Subject: NCC Weekly News: Baltimore and Nepal

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From Jim: Baltimore, Racism, and Hope
"I worry about him walking out my front door. I do. It's just the life that we live around here. You don't know if you walk out the front door if you're going to walk back in the door or not," said Toya Graham, a Baltimore mother who was filmed hitting her son and forcing him out of protests taking place after the death in police custody of Freddie Gray.

Gray's death has sparked protests in Baltimore and other cities against police brutality and follows in the wake of high-profile killings of a number of African American men by police over the past year.

Really, however, African Americans have been protesting their treatment at the hands of white people for 500 years. The intensity of those protests has increased over the past half-century since the rise of the civil rights movement and shows no signs of abating, nor in my view should it.

Toya Graham worries about the safety of her son. But many parents like her live in a neighborhood plagued by joblessness, crime, drugs, and violence. It's difficult for me as a middle class white man to imagine how awful it is to feel consigned to a life of limited choices and systemic racism.

The reality of white privilege not only makes it difficult for white people to grasp the immensity of the challenges facing people of color in the United States; it causes many of us to deny that reality and to place the blame on people of color themselves.

The myth of white supremacy dwells deep in the soul and spirit of the white community in the United States, deeper than many of us understand. I wonder if the Apostle Paul lived in a situation similar to this? I wonder if he had it in mind when he wrote, "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28, NRSV)."

The white churches in this nation have reacted to slavery and racism in various and contradictory manners. On the one hand, those churches have often been bases of support for civil and human rights for all people, on the other hand they remain primarily segregated in terns of membership and wary of racial equality.

The National Council of Churches, a visible sign of the desire for Christian unity on the part of 37 denominations, faced the withdrawal of millions of dollars of support from some of its own member churches when it stood forthrightly for civil rights in the 1950s and 60s because white racist forces within the churches withheld money from that ministry.

Today, the Council's work to end mass incarceration remains deeply intertwined with the struggle against racism and has the full support of the member denominations.

Ultimately, Toya Graham and other parents want their children to be safe and secure. Isn't this the hope of parents everywhere?


NCC Calls for Justice, End to Violence in Baltimore

WASHINGTON: The National Council of Churches joins with the churches of Baltimore in grieving the loss of Freddie Gray. In the wake of his death and the violence that has followed, we call for sweeping changes to policing methods and procedures that will finally address the causes for the rage being expressed not only in Baltimore, but in cities across the nation. Too many young African-American men and women are dying at the hands of the police, and the nation must correct this injustice immediately. We call upon both rioters and police alike to end their violent acts toward one another.

We dispute the narrative that the riots are being carried out by “criminals and thugs,” as both President Obama and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake have characterized rioters and protesters alike. To engage in dismissive name-calling by political leaders who are unable to offer any reasonable justification for Gray’s death is to simply fuel the fire they seek to calm. In the spirit of Jesus’s recollection of the Great Commandment to “love God” and “love your neighbor as yourself,” we cannot abide by speech that diminishes the lives and sacred worth of the young people of communities broken by violence.

The National Council of Churches in Korea
statement of solidarity
with justice-seeking people of the United States

The wolf will live with the lamb; the leopard will lie down with the young goat.
They will neither harm nor destroy on my holy mountain (Isaiah 11: 6, 9)

As we hear that once again inappropriate, violent police action has led to the death of Freddie Grey and the civil unrest in Baltimore, the National Council of Churches in Korea grieves the death of innocent people, especially people of color and wishes to express their solidarity in standing with people who seek a peaceful and just outcome to this situation.

Last summer, on the occasion of the death of Michael Brown, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA published a statement saying, “This year is the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and we are still seeking an America where young men of color are neither disproportionately imprisoned nor are victims of violence.” 

The US Civil Rights movement was a significant inspiration for the Korean movement for democracy in the 70s and 80's. And yet, still today, here as well as in America, we are familiar with frustration when people do not trust the outcome of investigations into wrongdoing on the part of authorities. Two weeks ago this same frustration led to demonstrations in Seoul by citizens and the families of the victims of the SEWOL Ferry, and the police here, as in Baltimore, responded with tear gas and water cannons.

We feel empathy with those who cry out for justice. We wait with longing for the vision of Isaiah 11 to come about, when the weak and the strong live together in peace without harm or destruction. We pray as well that all people engage the situation with non-violence and the healing power of God. Even more so we pray with you that justice is upheld and discriminatory systems are transformed.

April 30, 2015

Rev. Kim Young-ju
General Secretary
National Council of Church in Korea
We Are Holding American Muslims to an Unfair Standard

Anti-Muslim violence and sentiment remains all too common in the United States. In recent months, we have seen the slaying of three young Muslims in Chapel Hill, N.C., arson at an Islamic community center in Houston, threats issued against mosques and Islamic centers in Iowa, Ohio and elsewhere, vandalism of an Islamic school in Rhode Island, and bigoted legislation targeting Muslims in several states.

