December 13, 2014

ICUJP Statement on Release of Torture Report

Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP) applauds the long-delayed release of the Executive Summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the CIA's use of torture on post 9/11 detainees.

Even in its heavily-redacted form, the 500-page summary is shocking in its detailed and thoroughly documented account of barbaric acts of torture sanctioned by our government -- acts which not only violated our moral standards as a country but proved ineffective and often counterproductive in producing useful intelligence. Indeed our use of torture became and continues to be a powerful recruiting tool for terrorist groups.

Global Religious Leaders Issue Joint Call for Eradication of Modern Slavery

On December 2, the campaign to end human trafficking took a big step forward. Religious leaders from across the globe assembled at the Vatican on that day to sign a Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Modern Slavery. This is the first time that leaders of the Christian Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox, as well as Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim faiths have come together to jointly declare their intention to end modern-day slavery. Along with other government officials from around the world, we were honored to be there to witness this historic event.

Shortly after his election, Pope Francis sent Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, a handwritten note saying, “it would be good to examine human trafficking.” That was the spark that led to the formation of the Global Freedom Network (GFN), an initiative spearheaded by Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, and Mr. Andrew Forrest, Chair and Founder of the Walk Free Foundation, with the mission of eradicating modern slavery and human trafficking by 2020. The GFN organized the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Modern Slavery, and it has now invited religious leaders of all faiths and nations to add their names to it. The Declaration reads in part:

Editorial: Why Are White People Still Childishly Confident About The Police?

Despite two recent decisions by grand juries in Ferguson and Staten Island not to indict White police officers in the killings of two unarmed Black men and the international protests those decisions sparked, a new NBC News/Marist poll finds that whites are very confident in law enforcement’s ability to police Black and whites equally.

In the poll, 52 percent of whites claimed to have a "great deal" of confidence that police officers in their community treat Blacks and whites the same. As Scott Clement noted over at the Washington Post, this is "11 points higher than in a September NBC/Wall Street Journal poll asking the same question." It is a different firm conducting the poll, but the results are no less concerning.
Naturally, the NBC News/Marist poll highlighted sharp racial divides:

Editorial: A Pastoral Letter to White Americans

The stories of young black men being killed by white police are sparking a national conversation. However, public responses to these painful stories reveal an alarming racial divide. From an unarmed teenager killed in Ferguson, Mo.; to a 12 year-old boy shot dead in Cleveland; to a white police officer on video choking a black man to death in New York City; and a startling series of similar stories from across the country and over many decades — our reactions show great differences in white and black perspectives.

Many white Americans tend to see this problem as unfortunate incidents based on individual circumstances. Black Americans see a system in which their black lives matter less than white lives. That is a fundamental difference of experience between white and black Americans, between black and white parents, even between white and black Christians. The question is: Are we white people going to listen or not?

Palestine and Israel – International Recognition and UN Resolutions

Palestinians took a step toward joining the International Criminal Court (ICC) Monday when Palestine became an official observer state. Later that day Israel’s parliament voted to officially dissolve itself in preparation for March 17th elections, two years earlier than expected.

Tuesday, Ireland became the most recent European nation to pass a nonbinding resolution calling for the formal recognition of the state of Palestine. Next week the Swiss government will convene the states that are a party to the Fourth Geneva Convention to discuss the situation in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The meeting is expected to “issue a harsh condemnation of Israel for its construction in the settlements.” Israel, the US and Australia are not expected to attend.

Members of U.S. Faith Community Praise Uruguay for “Welcoming the Stranger”

In response to the six Guantanamo detainees who were resettled in Uruguay today, members of the U.S. faith community representing three perspectives released the following statements.

Matt Hawthorne, Policy Director for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, said, “It is morally wrong to imprison people without charge or trial, something the U.S. has been doing at Guantanamo for more than a decade. Uruguay has done something noble today by accepting six people into its country and freeing them from seemingly permanent imprisonment without trial. The U.S. could stand to learn something from Uruguay.”

Stacy Martin, Director for Policy and Advocacy at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, added, “In taking seriously the moral imperative to welcome the stranger—something that the U.S. has been unwilling to do with Guantanamo detainees who pose no threat to national security nor to the communities to which they would be resettled—the Uruguayan government has displayed leadership and is a positive example to the U.S. and the rest of the international community.

Editorial: Lethal Drones and the Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare

As a child in the 1960s, I was fascinated by remote-control model airplanes being launched from the grounds of a local elementary school near my home. I would watch as the pilots, from the ground, guided the planes to do climbs, dives, loop-de-loops, and long, lazy circles before landing them in the big open field behind the school. It was fun, and it was innocent - and I was amazed by people who could build and fly these little marvels of technology. Little did I know that this very technology would reshape the nature of American warfare and challenge the core of my religious morality.

