Subject: NCC Weekly News: Slave Patrols and Gun Violence (part 2)

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From Jim: Slave Patrols & Gun Violence (part 2 of 2)
We need a truth and reconciliation process that will catalogue past and present depredations, result in remorse and repentance by those of us who enjoy the white privilege our skin color affords us, and undertake countless measures of justice that will attempt to make right the wrongs that have been and are being committed.

Permit me to focus on the matter of gun violence for the moment. Pro-gun advocates insist the 2nd amendment to the Constitution permits them to bear arms. The amendment reads, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

I am not a judge or a lawyer and have no desire to argue the fine points of the meaning of the amendment. I am aware that there is a dispute as to whether or not the amendment was a concession to Southern states who wanted local militias, slave patrols really, to be protected. But I do know that slave patrols were prevalent in many parts of the United States.

Rev. Richard Allen, the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, obtained his freedom from a white slave owner in Delaware in 1783. Although now free, Allen carried on his person wherever he went a document from his former owner declaring he was indeed free. In 1785, the Methodist evangelist, Francis Asbury, asked Allen to accompany him on a preaching tour through Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina. Allen wisely refused to join Asbury in those slaveholding states where might very well have been sold back into slavery.

I know African American men who almost always wear a suit and tie as a means to signal to the police that they are professionals and should not be harassed. I know a former African American gang leader who tells me the police were largely unconcerned with his activities in his neighborhood, but when his gang attempted to expand into white neighborhoods the full wrath of the law came down upon them.

Much of what drives the gun violence in our nation to this day, I submit, is rooted in our past history of slavery and our fear of slave revolts of which there were, of course, many and of uprisings such as those in Ferguson and Baltimore.

Further, the fear of immigrants from Central America and the Middle East, the fear of Muslims, and those who are different and might in some way pose a threat to white dominance spurs gun violence in our nation. Coupled with a growing fear of a government led by an African American man, we find ourselves today in a dangerous situation.

Jim Winkler,
President and General Secretary

Muslims Advance Consensus for Citizenship for All: The Marrakesh Declaration

NCC President and General Secretary Jim Winkler attended this groundbreaking conference in Morocco

At the invitation of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, 250 of the world's eminent Islamic leaders convened to discuss the rights of religious minorities and the obligation to protect them in Muslim majority states.

This position has historic roots dating to the time of Prophet Mohammed and the Medina Charter. Today's Declaration was issued at a time of heightened social hostility fueled by violent extremism, widespread Islamophobia and the denial of rights, sometimes justified by misrepresentations of Islamic teachings.

The conference was organized by the Moroccan Ministry of Religious Endowments and Islamic Affairs and the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies based in Abu Dhabi. His Eminence Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah, the President of the Forum for Promoting Peace and Co-Moderator of Religions for Peace (RfP), offered the keynote address that set the framework for deliberation among the Islamic leaders. Fifty senior leaders from the world's diverse religious traditions other than Islam were invited as observers of the Islamic deliberations.

A summary of the Marrakesh Declaration includes:

  • "The objectives of the Charter of Medina provide a suitable framework for national constitutions in countries with Muslim majorities, and are in harmony with the United Nations Charter and related documents, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
  • "Affirm[s] that it is impermissible to employ religion for the purpose of detracting from the rights of religious minorities in Muslim countries."
  • "Call[s] upon representatives of the various religions, sects and denominations to confront all forms of religious bigotry, vilification and denigration of what people hold sacred, as well as all words that promote hatred and racism."

The fifty religious leaders other than Muslims:

  • Expressed their gratitude to the Islamic leaders for their unflinching courage and devotion to their tradition and for welcoming non-Muslims among them as observers;
  • Affirmed values shared with the Islamic leaders;
  • Asked forgiveness for past and current injuries for which their communities are complicit;
  • Shared particular concerns over violence in the name of religion, limitations of citizenship, restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, and xenophobia, especially Islamophobia;
  • Committed to follow-up work in solidarity with Muslim brothers and sisters to build a culture of peace; and,
  • Respectfully expressed the hope that this convening of Islamic leaders will be continued by future regional conferences.

Every attack, every hate crime, every insult, every humiliation is amplified in the media and sends out a polarizing wave, fueling the rise in hostility. Only religious communities cooperating --- standing shoulder-to-shoulder in solidarity --- can transform this vicious cycle into a virtuous one, in which the good deeds of each community call out to and reinforce the good deeds of the others. RfP is committed to supporting all religious communities in collaborative efforts to build a virtuous cycle for Peace.

