Many people have asked why I have been blogging less this year. Most of the problem is sheer busyness: it’s hard to find time to write when you have 13 delegations visit you in a 12-month period!
But there is another reason why I have been writing less: I have been trying to read more, listen more, and learn more about issues in Central America. I have also been returning to one of my greatest joys in life: reading lots and lots of liberation theology.
So I thought, dear readers, that the least I could do was suggest some awesome things for you to read yourselves, particularly those things which have challenged and formed me deeply over the past year. I hope you learn as much from them as I have, and I’d love to have discussions about them with all of you, either in the comments section or in real life!
Articles That You Absolutely Must Read
“Two Weeks After It Sued the CIA, Data Is Stolen from the University of Washington’s Center for Human Rights,” via The Stranger
The title says it all: the University of Washington’s Center for Human rights sued the CIA two weeks ago, believing that they may be withholding information regarding several massacres that occurred during the Salvadoran Civil War. Last week, the laptop of the Center’s director was stolen under extremely suspicious circumstances. Make sure you read the original report about the origins of the lawsuit, too.
“I asked the CIA whether it or any branch of the government had anything to do with the theft. This is an agency that assassinates people with drones,tortured prisoners, has helped to carry out bloody coup d’etats, and whose analysts were accused of hacking and stealing the data of senators who were investigating the agency just last year.”
Keep following this: it could be another Watergate.
“How Pope Francis is Reviving Radical Catholic Economics,” via The Nation
A fascinating take on how Pope Francis, and many Latin Americans, see the relationship between the global economy and Catholic theology.
Catholic Worker cofounder Peter Maurin put it, ‘a philosophy so old that it looks like new.'”So does the pope’s assault on the economic order represent continuity, or an actual break? Has the content of faith changed, or just its emphases? And how much can (or will) Francis really do? These are ever-recurring questions for papists like me. Having a pope means holding a posture of receptivity toward him—and yet the meek, not the powerful, will inherit the earth, and the poor will rule the coming kingdom. Preserved in the world’s most conservative institution is a body of radical notions about economic life: as
‘Subsidiarity’: a Papal Explainer, via America Magazine
Subsidiarity is an extremely important concept in Catholic social teaching: one that forms the basis of how Our Sister Parish (and many other Catholic-connected projects of solidarity) understands how missions, organizations, and development should work.
“To borrow a term from the Catholic convert and economist E.F. Schumacher, government under subsidiarity should be thought of in terms of “appropriate technology.” Decisions should be made at the level of those who are affected by them, as locally as possible. Politicians from faraway places, for instance, shouldn’t be rigging governments that have no representation in Congress like the District of Colombia and Puerto Rico. And, subsidiarity suggests, businesses shouldn’t be controlled by investors who neither work for nor depend on them.”
“Unfinished Houses,” via America Magazine
This is already a year old, but it is the best and simplest explanation for why Our Sister Parish centers itself on relational mission work instead of physical mission work for its American participants…and how that saves us from our cultural and classist paternalism.
“When we focus on accompaniment, we realize what our work really is. Service is fundamentally about relationship, and as such it invites us to redefine work. Yes, it involves mixing concrete or ladling soup, but it also means walking with and listening to the suffering, sharing stories and laughter, tears and prayers. Understanding service as accompaniment reminds us to whom the house really belongs, and to Whom we really belong. A mission or service trip is always a potential pilgrimage, a time to surrender ourselves totally to God and God’s poor. Our agenda, our ego, our need to achieve and accomplish—we are invited to let it all go and to meet those we hope to serve on their turf, on their terms. This kind of surrender gives us the key to a chest of heavenly treasure, in which we’ll find, among other things, an unfinished house.”
“Deforestation and Drought,” via The New York Times
Are deforestation and climate change connected? The campesinos of Berlín have long believed this to be true, and now science is backing them up:
“Many experts believe that deforestation is taking place on such a large scale, especially in South America, that it has already significantly altered the world’s climate — even though its dynamics are not well understood.”
“Hunger Drives Migration in Central America,” via TeleSur
Most people think gang violence is driving most Central American emigration. Think again: climate change-induced hunger is the biggest factor no one is talking about.
“Food insecurity was identified as the single biggest factor driving the immigration crisis in the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador…”
“The Refugees At Our Door,” via The New York Times
The USA’s refugee “problem” of 2014 didn’t disappear: we are simply making the poorer, less-equipped government of Mexico confront the problem for us. This is bad news for fleeing migrants, whose human rights are being violated by Mexico’s government.
“In the past 15 months, at the request of President Obama, Mexico has carried out a ferocious crackdown on refugees fleeing violence in Central America. The United States has given Mexico tens of millions of dollars for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 to stop these migrants from reaching the United States border to claim asylum.
Essentially the United States has outsourced a refugee problem to Mexico that is similar to the refugee crisis now roiling Europe.”
The Books That You Absolutely Must Read
The Crucified God, Jürgen Moltmann
“For this theology, God and suffering are no longer contradictions, as in theism and atheism, but God’s being is in suffering and the suffering is in God’s being itself, because God is love.”
Not every day does one read a book that not only changes your conception of theology, but also your conception of God–and particularly the Trinity. This is one of those books.
The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton
“Indeed, the truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers most.”
Merton was a Trappist monk, and this is the story of his life, his conversion to Catholicism, and his journey to the contemplative life. It reads like a Beat poem written by a saint, and it’s well worth your time for its wisdom.
Guantánamo Diary, Mohamedou Ould Slahi
“He brought ice-cold water and soaked me all over my body, with my clothes still on me. It was so awful; I kept shaking like a Parkinson’s patient. Technically I wasn’t able to talk anymore.”
Slahi has been imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay since 2002 for his supposed (read: actually nonexistent) connection to 9/11. He was subject to intense torture by his interrogators for years. His connection to the attacks had never been proven, nor has he ever been charged with any other crime.
This book serves as a reminder that we learned nothing from our experiences with the School of the Americas or anything else our government did in Central America during the Cold War: our government still uses torture as a technology of power and encourages other governments to do the same. And we remain sadly but blissfully ignorant about it until people like Slahi wake us up.
Blogs You Absolutely Must Follow
Walk the Way
A brilliant blog written by a Catholic missionary, and soon-to-be ordained deacon, who lives and serves in neighboring Honduras. He offers beautiful reflections on Monseñor Romero & other Christian martyrs, the Christian life, and living in Central America.
Tim’s El Salvador Blog
A great resource for understanding current events in El Salvador. It finds the good news where there is good news to be found–but doesn’t pull punches when it comes to reporting and explaining difficult news, either.