Friday 27 May 2011

Branded Babies

Maximilian Kolbe

The Holocaust is a history of enduring horror and sorrow. The charred skeletons, the diabolic experiments, the death camps, the mass graves, the smoke from the chimneys ...

Auschwitz became the killing centre during WWII where the largest numbers of the Jews were murdered. One Christian man who died here became a martyr to the truth of evils of Nazism - a true hero for our time, a saint who lived what he preached, total love toward God and man ...

Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish priest who died as prisoner 16770 in Auschwitz. When a prisoner escaped from the camp, the Nazis selected 10 others to be killed by starvation in reprisal for the escape. One of the 10 selected to die, Franciszek Gajowniczek, began to cry: My wife! My children! I will never see them again! At this Maximilian Kolbe stepped forward and asked to die in his place. His request was granted ...

The story begins on 8 January, 1894 - Raymond Kolbe was born the second son of a poor weaver at Zdunska Wola near Lodz in Poland. In 1910 he became a Franciscan, taking the name Maximilian. He studied at Rome and was ordained in 1919. He returned to Poland and taught Church history in a seminary. He built a friary just west of Warsaw, which eventually housed 762 Franciscans and printed eleven periodicals, one with a circulation of over a million, including a daily newspaper.

In 1930 he went to Asia, where he founded friaries in Nagasaki and in India. In 1936 he was recalled to supervise the original friary near Warsaw. When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, he knew that the friary would be seized, and sent most of the friars home. He was imprisoned briefly and then released, and returned to the friary, where he and the other friars began to organize a shelter for 3,000 Polish refugees, among whom were 2,000 Jews. The friars shared everything they had with the refugees. They housed, fed and clothed them, and brought all their machinery into use in their service.

Inevitably, the community came under suspicion and was watched closely. Then in May 1941 the friary was closed down and Maximilian and four companions were taken to the deathcamp Auschwitz, where they worked with the other prisoners. 

One day an SS officer found some of the heaviest planks he could lay hold of and personally loaded them on the Franciscan's back, ordering him to run. When he collapsed, the SS officer kicked him in the stomach and face and had his men give him fifty lashes. When the priest lost consciousness the Nazis threw him in the mud and left him for dead. But his companions managed to smuggle him to the camp infirmary - and he recovered. The doctor, Rudolph Diem, later recalled:'I can say with certainty that during my four years in Auschwitz, I never saw such a sublime example of the love of God and one's neighbor.'

The Conditions in Immigrants’ Prison Camps in Spain – wrongly and outrageously known as Immigrants’ Boarding Centres (CIEs: Centro de Internamiento para Extranjeros)

The conditions in centres for third country national (detention camps, open centres as well as transit centres and transit zones) with a particular focus on provisions and facilities for persons with special needs in the 25 EU member states "

The following study was commissioned by the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.

This work follows a number of visits by delegations from the LIBE committee to several European Union Member States. These missions resulted in the publishing of reports or resolutions.

This study looks at conditions for migrants and asylum seekers in reception, detention or transit centres, and is based on field studies carried out in twenty-five European Union countries. It is the first study on the subject based on field studies throughout all European Union countries, i.e. twenty-five countries at the time the study was commissioned in December 2006.

The report below is based on the study presented for Spain. Despite the fact it dates back to 2007, the conditions at detention centres have not improved but worsened, especially after the latest Immigration Law (2010), which extends from 40 to 60 days the maximum period that illegal immigrants can be held in these centres before being deported. However, in practice, foreign nationals can be arrested on leaving the centre and therefore accumulate several consecutive 60 day detention periods.

STEPS Consulting Social study for European Parliament

2.24 SPAIN

Field study summary

1 – Brief description of how the study was carried out:

Our local partner, CEAR, is a non-governmental organisation which provides legal and social support for asylum seekers and other migrants. They were responsible for documentary research and the practical organisation of field visits.

Difficulties in obtaining access to detention centres were met (due to the Spanish authorities’ reservations concerning the study), which meant we were uncertain as to the authorised visiting dates which were given to us at the last minute. We were therefore unable to schedule visits to open centres (for asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors), nor meetings with other takeholders (NGOs, international institutions). Finally, we were only able to visit the five selected detention centres (Fuertaventura, Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga and Algerisas). The administrative personnel in these centres participated entirely satisfactorily in the study.

2 – Background

Spain’s unique geographical position as the Southern door to the European Union with enclaves in Ceuta and Melilla, and islands close to the African continent, along with its historical and cultural links with certain countries (particularly in Latin America), mean that the issues surrounding immigration policy are particularly important in Spain.

The reinforcement of border controls and the implementation of a restrictive entry policy have had dramatic consequences: the arbitrary removal of Latin American nationals arriving by plane, and an increased number of shipwrecks and deaths of migrants arriving from North and Sub-Saharan Africa by sea.

