The number of U.S. gun violence incidents in 2015 totaled 52,102.
Justice and peace shape our priorities and form the backbone of Sisters of the Good Shepherd. The Constitution of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd states that “Our commitment to reconciliation demands that we promote justice and peace.” The National Advocacy Center, therefore, sets priorities each January that guide our actions throughout the year. With your active participation, advocacy and prayers, the National Advocacy Center will continue to
- Advocate for programs and policies that help people free themselves from poverty;
- Work to provide a safe haven for immigrants and refugees fleeing poverty and violence;
- Seek an end to domestic violence;
- Ensure full economic equality for women in the workplace;
- Demand legislation and policies to reduce gun violence;
- Work to prevent human trafficking in the U.S. and overseas;
- Lobby for legislation that will ensure adequate housing for all;
- Help enact legislation and policies to protect the environment.
Each issue has a variety of aspects. For example, the issue of poverty includes pressing for tax reform so that the wealthy pay their fair share. To end poverty, we need to increase the minimum wage and protect the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit.
With immigration, in addition to pressing for comprehensive immigration reform, we seek a ban on private prisons that benefit from, and help promulgate, harsh anti-immigration laws. In addition, to reduce the “push factors” related to immigration we work for the forgiveness of debts of impoverished countries.
In terms of human trafficking, in collaboration with other organizations we support legislation dealing with runaway youth. These children constitute a highly vulnerable population – an easy prey for human traffickers.
One issue may impact another issue. For example, in combatting domestic violence we work to make it more difficult for persons convicted of partner abuse to obtain guns. The priority on a day-to-day basis relates to where legislative action is happening or what legislation “has legs” — legislation that needs to be encouraged or stopped. When hundreds of children arrived at our shores from Honduras and other Central America countries, we joined with colleagues in other organizations to oppose legislation that would have reduced protections offered refugees fleeing to our country.
NAC works closely with the Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) Gathering on issues related to justice and peace. Our priorities are affected by the theme of the Gathering. The theme in 2016 centers on racism, class and power. Being mindful of racism and religious intolerance, NAC has co-sponsored an EAD workshop entitled Islam in America, A conversation on what it means to be Muslim in the U.S. During 2016, we vow to continue to fight back against all forms of religious intolerance and hateful speech.
Our justice and peace priorities are not just a list of issues but issues that interface with each other and the legislative realities of the moment.
Justice and peace priorities
Because I am the only full-time staff person at the National Advocacy Center, there are some issues we do not deal with in depth. These issues include housing, environmental concerns and overseas issues. At our Advisory Board meeting in February, we will discuss how we can become more involved in these issues without lessening our commitment to ongoing concerns. In short, our justice and peace priorities are not just a list of issues but issues that interface with each other and the legislative realities of the moment. However, by listing our priorities we are able to stay focused on the mission of our organization. And certainly we believe we are being guided by prayer, by our own prayers and the prayers of others — especially the Contemplative Sisters of the Good Shepherd.
In our search for an economy of inclusion and equality, we are guided by the words of Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”). He writes:
“Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape… Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded…
“To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed… Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own… The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.”
For more information on Good Shepherd National Advocacy Center and the work it does to promote justice and peace, visit the website at gsadvocacy.org. You can also follow NAC actions on social media: