St. Columban Mission for Justice, Peace and Ecology Stories en Sewing Hope: how a cooperative helped heal migrants trapped in Mexico <p>For more than 25 years, the Missionary Society of Saint Columban has worked in one of the most impoverished areas of the US/Mexico border: Rancho Anapra, located on the far western edge of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. Many of its streets remain unpaved, the water is undrinkable, and electricity service is scarce.</p> <p>Geographically, Anapra’s northern border is Sunland Park, New Mexico, from which it is separated by an 18-foot high, steel barrier. Rather than being an advantage, its proximity to the United States is a burden because it attracts drug traffickers as well as the human traffickers, which has made it a very high-risk area for violence, kidnapping, and the recruitment of young people into these criminal organizations.</p> <p>In contrast to this violence, for decades, Anapra has been a place of welcome for internal immigration. Mexicans displaced by poverty, natural disasters, and drug violence have migrated to Ciudad Juárez in the hope of a better life. Starting in the 1990s, the <a href="’s-corn-farmers-and-nafta’s-uneven-impacts">North American Free Trade Agreement’s</a> destabilization of the Mexican economy, plus the arrival in Juárez of the maquiladora industry, attracted thousands of people in search of work. Anapra, little by little, became "a bedroom" community for those who were employed in the maquilas.</p> <p><strong>Corpus Christi, a sanctuary in the desert</strong></p> <p>One of the few places where Anapra residents can find support and comfort is Corpus Christi Parish, which is administered by the Missionary Society of St. Columban, under the pastoral care of Fr. Bill Morton. People come to Corpus Christi to talk to God about their joys and hopes, their sorrows and anxieties. Here they can enjoy the milestones of life by baptizing their children, receiving the sacraments of first communion and confirmation, and celebrating the joy of their Quinceñeras and weddings. In this poor community, the people know what it means to ask God for "their daily bread."</p> <p>The parish is also a place of encounter. In September 2018, the first groups of migrants from Cuba and Central America began to arrive in Cd.Juarez, only to be followed by a great wave of people fleeing the violence and poverty generated in their countries by corruption, greed, and the <a href="">impacts of US policy</a>. They arrived at the border between Mexico and the US, hoping to receive asylum, to reunite with their families who were already in the US, and build their "dream" of a better life.</p> <p>Instead they ran into a wall.</p> <p>Over many decades, the US government has been gradually militarizing its southern border to keep migrants out. While the literal wall gets more attention, the government is also building a “policy wall” that makes it dangerous and difficult for migrants and asylum seekers to seek protection in the country.</p> <p>President Trump implemented several policies that built up this policy wall, aimed at “deterring” migrants from asking for asylum, a legal right they have under international and US law. These policies included <a href="">metering</a> and <a href="">family separation</a>, as well as <a href="">Title 42</a>.</p> <p>When President Trump was forced to end his family separation policy after public backlash, he changed tactics in January 2019 by implementing the so-called <a href="">Migrant Protection Protocols</a> (or, MPP). This policy forced hundreds of thousands of women, children, and men to be returned to Mexico in cruel and inhuman conditions. Housing conditions and access to shelters in Mexico are very limited and precarious. Because of MPP, many shelters became unhealthy and overcrowded places that further harmed these pilgrims from the Americas.</p> <p>The Columbans team in El Paso and Ciudad Juárez started a support network for our migrant brothers and sisters who arrived by the hundreds on the Mexican side and who were being returned under MPP. On September 5, 2019, we opened Casa Acogida, or "House of Welcome,” as a response to the humanitarian crisis and the urgent need for spaces to receive and protect women with their children who were at risk of being left on the street.</p> <p>While immigration advocates and people of faith in the United States, including our Columban advocates in Washington, DC, pressed President Trump and Congress to end MPP, in Ciudad Juárez, migrants simply had to wait. And wait. As the months passed, the women of Casa Acogida became part of the community. Little by little, they realized they needed to have an “ordinary” life so that waiting for their asylum appointments would not be such a heavy burden and so that desperation would not force them to take dangerous paths. In the search for alternatives to avoid sinking into depression, the Embroidery Project was born.</p> <p><strong>The Embroidery Project born in the House of Welcome</strong></p> <p>An old dream of a cooperative, or alternative employment community, resurfaced in the midst of this humanitarian crisis. As a way to occupy themselves and take their minds off their situation, the women of Casa Acogida learned how to hand embroider colorful designs representing their home countries and cultures.</p> <p><figure role="group" class="caption caption-img align-left"><a href="/sites/default/files/images/women-from-the-embroidery-project-showing-their-tote-bags.jpg"><img alt="Women from the Embroidery Project showing their tote bags" data-entity-type="file" data-entity-uuid="99ddadec-8ad8-40d5-aa50-6dbf6b88e284" height="302" src="/sites/default/files/images/women-from-the-embroidery-project-showing-their-tote-bags.jpg" width="302" loading="lazy" /></a> <figcaption>Women from the Embroidery Project showing their tote bags</figcaption></figure></p> <p>Yahaira, a Salvandorian migrant who was with the Embroidery Project, says that it “helps to be distracted. We are not as worried thinking about what will happen with us. … We feel relieved and focused on the embroidery.” After taking a few months to perfect their skills, the women started selling their embroideries as tote bags. This way, they were able to earn money while waiting in Mexico.</p> <p>Yahaira says that “as a migrant, we cannot get jobs. Thanks to this work and the people that buy our work, we are able to get food to our table.[...] It is also a way to care for our children while we work from home.”</p> <p>In March 2021, but before December 2021 when the <a href="">courts ordered its reimplementation</a>, President Biden terminated the MPP Program and put an end to the wait for thousands of migrants on the Mexican side of the border. The women of Casa Acogida were finally able to cross over to the US and to meet with their families.</p> <p>But the Embroidery Project they started lives on in the Corpus Christi Parish. More than 15 women and girls, between 15 and 60 years old, build community by weaving together their hopes, their dreams, and their desires for a world with justice and without violence. Every Tuesday and Saturday they meet in the parish hall to embroider together, share a meal, and build community among themselves. As they embroider together, around several large tables, they not only share tips and techniques on how to improve their embroidery skills, but also offer advice and tell stories about the different situations they face in their daily lives.</p> <p>“Ana,” a member of the Corpus Christi community, says that the Embroidery Project “is the only space and moment in which I can feel I am myself. I came to realize that I exist; I am an individual person."