Wednesday, April 1, 2020

In this COVID-19 crisis can we recognize we are one human family? Both Pope Francis and the UN Secretary General Call for a Global Cease-fire



U.N. Secretary General calls for a global cease-fire
“Pope Francis issued two passionate humanitarian appeals on Sunday, March 29, 2020, in response to the coronavirus pandemic. First, he joined the U.N. secretary general in calling for the cessation of armed conflicts ‘in all corners of the world.’ Second, he called on governments worldwide ‘to avoid tragedies’ that could result from the spread of Covid-19 in overcrowded prisons. . . . . He prayed that ‘the common effort against the pandemic may bring everyone to recognize our need to strengthen the fraternal bonds as members of the one human family.’   
“On Monday, March 23, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres appealed to warring parties ‘to lay down their weapons.’ He said, ‘It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.’ In a message that was transmitted to a global audience by Vatican Media, Francis said, ‘I associate myself with all those who have accepted the appeal, and I invite all [parties in conflicts] to follow up on the appeal by stopping every form of warlike hostilities.’ He called on leaders to facilitate the creation of humanitarian corridors for aid, to open avenues of diplomacy and to attend ‘to those who find themselves in situations of great vulnerability.’    

According to the 2020 report from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, there were some 41 active armed conflicts over the last year, in places like Yemen, Syria, Libya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Venezuela. The global powers, including the United States and Russia, are involved in many of them.”  Read more in America Media

If you would like to stand with the Pope speaking for a cease-fire and signing in support of the message of the Secretary General, click here   UN Secretary General António Guterres wrote,  "Let us take inspiration from coalitions and dialogue slowly taking shape among rival parties in some parts to enable joint approaches to COVID-19. But we need much more. End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world. It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now. That is what our human family needs, now more than ever.”                                                     
To end the sickness of war, we need to disarm our hearts and start facing the truth.  Our greed and unreasonable fears are main things that fuel violence and war in the world.  Am I willing to face this truth, choose to live in simpler ways, learn to control my fears, and lessen the suffering in the world? 
Start to learn from spiritual groups like the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative   or  Pace e Bene or Compassionate Integrity Training how to disarm our own hearts.  Start to learn from educational groups like World Beyond War how to face realities and abolish war. Do I understand the meaning of the word “security” or has my understanding been high jacked?
When compared to other countries, the U.S. has more COVID-19 cases and is very vulnerable. “The military occupation of the American mind has brainwashed Americans with strictly military concepts of ‘defense’ and ‘security,’ perverting federal spending priorities in the interest of war and militarism at the expense of all our country’s other vital needs, including the health of Americans.
Why can’t we just bomb the virus?
Of course, this question is ridiculous. But this is how U.S. leaders respond to every danger we face, with massive diversions of our national resources to the military-industrial complex (MIC) that leave this otherwise wealthy country starved of resources to tackle problems our leaders can’t pretend to solve with weapons and war. Depending what is counted as ‘defense’ spending, it accounts for up to two-thirds of federal discretionary spending. . . . . At the end of the Cold War in 1989, senior officials told the Senate Budget Committee that the U.S. military budget could safely be cut by 50% over the next ten years.  Committee chairman Jim Sasser hailed the moment as ‘the dawn of the primacy of domestic economics.’”  Have we in the U.S. chosen to do that so that people could have the security of food, housing, health care, education, and environmental protection? Read more.  
This is the time that each of us could seek to disarm our hearts and disarm our countries and seek authentic securities, such as those laid out in the U.N. Sustainable Development goals.   Listen or read and learn from Pace e Bene.  Learn to be compassionate towards your self, towards others, and infuse compassion into our global systems, a way to authentic security, a way to peace.


We could seek to disarm our words. As Pierre Thompson writes in "We Must Resist the “War” on Coronavirus," we are invited to examine our rhetoric which may lead us in dangerous directions. “Being ‘at war’ requires us to accept a dualistic and confrontational worldview: winners vs. losers, allies vs. enemies, us vs. them.” The word war “stifles our empathy and compassion for other human beings.” Each of us can choose to use words that indicate the solidarity of the human family, that lead to the common good, and that unite us in nonviolent energy. We are not in a time of war, we are in a time of joining Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Beloved Community."  We are in an era of joining the global circle dance of compassion

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Domestic violence during Coronavirus quarantines and stay-at-home orders

The COVID19 public health situation can expose additional dangers for individuals experiencing domestic violence. National Network to End Domestic Violence has compiled guidance and resources for shelters and programs and they'll continue to update it: bit.ly/2W9ITR2

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24 hours a day in more than 200 languages at 1-800-799-SAFE or text LOVEIS to 22522. The D.C. Crisis Helpline is available at 202-561-7000. Maryland’s Domestic Violence hotline is available at 800-MD-HELPS. Virginia’s Domestic Violence hotline is available at 800-838-4753. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.


