Jesuit Refugee Service USA Gives Voice to Refugees
Jesuit Refugee Service is a non-profit Catholic organization that works “to defend the rights of refugees and migrants throughout the world.” The U.S. division of JRS employs advocacy efforts to fight for “just and generous policies and programs” that will benefit refugees and ensure their protection during times of conflict.

JRS/USA partners with JRS branches across the world along with other aid organizations to make the voices of refugees heard and to propose actions that will properly address their situation.
Though JRS/USA focuses on select domestic issues such as U.S. detainees’ right to religious expression, the organization has pinpointed the following international advocacy issues to focus on during 2013:

  • International Detention: JRS/USA works to assist refugees and asylum seekers who risk being detained. The use of detention to limit asylum seekers has increased over the past ten years, and JRS/USA advocates against the unnecessary detainment of those seeking asylum.
  • Haiti and Dominican Republic: JRS/USA is currently fighting against the unfair treatment of refugees and immigrants that is occurring in the Dominican Republic. The government of the Dominican Republic recently enacted policies that have resulted in “the denial and/or revocation of the nationality of Dominican-born persons of Haitian ethnicity,” and mass deportations of people of Haitian descent are occurring. Dominican-born persons of Haitian descent face xenophobia, arbitrary detention, and denationalization.
  • Colombia: Colombia is home to five million internally displaced people, and 500,000 Colombians have fled to countries such as Panama, Ecuador and Venezuela. Most of these refugees lack access to basic services, and legal barriers prevent them from fully integrating into their countries of asylum. U.S. and global funding for the protection and assistance of Colombian refugees and internally displaced people remains insufficient, so resettlement efforts have not been successful. JRS/USA advocates for increased funding for Colombian refugees and internally displaced people and fights to increase the number of Colombian refugees resettled in the United States.
  • Migrants and Asylum Seekers: JRS/USA advocates for more generous international standards for the treatment of refugees and those who have been internally displaced. JRS/USA also fights for improvements in U.S. treatment of asylum-seekers, detained immigrants, and other displaced people.

Most U.S. citizens agree that certain standards of treatment towards refugees and internally displaced people should be upheld, but they disagree about the role the U.S. government should play in upholding these standards. JRS/USA seeks to highlight the difference U.S. policymakers can make in the lives of those threatened by their own government or country of origin.

– Katie Bandera

Source: Catholic Sentinel, JRS/USA
Photo: JRUSA

New Pope is to be Elected on March 12th
Cardinals are convening in preparation for March 12th, the day the new pope is to be elected. However, this date is contingent upon if the 115 voting cardinals can settle debates they are having on issues plaguing the Roman Catholic Church. While cardinals have vowed secrecy, discussions between them have supposedly been leaked to Italian newspapers. These newspapers report that the Vatican bank and reformation of the Vatican’s bureaucracy are large issues being debated.

Thus, until agreements are made and debates are settled, the cardinals may have to vote time and time again. Why? Well, Papal elections require a two-thirds majority vote. Voting is done in secrecy and only when a two-thirds majority has been reached has a new pope been elected. The election of a new pope is signaled to the rest of the world through the appearance of white smoke from burnt ballots from the Sistine Chapel.

In 2005, the last time a pope was elected, elections took three days. How many days this election will take will be closely monitored, as it “is being seen as a reflection of the many challenges facing the Church,” according to BBC News. One of these challenges may have to deal with whether or not to elect an African pope. With more new members to the Church coming from African than European nations, the direction the Church takes for the future is very important and this direction will be determined by the pope that the cardinals choose. According to The New York Times, the cardinals seem to be looking for a pope that has the charisma of Pope John Paul II and the grit of Pope Rambo I. Whether a pope with these characteristics can be found and whether he will be the answer to the Church’s challenges will be determined soon.

– Angela Hooks

Sources: BBC, NY Times
Photo: BBC

CRS Rice Bowl Fights HungerIt’s that time of year again for Catholics all over the world. With Lent starting this past Wednesday, Catholics are prompted to spend the religious season reflecting upon their own lives and giving up a little something to prepare for Easter Sunday. Many people give up the classics: chocolate, television, swearing, etc. Yet, there is a bit more to the season. A big part of the Lenten season isn’t just giving up, it is giving. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has launched this year’s Rice Bowl project, formerly known as Operation Rice Bowl.

The project involves distributing small, cardboard bowl containers to parishes and the parishioners take them home or to the office and continuously give a bit at a time by simply putting their gifts into the box and returning the bowl later. Wary about where this money is headed? Don’t worry, CRS is one of the most transparent organizations around.

The funds are handled responsibly and they are used in a very interesting way. About 25 percent of a person’s gift is used to help the hungry in their own community while the other 75 percent go to CRS humanitarian efforts around the world. With about 23.5 percent of the U.S. population donating to CRS, that could add up to be quite a large collection.

One certainly doesn’t have to be Catholic to appreciate the intentions and effects of all the CRS is doing to help the hungry.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: CRS Rice Bowl, CIA World Factbook
Photo: Catholic News Agency