Posted by: dominicanoutreach | October 15, 2009

Posted by: dominicanoutreach | September 23, 2009


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Posted by: dominicanoutreach | September 8, 2009

Dealing with Pain

C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

Please forgive the pseudonym.  I have to selfishly admit that it is a comforting way to write.  It isn’t for the lack of accountability, as much as the ability to compartmentalize the hostile backlash that inevitably ensues in theological discussions of both consequence and controversy.  Rarely do these conversations bring out our best.  Though we try with all our might to keep these matters in our heads, eventually the heart bursts forth, and leaves us wide open to the worst sorts of pain.

Compartmentalizing pain…I am as guilty of this as any.  It is how I remain composed, confident, and in control.  It is what it takes to lead.  It is what is required to be in charge.  But the bottom line is, I fake it.  Almost every day.  I hide from pain by detaching.  That way I never have to admit what I truly am…a coward.

Posted by: dominicanoutreach | September 8, 2009

Biography of Hope

The month of August was long and hot. Not many tourists or volunteers come to the DR during this time. For me it is a time of reflection and preparing for the coming school years and the projects we have planned. I have found that reading biographies prepare me in several ways. First, they inspire me with examples of people who have persevered over obstacles we battle every day. Second, biographies often serve as case studies on how to model success. For example I have been reading about Augustus Franke who was a German pietist who founded several schools, an orphanage, and vocational projects for the poor at the end of the 17th century in Germany. The way he did it seems to follow a pattern that Dominican Outreach has been pioneering in the Puerto Plata area. Third, there is a comfort in knowing that one is not alone and there have been others who have travelled this path. It is humbling as well knowing that one is part of a vast army of missionaries who have served others as part of a higher calling. Finally, biography offers hope. Andreas Masius is another person I have been studying. He was born in Belgium in 1514. He became a Roman Catholic priest who was both a scholar and humanist. He fought against the abuses of his own church and the oppression of the poor. At the same time he pioneered scholarly advances in book printing, the publication of the Aramaic New Testament and forgotten genius’ such as Moshe Bar Kepha. His battles with his own church led him to leave the priesthood and marry. But even in his domestic life he continued his two pronged contributions to the relief of suffering and the advances in the scholarship of his day.

Posted by: dominicanoutreach | July 13, 2009

Food as Medicine

How Aramaic Food May Have Saved Darwin

by Father Dale A. Johnson

On the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth

When Roman armies expanded into the eastern frontier in the 2nd century BC they discovered foods that provided both health and pleasure. Aramaic recipes were brought back to Rome. Some of these recipes included meat pies, apple tarts, delicate custards held together by eggs and honey. Later, when Roman soldiers occupied Britain they brought with them these recipes and began a British love affair with all-things-pudding.

British cuisine is founded on Roman diets who in turn borrowed their recipes from many cultures including from Aramaic peoples, inheritors of ancient Sumero-Akkadian cultures. Rome borrowed most food dishes we think of as Roman or Italian. Even spaghetti is not Roman in origin.

Some of the earliest records of these recipes date back to 1600 BC. Among the 40,000 clay tablets at Yale University three tablets are the earliest known records and recipes from which milk, egg, and honey laced puddings have their origin. Jean Bottero, an Assyriologist in 1995 published a detailed translation and analysis of these tablets. In them we find the following terms.

dispu (syrup made from dates, grapes, or from some other fruit source but probably not “miel / honey”)

sizbu (milk)

himetu (clarified butter or ghee)

baitzu (egg)

I thought about the origin of British pudding when I recently read a cookbook written by Emma Darwin, wife of the famous Charles Darwin who wrote Origin of the Species and changed modern science forever and caused an unresolved battle between science and religion. It is interesting to think that ancient Aramaic recipes for custard may have contributed to the health and long life of one who has caused Christians so much trouble.

Let me explain why!

Emma Wedgewood could play the piano. This was important for her suiter, Charles Darwin, in 1838 as he noted in his diary that he desired a “soft wife, a sofa, and music.” These attributes in Emma helped Charles in his obsessive driven cost/benefit analysis when deciding if he should be married or remain a bachelor. All throughout their married life Emma played the piano for Charles almost daily. Charles even used the piano as a scientific instrument toward the end of his life. He had Emma play music loudly to a small box containing earthworms to see if they would wiggle. He concluded that earthworms were deaf.

What may have been more important than her piano playing skills was her cookbook created in the first year of their marriage. The 8×8 inch bound record of 104 recipes was a secret medical formulary for her chronically ill husband.

Emma Wedgewood, grand daughter of Josiah Wedgewood of chinaware fame, was married at age 30 to her first cousin Charles Darwin three years after his famous voyage on the HMS Beagle. In her first year of marriage she composed a recipe book.

Charles brought back from his world voyage ideas not only about evolution but also ideas about what he liked to eat which was modified by the onset of a chronic disease. His studious and compassionate wife carefully attended to his diet with the attention of a physician.

