Marist Sisters Sheila and April attended the Regional Assembly and Reflection Session on Restorative Justice for all Prison Chaplains and Volunteers in the different Dioceses of Mindanao last August 11-13, 2014 in the Diocese of Tagum.
This is annual assembly held under the auspices of the CBCP-Commission on Prison Pastoral Care’s Executive Secretary , Mr. Rudy Diamante, is held for fellowship among Mindanao prison volunteers and for pastoral and theological updating; discussing issues affecting the jails and prisons in the Mindanao Region.
Pope Francis speaking about the plight of asylum seekers at Lampudesa said “These brothers and sisters of ours are trying to escape difficult situations to find some serenity and peace; they are looking for a better place for themselves and their families, but instead they find death or imprisonment. Today no one in our world feels responsible; we have lost a sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters. We have fallen into the hypocrisy of the priest and the levite whom Jesus described in the parable of the Good Samaritan: we see our brother half dead on the side of the road, and perhaps we say to ourselves: “poor soul!”, and then go on our way. It’s not our responsibility, and with that we feel reassured, assuaged.”
How can we provide solutions for refugees and asylum seekers to restore their hopes for a brighter future? During Refugee Week, 15th – 21st June 2014, let us pray for a compassionate response to those seeking asylum. Let us be a voice for those who are refugees in our world.
In early April, Isla Verde and some barangays in Boulevard were ravaged by a fire that went on for 6 hours. Thankfully no one lost their life in the fire but almost 3,000 families were left homeless and are now being temporarily housed at a gymnasium, in classrooms of a school near the area, and at the nearby Magsaysay Park. Most of the fire victims are Badjaos, a seafaring group who are known as sea gypsies. They are mostly seen in the city streets begging but slowly they were starting to build their lives by earning money from selling ukay ukay or peddling other goods. Now they will have to start all over again.
The Learning Center, where the Marist Sisters were teaching the Badjao children life skills, was also burnt to the ground during the fire. The city government has been giving support to the victims but more help is needed. The families are in need of clothes, food, water and medical service.
Please join with the Marist Sisters in praying that the people affected by the fire will be given the support they need to rebuild their lives and so live with dignity.
Sr April sm is the coordinator/instructor in the Therapeutic Computer Learning Center (TCLC) of Davao Jail in the Philippines. The center had its graduation celebration on March 30, 2014. Sr. April sm, together with other members of the Jail’s Chaplaincy team, Sr. Sheila sm and Fr. Chris sm (ACPW Chaplain), gave out the Certificates of Completion to 35 student-inmates; 14 of whom finished the Basic PC Operations and the other 19 finished Basic Computer Hardware Servicing. Congratulations to students and teachers.
APWRATH (Asia-Pacific Women Religious Against Trafficking in Humans) and SAMIN (The Sisters’ Association in Mindanao) co-sponsored a training on feminist counselling as an intervention to counter trafficking in persons at the Benedictine Sister’s Priory at Davao City.
Why feminist counselling? Feminist counselling or therapy aims to empower the disadvantaged and disempowered victim of violence and trafficking through a process where the victim learns to embrace her inherent power, the power within, and eventually confront the socio-cultural, economic and political factors that discriminate against and marginalize women.
In the Philippines Marist Sister Edna Gado supports the work of APWRATH. She has been involved in giving basic counselling skills courses for social workers in Davao City who are working with trafficked women and children.
NAIDOC celebrations are held around Australia each year in July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The theme for this year’s celebration celebrates the 50th anniversary of the presentation of the Yirrkala Bark Petitions to the Federal Parliament. The petitions protested the Commonwealth’s granting of mining rights on land excised from Arnhem Land reserve and sought the recognition the Australian Parliament of the Yolngu people’s traditional rights and ownership of their lands. The petitions were the first traditional documents recognised by the Commonwealth parliament and helped to shape the nation’s acknowledgment of Aboriginal people and their land rights.
Marist Sisters in Australia rejoice in the rich heritage of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We pray that their culture may be treasured and respected by us all.
Leaders of prominent religious leaders have signed an open letter organised by the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change. The letter calls upon Australia to be a part of the global solution to climate change, in order to avert a dangerous potential 4° C rise in global temperatures. At the launch of the letter on July 4 the various signatories and their spokespersons affirmed our human interconnectedness with the natural world, and our responsibility to take care of it. They shared a concern for social justice for those who are suffering the effects of climate change in the Pacific and elsewhere, as well as for those whose jobs are displaced when society moves away from coal mining. Among the signatories were Archbishop Philip Wilson, Archbishop of Adelaide & Chair of Catholic Earthcare Australia and Sr Annette Cunliffe rsc, President, Catholic Religious Australia.
Marist Sisters believe that we have a responsibility to be “grateful receivers and willing guardians” of our earth and its resources. We accept this open letter from the Religious leaders and invite you to join with us in responding to its invitation.
“I was a stranger
and you welcomed me…”(Mat 25:35)
The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol (commonly known as the Refugee Convention) defines a refugee as: ” Any person who owing to a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country.”
During Refugee Week 2013 let us take time to celebrate the contribution refugees have made to our community and pray that all refugees will be respected, listened to and valued.
“In the midst of diverse people and cultures and in a spirit of openness and respect Marist Sisters are called to build community where those who are thirsting experience and belonging.” (General Chapter 2008)
Since returning to Australia in 2003 Marist Sister Grace Ellul has been involved in ministry to refugees and asylum seekers, at times a regular visitor to Villawood Detention Centre. She has learnt much from so many resilient and loving people who only ask for a chance to begin life again after having endured imprisonment, torture, fear, anxiety for their families and often dangerous sea voyages.
The present plight causes great concern. The many situations of conflict in our world, the countless instances where minorities are persecuted, lead to displacement of peoples and the need to seek asylum. Governments are reacting defensively, looking for ways to exclude those seeking asylum.
What is worrying at present in Australia are the punitive measures that are in place. The return to offshore processing, detention of children, the very long waiting period before visas are granted are all measures that are unacceptable if basic human rights are to be respected. People continue to be forced back to their country of origin, despite clear evidence in some cases of well-founded fears.
As Marists committed to Gospel values of compassion, inclusion and hospitality we are concerned about this situation and desire to witness to these values concretely in our lives and ministry.