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September 11, 2014

Israel Claims West Bank Land For Settlement Expansion

On August 31st Israel declared 4,000 dunams or nearly 1,000 acres, near Bethlehem to be state land. The Palestinian Mayor of Surif stated that the land was planted with olive and forest trees and belonged to Palestinian families from the villages of Surif, Jaba’a and Wadi Fukin. The Israeli Coordination of Government Activities in Territories (GOGAT) said the move had been ordered in response to the abduction and murder of three Jewish teenagers in June and is designed to create contiguity between the Green (armistice) Line and three settlements, Bitsar Ilit, Kfar Etzion, and Gva’ot; the latter is a previously unrecognized settlement. COGAT said it determined there is no Palestinian claim on this land, but those opposed to the decision have 45 days to file their objections.The PLO called for a reversal of the land claim, stating that it represented Israel’s desire to impose a one-state solution. A senior Israeli official reportedly said the land expropriation announcement “drove the Americans nuts”. US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki also called on Israel to reverse its decision, noting that it sends a “very troubling message ” and is “contrary to Israeli’s stated goal of a two-state solution.”  

New Area Executive for Africa Named

Global Ministries is delighted to announce the selection of Rev. LaMarco Cable as the Area Executive for the Africa Office. Rev. Cable is an ordained minister in Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He brings an extensive background in advocacy and grass-root community organizing to this position. His work experience includes serving as Deputy Director of Organizing for Bread for the World. He led staff in the Southern Region of the United States in creating synergy and work strategies for the Organizing Department; evaluated and prepared legislative agendas, built coalition support for the organization’s legislative agenda, led presentations on hunger, justice, poverty and represented Bread for the World at coalition meetings. Also, his work included providing advocacy and policy training to regional staff and grassroots members of Bread for the World, as well as the cultivation and development of relationships with congregational donors.

Secretary Kerry Announces The New Special Representative For Muslim Communities, Shaarik Zafar

Well, Shaun, thank you very much for a warm and generous introduction. Good morning to everybody. Assalamu alaikum. Honored to be here with you this morning, and thank you so much for coming to join us on this really, frankly, exciting occasion. It’s my opportunity to be able to welcome and announce at the same time our new Special Representative for Muslim Communities, Shaarik Zafar. And – yes. applause. (Applause.) And I’m especially happy to welcome his parents – his mother, Kausar, and his father, Humayon – thank you – and his wife, Aiysha, with their lovely two children, their daughters, Sophia and Aliza. Thank you. Ladies, thank you for being here. (Applause.)

When Shaarik started drafting the U.S. Strategy on Religious Leader and Faith Community Engagement, he began with two words: “Religion matters.” We’re making that a mantra here at the State Department in our foreign policy, and I see it every single day. And I particularly see it in my multiple engagements in the Far East and South Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and Sub-Sahara Africa.

White House Immigration Relief Delay: Politics Over People

In response to the President's announcement today that he will again delay executive action on immigration, Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, released the following:
"Today's news is a clear statement from Washington that once again, politics trumps the lives of people.
Six years ago, President Obama was elected on a pledge to pass immigration reform in the first 100 days of his term.  Instead, his administration has squandered the opportunity to move a bill under a majority Democratic Congress.
They have chosen to continue the previous administration's "endgame" enforcement policies to build and expand a deportation machinery that has torn families apart, criminalized working class people whose labor we benefit from, and only served to benefit private prisons and private military contractors on the border.

KAIROS Canada: People’s Climate March

Government leaders from across the globe will be meeting in New York City on September 23 for a one-day United Nations climate summit. The People’s Climate March precedes it on September 21 and will send out a massive, united call for climate justice and a strong climate treaty.

We can’t all go to New York, but KAIROS invites you to participate in this historic mobilization from wherever you are! Some suggestions:

This would be a good time to check out ClimateFast, which KAIROS has endorsed, as it counts down to this year’s fast on Parliament Hill (September 28 to October 2) and extends an invitation to everyone to join in fasting on the first day of each month.

