Notes on peace and justice

During a prayer walk sponsored by Christian Churches Together at Kelly Ingram Park in Birmigham, Ala., April 15, members holds hands in prayer at the "Kneeling Ministers" sculpture. The statue depicts the Revs. John Thomas Porter, Nelson H. Smith and A. D. King kneeling in prayer after being confronted by Public Safety Commissioner Bull Connor during an April 7, 1963 protest. Christian Churches Together sponsored a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail." (CNS/Mary D. Dillard, One Voice)

People pray during walk sponsored by Christian Churches Together in Birmigham, Ala., to mark the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” (CNS/Mary D. Dillard, One Voice)

Religious leaders publish response to ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’

The response of U.S. Christian clergy leaders to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is available in booklet form.

Available from Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A., which represents 36 national communions including the Catholic Church, was drafted to mark the 50th anniversary of Rev. King’s letter written while he was held in solitary confinement in Birmingham, Ala., at the height of the civil rights movement..

The booklet can be viewed and downloaded here.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, participated in two days of events commemorating the anniversary April 14-15 in Birmingham.

The booklet calls upon people of faith to address the causes of injustice rather than simply respond to its symptoms. The clergy said the struggle today is more than political and economic, but personal as well.

“Dr. King reminds us that though we may pursue the illusion of moderation, in reality we cannot avoid taking a stand,” the response from clergy reads in part. “Mere ‘lukewarm acceptance’ of the concerns of African-Americans and other disadvantage groups, which tacitly communicates that we have already made sufficient progress, presents a stumbling block to authentic change.”

The response includes several steps that can be taken to confront injustice in society.

It’s a good read, something worth reflecting upon for those called to follow the example of the living Jesus in today’s world.

New York drone protesters found guilty of trespass

Five people who last fall blocked an entrance to the Hancock Field Air National Guard Base near Syracuse, N.Y., in a protest against U.S. military drone policy were found guilty of trespass April 18.

DeWitt Town Court Judge Robert Jokl determined the five were guilty in an evening trial after they admitted to refusing a police order to leave a roadway into the base during the Oct. 5 peaceful demonstration.

Defendant Jim Clune, a Catholic Worker and member of St. James Church in Johnson City, N.Y., said Jokl allowed each person to speak about their reason for participating in the demonstration, which called attention to American drone policy and indiscriminate targeting of subjects in places such as Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Hancock is one of several U.S. bases where drone operators pilot unmanned aircraft in their search for suspected Muslim militants halfway around the world.

“The killing of the innocent must never be business as usual, the normal course of events,” Clune told the court, “but should be seen as what it is. A catastrophe. An outrage. An attack on the very order of all that is good and holy.”

“So we have a choice. Given that law can be either among the greatest of human achievements or the falsification of morality we must say yes or no. Choose life or choose death.”

Clune told Catholic News Service this morning that he has been at Hancock before and will return again. He said his action stems from his faith.

He expects to be sentenced to a short jail term April 25, but said that the price of losing his freedom for a few days is small compared to the price people living under drone flyovers face daily.

Also convicted were Brian Hynes of New York, Ed Kinane and Julienne Oldfield, both of Syracuse, and Mark Scibilia-Carver of Trumansburg, N.Y. Martha Hennessey of Vermont, whose grandmother is Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, was found not guilty in absentia. She is traveling in Jordan.

Ignatian Solidarity Network honors Sister Helen Prejean

The Cleveland-based Ignatian Solidarity Network will honor Sister Helen Prejean with its Robert M. Holstein Faith That Does Justice Award.

Executive Director Chris Kerr said Sister Helen, a Sister of St. Joseph, is being honored for her work on ending capital punishment and ministry to inmates on death row.

Sister Helen will receive the award May 7 during a reception in New Orleans, her home.

The award is named for Jesuit Father Robert Holstein, who died in 2003. A labor lawyer and long-time social justice advocate, he was a member of the order’s California Province. He was a founder of the network’s annual Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice.

The network promotes leadership and advocacy among students, alumni, and others from Jesuit schools, parishes and ministries through education and by encouraging a lifelong commitment to serving the Catholic faith and promoting justice.

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