Subject: NCC Weekly News: Another War?

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From Jim: A Familiar Pattern - Is Another War Coming?
The long and shameful record of the United States of America’s overt and covert interventions into the affairs of other nations is one of the great tragedies of the past 120+ years. Tens of millions have died because of our bloody history of dozens of military invasions. Additionally, we have sponsored countless coups d’états. It is said only three nations on the planet have not had a US military presence of some kind: Andorra, Bhutan, and Liechtenstein.

Now, the pattern is repeating itself in relation to Venezuela. Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo, and John Bolton are relentlessly pounding the drums of war. They are demanding President Nicholas Maduro leave his country. “Fire up the plane,” demanded Secretary Pompeo. He added, “Military action is possible. If that’s what’s required, that’s what the United States will do.”

National Security Advisor and longtime warmonger John Bolton said to President Maduro, “Your time is up. This is your last chance.” Convicted criminal Elliott Abrams, now US Special Representative for Venezuela, warns, “We urge the Venezuelan military to stand up for the nation, and for the constitution, and stand behind the people of Venezuela. They will be judged by their actions today.”

These are dangerous, irresponsible, and highly inflammatory statements made by those at the highest levels of the United States government. Congressional investigations of this nonsense should commence immediately.

The faith community’s resistance to our country’s disgraceful conduct is all too scarce. When you google “religious opposition to US wars” you mostly find articles about the history of religious conflict in the United States, religious war, and pacifism.

The US regime is particularly incensed that Cuba has sent some 15,000 doctors, nurses, and teachers to Venezuela over the past 20 years or so. Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States—whose offices are located conveniently between the White House and the State Department—refers to these people as an ‘occupation army.’ The supposedly left-wing New York Times hints that Cubans in Venezuela are ‘spies.’ Ambassador Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, Cuba’s director-general of US affairs, has told me personally there are no Cuban soldiers in Venezuela.

Over and over and over, we see the same sequence of events: the government of another nation not entirely in line with US thinking is identified as a threat. The President and his satraps demand action, a quiescent Congress fails to rein in the military industrial secret police complex, armed forces move into place, sanctions are applied, the media falls into line, and ordinary citizens try to figure out what’s going on.

Most of all, the United States is infuriated that Venezuela and Cuba have dared to chart a course for their nations of which our government does not approve. In addition, it just so happens that Venezuela has the world’s largest proven oil reserves. That’s right—not Saudi Arabia, not Iran, not Iraq—Venezuela. If Venezuela were the world’s largest producer of broccoli, there would be little concern for it.

To date, I have yet to locate a government that is blameless and perfect. Venezuela’s is not. I am deeply concerned about the turmoil Venezuelans are experiencing. If genocide was underway there or if Venezuela had threatened to launch an aggressive war against its neighbors, it would be my feeling the international community—not the United States alone—should act decisively to save lives or stop a war. However, short of that I wholeheartedly believe it is the right and responsibility of the people of Venezuela to sort out its problems.

Moreover, we must not stand idly by, passively allowing another catastrophic US-led war to unfold. It is the responsibility of people of faith to stand against the acts of aggression the government of the United States is making against Venezuela.

Grace and peace,
Jim Winkler
President and General Secretary
NCC Grieves With Congregation Chabad Synagogue

Once again, and too soon, the National Council of Churches and its family of member communions is saddened and distressed to learn about the shooting at the Congregation Chabad Synagogue in Poway, California. Indeed, we are outraged that yet another hate crime has been directed against our brothers and sisters in the Jewish community, an act of anti-Semitism that is at the same time an act of hostility toward all people of faith, all people of conscience, and all people of goodwill.

For many years, Christian churches have been in direct dialogue with the Jewish community through the National Council of Churches. In this dialogue, we have walked together to better understand each other’s faiths, and out of this dialogue, friendships have flourished. With our friends, we grieve yet again.

Ecumenical Leaders Organize Support of Striking Workers in Rhode Island, Massachusetts

In one of the shortest and most effective strikes in recent years, Stop & Shop stores in New England reopened with a new labor agreement after two months of deadlocked negotiations. During the ten days of the strike, faith leaders joined in urging members of their churches and synagogues to refuse to cross the picket lines, saying it was “unjust” and “not kosher” to do so.

The strike took place after months of deadlocked negotiations when the latest contract expired on February 23. 31,000 workers, represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers, went on strike at the nearly 250 Stop & Shop stores across New England.

“The culture of Rhode Island is not to cross the picket line,” Rev. Donnie Anderson, head of the Rhode Island Council of Churches, remarked. “The things they were asking for made sense. The really were trying to hold on to what they had. Many of these people work for insignificant wages.”