</p> <p>The Embroidery Project hopes to expand its work to include more women. Currently there is interest from other groups to support the project but we still need enough demand for the products to continue to strengthen our reception space and community. Will you consider supporting the Embroidery Project as it seeks to provide even more women with an opportunity to reclaim their dignity and support themselves and their families? You can donate <a href="">here</a>. <em>Please add a note flagging your donation for the "Embroidery Project."</em></p> <p>But whatever the future of the Embroidery Project, this community process is an example of what is possible when people affected by injustice come together to heal themselves. "The Embroidery Project goes beyond a business, it is a humanitarian project,” says Cristina Coronado, Director of the Columban Migrant Ministry. “It serves as a network of support and solidarity. It is a space to weave the pain, the memories of their country of origin and to be able to express their emotions, feelings and stories through art, and to be able to weave a hopeful future.”</p> <p><em>We invite you to download our digital prayer card for The Embroidery Project, which is a blessing for economic justice for migrants. Please click on the link below. </em></p> <p><meta name="twitter:card" content="summary" /><meta name="twitter:site" content="@stcolumbanjpe" /><meta property="og:url" content="" /><meta property="og:title" content="Sewing Hope: how a cooperative helped heal migrants trapped in Mexico" /><meta property="og:description" content="The Embroidery Project goes beyond a business, it is a humanitarian project. It serves as a network of support and solidarity. It is a space to weave the pain, the memories of their country of origin and to be able to express their emotions, feelings and stories through art, and to be able to weave a hopeful future." /><meta property="og:image" content="" /></p> The Supreme Court decision on Biden v. Texas and what it means for the future of MPP <p>On Thursday, June 30, the Supreme Court of the United States released their decision on Biden v. Texas, the case challenging the legality of President Biden’s decision to rescind President Trump’s <a href="">Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP)</a>, or "Remain in Mexico" program. Alongside Title 42, MPP is one of the primary policies effectively sealing the border to asylum-seekers.</p> <p>On June 30, Columban advocates went to the Supreme Court in Washington, DC in anticipation of the release of the decision. While we ultimately welcomed the decision, it unfortunately does not mean that the struggle to end MPP is over. People of faith still need to advocate for their elected officials to end the policy and restore asylum.</p> <h3><strong>What is MPP?</strong></h3> <p>MPP was implemented by President Trump in January 2019. Because of this policy, thousands of asylum seekers have been forced to return to Mexico after they’ve petitioned the US government for safety and have remained there while they await a court hearing. Some migrants have been forced to wait for up to two years.</p> <p>Before MPP, asylum seekers were often granted parole in the United States, giving them the ability to reconnect with their family and attend their hearings within the country. <a href="">According</a> to Human Rights First, “in fiscal year 2018, <a href="">Department of Justice</a> (DOJ) figures show that 89 percent of all asylum applicants attended their final court hearing to receive a decision on their application. When families and unaccompanied children have access to legal representation, the <a href="">rate</a> of compliance with immigration court obligations is nearly 98 percent.”</p> <p>Under MPP, migrants instead live in limbo in Mexico, often becoming targets for the organized crime that exists in that country. It’s very common to hear from migrants that they’ve been victims of human trafficking, sexual assault, and extortion.</p> <p>Take the case of Zahaira (not her real name) from Guatemala. She arrived at the US/Mexico border in March 2019, after fleeing her country with her three children because of domestic violence, poverty, and political instability. She has been living in Ciudad Juárez (across the border from El Paso, TX) since then, waiting on her MPP court hearing.</p> <p>Since arriving in Juárez, she has struggled to find someone who is willing to offer her housing and employment because her teenage daughter was targeted by human trafficking groups. These same groups frequently harass other members of the family. Local residents are afraid that by welcoming migrants, they will also become targets for criminal activity.</p> <p>Zahaira was only able to find support through the hospitality programs offered by the Missionary Society of St. Columban’s parish in Ciudad Juárez. Zahaira told us that she is “very grateful to the people who have helped us, such as the [Columban] parish for the support they have provided. I am very grateful to God for the people He put in my path, because He has not forsaken us.” But if Zahaira had been able to live in the United States while her court date was pending, she would not have been in that vulnerable situation in the first place.</p> <h3><strong>What the Supreme Court decided</strong></h3> <p>In February 2021, President Biden ended MPP and many of the migrants that had been waiting in Mexico were finally allowed to cross into the United States. However, in August 2021, a judge for the Northern District of Texas forced President Biden to reinstate the policy, arguing that the administration violated federal law. This conflict was at the heart of the Supreme Court’s decision in Biden v. Texas.</p> <p>In a 5-4 decision, the Court found that by trying to rescind MPP, the Biden administration did not violate the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, as was being argued by the plaintiff. However, the Court left open the question of whether or not the administration violated the Administrative Procedure Act of 1946. They have instructed the same court that initially forced the reimplementation of MPP to answer this question.</p> <p>Ian Millhiser, Senior Correspondent for Vox News, <a href="">summarized</a> the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision this way: “Even though the Supreme Court rejects [the lower court’s] egregious misreading of federal law, it leaves [them] with significant power to sabotage Biden — and to order Remain in Mexico reinstated one more time.”</p> <p>For all intents and purposes, it appears that the fate of MPP will continue to be tied-up in the courts. We believe then that what this means for asylum-seekers in Mexico is that MPP will continue to be in place for the near future and that the Supreme Court's decision will not meaningfully change what's happening on the ground.</p> <p>For a full history of MPP, we recommend <a href="">this resource</a> from the American Immigration Lawyers Association.</p> <h3><strong>What's next for MPP?</strong></h3> <p>On July 3, 2022, Politico <a href="">reported</a> that Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said “that the current policy [MPP] will continue for the next few weeks.”</p> <p>“We need to wait until the Supreme Court’s decision is actually communicated to the lower court, to the federal District Court and the Northern District of Texas,” said Secretary Mayorkas. “And, once that occurs, the District Court should lift its injunction that is preventing us from ending the program.” President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas concede the MPP is a cruel policy, and we urge them to continue litigating the matter in the courts.</p> <p>However, the convoluted path that MPP has taken through the courts, and the continuing uncertainty over its future despite a Supreme Court decision, underlines how important it is for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that includes compassionate border policies. It’s important for people of faith to advocate in solidarity with their migrant sisters and brothers, and call on their elected officials to support an end to policies like MPP and Title 42. Several <a href="">members of Congress</a> have continued to advance anti-asylum policies and recently <a href="">two appropriations bills</a> were passed out of committee with harmful amendments that would keep Title 42 in place.</p> <p>You can advocate to your elected officials <a href="">here</a>.</p> <p>When MPP was first implemented, Columbans on the border of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez started a support network for our migrant brothers and sisters who arrived by the hundreds on the Mexican side, and who were being forced into dangerous and unlivable conditions. On September 5, 2019, we opened a "House of Welcome" as a response to the humanitarian crisis and the urgent need for spaces to receive and protect women with their children who were at risk of being left on the street. While some of the needs have changed since 2019, our mission to accompany migrants remains the same.</p> <p>Columbans will continue to do this work as long as it is necessary. As people of faith, we see in every asylum seeker the face of Jesus, who was a refugee in Egypt, and who taught us that when we welcome the stranger, we welcome him (cf. Mt. 25:31-46).</p> <p>We pray to our Lord of mercy to bless all migrants and refugees, and release them from their burdens. We pray that those in positions of influence and authority have their hearts opened up in order to recognize the human dignity of each migrant and make decisions that honor them. Indeed, may all of us be inspired to welcome without exception and to give from our own resources generously (cf. Mk. 10:17-31).</p> Haitian Migrants Fleeing Extreme Violence and Poverty Also Face the Evil of Racism <p>On September 19, 2021, pictures from <a href="">Del Rio, Texas</a> went viral showing US Customs and Border Protection agents mounted on horseback and appearing to use whips to stop a group of Haitian migrants from crossing into the United States. At the time, many observers drew parallels between those photos and the slave patrols of the antebellum South. The incident was a painful reminder of how the legacy of slavery and the scourge of systemic racism continue to undergrid policing as well as immigration policy. </p> <p>For many, it was also the first time that they were confronted with the reality that Haitian migrants are coming to the US/MX border. The common perception is that it’s predominantly Central American migrants, but this perception does not match the reality on-the-ground. In fact, Haitian migrants have been coming to the US/MX border as early as <a href="">2016</a> and this has only increased since, especially since the second half of 2020. </p> <h3><strong>Why are Haitians migrating in the first place?</strong></h3> <p>People from Haiti who are reaching the US/MX border have been migrating for <a href="">over a decade</a>. Haitians have been migrating for many reasons, including extreme poverty, violence, natural disasters, and political unrest. The first major influx of people leaving Haiti occurred soon after a massive earthquake hit the country in 2010. The catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake caused more than 217,000 deaths, left more than 1.5 million homeless, and caused long-term impacts on the island nation’s already <a href="">weak economy</a>. </p> <p>Since then, other natural disasters and political events, such as Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and the recent assessination of Prime Minister Jovenel Moïse in July 2021, have continued to destabilize the country and displace many people. </p> <p>From 2010 to 2016, Haitians began migrating to Latin American countries, predominantly Chile and Brazil, but also French Guiana, and Argentina. Chile and Brazil offered work permits and protections allowing Haitian migrants to settle in those countries. Brazil, for example, initially offered humanitarian visas and construction jobs in preparation for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. Chile, one of the most economically and politically stable countries of the region at the time, also welcomed Haitian migrants without a visa until 2018. </p> <p>However, soon after the election of center-right President Sebastian Pinera in 2017, Chile began to implement more strict immigration laws. <a href="">According</a> to the Migration Policy Institute, “Chile began requiring visas for Haitians in 2018 … [but] about 69 percent of all Haitian visa requests were denied over the first two years. For those Haitians who did secure a tourist visa, Chile began to prevent most from acquiring a work permit if they received a job offer.”</p> <p>Because of these and similar policy changes, many Hatian migrants no longer had legal protection nor the ability to work to sustain their families. In addition to these challenges, Haitian migrants also faced harassment and discrimination because of the color of their skin and for cultural differences like speaking French and Creole instead of Spanish. </p> <p>Joseph, a 31 year-old migrant from Haiti who receives welcome and support from the Columban migrant ministry in Ciudad Juárez, MX (across the border from El Paso, TX), shared with us some of his experience with racism and discrimination from his time in Argentina. He told us how people would scream slurs at him when he would walk in public spaces, and that one time people refused to let him sit on an empty seat when he boarded a public bus. The other passengers were so aggressive that he decided to get off instead of enduring further harassment. </p> <h3>Why are Haitians now migrating to the US/MX border?</h3> <p>Changes over the last few years in South America have made it increasingly difficult for Haitian migrants to build a better life for themselves and their families. In addition to changes in Chile, in Brazil, the economy shrank after the 2016 Olympic Games and in 2019, Jair Bolsonaro was elected President and began implementing more restrictive immigration policies. But when the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, the many travel restrictions put in place, plus the fear of contracting the virus, prevented them from leaving.   </p> <p>But as the world began opening back up in the second half of 2020 and first half of 2021, more migrants decided to risk the dangerous journey north with the hope that they could receive asylum in Mexico or the United States. Many Haitians already have family in the United States since the US is home to the largest Haitian diaspora in the world. Also, in previous years, Haitians were able to come into the country under the Temporary Protections Status (TPS) program. </p> <p>However, like other migrant communities before them, once Haitian migrants began arriving at the US/MX border, they were denied their right to request asylum and forced to wait in Mexico in dangerous conditions. </p> <p>Hatian and other migrants are being forced to remain in Mexico under <a href="">Title 42 and the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols</a>. These policies continue to endanger the lives of many migrants by making them wait in a country where they face a number of challenges and dangers. Because most migrants lack a robust network of support, they’re often targeted by criminal organizations like traffickers and extortionists. Since the implementation of Title 42 in 2020, Human Rights First <a href="">reports</a> that nearly 10,000 migrants have been victims of kidnappings, torture, rape and other violent crimes. </p> <p>Haitian migrants in Mexico are also at risk because they do not have access to basic services like healthy food or medical care. Humanitarian organizations and faith communities, like the Missionary Society of St. Columban, do provide these and other necessities. For example, Columbans in Ciudad Juárez run a shelter network, which offers safe spaces to protect families with young children. We also support initiatives like our “Cathedral Project,” which welcomes migrants who live outside of shelters and who need support in several ways: for example, with humanitarian aid, food, clothes, milk, diapers, legal advice, payment of rent, payment of medical consultation and medicines, and job searches.</p> <p>However, the scale of the community’s needs is greater than NGOs are able to meet. Governments must also add their support. And now, with <a href="">Title 42</a> and MPP being litigated through the courts, these families are effectively <a href="">stranded</a> in Mexico until a decision is reached. </p> <h3>The Sin of Racism</h3> <p>As with migrant communities before them, the immigration policies of the US government are denying Haitian migrants their fundamental right to request asylum and are forcing them to “remain in Mexico” in life-threatening conditions. But, in addition to these injustices, Haitians are also experiencing an added layer of discrimination, resulting in less access to services and hostility from local governments and communities.</p> <p>The Missionary Society of St. Columban is witnessing these injustices as it accompanies the Haitian community in Ciudad Juarez, but the impact of racism has been documented along the community’s decade-long journey through the Americas. </p> <p>In Brazil, for example, the Migration Policy Institute <a href="">observed</a> that, “many Haitians worked longer hours and earned lower wages than Brazilians, and the economic downturn exacerbated their challenges.” </p> <p>In Chile, for example, The Los Angeles Times <a href="">reported</a> that “a 2019 government survey found that almost half of Haitian respondents in Chile said they had experienced discrimination because of their race or inability to speak Spanish. Several high-profile incidents — including the fatal police shooting in August of a Haitian man in the central Chilean city of La Ligua — have sparked allegations of racism.”</p> <p>Along the US/MX border, this pattern has continued. We can see it present in the rate at which Haitian asylum seekers are granted asylum and the rate at which they are deported. </p> <p>In September 2021 (the same month as the incident at Del Rio, TX), the AP <a href="">reported</a> the following information regarding Haitian asylum request: </p> <blockquote><p>Between 2018 and 2021, only 4.62% of Haitian asylum seekers were granted asylum by the U.S. — the lowest rate among 84 groups for whom data is available. Asylum seekers from the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, have a similarly low rate of 5.11%. </p> <p>By comparison, four of the five top U.S. asylum applicants are from Latin American countries — El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras. Their acceptance rates range from 6.21% to 14.12%.</p> </blockquote> <p>In June 2022, the New York Times <a href=";pgtype=Article&amp;state=default&amp;module=styln-us-immigration&amp;variant=show&amp;region=MAIN_CONTENT_1&amp;block=storyline_top_links_recirc">reported</a> the following information regarding the deportation of Haitian migrants:</p> <blockquote><p>In September, about 15,000 migrants, many of them Haitian, crossed the border into <a href="">Del Rio, Texas</a>, over the course of a few days. That month, the United States sent a record 58 expulsion flights to Haiti, according to data collected by the <a href="">International Organization for Migration</a>, which tracks the flights.</p> <p>The number of flights per month decreased after that but rose again in January, when there were 36. There were a total of 39 flights from February to April, and the number shot up again in May, with many families and children younger than 3 aboard the 36 flights that month.</p> <p>…</p> <p>From May 19 to 26, U.S. border officials encountered 1,868 Haitians who had crossed the southwestern border, according to internal government data. During that period, there were 21 expulsion flights to Haiti. In comparison, over the same period, they encountered 5,264 Guatemalans and 4,453 Hondurans, and the United States sent seven expulsion flights to each country.</p> </blockquote> <p>All these observations demonstrate that US immigration policy is producing racist outcomes, whether or not the government officials have a racist intent. The tragic impact it has on people’s lives remains the same. </p> <h3>The Voice of Faith </h3> <p>Central to our faith is the belief that every person is created in the image of God regardless of their race or national origin. If we take our faith seriously, this should challenge our assumptions about ourselves and those we believe to be different from us. </p> <p>In his encyclical <em>Fratelli Tutti</em>, Pope Francis makes it clear that racism is “a readiness to discard others … [and that] instances of racism continue to shame us, for they show that our supposed social progress is not as real or definitive as we think” (#20). </p> <p>The experience of Haitian migrants in Latin America and at the US/MX border should open us up to how the legacy of colonialism and the reality of systemic racism are still present in our world day. They are still driving forces of displacement in the Americas and are influencing our country’s immigration policies.</p> <p>Confronting this reality is painful, but it is also necessary because it is only by encountering others and listening deeply to their experiences that we can truly know God. As Pope Francis teaches us in <em>Fratelli Tutt</em>i: </p> <blockquote><p>Human beings are so made that they cannot live, develop and find fulfillment except “in the sincere gift of self to others.” Nor can they fully know themselves apart from an encounter with other persons: “I communicate effectively with myself only insofar as I communicate with others.” No one can experience the true beauty of life without relating to others, without having real faces to love. This is part of the mystery of authentic human existence (#87). </p> </blockquote> <p>By “relating to others,” especially those who are made poor and are marginalized, we come into contact with the divine present in creation. This encounter deepens our understanding of the word, strengthens the bonds of love among members of the human family, and makes more perfect our Chritian witness that the “kingdom of God” is founded on justice. </p> <p>All of this is simply put in the words of St. Columban: “a life unlike your own can be your teacher.” </p> <p>And as is true of anyone we love, this encounter compels us to give our time and our resources to ensure that they thrive everywhere they call home. That’s why we have a particular responsibility to dismantle the racism that displaces Haitians and other migrants from their homes, and that now prevents them from finding safety here. Each of us is being called in to combat the sin of racism and help make possible God’s vision of the world, where each person is treated with dignity and compassion. </p> <p><em>If you want to learn more about the experience of Haitian migrants and enter into deeper reflection on these important issues, we invite you to to watch the recording of our webinar, “Confronting Racism: What People of Faith Can Learn from the Experience of Haitian Asylum-Seekers at the US/MX Border.” You can watch it you <a href="">here</a>.