Colombia’s Victims and Land Restitution Law Still Unfelt on the Ground

October 8, 2012

Photo: Annalise Romoser, Lutheran World Relief

A joint publication released in September 2012 by Lutheran World Relief (LWR) and Latin America Working Group Education Fund (LAWGEF) estimates 360,000 families on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia have been forced from their land due to violence. Representatives from these organizations travelled to Colombia this June to assess progress of Colombia’s Victims’ and Land Restitution Law, which aims to provide reparations to victims of conflict. This law is funded and promoted by the U.S. government. USAID states that although 15,208 claims have been made, no land has yet been restituted. Family displacement continues to take place today as large-scale corporations legally and illegally take over land.

Research carried out by LWR and LAWGEF reveals that local governments have little know-how and no resources for carrying out Victims’ Law implementation. Additionally, high risk of corruption exists in properly identifying victims, since it is determined by local authorities. These issues are compounded by the fact that victims lack legal assistance to help them defend their rights and access restitution.  Families without titles to their land such as many campesinos, Afro-Colombian and indigenous people, are especially vulnerable to reverse land reform. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Under Tents’ Campaign Demands Housing Rights in Haiti

September 20, 2012

Photo: Alexis Erkert

Under Tents, an international campaign for housing rights in Haiti, released a housing brief this week highlighting the facts on the country’s internally-displaced persons (IDPs). Thirty-three months after the earthquake, over 369 000 Haitians are estimated to be living in tent camps. Designed as temporary housing for the 1.5 million people left homeless following the earthquake, almost no progress has been made towards transitioning residents of displacement camps into permanent housing. Of the US government’s $988 million contribution to post-earthquake recovery efforts, only 10% has been spent on housing, with almost none of this percentage supporting permanent housing options.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Deficit Deal Explained:

August 15, 2011

A non-wonky guide to the Budget Control Act’s sweeping push to cut federal spending (and maybe increase revenue, too?).

Webinar, Thursday, August 18, 1:00pm EST. (1 hour 15 minutes long)

Click here to register.

If you are concerned about health care, jobs, hunger, services for seniors, children, or people with disabilities, housing, rebuilding communities, reducing poverty…well – if you’re concerned about pretty much any of the problems facing this nation, you need to know about the new Budget Control Act.  Read the rest of this entry »

Resources for Remembering 9/11

August 10, 2011

This week the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) has posted a list of resources to facilitate remembering the events of 9/11 on the 10th anniversary of the day.

Resources are gathered from Interfaith, Christian, Muslim, Unitarian Universalist and Jewish faiths and include resources for all ages.  Also included is a litany from NRCAT with adaptable prayers and ritual.

“Five myths about Americans in prison”

June 21, 2011

Myths abound in U.S. society when prison and inmates are concerned.  Media and policy decisions have too-often drawn upon “tough on crime” stances.  The result is that we as a society have become inundated with misconceptions about the criminal justice system, while prisons have become overcrowded and racial disparities only get bigger.

What is the work of the church in this?  Perhaps a good place to start is to address the misconceptions we may live with still.  An editorial in today’s Washington Post helps shine light on some common ones:

  • crime has fallen because incarceration has risen
  • the prison population is rising because more people are being sentenced to prison
  • helping prisoners rejoin society will substantially reduce the prison population
  • there’s a link between race and crime
  • racial disparities in incarceration reflect police and judge’s racial prejudice
Scripture offers us an opportunity to step outside of society’s misconceptions and envision a new community which offers restoration for those who are hurt as well as for those who hurt others.  Setting aside myths may allow us an opportunity to redefine what the criminal justice system means for us, and for the millions of men, women and children affected by the system.

Social Security Reform in Black and White

May 14, 2011

Amid talk of raising the retirement age to shore up Social Security’s finances, MCC staff member Prem Dick reflects on the disparate impact that could have on communities of  color.

The current push to hike the social security retirement age is a warning siren to New York’s communities of color.

More low income workers-who in New York City are disproportionately of color-would toil till death, while the wealthiest-mostly white-would continue to enjoy old-age leisure.

You could almost call it retirement apartheid.  Read the rest of this entry »

If our nation were a deficit commission…

May 12, 2011

In his article Budget Talks: Who Speaks for the American people?, Dave Johnson reflects on the disconnect between discussions surrounding the federal budget deficit and what polling consistently reveals about Americans’ opinions:

Polls show that the public wants taxes raised on the rich, cuts in military spending and more & bettter-paying jobs. The public isn’t stupid, because it turns out that these are exactly the things that economists say will get us out of the deficits. But raising taxes isn’t considered a “serious” deficit-cutting option. [Ne]ither is cutting military. And to top it off, in DC the idea of creating more and better-paying jobs is so unserious that it isn’t even discussed.

These “serious” people who engaged in these “serious” negotiations have something in common. They are almost all very, very well paid, usually white, always DC or Wall Street or big-corporate insiders, always college-educated and comfortable people who work in offices. They do not reflect the diverse makup of the American population. Doing that wouldn’t be “serious,” but it would be ‘small-d’ democratic.

Johnson offers a glimpse of deficit commissions which would better reflect the diverse makeup of the American population.  I’d like to add one more for you. Because, although Johnson does rightly point out that the vast majority of these negotiators are white, he doesn’t offer a look at what kind of a racial commission would reflect the American population.

If a deficit commission of 100 existed which reflected the United States in race and ethnicity:

  • 72 would be white
  • 16 would report Hispanic or Latino origin
  • 13 would be African American (1 or 2 of whom would not be able to vote on the commission’s decisions because of systemic voter ineligibility for people released from prison.)
  • at least 2 would be Native American or Native Alaskan
  • 5 would be Asian
  • 7 would be of a race not mentioned above


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