Subject: NCC Weekly News: Immigration Crisis, Iran, North Korea

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From Jim: Our Shared Love For The Ecumenical Movement
I have been traveling across a scorching hot Europe for the past three weeks with my family. Our journey began in London, where we stayed at a Christian guest house, visited the British Museum, and witnessed the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. From there, we flew to Dortmund, Germany, where I led a Bible study and delivered an address at the Kirchentag. We traveled on to Paris to see the Palace of Versailles and the Louvre. Then it was off to Rome and Florence to see the Colosseum, the Forum, and the Palazzo Vecchio. Finally, we reached Geneva where I am presently in the meetings of general secretaries of regional councils of churches.
The first day was a bit grim as each of us described the realities addressed by the World Council of Churches and the regional councils (the Pacific Conference of Churches, the Christian Conference of Asia, the All Africa Conference of Churches, the Conference of European Churches, the Caribbean Conference of Churches, the Canadian Council of Churches, the Middle East Council of Churches, and the NCC in the USA): we all shared our concerns. We discussed climate change, mass shootings, religious-based violence, mass migration, threats of war, ethnic tensions, poverty, and other matters.

However, our prayer and worship time, our joy in Christian fellowship, our love for the ecumenical movement, and our hope for the future based on our faith in Jesus Christ, have overcome our despair. Collectively, our church bodies represent hundreds of millions of Christians who worship God, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, provide comfort to those in need, and advocate for justice and peace.

I am blessed to be part of a living, breathing, Holy Spirit-filled movement aimed at the transformation of the world and to have been part of the work of building Christian unity for 40 years. I look forward to returning home and joining my colleagues next week as we prepare for our Christian Unity Gathering this October.

Grace and peace,
Jim Winkler
President and General Secretary
End Policies Creating the Crisis on the Border

“A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, 
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

-Matthew 2:18, NRSV
Upon the recent news of numerous deaths on the US-Mexico border and appalling conditions in facilities detaining persons seeking refuge, including babies and children, the National Council of Churches is distressed by the Trump Administration policies that separate children from adult family members and caretakers, creating this crisis. We grieve the lost lives of Mr. Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez, his toddler daughter Valeria, drowned in the Rio Grande, and others whose names are unknown. We echo the words of Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California), and countless voices from the faith community that such deaths must never again occur.

In addition, we are shaken by reports of overcrowding and unsanitary conditions at a border control facility in Texas where children are being detained in yet another example of mass incarceration. This horrific treatment of these most vulnerable asylum seekers is reprehensible, immoral, and must cease immediately. Scripture is replete with calls to give special care to, and concern for, those seeking refuge: we are reminded over and over again to “love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt (Deuteronomy 10:19 NRSV).”

Factors at work in this humanitarian crisis include consequences of the misguided “War on Drugs,” economic exploitation by the US of Central American countries, and a ruinous foreign policy that has shut down efforts by local people to cast off dictatorial rule. Innocent people seeking refuge should not have to bear the burden of these failed policies of the US government and decades of corrupt local leadership in Central and South America. At the same time, oppressive forces such as authoritarian governments and criminal gangs have contributed to the chaos.

An Immoral Immigration Policy Leads To Horrific Deaths

The Social Action Commission of The African Methodist Episcopal Church met in Birmingham, Alabama, this past week. While in the state where the modern Civil Rights Movement started, AME Servant Leaders were consistently discussing the racist and immoral immigrant and border policies of this President.

The AME Church stands against the Trump Administration's unholy alliance with white supremacist values and an aggressive xenophobia. When we saw the picture of a drowned Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his 23 month old daughter, Valeria, who died trying to cross the Rio Grande to a free and better life, we were appalled. We wondered what will take for America to rediscover its moral compass and show up, stand up, speak up and demand an immediate end to Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocol Programs.

While spiritually, morally and emotionally trying to work through the death of the Ramirez’s, we could not overlook the human rights violations that are occurring in Clint, Texas. How many more human rights violations must we witness before we demand an end to injustice hiding behind the American flag and the “Make American Great Again” mantra. How many more immigrants will have to die spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, and physically before we say——-NO MORE?

