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January 24, 2015

EDITORIAL: State of the Union and Inequality: What Are You Going to Do Now?

Editorial by Jim Wallis

This week, there was a lot of commentary about the State of the Union, the title of the president’s annual January speech before a joint session of Congress. I thought it was one of Obama’s best addresses recently because he focused on what is real for this country — growing economic inequality where only a few are doing “spectacularly well” while many families are still struggling just to get by.

The wife and mother from one of those families wrote the president a letter that seemed to have moved him, so he lifted up her “tight-knit family” trying to get through “hard times,” as she sat up in the gallery next to first lady Michelle Obama. Her family became a parable for the nation that is starting to do better economically but still faces hard choices that the president sought to address with very practical suggestions to support what he called “middle class economics."

International Criminal Court Opens Preliminary Examination

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened a preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine on January 16th following its determination that Palestine’s non-member observer State status in United Nations allows Palestine to accept the ICC’s jurisdiction. The Palestinian government on January 1st signed the Rome Statue and on January 2nd it accepted ICC jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed in “the occupied Palestinian territory … since June 13, 2014.” A preliminary examination, which has no timeline, reviews available information in order to determine whether there is a “reasonable basis” to proceed with an investigation.

2014 Vigil Line Crossers to Stand Trial

Two SOA Watch Activists will stand trial at the U.S. District Court in Columbus, GA, on Thursday, January 29th for crossing the line onto the Fort Benning military base.

They were arrested on Sunday, November 23rd for illegal entry onto a U.S. Military Reservation. The two individuals are 83-year-old Eve Tetaz, an author, veteran peace and justice activist, and retired public schoolteacher, and 62-year-old Nashua Chantal, a longtime SOA Watch activist and human rights defender.

Justice In Guatemala


Many still mourning the Spanish Embassy Massacre on January 31, 1980 in Guatemala received justice this week. On Monday, a Guatemalan court sentenced Pedro Garcia Arredondo to 90 years in prison for his role in the siege, burning of the Spanish Embassy, and subsequent murders.

Arredondo was found guilty of ordering his soldiers to commit the actions that resulted in the deaths of 37 people at the Spanish Embassy and two more people who were murdered while attending the mass funeral for the Spanish Embassy victims.

Third Thursday Advocacy

Following the defeat of a UN Security Council resolution that would have set parameters and a timeline for addressing the Israeli-Palestinian impasse, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas signed a number of international treaties and conventions including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), paving the way for Palestine to join the ICC. Palestine’s membership in the ICC is scheduled to take effect on April 1, 2015 if everything proceeds according to protocol.

Israel responded by freezing $127.6 million in tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinians, and an Israeli official reportedly indicated this “is only a first step in response to the Palestinian moves at the United Nations.” In a January 5, 2015 press briefing the US State Department expressed opposition to the freeze in funds, calling it an action that raised tensions. At the same time, the State Department spokesperson called the Palestinian move to join the ICC “counterproductive,” saying, “we’re deeply troubled by the Palestinian action regarding the ICC.”

January 19, 2015

KING DAY BLESSINGS!

The Disciples Center for Public Witness joins many others within our denomination, across our nation, and around the globe to honor the birthday, life, mission and vision of one of America's strongest advocates for justice and peace: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

PRAYER: O God of our salvation, give us the grace and strength to keep Dr. King's dream alive, and to make his vision of the Beloved Community a central part of our lives as Christians, as Americans, and as members of the world community. We make this prayer in the name of the One who gave the vision to Dr. King and to us, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

CLICK HERE to watch Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" Speech.

CLICK HERE to read Dr. King's Letter from the Birmingham Jail.

CLICK HERE to read Dr. King's speech to striking sanitation workers in Memphis.

CLICK HERE to read Dr. King's speech on Vietnam.

January 18, 2015

Martin Luther King: Nonconformist #RECLAIMMLK

"History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people"

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

"I submit to you that if a man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live."

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

"Ten thousand fools proclaim themselves into obscurity, while one wise man forgets himself into immortality."

National Religious Leaders Speak Out Against House Anti-Immigrant Vote

National faith leaders have mobilized together to oppose the anti-immigrant vote passing the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act for 2015 in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Rev. John L. McCullough, President and CEO, Church World Service:
"This vote is a clear and present danger to our nation’s conscience and to victims of trafficking, unaccompanied children, DREAMers and undocumented parents of US citizens. In this new year, House Republican leaders had an opportunity to start fresh and place people over politics. Instead, their first moves were to scrap years of progress and victories for immigrant families. This is a moral outrage as millions threatened with deportation were just starting to breathe a sigh of relief. As this legislation moves to the Senate, we pray for all Senators – particularly Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – and urge them to stand firmly with America’s history as a beacon of hope, safe refuge and freedom."

Christian Leaders Challenge Presidential Candidates to Focus on Ending Hunger, Poverty

A group of 100 Christian leaders, representing many different Christian denominations, churches, colleges, and agencies from across the nation, have prepared statements challenging likely presidential candidates for the 2016 election to address their plan for ending hunger and poverty. They ask all likely presidential candidates to appear in videos and directly address the issue.

If presidential candidates respond by preparing a video, the group of Christian leaders plans to distribute the videos in an effort to raise awareness of hunger and poverty, and to make it an election issue for voters. With 49 million Americans at risk of hunger, 45 million living in poverty, one in five children living in poverty, this issue needs to be a top priority for both candidates and voters.

EDITORIAL: Race Determines Who’s A Rioter and Who’s A Reveler

By Michael Arceneaux

In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, Ohio State Buckeyes fans did what many hooligans do after their team of choice wins the college football champion on Monday night: they tore sh*t up.