At first the recipe book seems strange, as if created by a child with a sweet tooth. Over one half of the book is dedicated to dairy laden sweet custard puddings. The reason for the abundance of puddings can be attributed to Crohn’s Disease suffered by Charles. He suffered greatly from the disease which is a chronic relapsing illness. Darwin believed simple pudding soothed his symptoms which included frequent vomiting and bouts of flatulence. Although it does not shorten life expectancy it does seen to have an origin in genetic predisposition. Physicians who examined Charles posited conflicting diagnosis.

Emma may have known more than the doctors, at least on the level of what settled the bowels of her husband. A keen insight into the idea that Emma created more than a cookbook is in one of the first recipes listed. It is Orange Possett. It is a medieval drink made of fruit juice, milk, eggs, and cream and sugar. This was a trusted homemade medicine and as we shall see it had all the ingredients to counter the symptoms of Charles’ several diseases.

Charles began to experience symptoms of Crohn’s disease when he was about 30 years old. This is consistent with most people who experience the disease between 20-40 years of age.

Crohn’s disease starts with a symptom free phase, in which bacterial infection of the gastrointestinal tract leads to breakdown of the epithelial barrier.1 A long time usually elapses between this phase and the appearance of clinical signs of the disease. This is followed by an overreaction of the immune system, which leads to the appearance of symptoms that depend on a number of factors, among them the onset of lesions.2,3 Darwin suffered a severe gastrointestinal infection that probably affected only his upper intestinal tract. This infection started on 19 September 1834 and had him confined to bed, in Valparaiso, Chile, until the end of October 1834. He commented in his diary as having drunk some ‘chichi’ (chicha, a lightly fermented grape juice) while visiting a gold mine, close to Rancagua, in central Chile.4,5 This wine probably broke down that last of the good bacteria in his gut and the onset of diarrhea. This episode was probably the beginning of the early stages of Crohn’s disease. On his return to England, after about two years, he noticed some mild symptoms (‘I was occasionally unwell’)5 that increased in severity during the first year of his marriage peaking with severe symptoms in September 1839. The illness would afflict him for the rest of his life.

The onset of the disease may very well have initiated the writing of Emma’s Recipe book, a book that was less a cookbook than series of pharmacological prescriptions for her new husband’s illness.

Charles believed that spice and salad were causes of his symptoms. Also his symptoms he thought were also triggered by excessive work, long visits, public lectures, and anything that stressed him.There are notes that indicate some of his symptoms included ‘incessant vomiting’, ‘vomiting every week’, ‘suffered from almost incessant vomiting for nine months’, ‘Hurrah! I have been 52 hours without vomiting’, and so on.6 These vomits occurred two to three hours after eating, and food was not present in them. His appetite was usually good, he was ‘not thin’, and ‘evacuation was regular & good’.7

His doctor Dr Bence Jones prescribed soft foods such as ‘plain pudding’ (as a result about one-half of Emma Darwin’s cookbook was dedicated to puddings).

Darwin complained of peripheral neuropathy which is common in Crohn’s disease and is usually attributed to vitamin B12 deficiency, as a result of defective absorption. Darwin was described as ‘yellow, sickly, very quiet’ in contrast to his usually ruddy complexion.8 Vitamin deficiency also produces reddening of the tongue, as occurred with Darwin.

Puddings tend to be high in Cyanocobalamin or what is known as B12. Eggs and also milk products such as cheese and cream are high in this vitamin in which Charles was deficient. Unfortunately dairy products aggravate eczema.

During his life Darwin showed a variety of skin eruptions. In his youth he had facial eczema.9 Later on, during his chronic illness, he suffered from boils that frequently coincided with an aggravation of the digestive symptoms, as well as eczema, on occasions induced by stress and accompanied by swelling of the face.

Another prominent feature of Darwin’s illness was ‘extreme fatigue’ and ‘most days great prostration of strength’. At the age of 33 years Charles was nearly an invalid. Most of the recipes are high in sugar and probably gave him some relief from fatigue.

Other than food, hydrothearpy seemed to have positive effect on Darwin.

The beneficial, although temporary, effect of cold baths, when at Malvern (‘I consider the sickness as absolutely cured’), Moor Park or Ilkley House, may be also interpreted in the light of Crohn’s disease, because cold enhances cortisol secretion, which depresses the immune system and inflammation, and lessens the symptoms of the disease.

Darwin was a keen observer of his illness, and he was convinced that plain (milk-containing) pudding lessened his sickness as tested by the recipes his wife provided the cooks of the house.

A recent paper by a psychiatrist suggests that Charles Darwin also had a mild form of Asperger’’s syndrome. This is a form of autism expressed by children and adults through social immaturity, ritualistic behavior, and obsessive attention to detail.

It is suggested that the same genes that produce autism and Asperger’’s syndrome are also responsible for great creativity and originality, according to Professor Michael Fitzgerald of Dublin’s Trinity College in February of 2009.

Darwin’s Asperger’s affected brain was highly suited to compile the information needed to launch the broader theories.

