Subject: NCC Newsletter: Praying for Myanmar and Helping Distribute Vaccines

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Praying for Myanmar and Helping Distribute Vaccines

NCC Newsletter
February 5, 2021
Letting Our Light Shine
Last week I received a phone call from my friend, Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi, executive director of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, inviting me to participate in a vaccine roundtable discussion with Jewish, Christian, and Muslim leaders. The goal was for us to consider ways in which our synagogues, churches, and mosques can be used for vaccine distribution.

My first thought, I confess, was that nearly all of the 100,000 local churches that comprise the National Council of Churches have been closed for the better part of a year and that it might be a heavy lift to suddenly open them up. However, I quickly and happily realized I was wrong.

Already, Black churches and United Methodist, Episcopal, and Presbyterian churches, among others, are vaccine distribution sites. This makes sense in light of Christian history and the response to plagues during Roman and medieval times when many Christians attempted to help the afflicted even though they had few medical resources.

Over the past year, the sane and sensible response has been to refrain from large gatherings which would result in spreading the coronavirus. We have been observing guidelines to wear masks, avoid crowds, and maintain physical distancing and we have been waiting for the development of a vaccine.

Now, several vaccines have arrived, and the medical establishment needs help in getting them into the arms of people everywhere. Many church buildings are ideal facilities. During our roundtable, Rev. Julius McAllister, pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Tallahassee, Florida, told us that the Florida Department of Health reached out to him during the first week of January.

Bethel AME responded. Church members volunteered alongside those from the health department to prepare food, clean the bathrooms after each use, direct traffic in the parking lot, provide security, and process those awaiting their shots. The faithful response of houses of worship at this moment is to lovingly step forward and ensure all are vaccinated regardless of race, ethnicity, or economic status.

Vaccinations need not be given only in hospitals, drugstores, arenas, and stadiums. Our churches are in every zip code and neighborhood. Now is our moment to shine our light in the midst of the darkness!

Grace and Peace,

NCC Statement on the Military Coup in Myanmar
“The effect of righteousness will be peace,
and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.”
Isaiah 32:17 NRSV

February 4, 2021, Washington, DC – As the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) has been consistent in its history regarding the affirmation of peace with justice and reconciliation among peoples and countries, we denounce the military coup d’etat in Myanmar and stand with the people of Myanmar in their efforts to achieve peace, democracy, and freedom.

On February 1, 2021, the Myanmar military arrested the civilian leaders of the national and state governments and announced a one-year “state of emergency.” The military arrested Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Burma’s ruling party; Win Myint, the duly elected head of government; and several dozen other senior officials in early morning raids in the capital, Naypyidaw, where the officials were convening after the November 2020 national elections. The U.S. Department of State has confirmed that these National League for Democracy (NLD) officials won the election by a large margin. NLD officials and civil society activists were also arrested in other parts of Myanmar and telecommunications and the internet have been cut to stop the sharing of information within the country.

NCC joins with the American Baptist Churches, which has a large presence in Myanmar dating back 200 years, to declare support for Myanmar’s democratic institutions and urge its military and all other parties to honor the outcome of recent elections and adhere to the rule of law.

NCC also calls for the home detention of the NLD officials, based on senseless charges, to be dropped. As NCC President and General Secretary, Jim Winkler, met State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi during a 2015 trip with the American Baptist Churches to Myanmar, we are especially concerned for her safety and ability to return to her work rather than a prison sentence for the possession of walkie-talkies.

The NCC calls for Myanmar’s military to abide by the will of the people as expressed in the democratic elections held on November 8, 2020 and to relinquish control of the government.

We support the Biden administration’s plan to analyze the United States’ current sanctions as it relates to Myanmar’s military leaders, and the companies associated with them, and take appropriate action.

As Myanmar has suffered the longest ongoing civil war for the past 60 years, we call for prayers of peace for the country. We also ask churches in the United States and around the world, as well as all people of goodwill, to pray for freedom and justice for all Myanma people. May God guide them and give them strength.
Letter to US Officials from The People's Vaccine Campaign of South Africa
The World Council of Churches brings to our attention that religious leaders in South Africa signed a letter entitled, "Vaccine Access in South Africa and Rest of the Global South - US Government Action Can be Taken Against Moderna and Others - We are on the Road to a Global Disaster" on behalf of The People’s Vaccine Campaign Of South Africa that urges the US medical team leading the COVID-19 pandemic response to address the global vaccine shortage, and urges the US government to take specific actions.

The letter points out that South Africa is going to receive a fraction of the vaccines it needs to bring the pandemic under control. “Put simply, if nothing significantly changes, the COVID-19 epidemic will continue to ravage our country and other countries, virtually unabated, for the foreseeable future,” reads the letter. “This dire shortage of vaccine supplies is not due to any inherent technological limitation in scaling up production, but rather a seemingly deliberate decision to not allow production scale up to what the global pandemic requires.”

COVID-19 Pandemic Updates:
United Methodist Churches Used As Vaccine Distribution Site
The Rev. Darren Williams (right), pastor of Community United Methodist Church in Vincennes, Ind., visits with Betty Lankford, RN, in the church’s recreational center. The church is hosting a COVID-19 vaccination site, sharing space normally used for basketball games, church meals and a food pantry with local emergency management officials. Lankford is lead nurse for the Knox County (Ind.) Health Department’s COVID-19 response. At the check-in station (center) is volunteer Larry Marchino. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.
Even though supplies are still limited and plans are made at the last minute, United Methodist congregations are doing what they can to expand access to COVID-19 vaccinations by serving as distribution sites. Some are even lobbying their state governments to be used as vaccine sites in order to make sure the it reaches underserved populations. 

Food Security in the Time of COVID-19
To mark International Development Week, the Primate's World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) has assembled a group of international experts to discuss on February 8, 2021, 11:00am – 12:30pm EST, how COVID-19 has affected food security at the local, national and international levels. Are there lessons from 2020 that we can learn regarding the future of development work, and in particular, on food security?
Together We Can Face Coronavirus Ecumenical Prayer

The Middle East Council of Churches invites you to join them in an online ecumenical prayer on Friday February 12, 2021 at 7:00pm Beirut Time to "pray together with one faithful humbled heart, beseeching our Lord Jesus Christ and glorifying his name for the sake of healing all those infected who suffer in loneliness from the lethality of this virus, and for the sake of those who have passed on to heaven, may God grant them eternal mercy and extend comfort and sympathy to their loved ones and families." The prayer will be broadcasted on the MECC Facebook page or you can watch on Zoom.

From Our Partners:
Black History Month Resources

With a call to “Celebrate in February, Include All Year,” the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting posted an excellent list of resources that can be used to explore racism, privilege, and bias with young people in our care.
Job Listing

Lead Lobbyist for Nuclear Disarmament & Pentagon Spending The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) seeks an experienced lobbyist to lead the Nuclear Disarmament and Pentagon Spending portfolio. The Lead lobbyist will guide the congressional advocacy for reductions in Pentagon spending, for strengthened arms control regimes, and for the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons. The successful candidate will join a team of lobbyists who develop and lead strategies to advance our legislative priorities in Congress and with the administration. The Lead Lobbyist should share the Quaker community’s fierce commitment to a world free of war or the threat of war and is passionate about shrinking nuclear arsenals. The Lead Lobbyist must also have a clear-eyed understanding of what is possible with Congress and the administration, a demonstrated ability to focus and achieve legislative success, and an ability to work collegially with a large, faith-based advocacy community around the country. Apply here:

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