Archive for the ‘economic justice’ Category

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Week of Compassion

February 9, 2015

vynguyenVy Nguyen is a long-time friend of First Church Berkeley and the Executive Director of Week of Compassion. He formally worked for Church World Service. In that previous role, he was a guest in our congregation several times.

In this short video he shares some of his story of escaping Viet Nam, ending up in a refugee camp in Thailand and then making his way to the United States.

Week of Compassion is a program of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and supports refugee assistance, emergency relief and sustainable development.

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Loving Our World-Wide Neighbors

July 29, 2014

by First Church Senior Minister Patricia de Jong

“It was un-American; it was unbiblical; it was inhumane.” Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Roman Catholic archbishop of New York wrote these words in response to the busloads of mothers and children in Murietta that were turned back  toward the border as protesters shouted to them, “Go home!” Cardinal Dolan grasps the sorrow and even shame many people of faith are experiencing these days as we confront the meaning of the Gospel imperative “to love our neighbor as ourselves” on the childrenatborderUS border and in Gaza and in the Middle East. Not only do we have difficulty with the political events of the past few weeks, but many of us have trouble making moral sense out of the way children are being treated in the hot spots around the globe.

In the past two weeks, we have stood silently as a body during worship in order to prayerfully protest the deportation of children who are fleeing violence in their own countries and have arrived at our borders with nothing more than hope for a chance at survival. We’ve prayed for peace in the Israel/Palestine and especially for the bombings to stop in the Gaza Strip. And we have received a free will offering for East Bay Sanctuary Covenant and the important work they are doing in the East Bay with refugees right now. It doesn’t seem like much when we imagine the enormity of human suffering that is occurring; but we also know that a stance of grace and compassion is vital to the process of moving forward to justice and healing.

Each small act of intention and attention is powerful. Through the simple act of prayer or writing a check or emailing our representatives, we are making a difference. We simply must not allow violence or division or ignoring the plight of children to become our new normal; as people of faith we have a calling to honor creation through the honoring of each other as God’s own beloved children.

In the coming days, pray for the children, our own and especially those at risk. If you feel like it and are able, write a check supporting an agency that helps children, here or anywhere in the world, but especially the troubled spots. Send an email to your representative reminding them of the importance of the welfare of children to the future well being of the planet. And pay attention to and be thankful for a child or a young person in your life; they are wise and wonderful and will remind you of our calling to care for all the children of the world.

More about First Church Berkeley…

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Young Ones Fleeing Central America

July 16, 2014

by Patricia de Jong, Senior Minister

migrantchildrenMany of us having been reading and hearing stories about the wave of children and youth from Central American who are crossing over the boarder into the southwest of the United States, many of them unaccompanied. But First Church member Jennifer Fisher has taken the next step—encouraging our congregation to take concrete action to address the needs of these young immigrants. And she will get in a truck full of supplies and drive if that is the right thing to do.

Jennifer’s desire to respond has been galvanizing and a meeting has been set up for Wednesday, July 16 at 7:00 pm in the Sunburst Room. Anyone who is interested in learning more about this challenging situation and to discern the best way for First Church to respond are invited to attend.

Although this surge has ignited much political debate, Jennifer has her eyes squarely on the human story:  “Everyone can argue both sides of the immigration issue, that does not matter. What matters is these kids have traveled hundreds and perhaps thousands of miles on a rough road to get here and many are victims of violence, upheaval and economic hardships in their country. People willing to make that kind of hazardous, unsafe, dusty, dry, and arduous trip are usually doing it to save their lives. ”

In testimony before Congress administration members described the situation this way: “We face an urgent situation in the Rio Grande Valley Last fiscal year, Customs and Border Protection apprehended more than 24,000 unaccompanied children at the border. By mid-June of this fiscal year, that number has doubled to more than 52,000. Those from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras make up about three quarters of that migration…[T]his is a humanitarian issue as much as it is a matter of border security. We are talking about large numbers of children, without their parents, who have arrived at our border—hungry, thirsty, exhausted, scared and vulnerable. How we treat the children, in particular, is a reflection of our laws and our values.”

