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Human rights issues in Florida

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When we think of human rights we tend to point fingers at off-shore totalitarian regimes and violent, terrorist-prone organizations, thinking “we are in America, Land of the Free”. Yet there are scenarios in central Florida where individuals’ dignity needs to be addressed and volunteerism needed to push for new public policies that meet the plight of the underserved and vulnerable.

Something proactive has been taking place at your archdiocesan university and your help in spreading the word is needed. For years, St. Thomas University Center for Justice and Peace’s concerned group of staff, students, laity and community friends have teamed up to find initiatives and solutions on behalf of the significantly underpaid farmworkers in Immolakee. Partnering with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers - a grassroots farmworker organization based in Immokalee – the university center team engages in immersion programs visiting the work and housing facilities of these immigrants, conducting fact-finding missions and working to address issues of economic inequality and modern-day slavery in the fields of central Florida.

Our Center for Social Justice partners with other important advocacy entities. You can become part of the big picture by connecting with the STU group. One example is the Catholic Campaign for Human Development: the domestic anti-poverty, social justice program of the U.S. Catholic Bishops. Its mission is to address the root causes of poverty in America through promotion and support of community-controlled, self-help organizations and through transformative education. For us at St. Thomas University, discussing immigration needs and solutions requires consciousness of what is really going on in the Immolakee farmworkers’ lives.

The university needs parents, students, alumni and archdiocesan constituents to spread the word and consider joining these efforts as well as obtain a deeper insight on the issues by enrolling in one of the many course options from the Center for Social Justice.

Recently arrived Haitians are also found in Immolakee. You can also make a difference through other forms of assistance to the vulnerable as well as those affected by Haiti’s disaster in teamwork with the STU group. Thanks to a unique partnership between STU and Haiti’s Cafeiere et Cacouyere du Nord’Ouest (COCANO) Coffee Cooperative, the university is selling a delicious, 100 percent Arabica, organic coffee in a direct fair-trade relationship that empowers rural Haitian farmers, reforests the land, and supports a sustainable socio-economic infrastructure for Haiti’s future. STU business, communications, and theology students have been working hard on this project for the past three years -- and their work is now showing fruit! We are now offering free coffee tastings at three locations on campus. The coffee is available for sale in the STU Bookstore or by simply e-mailing Anthony Vinciguerra at [email protected]

We brew coffee for relief and human promotion at the same time we enjoy an excellent cup of coffee. (Learn more at www.cafecocano.com).


Comments from readers

Fr. Alejandro Roque, OMI - 05/14/2010 05:47 PM
Thank you Msgr. Casale for bringing up this very important topic: Social Justice for discussion at our Archdiocesan Blog. More than ever we need to bring this message of Social Justice home when States are making it a crime not to have documents and when Ethnic Studies are being outlawed in their public institutions... WHAT ARE THEY AFRAID OF? We need to remember that we all have a God given dignity that no law or nation can take away from us: We are God's image and likeness. As such, we need to reflect that reality to those we have around us through service and compassion.

One thing that all baptized catholics should keep in mind is that we do not need to wait for Father to bring up the topic. There are many Catholic and Ecumenical organizations working right here in South Florida where we can get involved and begin to make a difference. I suggest to Neida Perez to keep getting involved and to talk to her priest. Mr. David Masters (My parishioner and your professor) spoke to me about AMOR EN ACCION and through them we welcomed the Immokalee Tomato Crop Pickers to give a presentation about "Injustices to the Migrant Workers" in our Parish and people came to learn more and do something about it.

I recently heard in a Radio Peace Interview our newly elected Archbishop Thomas Wenski say that he was at a rally in front of the Publix Headquarters the Sunday before the Tuesday he was presented to us here in the Archdiocese protesting the unjust wages of the Tomato Pickers! So we all need to get involved. I know that St. Thomas University has been active in PACT in Miami-Dade County trying to fight injustices for the powerless here. There is also BOLD Justice in Broward County that does basically the same Justice work... and we are all looking for people to get involved. INJUSTCE HAPPENS RIGHT HERE IN OUR OWN BACK YARD... and we have the power to make the difference Remember: WE HAVE GOD IN OUR SIDE!
Neida D. Perez - 05/12/2010 09:10 AM
Today is Wednesday and we have only one comment. We really have a hard time understanding this business of the Catholic Social Justice. It's like that part of the Catechism has nothing to do with me. I have presented a very simple introduction and the general comment was "Why don't we hear about this in the parishes?" I wonder if "we" don't hear about this in the schools and in Religious Education.
Richard DeMaria - 05/10/2010 10:46 AM
Msgr: Thank you for reminding us of the leadership which STU has taken in itssues of Social Justice. The program of providing solar ovens in Haiti which provides food in a way which does not harm the environment is particularly helpful. Richard

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