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Religious join Women’s March in Washington

WASHINGTON (SE): The large crowds that gathered on January 21, the day after Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States of America (US), was originally billed as a protest by feminists against the anti-woman policies and attitudes of the new man in the While House.

But controversy quickly broke out and a week prior to the event the registration of what had described itself as a pro-life group, taken as being anti-abortion, was rejected by the organisers as being anti-feminist.

It seems that the initial organisers insist that abortion is an essential part of the feminist make up, but since any rally that is going to attract over half a million in Washington alone is not going to stay single issue for long, in the event, an eclectic group of women and men rallied around a wide variety of issues as they spilled into the streets in cities across the US and as far away as the antipodes in Sydney, Australia.

The migrant voice was loud. One woman said that she is profoundly upset at Trump’s comments about Mexican immigrants, saying that it is upsetting for her.

“We fought hard not to be stereotyped,” she said, “but to see other people agree with Trump was hurtful.”

Another from Ethiopia called Trump disgusting, saying that he is diminishing American values.

Sister Deborah Troillett, from the Sisters of Mercy, told America magazine that although pro-life groups had been excluded from registration, some did turn up and several religious congregations also came to air their causes of social justice.

“We’re here in light of our charism of mercy,” she explained. We’re here because we stand for justice for those who are most affected by the kind of divisions and racism and inequalities that we seem to be more and more aware of and more and more affected by in terms of who is being left out.”

She added that her group wants to be faithful to the call of Pope Francis to act with nonviolence, to gather peacefully, stand in prayer and unity based on the gospel.

Sister Troillett pointed out that in his message to Trump, “Pope Francis called on all of us in this nation to claim our deepest values, respect for human dignity and freedom. So we want to stand in that place with women and with all people who in any way experience inequality or the lack of opportunity to live their God-given dignity.”

Sister Simone Campell, from the NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, spoke at the rally that preceded the march in Washington.

For some Catholic groups, the day began with a Mass at a church on Capitol Hill. Father Jordan Kelly pointed out that it was providential that the march fell on the feast day of St. Agnes, who vowed her life to Christ against the wishes of her father and then walked naked through the streets of the village in protest against her father’s betrothal plans.

“This little girl shows us the dignity of womanhood,” Father Kelly said, adding that religious sisters are a powerful influence on people’s lives, as is the power of Christ.

While the Dominican priest admitted that he was offended by some of the more grotesque signs that he saw at the march, he said that nevertheless, some of them did cause him to think about things he had not dreamed of before.

Sister Patricia Capell walked as the national director of the worldwide Catholic peace organisation, Pax Christi, as well as the National Catholic Peace with Justice Movement of the US. But also as an African-American Catholic woman.

“I believe in the social teachings of the Catholic Church. We basically want to be able to say to our newly elected president that we certainly believe in social justice issues,” Sister Patricia said. “And particularly as women we’re concerned about the economic and racial polarisation that has been a byproduct of what has happened.”

She concluded, “We come together in solidarity to say we are marching for human rights, we are marching for civil rights, we are marching to take care of creation and the climate, and we are also marching because we’re not about racial or religious polarisation.”

Sister Janet Kinney said that she was disappointed that the we the people element was missing from the campaign and that the wealth gaps in society will only be mended if all the people band together to make a difference.

More than a million people marched across the US, presenting a wide variety of issues, which at least shows that the country has a long way to go in forging a coherent response to the problem of wealth distribution.

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