Resources from National Domestic Violence Organizations

Resources from Other National Organizations: 

Resources in Other Languages


Thursday, March 19, 2020

The Impact of Plastics Bags


Picture from CNBCtv
Days ago, I saw an older woman making a carpet with plastic bags at Naomi House Retirement Apartments.  It was wonderful because the carpet had good colors and the woman was very happy doing that. I had never seen it before, so I asked her,  “Are you making the carpet of plastic bags?” And she said, “Yes. The plastic bags are polluting the world and this is my way to transform them into something useful and collaborate with the care for God's creation. The carpets will be a gift to poor families.” Her way to share her knowledge struck me to reflect on what I know about plastic bags. Well, although the plastic bags are lightweight, they would be preserved for a long time in the environment. In fact, plastic bags affect our planet dangerously because they increase pollution and kill lives. 

Plastic bags are harming soil and oceans because they are made from polyethylene (petroleum). That means that the manufacturing process of plastic bags is prejudicial to the environment.  And the plastic bags remain toxic to the world after people throw them away. Rather than decomposing, plastic disintegrates into fine pieces: microplastics. These directly affect agriculture and food because plastic bags make the soil less fertile.  For example, some scientists explain that when plastic bags are discarded, many of them end up in landfills, where they may take up to 1,000 years to decompose, filtering their toxic substances into the soil. In addition, plastic bags travel by sea and finally accumulate in a patch. A patch is like an island of trash. From current information about plastic bags, I found that the microplastic accumulation in the ocean grows more and more every day. This waste is known as  “garbage patches” is contributing to global pollution on a major scale. Actually, there are five garbage patches located across the globe. One of the most famous patches is the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” It is located between Hawaii and California in the Pacific Ocean. 

As I mentioned, the microplastics are very difficult to remove and once ingested, cannot be digested, which can lead to a painful death. For instance, in the soil, the birds often mistake plastic bags for food, filling their stomachs with toxic debris. The activists showed that the number of seabirds found dead as a result of plastic is estimated at 1 million a year. Unfortunately, if we talk about our oceans, the scene is not different. For example, recent studies estimate that fish off the West Coast ingest over 12,000 tons of plastic a year. When the fish eat the plastic bags, they also transfer it to bigger fish and marine mammals by the food chain. All in all, the plastic bags are killing animals and plants slowly. 

In conclusion, the plastic bags start out as fossil fuels and end up as deadly waste in the ground and the sea. Although the plastic pollution in soil and ocean caused risk for the animals, I also believe the plastic bags impact all human life. Microplastic is everywhere, so I ask myself and I invite you to ask yourself, what should we do to reduce the use of plastic bags? How are we going to stop pollution and transform our waste of plastic bags into something beautiful for others? The wise woman that I met, taught me with her action. There is nothing in this life that can limit our creativity if we really want to do something right and good. Now, therefore, it is our time to stop single-use plastic bags. Our planet can not tolerate more!

Here a good video to continue our reflections about plastic bags.




Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Poverty: A Result of Structural Inequality


Image created by Carolyn Chelsie
Who wants to be poor? According to the United Nations’ Report, 55% of the world’s population cannot access social protection, 122 women for every 100 men of the same age group are living in extreme poverty, and climate change is increasing poverty of low-income countries. The poverty scenario is devastating. No one wishes to live in poverty. Thousands of organizations are trying to end poverty for a long time. The complex reality of poverty is a call to analyze why poverty increases instead of decreases. Although some people believe that poverty is inevitable and the poor don’t do enough, poverty has roots in the current structural inequality that can be solved by the empowerment of women and protecting the environment. 

If poverty is recognized as structural inequality, the end of poverty is possible. First,  every citizen should recognize that poverty has economic reasons as the principal determinant of the cycle of poverty (Foster). Everyone can see the difference between the rich and the poor. For instance, the Oxfam Report explains that 85 people have more wealth than half of all the population in the world (Foster). This information should be uncomfortable because these systems are enabling an elite to accumulate vast fortunes at the expense of others. A wealthy elite is an outrageous reality. It shows how economic systems are unequal.  In addition, there are some places that have eradicated poverty. Countries such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland have achieved levels of equity for their citizens. Their government model focuses on social security and employment (Hodgson). The governments have a commitment to work against poverty as a central part of their strategy. In conclusion, poverty is not an abstract situation; poverty has real faces and places. Therefore poverty is a failure of the systems, which means the inequality of the economy should be changed. This gap can't be resolved without the will to build more solidarity economies.

