Violent Attacks and Freedom of Religion

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When mosques, churches, synagogues, and places of worship are attacked by violent actors, these places take reasonable steps to prevent future attacks: typically, they begin to implement countermeasures to protect those who assemble there.

With religious centers increasingly facing potential violence, many organizations and congregations are starting to consider lockdown protocols, security screenings and other measures designed to mitigate the threat. But while these measures may not conflict with the fundamental goals of a school or shopping center, they often conflict philosophically with the idea of a religious center as a place of refuge, inclusion, and spiritual welcome.

What happens to houses of worship when they close their doors and become cautious and vigilant in the face of possible violence? And what happens to democracy when freedom of religion and assembly become difficult to protect from violent threats, cyber threats, or political threats carried out by policy makers who harbor religious hostilities?

In a truly democratic society, is it reasonable to expect religious centers to change their practices and alter their fundamental approach to service and community in order to accommodate a system that can’t protect them?  Where should the changes occur: in the religious center itself, or in the justice and law enforcement systems in the surrounding community?

As heartfelt condemnations and messages of support surge following each attack on a religious center around the world, the growing number and brutality of these attacks are beginning to warrant more from policy makers and world leaders than pro-democracy, anti-hate rhetoric. And as this truth sinks in, the UN is encouraging national action by setting an example. In the spring of 2019, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced the development of an Action Plan, led by Miguel Moretinos, High Representative of the UN Alliance of Civilizations.

The plan will address a central goal: to reaffirm and protect the sanctity of all places of worship and “the safety of all worshippers who visit revered sites in a spirit of compassion and tolerance.” According to the Secretary General, “People everywhere must be allowed to observe and practice their faith in peace.”

The plan will require a new approach to the spread of hate on social media, and the separate threat of religiously biased media reporting. Guterres noted that in the US over the past decade, attacks involving Muslim perpetrators or suspects connected to Islam received 357% more coverage than attacks carried out by others. This act of injustice and irresponsibility can be difficult to trace to a single source or media outlet, making accountability a challenging goal.

But as always, the pursuit of peace and justice lie at the foundation of a healthy democracy. While the road to these goals can be riddled with contradiction and compromise, it’s time to dial back on heartfelt but empty expressions of support, and start looking for the elusive, complicated solutions that can protect free media without allowing biased reporting, protect communication and privacy without fanning the flames of hate, and protect safety without violating the free expression of religion and peaceful worship.

To learn how Just Atonement is working to achieve these goals and find these difficult answers, contact our team!

Erin Sweeney is a Philadelphia-based writer, illustrator, and advocate for sustainability and environmental justice.

Plastic Pollution: Where do we Stand?

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It’s 2019 and at this point, we all know that much of the human impact on our fragile planet comes from pollution. Our landfills are overflowing, and we haven’t successfully dealt with carbon emissions, toxic runoff from farm and lawn fertilizers, pesticides, manufacturing byproducts, mining waste, or the pollutants created by energy generation and transportation.

We’re introducing unwanted material to the biosphere at an ever-growing rate and we haven’t yet found the brake pedal, much less put it to use. One of the most depressing topics under this subheading can be summed up in a word: plastic.

The issue of environmental plastic is depressing, and in many ways paralyzing, for a simple reason. Each of us personally contributes to the problem every single day, and none of us know how to stop.

One Problem at a Time

Here at Just Atonement, we recognize that the problems are of the world are vast. So vast that in some cases, the metrics and charts that detail a given crisis contain numbers incomprehensible to the human mind. How many is a billion? How about 200 billion? How many children go hungry each night in conflict zones? How many people die of cholera each year due to a lack of clean water? How many grains of wheat are required to sustain a population of millions? How many years, months and days must pass before a nation is held accountable for a war crime? These numbers are available, but for most of us, they still somehow lie just out of reach. We can see the charts with our eyes, but we still can’t fully comprehend what they mean.

So it goes with plastic and the planet. A single coffee lid or plastic straw will lie on the sand for thousands of years. It will never disappear, generation after generation, lifetime after lifetime. One busy moment at a coffee shop, a single forgotten morning on the way to work, will leave this legacy for millennia. The giant garbage gyres made of such straws and lids are so vast that a two-day drive across a state like Texas still can’t cover their width. Our minds can’t typically process this, and since we need to get to work, the straw goes into the trash, the moment is forgotten and the day goes on. Since we don’t know how to prevent, slow, or comprehend the numerical extremes that lie within this series of events, we don’t want to try.

That’s normal.

But if we don’t, nobody else will.

So What, Then?

There is a way around this obstacle. The path is rocky and steep and the outcome is—so far—not guaranteed, but the road has two lanes: personal changes and policy changes. We can work hard to apply cultural pressures that convince our fellow consumers and ourselves to reject single-use plastic even when it’s available and convenient. And we can advocate and vote for policies that will remove plastic options from our lives, making them less available and thereby making individual smart choices easier.

But to get to either one, we need something that many of us struggle with: courage. That’s where organizations like Just Atonement can help. To move forward with either path, we need to overcome the paralysis and hopelessness that make us scroll past articles like this one  and this one. We need to trust ourselves, have faith, believe that our actions will create real change and then….take those actions.

Contemplating a sea turtle choking on our coffee shop straw is NOT pleasant. But contemplate it we must, before we use the straw and—most important-- before we refuse to think about it. Easy? No. But possible? We work every day to keep our eyes fixed on a distant future where sustainability is real, peace is attainable, and humans can live without fear, injustice, or a lack of access to resources, and we believe it IS possible.

If you’re looking for ways to gather your courage and help us find a path to that future, please contact our team today!

