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Two Years After Rana Plaza… May 1st, 2015
Two years after the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh, concerns linger. These include the timeliness of major remediation efforts, the establishment of factory health and safety committees, and corporate commitments to a victims’ fund. A coalition of global investors representing $2.5 trillion in assets – including the Missionary Oblates – have sent letters to corporate members of the Bangladesh Accord for Fire and Building Safety (Accord) and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (Alliance). The letters request that companies disclose their efforts to safeguard the lives of workers in Bangladesh garment factories.
Faith-based Investors Help VOICE to Secure Needed Funding from GE April 28th, 2015
Faith-based and socially responsible investors enabled leaders from VOICE (Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement) to use their proxies to attend the GE AGM in Oklahoma City on April 22. VOICE was interested to attend the AGM to press GE to commit to $1 million in funding for the Metro IAF/VOICE Equity Restoration Fund. The faith-based activists had already secured $1 million from J.P. Morgan and $1.5 million from Bank of America.
Their effort was successful, which the faith leaders learned in an email from the company just as they were boarding their flight to Oklahoma. The grant will serve to leverage $10 million+ from religious and other social investors to help finance the rehabilitation of blighted and abandoned properties, construction of new homes, the development of affordable rental housing, and other community restoration activities in Prince William County, VA.
The Oblates, through Fr Seamus Finn, OMI have been working with VOICE for several years on this initiative designed to help those crushed by the mortgage crisis in 2007-08.
Citing a papal directive to take decisive action on climate change, the Global Catholic Climate Movement has started a petition which seeks to display “a strong Catholic voice” of concern on climate change ahead of international negotiations set for Paris in December.
“Climate change affects everyone, but especially the poor and most vulnerable people. Impelled by our Catholic faith, we call on you to drastically cut carbon emissions to keep the global temperature rise below the dangerous threshold of 1.5°C, and to aid the world’s poorest in coping with climate change impacts,” reads the petition, accessible on the movement’s recently revamped website.
In a message delivered toward the end of the last climate negotiations in Lima, Peru, the pope said that decisive climate action “is a grave ethical and moral responsibility,” and warned that there exists “a clear, definitive and unpostponable ethical imperative to act.”
NAACP Releases Environmental Justice Classroom Resource Guide March 10th, 2015
Given the results of the latest report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the NAACP says we must ask ourselves some critical questions about how we prepare our children to face the world they will be inheriting, and the harsh truth of today’s conditions and dynamics. How do we ensure that our youth emerge from their studies with an understanding of the intersection between our social, economic, cultural, political, and environmental status in society? How do we teach them their role as influencers of what’s happening in their environment, now and in the future?
The reality of being a youth of color and/or a youth living in a low income community means that, due to socio-political marginalization, already one is more likely to be located next to a polluting facility and/or living in a county whose air quality is in violation of already lax federal standards. And, mnority youth are more likely to have the very building that houses their institution of learning built on toxic, contaminated land. We see how this plays out in high rates of asthma, attention deficit disorder, learning problems, and even violence, all of which are tied to exposure to toxins. We also see this result in missed days of school for children, missed days of work for parents who are sick themselves and/or caring for sick children, etc. We also see lower property values because of proximity to toxic facilities, which means under-resourced schools and compromised education. These youth are caught in a cycle of pollution, illness, poor education, negative interactions with the criminal justice system, and economic blight, which detracts from youth’s ability to achieve and their families’ capacity to thrive.
Catholic and Episcopal Bishops of Western New York Issue Joint Call for Shared Prosperity March 4th, 2015
The Right Rev. R. William Franklin, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York, and Most Reverend Richard Joseph Malone, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo issued am inspiring joint pastoral letter late last year, which we would like to share more widely. Our thanks go out to Fr. Harry Winter, OMI for bringing the pastoral letter to our attention.
The western New York region is undergoing much-needed economic revival, after years of decline. There is a real danger though, as the two bishops point out, that many are being left out. “Yet at this time not everyone is benefitting. Blacks and Hispanics still live in poverty in greater proportion than do other groups in our population. Children still go to bed hungry. Jobs and security elude too many families. And because some are left out and locked out, the rest of us are poorer. We fail to benefit as much as we might from this new golden age. This must change.”
They go on to say, “This is our hope for Western New York, where the prosperity generated in one place of renewal must ripple throughout the region. The economic renewal of our region must be a renewal of the Gospel values and ethics that we share as sisters and brothers in the Christian faith. What we say and pray on Sundays must now go out into the world, into the workplace, to the ballot box and to the councils of government to ensure that Western New York becomes a more prosperous community, not only in dollars, but in our investment in each other. Jesus did not call for a society in which each person was out solely for personal gain. He called for a kingdom of shared prosperity, generosity and justice, a society that is more human because it is in conformity with the Kingdom of God.
Their letter urges government and business leaders to “further all efforts to make opportunities for employment, training, and advancement that grow out of this hopeful time of growth and expansion accessible to all.”