Subject: NCC Weekly News: Pakistan and Peacemaking

View this email online if it doesn't display correctly

From Jim: To Develop a Culture of Peace
Nearly 15 years ago, I traveled to Pakistan as part of a religious leaders’ peace delegation in the wake of the tragic events of 9/11. Our purpose was to share the news that not all Christians believed the appropriate response to the attacks on the United States was to wage war on other nations.

We wanted to visit Afghanistan, but by that time American bombs were falling there and it was too dangerous to travel to Kabul. So, one of our actions was to distribute food and blankets in the city of Quetta to Afghan refugees who had fled to Pakistan. Some of those refugees had been living in Pakistan since the Soviet invasion of 1979.

Along the way, went to the historic city of Lahore. While we were checking into our hotel, the manager assured us the city was safe. Thusly comforted, I decided to go on a walk and see some of the sights. Keep in mind, this was at the same time that the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was being held hostage in Pakistan.

Suddenly, a minivan stopped next to me and several men jumped out. My heart sank. One asked if I was on my way to visit Bishop Samuel Azariah. 

"Yes," I nervously replied. 

"Please come with us, we were sent to pick you up." 

"How did you find me," I asked. 

"That was easy," they said. "Everyone pointed us to the tall American."

Foolishness on my part? Perhaps. Yet, curiously, I mostly felt that countless strangers were looking out for me. I have had rebel bandit guns pointed at me in Nigeria and Israeli weapons trained on me in Ramallah. In both places, Christian hosts stood by me. I have not attempted to live dangerously, but I have also sought to avoid cowering in fear.

I can very well understand how easy it is to succumb to the notion that our Christian faith is under siege and that we must, therefore, strike back or patrol Muslim neighborhoods, secure our borders, or carpet bomb certain parts of the world. It is tempting to circle the wagons, root out enemies, and start firing away.

I cannot imagine attending an Easter sunrise service or picnic where a bomb exploded, 72 people died, and a terrorist organization claims credit for the murders. I do desire for there to be a coordinated, international police effort to capture terrorists and break up their organizations. What I do not want is for the police to utilize torture, disregard legal procedures, or spy on everyone. I believe it is false to claim that it is necessary to do so.

Unfortunately, it is likely that terrorism will continue throughout my lifetime. People of faith must not only continue to speak against terrorism and pray for the victims, we must also continue to work together, undertake self-scrutiny, develop a culture of peace, and work creatively for truth and reconciliation.

This type of work is already underway. The Washington Interreligious Staff Community held its annual retreat on March 30. A full house of Jewish, Christian and Muslim denominations and organizations were represented. Dozens of talented, committed people--diverse in every way--shared about our joint work against racism and poverty and our bipartisan efforts to overcome climate change and mass incarceration.

The National Council of Churches will remain committed to peace, justice, and interreligious dialogue and cooperation. May God be with us.

Yours in Christ,

Jim Winkler
President and General Secretary
Terror Attacks in Brussels, Pakistan, and Across the World

The National Council of Churches mourns for those who died in recent terrorist attacks in Brussels, Belgium, and Lahore, Pakistan and prays for those who are recovering from injuries. We condemn all acts of violence that intentionally target innocent people. We view these incidents as attacks on individual human lives, communities, people of faith, and on civilization itself, abhor this cowardly violence, and call for its end.

We are shocked the attack in Lahore was carried out on the holiest day of the Christian calendar. We mourn also for victims of attacks, seemingly too frequent to count, in Turkey, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria, and Honduras. Although media attention tends to focus on terrorism in Western European countries, God is the God of all. God cares for all, grieves with all, and desires justice and love above all.

The terrorist organizations that carry out such acts must be brought to justice through a coordinated, international police and intelligence effort. The vast majority of people of faith oppose terrorism carried out in the name of religion for it is antithetical to the tenets of our faiths. We stand with those of all faiths who seek justice and peace and an end to terrorism and the killing of innocents.

The Christian Conference of Asia Issues Letter to Churches in Pakistan

National Council of Churches in Pakistan
Church of Pakistan
Presbyterian Church of Pakistan

Respected church and ecumenical leaders in Pakistan, we are deeply shocked and saddened to receive the news of a suicide bomber killing more than 70 people and injuring more than 300 others at Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore on the Easter Sunday. We learned from some of you that the deadly suicide attack on Easter evening caused untold sufferings for many people while several families from predominantly Christian settlements in Youhanabad and Bahar Colony areas were spending time with their children in the park on Easter services in churches.

It is unfortunate that sectarian violence and blatant terrorism continuously takes place in Pakistani society due to the widespread of religious hatred. Such cowardly actions in fact destroy the very core of the social fabric and communal harmony in the country. The recent attack on innocent people, affecting mostly children and women, is a heinous crime. The increasing trend of attacks against innocent people raises questions over the security measures by the government to protect the lives of its citizens. It is our sincere appeal to the government of Pakistan not to allow these savage inhuman actions to over-run the lives of people who have every right to live in peace, security and freedom of movement.

National Geographic Series, "The Story of God," Begins April 3

The Story of God with Morgan Freeman seeks to understand how religion has evolved throughout the course of civilization, and in turn how religion has shaped the evolution of society. Although in our current geopolitical landscape, religion is often seen as something that divides, the series illuminates the remarkable similarities among different faiths, even those that seem to be in staunch contrast. This is a quest for God: to shed light on the questions that have puzzled, terrified and inspired humanity. 