Over Three Million Refugees Leaving Venezuela, Carrying Global Questions and Answers

Through years of legal activism and engagement with both scientific and political data gathered from around the world, we recognize two major problems facing the planet over the coming decades: climate change and socio-political upheaval. We also recognize that these two forces are directly related. Together, these two can potentially destabilize a variety of systems from infrastructure to food distribution networks, but the first and most daunting challenge they present is already upon us and already requires immediate global attention: involuntary human migration.

Preparing an Appropriate Response  

Before the international community can anticipate and prepare for massive unpredictable population shifts, we must observe and gather information from shifts that are already underway. So as 3.4 million refugees and asylum seekers leave the turmoil surrounding them in Venezuela, the international community bears two key responsibilities. First, neighboring nations must find ways to manage and accommodate this influx. In this case, the largest number of migrants have been hosted by Columbia (1.1 million), followed by Peru (0.5 million), Chile, Argentina, Ecuador and Brazil. A smaller number of migrants have been accepted by Mexico and countries in Central America.

Second, nations everywhere must observe and monitor how these countries process, shelter, and assimilate this spike in asylum seekers without slipping into the grip of a humanitarian crisis. Calling for compassion first and sanctions second when faced with a neighbor in turmoil can help, according to this UN human rights expert. https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/01/1031722 So can the development of stable channels and precedents for the delivery of humanitarian aid, as outlined in this report.

If neighboring nations gather data and examine best practices, the transfer and assimilation of large migratory populations can take place in the future with a minimal amount of uncertainty, danger, and threats to the most vulnerable, including children, the elderly and the disabled. A study of best practices can also reduce the threat of violence, including trafficking and sexual assault, that can often occur when border crossings and processing procedures are chaotic and disorganized.

Why is this research important?

While the best response to any political or environmental crisis is advanced preparation and prevention, an unpreventable crisis can bring valuable lessons that allow the global community to prepare for a recurrence of similar events, from political turmoil to other drivers of migration, including natural disasters and disease outbreaks.

What we learn today from the events in Venezuela can help us prepare for both the challenges of climate change and the politically destabilizing events that may take place at the same time. Please join us as we follow the decisions and actions of the UN and those of South American nations facing a spike in permanent and temporary refugees.  

Statement on March 15, 2019 killings in Christchurch, NZ

We at Just Atonement Inc. share the sadness and shock of those mourning the victims of the terrorist incident in Christchurch, New Zealand.

We condemn as outrageous any acts of terrorism committed against any targeted group. In this case, a declared “white-ethno-eco-nationalist” committed international crimes against innocent people, for the avowed purpose of inciting a global race war and destroying democratic freedoms.

Just Atonement Inc. extends its condolences to all those affected by the trauma of this terrorist attack.

Just Atonement Inc. also calls for the fullest prosecution under law, with due process, for the accused.

Finally, Just Atonement Inc. urges all governments to act, immediately, to prevent terrorist attacks like this from taking place in the future — which includes taking measures to defend our democratic freedoms, respect for the rule of law, extending equal opportunity to all, and mitigating the global environmental breakdown now taking place. Democracy can no longer be equated with war corporatism and eco-annihilation. We must return to the roots of democracy as a people, as a species: defending fundamental rights, providing resources for all, sustaining global peace, and living in harmony with Nature.

Until and unless the underlying causes of terrorism are addressed, our world will continue to see heinous acts of violence — by both lone gunmen and governments — for the foreseeable future.

We pray for all those affected.

On behalf of Just Atonement Inc.,

/s/ Inder Comar

Executive Director

Human Rights and Global Justice: A Never-Ending Goal

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In the midst of an encounter with atrocity or injustice, a community leader, an advocate, or a witness may be overwhelmed by a single goal: to bring the crisis to end. The motivating force for action in that moment may be short-term and ultimately attainable. If a migrant population is under assault or a marginalized group is threatened, it’s easy to recognize a simple need: bring relief to the suffering and bring the perpetrators to justice.

But what then?  

A true resolution involves an analysis of why the crisis occurred in the first place. The analysis must be followed by meaningful action to prevent a resurgence of the same circumstances. And since the forces that lead to global injustice are rarely simple, a perfect repetition of the same events will likely never happen. Instead, despite deep analysis and careful preparation, the next such crisis will still seem to arise without warning. And the next. And the next.

In fact, most experts on the subject of global justice seem to agree that the forces that contribute to oppression, unjust resource distribution and involuntary migration are rising at this point in history, not diminishing. From a spike in authoritarian governance to climate change, the factors that bring trouble are not decreasing with each lesson learned, but are instead gathering on the horizon like a dark cloud.

As we witness the annual arrival of Holocaust Remembrance Day, we’re once again faced with a difficult question: How can we declare “never again” in the face of injustice and truly follow through on that promise?

Like a boat on the sea, we are lifted and dropped by the currents that surround us. We can’t hold a fixed position, but we can learn to recognize the rhythms behind each shift, anticipate, respond, remain flexible and remain ever-vigilant. We can accept, as the Talmud instructs us, that we are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are we free to abandon it.

Here’s a beautiful example of a person who has “not become daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief”. This is an inspiring interview with Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile and the newly confirmed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.  

As Bachelet discusses implementing global systems and leveraging the existing resources of the Human Rights Council, recognize that her history includes detention and torture under the Pinochet regime in Chile, and note how far she has come from the rage that once burned at the core of her search for justice.

Though it is driven by chaos, rage and grief, the path to peace is a structured process. Resilience and determined forward motion are essential, even if the final destination seems always just out of reach.

Please join us on this path! Contact our team to help us maintain steady global progress toward a better and safer world.