Subject: NCC Weekly News: The Sacred Work of Peacemaking

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From Jim: The Sacred Work of Peacemaking
In 1985, in the midst of the Cold War and tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union I invited a Baptist preacher named Mel Hawthorne to speak to a group of young people who were participating in a seminar on the nuclear arms race at the Church Center for the UN (CCUN) in New York City. 

Mel made a prediction to those high school kids that I thought at the time was preposterous. He told them that by the time they were out of college, just a few years hence, that one of the enemies of the United States would be a friend. He went so far as to say it could be the Soviet Union itself. 

You’ll recall that just four years later the Berlin Wall fell and within another couple of years, and for some time thereafter, the old Soviet Union was our ally. Even now, our president has said he is working on developing a better relationship with Russia.

President George W. Bush famously, or infamously, described Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as the ‘axis of evil.’ After the US invaded Iraq, it was for a time our friend. Then, President Obama negotiated a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran that substantially improved our rapport with that country. Now, President Trump has met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and has dramatically changed the dynamic between our nations.

Within just the past several decades we have witnessed these and other realignments in the pantheon of America’s friends and enemies and we are likely to see further changes in the years ahead. Perhaps Venezuela or Syria will be our friends in the not too distant future.

Last week, I participated in separate meetings with leaders of the governments of Nicaragua, Cuba, North Korea, and Iran. In each instance, the presidents, foreign ministers, and ambassadors I met with acknowledged the role of the faith community, and of the National Council of Churches in particular, in working for peace and diplomacy rather than war and belligerency. 

These international officials stated a desire for good relations between their countries and the United States. And in every instance, they articulated the importance of being treated by the United States with dignity and respect. Who among us would not ask for the same? 

The community of churches that comprises the National Council of Churches has a long history of working closely and worshiping with councils of churches in countries around the world. Behind the scenes, quite often, we have helped to build relationships among governments, secure the release of people from prison, advocate for human rights and religious freedom, and avert and alleviate crises.

I am grateful we remain part of the sacred work of peacemaking. 

Grace and peace,
Jim Winkler
President and General Secretary
NCC Calls for the Withdrawal of Kavanaugh Nomination

The National Council of Churches (NCC) calls for the withdrawal of the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States. We believe he has disqualified himself from this lifetime appointment and must step aside immediately.

We note several reasons. During his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Judge Kavanaugh exhibited extreme partisan bias and disrespect towards certain members of the committee and thereby demonstrated that he possesses neither the temperament nor the character essential for a member of the highest court in our nation. We are deeply disturbed by the multiple allegations of sexual assault and call for a full and unhindered investigation of these accusations.

In addition, his testimony before the Judiciary Committee included several misstatements and some outright falsehoods. All citizens must be expected to speak truthfully when under oath, however, this is especially true for anyone who seeks a seat on the Supreme Court.

Moreover, Judge Kavanaugh’s extensive judicial and political record is troubling with regard to issues of voting rights, racial and gender justice, health care, the rights of people with disabilities, and environmental protections. This leads us to believe that he cannot be an impartial justice in cases that are sure to come before him at the Court.

Therefore the National Council of Churches calls for the withdrawal of Judge Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court immediately.

Coptic Christians Receive Nobel Peace Prize Nomination

Coptic Christians have been nominated for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for their refusal to retaliate against deadly and ongoing persecution from governments and terrorist groups in Egypt and elsewhere.

The Copts, who are the indigenous people of Egypt and number as many as 20 million around the world, have been the victims of centuries of violence and oppression for practicing their Christian faith, chiefly in Egypt.

Although organizations such as the Red Cross have won the Nobel Peace Prize, it has never been awarded to an ethno-religious group. This is believed to be the first time such a group has been so nominated.

The verified nomination was confirmed by Coptic Orphans, a U.S.-headquartered international development organization. The Norwegian Nobel Committee does not release the identities of nominees.

ELCA Conference of Bishops statement on East Jerusalem hospitals

In early September, members of the Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) were saddened and dismayed to hear reports that the U.S. government was planning to discontinue financial assistance to Augusta Victoria Hospital and five other East Jerusalem hospitals.

We appreciate and strongly affirm ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton's Sept. 6 letter to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, calling for the "release of $25 million of U.S. FY 2017 funding that will help to ensure that there is no interruption in the treatment of Palestinians at the East Jerusalem hospitals, especially the most vulnerable cancer and kidney patients referred to Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH) from Gaza and the West Bank."

She noted that, as an institution owned and operated by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), "Augusta Victoria Hospital is able to operate because of the support of LWF member churches, like the ELCA, and long-standing partnerships with countries like the United States. In the last decade the U.S. government, through USAID, has invested nearly $10 million in AVH to bolster its capacity as a cancer center. In addition, the U.S. government has provided over many years tens of millions of dollars in aid to help cover the costs of the cancer patients and others referred to AVH and the other East Jerusalem hospitals."

Brethren Disaster Ministries begins Hurricane Florence response

Brethren Disaster Ministries (BDM) and its associated programs have had an especially busy few weeks and they have monitored Hurricane Florence’s advance toward the United States and begun response efforts following the hurricane’s landfall on the North Carolina coast on Thursday, Sept. 13.

