- December 1st, 2017 -
I write to you today on what the world celebrates as World AIDS Day and just a day before our IPM delegation in El Salvador joins thousands of others commemorating the December 2, 1980 martyrdom of Maura Clark, Jean Donovan, Ita Ford, and Dorothy Kazel in El Salvador.
Each World AIDS Day brings me back to the early 1990’s when the spread of HIV&AIDS was ravaging the African communities I was working with through my time with Caritas Internationalis, the migrants forced into sexual exploitation in Rome, and the lives of my gay friends back in the USA. I am reminded of how slow my church of that time and the government of the USA were to respond—a delayed reaction grounded in bias against marginalized peoples that would lead to the unnecessary death of millions.
Similarly, each December 2nd, brings me back to that morning in high school when I first learned that Cleveland-based Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel and lay Missioner Jean Donovan were missing, that evening when my mom spoke to me about Dorothy, and the following day when we first learned of the brutality of their murder by Salvadoran forces unleashed by the incoming U.S. Administration. At 15, I remember struggling with what their deaths meant for my sense of vocation and the life-shattering notion that the Catholic Church I had grown up in was in direct conflict with US Policy.
It is in light of these two anniversaries that I write. And as I think of what I would like to share with you at this time, I am strengthened by the witness of Grace & John (two AIDS “victims” whose lives continue to inspire me) and Dorothy & Jean. For each of them—John during Divinity School, Grace on a mud-hut floor in Rwanda, Dorothy & Jean reminding me of what accompaniment is all about every time I touch down in El Salvador—gives witness to what IPM means when we proclaim that “mission is a two-way street.”
The four of them, like each of IPM’s Partners, help center and ground me when it feels like life is overwhelming, that justice is still a far off dream, and that peace is the farthest thing from every step. It can feel like that right now can’t it? That the times we live in are no better than the ‘80’s, that our political system is broken, and that a nuclear holocaust on the Korean peninsula is just around the corner.
And there can be no denying that for IPM these are especially hard times. Even with the promise of a 44th Anniversary to come in May of next year we are laden with:
- political violence in Kenya that is once again taking lives and challenging the inter-ethnic, inclusive nature of our Partners efforts there;
- inter-religious bigotry in India where IPM’s longstanding commitment to multi-faith responses to social injustice are being systematically oppressed by a nationalist government;
- in our own hemisphere, our friends in the USA and Partners in El Salvador and Nicaragua in particular are in a constant battle to defend the Dream Act, provide Sanctuary for those moms and dads of US Citizens threatened with deportation, and ensure the continuity of Temporary Protected Status for their communities and our Haitian brothers and sisters as well; and,
- a changing philanthropic climate where everything seems to be more about metrics than the transformational change global solidarity can make in each individual’s life.
These are indeed times when one’s faith and commitment are being tested in unimaginable ways! But like all such times, this is also a moment when organizations like IPM and people like you can make an even greater difference in the world.
You can help us in so many ways. Share the good news of IPM’s transformational work around the world. Bring a friend (or friends!) along on an IPM Immersion Experience Program. Join in one of IPM’s new advocacy campaigns to Defend DACA and stop the political violence in Kenya. Pray that our International Staff and Partners have the courage and strength to continue their life-changing efforts to bring justice, peace, and hope to the abandoned and forgotten. Donate your time, talent, & treasure to make our mission possible.
This is just some of what you can do. It’s much of what my colleagues and I try to do each and every day emboldened by the notion that “it is not the years in your life that count it’s the life in your years,” (Abraham Lincoln). And years like these require all the life we can give!
It may be hard to believe but IPM is concluding it’s 43rd year. Even harder for my to believe that I’ve been connected with IPM, as a Project Partner, Board Member, and Staff Member, for 25 years! And each of you, over all those years, has played a vital part in making IPM what we are today—a movement more than a mission, a family more than organization. A non-profit that couldn’t exist without you
As I write this letter, our nation and our world may feel even more divided than they did last year. But people of faith and communities worldwide are standing up and reminding us that another world is indeed possible. That fear and hate can’t rule the day. That hope and love always win in the end. That the mission of IPM to work across border of culture, faith, and economic circumstance is needed now more than ever.
Sometimes, at our darkest moments that might be hard to believe. But I believe and I know that you wouldn’t keep supporting our work together if you too didn’t know that you can make a difference! Your partnership with us provides IPM with the resources to accompany and nurture tens of thousands of people of who have taken up the challenge of living with and loving one another… of making our world and their communities a place where everyone is valued and no one is forgotten.
Thank you and best wishes to you during this Holiday Season and throughout the coming year!
Here are five concrete things you can do right now to help ensure the type of world IPM is fighting for:
- Gather with your local faith or school community and decide how you can promote diversity and welcome people different then yourselves, especially when you hear words of hatred directed at persons of color, immigrants, Muslims, refugees, and/or the materially poor;
- Contact IPM to learn how to lobby your elected leaders to Defend DACA, continue the Temporary Protected Status for Haitians, Hondurans, Nicaraguans, & Salvadorans; and, to hold the Kenyan Government responsible for fair and free elections without the threat of political violence;
- Provide a gift to support the life-changing work of IPM’s International Staff, Fellows, and Project Partners as they model a world where everyone is valued and welcome;
- Sign-up with a friend for an IPM Immersion Experience Program in 2018 or beyond so that you can publically witness to the world that the people of the United States are open and accepting of all; and,
- Keep IPM central to your prayers and/or meditation practice so that the shared power of human hearts and mindfulness can continue to make a difference in our world. Thank you!
Joseph F. Cistone
December 1, 2017