Archive for January 2nd, 2018

‘Mass disaster’ grows at the U.S.-Mexico border, but Washington doesn’t seem to care

Posted on 02. Jan, 2018 by .


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Across sandy Texas scrubland, along swift-moving California canals, in searing Arizona deserts and within remote New Mexico canyons, the bodies of hundreds of immigrants who died illegally crossing the southwestern border with Mexico are found each year.

Border Patrol agents encounter some of the dead, and count them in the agency’s annual report that constitutes the only official reckoning of the death toll.

But an investigation by the USA TODAY NETWORK has found many migrant deaths are never accounted for — including when bodies are discovered by sheriff’s deputies, police, ranchers, hikers and humanitarian groups.

Illegal crossings along the southwestern border have claimed 7,209 lives over the past 20 years, according to official Border Patrol statistics, but the actual number is far higher.

A USA TODAY NETWORK investigation found federal authorities largely fail to count border crossers when their remains are recovered by local authorities, and even local counts are often incomplete.

Network reporters spent nine months attempting to build the most complete count ever of border-crosser deaths in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas from 2012 to 2016, to reveal how many are missed. That effort found many more deaths than the Border Patrol’s official number. In three of those states, the USA TODAY NETWORK found anywhere from 25 percent to nearly 300 percent more migrant deaths over five years.

But a complete accounting proved elusive. Why? Because many local authorities responsible for investigating deaths on or near the border don’t track border-crosser deaths.

Information on migrant deaths in Texas is incomplete or unavailable in many counties, so the true number is even higher than the USA TODAY NETWORK’s count. What’s more, the investigation found no central governmental, academic or non-profit entity that tracks all border deaths, beyond those encountered by the Border Patrol.

In an attempt to count all migrant deaths since 2012, the network requested information from more than 35 medical examiners, counties, sheriff’s offices and justices of the peace.

This under-reporting occurs in each of the four states that border Mexico. But it is acute in Texas, where a spike in immigrants without documentation and families fleeing poverty and violence in Central America has caused border-crosser deaths to soar in recent years. In Brooks County, Texas, the bodies of unidentified border crossers were, until a few years ago, buried in mass graves. Some other Texas counties continue to bury unknown migrants in unmarked graves.

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Message of the Minister General for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2018

Posted on 02. Jan, 2018 by .


My dear brothers of the Order of Friars Minor,
and all brothers, sisters and friends of our Franciscan Family,

May the Lord give you all His peace!

“Sing to the Lord, for he is gloriously triumphant!” This hymn of Moses and Miriam, offered on the banks of the Red Sea, expresses beautifully the theme of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: our common vocation to continue this saving work of God; to lead all God’s children from slavery into the fullness of the freedom that his Son, Jesus, has won for all creation.

As the churches of the Caribbean, who prepared this year’s theme, remind us, slavery is – tragically! – not a thing of the past. Slavery is very much a part of our present. This can be seen in its enduring effects. As our Caribbean sisters and brothers noted, drawing upon their own experience, many contemporary challenges are themselves the legacy of a colonial past and slave trade: systemic poverty, violence, injustice, addiction to drugs and pornography, gang and domestic violence, and damaged familial relationships.[1] Wherever human dignity is turned into a commercial commodity, can we be surprised to find such fruit?

Slavery is present not only in the effects of its past. It is also present in ways both new and old. How often have we heard Pope Francis decry the new forms of colonialism by which “developed nations” strive to maintain their lifestyles at the expense of the “least” of our sisters and brothers: children, the elderly, the materially poor, even “our Sister, Mother Earth”?[2] Given the aggressive nature of this throwaway culture, is it any wonder that slavery itself endures? Today over 40 million people are enslaved. While most of these people labor in some of the world’s most impoverished post-colonial countries, there is virtually no nation in which someone is not enslaved.[3]

As disciples of Jesus, in whose nakedness we Franciscans are called to walk, we cannot be silent, nor fail to respond in faith to the reality of such appalling sin – and this to the fullness of action to which our discipleship calls us.

At the outset of his ministry, Jesus offered a concise “mission statement” for his work. Drawing upon the writings of Isaiah, who himself had labored during Israel’s Babylonian exile, Jesus declared what kind of Messiah he would be: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord (Luke 4: 18-19).”