“The Massachusetts Council of Churches has a history of organizing against child labor in the Lowell textile mills. Those who are dependent upon fragile employment are more easily exploitable,” said Rev. Laura Everett, the organization’s director.

Committee recommends taking ‘next faithful step’ toward full communion between Episcopal Church and United Methodist Church

During their meeting April 29-30, 2019 at First United Methodist Church in Austin, Texas, the members of The Episcopal Church – United Methodist Dialogue Committee agreed to send a resolution for full communion to be considered by the Council of Bishops and for possible consideration by the 2020 General Conference of The United Methodist Church.

“We acknowledge that the decisions of the 2019 Special Session of the United Methodist General Conference have deepened divisions within The UMC and introduced sharp and as yet unanswered questions about the prospects for full communion between our churches,” the members said in a statement released today. “And yet, we believe that what we are experiencing in the various crises of our denominational life is the birth pangs of something remarkable, something new. We believe that the forces of polarization, mistrust, and animosity in our society and in our ecclesial life will not have the last word.”

Peace Not Walls: US Churches and Christian organizations reject President Trump’s recognition of Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights

A statement issued March 28, 2019

This past Thursday, March 21, President Trump announced that the United States would recognize Israeli annexation and sovereignty over the Golan Heights. As US-based churches and Christian organizations with long histories of engagement in the Middle East through mission and ecclesial relations, we fully reject this unilateral declaration and are especially concerned about this Administration’s disregard for international law. We see this reversal of consistent US policy and international consensus—that the Golan Heights are occupied and were acquired by force in the 1967 War in contravention of international norms—as an abandonment by the US of diplomacy to resolve such issues.

We have witnessed the Trump Administration’s approach to the Israel/Palestine over the past two years, and see this step as a continuation of the White House’s unwillingness to consider the implications of such actions for the possibility of a peaceful and just resolution to the region’s conflicts. The President’s recognition of Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights is similar in nature to his recognition of Israel’s claims over all of Jerusalem, both of which ignore the legitimate claims of Syria and Palestinians, respectively, despite Israel’s 1980-81 legislative actions claiming jurisdiction and administration over each of those geographies. These shifts in US rhetoric contravene United Nations rejection of Israeli claims and the acquisition of territory by force. We are further concerned that such a pattern does not bode well for the future of West Bank territory, also occupied by Israel. And we wonder about the timing of this announcement.

UN officials call for an immediate halt to demolitions in East Jerusalem and respect for international law amidst rise

Today, the Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Jamie McGoldrick called for an immediate halt to the Israeli authorities’ destruction of Palestinian-owned property in East Jerusalem.

“Demolitions in East Jerusalem have increased at a staggering pace over the last month, leaving tens of Palestinians displaced and others who have lost their livelihoods overnight,” said Mr. McGoldrick. “This must stop.”

As of 30 April 2019, 111 Palestinian-owned structures had been destroyed in East Jerusalem in 2019, either directly by the Israeli authorities or self-demolished by their owners to avoid hefty fines, following the issuance of demolition orders for lack of building permits. Of these, 57 per cent (63 out of 111) were demolished in April, bringing the total number of demolitions in the West Bank to 214 in 2019.

Ecumenical next steps following Thursday’s National Day of Prayer

One day ahead of Thursday’s National Day of Prayer, the Rev. Chris Iosso urged worshipers during the weekly Chapel service at the Presbyterian Center Wednesday to work toward a new ecumenism that bridges the widening gap between humanity and the planet they inhabit.

“The climate crisis gives urgency to ecumenism, and makes divisions more problematic than ever,” said Iosso, coordinator of the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy. “It is not a struggle we can overcome on a national basis.”

Even beyond the traditional Church World Service, Iosso envisions a Church Earth Service. He held up the example of Young Adult Volunteers, who “drop out and do something for a year that doesn’t enhance their career … We have a prototype where people go out and mix it up across race, class and culture.”

Established in 1952, the National Day of Prayer is, at its best, “patriotic ecumenism,” Iosso said. While “we do have a responsibility to pray for our country,” the annual day of prayer now focuses on this message, he said: “It’s important that America stays as Christian as possible, and perhaps as white and capitalist as possible.”

Baptists, Jews and the hand of sincere friendship

Anti-Semitism. Racial prejudice and violence. Opening American borders to welcome refugees from a minority religious background. The relationship between church and state. Genocide. War and peace. These societal problems dominate the headlines, and thoughtful Baptists and other Christians are wondering how their beliefs can inform their responses to such pressing concerns.

