At a time when our new government is undermining rather than celebrating our diversity, both cultural and especially religious, I had a new book published “Social Justice and the Power of Compassion.” It reveals how groups at the grass roots level can make meaningful changes, and celebrates our religious diversity in one of its chapters. That particular chapter is about a foundation that brings peace and understanding among different religions of the world, and was created by a Jewish man who is a scholar and a Muslim man from Bosnia. This theme of mutual respect and understanding resonates in our country when members of these faiths reach out to each other at a time of growing anti-Semitism and the burning and defacement of mosques. When we think about power, in our times, let us include kindness and mutual support.
The way our country views immigrants has also changed and is the source of contention with many people thinking that they are taking away our jobs, or that they are terrorists. In fact, a member of our administration has referred to them as rapists and drug dealers. Yet we seem to forget that children have been crossing our borders to flee violence, and that Honduras has the highest murder rate after Syria. In fact, these children, some as young as seven years old, are really refugees because their parents and siblings have been murdered by gangs and drug traffickers. Wendy Young, a lawyer founded KIND (Kids In Need of Defense) along with Angelina Jolie, and Brad Smith, Executive Vice President and General Council of Microsoft. It is an organization of pro bono lawyers who take on cases of child migrants brought to court without anyone to defend them. The major issue is not just the treatment of unaccompanied children in border detention centers, but also preventing their deportation to dangerous situations where they might be murdered. KIND has represented children from 66 countries and trained more than 9,500 lawyers. The children that have been accepted have attended school and thrived. At a time of anti-immigrant attitudes it is important to remember that our economy and society lives on immigrants. The CEO of United Airlines is Mexican American, an extraordinary number of Indian Americans are chief executives of major corporations, including Adobe Systems, Motorola, Microsoft and more.
Women’s rights are also being undermined in a number of ways with legislation pending against Planned Parenthood, a program that provides a wide variety of health care for women besides abortion, and also the cancellation of programs for women who have suffered from domestic violence. Yet MADRE, an international organization based in New York City has partnered with local women’s groups around the world because it sees women as the backbone of their communities and that positive change depends on them. MADRE works with sister organizations whose work supports survivors of war, the politically repressed, the economically and sexually exploited, and victims of natural disasters. These organizations have worked with MADRE to build health clinics, create shelters for women subjected to domestic violence, literacy programs, and to improve women’s political participation. Through this important work the organization is making the politically invisible, visible and empowering women around the world. In short, this book reveals that we are not powerless to bring about important social change and that hope is very important in a divided country and war torn world.
MARGUERITE GUZMAN BOUVARD PH.D is the author or 16 non-fiction books in the area of politics, women and human rights, grief, illness and spirituality, as well as 7 books of poetry, two of which have received awards. Both her poetry and essays have been widely anthologized.
A Resident Scholar at Brandeis University, Marguerite has received fellowships at the Radcliffe Institute, the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women and from the Puffin Foundation. She has been a writer in residence at the University of Maryland and has had residencies at the MacDowell Colony, the Yaddo Foundation, the Djerassi Foundation, the Leighton Artists’ colony at the Banff Centre and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.