Jesus was clear. He was – and forever is – not the Savior merely of souls. He is the Savior of the whole human person: of soul and body, and of the entire web of relationships to which we belong as whole persons, i.e., families, communities, indeed the whole of creation. For sin enslaves not only our souls. It enslaves each of us and the whole of us in ever widening circles of bondage. It was from such integral slavery that Jesus freed us, offering us in return that gift of integral salvation which he called the Kingdom of God: a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.[4]

If this was Jesus’ mission, then so, too, is it our mission as members of his Body – though a mission that no member can ever hope to fulfill on its own. No matter how sincere our individual efforts may be, no matter how devoted any one church may be to the realization of God’s Kingdom, Jesus’ mission belongs to the whole of his Body. Only together, as his one Body, can we Christians ever hope to fulfill what is ours to do for the women and men of our times: to live in such a way that they may believe in the victory that God has won for them in Jesus, his beloved Son, and rooted in this faith, know that together we do not labor in vain.

In a manner typical of their shared culture, our sisters and brothers in the Caribbean put this faith to music with The Right Hand of God. While this hymn deserves to be sung in its entirety, as I hope you will do in local celebrations of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, a few stanzas suffice to express it.


The right hand of God
is writing in our land,
Writing with power and with love;
Our conflicts and our fears,
Our triumphs and our tears,
Are recorded by the right hand of God.

The right hand of God
is healing in our land,
Healing broken bodies, minds and souls;
So wondrous is its touch,
With love that means so much,
When we’re healed
by the right hand of God.

The right hand of God
is planting in our land,
Planting seeds of freedom, hope and love;
In these many-peopled lands,
Let his children all join hands,
And be one with the right hand of God.[5]

My dear brothers, the Lord is gloriously triumphant. Horse and chariot he has cast into the sea. No matter how often they may emerge to threaten the liberating victory that God has won for his children in Jesus, his beloved Son, we know that our labor to secure it has itself been secured in the same Jesus who calls all his disciples to be one, as he and his Father are one “that the world may believe that you sent me (John 17:21).”

With every blessing to you all in your service of the Gospel, I remain,


Br. Michael A. Perry, OFM
General Minister and Servant


PDF: English – Español – Italiano




The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches have prepared resources in English, French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish:

These and other resources are available online in English and Spanish from the Greymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute, a ministry of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement:


[1] The PCPCU and the WCC, Resources for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2018, available online at

[2] See St. Francis of Assisi, Canticle of Creatures, available on the webpage of the Order:

[3] See Global Slavery Index, available online at

[4] See St. John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, 11, available online at; and “Preface of the Solemnity of Christ the King,” in the Roman Missal.

[5] The Right Hand of God was written in a workshop of the Caribbean Conference of Churches in August 1981, and has become an anthem of the ecumenical movement in the region. It has been translated into several different languages.

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Tax bill Grinch steals Christmas – and threatens America’s lower- and middle-income families

Posted on 02. Jan, 2018 by .


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Editor’s note: Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director of the Coalition on Human Needs, issued the following statement Tuesday, Dec. 19 in response to the tax bill passed today by the House and up for a vote in the Senate:

“Today the tax bill Grinch stole Christmas and handed it over to corporations and the wealthiest Americans.  This House vote was a lavish holiday gift for the rich, and it will be a gift that keeps on giving for years to come.  We at the Coalition on Human Needs oppose this legislation because it squanders trillions of dollars in revenue needed for services and investments in our future by handing unwarranted tax cuts to wealthy individuals and corporations.  Far from helping the middle class, this tax giveaway will harm low-and middle-income people by raising taxes on millions of people and by diminishing the services they need.

“There are many ways the tax bill forces low- and middle-income people to pay for rich people’s tax cuts.  The limits on deductions for state and local taxes, for example, will cause tax increases in certain states.  They will also result in pressure to cut services in states and communities, with education particularly threatened, along with Medicaid, road repair, public transit, public health and other important functions especially needed by middle- and lower-income families.

“This bill will raise health insurance premiums for millions of people and result in 13 million more uninsured.  It levels another blow at Puerto Rico’s reeling economy.  And the deficit it opens up is already being used as an excuse to threaten cuts in vital programs like Medicaid, SNAP/food stamps, and aid for people with disabilities.  Services of all kinds will be hit:  health care, education, road maintenance, housing assistance, child care, protection against epidemics and environmental damage, Meals on Wheels, and much more.  Low- and middle-income families will in 2027 pay higher taxes and lose services; low-income families with children will lose the most.  This will be yet another way low-income people will pay for tax cuts for the rich and corporations.

“There is a better way.  We could invest in improving our health care system, increasing the stock of affordable housing, improving K-12 education and relieving families of the burden of college debt, combating opioid addiction and rebuilding infrastructure.  Instead, the House voted to transfer trillions in resources away from the bottom 60 percent to those at the top, a reckless act that will weaken us as a nation for years to come.”

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