Walking Together: Pope Francis and the World Council of Churches

On June 21, there was a historic meeting in Geneva with Pope Francis and other Vatican leaders and the leadership of the ecumenical World Council of Churches. Above is the 50 minute video of the shared worship service (order of worship), including Pope Francis preaching on Galatians 5:13-26 and the metaphor of “walking.” (He speaks in Italian. The English translation is here

Dear Brothers and Sisters, We have heard the words addressed by the Apostle Paul to the Galatians, who were experiencing conflict and division. Groups were fighting and hurling accusations at one another. It is in this context that the Apostle, twice in the space of a few verses, invites us to “walk in the Spirit” (cf. Gal 5:16.25).

Walking. We human beings are constantly on the move. Throughout our lives, we are called to set out and keep walking: from our mother’s womb and at every stage of life, from when we first leave home to the day we depart from this earthly existence. The metaphor of walking reveals the real meaning of our life, a life that is not self-sufficient but always in search of something greater. Our hearts spur us to keep walking, to pursue a goal.

Walking is a discipline; it takes effort. It requires patience and exercise, day after day. We have to forego many other paths in order to choose the one that leads to the goal. We have to keep that goal constantly before us, lest we go astray. Walking also demands the humility to be prepared at times to retrace our steps. It also involves being concerned for our travelling companions, since only in company do we make good progress. Walking, in a word, demands constant conversion. That is why so many people refuse to do it. They prefer to remain in the quiet of their home, where it is easy to manage their affairs without facing the risks of travel. But that is to cling to a momentary security, incapable of bestowing the peace and joy for which our hearts yearn. That joy and peace can only be found by going out from ourselves. ….  —Pope Francis (homily)

Rabbi Waskow: Families Torn Apart – The Lightning Flash that Reveals our Hidden Cruelties

Rabbi Waskow arrested. (Photo Credit: John Zanga, #NoKXL Actions, D.C.)

Rabbi Arthur Waskow reflects on the deep scriptural issues at stake with the current Trump administration policy that separates children from parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Please see the Shalom Center’s action steps.

Rabbi Waskow writes: “One leading official of the United States Government has claimed that biblical calls to obey the law are paramount here. We affirm that the Bible actually speaks the contrary.

Some officials are saying – even boasting – that the family-separation policy was deliberately intended by its ruthlessness to deter families from coming to the United States, seeking asylum because of well-founded fears that their lives and the lives of their children are in immediate danger if they were to stay in Central American countries that have been overwhelmed by violence.

But the Bible sees the world through God’s commitment to justice and compassion: “You shall not hand over to their masters serfs [or, some translators say, “slaves”]  who have escaped from their masters to you. They may dwell with you in your midst, in the place which they choose within your gates, wherever it seems best to them. You shall not maltreat them”  (Deuteronomy 23: 15-16).

Of course neither the biblical understanding of serfdom, indentured servitude, or slavery nor the experience of these refugees today, fleeing murder and rape and seeking asylum, is identical with the past of chattel slavery in the United States. Yet their experience bears elements of the same ruthless and violent subjugation. And this biblical verse is uncanny in its direct address of the crisis we face now, even more than other, broader teachings about love and justice for “foreigners.”

And the “law” that Attorney General Sessions cites to subjugate love and destroy our families is not law at all. It is a policy concocted by elements of the present US government that actually violates the law. It is intended to keep asylum-seekers from making their case as they are entitled to do both by US law and the binding law of the land, embedded in treaties the US has ratified.

It is about “laws” like these that the Bible speaks and Isaiah (10:2) cries out, “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.”

Continue reading “Rabbi Waskow: Families Torn Apart – The Lightning Flash that Reveals our Hidden Cruelties”

American Baptist Churches USA Call Out Sessions on Scriptural Blasphemy Regarding Zero-Tolerance Policy

U.S. Border Patrol agents take into custody a father and son from Honduras near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12 near Mission, Texas. | John Moore/Getty Images

VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 6/16/18)—Lee B. Spitzer, general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA, published on June 15 a letter sent to Attorney General Jeff Sessions in response to Sessions’ remarks which cited Romans 13 as justification for practices such as separating children from their parents in immigration cases. American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico. The text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Attorney General Sessions,

I am writing to you today on behalf of the 5,000 congregations and 1.3 million members of the American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA). As General Secretary, I serve as the national pastor of the denomination. ABCUSA has a long and distinguished record of service in welcoming immigrants and refugees to communities throughout the United States.

