Subject: NCC Weekly News: The Rohingya Muslim Crisis

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From JimRohingya Muslim Crisis in Myanmar
Earlier this year, I accompanied the general secretary of the American Baptist Churches, Rev. Dr. Roy Medley, to Thailand and Burma where we met with Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar government officials, the Myanmar Council of Churches, and many Myanmar Baptist leaders and church members. We spoke out on behalf of the Christian population which has been persecuted by the Myanmar government for many years.

I also learned more about the plight of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar, an oppressed population now experiencing severe repression. Last week, along with Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist leaders, I wrote to President Obama to urge that immediate action be taken to save the lives of thousands of Rohingya Muslims stranded at sea in Southeast Asia.

It is a moral imperative that the United States do everything in its power to implore and support Southeast Asian governments to launch an immediate search and rescue mission to prevent an impending mass atrocity at sea.  It is also crucial that the U.S. government address the root cause of this crisis: the policies of persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority by the government of Burma. 

We noted that while we are heartened by the announcement that Indonesia and Malaysia are now willing to accept victims on their shores, the fact remains that without immediate search and rescue efforts thousands will continue to face death at sea. We called upon the United States to use all of its influence to ensure that Southeast Asian governments assist those in need to reach the safety of their shores. This should include an immediate search and rescue operation that utilizes U.S. resources to save imperiled lives. Several thousand Rohingya asylum seekers and Bangladeshi migrants -- perhaps more -- are stranded on rickety boats in the Andaman Sea.  

The United States must also address the source of this crisis, the systematic abuse and persecution of the Rohingya minority by the government of Burma. The Rohingya are fleeing persecution and violence that has left more than 140,000 displaced in western Burma in camps that have been described as open air prisons. Several independent groups including Fortify Rights, Human Rights Watch, United to End Genocide, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum have documented the policies of persecution in Burma and the high risk of atrocities, even genocide, faced by the Rohingya minority in western Burma.  

We urged President Obama to appeal to the government of Burma to live up to its commitment to address the humanitarian crisis in western Burma by allowing unfettered humanitarian access, the opening of a UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, accountability through an independent international investigation into serious human rights abuses, and equal access to citizenship. Failure of the government of Burma to end the persecution of the Rohingya should result in consequences such as suspension of diplomatic and military exchanges, targeted sanctions on individuals responsible for abuses, and consideration of renewal of broad sanctions. 

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has designated Burma as a “country of particular concern”. The US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, David Saperstein, recently visited Burma noting “serious challenges” in the areas of “religious freedom, of religious tensions, of minority religions not having equal rights”. We are also concerned that four “religious protection laws” being considered would add further restrictions on rights to marry, have children, and choose one’s religion, particularly affecting minority Muslims. The failure of the government of Burma to speak out against such persecution is feeding the current crisis and threatening further tragedy. 

As President Obama has admirably stated, preventing atrocities is both a moral imperative and a national security priority. The United States cannot respond to every crisis, but when thousands of lives are in danger and the United States has a unique capability to avert a mass atrocity, it should do so. Last year, the United States acted to save the Yazidi, a persecuted religious minority, from imminent mass death at the top of a mountain in Iraq. The imperative to act is no less urgent for the thousands now trapped at sea.

Please join us in prayer and action for the Rohingya people.


Wanting, Waiting and Watching

by Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick, CME Church

The red of Pentecost attracts me. Of all the colors of the liturgical seasons, the red impacts me most. It symbolizes the fire of God and the fire aglow in the people of God.

Three verbs pose a trilogy in the title – wanting, waiting, and watching. There is actually a fourth verb to be mentioned and pondered, but for now let it be three.