This is not an uncommon practice, but it is no less interesting to see how they were portrayed in the media for their method of “celebration” as opposed to Black people with righteous indignation months prior.

National School Lunch Program: Trends and Factors Affecting Student Participation 2015 Report


The January 2015 report released by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), explores the factors behind the trends in participation in free, reduced price, and fully paid school lunch programs. 

The report also includes recommendations to increase participation among paid students. You can find the full report here.

Wage Stagnation in Nine Charts

Our country has suffered from rising income inequality and chronically slow growth in the living standards of low- and moderate-income Americans. This disappointing living-standards growth—which was in fact caused by rising income inequality—preceded the Great Recession and continues to this day. Fortunately, income inequality and middle-class living standards are now squarely on the political agenda. But despite their increasing salience, these issues are too often discussed in abstract terms. Ignored is the easy-to-understand root of rising income inequality, slow living-standards growth, and a host of other key economic challenges: the near stagnation of hourly wage growth for the vast majority of American workers over the past generation. Countering that by generating broad-based wage growth is our core economic policy challenge.

EDITORIAL: Je Suis … [?] How People of Faith Should Respond to Paris

By Jim Wallis

Our first response to the horrible and frightening violence of Paris should be grief. False religion always makes the religious grieve, but when it engages in ghastly violence against other human beings who are made in God’s image, it should break our hearts as it breaks God’s.

These hateful terrorists, masquerading as religious believers, said on video they were the “avengers” of the prophet Mohamed. As such, they murdered cartoonists in the office of a magazine they identified with blasphemy. What these killers, and those like them, don’t understand is that they are the real blasphemers now by forcing their false and murderous distortions of Islam on the world and on other children of God. Their religion is now violence itself, a blasphemous interpretation of Islam, which in its truest expression is a religion of peace. Rev. Wes Granberg-Michaelson, from the Reformed Church in America, has called Paris an “identity theft” of the Muslim faith. Several Muslim leaders have said that the damage terrorists like these do to the image of the Prophet Mohammed is much greater than any cartoonist could ever do.

SOTU: Things You Can Do

Next Tuesday, President Obama will give the annual State of the Union (SOTU) address to Congress and the nation, followed by responses from the Republican Party and the Tea Party. We’ll share our thoughts about the addresses that evening on our Voices for Human Needs blog, and we hope you’ll join in the discussion by posting your comments after you tune in (just scroll down to the bottom of our SOTU post next week!).

A few questions you might want to consider:

White House Unveils New Steps to Strengthen Working Families Across America

On January 15, 2015, President Obama proposed the boldest family friendly workplace policy initiatives on paid sick days and paid family and medical leave we have seen in a generation.

The President called for new workplace standards that would benefit millions of people as well as more support to help states establish their own paid leave policies, and sent Congress a clear call to action to support America’s working families.

Where Do We Go from Here? Mass Incarceration and the Struggle for Civil Rights

By Robynn J.A. Cox

On the surface, crime and punishment appear to be unsophisticated matters. After all, if someone takes part in a crime, then shouldn’t he or she have to suffer the consequences? But dig deeper and it is clear that crime and punishment are multidimensional problems that stem from racial prejudice justified by age-old perceptions and beliefs about African Americans. The United States has a dual criminal justice system that has helped to maintain the economic and social hierarchy in America, based on the subjugation of blacks, within the United States. Public policy, criminal justice actors, society and the media, and criminal behavior have all played roles in creating what sociologist Loic Wacquant calls the hyperincarceration of black men. But there are solutions to rectify this problem.

President Obama Proclaims Religious Freedom Day


In honor of the January 16, 1786 adoption of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, President Obama has proclaimed January 16, 2015 to be Religious Freedom Day. 

He called on Americans to commemorate the day with events and activities to teach about this critical foundation of our Nation’s liberty and to show how we can protect it for future generations. Read the full press release here.

EDITORIAL: On Faith: A Dream Deferred?

By Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith

In 1951, the poet Langston Hughes asked the question “What happens when a dream is deferred?” The questions that follow in the poem suggest pain, anger, and rage can erupt when dreams are not achieved or are deferred.

In August 1963, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., stated he had a dream of a beloved community not only rooted in the American dream, but a dream that was primarily grounded in Christian faith and in biblical texts such as the Lord’s Prayer that states, “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Dr. King and other dreamers of the time, like those in the student non-violence movement, had a vision that would bring the dream closer to my generation and subsequent generations of today. They prayed, acted, and gave so that subsequent generations would see the end of injustices, violence, hunger, and poverty for all people. A vision that would remove the scourge of racial and class bias.

ICNA Condemns Heinous Massacre in Paris

The Islamic Circle of North America strongly condemns the deadly attack in Paris committed in the name of Islam and in the name of defending Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. The attack on the offices of the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, in Paris, which killed 12 people, is not only a cowardly and ghastly act, it also goes against everything taught by the person in whose name the heinous crime was done.

Defaming and insulting the noble character of the Prophet of Allah, is not a new phenomenon. During his lifetime, he endured attacks of all kinds, including physical, psychological, emotional, and social. Despite this, he never took revenge against those who offended him. At the most, he would call on God for help and protection.

WCC Condemns Paris Slayings

Reacting to news of the deaths of twelve persons in an armed attack on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, acting general secretary of the World Council of Churches Georges Lemopoulos said:

"The fatal attack that has taken place today in Paris against the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo is an attack on human life, human dignity and the human rights of all. The World Council of Churches utterly rejects and condemns any religious justification advanced for it. Together with all people of true faith and good will, we pray for the victims and their families, for the perpetrators to be brought to justice, for the extremist ideology that inspired this attack to be extinguished, and that justified outrage may not lead to reprisals against Muslims or fuel anti-Islamic sentiment."