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1 12, 2023

October 2023 ‘Through Shadows’

2023-12-01T15:19:40+00:00December 1, 2023|Justice, Uncategorized|

Welcome to the October 2023 edition of Through Shadows, the newsletter of the Congregation Justice Office.

In this edition I’ll be bringing you news of the 25th anniversary celebrations in An Tairseach organic farm and ecology centre in Wicklow Town, an update on an event attended by Sisters, staff and Young Mothers’ Network members on UN Day for the Eradication of Poverty, and information on Pope Francis’s latest writings on climate change, Laudate Deum. The newsletter also features an article on the topic of Human Trafficking.

But first, to the news story that has dominated the front pages for more than a fortnight, the story of a conflict that has been by turn simmering and raging for more than seven decades – the Israel-Palestine crisis. This most recent phase of the crisis erupted with a sudden and brutal indiscriminate attack on Israeli civilians by Hamas militants from Gaza, with men, women and children murdered and taken hostage into Gaza. Israel’s reaction was swift and has included indiscriminate bombing of the densely populated Gaza Strip, and attacks against the Palestinian civilian population and infrastructure such as hospitals and schools. Gaza is one of the world’s most densely populated pieces of land, with more than 2 million people crammed into 140 square miles, less than half the size of Co. Louth.

On Monday 23rd October, Pope Francis said: “We must not become accustomed to war, to any war. We must not allow our hearts and minds to be anaesthetized at the repetition of these extremely serious horrors against God and humankind.”

Here is a link to a Trócaire petition on this issue that you are invited to sign, with further details below.

I visited Gaza with Trócaire in 2006, alongside the late Rev Dr Eoin Cassidy, then Chair of the International sub-committee of the Irish Commission for Justice & Social Affairs, researching a paper titled “Palestine/Israel – Principles for a Just Peace”. This was at the start of the blockade of Gaza which has now been going on for sixteen years. Even then, conditions in the territory were bleak, basic goods were scarce and hope was in short supply. But the hope that we did find was in the resilience of local people, in the courage of the aid workers and local groups running hospitals, children’s projects, and schools for the deaf. Sixteen years of crushing blockade later, nearly 80% of Gazans now rely on humanitarian assistance while more than half of Gaza’s just over 2 million people live in poverty.

In 2006 I had the pleasure of meeting local Palestinian NGOs such as the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza working for peace and justice, while in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the West Bank I also met Israeli peace and human rights groups who campaign against the occupation of East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank by Israel, and who speak out against human rights abuses. These Palestinian and Israeli peace activists continue to raise their voices, against the odds and against the tide. One such organisation is the Jerusalem-based Israeli NGO B’Tselem, whose name comes from Genesis 1:27, which states that all mankind was created “b’tselem elohim” (in the image of God). They aim to document human rights abuses in the occupied territories and foster a human rights culture in Israel. They have said of Israeli’s retaliation against the whole population of Gaza that “suffering does not justify suffering and, one injustice does not justify another and one crime does not warrant another”

A unique Israeli organisation is Breaking the Silence, a group of former Israeli soldiers now trying to tell the Israeli public about the reality of daily life for Palestinians in the occupied territories and to bring about an end to the occupation. In an open letter, Breaking the Silence has said: “Having always opposed the harming of innocent civilians, it remains our duty in these terrible times – as we count our dead on the Israeli side and worry about wounded, missing, and abducted loved ones, and as bombs are being dropped on residential neighbourhoods in Gaza, wiping out entire families with no possibility of burying the dead – to raise our voices loud and clear against the harming of all innocent civilians, both in Israel and Gaza. We call for the immediate release of all hostages and an end to the bombardment of civilians in Israel and in Gaza. Humanitarian aid must be allowed to reach civilian populations, medical facilities and places of refuge must not be harmed, and vital resources such as water and electricity must not be cut off. The killing of additional civilians will not bring back those who were lost. Indiscriminate destruction and a siege harming innocents will not bring relief, justice, or calm.

I wanted to share these organisations with you because they are important voices for hope and justice, and particularly for those Israeli organisations campaigning against the occupation, they are speaking often unpopular truths, as shown in a recent article on a clampdown on free speech and protest inside Israel. And as the conflict spills out beyond Israel and Palestine, there has been a dramatic rise in anti-Semitic attacks, with the BBC reporting a quadrupling of attacks in the UK in the last two weeks.

Closer to home, Trócaire has echoed calls from the United Nations and other international and humanitarian bodies for the following to be implemented immediately:

  • An immediate end to hostilities and violations of international law and human rights.
  • The creation of humanitarian corridors to allow the safe passage of humanitarian personnel and relief items to Gaza.
  • The agreement of a ceasefire.
  • The immediate release and return of hostages and those arbitrarily detained.
  • The holding to account of those deemed to have committed war crimes under international law.