This wave of immigration has excited strong feelings. I heard on the radio that at one rally protesting the arrival of these children a woman held a sign that said “Not our children, Not our problem.” I must emphatically disagree. Jesus clearly calls us to care for the hungry and the thirsty. We are all neighbors and when our neighbors are in need, we are called to act.

Join Jennifer and I on Wednesday night and be prepared to respond to a special call for funds to provide relief for at least some of these children.

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Here are some online resources about the wave of young immigrants coming to the US from Central America:

•   A comprehensive article called “Life Ended There” by Susan Terrio, professor of anthropology at Georgetown University, author of Whose Child Am I? Unaccompanied, Undocumented Children in U.S. Immigration Custody: http://tinyurl.com/lifeendedthere

•   An article about how social service agencies that work with the immigration community in San Francisco are being stretched by this situation: http://tinyurl.com/agenciesstretched

•   Transcript of testimony by administration officials at a hearing titled “Challenges at the Border”: http://tinyurl.com/challengesattheborder

•   A clear picture of the increase in this sort of immigration based on data from Customs and Border Protection: www.cbp.gov/newsroom/stats/southwest-border-unaccompanied-children

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More about First Church Berkeley…

 

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Human Trafficking: Ten Ways to Respond

October 2, 2012

On Sunday, September 30, 2012, Shelly Dieterle, Young Adult Minister at First Church Berkeley, preached a sermon at the 9 am service that included an exploration of the US and global issue of human trafficking. It was part of a series of sermons under the theme “Caring for Each Other, Caring for the Earth.” The subject for the morning was “Seeking Justice and Reconciliation.”

In the sermon, Shelly offered 10 different ways one might respond to this troubling issue:

  1. Learn more at slaveryfootprint.org and talk with others about what you learn
  2. Speak up and insist that the clothes you wear, the food you eat and the products you buy are made free of forced labor
  3. Shop responsibly. Learn what companies to avoid and which ones are moving toward economic, social, and environmental responsibility
  4. Become a pen pal to the girls in Mark Pham’s Bocochiem Project, emchi.org, in Southern Vietnam. Mark is the nephew of Louise Halsey and visited with us that Sunday. The Em Chi Initiative prevents young girls in rural southern Vietnam from exploitation.
  5. Openly and actively endorse Proposition 35, A Ban on Human Trafficking and Sex Slavery, and work towards its passage in November
  6. Support Mark’s Bocochiem Project, EmChi, through FCCBs Alternative Gifts catalog this Christmas
  7. Pray for the girls, the women and the boys and men who are held captive in bonded labor throughout the world, and for their oppressors
  8. Join the Not for Sale campaign e-distribution
  9. Become a Big Brother or a Big Sister
  10. Review, support and circulate petitions on change.org

Watch a video of Shelly’s sermon…

First Church member Barbara Grady-Ayer has also written a series of articles on the local aspects of human trafficking right here in the East Bay that appears on the Oakland Local website.

More about First Church Berkeley, United Church of Christ

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Zephania and Economic Justice

November 18, 2011

On Sunday, November 13, one of the lectionary readings for the day was from the book of the prophet Zephania. In it the speaker warns the people about the dangers of “resting on the dregs” of economic wealth.

In the two Sunday services at First Church Berkeley, preachers Phil Porter (9 am) and Sam Rennebohm (11 am) reflect on issues of economic justice, weaving in reflections on the Occupy movement and the 99%.

Here are the videos of the two sermons:

 

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Non-Violence: More Reflections on the General Strike

November 7, 2011

Sam Rennebohm, First Church Seminary Intern, shares his experiences of the march to the Port of Oakland that was part of the General Strike called by the Occupy Oakland movement on Wednesday, November 2.

