Subject: NCC Newsletter: Global Church Responds to Middle East, COVID-19 Challenges

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Global Church Responds to Middle East, COVID-19 Challenges

NCC Newsletter
September 11, 2020
Remember the Full Histories of September 11
September is proving to be a rather cruel month. The coronavirus pandemic rages on, counter-protests are increasingly violent, and forest fires and hurricanes ravage the country. 

It is also the occasion for two cruel anniversaries. We remember in the United States primarily that of 9/11, the anniversary of terror attacks in New York City, Washington, DC, and in Pennsylvania. The second September 11 anniversary is too often overlooked here and yet should not be forgotten. That is the anniversary of the United States-supported military coup against Chilean President Salvador Allende. 

I will never forget where I was on September 11, 2001. As I look back, I marvel I remained calm as I led prayer for the United Methodist staff I worked with and then directed the evacuation of the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill. In the midst of that confusing morning, I was also trying to make sure my own family was safe.
We opened the doors of the building, located as it is across the street from the U.S. Capitol and the Supreme Court, to the police officers who stood along 1st Street and invited them in to drink water, use the washroom, and use the telephones. We became a ministry of presence that day.

Prior to 9/11/01, I marked each September 11 by speaking with a Chilean colleague whose family was forced into exile when General Augusto Pinochet, with the blessing of U.S. President Richard Nixon, overthrew the democratically elected government of Chile.

Perhaps the passage of time permits us to examine the roots of these two tragedies. In each case, superpower rivalries played a role. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger famously said before the coup in Chile, “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.”

Aside from the profound arrogance of that worldview, we were in the middle of the Cold War with the United States and the Soviet Union needlessly fighting over every scrap of territory on earth. Each confrontation, sometimes overt and other times covert, was viewed as part of a life-and-death struggle between the two nations. 

One particular "scrap" that garnered the attention of the Soviet Union and the U.S. in 1979 was Afghanistan. In response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the U.S. began funding the Afghan Mujaheddin. So-called "Afghan Arabs" were also brought into the fight, with Osama bin Laden acting as a key leader in recruiting and training these fighters in their battle against the Soviet occupation.

There may be more in common with the two September 11 tragedies than meets the eye. In both cases, and their buildup and aftermath, arrogance resulted in civilians dying– murdered by the hands of Pinochet's death squads in Chile; crushed by Soviet tanks in Afghanistan; killed by Al-Qaeda in hijacked planes and buildings in New York, Washington, and Shanksville; flattened by carpet bombing by U.S. planes in Afghanistan and Iraq. One need not be a devotee of conspiracy theories to conclude that it is important to know history and to understand the big picture. We mourn those who lost their lives as a result of these terrible September 11 calamities. We must commit ourselves to ensuring they are never repeated.

October 12-13 - Online
Breathing New Life into Our Nation: Repentance, Reformation, Reparation
World Council of Churches, ACT Alliance, Middle East Council of Churches Issue Appeal to Address Needs in Lebanon Following Blast
A joint call for aid was issued September 4 to help in the recovery and relief efforts in Beirut. An explosion at the port in Beirut destroyed much of the city in August leaving many dead, injured, and homeless. The statement calls for immediate relief, long term development and resiliency, and a thorough investigation. The three organizations also recognize and lift up the swift and effective actions taken by Lebanese civil society to respond and to alleviate the suffering of those affected.

The statement follows on previous calls by the Middle East Council of Churches for help. The port where the blast occurred is less than 5km from MECC's offices in the Hamra district. In addition to homes and businesses, numerous church buildings also suffered damage. 
World Council of Churches Recognizes World Week For Peace in Palestine and Israel September 13-21
During this week which includes the International Day of Prayer for Peace on 21 September, church organizations, congregations, and people of faith are encouraged to bear a common witness by participating in worship services, educational events, and acts of support in favour of peace and justice for Israelis and Palestinians. The theme for the week this year is “Creative Solidarity in Common Fragility.” 
Churches for Middle East Peace Issues Action Alert to Condemn Israel Plans to Annex of Most of West Bank
This spring, in response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement that he would proceed with formal annexation of significant parts of the West Bank as early as July 1, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) launched a Churches Against Annexation campaign to ensure there was a clear Christian voice opposing annexation. Throughout the summer, CMEP has continued advocacy with Congressional offices, bringing the voices of supporters as well in pressing Congress to ensure U.S. policy does not provide diplomatic cover for or fund annexation. As of this writing, the Israeli government has not yet proceeded with formal annexation, though Prime Minister Netanyahu recently made clear in an interview that he remains committed to his annexation plans.

It is critically important to continue to speak out against annexation. U.S. policy should encourage a resolution to the conflict in Israel/Palestine that will result in equality and human rights for all. The unilateral Israeli annexation of large parts of the West Bank would entrench inequalities and abuses of Palestinians’ human rights for the foreseeable future. You are invited (individuals and churches) to join in opposing annexation by adding your name to the public statement we are issuing as part of our Churches Against Annexation campaign.
Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign Marks 10 Years, Reaffirms Comittment to Solidarity With Muslim Community
Ten years ago, over 40 faith leaders gathered for an emergency Interfaith Summit at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to affirm a statement of solidarity with our Muslim neighbors facing unprecedented anti-Muslim bigotry in the United States. As we mark the 10th anniversary of the launch of the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign, we reaffirm the statement of solidarity that we made on that day, and we renew our commitment to building a country where all individuals and communities, no matter their faith or background, are treated fairly and with dignity.