The American Baptist family would like to communicate our deep concern over the unjust immigration policies of the United States government, and in particular, the unconscionable separation of children from their parents on our southern border. As a fellowship of Christ-followers who recall the trials of the child Jesus and his parents, who fled from persecution in their homeland to another country (Matthew 2:13-18), we adamantly oppose separating children from their relatives. A just society can fulfill its fidelity to its own laws and border security without resorting to such unwise and harmful practices; instead, we urge that compassion, fairness and family-affirming policies characterize our response to the plight of families on our borders. We note that destructive practices such as the separation of children from parents place a serious burden on our law enforcement agents and officials, who in carrying out such policies find their own consciences ethically compromised and troubled.

Furthermore, we strongly disagree with your erroneous appropriation of the New Testament (in particular, Romans 13) to justify inhumane and unjust governmental actions. No responsible Christian theologian would assert that Romans 13, or any other passage in the Bible, supports the horrific separation of children from parents that we are witnessing at the present time. In fact, both the Old and New Testaments call those who believe in God to welcome refugees and immigrants with open arms and friendship, with loving care and concern, and with the willingness to assist others in enjoying the prospects of a future based on hope and opportunity.

Accordingly, American Baptists wish to express our sincere hope that the separation of children and parents will immediately cease. We urge Congress and the President to approve and implement without delay more compassionate and just immigration policies and procedures. As the leading law enforcement official of our government, it is your privilege and responsibility to lead such an effort. Thank you for considering our position.

Sincerely,
Rev. Dr. Lee B. Spitzer, General Secretary?American Baptist Churches USA

The letter can be downloaded here.

8 Tiny Thoughts on the Singapore Summit

Women hold a banner in Paju, South Korea. A group of 30 women activists arrived in South Korea after a landmark crossing of the Demilitarized Zone from North Korea as a symbolic act of peace. (Xinhua/Jiang Ye)

I’ve been working on articles on North Korea and following the recent news closely about the Singapore meeting. I call it the Trump-Kim Summit  because it’s clearly about the two of them–not so much the U.S. and North Korea). Eight tiny thoughts:

  • It could have been much worse.
  • It pushes the nuclear clock back a few minutes.
  • It is a success because it opens dialogue.
  • Both leaders are inveterate liars.
  • The agreement to repatriate the remains of U.S. servicemen is an important symbolic step toward bringing the Korean War to a close.
  • The incentives for both parties are commercial–but worse things have been done for money.
  • The proof will be in the pudding.
  • This Summit is an answer to millions of people’s prayers. Let’s not waste the moment.
    Pax Christi International recommends follow-up talks include these key points if they are to actually lead towards disarmament and a durable peace:

  • Both countries should take conclusive steps towards complete and verifiable denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, not only North Korea. The peninsula is not denuclearised if it remains under threat from U.S. nuclear weapons.
  • Both the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and North Korea should rejoin the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This is part of a five-step proposal for disarmament issued by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) which includes Pax Christi International.
  • The U.S. and North Korea should pursue the successful completion of a peace treaty between both Koreas to replace the armistice from the Korean War, also as a follow-up of the historic Panmunjom Declaration of 27 April 2018.
  • The U.S. should raise concerns for human rights in North Korea as a condition to lift economic sanctions. Amongst other human rights abuses, up to 120,000 people continue to be arbitrarily detained in political prison camps. It is imperative that human rights are taken up in future talks, as their protection is intrinsically linked to peace and security.–Pax Christi International

If you ignore all the hoopla, here’s the agreement that Trump and Kim actually signed:

Joint Statement of President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong-un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) at the Singapore Summit

President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong-un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea held a first, historic summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018.

President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un conducted a comprehensive, in-depth and sincere exchange of opinions on the issues related to the establishment of a new U.S.-DPRK relations and the building of a lasting and robust peach regime on the Korean Peninsula. President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong-un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Convinced that the establishment of new U.S.-DPRK relations will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and of the world, and recognizing that mutual confidence building can promote the denuclarization of the Korean Peninsula, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un state the following:

1. The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.

2. The United States and the DPRK will join the efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panumunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclerarization of the Korean Peninsula.

4. The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.

Having acknowledged that the U.S.-DRPK summit – the first in history – was a epochal event of great significance in overcoming decades of tensions and hostilities between the two countries and for the opening up of a new future, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un commit to implement the stipulations in this joint agreement fully and expeditiously. The United States and the DPRK commit to hold follow-on negotiations, led by the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and a relevant high-level DPRK official, at the earliest possible date, to implement the outcomes of the U.S.-DPRK summit.