If poverty is recognized as structural inequality, the mistaken belief that the poor are lazy can be overcome. First of all, who are the poor? What is the face of poverty? Where do they live? Identifying the marginalized groups is not hard. For example, 45.8% of black children under 6 years live below poverty, compared to 14.5% of white children in the United States (State of Working America). Most of the poor are women, blacks, and indigenous people; but of course, the most disadvantaged groups would vary from country to country. The relationship between discrimination and poverty is evident. It is crucial to identify structural discrimination in “neutral” policies that have disproportional impacts. Neutral policies try not to be discriminatory but in practice they are. In the same way, it is clear that there are low wages. The problem is not that people don’t work enough, the problem is that they are underpaid. It happens everywhere even if the country is considered rich or developed. To illustrate, according to Stephen Pimpare, poverty is common in the United States. It is not a consequence of irresponsibility or immorality. He supported the results of the Census Bureau which shows that one-third of residents in the United States fall below the poverty line at least once for 2 or 3 months (Pimpare). To sum up, briefly, breaking up poverty has to look at the discrimination and low wages. Ending poverty doesn’t depend just on the poor’ efforts. It has to be addressed from structural systems. 

When poverty is recognized as structural inequality, the systems of privilege will disappear. A system of privilege refers to keeping advantages for some and disadvantages for others. It forms part of the social structure and makes it unfair for marginalized groups. In light of the above, education and health care are the major forms of the system of privilege.  Populations in poor areas receive an inferior education than populations in wealthier areas.  For instance, in the system of privilege a child must attend an underdeveloped public school or a girl is guided toward caregiving instead of leadership. Under those circumstances, the child doesn’t have equal preparation to excel. The females often assume roles that are subordinate. By the same token, health care in the system of privilege is unequal. The poor cannot cover their medical costs. In fact, according to Shervin Assari, 13.5% of the poor in the United States would be victims of the proposed modification of health care. Accordingly, poor people will not be able to attend to their health on time or they will incur debts. As shown above, the system of privilege stymies the concept that all groups have equal access to universal health care and education. 

The solution to poverty has to address structural inequality by promoting women’s rights and environmental care. The current structural systems unfairly affect the living conditions of the poor and it should be changed. As Shervin Assari indicated, the end of poverty requires structural changes. This is non-negotiable.  To be specific, first, women empowerment can break poverty because women have a crucial role in society. The government must work toward eliminating gender disparity and promoting women's rights.  One example would be removing gender stereotypes from books. Equally, all countries should train in sustaining the environment. The environment sustains us with a variety of resources. But in the last few years, the world has suffered from different environmental problems more often than before, such as floods, forest fires, and other natural disasters. The global population must put more pressure on the forces that exploit the environment. It is necessary to find ways to protect diversity and local populations. Working on sustainability is an assignment for all.   

In conclusion, poverty is erasable; it is a result of structural inequality and it can not be overcome individually. Organizations, governments, and citizens must work together. It is time to hear the cry of the poor and the earth (Pope Francis). I believe that humanity has the power to end poverty, but we need the will of the whole community. We'll see the change. I believe that we’ll find a way to work as global citizens, like one family.  

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Bibliography
Assari, Shervin. “Why Poverty Is Not a Personal Choice, but a Reflection of Society.” The Conversation, 24 Dec. 2019, theconversation.com/why-poverty-is-not-a-personal-choice-but-a-reflection-of-society-79552.

Foster, Dawn. “Why Poverty Isn't Inevitable.” New Humanist, 2015, newhumanist.org.uk/articles/4846/why-poverty-isnt-inevitable.
“Goal 1: End Poverty in All Its Forms Everywhere - United Nations Sustainable Development.” United Nations, United Nations, www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/poverty/

Hodgson, Geoffrey M. “What the World Can Learn about Equality from the Nordic Model.” The Conversation, 18 Feb. 2020, theconversation.com/what-the-world-can-learn-about-equality-from-the-nordic-model-99797.

Pimpare, Stephen. “Analysis | Laziness Isn't Why People Are Poor. And iPhones Aren't Why They Lack Health Care.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 8 Mar. 2017, www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/03/08/laziness-isnt-why-people-are-poor-and-iphones-arent-why-they-lack-health-care/.

Pope, Franciscus. “Laudato Si' (24 May 2015): Francis.” Laudato Si' (24 May 2015) | Francis, 24 May 2015, www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html.

“Poverty.” State of Working America, 2010, www.stateofworkingamerica.org/index.html%3Fp=4193.html

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Water: our common wealth

World Water Day, held on 22 March every year since 1993, focuses on the importance of freshwater. World Water Day celebrates water and raises awareness of the 2.2 billion people living without access to safe water. It is about taking action to tackle the global water crisis. 

How is the water in your country? For example, according to the SDG indicator,  50% of the population in Peru uses a safely managed drinking water service. What happened with the other 50% of the population? Here more information: https://www.sdg6data.org/country-or-area/Peru#anchor_6.2.1b

Discover the percentage of drinking water, water quality, population with access to sanitation services, or the proportion of wastewater that is treated safely.
https://www.sdg6data.org/#Search_country

Here resources to learn the relationship between water and climate change: https://www.worldwaterday.org/2020-home/learn/

This #WorldWaterDay, let’s show our best hand hygiene moments to fight #COVID19.
#SafeHands on #WorldWaterDay (but please don’t forget to turn off the tap!)