Over the last decade, we have seen incredible progress as faith and community leaders have become more engaged and effective in addressing the problem of anti-Muslim discrimination in their communities. Through multifaith prayer services, interfaith relationship-building, education, collaborative projects, service, and advocacy, we see people coming alongside one another and deepening their work together to address common social issues. What we can accomplish together is, in very many instances, far more than we can achieve working in isolation from one another. You are invited to add your name and renew your commitment to stand with our Muslim neighbors.

WCC, Pontifical Council Release Joint Document on COVID-19
The World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) have released a joint document, “Serving a Wounded World in Interreligious Solidarity: A Christian Call to Reflection and Action During COVID-19 and Beyond.” Its purpose is to encourage churches and Christian organizations to reflect on the importance of interreligious solidarity in a world wounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The document offers a Christian basis for interreligious solidarity that can inspire and confirm the impulse to serve a world wounded not only by COVID-19 but also by many other wounds.

The publication is also designed to be useful to practitioners of other religions, who have already responded to COVID-19 with similar thoughts based on their own traditions.

The document recognizes the current context of the pandemic as a time for discovering new forms of solidarity for rethinking the post-COVID-19 world. Comprised of five sections, the document reflects on the nature of a solidarity sustained by hope and offers a Christian basis for interreligious solidarity, a few key principles and a set of recommendations on how reflection on solidarity can be translated into concrete and credible action.

United Methodist Church Embarks on "30 Days of Anti-Racism"
Morgan Stafford, a campus minister in Memphis, TN, has committed himself to live an anti-racist faith and life. “As a white man, I have learned that I’ve benefited from racism, while people of color have been harmed. I believe that white Christians must take the lead to confront and dismantle racism. It’s our job.”

To focus and make tangible his beliefs, Morgan spent the month of June doing at least one thing every day to listen to, learn from, do, and become more anti-racist, reporting his progress via social media. 

The General Commission on Religion and Race invites white allies (and others) to spend the month of September doing #30DaysAntiRacism. Please post photos of your activities using #30DaysAntiRacism and encourage your friends, members of your congregation, Sunday school class, pastors, and community partners to join this 30 day.

Rev. Avery Post, Ecumenical Advocate and UCC President, Dies at 96
Rev. Avery D. Post, president of the United Church of Christ from 1977 to 1989, died Monday, September 7 at Kendal Retirement Community in Hanover, N.H. He was 96.

Rev. Post served on both the National Council of Churches Governing Board and Executive Committee as well as the World Council of Churches Central Committee. His service to the ecumenical movement continued into his retirement as he served on the planning committee for the WCC General Assembly in 1991, held in Canberra, Australia.

Rev. Post was a tireless advocate for the rights of everyone. In particular, he was involved in the effort by the UCC to free 10 people, 9 African American and one white women, who were falsely imprisoned for firebombing a grocery store in Wilmington, NC. 40 years later they were officially pardoned by the governor of North Carolina.

Rev. Post was also a staunch advocate for human rights around the globe, equal employment rights for women and people of color, and championed the use of inclusive language in all forms of communication by the church.
Rev. Dr. William F. Fore, Methodist Clergy and Former Executive Director of NCC Broadcasting and Film Commission, Dies at 92
Rev. Dr. William F. Fore passed away on July 30 at the age of 92. Rev. Dr. Fore was heavily involved in efforts around broadcast media and churches. From 1955 to 1963 he was Director of Visual Education of the Methodist Board of Missions in New York City, producing documentary films, filmstrips, records and television programs. In 1964 he became Executive Director of the Broadcasting and Film Commission of the National Council of Churches, a post he held for twenty-five years; during that time he supervised television and radio programs on ABC, CBS and NBC, and engaged in government liaison. He played a key role in the founding of public broadcasting, and from 1972 to 1975 served as chairperson of the Advisory Council of National Organizations of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, supporting the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio. From 1982 to 1988 he served as President of the World Association for Christian Communication, which has its 
Several Events This Week on Race, Restorative Justice, and Human Rights
Poor People's Campaign, NCC-Philippines, Zehr Institute all hosting important online gatherings
The Poor People's Campaign will host "Voting is Power Unleashed Moral Monday Mass Gathering" on Monday September 14 at 7pm ET. More information is available on their website at
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines will host along with the World Council of Churches, Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines, Christian Conference of Asia, and others an "International Ecumenical Convocation on the Defense of Human Rights in the Philippines." The event will be Thursday September 17 at 7am ET. Registration is at
The Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice at Eastern Mennonite University is hosting "Colorizing Restorative Justice: A Virtual Writers Roundtable." The panelists will discuss their new book that centers the voices and analysis of people of color and indigenous people involved in restorative justice and chronicles the insight and knowledge intrinsic to their stories. More information and registration is at
Mennonite Central Committee Seeks Administrative Assistant for Washington Office
The Administrative Assistant for U.S. National Advocacy and Program provides administrative and program support to the Director as well as National and Advocacy Staff in MCC U.S. This includes coordinating logistics and publicity for training events, conferences and meetings; assisting in the production of resources and newsletters; and other administrative duties to assist National and Advocacy Program staff in their work.
110 Maryland Ave NE, Suite 108, Washington, DC 20002, United States
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