</em></p> <p><i>You can also download a two page overview on Haitian migration by clicking on the link below. This two-pager can be used as a parish bulletin insert, a flyer at events, or as a handout for policymakers.</i></p> St. Columban House of Hospitality is welcoming migrants in Santiago, Chile <p>The St. Columban House of Hospitality for Migrants in Santiago, Chile provides food, shelter, lodging, and a welcoming place for the many migrants arriving in Chile. Over the past few years, Chile has received nearly 1.5 million migrants who are escaping from poverty, violence, and repression. In Santiago, many migrants are living in tents in parks and plazas.</p> <p>This video shares some of what migrants are experiencing as well as how the Columban Migrant Ministry in Chile is accompanying them.</p> <p>"The church cannot ignore this situation," said Columban Fr. Daniel Harding. "If we truly want to follow Jesus, we have to welcome the migrants, support them, help them. We can't throw people out on the street. We have to give them a chance to get established."</p> <p><iframe allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" title="YouTube video player" width="560"></iframe></p> Conservation Begins with Conversation: A Reflection on the UN Biodiversity Meetings in Geneva <p>From March 14 to March 29, 2022, I had the privilege of attending the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) meetings in Geneva, Switzerland. The purpose of this in-person meeting was to continue the negotiations of the Global Biodiversity Framework (or, GBF) which is intended as a framework to safeguard the planet’s biodiversity from further destruction.</p> <p>I was there not only as a representative of the Missionary Society of St. Columban and the ecologically vulnerable communities that we serve around the world, but also as a representative for a wider multifaith community. Historically, faith leaders have not had a large presence in CBD’s processes. This was highlighted in Geneva by the fact that my colleague with the Columbans, a representative from the Holy See, another woman representing the Buddhist tradition, and myself were the only faith representatives. Across the world, more than 80% of people identify with a religious or spiritual tradition and yet only four people were bringing that perspective intentionally to these UN negotiations.</p> <p>Despite this history, however, Columbans understand that it is important for people of faith to be a part of these processes. As a faith-based organization, we believe that the voices of those most impacted by policy, especially historically marginalized communities and the earth itself, offer critical perspectives for developing greater protection for the planet, its people, and future generations. Our experience accompanying these communities have taught us that an economic and social order that collaborates mutually with creation is necessary for the care and protection of all of life.</p> <p>We also realize that faith communities especially bring a recognition that caring for all of life is a moral imperative, as much as it is an ethical responsibility, and a societal obligation. In Geneva, we joined alongside a small number of nations, as well as many civil society organizations, in making a more holistic and urgent appeal for an ambitious and actionable GBF that could lead to healing transformation of relationships, systems, and structures between and among humans and all of creation.</p> <p>I know that it is easy to become cynical when it comes to processes like these. We ask ourselves what is the real impact. While it is true that it can be challenging to see the real-life consequences of these intergovernmental negotiations, I was struck by the sincerity with which people interacted. I sensed that there was a desire among most of the people there to genuinely do good for the planet and for people. While there are differences of opinion on what those steps are, I do have hope that good will come from this process. The fruits may not be what we anticipate but if we believe that the Holy Spirit is working in all places and at all times, surely She was at work in Geneva.</p> <p>As the days went on, one of the challenges I began to notice was how the way the meetings were set up frustrated our ability to have those important conversations.</p> <p>For one, this was the first time CBD delegates had met since the COVID-19 pandemic began and many of them expressed how frustrated they were by the limits of virtual conferencing. At times the mood in the room was fairly tense as the delegates tried to re-establish bonds of trust among each other. This was a dynamic I noticed among the civil society organizations too.</p> <p>This tension was not helped by how exhausting the process was. The days were long, with meetings starting at 8am and continuing well into the night, officially concluding at 10:30pm but often going into the wee-hours of the morning. Small countries also had small delegations, and so their delegates were stretched even more thinly. The demanding schedule put an extreme strain on the delegates, and the observers too, leaving some to question the quality of the negotiations.</p> <p>Finally, the time allotted for non-party observers to make interventions (like NGOs, the women’s caucus, young people, Indigenous communities, and businesses) was reduced significantly to one or two inputs because of the length of time needed to give all governments time to make their interventions. This left little time for governments to hear the diverse voices beyond official national positions.</p> <p>While the UN CBD process is a critical opportunity for the world to come together to care for our common home, I fear that because the process was unjustly designed in many ways that limited listening and co-creating, that the meetings ended without participants having truly heard the cry of the world. But rather than be discouraged, it confirms for me the importance of reaffirming our missionary vocation to keep dialogue, justice, peace, and care for people and the earth at the heart of living and preaching the Gospel.</p> <p>In one of my many conversations, I met Ramson, a Maasai leader (a Nilotic ethnic group inhabiting northern, central and southern Kenya and northern Tanzania) who told me that, "When conservation begins with building fences, we are doing something wrong." I have pondered Ramson’s insight over the last several months. I believe that conservation begins with conversation - listening to each other, to God, and to all of creation. When we are attuned to the voices of love, justice, peace, and care it is only natural that conservation and conversion flow.</p> <p><em>Amy Echeverria is the International Coordinator for Justice, Peace and Ecology for the Missionary Society of St. Columban and a Co-coordinator of the Vatican Covid Commission Ecology Taskforce.</em></p>

By Amy Echeverria