Citizens for Public Justice, in collaboration with the Canadian Council of Churches, has created resources for faith communities in Canada specifically related to the UN summit and the People’s Climate March. These include a bible study, bulletin inserts, an infographic on the moral implications of climate change, sermon notes, hymns for Creation, prayers of intercession and activities for youth and young adults, all of which would be particularly appropriate for worship services on Sunday, September 21.

National Council of Churches Statement on Religious Minorities in Iraq, ISIS, and the Killing of James Foley

The National Council of Churches USA grieves for the plight of Christians and other religious minorities, including Yazidis, Turkmen, and Shabaks, in Iraq.  In the early part of the last decade, there were some 1.5 million Christians living in that country. Today, it is estimated that less than 400,000 remain, with the numbers dwindling in the midst of ongoing unrest. The evolving disappearance of the Christian community from that ancient landscape, as well as the displacement of neighbors of other faiths and traditions, is a cause for great alarm. The suffering of the Iraqi people is not limited to religious minorities. 

Already long-oppressed by the harsh rule of Saddam Hussein, and still impacted by sectarian conflict after the misguided US-led invasion and war there, all people of Iraq are now suffering horrific violence caused by extremist elements, especially the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” (ISIS).  There is absolutely no justification for this kind of extremist violence, and the NCC denounces it in the strongest possible terms.In doing so, we condemn the killing of James Foley, the courageous journalist who was recently beheaded by ISIS. 


UN Passes Resolution Potentially Ending Vulture Funds

The UN General Assembly passed a historic resolution to begin negotiations for an international bankruptcy process to end global inequality and stop predatory hedge funds. The resolution passed by a super-majority vote of 124-11 with 41 abstentions, with the U.S. voting no along with 10 other countries. The bankruptcy process could make it more difficult for hold-out investors to block countries from debt restructuring and could limit future defaults. The critical financial reforms will benefit the world's poorest people, and is truly a victory. 

However, the vote will not outlaw global predatory activity in the U.S., as the US government was one of a handful of countries who voted against the resolution while defending a market-based solution.
"The United States has led for 15 years on debt relief and has been a powerful voice against predatory behavior," said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious debt relief organization, Jubilee USA. "I along with the entire faith community is so deeply saddened that the US government voted against our debt relief efforts. Our leaders failed us today."

With continued efforts by groups like Jubilee USA, an end to predatory funds in the U.S. is hopefully not far ahead. 




The Increasing Possibility Of Peace In Columbia

The Latin American Working Group ask that we stand by Columbia’s victims of violence. A peace process between the FARC guerillas and Columbian government is advancing and, for the first time, a delegation of victims was included in negotiations two weeks ago. 

The LAWG believes this moment in the negotiations is extremely important, and that we, as members of the international community, can help ensure the peace process continues by joining Columbia's victims of violence in their quest for truth, justice, meaningful reparations, and guarantees that the brutal crimes of the past will not be repeated. 

There are many obstacles ahead--from demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants to land restitution and implementing strong mechanisms for truth and justice--and achieving peace won't be easy. By addressing the underlying human rights and economic and social roots of a five-decades long conflict, the LAWG believes that peace could be on the horizon for Columbia. 

National Poll Shows The Vast Majority of Parents Support Having Strong Nutrition Standards In Schools

A poll released by the Pew Charitable Trusts, Robert Johnson Wood Foundation, and the American Heart Association reveals that parents with school-aged children widely seek standards for all food and beverages sold in schools. The USDA’s new Smart Snacks standards are being implemented this year as children return to school. 

Below are some info graphics, statistics, and poll results: 
    72% of parents favor standards for school meals and school snacks
    Most parents favor nutrition standards for all food sold to students
    91% of parents support requiring schools to serve fruits or vegetables with every meal
    Parents on both sides of the aisle support school nutrition standards, a new poll finds


Presidents Clinton, Bush, Bush, Sr., And Obama Join To Commemorate 20th Anniversary Of AmeriCorps

America’s most recent four Presidents, each playing a valuable role in the formation and growth of AmeriCorps, will celebrate the 20th anniversary on September 12th. More than 80 pledge ceremonies will take place in all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Marianna Islands, kicking off a year of service for the 75,000 members serving this year. 

President Bush, Sr. signed the 1990 National Service Act, which created the Commission on National and Community Service and funded national service pilot programs. President Clinton proposed and signed the legislation creating AmeriCorps and the Corporation for National Community Service, and launched the first class of 20,000 AmeriCorps members in 1994. President Bush added 25,000 AmeriCorps positions following 9/11. President Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, launched the President's Task Force on Expanding National Service, and created numerous innovative AmeriCorps partnerships. Since 1994, over 900,000 men and women have served in AmeriCorps.


Presidents Clinton and Obama will deliver the remarks on the South Lawn of the White House, while President Bush, Sr. will take part in an AmeriCorps pledge ceremony in Maine and President Bush will appear in a video filmed at pledge ceremonies in various locations around the country. You can watch the 11:30 AM Eastern AmeriCorps pledge and event on a live-stream at whitehouse.gov/live

Prison Corporations Cash In On Incarcerated Immigrant Children

NICOLE FLATOW
September 2, 2014
ThinkProgress

The country's largest private prison firms are experiencing strong increases in the price of their shares as a result of the incarceration of thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children in recent months.

Share prices for two of the largest private prison firms have spiked sharply since an influx of unaccompanied migrant children crossing the border was reported this summer. And some investors in GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America are seizing on the opportunity for more profit from incarceration, according to recent comments to CNN Money.

“Investors see this as an opportunity. This is a potentially untapped market that will have very strong demand,” activist investor Alex Friedmann told CNN Money.

Both firms, which house prisoners through private sector contracts with the government, have arrangements with federal agencies to detain immigrants. Since July 30, CCA’s stock has increased 8.5 percent, and GEO’s has increased 7 percent. Analyst Brian Ruttenbur added that both companies are “extremely well positioned” to “help with the crisis.”

KAIROS Canada: Advent Resource 2014

KAIROS is pleased to announce the publication of the Advent resource for 2014, Revised Common Lectionary Year B. This year’s Advent resource focuses on what reconciliation will look like after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) finishes its mandate and releases its final report in June 2015. How will your church community approach reconciliation--with the land, in the waters, with Indigenous peoples, and across genders and generations? 

The resource contains prayers, sermon notes, information on how you can participate in KAIROS work in these areas, and a “Stones of Reconciliation” ritual to be used throughout Advent and in preparation for national activities to mark the end of the TRC in June.

This is a FREE resource. You can download the entire resource at once, or Sunday by Sunday from our resources page.

Click here to download KAIROS' 2014 Advent Resource.
For more information, please visit www.kairoscanada.org

A 9/11 Commitment to interfaith Solidarity



Dear Friends,

President Bush, appearing at the Islamic Center of Washington, DC just six days after the 9/11 attack in 2001, reminded the nation that U.S. Muslims are our neighbors and friends.  The President also reminded the nation that this act of violence “violates the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith” and admonished those who would blame Islam for 9/11 that “the face of terror is not the true faith of Islam.”

President Obama, in his address to the nation last night, 13 years later, made it clear to the American people that “ISIL is not Islamic.  No religion condones the killing of innocents.”  Later, the president committed to continue providing humanitarian assistance to Christian and other religious minorities, including smaller Sunni and Shia groups in the region who are threatened by the violence of ISIL.

On the day of President Obama’s speech, the Muslim community and interfaith friends gathered across the U.S. to condemn ISIS and repudiate its message of radical Islam as a distorted version of the faith.  Faith leaders spoke out in Washington, DC at the National Press Club. They spoke out at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. The September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows are standing together to embrace their Muslim brothers and sisters by launching an ad campaign to counter Islamophobia.

Both Bush and Obama recognize that wars breed crimes of hate, and perpetrators of hate crimes often use religious identity as a defining characteristic for how they choose their victims, whether in the field of war itself, or in neighborhoods thousands of miles from the conflict zone. Despite our leaders’ calls for respect and understanding, all too often U.S. Muslims have been subject to discrimination, hate speech and violence.  For NRCAT, standing side by side with U.S. Muslims has been, and will continue to be, a key component of our campaign against U.S. torture.
Take Action
Pledge to stand with American Muslims today.  Pledge that as a person of faith, you will:
  1. Become familiar with Muslim, Sikh and other faith groups in your local community.
  2. Host an event or include a reflection in your next service of worship that models the leadership of these two presidents in recognizing the vulnerability of religious minorities and human rights in times of war.
  3. Monitor any local slurs or public commentary against Muslims that in any way links Islam to ISIL and terrorism, and respond.  If you see such examples in the local news, submit a letter to the editor.
  4. Join NRCAT and our Muslim and interfaith partners in continuing to call the U.S. to accountability for torture post-9/11 and join us to ensure that U.S.-sponsored torture does not creep back into the policy, practice or political rhetoric as the effort to combat terror unfolds.
Join NRCAT and many others this 9/11 to stand with U.S. Muslims, for peace and against torture.

July 30, 2014

SPEAK OUT! Weekly Action Alerts

Dear Colleague in Justice Advocacy,

Often the most pressing issues of our day, from tragedies at home to conflicts abroad, seem complex and unreachable. But there is always something you can do to help. Here is what you can do TODAY to let your voice be heard on some of the issues that matter most.

July 4, 2014

INDEPENDENCE DAY BLESSINGS!













The Board of Governors, the Advocacy Team, and the partner ministries of the Disciples Center for Public Witness wish you, your family, your friends and all your loved ones a very Happy Fourth of July!

May the blessings of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" soon be shared more fully and more equally by all.

June 13, 2014

THIS WEEK IN PUBLIC EDUCATION

Vergara Decision Blames Teachers, Ignores Injustices for Students in Poorest Communities

by Jan Resseger
Senior Advisor on Public Education
Disciples Center for Public Witness

Earlier this week California Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu struck down tenure and seniority protections for California’s K-12 school teachers.  This is the case of Vergara v. California.  The plaintiffs have said they will appeal.  According to Stephanie Simon, writing for Politico, “Judge Treu has tentatively decided to let the laws stay in effect pending that appeal… Judge Treu’s ruling is preliminary; he will take comments from both sides into account before issuing a final ruling within the next month.”
Nobody wants bad teachers in California’s classrooms or the classrooms in any other state.  On this particular issue Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, declared she agrees with Judge Treu: “He argues, as we do, that no one should tolerate bad teachers in the classroom.  He is right on that.”

June 2, 2014

Disciples Ministry Urges Disciples to Tell Senators: Support Sentencing Reform

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 2, 2014

Justice Advocates Support Sentencing Reform; HRM Urges Disciples to Call Their Senators

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Human Rights Ministries (HRM) of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) called on all Disciples committed to human rights and criminal justice reform to take action on prison sentencing reform by calling their senators on Wednesday, June 4, to voice their support for the bipartisan Smarter Sentencing Act. According to HRM Director Ford Rowan, "Our prisons are overcrowded with nonviolent offenders who are there on minor drug charges, most of them people of color and poor.  Justice is not served by this unjust situation.  People of faith need to speak out, and Congress needs to act."

The Smarter Sentencing Act, which has successfully passed the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and is now poised for a vote by the full Senate this month, would reduce racially disparate mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses. It would also allow current prisoners serving outdated sentences for crack cocaine offenses to apply for a sentence reduction.