President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong-un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have committed to cooperate for the development of new U.S.-DPRK relations and for the promotion of peace, prosperity, and the security of the Korean Peninsula and of the world. —The White House

P.S. A pre-edited version of the agreement, hot off the copier to distribute to press, showed the U.S. and DPRK  joining efforts to build a “lasting and stable peach regime on the Korean Peninsula.”

Breaking Families Instead of Bread at U.S.-Mexico Border

Families who illegally crossed the Mexico-U.S. border walk up a dirt road near McAllen, Texas, last month. (Loren Elliott/Reuters)

“It’s unjust for kids to be separated from their parents. It doesn’t matter the race or where the come from, because we all know, the fundamental base of society is family. So if we separate families, what we are doing, is destroying society.”—Yulio Bermudez spent 45 days trying to get his children, age 16, 7, and 3, back from the Department of Homeland Security

“God is Love and love enfolds us all the world in one embrace; with unfailing grasp God holds us, and every child of every race. And when human hearts are breaking under sorrow’s iron rod, then we find that self same aching deep within the heart of God,”–Isaac Watts, “God is Love” (sung to the tune of the Old 100th)

If you want to send donations to help families at the border, I recommend supporting Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. It is run by Sr. Norma Pimentel.

For more on the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that uses children as pawns for partisan political theater, see these articles below:

San Diego diocese launching program to prevent family separation at border

Doctors Say Kids Separated From Parents At Border Face ‘Toxic Stress,’ Serious Health Risks

HIDDEN HORRORS OF “ZERO TOLERANCE” — MASS TRIALS AND CHILDREN TAKEN FROM THEIR PARENTS

 

Video: 175,000 Starbucks staff watched this video this week

Here’s the 8-minute video that Starbucks’ employees watched this week. Watch it. Talk to the Starbucks staff about it the next time you head to the Big Green.

From Starbucks: This short film by Stanley Nelson explores the impact of bias within public accommodations as well as the possibilities for a better future. On May 29, we closed 8,000 Starbucks stores in the United States for four hours—so 175,000 Starbucks partners could come together for a conversation and learning session on racial bias. This was a foundational step in renewing Starbucks as a place where ALL people feel welcome. Starbucks partners shared life experiences, heard from others, listened to experts on bias and racial anxiety, reflecting on the realities of bias in our society and talking about how all of us can work together to create public spaces where everyone feels like they belong.

Choosing Peace: The Catholic Church Returns to Gospel Nonviolence

Choosing Peace

Posted by Catholic Nonviolence Initiative on Sunday, May 27, 2018

I’m honored to have a chapter included in this book! (And if you want to know what I’ve been working on for the past year, read it.)

Update on King Bay Plowshares 7 with New Addresses

The Kings Bay Plowshares – Liz, Steve, Carmen, Mark, Martha, Clare and Patrick – were moved on May 7 to the Glynn County Detention Center in Brunswick, Georgia. On May 10, they will appear in federal court in Brunswick. Last week, an indictment was filed by the federal government and the group was charges with four counts: conspiracy, destruction of property on a Naval Station, depredation of government property and trespass.

For inmate numbers and their jail address, please visit https://www.kingsbayplowshares7.org/jail-addresses/

For more information about the action, jail reflections, suggestions about how to continue the witness, how to make a donation and more, visit https://www.kingsbayplowshares7.org/ and the Kings Bay Plowshares Facebook page.

NUCLEAR RESISTERS
Clare Grady 015632
Patrick O’Neill 015637
Elizabeth McAlister 015633
Stephen Kelly 015634
Martha Hennessy 015631
Mark Colville 015635
Carmen Trotta 015636

Glynn County Detention Center, 100 Sulphur Springs Road, Brunswick, GA 31520.

Please note: Inmates may only receive plain white pre-stamped postcards written in blue or black ink. Postcards may not have any pictures nor backgrounds on them. Plain white pre-stamped postcards may be purchased at some Post Offices and online. Do not use any return address labels or other labels. All postcards are subject to search and /or screening. Include your handwritten return address. Inmates cannot receive letters or packages.

(Kings Bay Plowshares activists held on multiple charges following arrest at Kings Bay nuclear submarine base in Georgia, 4/5/18. Read more.)