Meeting the World in Geneva: Attending UN Biodiversity meetings in a Post-Pandemic World <p>After two years of a world pandemic, our perceptions of what the world looks like and how it feels might be different. At least that is how it has been for me. For example, walks by the park in my neighborhood are such a treasure to me now. After several months of spending most of my time at home, those walks by the park have become my moments of peace and comfort. The same happens when I see people gathering, smiling, or having conversations. In a way, I feel like it is the first time that I have seen people doing that. I think the pandemic has helped me recognize things that were there before, but I just didn’t notice or appreciate them. Through conversations with friends and relatives, I have found that many feel the same way. </p> <p>A couple of months ago, in March of 2022, I had the opportunity to travel to Geneva, Switzerland, and attend meetings of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UN CBD). It was the first time I had traveled outside the country since the pandemic started. These UN CBD meetings were so important because the discussions we had were meant to help the global community advance the agenda of COP15. </p> <p>COP15 is scheduled to take place later this year and the world’s governments will adopt a decade-long strategic plan to conserve and protect the world’s biodiversity. This strategic plan will also help shape action on this issue for decades to come. After a global pandemic, political instability around the world, and the disastrous signs all around us of environmental collapse, the significance of the meetings in Geneva were even more powerful than I anticipated.  </p> <h3>Post-Pandemic World</h3> <p>At the time of my trip, most of the world was starting to lift all COVID-19 restrictions and safety protocols. More people were beginning to travel and attend in-person events but still with great caution. COVID-19 vaccines, testing, and masks were still required by the airlines. It was strange for me to feel surrounded by so many people. It felt like a new experience. </p> <p>But once I landed in Geneva, it felt like I was stepping into the old “normal.” People were not wearing masks anymore, and I was able to see people smiling and having conversations in close proximity as if nothing had happened. The day after my arrival in Geneva, I attended our first CBD Meeting. People from all over the world had flown in for this critical meeting on biodiversity. It was the first in-person meeting of the UN CBD in over two years. </p> <p>For many delegates, it was the first time that they met their peer delegates from other countries, and for many national delegations, it was also the first time that they met their own co-workers in-person. </p> <p>Inside the venue, you could see people greeting and introducing themselves. You could see people from different cultures wearing traditional clothes, while others wore business attire. There were so many people speaking so many different languages. As I walked through the lobby area towards the main plenary room, I could hear people speaking English to my right, Spanish to my left, and French and Arabic behind me. It was the first time that I was in a space with people from all over the world! </p> <p>After being isolated for so long, with limited interaction with friends and family members, standing there in the middle of the room meeting all sorts of people felt like I was meeting the world. </p> <h3>War in Ukraine</h3> <p>The UN CBD meeting began only a few weeks after Russia had invaded Ukraine. As the world was in disbelief and pain, for us attending these meetings in Geneva, the uneasiness of war felt even closer. </p> <p>We were all in Geneva as the Human Rights Council was also holding meetings, much of their conversation being about the war. As the UN CBD meetings got underway, most of the countries declared their opposition to the war. Throughout the conference, I saw delegates wearing the colors of the Ukraine flag or wearing a commemorative pin. The conflict was in everyone’s minds throughout the meetings. </p> <p>During my second week in Geneva, I had the opportunity to attend the UN Human Rights Council meetings at the United Nations Palace and sit in for their meeting on the Rights of Children during Conflict. Given the situation, sitting there and hearing the live statements from the different delegations, including those of the delegates from Ukraine, was emotional for me. It was difficult for me to process that at that very moment, UN delegates were describing atrocities, crimes against children, and the possibility of a world war. </p> <p>Back at the CBD meetings, people continued to show support for Ukraine, even as we got to work on our very different set of problems. But as I was participating in these meetings about biodiversity loss, I couldn’t help but think of Pope Francis’ words in Laudato Si’: </p> <blockquote><p>“Peace, justice and the preservation of creation are three absolutely interconnected themes, which cannot be separated and treated individually without once again falling into reductionism”. Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth (#92).</p> </blockquote> <p>The fact that the UN Human Rights Council and UN Conference on Biodiversity Diversity meetings were happening simultaneously didn’t feel like a coincidence. It reminded me how greed and our “throwaway culture” are at the root of both our social and ecological problems. </p> <h3>Challenging Negotiations </h3> <p>Although prior to the meetings in Geneva, delegates to the UN CBD participated in virtual meetings, this was the first time that delegates had the chance to engage in deep discussions regarding the strategic plan that they were tasked to produce for COP15. Despite the challenges caused by the pandemic and the stress caused by war, everyone had high hopes for this meeting, especially knowing how important it is for the future of biodiversity.</p> <p>The meetings were long, technical, and intense. Even strong delegations with more than six representatives (the maximum number of delegates allowed at the same time in the venue) found it difficult to keep up with the discussions on many critical agenda items. These larger delegations often had part of their team following the discussions from their hotel room or even from their home countries. </p> <p>For the majority of the delegations, however, I saw how the same one or two delegates participated in all meetings, which started at 8:00am and often went into very late at night, sometimes until 3:00am. In the corridors, I heard some voice their concern on the highly technical discussions and how the meetings required a high level of dominance of the English language. This meant many countries were at a clear disadvantage. </p> <p>As time passed, the frustrations continued to increase: people claimed that the draft framework did not have ambitious enough targets, that there no consensus among delegations, and that some of the conversations were overall technical, slow, and ineffective. By the end of the process, while the delegates made progress, theyleft knowing that there was much more still to be done. </p> <h3>Indigenous groups, Local communities, Youth, Women and girls, and NGOs</h3> <p>Advocates representing Indigenous groups, local communities, youth, women and girls, and civil society organizations, of which the Columbans were a part, were present throughout the meetings. We were all there asking for ambition during the negotiations and shared the same sense of urgency. </p> <p>The voices of indigenous groups and youth were particularly powerful. Indigenous groups currently <a href=",they%20have%20lived%20for%20centuries">protect 80%</a> of the world’s biodiversity. Their voices as the experts