Subject: NCC Weekly News: Refugees and the Gospel

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From Jim: The Bible, Refugees, and the Future
The horrifying photo last week of a 3-year old Syrian boy named Aylan Kurdi who washed up dead on a beach in Turkey, coupled with the dramatic footage of thousands of refugees walking down the highway from Budapest toward Vienna, gripped the world. Like many others, I cried and I prayed. It so happened I was reading Deuteronomy 26 on that morning in which it is commanded that a tithe of produce is to be set aside each year for “the aliens, the orphans and the widows so that they may eat their fill within your towns…”

The Pope has asked every Roman Catholic parish in Europe to accept a refugee. In the German city of Hof, a crowd of 3000 people welcomed refugees. About 60 German colleges are permitting refugees to take courses for free. The Federation of Protestant Churches of Italy has launched a program called Mediterranean Hope to respond to the crisis.

Thousands are seeking a new life in Europe. Most are coming from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Eritrea. More than 300,000 have attempted to make the journey this year alone. They are escaping violence and economic despair. While the world’s attention is currently focused on Europe, this is a reality familiar in many parts of the world. The Conference of European Churches, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, Hungarian Church Aid, Church World Service, and many other organizations are responding to the need.

When I was in high school, my local church sponsored a Vietnamese refugee family and gave assistance to a Chilean Methodist pastor who escaped from the Pinochet regime. That same congregation had gathered blankets and raised money to help European refugees in the aftermath of World War II. Such mission work is core and central Christian churches.
At the same time, however, refugees and riot police have fought in the streets of Greece. Hungary is building a fence along its border to keep refugees out. Some European politicians are saying refugees must be kept out because accepting them would dilute the Christian character of the continent. This, in spite of the fact that the Bible is replete with commandments to care for refugees. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Israel, and Qatar, all wealthy Middle Eastern nations, have showed, at best, unwillingness to help the refugees.

The old order in the Middle East is breaking apart. In the wake of the US invasion of Iraq, which has tragic consequences to this day, thousands are leaving that nation. Syria, after more than 40 years of dictatorial rule by the Assad family, is in the midst of civil war. The Assyrian Church of the East is poised to join the NCC in significant part because thousands of its members have streamed to the United States in recent decades.

Climate change will create more refugees in the years ahead. As will poverty and violence. More and more people will come to the United States from Mexico and Central America. Xenophobia and hatred will have to be confronted and overcome.

All of this presents enormous challenges to churches in the US. Will we be prepared to extend hospitality that is sacrificial?

Jim Winkler,
President and General Secretary

This is an effort which the faith community must lead

By Nathan Hosler

On Tuesday evening, Sept. 1, the African Methodist Episcopal Coalition held a worship service in Washington, D.C. I had received the invitation from the National Council of Churches (NCC) the week before in my capacity with the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Public Witness, but it was also relevant for my role as a minister in Washington City Church of the Brethren.

The invitation read: “In the wake of the tragic shootings in Charleston, S.C., in June, as well as the many other incidents of racial injustice that have occurred in our nation, the African Methodist Episcopal Coalition will hold a special worship service at 7 p.m. on Sept. 1 at John Wesley AME Zion Church.” So in line with the denomination’s deep desire to seek the peace of Jesus through a commitment to solidarity with historic black churches and racial justice, I attended this event.

European refugee situation: churches’ initiatives for refugees and other migrants.  Priority for Safe Passage

In light of the on-going migration of refugees, we write to reiterate the calls issued by our respective organizations for a compassionate ecumenical response to the people most affected by this crisis – desperate people arriving in Europe after great suffering and danger.

We also wish to share some of the stories of responses by churches and related organizations to current needs, and to solicit stories from your own communities.

Over the past weeks, we all have observed dramatic developments regarding refugee and migrant arrivals on the shores and at the borders of Europe. The most recent news and images have been especially moving, as thousands of refugees assembled around Budapest train station, and there seemed no solution. But then Austria and Germany agreed with Hungary to open the borders and let the refugees move on, and the new arrivals have been welcomed warmly in these countries by citizens including church leaders. Though not as widely reported, support by citizens – particularly in Greece, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary and Italy – has been essential so that people on the move may survive and regain strength.

Coping with Europe’s migration crisis

In Messstetten, Germany, where a former military barrack serves as an initial processing center for asylum seekers, the town’s 5,000 residents are coping with an influx of some 1,000 refugees.

It is part of a new wave of migration that has washed across Europe, increasing in volume over the past year.

United Methodists in Messstetten are working with others “to offer services so that the newcomers feel that they are welcome,” report Bishop Rosemarie Wenner and the Rev. Johannes Knoeller, a district superintendent, of The United Methodist Church in Germany.

The increasing numbers of migrants this summer has raised concerns among members of the European Union, overwhelmed train stations and border crossings and even led to the hasty construction of border fences. The situation also has generated acts of compassion and outpourings of support from local citizens.

UCC hosts initial gathering for grassroots partnership on community-police relationships

In downtown Cleveland, home of the United Church of Christ's national setting, a grassroots partnership between religious leaders, community activists, and the police is beginning to take root.

Thursday, Amistad Chapel UCC hosted the first of many community-wide discussions on improving the relationship and the dialogue between local law enforcement and the public. The Sept. 3 conversation in the chapel on the street level of the denomination's national office outlined initial steps aimed at starting community-police enrichment training in the next calendar year.

About 25 people from the Cleveland area attended, including three UCC national officers, and four current and former law enforcement personnel from the city to discuss positive links between the police and community, and how to improve that relationship.

A Prayer

Eternal God,
    For the sane and the good-hearted,
    For the brave and visionary,
    For the voices of truth,
    For the hearts in despair,
    For those confident in their way,
    For those seeking Your Way,
    For the vulnerable,
    For the high and mighty,
    For all Creation,
For All today
    And for our tomorrows
We plead your intervention,
    not for safety but courage
    not for success but faithfulness .

Written by Brenda Lynn Kneece, published with permission
Ecumenical Opportunities:

The Friends Committee on National Legislation is searching for a Legislative Director to be responsible for leading our multi-issue federal policy and lobbying for peace and justice. The Legislative Director guides and builds FCNL’s Quaker-based presence on Capitol Hill and effectively represents the legislative policies and priorities established by our governing body, the General Committee.

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture seeks an individual to be the NRCAT Human Rights Fellow. This exciting new fellowship will involve full-time work for one academic year (October 2015-May 2016), and will involve working directly with NRCAT staff and interfaith partners, gaining first-hand knowledge of the education, organizing and communications work necessary for policy change and social transformation in an interfaith context.

Jubilee USA is looking to immediately hire a Policy Director and a Communications Director in our Washington, DC office. We are also hiring regional field organizers in multiple locations around the country this Fall. Please see the link below for job descriptions and application instructions for the positions of Policy Director, Communications Director, and Regional Field Organizers.

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