Sisters of Charity of Nazareth respond quickly after Hurricane Earl

Hurricane Earl was downgraded to a tropical storm late last week, but not before it caused death and damage in the Dominican Republic and Belize.

As usual, people in the impoverished areas in the path of the storm were the most affected.

Officials reported major damage to buildings and infrastructure as well as debris-blocked roads. Flooding was also a problem.

The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth are already on the case: As officials continued to assess damage, they already had a fundraising page set up. This should not be a huge surprise, as the community has been serving in Belize since 1974, delivering health care and serving those who live in poverty.

Thanks to the fundraising page, you can also take part in their mission.

Divestment expands globally

Mission investing, or targeting a community's investments to align with its mission, is not just taking place in the United States.

The Global Catholic Climate Movement recently reported on four religious institutes divesting from fossil fuels: the Marist Sisters in Australia; the Queensland Presentation Sisters; Presentation Sisters Wagga Wagga; and The Passionists — Holy Spirit Province Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Zealand and Vietnam.

The joint announcement was tied to the anniversary of Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si', but the group said it anticipates more communities will make similar moves on the feast of St. Francis in October.

"In committing to divest, these organisations join over 530 institutions globally, representing over $3.4 trillion in funds under management," said the Global Catholic Climate Movement, which has created a Catholic Divest-Reinvest Hub for mission investing news and resources.

Catholic religious institutes have been leaders in this movement since the 1970s, when sisters in the United States pushed for divestment from South Africa over that country's system of racial oppression known as apartheid.

"Divesting of fossil fuels is one way that we can be stewards of God's gift of creation so that life in all its forms can be sustained now and into the future," said Sr. Catherine Lacey, congregation leader of the Marist Sisters in Australia.

"The decisions are made after much careful consideration and in the knowledge that our decision won't change things overnight — this is a long term investment in the earth's future," said Sr. Anne Lane, leader of the Presentation Sisters Wagga Wagga.

Helping the impoverished or a land grab?

Deals announced for foreign investment in impoverished areas to bring jobs and lift people out of poverty always sound so beneficial.

But the reality of these development agreements, many say, is that they are simply land grabs meant to take advantage of poor countries to strip them of their natural resources at the lowest possible price.

"Land grabbing has become a cancer that stands on the way of true development of Africa. It is packaged in various counterfeit development programs that are practically targeted towards the looting of our resources," says a statement issued by the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar. "Our land is sacred, our land is our life, our land is not for sale."

The symposium, on "Land Grabbing and Just Governance in Africa," was held in November. Dominicans from four organizations in Africa took part in the conference, which was organized by the African Faith and Justice Network, which is led by Dominican Br. Aniedi Okure from Nigeria.

The situation, which often ensnares the very leaders who should be protecting the people's interests, is akin to a second colonization, the statement says.

We acknowledge this problem to be part of the unjust global economic system which has impoverished us gravely thus creating: forced evictions and migrations such that our brothers and sisters are dying in the Mediterranean Sea in an effort to seek new life; community conflicts that weren't there in the past, extreme inequality and power differentials and other social problems in our beloved continent. We also acknowledge that our political elites and some of our local leaders are accomplices and beneficiaries of this evil thus giving Europe, North America, Asia and even South America the opportunity to colonize us the second time.

The groups committed to educating themselves, the people they represent, government leaders, and organizations and to work for solutions to find development that benefits everyone rather than just a few foreigners.

Remember, links, tips and accounts of the response to any crisis anywhere in the world are always welcome at dstockman@ncronline.org.

[Dan Stockman is national correspondent for Global Sisters Report. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.] 

Celebrating Award-Winning Content: GSR recently earned seven awards for editorial excellence from the Associated Church Press.