi has a history of supporting equality and has a massive presence in Uganda.
Partners: Ugandan Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law and Health GAP
What we want: We asked Pepsi to publicly oppose the bill and communicate its opposition to MPs in the Ugandan Parliament.
Current status: Over 116,000 signatures were delivered to Pepsi HQ in December, and, we took out an ad in Advertising Age, an industry publication, to get Pepsi's attention. Just this week, Pepsi's VP of Global Policy and Government Affairs met with Kaytee, our Campaign Manager. He heard our concerns, and agreed to continue watching the situation closely, and ensure Pepsi uses its voice effectively to stop passage of the bill. To that end, we are putting Pepsi executives in touch with LGBTI groups in Uganda so they can coordinate opposition on the ground.
As far as the bill itself, thankfully it did not pass before the Ugandan Parliament disbanded for Christmas. But allies in Uganda warn that there is a good chance the bill will be considered when Parliament reconvenes next week, so we will stay in touch with allies in Uganda and make sure Pepsi keeps its word to help stop this horrible law.
Read More: Original petition | Our ad in Advertising Age
Press Coverage: Huffington Post | All Africa | Queerty | Dan Savage

MASSIVE ACTION! Walmart: Stop selling assault weapons
Background:Walmart guns Walmart is the largest gun retailer in the country, and sells assault rifles -- including the AR-15 used in the Sandy Hook shooting -- at hundreds of its stores across the US. In the wake of the tragic shooting of 20 children in Newtown, CT, Americans joined together to fight against easy access to assault rifles.
Partners: Courage Campaign, MomsRising.org, Change.org
What we want: We demanded that Walmart stop selling military-grade assault rifles, like those used in recent mass shootings, entirely.
Current status: Nearly 300,000 people, including 115,000 SumOfUs.org members, signed the petitions to Walmart. 60 people delivered those signatures, along with a letter from 75 survivors of mass shootings, at the Walmart just down the road from Sandy Hook Elementary one month after the tragic shooting. The petition delivery was covered in over one thousand media outlets, including USA Today, CNN and Bloomberg. Walmart released a statement that it respected its customers and would follow the law -- a pointless statement that shows we need to keep the pressure on Walmart until these guns are no longer on the shelves next to baby food and school clothes.
Read More: Original petition | Our delivery
Press: USA Today | Bloomberg | US News & World Report

VICTORY! Pfizer, leave the Heartland Institute!
Heartland's lossBackground: The Heartland Institute has long been a right-wing front group for corporate climate change apologists and tobacco companies looking to overturn against nicotine regulation. Early last year, the Heartland Institute unveiled its most outrageous campaign yet when it compared advocates of carbon regulation to terrorists and serial killers. Shortly after the backlash began, and thanks to the work of SumOfUs.org and Forecast the Facts, Heartland lost over half its funding, but Pfizer, a major donor, stubbornly remained.
Partner: Forecast the Facts, 350
What we want: We wanted Pfizer to join over twenty other groups in fleeing the Heartland Institute.
Current status: Victory! In November, Pfizer announced that it had decided not to renew its annual funding for the Heartland Institute, depriving the group of a major source of income. Thanks to your work, the Heartland Institute has been so defunded and demoralized that it was forced to cancel its annual climate denial conference.
Read More: The original petition
Press coverage: Think Progress

AMAZING PROGRESS! Walmart: Respect your workers.
Backgrouwalmart protestnd: This autumn, Walmart workers across America took a huge risk and launched a series of strikes at the world's largest retailer -- the first in the chain's history. The campaign culminated on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. Hundreds of associates walked off the job to protest low wages, inconsistent scheduling, dangerous working conditions, and retaliation against workers who had asked for better treatment.
Partners: Warehouse Workers United, Warehouse Workers for Justice, OUR Walmart, and Making Change at Walmart
What we want: We want to help Walmart workers win the respect they deserve from management. We want to see Walmart end retaliation and sit down with workers to see how it can treat its employees fairly.
Current status: When Walmart workers went on strike, SumOfUs.org members around the world donated over $75,000 to support striking Walmart workers. It was our most successful fundraiser ever! In fact, we raised so much that the workers' organization, OUR Walmart was able to use some extra money to hire Walmart associates who had been working to improve working conditions as organizers, starting with Semetra Lee, of Richmond, CA. Semetra was a temporary worker who began working with OUR Walmart after experiencing bullying and racism at her position. She was written up, and her contract was not renewed due to her activity organizing her fellow workers.
Walmart is starting to feel the impact of these strikes. In January, Walmart committed to improving its scheduling system and implementing a monitoring program to improve conditions in its warehouses -- key victories for OUR Walmart and Warehouse Workers United members. Of course, these changes aren't enough -- for instance, the warehouse monitoring program is based on Walmart's disastrous global monitoring program, which allowed the Tazreen fire in Bangladesh to happen. So Walmart workers will keep fighting, and we'll be there to support them
Read More: Original petition | Striking worker solidarity statement | Campaign donation page | Our ads blanketing Walmart's hometown newspapers
Press coverage: Los Angeles Times | Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
As you can tell, we’ve been busy! But we wouldn’t have it any other way. We are excited to build a movement together, and we’re honored that you’re a part of it. We want to keep up our momentum and make sure that corporations are taking our voices into consideration. As we are still a tiny organization, we make sure that your donation does the most it can to help better our world. Please consider becoming a donor in order to help our movement grow!
We are truly independent -- we don't take a dime from corporations or governments. That allows us to run campaigns like the ones we've described today. But that also means we depend on members like you to keep us going. Any donation that you can make not only improves our ability to campaign for corporate accountability, but also energizes us, knowing that you are invested in what the SumOfUs can do. Thank you so much for being one of us.
Thanks for reading, and for continuing to support our growing movement for corporate accountability.