BDM has already had a long-term presence in the Carolinas, with teams working at rebuilding projects since fall 2016 in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. Work began in the area of Columbia, S.C., and later moved to MarionCounty before expanding earlier this year to sites in both North and South Carolina, sending more than 30 volunteers and leaders each week. The current work housing site has been in Lumberton, N.C.

Volunteers from Atlantic Northeast, South/Central Indiana, and Virlina districts scheduled for the week of Sept. 9-15 still traveled to the area and did what rebuilding they could ahead of the storm, including a completely new roof on the Wednesday morning before the storm hit, replacing one that had been damaged in 2016. The volunteers then traveled home that day ahead of Florence’s landfall.

U.S. Religious Leaders Meet with Cuban President

Members of the National Council of Churches of the United States ratified to Cuban President, Miguel Díaz-Canel, their rejection of the blockade imposed more than 55 years ago on the Caribbean island.

During a meeting held on Thursday at the Permanent Cuban Mission to the UN, the head of State recognized the long tradition of friendship between the peoples of Cuba and the United States and thanked them for the solidarity of that ecumenical entity, reflected in multiple moments and actions.

In that sense, he mentioned their effort in favor of lifting the economic, commercial and financial siege, their support to the return of Cuban child Elian Gonzalez to the Caribbean nation and the struggle for the liberation of the five anti-terrorist fighters who were incarcerated in the U.S.

Diaz-Canel highlighted the relations between U.S. churches and Cuba and recalled that restrictions to travel to the Caribbean nation imposed by the U.S. government limit the dialogue between religious denominations and the links of thousands of their members with relatives in the island.

The main message we transmitted to the President was related with the blockade, that issue came out once and again, the importance that policy is eliminated, declared to Prensa Latina Stan Hastey, representative of the Baptist Alliance of the United States.

Ecumenical Accompaniers offer protective presence, night as well as day, as Khan al Ahmar faces demolition threat

Due date for demolition of Khan al Ahmar was 1 October. Though the Bedouin community still stands, the feeling is the bulldozers could show up anytime.

International accompaniers from the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (WCC-EAPPI) offer protective presence to the community, night-time as well as day, as they bear witness and support life under occupation, in efforts for just peace for all people in Palestine and Israel.

It is late evening in Khan al Ahmar. Located on a small hill in the E1 area of the East Jerusalem periphery, Khan al Ahmar is made up largely from families of Palestinian refugees from 1948.

In May 2018, the Israel Supreme Court approved the Israeli Defense Minister’s order to demolish Khan al Ahmar. For many in Khan al Ahmar, it would not be the first time, as the village is home to a few dozen families from the Jahalin tribe, expelled from their home in the Negev to the West Bank in the 1950s.

Experiencing the Holy Land with Palestinian Arab Christians

For Christians worldwide, a trip to the Holy Land has often been regarded as “the trip of a lifetime” — and it usually is. All too often, however, visitors and pilgrims end up running in the land where Jesus walked!

The Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac, pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem, cannot understand why so many Christian visitors rush through the land where Jesus walked. “Jesus also took time to sit with, visit and be amongst the people,” he said.

A journey to Israel and to the Palestinian territories can deepen our faith and teach us to read the Bible differently, after having experienced the places we read about in Scripture.

My work with World Mission involves helping make connections between Presbyterians and Palestinian Arab Christians. As visitors join in worship, share a meal together and hear about the hopes, dreams and struggles of Palestinian Christians, it creates a more authentic experience with the people and the land.

While religious or spiritual pilgrimage should be a significant part of any trip to the Holy Land, the political realities in which Palestinian Christians live, breathe and witness to the risen Christ cannot be ignored. All too often, the Arab-Israeli conflict is perceived as too complex to understand. Yet it is not difficult to understand at all. It does, however, require listening to competing narratives and revisiting historical accounts of the conflict, oftentimes through the eyes of those who witnessed these events firsthand.

Order your "ACT to End Racism" T-shirts Today!

Didn’t get a t-shirt at the April 4 rally? This one is made from the best quality shirt we could find. It feels soft and lightweight, with the right amount of stretch. It’s comfortable and flattering for both men and women.

• 100% combed and ring-spun cotton (heather colors contain polyester)
• Fabric weight: 4.2 oz (142 g/m2)
• Shoulder-to-shoulder taping
• Side-seamed

Breaking Barriers HIV/AIDS Ministry Conference October 25-27

The purpose of the Breaking Barriers HIV/AIDS ministry conference is to help create an AIDS-free world through saving lives, reducing stigma and increasing awareness. The gathering is open to anyone with an interest in reaching out to the HIV/AIDS community with a message of love.

Dynamic speakers, immersive pre-conference mission experiences, diverse workshop presentations and powerful worship services will offer attendees an opportunity to learn, share and connect. Participants can expect to return home feeling inspired, empowered and prepared to strengthen HIV/AIDS ministry initiatives in their communities.

Speakers include Jeanne White, Mother of Ryan White, AIDS activist Hydeia Broadbent, Bishop Tracy Smith Malone, Bishop Julius C. Trimble and many more.

Serving as a leading voice of witness to the living Christ in the public square since 1950, 
the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) brings together 38 member communions 
and more than 40 million Christians in a common expression of God’s love and promise of unity. 
110 Maryland Ave NE, Suite 108, Washington, DC 20002, United States
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