Franciscan documents

Franciscan bits & pieces picked up by Ted Witham tssf

Archive for the tag “Advent”

Smooth a Highway


The Scriptures of Advent invite us to repair, straighten, restore a way for Christ to come again into our world. The images are powerful.  It is in our hands to smooth the coming of God’s reign of justice and peace.  It is left to us to prepare a way for God’s people to move beyond whatever holds them captive or oppressed to reach a place of peace and plenty.   Advent calls us into the mystery of our deeper lives in Christ.  It reminds us that Christ comes into our world today through us: we are the hands, the eyes, the  compassion of Christ reaching out to touch our world.   We are the healers, the liberators, the presence and action of God here among us.

There is a saying that when a butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazon, weather patterns in the Atlantic Ocean are affected.   The saying has many variations and I am not sure whether it is true or not.  What I do know is that today, more than ever before, we are discovering the mystery of our interrelatedness with all humanity, our earth and the whole of the cosmos.  Our horizons are forced wider and wider, as is the embrace of our compassion, and the scope of our vision.

Today we are more aware of the way our actions affect other persons, other species and the fragile environment.  We are more aware of the shadows that encircle our world.  Millions of men, women and children walk the rough and twisted pathways of deprivation, exploitation, suffering, powerlessness, and violence.  Placed on a road and stretched single file their number would surely wrap around our globe many times.  Today we recognize that the problems of the world, like its peoples, are interrelated.  We understand that where there is extreme poverty, or chronic conflict, the rights of the most vulnerable are most often violated, and their suffering further amplified.

Extreme poverty [having less than $US 1.00  a day for all ones needs]  is the primary catalyst for conflict,  the spread of diseases like TB and HIVAIDS, and the forced migration of tens of millions in search of a better life.  It is the driving force behind the trafficking of 3 million women and children annually.  It is poverty that propels the majority of these victims into the commercial sex trade.  Poverty is the seed that produces the bad fruit of contemporary slavery.

Extreme poverty holds an estimated 1 billion people captive in hunger, exploitation, sickness, fear and violence. One prediction adds an additional 89 million people to this number by 2010.  One third of deaths, nearly 18 million a year,  are due to poverty-related causes.  Every year more than 10 million children die of hunger and preventable diseases: over 30,000 per day.  Since 1990, 270 million people have died, mostly women and children, roughly equal to the population of the US. (Bread for the World / UNICEF].

Caught on a Highway to Hell

Joalo is seven.  He was born in Cambodia.  After his parents were killed in political conflict he was sold by his uncle for just three hundred US dollars. The money was needed to buy food.  He was handed over to a young woman and smuggled over the border into Thailand where he was forced into the sex tourism industry.  Young boys are popular.

Since there is no monitoring of his working conditions, his “employers” are able to leave him locked in a windowless room for most of the day, with water but little food.  It is very likely that he will not reach his tenth birthday as the HIVAIDS virus is a constant risk.

Thousands of boys like Joalo work in the sex trade in cities throughout the Asia Pacific, including Australia.   Women and girls too are trafficked globally for the sole purpose of sexual exploitation.  They are usually from impoverished and therefore vulnerable situations.  One of the fastest growing sex trade ‘hubs’ is in the Asia Pacific region embracing all the countries surrounding the Mekong River, including Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and southern China.  The many marginalised people of the region are at risk because of lack of access to education, poverty, lack of appropriate information in indigenous languages, cultural and social degeneration within traditional communities, non-traditional drug use, and increasing involvement in the sex trade which leads to high rates of HIV/AIDS infection and transmission,  and  increased vulnerability to this disease.

Many of the trafficked persons are physically abducted, or lured with half truths or hopes of employment, marriage and the promise of a better life.  Once enslaved,  sex-trafficked victims are subjected to sexual, physical, and psychological abuse from traffickers, pimps and customers.  Many discover that they have incurred a debt which they are bonded to pay off in sexual labour. These debts can last a lifetime, enduring even after a person is repatriated.

The trafficking of persons is a hidden crime, and therefore hard to quantify.  Frighteningly, one United Nations Agency suggests that 2.44 million persons are trafficked annually:  43% for sexual exploitation, 32% for labour exploitation; and 25% a mixture of both.  It is believed that 80 percent are female and 50 percent are children, and that the majority of these victims are forced into the commercial sex trade.  It is known that the trade is growing.  There is no doubt that sex trafficking is a lucrative, and therefore booming business. Because the sex trade is normally secretive, locating sex traffickers and sex tourists to justice is immensely difficult.

Franciscans across the Asia Pacific and beyond reach out and rescue the most vulnerable.