The National Council of Churches (NCC), of which the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is a member, is prioritizing the issue of mass incarceration because of its tremendous impact on American populations over the past decades. Federal prisons are crowded with people serving excessive sentences for low-level and nonviolent drug crimes. Mandatory minimums have contributed to an 800% increase in the size of the federal prison population since 1980. This expensive system continues to grow and is squeezing out needed funding for crime prevention, victim services, and reentry. The Smarter Sentencing Act is a crucial step toward stopping this damaging trend.

HRM is urging Disciples to participate in a call-in campaign on Wednesday, June 4, to encourage their senators to support this much-needed legislation. Interested Disciples can call the Capitol Switchboard TWICE by dialing 1-888-427-0484, asking to speak to their state’s senators, and urging them both to support the Smarter Sentencing Act, S. 1410, and to request that their Senate leaders bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote this month. The following script has been provided:

“Hi, my name is ________, and as a constituent and member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), I urge Senator ________ to support the Smarter Sentencing Act, S. 1410, and ask that the senator tell Senate leadership to bring the bill to the floor for a vote as soon as possible. Thank you for passing along my concerns.”

The following talking points are also recommended:
• “As a person of faith, I am concerned about the harsh mandatory minimum sentences Congress passed almost 30 years ago. They have created racial disparity in federal prisons and resulted in an 800% increase in the prison population since 1980.”
• “The bipartisan Smarter Sentencing Act is an incremental sentencing reform that would reduce the excessive penalties for low-level drug offenses. I support its passage and urge you to support it as well.”
• “The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Smarter Sentencing Act, and it is ready for a vote in the full Senate. Please urge Senate leadership to bring the bill to the floor for an immediate vote.”

In their conversations, Disciples should be sure to identify themselves as constituents and to thank the staff for listening to their concerns.

For more information, please contact HRM Director Ford Rowan at fordrowan@comcast.net.

May 16, 2014

Over 150 Civil and Immigrants Rights Organizations Call to End ICE Holds

Today, May 16, over 150 immigrant, labor, civil rights, and faith organizations--including the DOC and Disciples Justice Action Network-- endorsed a letter delivered to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson, asking him to use his "existing legal authority to end Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) use of ICE holds to enlist local police as so-called 'force multipliers' that amplify enforcement of unjust immigration laws."

ICE holds are requests from ICE to local police agencies to detain individuals suspected of civil immigration violations and are a key component of of the Secure Communities deportation program. These holds, as stated in the letter, "have fueled dragnet-style enforcement and record-breaking deportation levels, and
undermined public safety instead of upholding it." They have also contributed to racial profiling at the local level.

This letter comes a day after President Obama and Sec. Johnson announced they would take a "fresh look" at the Secure Communities program.

Read the full letter here.

April 20, 2014


The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. God has sent me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery to the sight of the blind, to liberate the oppressed, to proclaim the Year of the Jubilee. (Luke 4:18-19).

He was revealed in flesh and vindicated by the Spirit. . . . (1 Timothy 3:16).

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8).

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. . . . (Philippians 2:5).


The Disciples Center for Public Witness wishes you, your family, your congregation, and all your friends and loved ones a most blessed Easter.

May the resurrection-power of the living Jesus and his everlasting passion for justice be in us and flow through us as we become more faithful examples and agents of "wholeness in a fragmented world." Christ is risen indeed! Allelulia!

April 18, 2014



Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice: for they shall be filled (Matthew 5:6).




Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of justice: for theirs is the reign of heaven (Matthew 5:10).




We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Just (1 John 2:1).



On this holy day, we join with other Disciples and all Christians around the world to pause in awe, pray in silence, and remember with genuine gratitude the saving power of God's unmerited and boundless love as it was revealed to us in the crucifixion, suffering and death of our Advocate, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Holy Week Blessings to all!