The Immigrants' Creed

by Jose Louis Casal
Director of World Mission, PC (USA)
(Retiring August 2019)

I believe in Almighty God,
who guided the people in exile and in exodus,
the God of Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon,
the God of foreigners and immigrants.

I believe in Jesus Christ, a displaced Galilean,
who was born away from his people and his home,
who fled his country with his parents when his life was in danger,
and returning to his own country suffered the oppression
of the tyrant Pontius Pilate, the servant of a foreign power,
who then was persecuted, beaten, and finally tortured,
accused and condemned to death unjustly.

But on the third day, this scorned Jesus rose from the dead,
not as a foreigner but to offer us citizenship in heaven.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the eternal immigrant from God’s kingdom among us,
who speaks all languages, lives in all countries,
and reunites all races.

I believe that the church is the secure home
for the foreigner and for all believers who constitute it,
who speak the same language and have the same purpose.

I believe that the communion of the saints begins
when we accept the diversity of the saints.
I believe in the forgiveness of sin, which makes us all equal,
and in reconciliation, which identifies us more
than does race, language, or nationality.

I believe that in the resurrection
God will unite us as one people
in which all are distinct
and all are alike at the same time.

Beyond this world, I believe in life eternal
in which no one will be an immigrant
but all will be citizens of God’s kingdom,
which will never end. Amen.

UCC General Synod advocates rally for immigrants, protest threatened ICE raids

More than 500 delegates and visitors to the United Church of Christ General Synod took to the streets of Milwaukee Monday, joining more than 100 local activists in a rally calling for a change in policies that separate immigrant families.

Delegates first voted that morning to delay the start time of the afternoon session to allow all Synod-goers to participate in the mile-long march from the Wisconsin Center to the local office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

UCC advocates, chanting, “Don’t be a hater; Love your neighbor,” "Classrooms, not cages," and “UCC is loud and clear; Immigrants are welcome here!” filled the sidewalks in a massive wave of people that flowed almost a mile through the streets of downtown Milwaukee.

A small knot of early arrivals, mostly local activists, handed out signs and organized a picket line, then watched as a huge wave of UCC members approached down the street, chanting, singing and waving handmade signs and banners.

Statement: Call for De-escalation of Tensions Between the United States of America and Iran

The executive committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Bossey, Switzerland, on 22-28 May 2019, expresses its concern and alarm at the recent escalation of tensions between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Iran, following the US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the “Iran Nuclear Deal”.

The WCC executive committee joins the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCCCUSA) in urging de-escalation of tensions, suspension of militaristic posturing and confrontation, and a return to the path of diplomacy and negotiations, in order to avoid unnecessary conflict and the death and destruction that it would inevitably entail.

We urge all original parties to the Iran Nuclear Deal, including the United States, to fully comply with the terms of the JCPOA, and to refrain from policies and actions predicated on armed force and military confrontation as the primary means of resolving international disputes and tensions.

The lessons of history should speak for themselves. Further conflict in this fragile region will have tragic and unpredictable consequences for all involved, for the region and the world. We appeal for a return to dialogue, and to the path of peace.

I cannot keep silent;
 for I hear the sound of the trumpet,
the alarm of war.
Disaster overtakes disaster,
the whole land is laid waste.

Suddenly my tents are destroyed,
 my curtains in a moment.