None of these problems is novel. Baptists throughout the United States wrestled with all of them during the 1930s and 1940s, as Adolf Hitler and the Nazis rose to power, persecuted the Jewish people and sought to exterminate them during the Holocaust. Northern Baptists (now known as American Baptist Churches USA), Southern and African-American Baptists expressed in varying ways opposition to anti-Semitism in general and to the Nazi campaigns against the Jews in particular.

Baptists in the United States were well positioned to respond to the challenges of the Nazi era. Southern Baptists had passed a resolution in 1919 expressing care for the welfare of European Jews. In 1920, Jacob Gartenhaus — a converted Jew — became the Home Mission Society’s director of Jewish Evangelism.

“Human peace chain” reflects the wish of the people on Korean Peninsula

On 27 April, some 500,000 people joined hands to form a “human peace chain” along the 500 km long Demilitarized Zone between South and North Korea. They expressed their strong desire for permanent peace in the Korean Peninsula, gathering to celebrate the first anniversary of Panmunjom Declaration and commemorate the centennial of the 1 March Independence Movement.

Rev. Sang Chang, World Council of Churches (WCC) Asia president, urged WCC member churches and all people of good will to continue to express their solidarity with Korean people. “The WCC will continue to work with the Korean people for the permanent peace on the Korean peninsula,” Chang said on the day the chain was formed.

In a message, WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit said the WCC endorsed a worldwide call for the reunification of Korea. “As a Christian fellowship, the WCC will continue to stand with our brothers and sisters in Korea and invite all Christians to pray for the Korean peninsula and that God’s will, for justice and peace, be done,” Tveit wrote.

Lament and Hope: A Pan-African Devotional Guide

In 2019, after centuries of structural change, protests, and policy reforms most often led by Africans and people of African descent, why do these groups still experience such disproportionately high percentages of hunger and poverty today? And why is there still such a wide wealth and income gap between these groups and individuals of European and Asian descent? 

An essential part of the answer lies in the history of the Quad-Centennial of the transatlantic voyage of African peoples from the country of Angola in 1619 to Jamestown, Virginia. The practice, and later policy, of enslaving African peoples before, during, and after this time are the foundation on which inequitable policies were established. Additionally, these policies have informed a practice and culture of colonization, racism, and Afrophobia around the world. 

In light of this historic moment, Bread for the World is honored to produce and dedicate the new 2019 Quad-Centennial monthly devotional, “Lament and Hope: A Pan-African Devotional Guide Commemorating the 2019 Quad-Centennial of the Forced Transatlantic Voyage of Enslaved African Peoples to Jamestown, Virginia (USA).” The devotional celebrates the hope, faith, and resistance of African and African-descended people, while also lamenting the evil and horror of the history of enslavement, racism, and inequitable policies, many of which are still present today. In addition, this Christian devotional acknowledges and seeks to inspire readers to address the resulting consequences of hunger and poverty through advocacy. Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith, Sr. Associate for Pan African and Orthodox Church Engagement for Bread for the World, serves as editor of the devotional.

Ecumenical Opportunities:

The World Council of Churches Seeks a Programme Executive on Mission and Evangelism/Mission from the Margins: This person will facilitate and support an inspiring and effective involvement of Indigenous Peoples and other marginalized groups of Mission from the Margins in the life and work of the WCC, its member churches and ecumenical partners.

For more details, click here.

The World Council of Churches Seeks a Programme Executive for Church Relations: this person will monitor and coordinate the collaboration and cooperation of member churches among them and with other churches on all programmatic areas of the WCC and to follow up on all membership matters.

For more details, click here.

NCSS-RFC Religious Studies Summer Institute, July 9-11, 2019, Washington, DC

The Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute and the National Council for the Social Studies invite you to join us at the Newseum in Washington, DC to:

  • Increase professional competence related to the disciplinary concepts and tools of religious studies as an academic discipline.
  • Increase personal confidence in teaching about religion in constitutionally appropriate ways that engage key stakeholders in your school context.
  • Develop working relationships with leading religious studies subject matter experts and curricular resource providers.
For more details click here.

Religious Studies Institute for Independent Schools, July 23-25, 2019, Washington, DC

The Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute will host the Summer Religious Studies Institute at the Newseum. The program will convene K-12 independent school educators in the nation's capital to explore issues of religious literacy, civil dialogue and the challenges and opportunities of navigating religious diversity in the classroom.

Independent school educators will learn about religious studies as an academic discipline and increase personal confidence in navigating religiously and ideologically diverse classrooms while upholding their schools' missions. Co-conveners include the Thales Academy, the Council of Islamic Schools in North America, Sacred Heart Schools, and the National Catholic Educational Association.

For more details click here.
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