Asperger’’s syndrome gave Darwin the capacity to hyperfocus, the extra capacity for persistence, the enormous ability to see detail that other people missed, the endless energy for a lifetime dedication to a narrow task, and the independence of mind so critical to original research, he added.

Prof Fitzgerald believes that Darwin was a solitary child, and his emotional immaturity and fear of intimacy extended to adulthood.

Professor Fitzgerald said: “Darwin had a massive capacity to observe, to introspect and to analyze. From adolescence he was a massive systematiser, initially of insects and other specimens which he catalogued. He had a tremendously visual brain.

He spent eight years studying barnacles, for example, and wrote books on his observations of earthworms and even his own children if the Origin of the Species. He was a rather obsessive-compulsive and ritualistic man.

In a study a year earlier (February 2008) on the effects of biomedical intervention by parents it was found that diet had an enormous effect of the behavior of children suffering from various forms of autism. Among the highest rated forms of intervention was the use of vitamin B12 among non-drug food supplements.

Only the use of melatonin and casein (dairy) free diets rated higher. This is conflicting information as dairy products have tryptophan which triggers in the body the production of melatonin. It assists with sleep and it probably helped Charles with the control of some of the obsessive aspects of his syndrome which would have kept him awake at night. Also there is a broad spectrum of autism and variations in the genetic configuration of autistic children. So it would not be surprising that some autistic people would respond to melatonin and others to casein free diets. Apparently, the Darwins figured out what would work best in the diet of the father of evolution.

Although it is not fully understood or researched there are reports of high correlation of Crohn’s disease with Asperger’s syndrome. Both these diseases are highly amenable to dietary treatment. Emma Darwin’s recipe book turns out to be an important medical study for one of the most important patients in science history.

Did Emma’s recipe book assist in the development of the theory of Evolution? Certainly ameliorating the symptoms of her husband’s chronic condition it assisted in helping him write his famous books, although Emma did not do much of the cooking. The Darwins had servants and it is obvious from the recipes that they are written for someone who knows how to cook. But, Emma knew how to treat her husband.

What Emma did not know was how she came to inherit pudding recipes that originated East of the Euphrates where Roman soldiers far from home first tasted the delights of custard pudding.

  1. J. H. Baron and A. Sonnenberg, ‘Alimentary diseases in the poor and middle class in London 1773–1815, and in New York poor 1797–1818’, Aliment. Pharmacol. Ther. 16, 1709–1714 (2002).

  2. A. N. Crowson, G. J. Nuovo, M. C. Mihm and C. Magro, ‘Cutaneous manifestations of Crohn’s disease, its spectrum and its pathogenesis: intracellular consensus bacterial 16S rRNA is associated with the gastrointestinal but not the cutaneous manifestations of Crohn’s disease’, Hum. Pathol. 34, 1185–1192 (2003)

  3. M. A. Peppercorn, ‘Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of Crohn’s disease’, Up To Date 11 (2), 1–7 (2003).

  4. C. Darwin, letter to Caroline Darwin, 13 October 1834.

  5. . C. Darwin, letter to Catherine Darwin, 8 November 1834.

  6. G. Pickering, Creative malady (Allen & Unwin, London, 1974), p. 77.

  7. T. Butler, letter to Francis Darwin, 13 September 1882. Cited by R. Colp, ‘To be an invalid, redux’, J. Hist. Biol. 31, 211–240 (1998).

  8. R. E. Frye, M. A. Tamer and B. A. Cunha, ‘Bacterial Overgrowth Syndrome’, eMedicine (4 February), pp. 1–13 (2005).

  9. For a more exhautive analysis see

    10. for information on Asperger’s Syndrome (see

Posted by: dominicanoutreach | July 2, 2009

The Girl Effect

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Why Should We Pay Attention to Girls?
Little research has been done to understand how investments in girls impact economic growth and the health and well-being of communities. This lack of data reveals how pervasively girls have been overlooked. For millions of girls across the developing world, there are no systems to record their birth, their citizenship, or even their identity.
However, the existing research suggests their impact can reach much farther than expected.
The Ripple Effect
• When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2
fewer children.
(United Nations Population Fund, State of World Population 1990.)
• An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. An extra year of secondary school:
15 to 25 percent.
(George Psacharopoulos and Harry Anthony Patrinos, “Returns to Investment in Education: A Further Update,” Policy Research Working Paper 2881
[Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2002].)
• Research in developing countries has shown a consistent relationship between better infant and child health and higher levels
of schooling among mothers.
(George T. Bicego and J. Ties Boerma, “Maternal Education and Child Survival: A Comparative Study of Survey Data from 17 Countries,” Social Science
and Medicine 36 (9) [May 1993]: 1207–27.)
• When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for
a man.
(Phil Borges, with foreword by Madeleine Albright, Women Empowered: Inspiring Change in the Emerging World [New York: Rizzoli, 2007], 13.)
Population Trends
• Today, more than 600 million girls live in the developing world.
Girls Count, 14
(Population Reference Bureau, DataFinder database, [accessed December 20, 2007].)
• More than one-quarter of the population in Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and sub-Saharan Africa are girls and young
women ages 10 to 24.
Girls Count, 15
(United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, “World Population Prospects: The 2006 Revision,”, and “World
Urbanization Prospects: The 2005 Revision,”
• The total global population of girls ages 10 to 24—already the largest in history—is expected to peak in the next decade.
Girls Count, 14
(Ruth Levine et al., Girls Count: A Global Investment & Action Agenda [Washington, D.C.: Center for Global Development, 2008].)

