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Megan Sweas

Writer, Editor, Student of Life

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Praying for Rain in California

This piece originally appeared in the Yale ISM Review.

“As an American Indian, all my life I have been cursed with the myth of the ‘Indian rain dance,’” Johnny P. Flynn wrote in Religion Dispatches in 2012 when the United States Agricultural Secretary, Tom Vilsack, suggested a rain dance to end a drought. “I am here to say there is no such thing. Not in my Potawatomi tribe or in any other tribe across the Americas.” Weather-related rituals, Flynn wearily pointed out—including the Hopi’s famous late summer dances—recognize the season rather than bring on the rain.

That hasn’t stopped some from trying. Continue reading “Praying for Rain in California”

Could Pope Francis Change Hearts and Minds on Immigration on a Global Scale?

Published by The Washington Post, Center for Religion and Civic Culture, June 11, 2015

A few months into his papacy, Pope Francis took his first trip out of Rome to Lampedusa, the Italian island through which many migrants enter Europe after a treacherous journey across the Mediterranean.

Noting that shipwrecks of migrant boats happened “all too frequently,” Francis blamed “the globalization of indifference.”

“We have become used to the suffering of others. It doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it’s none of my business!” he said.

Continue reading “Could Pope Francis Change Hearts and Minds on Immigration on a Global Scale?”

Katy Perry’s Not the Only One Who Wants to Live in a Convent

Published by TIME.com Zocalo Public Square, Center for Religion and Civic Culture, July 23, 2015

I moved into a convent 10 years ago this summer.

Continue reading “Katy Perry’s Not the Only One Who Wants to Live in a Convent”

Migrants find welcome with Italian church

Published by National Catholic Reporter, January 27, 2015

ROME AND SICILY — August in Italy is a usually a time for rest and relaxation. But on one Saturday in the summer of 2013, beachgoers in Catania, Sicily, found a boat full of migrants that had crashed off the city’s shore. Continue reading “Migrants find welcome with Italian church”

Italian convents act as safe houses in trafficking portal

Published in Global Sisters Report, January 12, 2015

The girl was waiting at the sisters’ gate one morning in August.

Before her 18th birthday, Elizabeth had already traveled across the Sahara and the Mediterranean on her way from Nigeria to Europe and spent six months in a brothel in Denmark. She was being prepared to start working on the streets of Italy when she found her way to Casa Rut, a safe house for trafficking victims. Continue reading “Italian convents act as safe houses in trafficking portal”

How to treat unaccompanied immigrant children at center of policy debate

Published by National Catholic Reporter, June 19, 2014

The Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati first found out that children were crossing the U.S. border alone in the early 2000s, when their mission took three Central American girls into their El Paso home.

The girls crossed the border when Immigration and Naturalization Service handled “unaccompanied alien children,” as the government refers to them. INS separated out minors, but they were still put in handcuffs, foot shackles and a waist chain, Sr. Janet Gildea said. “They treated them just like criminals.”

Yessenia Vásquez, a Guatemalan teenager who stayed with the Sisters of Charity, was not unlike the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children crossing the Southwest border of the United States this year. She was escaping an abusive situation and feared for her life. Continue reading “How to treat unaccompanied immigrant children at center of policy debate”

Caste off: The plight of Christian Dalits in India

Published by U.S. Catholic, March 2013

Franklin Caesar Thomas and R. L. Francis both attend Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Delhi. Though the two lay activists with similar backgrounds may be polite on Sundays, they don’t like each other.

Like 70 percent of Catholics in India, Thomas and Francis are Dalits—untouchables. For thousands of years, Indian society has been structured by caste, divided into four main groups and thousands of sub-groups. A family’s caste still largely determines one’s social standing and opportunities, and Dalits fall at the bottom. Continue reading “Caste off: The plight of Christian Dalits in India”

UC-Irvine’s Muslim Student Union Battles Injustice

Published by Aslan Media, Inc. in three parts from September 21 to October 2, 2012

Aminah Galal counted 100 audience members at the presentation on Shariah law. It was a good turnout, and most, she noted, weren’t members of University of California – Irvine’s Muslim Student Union (MSU), which hosted the event.

But as Galal, vice president of the MSU, finished counting, the Q&A turned confrontational. Five of the six who asked questions were from a Christian ministry called Truth Defenders, and to them, true Muslims wouldn’t accept the speaker’s flexible interpretation of Shariah. Continue reading “UC-Irvine’s Muslim Student Union Battles Injustice”

Cuba’s gay rights revolution

Published by GlobalPost, June 29, 2012

HAVANA, Cuba — Niurka says she is “halfway out of the closet” as a lesbian in Cuban society. She doesn’t talk about her sexuality in public, and she’s thankful nobody asks at work. But with her curly cropped hair and more masculine dress — most notably gym shoes on an island where most women prefer sandals — she says she can’t conceal it. Continue reading “Cuba’s gay rights revolution”

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