The tragic events in October 2005 in Ceuta and Melilla led the Spanish and Moroccan governments to reinforce border controls in the Spanish enclaves. This has made is extremely difficult to pass through and has effectively pushed the European border further South. The reinforcement of controls along the African coast has pushed back the departure points for migrants arriving by sea: instead of leaving from Mauritania, ships transporting migrants now leave from Senegal, Gambia, Casamance and even as far as off as Guinea. This phenomenon has had tragic consequences with an increase in the number of deaths (up to 6000 in 2006 according to certain estimates).

3 – Description of detention and reception systems:

Thursday 26 May 2011

Good Will Hunting

Director: Gus Van Sant


Writers: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck


Stars: Robin Williams, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck



A janitor at MIT, Will Hunting has a gift for math and chemistry that can take him light-years beyond his blue-collar roots, but he doesn't realize his potential and can't even imagine leaving his childhood Boston South End neighborhood, his construction job, or his best friend. To complicate matters, several strangers enter the equation: a brilliant math professor who discovers, even envies, Will's gifts, an empathetic shrink who identifies with Will's blue-collar roots, and a beautiful, gifted pre-med student who shows him, for the first time in his life, the possibility of love.


Saturday 21 May 2011

Thousands of People Have Taken to the Streets of Spain Calling for a Real Democracy

By Alejandro López
Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tens of thousands protestors continue to occupy Madrid’s Puerta del Sol and have gathered in the main squares of another 162 towns and cities across Spain in protest over unemployment, government austerity measures and a political system that serves only the banks and big business.

Calling for “Real Democracy Now”, the protests are also known as the M-15 movement, the day they were first called by social network and internet groups, drawing a massive response from younger workers, students, the unemployed and broad sectors of Spanish working people.

The protests continued into their sixth day Friday in defiance of the Madrid Electoral Board, which banned demonstrations in the capital ahead of Sunday’s municipal and regional elections.

On Thursday night, Spain’s central election commission passed a resolution prohibiting rallies throughout the country for Saturday, which is designated as a pre-election “day of reflection”, and for Sunday, when the vote takes place for municipal and regional governments.

The resolution was passed by five votes in favour, four against and one abstention. It explicitly prohibits any demonstrations for Saturday, declaring that “our legislation prohibits any act of propaganda or electoral campaigning on the day of reflection.” As for Election Day itself, the board ruled that the law bans “forming groups susceptible to obstructing, in any way, access to the polls, as well as the presence in the vicinity of the polls of those likely to interfere with or coerce the free exercise of the right to vote.”

Other local electoral committees have followed suit, banning demonstrations and camps set up in Seville and Granada.

Demonstrators in Puerta del Sol, where a small tent city has been erected surrounded by tens of thousands of protesters, greeted the news of the new ban with jeers and whistles, chanting “No nos moverán”, or “We shall not be moved.” 

Sunday 15 May 2011

Freire, Ayers and Economics

Extract of an article written by Emma Rose Roderick, workers’ rights activist
Paulo Freire, author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, is widely regarded as the father of the "critical pedagogy" perspective of education. Ayers, a scholar of Freire, picks up where Freire leaves off: in his book Teaching Toward Freedom, he examines how Freire's ideas (and the ideas of other like-minded scholars) can be concretely integrated into the classroom. Both agree that the methods with which teachers teach are at least as important as the content of what they teach; in fact, the methods are perhaps even more important. Both stress the importance of the breakdown of the subject/object relationship between teachers and students; the dangers of the "banking" method of education and the potential that lies in a "problem-posing" method; and the close connection between students and the world around them, which, they argue, should consistently be emphasized across the curriculum.

As Ayers argues, deciding how to teach is a moral choice. Every teacher teaches for something and against something else--there is no neutrality. Ayers writes that many teachers unknowingly teach for obedience and against freedom of thought, and that he tries to do the opposite: "I want to teach against oppression and subjugation, for example, and against exploitation, unfairness, and unkindness. I want others to join me in that commitment. I want to teach toward freedom, for enlightenment and awareness, wide awakeness, protection of the weak, cooperation, generosity, compassion, and love. I want my teaching to mean something worthwhile in the lives of my students and in the larger worlds that they will inhabit and create. I want it to mean something in mine."

Each teacher must decide what s/he is teaching for and against, and must make a commitment to hold fast to that decision, even in the face of pressure from the outside. Sticking to generic curriculum frameworks and teaching directly from the textbook is certainly a form of teaching for something and against something else, despite the fact that most would regard it as simply following the status quo. Every decision a teacher makes is a moral decision, and every decision must ultimately be made by her/himself.  

Multinationals Profit, We Consume, They Die

Debate activity to raise students' awareness about our consumerism and its consequences for multinational companies and for the expoited people who manufacture the products that we consume.


o    What is the difference between consumption and consumerism?