Educational Gaps
• Approximately one-quarter of girls in developing countries are not in school.
(Cynthia B. Lloyd, ed., Growing Up Global: The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries [Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2005].)
• Out of the world’s 130 million out-of-school youth, 70 percent are girls.
(Human Rights Watch, “Promises Broken: An Assessment of Children’s Rights on the 10th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” [December 1999].)
Child Marriage and Early Childbirth
• One girl in seven in developing countries marries before age 15.
Girls Count, 41
(Population Council, “Transitions to Adulthood: Child Marriage/Married Adolescents,” [updated May 13, 2008].)
• 38 percent marry before age 18.
Girls Count, 41
(Cynthia B. Lloyd, ed., Growing Up Global: The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries [Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2005].)
• One-quarter to one-half of girls in developing countries become mothers before age 18; 14 million girls aged 15 to 19 give
birth in developing countries each year.
Girls Count, 3
(United Nations Population Fund, State of World Population 2005,
• In Nicaragua, 45 percent of girls with no schooling are married before age 18 versus only 16 percent of their educated
counterparts. In Mozambique, the figures are 60 percent versus 10; in Senegal, 41 percent versus 6.
Girls Count, 44
(International Center for Research on Women, Too Young to Wed: Education & Action Toward Ending Child Marriage, [2007].)
• A survey in India found that girls who married before age 18 were twice as likely to report being beaten, slapped, or
threatened by their husbands as were girls who married later.
(International Center for Research on Women, Development Initiative on Supporting Healthy Adolescents [2005], analysis of quantitative baseline survey
data collected in select sites in the states of Bihar and Jharkhand, India [survey conducted in 2004].)
• Medical complications from pregnancy are the leading cause of death among girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide. Compared with
women ages 20 to 24, girls ages 10 to 14 are five times more likely to die from childbirth, and girls 15 to 19 are up to twice as
likely, worldwide.
(United Nations Children’s Fund, Equality, Development and Peace, [New York:
UNICEF, 2000], 19.)
• 75 percent of 15- to 24-year-olds living with HIV in Africa are female, up from 62 percent in 2001.
Girls Count, 48
(Global Coalition on Women and AIDS, Keeping the Promise: An Agenda for Action on Women and AIDS,

Posted by: dominicanoutreach | July 1, 2009

Jesus Interviews for Pastor Position

Church Interviewer: Thank you for coming for this interview. I can’t help but notice you did not fill out an application and submit a profile. Could you explain?

Applicant: I have no need to commend myself. If you care to and dare to, talk to some people I know on the streetcorner, they will give a commendation that counts. I’ll submit their changed lives as my letter of application.

Interviewer: Thank you. We will take that into consideration. Your forthrightness is both refreshing and … um … disturbing… This is not our usual proceeding. Let me move on to my next question, about something we have heard that we find troubling should it indeed be true. We are told you have no home or need of a home. Is that true?

Applicant: Foxes have holes and birds have nests, I find a place to stay when I get somewhere for while I am there. Most places I’m just passing through though.

I: Well may I remind you we have a 4 bedroom home you could use should you get the position.

A: Great, I met few people on the walk over here that could use some shelter.

I: Moving to another area we usually talk about in such interviews, have you been made aware of the salary package we are offering?, and, if so, do you have any comments?

A: I have food to eat you know nothing about, that food is to do the will of him who sent me.

I: OK, I’ll assume from that the offer is more than satisfactory. Could you tell us about some of your past successes in churches? What kind of things stand out? Do you have growth numbers, that kind of thing?

A: Well, not really. I tend to upset religious groups. I go in, I do what the one who sent me wills and generally there is an uproar. Once they took me outside and tried to throw me off a cliff…


Posted by: dominicanoutreach | June 22, 2009

The Saint and the Fasting Girl

For the past few months I have been following the blog of Anna Richeinda and the development of her book “The Saint and the Fasting Girl”  I got a recent copy I find that this book does present monastic issues, especillay in 16 th century England as accurate in several regards. First, there has been a traditional difference in theology and the issues of control between Bishops and monks. From the time of Athanasius, monks have refused to be controlled by bishops. The mystical theology of the church has always been purer and on a different cource than the theoolgy of the church.  Second, the religious piety of women have always been a challege to the church, especially in the Oriental Orthodox world where women have  made important contributions to the life of the church. (see Susan Harvey and Sebaistian Brock on Holy WOmen in the Syriac Orient). Also in my books regarding women who disguised themselves becoming men and tanslations of Syriac Hagiographies do illustrate the historic tensions between the ecclesiatical control of the church and the indendence of the monasteries. St Athanasius is said to have offered gifts to St Anthony if he would only come under the rule of the Bishop. Anthony refused and returned to his monasteriens where he established a Rule for his monks. Ever since that day, monks have had independent leadership and order.  Even in the 18th century England this was true. Anna Richard has accurately portrayed an important and spiritual tension in a novel way. I recommend this book. Follow the links at

