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Jesuit USA Newsletter

November 05, 2007

African Priest to Talk About the Aftermath of the Rwanda Genocide at Holy Cross

Fr Toussaint Murhula, SJ, will give a lecture called "The Aftermaths of Rwanda Genocide in the Congo" on Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 4 pm in Rehm Library at the College of the Holy Cross. The lecture details the impact of the refugee flux on the Congolese people.

Murhula, a visiting Jesuit staying on campus, is from the Central Africa Jesuit Province. He was born in Bukavu (Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo). He has published poems, literary critical articles and book reviews in different European, African and Canadian journals as well as articles related to the politics and the Congo. While working in Bukavu, he started a ballet group, Renaissance Africa, which participated in a recent cultural festival in July 2007. In Bukavu, he served as the chaplain of the Jesuit high school Collège Alfajiri, while teaching in different church institutions, working in parish ministry, and giving seminars on the Catholic social teaching to the diocesan priests. He has also delivered several talks mainly on the political crisis in the Great Lakes Region and preached Ignatian retreats to both clergy and lay people.

The event, organized by Ambroise Kom, professor of modern language and literatures and director of Africana studies, is free and open to the public. [Source: College of the Holy Cross]


JRS Staff Member Killed in Sri Lanka

Fr Nocholaspillai Packiyaraj, district coordinator for Jesuit Refugee Service Mannar, was killed on September 26 when an explosive device went off as he was travelling in what the government describes as "uncleared" territory in northwestern Sri Lanka.

Fr Packiyaraj’s driver was rushed to hospital with injuries. Neither the origin of the attack nor the identity of the attackers has yet been ascertained.

This is not the first such attack in Sri Lanka in recent months. Fresh fighting between government troops and the LTTE, the Tamil rebels, in early September caused more than 3,000 people to flee their homes in northwestern Sri Lanka's disputed Mannar district. Both parties in the conflict, the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, have been accused of serious human rights abuses.

A Human Rights Watch report in mid-2006 documents recent violations by the Sri Lankan government. The government has been accused of not taking adequate care to minimise harm to the civilian population during the fighting. Government security forces have also been implicated in enforced disappearances, forcible returns of internally displaced persons to unsafe areas, and restrictions on the media that undermine press freedom. The National Human Rights Commission in Jaffna reported that, in the first three weeks of August 2007 alone, 21 cases of enforced disappearances and 13 cases of unlawful killings took place. [Source: JRS Dispatches #223, 9/27/07]


Protesting Priests receive Jail Sentences

Jesuit Steve Kelly, 58, and Franciscan Louis Vitale, 75, were sentenced to five months in prison for attempting to deliver a letter opposing the teaching of torture at Fort Huachuca in Arizona. Both priests were taken directly into jail from the courtroom after sentencing in October.

Fort Huachuca is the headquarters of military intelligence in the U.S. and the place where military and civilian interrogators are taught how to extract information from prisoners. The priests attempted to deliver their letter to Major General Barbara Fast, commander of Fort Huachuca.

The priests were arrested while kneeling in prayer halfway up the driveway to Fort Huachuca in November 2006. Both priests were charged with trespass on a military base and resisting orders of an officer to stop.

In a pre-trial hearing, the priests attempted to introduce evidence of torture, murder, and gross violations of human rights in Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib in Iraq, and at Guantanamo. Despite increasing evidence of the use of torture by U.S. forces sanctioned by President Bush and others, the federal court in Tucson refused to allow any evidence of torture, the legality of the invasion of Iraq, or international law to be a part of the trial.

Outside the courthouse, before the judge ordered them to prison, the priests explained their actions: "The real crime here has always been the teaching of torture at Fort Huachuca and the practice of torture around the world. We tried to deliver a letter asking that the teaching of torture be stopped and were arrested. We tried to put the evidence of torture on full and honest display in the courthouse and were denied." [Source:, 10/17/07]


JRS Lawyer Honored With United Nations Nansen Award

Dr Katrine Camilleri, a lawyer with Jesuit Refugee Service Malta, will receive the UN Nansen Award for her courage and commitment in the defence of refugee rights. The Nansen Refugee Award is given annually by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to individuals or organizations that have distinguished themselves in work on behalf of refugees.

Since 1997, Dr Camilleri has provided legal advice to hundreds of detainees, helping them with their asylum claim or to challenge their detention, especially the most vulnerable. She also runs training on refugee law for university students, organizing practical placements, enabling young Maltese people to assist asylum seekers.

The award wwas officially presented at a ceremony in Geneva on October 1 at the annual gathering of UNHCR's governing Executive Committee. [Source: Jesuits in Europe: News Bulletin #118, October 2007]


Fire at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center

Eight elderly Jesuits were evacuated from their rooms in the early hours of October 27 as a fire damaged three floors of the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, California.

No one was injured in the 2 a.m. blaze, but the building, home to 75 retired Jesuits, sustained water and fire damage that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair. Some of the affected residents who need constant care may have to be moved to another senior care facility.

Fr Al Naucke, SJ, socius of the California Province Jesuits, said that residents are "grateful" the damage was minimal and optimistic that it will soon be repaired. [Source: Mercury News, 10/27/07]


University of Scranton helps out around The Office

The last weekend in October, the University of Scranton played host to the cast and writers of The Office, NBC's Emmy award winning comedy. They were in town for the Office Convention in Scranton, where the show is set. 400 University of Scranton students volunteered at the Convention, and the cast visited the University for a special live Today show, which broadcast from the school. The University also hosted a Q and A session with the cast, attended by over 3,000 people.

Actor Leslie David Baker, who plays Stanley, is a product of a Jesuit education. Baker said of The University of Scranton, “I would come here to go to school if I had to do it all again.”


Marquette University establishes Center for Peacemaking

Through a $500,000 grant, Marquette University launched a Center for Peacemaking this fall.

The center will be directed by Fr G. Simon Harak, SJ, a theology professor at Marquette. Prior to joining the university in January, Harak worked for the War Resisters League as its National Anti-Militarism Coordinator. According to Harak, the Center for Peacemaking will support research on the effectiveness of initiatives to prevent violent conflicts and to reconcile communities in the wake of violence.

“What’s more, we will teach the skills needed to resolve conflicts nonviolently,” added Michael Duffey, associate theology professor at Marquette. “While there are already programs at Marquette that promote peacemaking, we need to expand these offerings to develop leaders in our community who will advocate for nonviolent conflict resolution.”

The development of the Center for Peacemaking received broad faculty support, according to Duffey. He said more than 20 faculty members from various departments expressed interest in the center, and added that there are currently about 60 courses that students can take to complete an interdisciplinary minor in justice and peace studies. [Source: Marquette University]


Remembrance of Things Past

From the Editors

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This newsletter is a service of Company Magazine, Copyright(c) 2006-2007. Page maintained by Company Magazine, [email protected] Updated: 11/7/2007