The Day of Pentecost came when the disciples were responding to the promise and the request of Jesus: “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49, NIV). The fact of their prayerful gathering in one place in Jerusalem shows their faithfulness to His request and their desire to see the fulfillment of His promise. “They all met together continually for prayer,” says Acts 1:14 (NLT), “along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus.”
New Humanitarian Pledge to Ban Nuclear Weapons Advances as Troubled Treaty Stalls

Four weeks of negotiations on nuclear weapons came to a close on Friday 22 May 2015, as the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) ended without a formal agreement. Despite the outcome, a bright new prospect towards a world without nuclear weapons has emerged in the form of a Humanitarian Pledge, now endorsed by 107 states, which promises “to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons”.

As the few states with nuclear weapons worked to complicate, and many critics say weaken, the NPT review process, more and more governments without nuclear weapons endorsed the new pledge.

Members of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), including the World Council of Churches and some of its member churches, are promoting the pledge in every region of the world.
EYN Church of the Brethren General Church Council (Majalisa) issues communique

The following communique from the 68th General Church Council (Majalisa) of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) was issued by the Majalisa meeting from May 5-8 at the new Annex Headquarters of EYN in central Nigeria. It was provided for publication in Newsline by Daniel Yusufu C. Mbaya:

The General Church Council [of EYN] is the highest decision making body of the church which meets annually to discuss masters affecting the church. The membership of the council includes among others but not limited to, the National Executive Committee, Board of Trustees, all ordained ministers, legal advisers, Local Church Council delegates, district officers, heads of departments and institutions.

The theme of the conference was "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). The speech of the president titled “The road to a better future” gave an overview of the troubled years the church is passing through due to the Boko Haram tsunami of death and misery that mostly affected the EYN churches in the north east.
NEW NCC RESOURCE: Starter Kit for Teaching and Learning on Mass Incarceration

For over six decades, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has not only provided an opportunity for ecumenical cooperation among Christian communions, but also has effectively promoted peace and justice in Christ’s name. In more recent times, as the NCC has reconfigured itself to better address the needs of the twenty-first-century world, two key priorities of focus have been named, mass incarceration and interfaith relations with peacemaking. To address these priorities, Convening Tables have been established, allowing smaller groups of representatives to utilize their time and expertise for the benefit of the whole.

To this end, the NCC Convening Table on Christian Education, Ecumenical Faith Formation, and Leadership Development offers the following Starter Kit for Teaching and Learning on Mass Incarceration. This resource, developed over the past several months, is a toolbox replete with various offerings intended to inform and engage individuals, small groups, congregations, and classrooms alike.
Employment and Internship Opportunities

Faith in Public Life is a national strategy center for faith leaders working for social justice and the common good. FPL is seeking a Latino Program Director to build and lead a robust program that engages Latino clergy in both progressive policy advocacy and civic engagement.

FPL’s Latino program has two main components: 1) mobilize and amplify Latino faith voices around progressive immigration policies, and 2) to spearhead a ‘Faithful Voter’ GOTV program in Latino churches and other faith-centered groups in the Latino community.

Interviews are underway and the application deadline is June 1. Based in Washington, DC, but with travel to key states.

More information

The National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund (NCPTF) and the Peace Tax Foundation (PTF) are seeking a part-time (approximately 24 hours/week) Executive Director to serve both organizations. NCPTF advocates for the enactment of a legal alternative for conscientious objectors to the payment of military taxes. PTF is its informational and educational partner organization. The Executive Director, based in the Washington, D.C. office, represents both organizations and is responsible for administration, lobbying, and fundraising. For more information, see the NCPTF Job Openings tab on our website. Send inquiries to The closing date for applications is June 1, 2015.

Face to Face is a seven-week program that aims to invite students preparing for ministry in cultural, social, theological and contextual realities to understand, to motivate and to engage with the realities on how the fullness of life is being denied to the large majority of the world’s population.

We would like to inform you that the Building Life-Affirming Communities: Face To Face with the many poor and the many faiths in Asia is now accepting applications. This Program will be conducted in two locations -- Bishop’s College in Kolkata and Henry Martin Institute in Hyderabad, India -- from 3rd October to 16th November 2015.

Through this Program, the participants will come face to face with the issues on poverty and pluralism, specifically within the Asian context of many religions and many poor.

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