Posted by: dominicanoutreach | June 20, 2009

June Posts

Saint Basil

Volunteer Service in the DR

The bread you do not use is the bread of the hungry. The garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of the person who is naked. The shoes you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot. The money you keep locked away is the money of the poor. The acts of charity you do not perform are the injustices you commit. – St. Basil the Great

9:01 AMJun. 20, 2009

The Face of Human Trafficking

11:43 AMJun. 18, 2009

Human Trafficking

Volunteer Service in the DR

This week I have been to the jail four times to interview women who have been swept up by National Police to deal with problems of prostitution in Puerto Plata. Many of these women are victims of human trafficking. One women has been taken to Greece twice and forced to pay huge fees to traffickers to get back to the DR. Almost all the women come from other parts of the country. They are ashamed of what they are doing but feel hopeless about getting out of their life. One women was given an AIDS test where she worked which was in a factory. She tested postitive and was fired. Her family abandoned her and she was left to find work on the streets. She is very depressed about her life. Another women attempted suicide in jail. Her parents were contacted and they came to pick up their daughter who is only 17. Many bar and retaurant owners in the area enslave these women, sell them, and act as their pimps.

The trouble is that the women who are the victims are blamed and arrested. This does not solve the problem. These women need to be given real moral options and opportunities to leave their life and away from the hands of those who are making money off of them. Microloans, job training, medical care, and compassion must be provided as parts of a comprehensive solution.

Next week will be the beginning of an attempt to bring together various NGOs to see what can be done. The US State Department put out this report today on the DR.


The Dominican Republic is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Dominican women are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation to Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Panama, Haiti, Jamaica, the Netherlands, Panama, Slovenia, Suriname, Switzerland, Turkey, and Venezuela. A significant number of women, boys, and girls are trafficked within the country for forced prostitution and domestic servitude. In some cases, parents push children into prostitution to help support the family. Child sex tourism is a problem, particularly in coastal resort areas, with child sex tourists arriving year-round from various countries, particularly Spain, Italy, Germany, Canada, and the United States and reportedly numbering in the thousands . Haitian nationals, including children, who voluntarily migrate illegally to the Dominican Republic may subsequently be subjected to forced labor in the service, construction, and agriculture sectors.

The Government of the Dominican Republic does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these overall significant efforts, the government did not show evidence of progress in prosecuting and punishing trafficking offenders including complicit officials; therefore, the Dominican Republic is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. The Dominican government increased its efforts to educate the public about the dangers of trafficking, improved its assistance to victims, announced a national plan to combat trafficking and took some disciplinary action against lower-level officials suspected of complicity in trafficking activity.

Recommendations for the Dominican Republic: Intensify efforts to prosecute and punish trafficking offenders, especially public officials complicit in or facilitating human trafficking; increase investigations into potential labor trafficking situations; continue to increase victim assistance and shelter services; provide greater legal protections for undocumented and foreign trafficking victims; increase prevention and demand-reduction efforts; intensify efforts to identify and care for all trafficking victims; and continue to increase anti-trafficking training for government and judicial officials.

11:27 AMJun. 18, 2009

Child Trafficking on Increase

Volunteer Service in the DR

Father Regino Martinez, coordinator of Border Solidarity and Jesuit Refugees and Migrant Services says that the trafficking in Haitian children through the border has increased alarmingly in recent months. He said most of these children are transported to the city of Santiago so they can beg on city streets. Martinez told Listin Diario that the increase is the result of the lack of intelligence controls by the Department of Migration and the military authorities in charge of controlling migration from Haiti. He said that Migration simply deports the minors but does not make any efforts to find and penalize those responsible.

9:01 AMJun. 16, 2009

Globalization of Tolerance

Volunteer Service in the DR

Yesterday I read a facinating article by Robert Wright whom I met in 1991 and we worked on a couple of projects together. His article in the Atlantic Monthly (April 2009) leads with this question

For all the advances and wonders of our global era, Christians, Jews, and Muslims seem ever more locked in mortal combat. But history suggests a happier outcome for the Peoples of the Book. As technological evolution has brought communities, nations, and faiths into closer contact, it is the prophets of tolerance and love that have prospered, along with the religions they represent. Is globalization, in fact, God�s will?

This has great implications for volunteer service in places like the Dominican Republic. It suggests that serving others is not only about the abatement of poverty which in fact may be the least of the reasons to volunteer. It may be about the globalization of tolerance and moral evolution.