They provide programs of immediate aid and empowerment, providing pathways to a better life.  The numbers  of the afflicted are great and their needs many.   Something more is needed to bring about lasting change.  Franciscans International participates actively in United Nations efforts to eradicate the conditions of extreme poverty that leave children and women open to sexual exploitation and enslavement.

Can you help us to smooth the pathways of those who walk the rocky roads? Your gift to Franciscans International will help us to do this. Please add a donation to your subscription form or send your donation direct to Australian Treasurer Geoff Jordan tssf.

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Waiting on a Promise


WEEK ONE:  2009

ADVENT

[Third Order, Society of St Francis, Australian Province)

A journey, a couple, a star, shepherds, a birth, and a child.   We pause to remember a story that is thousands of years old, and which echoes the hopes and longings of many peoples and places.  It is not a nostalgic reminiscence of times gone by, but a dynamic, divine challenge to enter into the mystery of God’s desire born among us.  Walter Brueggemann, Scripture scholar, calls it prophetic remembrance:  we look back to remember in such a way that we are compelled to live differently into the future.

God’s promise is revealed not only in the serenity of the child in the manger, or in the wonder of angels and stars, or shepherds and sheep, since to look only at the externals we risk missing the explosive enormity of the event.  Rather, our remembrance of the birth of the babe in a cattle stall is an invitation to reflect again on the greatness of God’s gift to us and for us.  As we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Christ child, we cannot forget that it is our story too!  We too are called to bring Christ’s reign of justice and compassion to birth in our own lives.

Mary and Joseph lived at a time when the Israelites were an oppressed people longing for that new world that God had promised. They waited in hope for liberation, for a world where lion would be at peace with lamb, where the lowly would be lifted, and the hungry fed. They longed for a world where the desire for power and control, wealth and possessions, self-fulfillment and pleasure would be transformed to a world where equality, inclusion, justice and peace prevailed.

They longed for more than the birth of a child. They longed to see that new creation born of God’s dream for all.  They waited on a promise.  We too wait for God, and God waits for God’s promise to be fulfilled in us, and God’s reign to embrace with peace every corner of our world.  With St Francis we come to know that we are the mothers of Christ when we bring him forth in lives that are gift for the Other. Christ is born again and again in our world, and God’s gift is enfleshed each time we participate in an act of birthing a new humanity, a new world, and a new future.

Now is the time to turn our eyes to see the oppressed; our ears to hear the cries of hundreds of millions living in extreme poverty. Now is the time to reach out our hands to draw back those excluded and marginalized.  Now is the time to proclaim the Good News not only with our lips, but in the choices and decisions of our everyday lives.

What is the promise that you wait to see fulfilled?

What is the promise that you will fulfill in your life?

India Waits for a New Tomorrow.

In the towns and villages of India God’s people are oppressed and bend low beneath the weight of grief, suffering and fear.  They long for God’s promise to come true.  They long for a new world where justice and equality, peace and inclusion are more than dreams.

The government of India has failed to protect vulnerable communities including Dalits, tribal groups, and religious minorities. Since 2008, supporters of Hindu militant groups in Orissa have attacked Christians, many of them tribal minorities or Dalits. The militants have burned churches, beat priests and nuns, and destroyed property. Several policemen were suspended for dereliction of duty after a nun alleged that she was raped. At this time at least 40 persons have died in the violence, with scores injured and thousands displaced.

Failure to secure justice for the 2002 Gujarat riots-in which more than 2,000 Muslims were killed following an attack on a train carrying Hindu pilgrims-has fueled anger amongst Muslims who face discrimination in access to housing and jobs.  The Indian government does little to protect them.

Despite a scheme launched four years ago to provide universal education, millions of children in India still have no access to education and work long hours, many as bonded laborers. Many children continue to be trafficked for marriage, sex work, or employment. Others languish in substandard orphanages or detention centers.

Human Rights Watch Report, 2009.

Recently, in a joint statement read at the General Assembly of the UN, Franciscans International spoke out on behalf of the persecuted and suffering peoples of India, making known their story: On 1 August, seven Christians including women and children were burnt alive, several dozens injured and around 177 houses were looted and destroyed mainly by fire using special chemicals. These killings and widespread violent attacks happened on unsubstantiated allegations…..The administration repeatedly failed to protect minorities …

Franciscans International, is an NGO working with the United Nations in the name of the whole Franciscan Family.  It is a voice speaking to the powerful decision makers of the world bringing about the change we long to see in our world.  For over 25 years Franciscans International has worked to fulfill God’s dream, facilitating systemic transformation in the world on behalf of the most vulnerable and our wounded planet.  Franciscans International works for that justice without which there can be no enduring “Peace and Earth”.


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