Read the Marrakesh Declaration Summary in Arabic Here
Read the Marrakesh Declaration Summary in English Here

Making Hunger and Poverty Election Issues

God’s concern for hungry and poor people is a central theme of the Bible. And across all Christian traditions, responding to people in need is seen as a central responsibility of believers. Churches themselves engage in many ministries that provide assistance and opportunities to their members and neighbors in need. Most Christian leaders agree that our government has an important role to play as well.

Over 100 Christian leaders – heads of denominations, presidents of seminaries, heads of national organizations and agencies –
have asked all 2016 presidential candidates to say what they would do to “offer help and opportunity to hungry and poor people in the United States and around the world.”

In response, many of the leading candidates have produced short videos describing their approach to hunger and poverty.  Take time this Sunday to watch the videos and lead a discussion in your church using this study guide.

DC Interfaith Leadership Summit

The purpose of this gathering is to provide a day of focused dialogue among young DC area leaders from a variety of faith traditions (as well as those from multi-faith and no faith backgrounds) who are dedicated to building interfaith relationships with peers and allies. The summit is open to DC area residents, ages 18-39, who hold a position of responsibility in their community/organization. Our goal is to share resources and build a stronger network of local allies across communities in order to more effectively serve and work for social justice in the region, and more broadly encourage interfaith understanding.

This annual gathering is held during World Interfaith Harmony Week (first week of February) and is supported by the IFC and a diverse set of local faith-based and interfaith organizations, educational institutions, and community groups.

UCC, Disciples partner to bring clean water, justice to Flint, Michigan

As the potable water crisis in Flint, Mich., deepens, two Christian denominations are partnering to provide solutions.

The Michigan Conference of the United Church of Christ, the Disciples' Week of Compassion, and the Michigan Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) announced Jan. 18 the launch of "The Gospel in Action –– Flint," a joint effort to help provide water to the more than 50,000 households in Flint who have not had clean water for almost two years.

The partnership includes providing water to Vermont Christian Church in Flint, which has been designated a water distribution point.

"We have a history of working closely with the Disciples," said the Rev. S. C. Campbell Lovett, UCC conference minister in Michigan. With this joint effort, "we are living out that partnership in a powerful way." The conference staff delivered water to Vermont Christian Church Jan. 19, and also stopped by Woodside UCC in Flint to deliver much needed funds for that church's water filter distribution program. Additionally, UCC Disaster Ministries has provided a $3,000 Solidarity Grant to Woodside.

Ferguson pilgrims study systemic racism, injustice and reconciliation

In the months following General Convention, the Episcopal Church has been working to fulfill its mandate to confront racism and the institutional structures that support it.

On Jan. 21, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preached the sermon at the opening Eucharist of the 2016 Trinity Institute, Listen for a Change: Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice. As he invited those assembled to embrace difficult conversations around racism, he offered some advice; “As you prepare to march, meditate on the life and teachings of Jesus. “ Keynote speaker Michelle Norris also offered her belief that “listening is an act of courage.” Trinity Institute is hosting this year’s institute on racial justice as a means of creating new understanding, opportunity, and encouragement for deeper conversations about racism.

February is Black History month, following the many celebrations this week of the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr., and the church’s collective hope for racial reconciliation. Next month, the presiding officers of the Episcopal Church will meet in Austin, Texas, to begin to discern how to move forward with Resolution C019, through which the General Convention made racial reconciliation a priority for the next triennium. Yet significant learning and leadership development around issues of racial justice and reconciliation began back in October of 2015, when the Episcopal Church sponsored a Young Adult Pilgrimage to Ferguson, in partnership with the Union of Black Episcopalians and the Diocese of Missouri.

Aplastic Anemia Awareness Week is March 1-7

March 1 - 7 is Aplastic Anemia and MDS Awareness Week, sponsored by the AAMDS International Foundation, a 4-star charity dedicated to supporting patients and families living with rare life-threatening bone marrow failure disease. Every year, the foundation’s national campaign encourages organizations to hold bone marrow drives the first week in March to help expand the database of the National Bone Marrow Registry. The goal of our “Swabbing Across the States” campaign is to increase the chances that someone who needs a bone marrow donor can find a match on the bone marrow registry. You might be that match. 

The only cure for a bone marrow failure disorder is a bone marrow transplant, but six out of ten patients who need one cannot find a match. Many people assume that immediate family members can automatically provide a match but, in reality, only 30% of patients find a match within their family. Our goal is to increase the chances that someone who needs a bone marrow donor can find a match on the bone marrow registry. You might be that match.

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