Wright makes this following appeal: “For all three Abrahamic faiths, then, tolerance and even amity across ethnic and national bounds have a way of emerging as a product of utility; when you can do well by doing good, doing good can acquire a scriptural foundation. This flexibility is heartening for those who believe that, in a highly globalized and interdependent world, the vast majority of people in all three Abrahamic faiths have more to gain through peaceful coexistence and cooperation than through intolerance and violence. If ancient Abrahamics could pen laudable scriptures that were in their enlightened self-interest, then maybe modern Abrahamics can choose to emphasize those same scriptures when it�s in their interest.”

It would benefit the DOminican Republic to be more tolerant of Haitian immigrants, people of the darkest skin, and practice of non-catholic faiths. It is in their self interest. Wright warns:

“And if some people find it dispiriting that moral good should emerge from self-interest, maybe they should think again. At least, the Abrahamics among them should think again. The Hebrew Bible, considered a holy text by all three Abrahamic faiths, sees the pragmatic value of virtue as itself part of divine design.

This theme emerges in various parts of the wisdom literature of the ancient Middle East, notably the biblical book of Proverbs. Proverbs announces at its outset that it aims to impart a sense of integrity, justice, and honesty. Yet the very next verse shifts into self-help, promising that the book will teach shrewdness to the simple and prudence to the young. In the logic of the wisdom literature, there is no great gap here. You learn virtue by learning the wisdom of virtuelearning that virtue is in your self-interest. And its part of Gods plan; the world is designed to translate self-interest into moral good via wisdom. In Proverbs the personification of wisdom, Lady Wisdom, says, The LORD created me at the beginning of his work. When God drew a circle on the face of the deep  when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker.

Self interest is not true altruism although there may be some evolutionary benefit. In my book on Altruism I explore the biological origins of altruism. But even altruism that may be done to protect the genepool may lead humans to a higher moral consciousness. Wright explains this as he writes:

“Of course, the fact that ancient scripture sees the link between prudence and virtue as a reflection of divine purpose doesn�t make it so. But if, as a matter of fact, the prudent pursuit of self-interest has over time led humanity closer to a moral truth�namely, that people of all ethnicities and faiths deserve respect�that lends at least some heft to the argument that there is a larger purpose in human affairs.

The scriptures do strengthen this argument�not by asserting it but by corroborating it. In all three Abrahamic religions, amity and tolerance cross national or ethnic bounds when people feel they can gain more through peaceful interaction than through conflict. And the fact is that history has relentlessly expanded the range across which these dynamics hold.”

To put the point more technically: history expands the range of non-zero-sum relationships�relationships in which two parties can both win if they collaborate, or lose if they don�t. Technological evolution (wheels, roads, cuneiform, alphabets, trains, microchips) has placed more and more people in non-zero-sum relationship with more and more other people at greater and greater distances�and often across ethnic, national, and religious bounds.

This seems to be the reason we�ve made moral progress since the days when, according to Plutarch, Aristotle advised Alexander the Great to treat non-Greeks �as though they were plants or animals��a position that itself was an advance over the days when citizens of a Greek city-state didn�t consider even other Greeks fully human. And even that degree of bigotry was an improvement over the days when the scope of non-zero-sumness, and of amity, didn�t go much beyond a hunter-gatherer village.”

Wright goes onto say “None of this guarantees moral progress. People often fail to play non-zero-sum games wisely (and often fail to perceive the non-zero-sumness�their interdependence�in the first place). The world is full of conflicts that illustrate this fact. Indeed, the outcome of the global project is sufficiently in doubt as to suggest that, if there is some overarching purpose to history, it isn�t ultimately to ensure moral progress, but rather to give our species the choice of either making moral progress or paying the price; either people of different faiths, ethnicities, and nationalities get better at seeing the perspective of one another, and acknowledging the moral worth of one another, or chaos ensues.”

I lbelieve that working in populations where ethinic and religious conflict occur is not a lost cause. Humans can change but only if we engage in the heavy lifting in modeling compassion, service with no hope of reward, and the practice of altruism that rises out of and above self interest.

“If you trust the end-time scenarios laid out in any of the three Abrahamic scriptures, you can rest assured that there will eventually be, in one sense or another, a happy ending. But even for nonbelievers, the scriptures carry a modestly reassuring message, at least when read in light of the social and political circumstances that shaped them: people are capable of expanding tolerance and understanding in response to facts on the ground; and even mandates from heaven can change in response.”

9:54 AMJun. 12, 2009

Gift of a Journey Spawns Gratitude

Volunteer Service in the DR

Every once in a while a surprise shows up in life. It reminds us that life is a journey and the seeds we plant along the way sometimes appear years later in mature and benevolent forms. A student of mine from 20 years ago gave me a 10 day trip to a conference in Europe as a gift of gradtitude. I did not think I would be able to go to Holland, Germany, and Austria for this conference but at the last minute the way was made possible. It creates in me an even stronger desire to pay forward.

Now that I am back in the Dominican Republic, from now till Christmas, there is nothing more important than building our second school.