Trócaire is asking its supporters to sign a petition calling on all political parties in Ireland to demand that the EU take greater action for the protection of civilians in Gaza.

“Peace, peace to the distant and the close” – Isaiah 57:19

Human Trafficking

Now, we turn to the difficult subject that is Human Trafficking. Ruhama, the NGO that offers support to women impacted by prostitution and sex trafficking, published its annual report last week, in which it reported a 35% increase in demand for its services. Of the 497 individuals supported by Ruhama over the last year, 147 were victims of human trafficking.

Some of the survivors of trafficking who spoke to Ruhama described being recruited for domestic work overseas by someone known to them in their town or village, often a woman. Once abroad, and with their passport in the hands of their ‘recruiter’, the women who shared their stories spoke of finding themselves forced into sex work in an unknown UK town, paying off an ever-increasing debt for travel and living expenses to their captor. Some spent years in captivity. For one woman, escape came through the help of one of her ‘clients’ while for another the chance to flee came when she was brought to a beauty salon by her captor and was able to ask for help without being heard.

As well as offering individual support, both practical and psychological, to victims of trafficking and those impacted by prostitution, Ruhama delivers training on the sex industry in Ireland for a wide variety of audiences and on trauma informed care for health and social care professionals.

This disturbing campaign graphic comes from APT – Act to Prevent Trafficking. an organisation working to keep human trafficking on the agenda and in the public consciousness. APT asks, among other campaign actions, that we:
– Keep the issue alive among public representatives and when appropriate take part in lobbying around legislation, safe housing and the way survivors of trafficking are treated;
– Watch out for properties that have been offered for rent, observe if there is any suspicious activity going on and if so report it in confidence to Crimestoppers at 1800 25 00 25 or to Garda Confidential at 1800 666 111;
– Be aware that a woman or child of foreign nationality may need help, or encouragement to go to the Gardaí;
– Pray for trafficked people;

The idea that human trafficking could be in our midst in our residential areas and that anyone could become a trafficked person is difficult. Sometimes it is the telling of real stories that breaks through our disbelief.

This short film, Anyone: Deceived, tells the stories of a man and woman trafficked into Ireland under false pretences.

Every Five Miles in a powerful original Irish drama, shining a light on human trafficking in Ireland. In a small town, a young petrol station attendant is drawn into the harsh world of a trafficked immigrant car washer. It is an amazing watch. With thanks to Sr Lydia Slattery for the recommendation. Chillingly, the film’s title comes from the statistic that you are only ever about five miles from somebody in effective slavery in Ireland, according to Oonagh Buckley, Director General of the Workplace Relations Commission.

“I can’t believe I’m alive … I thought I’d be dead next year” – the words of a trafficking survivor, featured in a seven minute clip on RTE’s Morning Ireland last week, reporting on the Ruhama annual report.

For more information, see the APT website.

Twenty Five years of ecological education, conservation and organic farming in An Tairseach

There was a celebratory atmosphere at the An Tairseach Organic Farm and Ecology Centre on Thursday of last week, as twenty-five years of ecological education, organic farming, and conservation were marked. The gathering included members of the Dominican Congregation, the An Tairseach sisters themselves, farm staff, friends, and esteemed guests, including Stephen Matthews TD, Jennifer Whitmore TD, and Counsellor Mary Kavanagh.

A centrepiece of the celebrations was the unveiling and blessing of the new permanent outdoor labyrinth feature in the An Tairseach garden, the design of which is based on the labyrinth at Chartre Cathedral, a world heritage site in France.

The Irish words An Tairseach mean ‘the threshold’, and the anniversary celebrations emphasised that to visit An Tairseach is to cross a threshold, and to enter into a unique place, a place which represents a longstanding and ambitious response by the Dominican Sisters of Wicklow Town to the threats posed by such things as climate change, global food insecurity, and the loss of biodiversity.

Laudate Deum – an exhortation to “all people of good will”

Published on 4th October, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the Apostolic Exhortation Laudate Deum is addressed to all people of good will, and is composed of six Chapters, which are summarised below. This short video shares the main messages of the publication, while this useful infographic from the Laudato Si’ Movement highlights key quotes.

In the first Chapter, “The Global Climate Crisis,” Pope Francis warns that climate change is undeniable, and its effects are becoming increasingly evident “despite some attempts to minimize or ridicule them” He expresses regret that the main cause of this problem is human activity and adds that, while we cannot correct such damage, we can still take steps to prevent even more serious damage in the future.

