Posts Tagged ‘human-rights’

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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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Mother’s Day

May 6, 2014

by Senior Minister Patricia de Jong

As Mother’s Day approaches, I walk by the card aisle at the drugstore and contemplate the card I will not buy this year. Since my own mother has been dead for many years, I am tempted to skip this day altogether, but there are many women in this community and in my life who embody the best of what I believe it means to be a mother, sister, daughter and woman and friend. I am thankful for them all.

Mother’s Day has become for me, a time of quiet celebration of what it means to be a good and courageous human being in whatever life circumstance we find ourselves. The original idea for Mother’s Day emerged out of the Civil War, with a group of grieving mothers resolving to work together to abolish war. The idea of a day for mothers was in response to the heavy toll that war had extracted from their lives. Later, as it became more commercial, people lost sight of the desire for peace and justice that originally grounded a day for mothers.

The origins of this day were centered around the need of women to create a better world for their children rather than becoming the focus of attention and adulation. Perhaps we can reclaim an important aspect of the legacy of those brave women who came before us by intentionally lifting up peace and justice this Mother’s Day.

redcarnationI’d rather not give this day away to Hallmark or Flowers.com or even a great place to have brunch. Instead, I’d like to lift up a prayer for the mothers and fathers of those 270 Nigerian girls who were kidnapped from their school three weeks ago. They still don’t know what happened to the girls or if they will see their children again. And not so far from us, in the Ukraine, the madness of war has once again threatened to destroy the lives of children and families and a whole nation. And our own Mother Earth is ravaged by our lack of conscious attention to the ways we have ignored and abused her.

Every time I baptize a baby, child or adult, I say “Mother of us all,” to remind us that we are held by a powerful and gentle God who broods and frets over us like a mother hen. Yet she also calls forth from us the best of what is means to be a child of God—courage, steadiness of commitment to the common good, lovingkindness and a willingness to act for justice and peace.

However you celebrate this day, may the Mother of Us All shine in you and give you courage and strength for your life work.

Find out 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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A Lament for Lynching

July 17, 2012

by Phil Porter, First Church Minister of Art & Communication and member of the Diversity Ministry Team

This piece was originally published in the First Church newsletter The Carillon. It was written in the context of a study the church was doing of Dr. James Cone’s book The Cross and the Lynching Tree.

When I was in high school, I had a teacher with whom I worked quite a bit. More than once, when I apologized to her for something I had done, she would say “Don’t be sorry, just do better next time.” I understood and appreciated the sentiment—paying attention to future actions and not repeating mistakes rather than regretting the past. But it also changed my habits around apology. I think I apologized less to her and to others and I’m not that was a good thing.

In my mind, there are a couple of different ways to apologize.  In the first, I may have done something I regretted. I say “I’m sorry” to the ones who were affected by my actions. In the second, I may recognize that a bad thing has happened to someone. I may say “I’m sorry that that happened to you.” The intention is less about my personal regret or responsibility and more about expressing compassion and solidarity.

Sometimes, I find myself  in between the two. I may feel a need to apologize because I recognize that a wrong has been done, but I may not be sure about my own personal responsibility.

Over a period of forty years from about 1880 to 1940, there were over 3400 reported cases of lynching in the United States. Who knows how many more went unreported? This violence and terrorism was brutal and widespread, and went unchecked by law enforcement, government or civic and religious institutions. Its purpose was not only to punish but to “frighten to death.” It was racism most blatant.

I’m sorry that this happened in this country or anywhere. I’m sorry that the pain of this period reverberates in individuals and in the collective body even today. And I find myself in that territory where I’m not sure of my own responsibility. Those events have seemed distant both in time and location, but the more I learn, the more I open myself to this tragedy, the more I wonder what responsibility I carry. Sometimes my sense of responsibility comes from a collective rather than individual identity. I may be at fault, not as one person but as a member of a group, whether that membership is chosen or not. As a spiritual practice, I try not to shirk my collective responsibility even when an inner voice is saying, “but it wasn’t really me that did this!”

As a white person, I feel a need to make my regret explicit for lynching and all the other practices that have terrorized and demeaned black people throughout the years. Otherwise, how with those who carry that painful legacy know that I stand with them? I’m sorry all of that happened.

And because these sorts of things are still going on, I will also try to follow advice of my high school teacher to do better this time and the next.