Subject: NCC Weekly News: Refugee Voices, Presidential Debate Standards

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From Jim: The Reality of Life as a Refugee
On September 21, I traveled to New York City to participate in a global day of prayer and action for Syria on the occasion of the International Day of Peace. Part of me, I confess, selfishly wonders whether an event like this accomplishes anything and whether I was wise to use my time to be in attendance.

And, then, I heard a powerful young woman, Sana Mustafa, share her story and that of her family. Sana participated in 2011 in the demonstrations and rallies to bring a revolution to Syria. Subsequently, her father was detained by the government. She noted he has been confined for 1,170 days, and her family has no idea if he is alive.

Sana was in the United States when her father was taken into custody and was advised not to return to Syria. She was granted political asylum here and considers herself extremely fortunate to be safe. She also noted that the United States requires people like her to reimburse the government for the cost of her flight to this country and charges them various additional fees, including that of filing for asylum.

Short-term medical insurance and financial assistance is provided for those fleeing for their lives. After that, they're on their own. She urged us to reach out to refugees, to talk to them, to teach them how to catch a bus, obtain and establish credit, and how to find a job, among other things.

The entire Middle East is in the midst of a conflagration. Hundreds of thousands perished as a result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and countless others have suffered in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Turkey, Lebanon, and elsewhere.

Untold billions of dollars worth of weapons have been sent to or sold to the region for decades, particularly to Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Despite that, the Middle East is as violent as ever. Should even more weapons flow into the region?

We have been seduced into the bogus notion that peace comes through strength, that walls must be built, people must be tortured, wars must be waged, hatreds must be nourished, everyone must come under suspicion, surveillance and vigilance must be heightened, and draconian measures must be taken.

It is in opposition to this negative and deadly perspective, this anti-Christian worldview, that I made my witness by being part of the global day of prayer and action for Syria. It is because I believe the peacemakers are truly blessed that I take my stand as a follower of Christ.

Yours in Christ,

Jim Winkler
President and General Secretary

Churches stand with refugees as world leaders meet at UN summit

On September 19, the UN General Assembly hosted a historic high-level summit addressing the large movement of refugees and migrants at its headquarters in New York (USA). Here heads of states and governments from all regions of the world, as well as international observers, will work toward a more coordinated approach to growing worldwide refugee crises.

Church and civil society representatives hope that the summit and its outcomes will motivate improved and more humane government responses toward the world’s estimated 65 million refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people.

“Our hope is that states recommit themselves to a UN-led response to the refugee crisis and accept sharing of international responsibility for the protection of refugees. Tackling root causes requires resolving current cruel conflicts and working towards justice and peace. At the same time, countries hosting the vast majority of refugees need to be assisted, and higher numbers of refugees have to be resettled,” remarked Doris Peschke, general secretary of the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe. “The commitment towards a better international migration framework, which shall be elaborated in the coming two years, needs to be based on the human rights of migrants and decrease vulnerabilities.”

An Open Letter from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Regional Leadership to the Church in the United States and Canada

In this contentious campaign season, we write as leaders who have witnessed firsthand the prophecy of our Lord that “five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three;” (Luke 12:52 NRSV). In a week when we have gathered to confer about the spiritual health of our church, both sides of America’s divided family have called one another racist. As a body that has claimed a pro-reconciliation, anti-racist priority for two decades, we the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada write to offer a word of hope from our experience.

First we offer reflections on some of the more difficult learnings of these past two decades.

As faith leaders, we look back on the history of the United States and Canada, and we see that we have too often been on the wrong side of history with regard to public policy. Too many of us were wrong on slavery. Too many were wrong on Jim Crow. Too many were wrong on residential schools for indigenous children, and too often we have turned our backs on treaties with indigenous brothers and sisters. When we said nothing about such policies, we supported the status quo by default. Then and now, however, the voice of God calls us to bring our faith to participate actively in shaping public policy, “Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be your spoil, and that you may make the orphans your prey!” (Isaiah 10:1-2 NRSV) Our faith has political implications.

Network of ELCA Colleges and Universities issues statement condemning hate threats

The board of directors of the Network of ELCA Colleges and Universities has issued a statement condemning hate threats made against Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas, and its president, William Jones.

Earlier this month, racist messages written in chalk were discovered on the Bethany campus. Following the incident, Jones received threatening phone calls from someone claiming responsibility for the messages and drawings.

The Network of ELCA Colleges and Universities comprises the 26 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America-related institutions of higher education. The network’s board of directors is made up of the institutions’ 26 presidents and an executive director.

Faith groups endorse presidential debates standards

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has joined faith-based groups and other organizations in endorsing standards of conduct for the upcoming U.S. presidential debates. The standards are proposed by the National Institute for Civil Discourse.

Sign the petition

The institute created standards for the presidential candidates, audience members and moderators. The standards for the candidates expect that they be respectful of others in speech and behavior, and make ideas and feelings known without intentionally disrespecting others.

Standards for the audience include when faced with incivility, speak against it by reminding candidates it is not acceptable. Moderators are expected to hold candidates accountable by challenging each candidate to speak the truth and act with integrity.

ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton addressed civic discourse in her May 2016 column for Living Lutheran magazine.

"I understand that the world is a dangerous place; I understand that many in our country feel left behind and left out," Eaton wrote. "There are legitimate security, foreign policy and domestic policy concerns. Candidates and political parties have the duty to speak to these concerns and make the case for their platform."

God and Guns: Millennial Faith Leaders Address Gun Violence October 6-7

The Riverside Church in the City of New York, along with a growing list of partners, will host an intensive training on gun violence for faith leaders of all traditions beginning the evening of October 6 through the evening of October 7, 2016. Designed for millennial faith leaders, a demographic with the capacity to shift our culture, the training is also open to ministry teams of any age that include a millennial attendee. Those who attend do not have to agree on the solutions to the epidemic of gun violence, only that something must be done.

Evangelicals and mainline Protestants make up 40 percent of the population, but own guns at higher rates than the rest of the country. The power to change our culture is in our pews.

Attendees will gain concrete tools to educate, engage, and mobilize your congregations to enact change in your community. Each God and Guns 2016 participant will commit to taking concrete action in their circles of influence.

Following the training, The Riverside Church will provide ongoing support, resources, and reporting mechanisms. This will help those who attend stay connected and share the work you are doing in your congregations.

The training begins with a free, open to the public screening of "The Armor of Light" on Thursday, October 6 at 7PM. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with filmmakers Rev. Rob Schenck, Abigail Disney, and Lucy McBath.

Children's Sabbath to be celebrated October 21-23

The 2016 National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths® Celebration, “Children of Promise: Closing Opportunity Gaps” will be held October 21-23, and will focus on closing opportunity gaps due to poverty and lack of access to high-quality early childhood development and a high-quality education so that every child can reach their God-given potential. For that to happen, we as people of faith need to stand tall within our communities and push our nation to keep our promises of love and justice, equality and dignity for all.

Join thousands of churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and other faith communities across the country in this celebration by holding a community-wide interfaith special worship service or a special service in your place of worship, add educational programs, and advocacy activities to engage people of faith in improving the lives of children and their families in your community, state and in our nation.

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