at conservation were critical, especially because many conservation actions could impact their ancient traditions and lifestyle. They’re also great teachers at showing us how to take care of Mother/Sister Earth, as they often refer to our planet. They’ve also been some of the groups more severely impacted by the current degradation of our forest, land, and sea. I was inspired by their tenacity and commitment to protect our common home. </p> <p>The Youth group was also powerful. Their statements were very clear and direct. What they were advocating for was simple: the right to enjoy a clean and healthy world for themselves and future generations. Being a young adult myself, I identified with their concerns and fears because I too wonder about the future hospitality of our planet. Will I be able to grow old comfortably? What will my children’s future look like? These are the existential questions that young people bring into these conversations, which the global community has a duty to answer. </p> <h3>Hope &amp; Action</h3> <p>As the UN CBD meetings started coming to a close, the delegations decided it was important for them to hold another set of meetings from June 21-26, 2022 in Nairobi, Kenya. The goal of these meetings is to continue to work of developing the strategic plan that will be presented and adopted at COP15. The fact that they had to add another meeting to their calendars gave me a clear sense of how enormous the work ahead is. </p> <p>And yet, after months and months of isolation, after what felt like a never-ending series of crises from COVID to political unrest to the war in Ukraine, attending these meetings in Geneva (at the epicenter of international action) was an incredible and life changing experience for me. </p> <p>I am privileged to have been given an opportunity to see first-hand how interconnected our world is. I am grateful that I got to hear the testimony from developing countries, who are more severely impacted by ecology degradation even though they contributed the least to the problem. Their presence reminded me that what we do in the United States and in other rich nations, ripples across the planet and impacts people far from our homes.</p> <p>The many conversations and interactions I had during my visit to Geneva made me feel more motivated to work on environmental action. There is just so much that we should be doing, especially as people of faith. Through our baptism as Christians, we are called to be “a sign of new life [because] encountering God does not mean fleeing from this world or turning our back on nature” (LS #235). Each of us has a small part to play in caring for one another, defending the oppressed, and giving aid to the most vulnerable members of creation, which includes our common home itself. </p> <p>As Pope Francis reminds us, “All it takes is one good person to restore hope!” (LS #71).</p> <p><em>Cynthia L. Gonzalez is the Advocacy Coordinator for St. Columban Mission for Justice, Peace and Ecology. </em></p>

By Cynthia L. Gonzalez
The Root Causes of Migration <p><meta charset="UTF-8" /></p> <p>Both the Old and the New Testament reveal God’s abiding love for migrants (cf. Ex. 22:21, Lev.19:33-34, Mt. 25:35, Rom. 12:13). Scripture, as well as our Church’s two-thousand-year history, tell many heart-breaking stories about people fleeing from violence, persecution, and poverty. Even Jesus and his family were refugees.</p> <p>Reflecting on these sacred foundations, the Catholic Church recognizes that people have the right to migrate to sustain their lives, and the lives of their families, if they cannot do so in their country of origin. The migrant’s story reminds us of a fundamental principle of Catholic social teaching: that the goods of the earth are intended to benefit all people. It is never God’s will that some of God’s children live in luxury while others have nothing (cf <em>Caritas in Veritate</em>, 21).</p> <p>Catholic Social Teaching <a href="">states</a> that countries are obligated to design and conduct their immigration processes with mercy and justice. Governments should understand their duties in light of the absolute dignity of <em>all</em> people and their sacred commitment to the common good (<em>Pacem in Terris</em>, 103-107).</p> <p>In our times, it’s especially important to be aware of how subversive discourse distorts conversations in the public square and government policies, as well as our own attitudes (<em>Evangelium Vitae</em>, 8e). St. Columban teaches us that “a life unlike our own can be our teacher.” We must always root ourselves in the lived experiences of vulnerable people, which includes migrants. Columban missionaries ministering to migrants on the United States/Mexican (US/MX) border consider it a blessing and an opportunity to serve and support them. All of us are transformed by the spiritual and cultural gifts migrants bring to our communities.</p> <p>What follows on this webpage describes the reasons, or "root causes," that force migrants to flee their country of origin in the first place. </p> It's Past Time to End Title 42 <p>The Trump administration used a <a href="">number of policies</a> to stop migration into the United States. These policies include the <a href="">Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP)</a>, also known as the Remain in Mexico policy, and Title 42. The Biden administration has kept these policies in place, which  forces asylum seekers who have escaped violence in their home countries to either be returned back to that very danger or to suffer violence, illness, and death in Mexico.</p> <p> Advocates have repeatedly called for the end of these policies because they <a href="">violate U.S and international asylum law</a> and do irreparable harm to asylum seekers. </p> <p> After pressure from many lawmakers and advocates, on April 1st, 2022 the Biden administration announced the end of Title 42. It is set to end on May 23th. But what does the end of Title 42 mean for asylum seekers? What does it mean for border communities and the rest of the country?</p> Faith for Earth: How People of Faith are Caring for Creation this Earth Month | April 2022 <p>For more than 40 years, Columban missionaries have been at the forefront of protecting the environment from destructive practices and promoting sustainable alternatives. Our experience of living with the natural world and with marginalized and exploited communities has inspired us to seek ways to restore right relationships with all of God’s creation.</p> <p>Over those 40 years, what have Columbans learned about how to best care for creation? What lessons can people of faith implement in their own daily lives?</p> <p>As the world celebrates "Earth Month," join the St. Columban Mission for Justice, Peace and Ecology to hear from several projects Columbans sponsor around the world. This includes the Laudato Si’ International Scholars Tertiary Education Network (or LISTEN Network) and the Center for Ecozoic Living and Learning (or, CELL), among others.</p> <p><iframe allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" title="YouTube video player" width="560"></iframe></p> <p><strong>Resources</strong></p> <ul><li>Learn more about the Center for Ecozoic Living and Learning (or, CELL) <a href="">here</a> </li> <li>Laudato Si’ International Scholars Tertiary Education Network (or LISTEN Network) <a href="">here</a></li> <li>Learn more about the work of the Missionary Society of St. Columban <a href="">here</a></li> </ul> Twin Crises: Climate Change & Biodiversity Loss <p style="line-height:1.38; background-color:#ffffff; padding:0pt 0pt 20pt">Every day there seems to be more news about how climate change is impacting communities around the world, particularly those communities least responsible for greenhouse gas pollution. Scientists, advocates, and communities marginalized by environmental injustice continue to raise their voices, demanding action to stop the worst impacts of climate change. <a href="">Scientific reports</a> are very clear: we need to act and we need to act now.