Posted by: dominicanoutreach | May 26, 2009

Landmark Human Rights Brief FIled

Volunteer Service in the DR


People of Haitian decent and Haitian immigrants live in fear every day that they may be deported to a country on the other end of the island of Hispaniola where many of them were neither born nor do they know the language nor have they ever lived. Some of the children in the picture above are of Haitian decent and have been here for three generations. Imagine that Americans of Swedish decent were targeted for deportation at any time without right to trial or appeal. To get back to the United States they would have to pay huge fines only to find when they return that their homes and property have been confiscated.


This happens every week in the Dominican Republic. It is an outrage. A few months ago, 50 families of Haitian decent, some Haitian immigrants, and even a few Dominican were rounded up by police in a village east of Puerto Plata and trucked across the border to Haiti. This was done in revenge for the murder and robbery of a Dominican taxi dirver. The homes of these people were taken over by Dominican families.


Today I spoke with Professor Caroline Bettinger Lopez of Columbia Law School about filing an Amicus Brief to a lawsuit they have filed against the Dominican government.


Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic, the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), the Movement of Dominican-Haitian Women (MUDHA), and the Haitian Support Group for Refugees and Repatriated Persons (GARR) jointly filed a landmark human rights law brief against the Dominican Republic on behalf of 28 Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent. They charge the Dominican Republic with violating international human rights law through its policy of mass expulsions, and seek an end to routine deportations without notice or a fair hearing by Dominican immigration authorities. The brief was filed before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), in Washington, D.C.  Dominican Outreach and a few other NGOs hope to join this suit.


This summer, law students from Columbia Law will be in country to develop a plan for futher work in this field of human rights. Dominican Outreach will meet and participate with this noble effort.


11:31 AMMay. 26, 2009

Closed Door for the Poor,the Immigrant, and Stranger

Volunteer Service in the DR

Associated with arbitrary and mass detention of migrant workers in the DOminican Republic is the threat of expulsion, especially as the right to challenge the decision to detain or a decision to expel them may not be granted. For example, Haitians living and working in the Dominican Republic are regularly targeted by immigration officers for identity checks and may end up in detention where they can be subjected to ill-treatment and on occasion mass expulsion without access to due process.

Sometimes Dominican immigration officers refuse to recognize documents that are, in fact, valid. The problem is so wide-reaching that it also affects thousands of Dominican children of Haitian descent, who despite being Dominican nationals are treated as irregular migrants.

Eight-year-old Matilde [not her real name] was among six children rounded up by immigration officers from the street in Santo Domingo (the capital of the Dominican Republic) on 4 January 2006. She was beaten so hard by a migration officer that her mouth bled. She was held in Vacacional de Haina detention centre outside Santo Domingo where she was reported to have been verbally abused and threatened by immigration officers. Matilde was released the next day when a human rights activist brought proof of her Dominican nationality to the migration office.

The International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (Migrant Workers Convention) seeks to promote and protect the rights of migrant workers. As one of the core international human rights treaties, its purpose is to provide specific recognition of the human rights of all migrant workers and members of their families. Among the many rights protected by the Convention is the right of migrants workers and their family members to liberty and security of person and their protection from arbitrary arrest or detention.


10:57 AMMay. 26, 2009

Preach the Gospel and If you must, use words

Volunteer Service in the DR

Preach the Gospel and if you must, use words.


This is a phrase falsely attributed to St. Francis who was a preacher and used words all the time. Let us look at what this phrase means that has so resonated with so any Christians.

The word Gospel means Good News. For the poor, the abandoned, and those who live on the margins of society the Good News for them is rice and beans, a new mattress, clean water, a birth certificate,  or an opportunity to go to school. When you do not have food, water, identity, or and education, words do not means much. When you are hungry, tired, sick, and abandoned by society words seem like a hollow echo. It is not that words are not important. In fact, when I deliver a mattress or help a person find a job, or give school supplies it is amazing how the recipient clings to my every word. The power and depth of the Gospel begins with action and is cemented with words.

Today we received Good News from Brad Munn, Monroe Doerkson,and the community of their church in Bradon, Manitoba that they are fully committed to building a school for Maria to be completed by Christimas. Also a few days ago I spoke to Joanne Lamont in Calgary who is also inspired to work toward the building of the school for Maria. These are people who know that actions preceed the word, especially for the poor.

Yet, the Gospel of John says, “In the beginning was the Word…” I understand this to mean that the Word must first be in the hearts of those who roll up their sleeves and carry out the mission to take the Good News to all the world. It is only because the Word lives in my heart, not because of my doing or righteousness, but because of a profound sense of gratitude that fills me when I pray, that I work in the barrios, pueblos,bateys, and slums of Puerto Plata.

I feel it is like visiting the home of a beloved friend. First I will prepare a gift, perhaps a book I have written, or a dish of food I hve prepared, and then offer it at the doorway of my friend. Any words I have for my friend carry greater power and meaning because the acts of writing or cooking means I have done something for them long before I arrived.