Materialism and Consumerism Questionnaire

  1. What do you really want that you don’t have?  Do you really need it?
  2. Is there any such thing as enough? Do you have enough?  
  3. Do you deserve what you have?
    1. Do you feel you are lucky? Why?
    2. Do you feel you have worked hard for what you have?
    3. Do you deserve more than you have? What is the meaning of ‘materialism’?
  4. Do you think you are a materialistic person?
  5. Do you think your school-mates/friends are materialistic?
  6. What do you think motivates the rich? Why do rich people work at all? Why does a millionaire want to be a billionaire?
  7. Why are we so attached to material objects?

QUESTIONNAIRE (continuation):
  1. Does materialism have any consequences for the rest of the world? Which ones?
  2. Think of what could happen in the world if people changed. Is it worth working for a change? 
  3. Can we do anything against slavery and exploitation?
    1. What can we do to change ourselves?
    2. What can you do to help your school-mates/friends change?
  4. Is it easy to work for a change alone?
  5. Can you think of other people who can do it with you?
  6. What do you think of the saying “less is more”; “small is beautiful”?
    1. Do you know in Spanish a saying like that?

Wednesday 11 May 2011

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, by U2

I have climbed highest mountains
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you
I have run
I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

I have kissed honey lips
Felt the healing in her fingertips
It burned like a fire
This burning desire

Aboriginal blessing

May the fire be in your thoughts,
Making them true, good and just,
May it protect you from the evil one.

May the fire be in your eyes,
May it open your eyes to see what is good in life.
We ask that the fire may protect you
from what is not rightfully yours.

May the fire be on your lips,
so that you may speak the Truth in kindness;
that you may serve and encourage others.
May it protect you from speaking evil.

May the fire be in your ears.
We pray that you may hear with a deep listening
so that you may hear the flow of water,
and of creation, and the dreaming.

EU does not want to stop migrants drowning as they flee North Africa

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

By Judith Sunderland, senior researcher on Western Europe for Human Rights Watch
A man named Mohammed posted this plea on the Migrants at Sea website three days after a rickety boat capsized on 6 April in rough seas just 39 miles from Lampedusa: "I want to know if my brother is there with the Eritreans dead in the sea, his name is Sebah Tahir Nuru." 
The long-expected exodus by sea from war-torn Libya has begun, and with it the tragic and avoidable loss of life.

Leading EU member states such as France and the UK are active players in the UN Security-Council-mandated NATO air operations to protect Libya's civilian population. Yet when it comes to civilians fleeing Libya by boat, EU states seem more concerned with domestic politics than saving lives.

More than 200 people, including children, are presumed dead in the 6 April tragedy. Two young women died on 13 April when the small boat that held them and over 200 others smashed into rocks off Sicily. As many as 800 more people who have left Libya by boat in the following days are unaccounted for.
A survivor of an unsuccessful crossing told me there were 72 people in his boat when it left Libya. When the boat was already in distress, what appeared to be a military helicopter hovered above and dropped some water and biscuits. The captain of the boat decided to remain in the area, believing the helicopter would send a rescue team. None came. As the boat, now out of fuel, drifted, the occupants saw what looked like an aircraft carrier and tried to convey that they were in distress, but received no help. The boat drifted for two weeks before the currents pushed it back to Libya. Only nine out of the 72 people on board survived.

Thursday 5 May 2011

Helder Camera

When one dreams, it is only a dream.
When we dream together, it is the beginning of reality.
                                                              by Helder Camera

No Borders

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Pope John Paul II: Social Teaching Reinvigorated the Faith

by Stephen F. Schneck - Extract

This Sunday, May 1, we celebrate the beatification of Pope John Paul II. May 1 is also the traditional feast of St. Joseph the Worker. Even more specially, this year May 1 is Divine Mercy Sunday, an observance inaugurated by John Paul II himself.

The Feast of St. Joseph the Worker honors the vocation of working men and women, with particular attention to the contribution of the working class to the common good of all. Traditionally, it’s a day when Catholics in unions and guilds around the world gather in our churches and parish halls to draw parallels between the divine work of creation and the rights and justice associated with the work of human hands.

John Paul II’s theology was ever about the exuberant overflowing of divine love being what ought to unite all humankind in peace and solidarity. This was a hallmark of his preaching in his native Poland.

Divine Mercy Sunday offers a similar message. It is a special observance of the infinite openness of divine love that should inform Christian life. Inaugurated by John Paul II (in homage to the Polish St. Faustina), the day also holds up the ideal of the life of the apostles and disciples of the early church as a model for the earthly imitation of divine mercy. John Paul II died in 2005 on the vigil of this Sunday. The scriptural readings the pontiff selected for Divine Mercy Sunday utterly complement those of the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. Here, for example, is a well-known excerpt from the first reading for Divine Mercy Sunday (Acts 2:44): All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.