The march yesterday evening was one of the most amazing demonstrations of people power I have seen—inspiring, non-violent, communal. I remember being on top of the bridge into the port and seeing people stretching for blocks and blocks in either direction. There were people of all ages and races, Berkeley and Oakland teachers, workers representing their unions, babies and toddlers, people on stilts and on bicycles, high schoolers and university students. Rarely do we witness such a true representation of that phrase “all walks of life.”

We marched into the port with such positive and life-affirming energy. As we walked through the port, people broke into celebration. There was dancing and singing and drumming, and people waved flags. There were also powerful conversations happening in small groups, people talking about their ideas and ideals with one another in passionate ways. All the while it was the sheer presence of so many folks that was causing the Port to have to shut down its operations.

At one point in the evening, while we were blocking one of the gates to the port, two or three people got angry with a car that was driving by and started to bang on the windshield. A group of maybe 100 soon gathered around them and started chanting “peaceful, peaceful” with enough force to entirely change the energy. The people who were angry calmed down, and the crowd convinced them to let the vehicle drive away.

It was an amazing indication to me that, even though there is no true center or established leadership here, the overwhelming (literally) majority are committed to non-violent methods.

I left the Port around 9pm, and the energy was still very celebratory and positive. Even as we were piling into the BART, people were giving each-other high-fives and hugs and telling their stories.

Reading the news-reports from the middle of the night, it saddens me to hear of what took place. It also convinces me of the importance of continued involvement in this growing movement – the importance of maintaining strong voices for the methods of non-violence.

More about First Church Berkeley…

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The March to the Port of Oakland

November 3, 2011

by Phil Porter

As I begin my day this Thursday, November 3, the day after the General Strike in Oakland, I am mostly experiencing frustration over what little media coverage I have scanned (mostly online). Reports are focusing primarily on vandalism and clashes between police and participants later in the evening. Little is being said about the scope of the march or its tone.

The crowd at the evening march of the General StrikeI went downtown both in the morning and later for the 5 pm march to the Port of Oakland. At that later time, I had intended to stay for a while, perhaps march for a bit and then return home. I ended up walking all the way to the port and back.

The crowd was huge, stretching for blocks. I’ll attach a photo, but it was hard to capture the scope of the march. The crowd was varied and the general vibe was positive, friendly and celebrative. Personally, I think this is the big story from yesterday: the action was only called a week ago and thousands turned out for it. And not only that, but folks were willing to walk all the way to the port and back (a couple of miles each way.) That, in my opinion is a sign of high commitment. This huge crowd got itself to the port and back with only a small police presence (I saw a dozen or so police on motorcycles at a few intersections along the route of the march, but they weren’t directing traffic.)

“Shutting down the port” can conjure up many different pictures. My experience of what happened was that the crowds alone clogged the roads leading to and from the port which make truck traffic impossible. From where I was, I didn’t see any other sort of disruptive action. Mostly what I witnessed was people walking down and then walking back. I felt the primary message that was being communicated was “we are standing together because things need to change.” (From other reports I have seen, the port may have chosen to close even before the march arrived there.)

When I walked back to downtown Oakland which was still relatively early (7:30 pm) a group was gathered in the intersection at Broadway and 14th. I must say, I felt at that point I experienced a bit of dread, because I believe the possibility for conflict dramatically increases the later it gets. And this morning, I began hearing the reports of problems. This will always be the part of the story that the media leads with.

I am a firm believer in non-violent protest and I see absolutely no value in the defacement or destruction of property. It seems a shame that the dynamics of public and political action and the attention they receive pivot precisely on that. The Occupy Oakland movement has both benefitted and will be harmed in this unfortunate equation. As a progressive person of faith, I believe that “the truth will set us free” and that the truth of any situation has many sides to it. I would hope to see a fuller truth represented in the media.

Other stories and points of view on the activities in Oakland and the larger issues of the “Occupy Movement” are welcome. Email your thoughts to pporter@fccb.org.