Jeremiah 4:19-20 (NRSV)

Let Us Prepare for a New Day of Peaceful Coexistence:
A Statement on the Meeting of Leaders at Panmunjom

We at the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) welcome positively this meeting of South-North-U.S. leaders at Panmunjom. The third summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un at Panmunjom was a gateway through which we must pass toward permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. This meeting occurred through the implementation of the previous military agreement between the two Koreas, based on the actual environment of non-militarization of Panmunjom, with the independent arbitration of President Moon Jae-in, and the appropriate response from the leaders of North Korea and the U.S. Following the lead of the Inter-Korean Panmunjom Summit in April of last year, this meeting has turned Panmunjom, once a symbol of division, into a symbol of peace. This can be seen as the fruit of the sincere commitment of the three leaders to reconstruct the Division/Korean War system, the Panmunjom system, into a Korean Peninsula system of peace and co-existence.

kim moon tIn order to establish a Korean Peninsula Peace and Co-existence system, we ask that South Korea and the four major powers surrounding the Korean Peninsula first respect the North’s universal rights so that the North can develop peacefully through the stability of its regime. We hope that the U.S., Japan, China, and Russia will abandon the Cold War/anti-peace/realpolitik path of pursuing their own interests through a divided peninsula and instead turn to a peaceful diplomatic policy of diplomacy and pursuing co-prosperity through a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. In light of the full implementation of the military agreement between the two Koreas, the parties to the Korean War should immediately declare an end to the war and advance the process of transitioning from the armistice system to a system of peace and co-existence. We hope that South Korea and North Korea will establish a system of peace and co-existence on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia by establishing independent peace relations with the four surrounding national powers.

Oklahoma Conference of Churches' Statement on Immigrant Children being held at Ft. Sill Army Post in Lawton, OK

The way in which we treat refugees, immigrants, and visitors is a matter of faith. Care of “the stranger” and the ministry of hospitality are central to the activity of the people of God. Immigration laws and policies must uphold the human dignity of every person, as every person embodies value and worth in the eyes of God. We strongly oppose the separation of immigrant children from their families and loved ones, and further oppose the placement of these children at Ft. Sill Army Post in Lawton, OK.

We are alarmed at the notion that the separation of children is so prominent additional housing is necessary at a U.S. military installation. As faith leaders in Oklahoma, we stand opposed to this practice and call upon our government officials to correct course immediately, and stop separating vulnerable families.

Additionally, we are keenly aware of the history of internment at Ft. Sill Army Post. Beginning with the Apache people and including Japanese Americans during World War II. We cannot stand silent as this history is repeated with innocent children who will, no doubt, incur trauma and life-altering consequences at this harmful experience.

Kushner's Foreign Investment Plan Is No Substitute for Palestinian Freedom

On Saturday, June 22, the Trump administration released the first part of its long-awaited diplomatic plan for Israel and the Palestinians, a document focused on foreign investment in the occupied Palestinian territories entitled "Peace to Prosperity. The Economic Plan: A New Vision for the Palestinian People."

While the document's authors correctly identify many of the Palestinian economy's most pressing needs, they fundamentally misdiagnose the root causes of its problems. Underdevelopment in the Palestinian territories is not the result of natural market forces; it is the direct product of over fifty years of Israeli military occupation and policies explicitly designed to stifle the Palestinian economy.

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) believes a political solution that grants the Palestinian people their full freedom and right to self-determination is a necessary prerequisite to economic prosperity. Even the most thorough and well-planned economic development proposals will ultimately fail if this most basic condition is not met.

Statement on Commemorating the 2019 Quad-Centennial of the Forced Transatlantic Voyage of  Enslaved African Peoples from Angola to Jamestown, Virginia (USA)

The Historic Moment

On 23 December 2017 the One Hundred Fifteenth Congress of the United States of America passed in to law House Resolution 1242 entitled the “400 Years of African-American History Commission Act”. On 8 January 2018 the President of the United States of America signed the bill and it became law, establishing the 400 Years of African-American History Commission.

This law recognizes the historic moment of 1619 and the transatlantic slave trade between Angola and the USA, and the practice of chattel slavery that led to the policy of slavery in the United States. The policy and practice of enslaving African people laid the foundations for the systematic disenfranchisement and disempowering of people of African descent for 400 years in the United States and around the world.

