By Sister Cheryl Liske
November 30, 2016, Rome – Sister Cheryl Liske, OP, a community organizer in Detroit, attended the third World Meeting of Popular Movements in November. The following is her report and reflection on this experience.
In the opening panel of the World Meeting of Popular Movements (WMPM) this November in Rome, Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, quoted Pope Francis as naming two “fragilities” in our world: the poor and Earth – two faces, he said, of the same challenge.
The WMPM is a series of gatherings of grassroots people, organizers, and activists who have been called together by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace to advise the pope and the world – out of their own “faith, wisdom, and integrity” – as to how to meet this one challenge with two faces. The most recent gathering in Rome was the third in the series; the fourth will be in Modesto, California, February 16-19, 2017.
The gathering consists of more than 200 participants from 68 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. The delegates come from diverse backgrounds in the “informal economy,” such as street vendors in South America, European migrants, migrant workers in China, slum dwellers in India, recyclers of our waste in a number of African countries and New York, and the informal transit providers in Africa.
My community organizing network, the Gamaliel Network, as well as the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, invited me – along with Ms. Patricia Williams from Metropolitan Organizing Strategy for Enabling Strength (MOSES) of Detroit – to be part of the 15-member U.S. delegation. We were chosen because of our work with people relegated to the margins in the urban areas of the United States.
At the end of the meeting, we presented proposals to Pope Francis. The proposals called for the rejection of the privatization of water; opposition to genetic manipulation or patenting, especially on seeds; a universal social salary for every worker (private, public, or popular); and the eradication of evictions that leave families without housing.
The WMPM participants pledged to work with Pope Francis to turn these ideas into real and effective rights locally, nationally, and internationally. Pope Francis’ response was widely reported in the international press. An article in America Magazine by Gerard O’Connell relates this of Pope Francis’ address:
In a powerful, one might even say revolutionary talk to participants at the third World Meeting of Popular Movements, Pope Francis denounced “the basic terrorism that derives from the global control of money on earth, threatens the entire humanity and gives rise to other terrorisms.” It also gives rise to fear, the building of walls and other forms of exclusion, including of immigrants.
I was privileged to be part of this gathering and found it a fitting end to the Year of Mercy.
September 27, 2016, Detroit, Michigan – The words “May Peace Prevail on Earth” now greet visitors to Hope House, a facility of Voices for Earth Justice (VEJ) in Detroit. Those words are inscribed on a Peace Pole installed at VEJ and dedicated on September 18.
The event – held a few days before International Day of Peace on September 21 – also honored Sister Janet Stankowski, OP, during her 50-year Jubilee Year as an Adrian Dominican Sister. The Peace Pole was purchased by Sister Janet’s family and friends in her honor.
Sister Janet co-founded VEJ with Patricia Gillis, an Adrian Dominican Associate, in 2001 out of a need to bring a faith-based perspective to environmental issues. Sister Janet describes the non-profit organization as a “faith-based network whose mission is to pray, educate, and act on behalf of Earth.”
During the dedication ceremony, Rabbi Syme, Imam Muhammad, and Father Phil Paxton, CP, shared thoughts about peace from their respective traditions. Participants recited the Prayer of St. Francis and were blessed by Doris Thunderfeather Allen in a sage blessing ceremony.
Along with Sister Janet, Adrian Dominican Sisters in attendance included Sisters Jeanine Boivin, OP; Pat Benson, OP; Grace Dennis, OP; Annette Desloover, OP; Arlene Kosmatka, OP; Sheila Delaney, OP; Cheryl Liske, OP; and Anneliese Sinnott, OP. Adrian Dominican Associates who attended included Carol Hofer, Patty Gillis, Geri Pleva, Mercedes Fitzsimmons, and Joyce Fruge.
The prayer, “May peace prevail on Earth,” was written in 1955 by the late Msahisa Goi, a Japanese man who sought to spread the desire for peace in people throughout the world. The prayer is written in English and other languages on the four or six sides of the peace pole. Numbering in the tens of thousands, peace poles can be found in 180 countries and on all continents.
Watch a slide show of the Voices for Earth Justice peace pole dedication.