Back then, drone was not part of my vocabulary. It wasn't until high school that I learned that pilotless aircraft had been used for years - especially during the Cold War. Even then, it seemed pretty benign to me. We were involved in spying and reconnaissance. We were watching "them," and they watched us.

Black Evangelicals Gather to Pray and Act on Behalf of African-Descended People

The National Black Evangelical Association is holding its 52nd-Year Convention from April 22-25, 2015. The convention is at the Hilton Oak Lawn Hotel in Chicago, Illinois.

The executives and the board of the NBEA invite all to join for the convention, themed “Cush Cries Out. Christ Answers! African-descended Evangelical Affirmations and Action.”

The Early Bird Registration is $200 for an individual, $350 for couples, and $100 for students, and the deadline is Friday, January 2, 2015. Normal Registration is $225 for an individual, $375 for couples, and $125 for students.

U.S. Churches and the Boycott of Israeli Settlements

Why are some churches in the U.S. calling for boycotts and divestment aimed at companies that profit from Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories? The decision last summer of the Presbyterian Church USA (CPUSA) to divest church pension funds from three such companies resulted in first-page coverage in The New York Times. A few weeks ago a grassroots group of pastors and lay members of the United Methodist Church (UMC) launched a holiday-season campaign to boycott products made in Israeli settlements located on occupied Palestinian land. While this group of Methodists is not an official agency of the UMC, it bases its boycott call on a 2012 decision of the policy-making body of the church calling "on all nations to prohibit any financial support by individuals or organizations for the construction and maintenance of settlements; and also to prohibit the import of products made by companies in Israeli settlements."

International Delegation of Christian Youth Denounces Ongoing Mining-Related Repression in Orissa, India

An international delegation of Christian students and young people from seven countries and various denominations visited communities in Odisha, India. These communities have been impacted by the proposed $12 billion steel plant project of South Korean-based Pohang Steel Company (POSCO) on December 2, 2014.

In 2005, those most affected by POSCO's plans formed POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti or the Anti-POSCO People’s Movement, which supports the rights of communities threatened with displacement. Their efforts to defend their land and livelihoods continue to be met with brutal repression by state-backed police forces.

Reports from both Indian and international civil society groups document the gross human rights abuses inflicted upon villagers including: targeted bombings of local activists, the use of rubber bullets and tear gas on peacefully assembled protesters, and unfounded charges.

WCC Launches Global Ecumenical Network for Advocacy for Just Peace

To build just and sustainable peace, engaging churches, ecumenical organizations and civil society, the World Council of Churches (WCC) has launched an Ecumenical Peace Advocacy Network (EPAN) at its conference held from 1-5 December in Sigtuna, Sweden. The work of the EPAN aims to turn into concrete actions the theme “pilgrimage of justice and peace” described in a call issued by the WCC Busan Assembly in 2013.

The WCC consultation and workshop on Peace-building and Advocacy for Just Peace was hosted by the Church of Sweden, the Uniting Church in Sweden, and the Christian Council of Sweden. More than 80 ecumenical advocacy experts, church leaders, as well as civil society and United Nations partners from 37 different countries, took part in the event.

CANADA: Sights and sounds from the Nov 30th “We’re Still Here” Event

November 30, 2014 marked five years since KAIROS got word that their CIDA funding had suddenly and unexpectedly come to an end. But KAIROS is still here - so we had a party! Several, in fact: a big one in Toronto and house parties across Canada.

You’ll see from the sights and sounds in our Storify below that this was an event with a global reach. The flood of solidarity videos and messages from KAIROS partners north and south was exciting, humbling and inspiring, all at the same time. And one, from Rick Mercer, was funny as well!

December 7, 2014

Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare Held By Princeton Theological Seminary

As the United States’ use of drone warfare has become more prevalent with an estimated 400 drone strikes since 20014 carried out by the CIA, people of faith have questioned its morality. In light of differing opinions and a lack of transparent information, the Princeton Theological Seminary will host the first Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare on January 23-25 to discuss this complex moral debate.

Participants include multi-denominational religious leaders and experts in law, ethics, and military police. The conference goals include making recommendations to the government and the religious community on how to address the use of lethal drones.

Upcoming Events

Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc.

2015 Clergy and Lay Leadership Conference
February 9-12, 2015
Norfolk Waterside Marriott, Norfolk, VA

Reclaiming Our Moral Authority: Faith and Justice in the Age of Reinvented Empire

speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves…” Proverbs 31:8-9 (NIV)

Click here to register.

