Initiate Emergency Protocols in All Houses of Worship

A Silver Spring, Md. church with a large immigrant population was vandalized with racist messages, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. (Courtesy Robert Harvey, Episcopal Church of Our Savior)
A Silver Spring, Md. church with a large immigrant population was vandalized with racist messages, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. (Courtesy Robert Harvey, Episcopal Church of Our Savior)

by Rose Marie Berger

President-elect Trump has promised a White Nationalist agenda that is already impacting  our communities. In response, we must form a circle of protection around those who are most vulnerable. As the new Vatican ambassador to the U.S. said this week, the church needs to “assume a prophetic role.”

In setting priorities we should ask ourselves three things: What things can President-elect Trump do easily and quickly (eg overturning executive actions like DACA/DAPA immigrant protections)? What actions by him will have high-consequence impact (eg Supreme Court justice appointment, permitting Keystone XL pipeline, enacting E-Verify)? What actions by him will be irreversible (e.g. rapid increase in deportations, changes to the Constitution, reversals on climate-change protocols)?

There are also things that Mr. Tump cannot do (such as “ban all Muslims”), but the inflammatory White Nationalist rhetoric encourages the rise of religious, race, and gender-based hate at the local level. All of which are generally accompanied by a rise of anti-Semitism and attacks on other vulnerable communities (LGBT, prostitutes, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, and political dissidents). This is already occurring (see WJLA report that the vandals struck Episcopal Church of Our Savior in Silver Spring, MD. A sign reaching out to the Hispanic community was defaced to read: “Trump Nation whites only”).

We have less than 70 days to prepare.

5 actions you can take right now

1. Initiate emergency response protocols for immigrant communities – especially mixed status communities. Establish a team trained in “What to do if Immigration comes to your School (or Church).” I suggest making this widely available at churches and schools. Perhaps even printing them out for distribution.

2. Initiate “emergency sanctuary teams” in all houses of worship to prepare for work-site raids, silent raids, and massive job loss (if E-verify is enacted). Learn the mechanisms of making your house a worship a “sanctuary church.” Read history of D.C. Sanctuary Churches and the national Sanctuary Movement and learn more at New Sanctuary Movement.

3. Initiate conflict-reduction teams in all houses of worship to defuse, intervene, and respond to hate speech and hate crimes. Contact Pace e Bene training, DC Meta Peace Team, or Cure Violence to organize trainings.

4. Initiate inter-denominational and inter-faith outreach teams in all houses of worship to establish open lines of communication between local houses of worship. Multicultural and immigrant churches are most vulnerable right now. Christian churches should reach out to local imams, rabbis, and leaders of Sikh gurdwaras. See Ten Ways To Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide.

5. Initiate a “pledge of resistance” letter-writing campaign in your churches and communities addressed to President-elect Trump (c/o Trump Tower / 725 – 5th Avenue / New York, NY 10022), Senate majority leader Mr. Mitch McConnell, and Speaker of the House Mr. Paul Ryan. The body text would include:

If you pursue the policies you embodied during your campaign, the supremacy of white people over people of color, the literal and figurative creation of walls of division and hostility between people and nations, your misogynistic attitude and practice toward women, your disdain for the poor, disabled and marginalized, your disregard for and ignorance about the environment and your encouragement of the use of violence toward those who disagree with you, if your policies as President continue down that path, I make this pledge of resistance to you today.”

Spiritually, we must be clear-eyed about the level of threat and the ability for it to be carried out. We must not succumb to lethargy. We must also pray for a spirit of tenderness in our own hearts so that we refuse to allow hate or fear to take root. Pray continually for the conversion of Mr. Trump and our own conversion as well.

Rose Marie Berger is a Catholic peace activist and a senior associate editor at Sojourners magazine in Washington, D.C.

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