10:56 AMMay. 22, 2009

500 People of Immigrants Gather for Prayer

Volunteer Service in the DR


The largest immigrant community in modern times to come to the Dominican Republic is the Lebanese/Syrian Christians after the collpase of the Ottoman Empire. In the 1920s and 30s nearly 20 thousand Lebanese came to this island, learned Spanish and blended into the population but they never forgot their heritage. They quickly became the elite of the island.

  • Salvador Jorge Blanco (Syrian origin), former President of Dominican Republic
  • Julio Hazim (Lebanese origin), Important Dominican Businessman
  • Jacobo Majluta (Lebanese origin), former President of Dominican Republic
  • Andres Dauhajre (Syrian origin), prominent Dominican Economist 

     Father Andreas, a Lebanese priest from Santo Domingo, and I began communicating a couple of months ago. Today we offered a service of prayer in Arabic, Aramaic, and Spanish to Dominicans of Lebanese/Syrian/ and Palestinian origin. 500 people showed up,television camera, and newspaper reporters. Families with names like Khoury (which means priest in Arabic and Aramaic), Musa (Moses),Jacob, Hadad, and many others came to celebrate before God their life in diaspora. This refugee population has contributed greatly to the island and are major engineers, owners of cement factories, economists, and a large number of political leaders. Walter Musa for example is the mayor of Puerto. Plata. The service was held in the Cathedral of San Philipi under the permission of the Bishop.

    These are not the poor, the neglected, or the abandoned whom I minister to every day. These are the elite. By forming alliances and providing services to this population it empowers ministry to the poor.  Both populations must be served to create comprehensive programs to alliviate poverty, remediate human rights abuses, and follow the command of Christ to open the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf, and proclaim the day of liberty.

    Some of the most effective ways to assist the poor must be done with the help of these people. I feel blessed by God to have had the experience and education to be able to speak and pray with these people in their languages. Having served for many years in the Middle East has enabled me to come to this island and serve in ways far beyond my dreams and imagination. For this I am grateful.

    9:11 PMMay. 10, 2009

    A Teaching Moment

    Volunteer Service in the DR


    Many of these children come from a distant Middle Eastern heritage. Father Dale teaches them a history lesson about how many of their families came to the Dominican Republic as refugees from the Middle East fleeing persecution.

    1:42 PMApr. 15, 2009

    Easter Hope

    Volunteer Service in the DR


    Easter Baptisms are a joyous time. It is a time not only to celebrate the resurrection of Christ but the resurrection of Hope in our own lives. Baptisms represent this new life we sense at such times. Easter Sunday we did five baptisms. The baptismal certificate is essential for many of the poor to gain access to schools, hospitals, and basic rights in a society that requires official identity cards. Those who are poor cannot afford an idenity and thus are invisible to society and suffer a life without hope. So a baptism is real hope.

    Several of the families baptised this week come from an interesting part of Dominican culture. Several of the children have ancestors who came from Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey in the 1920s and 30s at the invitation of Trujillo the dictator. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire people fled to Latin America and the Caribbean. One child has the name Omar Saliba (Cruz). This is a MIddle Eastern name and hints at the important heritage this child carries with him.

    1:34 PMApr. 15, 2009

    Model for Missions

    Volunteer Service in the DR.


    Philip Wickeri is a professor at San Francisco Theological Seminary in Marin County, California. Today I got a letter from Nanjing, China, where he is teaching Chinese seminary students about liturgy. He took the time to respond to a question I had about using early Chirsitan missions in China as a model for Christians in third world missions today. I am always looking for ways to improve and create programic structures to share the love of God in the Dominican Republic. His letter prompted me to read a lecture he did at a retreat center a few years ago. I was stunned by his use of a military document to get insight into new ways to structure mission in foreign environments.


    Let me call your attention to just one new document which describes the nature of this using the language of national security. How many of you are familiar with �The National Defense Strategy of the United States of America� (March 2005)? This is an updating of the September 2002 strategy paper, and although it is cast in the same tone, there are significant new elements. The most important of these is the new policy of �the forward defense of freedom,� an activist approach that is designed to create security conditions favorable to the United States, not through the control of territory, but through a �networking of connections� making use of advanced communications strategies. Main operating bases (MOBs) will be supplemented by forward operating bases (FOBs) and a diverse array of co-operative security locations (CSLs). This will require the development of �international partnerships� that serve US interests. Such partnerships will be those directly instituted by the government, but also partnerships by other US interests. In the �National Defense Strategy,� international judicial and regulatory processes are rejected alongside terrorism (in the same paragraph) as the �strategy of the weak�. The Muslim world is specifically mentioned as a target for �counter ideological support� against terrorism. The key concepts used throughout the document are: flexibility, capacity building, comprehensive realignment, networking, building bases of support at home, and developing new partnerships.

    This last line is a perfect model in which Dominican outreach has been developing. I will have more to say about this later. It is a five point plan for the future.

    10:28 AMApr. 2, 2009

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