</p> <p style="line-height:1.38; background-color:#ffffff; padding:0pt 0pt 20pt">While addressing climate change is urgent, we must also be mindful that our planet and the lives of thousands of species are also in danger because of biodiversity loss. Biodiversity loss and climate change are interconnected as part of a bigger <a href="">planetary crisis</a> and we should address them simultaneously.</p> <p style="line-height:1.38; background-color:#ffffff; padding:0pt 0pt 20pt">Biologists estimate that human activity is driving species to extinction at a rate of <a href="">100 to 1,000</a> times their usual rate. The World Economic Forum (WEF), in its <a href="">Global Risks Report 2021</a>, cited biodiversity loss as one of the top global risks society faces. According to the report, biodiversity loss means irreversible consequences for the environment and humankind as a result of species extinction and/or reduction. But what is biodiversity? And what is causing biodiversity loss?</p> <h2 style="line-height:1.38; background-color:#ffffff; padding:0pt 0pt 20pt">What is Biodiversity?</h2> <p style="line-height:1.38; background-color:#ffffff; padding:0pt 0pt 20pt">Biodiversity is the web of all forms of life on earth. It includes bacteria, algae, fungi, plants and animals living through all ecosystems. This web is so complex and interconnected that it makes all species dependent on each other. Biodiversity is the basis for the function of any ecosystem. When biodiversity is disturbed, all services and species of the ecosystem can be severely impacted.</p> <p style="line-height:1.38; background-color:#ffffff; padding:0pt 0pt 20pt">In recent decades, biodiversity has been under threat. The <a href="">WWF Living Planet Report of 2014 </a>showed a decline of 52 percent in the population of vertebrates (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibian and fish species) between 1970 and 2010. Later in 2019, the <a href="">IPBES Global Assessment Report</a>, estimated that a million species of plants and animals would be at risk of extinction within a matter of decades. The same report confirmed that almost three quarters of land and 66% of marine environments have been significantly altered by human activity and that more than 85% of wetland areas have been lost.</p> <h2 style="line-height:1.38; background-color:#ffffff; padding:0pt 0pt 20pt">What is causing biodiversity loss?</h2> <p style="line-height:1.38; background-color:#ffffff; padding:0pt 0pt 20pt">From 2001 to 2005, more than 1,360 scientists and other experts examined the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being and delivered the <a href="">Millennium Ecosystem Assessment</a>. The report showed the dramatic change of all ecosystems due to human activity. For instance, it was reported that more land was converted to cropland in the 30 years after 1950 than in the 150 years between 1700 and 1850, and that 20% of known coral reefs have been destroyed and another 20% had been degraded in the last decades due to human activity. As the world population increases, cities expand and human consumption patterns continue to scale up, the extraction of natural resources and the destruction of ecosystems also continues to increase. In 2014, the <a href="">4th GBO Report</a> demonstrated that the agriculture sector is responsible for 60% of the world’s deforestation and 70% of the projected loss of terrestrial biodiversity. In addition to indirect drivers, other direct drivers such as overexploitation, pollution and climate changes are causing the acceleration of biodiversity loss.</p> <h2 style="line-height:1.38; background-color:#ffffff; padding:0pt 0pt 20pt">Biodiversity Loss &amp; Climate Change</h2> <p style="line-height:1.38; background-color:#ffffff; padding:0pt 0pt 20pt">Both crises, biodiversity loss and climate change, are caused <a href="">primarily</a> by human activity. This tells us that there are solutions that can help <a href="">address both crises</a> at the same time.</p> <p style="line-height:1.38; background-color:#ffffff; padding:0pt 0pt 20pt">For example, we know that agriculture contributes to climate change through greenhouse gas pollution from engines and cattle, and through the conversion of forests to agricultural land. The conversion of forests in turn destroys habitats and their biodiversity. Measures and standardized protocols to agriculture can have a positive impact in stopping the course of these two crises.</p> <p style="line-height:1.38; background-color:#ffffff; padding:0pt 0pt 20pt">At the recent <a href="">UN Climate Change Convention of the Parties (COP26)</a>, world leaders participated in a series of meetings during October-November of 2021.The conference had several goals meant to address the worst impacts of climate change. Although advocates and the scientific community called the final COP26 agreements <a href="">insufficient</a>, there were still some wins for the work on biodiversity loss. For instance, more than 100 global leaders signed a pledge and  made a <a href="">commitment to halt deforestation</a> by 2030 and begin restoring and regrowing the world’s forests. The pledge will see 110 nations, which represent 85 percent of the world’s forests, work towards six goals, which include developing sustainable agriculture, investing in and facilitating trade which prevents land use change, and supporting communities across the globe.</p> <h2 style="line-height:1.38; background-color:#ffffff; padding:0pt 0pt 20pt">COP15</h2> <p style="line-height:1.38; background-color:#ffffff; padding:0pt 0pt 20pt">The <a href="">UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15)</a>, also initiated meetings in 2021 to work on the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, which aims to reverse the current loss of biodiversity and ensure that biodiversity is put on a path to recovery by 2030. This 10-year plan will be finalized and approved by world leaders at the second part of COP15 scheduled for later in 2022. It is hoped that this plan will help accelerate global action to address both biodiversity loss and climate change. The Missionary Society of St. Columban as an accredited organization by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity has been engaging in the meetings leading to the enactment of the Framework.</p> <h2 style="line-height:1.38; background-color:#ffffff; padding:0pt 0pt 20pt">What can you do?</h2> <p style="line-height:1.38; background-color:#ffffff; padding:0pt 0pt 20pt">You might ask yourself what can you do to help? If you live in the United States, you can engage in advocacy efforts to ensure the <a href="">United States commitments</a> become a reality. You can also <a href="">support efforts</a> to ensure climate action occurs domestically. As a person of faith, living in any part of the world, you can sign the <a href="">Healthy Planet, Healthy People Petition</a>. This petition calls on world governments to set ambitious targets that protect God’s creation at the critical United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15). You can also learn more about biodiversity loss and reflect on the care for creation by listening to our biodiversity podcast <a href="">here</a>.</p>