This spring, National Geographic Channel and Revelation Entertainment’s epic series The Story of God with Morgan Freeman will take viewers on a trip around the world to explore different cultures and religions on the ultimate quest to uncover the meaning of life, God and all these big questions in between. The Story of God with Morgan Freeman airs weekly for six weeks beginning April 3, 9/8 Central, on the National Geographic Channel.

(Editor's note: While not perfect, we feel this beautifully filmed series can help bring peace through understanding and appreciation of other faith traditions.)
Refugee crisis continues: Church and Christian organisations call for concerted and ambitious action

Ahead of a meeting of the European Council, five European ecumenical organisations have written to EU political leaders urging action on the refugee and migrant crisis. The Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME), the Conference of European Churches (CEC), Eurodiaconia, EU-CORD, and ACT Alliance EU call on European governments to fulfill their promises and obligations under international law.

The letter calls on the EU to increase civilian search and rescue efforts in the Mediterranean region, while at the same time creating safe and legal passages for refugees and appropriate support services once in Europe. Safe passage must include sizable refugee resettlement and humanitarian admission programmes, as well as private sponsorships and family reunion, among other mechanisms. Such an approach is necessary to prevent refugees from risking their lives or resorting to smugglers.

Resources to Celebrate Earth Day Sunday, April 17 or 24

Each year, Creation Justice Ministries offers materials to help churches recognize Earth Day. Earth Day Sunday can be recognized April 17 or 24.

The resource is written to be useful year-round. Additional opportune moments to use this resource include September 1, recognized by Orthodox and Catholic communions as the World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation, or in October, during the Season of Creation and close to the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi.

This Week's Podcast: Subscribe TODAY!

The NCC is bringing the best, most interesting and relevant voices from the faith community to your mobile device. Every week NCC communications director Rev. Steven D. Martin interviews faith leaders, activists, and people from across the NCC's 38 member communions and affiliated organizations.

This week: Rev. Rob Schenck speaks with us about conservatism, evangelicalism, and his embrace of advocacy against gun violence.  Rev. Schenck is featured in the film, "The Armor of Light," which will be screened a the Christian Unity Gathering.

As we launch this podcast, you can help us by subscribing in the iTunes Store and Stitcher Radio. If you like what you're hearing, please write a review. By doing this you will help us reach the widest possible audience!

Groups to raise concerns about mailed ballots

A coalition of groups opposed to cuts at the U.S. Postal Service will use a hearing in Baltimore on Wednesday to question whether slower mail delivery standards approved last year could delay absentee ballots in the forthcoming election.

Under pressure to trim costs and close mail processing centers, the Postal Service relaxed standards early last year — no longer delivering local first-class mail the next day, for instance. Advocates say that the problem is more extensive than a single-day delay and that slow delivery has already affected private elections.

There is no indication that mail delivery has played a role in any of the presidential primaries this year, and the concerns being raised by the group are grounded more in the potential for delayed results in an exceedingly tight contest than in ballots not being counted.

A Washington-based group called the Grand Alliance to Save our Public Postal Service, which started as an effort of postal unions but now includes civil rights, religious and environmental organizations, will conduct hearings across the country on the issue. The first will take place at Coppin State University on Wednesday.

Prayers in the wake of Easter bombing in Lahore, Pakistan

God of heavy cross and empty tomb,
we pray for the people of Lahore, Pakistan.

Help and heal the wounded,
receive the dying into your embrace,
and comfort those who mourn.

Strengthen rescue and relief workers
who protect and provide for others
in the midst of crisis and chaos.

Give leaders the wisdom and determination
to understand the causes of hatred
and prevent it from gaining force.

Put an end to all violence and war,
and restrain the impulse
to use injustice to seek justice.

Continue to pour out your mercy
upon the victims of violence in every place.

Hasten the coming of the day
when all the world will know
that love is more powerful than fear
and life is stronger than death;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (USA)

Heath Rada
oderator of the 221st General Assembly (2014) 
Presbyterian Church (USA)

Tony De La Rosa
nterim Executive Director, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Presbyterian Church (USA)

Session to Explore Theology Behind Fight Against Racism at Ecumenical Advocacy Days

Christians gathering at the 2016 Ecumenical Advocacy Days will be lifting their voices in support of those who are oppressed and marginalized because of racism and classism. We only have to be familiar with the headlines of the past two years to know that these two ills are realities in our society, and on the hearts and minds of candidates and voters alike as we head toward the November election. But what is the theological basis for our message when it comes to fairness and justice? This workshop will analyze the Christian foundations of faith when it comes to affirming the political and economic rights of all, so that when we speak truth to power, we can know why our voice can be more than a whisper in the cacophony of voices seeking to influence policy.

This session will take place on Friday April 15 beginning at 1pm in the Wilson-Harrison Room. The panel will include:
  • Dr. Doug Foster – Professor of Church History, Abilene Christian University
  • Rev. Joyce Shin – Associate Pastor for Congregational Life, 4th Presbyterian Church Chicago, IL
  • Rev. Dr. Kenneth James – Pastor, Memorial AME Zion Church Rochester, NY
  • Moderator – Dr. Greg Carey – Professor of New Testament, Lancaster Theological Seminary

110 Maryland Ave NE, Suite 108, Washington, DC 20002, United States
You may unsubscribe or change your contact details at any time.