Intercommunity Center engages people in the pursuit of justice
|Sr. Linda Haydock, SNJM, has led the center for 25 years.|
Over its 25 years, the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center, a partnership of 19 women’s religious communities and one men’s religious community, has challenged corporations to change unjust practices, advocated for sustainable water resources, sought to end human trafficking, facilitated communities through Women’s Justice Circles, and empowered young adults to gather for justice, spirituality and community building.
“In 1991, women’s religious communities met and asked what they could do together better than alone to respond to critical needs of the times,” said Holy Names Sister Linda Haydock, its founding director.
“It’s important to build community to address issues,” she said, “because we do not want to be so issue-driven that we lose sight of the community and dialogue.”
The center works with Catholic, ecumenical and interfaith groups.
“We are also a peace and justice center creating systemic change for economic justice,” Linda added.
The IPJC, which started as a Northwest center, is now global, working in 19 countries, relating to people face-to-face and through technology.
“The world is struggling. As political, economic, social and ecclesiastical systems break down, we need to create new systems,” she said. “We are people of hope, because nothing is impossible to God.
“If we dream it, we can do it. Systemic change is a long-haul process, so we need to be rooted in community and spirituality,” she said.
After graduating from high school in Seattle, Sr. Linda attended the University of Washington and Seattle University. She taught at Immaculate High School in the inner city before she entered the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.
Seeing the commitment of the Holy Names sisters to poor students and experiencing a month of immersion in 1980 in local life in Nicaragua, she realized she could do more and do it more boldly with others than alone.
In Nicaragua, she lived with Maryknoll Sister Maura Clark, one of four sisters killed the next fall in El Salvador.
For her, Holy Names sisters were models for living with joy, working for justice, serving marginalized people and transforming the world.
In 1980, Sr. Linda began formation in religious life in Portland, where she took her vows and began theological education. She led a campus ministry, and taught adults about theology, and about peace and justice.
As executive director, she envisions, creates and helps lead programs, finding ways to make them sustainable.
Women’s Justice Circles are in 50 cities in Washington, around the nation and in eight countries, including Cambodia, Tanzania, Columbia and Peru. There are Spanish-speaking groups in rural Washington. The IPJC has facilitated circles for 15 years.
Issues circles address vary.
• A circle at Transitions in Spokane addressed pedestrian safety for nearby school children.
• A circle at St. Matthew Episcopal in Auburn pursues micro-business opportunities for Latinas.
• A circle at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Connell held a forum on building stronger families.
• A circle in Cashmere won the school superintendent’s support to include Latino parents in creating anti-bullying programs.
• Twenty-eight justice circles in Tanzania help women overcome personal and cultural barriers with a preschool, leadership skills, micro-businesses and maternal health care.
“Circles can have grassroots, direct service solutions and can raise challenges to bring systemic change,” Sr. Linda said. “We mentor women to name issues that keep them impoverished and to gain skills to address those issues.”
Beyond the circles, the center collaborates with organizations with different approaches and resources.
Justice Cafés in 30 cities in 12 U.S. states and in six countries are a way for young adults to talk in real time and online about immigration, just economics, labor trafficking, climate change and spiritual contemplation.
After young adults converse face-to-face, they go online to connect with friends from other cafés to build community, Sr. Linda said.
Groups may meet 90 minutes in a coffee shop, on a campus, at a church or in another space. They download resources, such as a video conversation starter on the month’s topic. They post pictures on Facebook, where other groups access them and converse.
The Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment has worked with 107 corporations to address numerous social and environmental justice issues, has participated in thousands of dialogues with corporate executives and has filed 100 shareholder resolutions in its 20 years.
“We partner with the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, whose members include faith-based communities—Catholic, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Methodist, Lutheran and United Church of Christ—and socially responsible investment funds,” Sr. Linda said. “We address climate change, sustainable agriculture, water, global supply chains and access to health.”
The coalition has succeeded in bringing corporate change on access to HIV/AIDS medicines and ending use of child labor in cocoa fields.
The NWCRI also challenges the hospitality industry—hotels, airlines and tourism—on human trafficking.
The coalition has also worked with private prison companies, including GEO Group, human rights policies.
Sr. Linda often meets with “people who are unaware they can bring corporate change in environmental sustainability, predatory lending and human rights.
“We make progress by bringing faith to bear in the board rooms,” she said.
“Because we are faith-based communities, corporations are eager to be in dialogue so we will not submit a shareholder resolution at their annual meeting,” she said. “We seek dialogue with the companies, who are not eager for change, and we have a good track record.
“Dialogue means being in relationships rather than being adversarial. It helps us progress with Fortune 500 corporations,” Sr. Linda said. “They know we will be there for the long haul.”
She believes corporations appreciate respectful engagement in dialogue to find new solutions.
The idea took hold in the 1970s, when the faith community held corporations accountable by using divestment and boycotts to challenge apartheid in South Africa.
“Faith-based shareholders could make social change by calling corporations to accountability,” she said.
“Having partners helps make our vision reality,” she said.
Sr. Linda, other staff and volunteers lead workshops and webinars in Catholic, ecumenical, interfaith and secular gatherings on peace and non-violence, spirituality and justice, corporate responsibility, leadership development, simple living, immigration reform, human trafficking, environmental sustainability, legislative advocacy and interreligious dialogue.
Other programs educate.
• The center holds convocations every four years, bringing national and international speakers, and including workshops, ritual and conversation.
• It publishes a quarterly justice journal, “A Matter of Spirit.” The recent issue explores the water issues that can lead to conflict: access, sanitation, drought, farming and fishing.
• There are 80,000 online downloads of its educational resources each year.
• It has a new 45-page booklet with a four-session curriculum on climate change.
• It proposes state and federal legislation.
Sr. Linda said people often feel overwhelmed with the litany of issues.
“I encourage people to pick one they are passionate about,” she said. “All are connected. If we are rooted in spirituality and community, we won’t become discouraged, overwhelmed or burned out.
“We need to examine issues as faith communities, so we can care for and transform the earth,” she said.
Sponsoring communities are the Adrian Dominican Sisters, the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, the Oregon Province of Jesuits, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, U.S. Ontario Province, the Sisters of Providence Mother Joseph Province, Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia and Tacoma Dominicans.
Affiliates include other Benedictine and Dominican communities, Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sisters of St. Francis, Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon, the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, the Society of the Sacred Heart, the Ursuline Sisters of the Roman Union.