A Legacy of Spiritual Resistance to Enslavement and Racism

The new Pan African devotional “Lament and Hope”, endorsed by the World Council of Churches, points out the following from the devotional writer Rev. Quardricos Bernard Driskell: “the history of African and African descended people did not begin on the ships of the transatlantic slave trade. Rather, African peoples were a rich people on the continent of Africa before this period. Enslaved African peoples took assets from their past and reinterpreted them in a new context. One of these assets was their faith that reinterpreted Christianity and resulted in the establishment of Black Churches and spirituals theologically centered in a vision of freedom. These churches and sacred art, which have inspired a vision and fight for freedom, kept them and their descendants fighting for just policies.”

Episcopalians testify in support of slavery reparations bill in House Judiciary subcommittee hearing

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties held a hearing June 19 on H.R. 40, a bill introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) that calls for the creation of a commission to study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans.

Among those serving on the panel of majority witnesses were Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland and Katrina Browne, producer of the documentary “Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North” and consultant for The Episcopal Church as part of its Becoming Beloved Community racial justice and healing initiatives. Also on the panel were actor Danny Glover, author Ta-Nehisi Coates (“Between the World and Me”), Columbia University undergraduate Coleman Hughes and former NFL player and author Burgess Owens. The hearing took place on Juneteenth, which commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas in 1865.

Hear My Voice
A Prison Prayer Book

Hear My Voice: A Prison Prayer Book is a beautiful print resource intended primarily for those in correctional facilities; for use by chaplains and others with relationships to those who are incarcerated. Developed through a collaborative process with the ELCA and Augsburg Fortress, Hear My Voice draws upon the gifts of writers with diverse connections to the criminal justice system. Congregations are encouraged to purchase and distribute to those in their communities who are serving sentences in the criminal justice system.

This prayer book, enhanced with color artwork by Robyn Sand Anderson, provides prayers for many times and circumstances. This enduring and conveniently-sized book invites those who are incarcerated to spend time in prayer, trusting in God’s neverfailing love for them and the whole world.

The Princeton Conference on Drone Warfare: September 27-29

The Princeton Conference on Drone Warfare is a national training conference to equip people of faith interested in organizing on this issue within the faith community.

It will be held at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, N.J and is sponsored by the Interfaith Network on Drone Warfare (INDW), a coalition of national denominations, faith groups, and religious organizations. The conference will begin with dinner on Friday, September 27 and will end with Sunday lunch at 12:00 on Sunday, September 29.

Because we received a generous grant, the conference organizers are able to offer reservations for this conference at Princeton Theological Seminary for the extremely reduced price of $50 to the first 60 registrants, a savings of $425! In addition to $50 to cover all costs for the Conference (room and board, plus registration), we are offering travel stipends.

This conference builds on over four years of work since the founding conference of the Interfaith Network on Drone Warfare(INDW), also at Princeton Seminary, in January 2015. That work has included 13 Regional Conferences as well as screenings of half  hour documentaries on Drone Warfare  around the country.

*It would be helpful if there were at least two people from your congressional district coming to the 2019 Conference. If you are able to attend, please try to recruit someone else from your congressional district to attend the conference as well.*

This Conference will train and equip people of faith to educate congregations about drone warfare and to enable them to advocate with Congress to limit or end drone warfare. The conference will provide background information on lethal drones and will train participants to approach and engage congregations, enable people in congregations to participate in public policy advocacy, work with national denominational offices, and work with the media.

In other news...
Owners of biblical Noah’s Ark replica sue over rain damage to property

The owner of the life-size replica of Noah’s Ark in Northern Kentucky has sued its insurers for refusing to cover rain damage.

Ark Encounter, which unveiled the 510-foot-long model in 2016, says that heavy rains in 2017 and 2018 caused a landslide on its access road, and its five insurance carriers refused to cover nearly $1 million in damages.

In a 77-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Ark Encounter asks for compensatory and punitive damages.

The ark itself was not damaged and the road has been rebuilt, according to the suit.

The park is open, said Melany Ethridge, a spokeswoman at the attraction’s Dallas-based public relations firm, who only laughed when informed that Ark Encounter had sued over flood damage.

“You got to get to the boat to be on the boat,” she said.

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