In the second Chapter, Pope Francis addresses the “technocratic paradigm” and stresses that nature is not a resource to be exploited without end and urges us to recognize that unbridled ambition is not ethically sustainable.

In the third Chapter, Pope Francis refers to “the weakness of international politics” and stresses the urgent need for global cooperation through new multilateral agreements between States because current and past approaches are insufficient.

In the fourth Chapter, the Pope reflects on “climate conferences: progress and failures” and encourages to overcome the selfish positions of countries for the benefit of the global common good and in the fifth Chapter to reflect on “what is expected from COP28 in Dubai?” (30th November to 12th December 2023) if we do not want to doom humanity.

In the last chapter, “Spiritual Motivations,” Pope Francis calls upon people of all religious confessions to respond. He also reminds Catholics that in the light of faith there is a responsibility to care for God’s creation and that this implies respect for the laws of nature and recognition of the beauty and richness of God’s creation.

“Let us join this path of reconciliation with the world that shelters us.”     Laudate Deum 69.

Photo shows candles lighting in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem

Prayer for peace in Israel and Gaza

Let us pray for the many people whose lives have been torn apart by conflict in Gaza and Israel.

We remember especially those who have died, those who are grieving, the injured and those now without food, shelter or medical supplies.

We pray also for those who have the power to bring peace. May they be touched by a spirit of compassion and kindness.

Lord hear us.

(Prayer with thanks to Cafod)

UN Day for the Eradication of Poverty marked in Dublin

Sr Veronica Rafferty, lay Dominican and volunteer Anne Keating, Sr Marie McHugh, Roselin and Beauty from the Young Mothers’ Network, Marie Williams from the Justice Office Ireland, marking October 17th, UN Day for the Eradication of Poverty, at an event at the Famine Memorial in Dublin.

The event included testimonies based on lived experiences of poverty and socio-economic discrimination, speeches, music and songs, and was an important moment to listen to the words and expertise of those with an experience of poverty.

The theme of the gathering was “Let Dignity be Our Compass”, and speakers highlighted key areas which are important for respecting the dignity of all, with specific demands for:
– Zero discrimination
– Affordable accommodation
– A minimum standard of income
– Dignified work and opportunities to participate

Read more about the 17th October Committee and their work.

Podcast on the impact of climate change in Africa

Missionary Voices is a podcast series which speaks to OLA Sisters and SMA Fathers from around Africa on the impact of climate change in the communities in which they work.

The first episode in the current series features Nigerian-born, Botswana-based OLA Sister Cynthia Nwadike. Botswana is relatively politically and economically stable, but Sr Cynthia talks of weather changes attributed to climate change, with shorter rainy seasons, harsher winters and longer droughts. Farmers are suffering because of the shorter rains, sudden rains after drought are causing flooding and hurricanes and tornadoes have hit.

You can listen to the full podcast here.

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30 11, 2023

November 30th ‘Through Shadows’ – English and Spanish Version

2023-12-01T15:03:45+00:00November 30, 2023|Uncategorized|

November Edition of Congregation Justice Office Newsletter


Link to English Version             https://mailchi.mp/dominicansisters/november-2023-through-shadows-justice-newsletter-8859968


Link to Spanish Version


29 11, 2023

Who Pays for Christmas – Webinar December 6th 2023

2023-12-01T15:04:15+00:00November 29, 2023|Dominican News, Justice|

Who Pays for Christmas?

The Dominican Sisters Cabra have been working with the Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network Ireland (AEFJN) to bring you this timely webinar on ethical consumerism, on Wednesday 6th December, 7.00-8.30pm Irish time. Join us as we consider the human and environmental cost of consumerism at Christmas. You can register for the webinar here: https://mailchi.mp/96be102bc371/advent2023
Who Pays for Christmas - Advent Webinar
Who Pays for Christmas – Advent Webinar
17 10, 2023

UN Day for the Eradication of Poverty

2023-12-01T15:18:58+00:00October 17, 2023|Justice, News|

Sr Veronica Rafferty, lay Dominican and volunteer Anne Keating, Sr Marie McHugh, Roselin and Beauty from the Young Mothers’ Network, Marie Williams from the Justice Office Ireland and Lara Kelly from the Congregation Justice Office, marking October 17th, UN Day for the Eradication of Poverty, at an event at the Famine Memorial in Dublin.
The event included testimonies based on lived experiences of poverty and socio-economic discrimination, speeches, music and songs, and was an important moment to listen to the words and expertise of those with an experience of poverty.
The theme of the gathering was “Let Dignity be Our Compass”, and speakers highlighted key areas which are important for respecting the dignity of all, with specific demands for:
– Zero discrimination
– Affordable accommodation
– A minimum standard of income
– Dignified work and opportunities to participate


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