This Week's State of Belief: Justice, peace and water for all

This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, host Rev. Welton Gaddy tackles issues that go beyond one faith alone.

Veteran Vatican reporter Josephine McKenna evaluates Pope Francis’ visit to Turkey last weekend, during which he condemned violence perpetrated by ISIS and fostered a better relationship between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.

Though American news media no longer features round-the-clock coverage about Ebola, afflicted West African nations need clean water as much as medical care to help fight the spread of the disease. Living Water International Executive Vice President Malcolm Morris joins Welton to discuss the importance of clean water initiatives in developing countries.

Women and Worship Conference: Finding Our Voices, Expressing Our Visions

The gifts and perspectives of women, both laity and clergy, contribute to church renewal through models of fully shared leadership, integration of the arts, creative and just use of language, engagement in hospitality, and care for the world and its people. The Women and Worship Conference slated for Jan. 13-14 at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa offers participants a chance to collaborate in expressing their visions and finding their voices through worship, conversation, creative activities and song.

The conference immediately precedes the Re-Mind/Re-New event and takes advantage of sthe presence of Rev. Dr. Ruth Duck's presence.

Keynote speakers include Duck, Professor of Worship at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL.; the Rev. Colleen Kwong, Minister of the Arts at Christ Church (United Church of Christ) in Milwaukee; and Dr. Rebecca Ferguson, a teacher and writer in Milwaukee. Small-group sessions include Feminine Images of God in the Bible, Male Allies for Gender Justice, Women and Seminary, Congregational Emancipatory Language Policies, Intersections with Racial Justice, and Inclusive and Just Language.

SPECIAL REPORT: Police and Black Children

In a new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers asked college students and police officers to estimate the ages of young children who they were told had committed a crime (both misdemeanors and felonies). In both groups, respondents were far more likely to overestimate the ages of young black boys than young white boys; they were also less likely to view black children as innocent.

“Children in most societies are considered to be in a distinct group with characteristics such as innocence and the need for protection,” study author and professor of psychology at UCLA Phillip Atiba Goff said of the study. “Our research found that black boys can be seen as responsible for their actions at an age when white boys still benefit from the assumption that children are essentially innocent.”

From RCRC: The Sad State of Reproductive Justice in 2014

This summer, the Supreme Court of the United States held that business owners have a religious right to deny their female employees the contraceptive coverage mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The court also decreed that protestors have a religious right to try to prevent women from entering health clinics through spiritual harassment and intimidation.

This year, states from Texas to Ohio closed dozens of women’s clinics, leaving hundreds of thousands of low-income women dealing with a catastrophic lack of health care.

And with a safe, legal abortion virtually regulated out of existence, poor women in parts of this country are self-aborting at rates not seen since before Roe v. Wade.

From SOA Watch: Videos and Photos from the Vigil

Edward Dubose of the NAACP and 2,500 human rights activists chanted "You Can't Stop the Revolution" at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia (video). We are as determined as ever to end militarized state violence in the US and abroad.

The 25th November Vigil with the theme "Communities in Resistance, Presentes!" was a great success and brought together torture survivors, migrants, people of faith, students, union workers and grassroots activists from Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Venezuela, Canada, and the United States. Together, we are building a new culture of justice and peace. Click here to watch a video from the vigil by Jihan Hafiz and check out the photos by Tom Bottolene, Amy Held, and others.

December 6, 2014

Editorial from Jim Wallis: America, We've Got a Problem

I was in Ferguson Wednesday when it happened: In a morally stunning decision, a Staten Island grand jury announced it would not bring criminal charges against a white police officer who choked a black man to death during a brutal incident last July. Stopped for allegedly selling some loose and therefore untaxed cigarettes, officer Daniel Pantaleo put a “chokehold” on Eric Garner, despite the fact that the move is against NYPD rules. Video of the incident shows Garner uttering his last words, “I can’t breathe.” New York’s medical examiner officially called this a “homicide,” but the grand jury said no charges will be made.

Of course, this comes just 10 days after the Ferguson grand jury decision not to indict another white police officer, Darren Wilson, for fatally shooting an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown on Aug. 9. Sojourners had convened a retreat in Ferguson for both national faith leaders and local pastors to look deeply at the historical and theological foundations of the Ferguson events and reflect upon how the church must respond. Emotional calls from pastors in New York City came with the horrible news, and people just began to weep — one young man wailing, “This time it was all on video …. and it still didn’t matter! How can I as a black man bring a black son into this world?” Lament and prayers followed with a resolve from an extraordinary two days on the ground in Ferguson — to act.