Does the fact that certain Americans have committed these acts in the name of "protecting America" make this American violence? Should all of America be implicated in these violent actions? Yes, and no. The United States has a history of violence, with a long legacy of racism. These and other incidents should propel us, as a nation, to look into our collective soul so that we may root out this part of our identity. We must own and confront the part of our history, past and present that makes space for these acts of hate. Surely, however, this is not the core of our identity, as an America that values freedom, justice, tolerance and liberty.

Killer Robots? Moral questions pervade UN conference

The prospect of armed robots taking human lives, and whether to ban autonomous weapons before they are made, concentrated the minds of governmental and non-governmental delegates at a United Nations forum in Geneva in mid-April.

Strengthening the moral threshold against delegating machines to kill people is a core issue for many of the governments and civil society groups represented, including the World Council of Churches (WCC).

Another widely held concern is to ensure that all autonomous weapons will be judged by international humanitarian law and by international human rights law. An official of the International Committee of the Red Cross told the meeting that new laws may also be needed.
UCC Calls For Prayer, Sends Assistance To Nepal Earthquake Survivors

A powerful earthquake — the country's worst in 80 years — rocked the mountainous country of Nepal on Saturday, April 25, causing the deaths of more than 4,000 people, a number that is sure to rise in the coming days as disaster teams search the wreckage left behind. More than 7,500 people have been injured, and over a million children need help.

At least 18 were killed and dozens more were injured on Mount Everest, where the 7.8 magnitude quake launched an avalanche. More than 200 climbers had to be rescued, and dozens, if not hundreds, remain trapped under mounds of rubble. The nation's capital of Katmandu was particularly hit hard, with tent cities springing up around the region for those displaced or afraid to return to their homes because of aftershocks.

Responding with prayer, aid after Nepal earthquake

United Methodists joined Christians around the world in a prayerful response to the earthquake that has claimed thousands of lives in Nepal and neighboring China and India.

BBC News reported the death toll at 4,000 people, with at least 7,000 injuries by Monday evening as the Nepalese army and police undertook massive search and rescue operations. Many were living in “vast tent cities” in the capital of Kathmandu as aftershocks from the 7.8-magnitude earthquake continued.

Five missionaries working in Nepal for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries were reported safe.

The 2015 NCC's signature event, the annual Christian Unity Gathering, will again be held outside of Washington, DC at the Hilton Washington Dulles International Airport. This year's gathering will continue our focus on Mass Incarceration as well as spend significant time examining NCC's second priority area, Interfaith Relations with a Focus on Peace. In addition, there will be a special service of commemoration for the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide held at the Washington National Cathedral. This service will include visitors from around the world and from many levels of government as well.

Thursday's keynote address will be given by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee. During the Liberian civil war, Gbowee organized Christian and Muslim women to demonstrate together, founding Liberian Mass Action for Peace and launching protests and a sex strike. Gbowee's part in helping to oust Charles Taylor was featured in the documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell. This will be a powerful event you will not want to miss!
Employment and Internship Opportunities

Riverside Church, New York City, Director of Children & Families: In working towards forming a community centered on becoming "One Riverside," the Director of Children and Families will oversee our ministry for welcoming youth into The Riverside Church while accompanying them along the path of discipleship. The Director of Children and Families will develop a vision for a vibrant ministry that extends beyond the walls of our building into our neighborhood of Harlem and actively engages laity, community partners, and volunteers in pursuit of that goal. He/She will provide support to our children and their families while creating pathways for them to experience belonging, nurture, and a relationship with God through Jesus Christ within our community.

Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer: Uniting People of Faith to Build Stronger Communities is the mission that has driven Associated Ministries to deeply engage in addressing social problems in Pierce County, Washingon,  since 1969. Associated Ministries is a center for interfaith relations that has brought together more than 250 congregations of numerous and diversified faith traditions to help deliver critical social services to Tacoma-Pierce County.

Connecting faith communities, as well as individuals within those communities, to efforts in the broader community, Associated Ministries provides a way for people of faith to act on their faith. And it does so in a way that helps those efforts to be significant and impactful.

Face to Face is a seven-week program that aims to invite students preparing for ministry in cultural, social, theological and contextual realities to understand, to motivate and to engage with the realities on how the fullness of life is being denied to the large majority of the world’s population.

We would like to inform you that the Building Life-Affirming Communities: Face To Face with the many poor and the many faiths in Asia is now accepting applications. This Program will be conducted in two locations -- Bishop’s College in Kolkata and Henry Martin Institute in Hyderabad, India -- from 3rd October to 16th November 2015.

Through this Program, the participants will come face to face with the issues on poverty and pluralism, specifically within the Asian context of many religions and many poor.

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