Subject: NCC Weekly News: Protecting Welcome, Restoring Hope

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From Jim: My remarks at NCC-CWS March 3 press conference
The roots of the U.S. refugee resettlement program are grounded in our faith communities. Church World Service began its ministry 70 years ago. In fact, I was once a member of a local church that remained proud of their involvement in efforts to aid refugees and displaced people in Europe and Asia at the end of World War II.

The National Council of Churches and Church World Service are joining forces today because all three immigration and refugee-related executive orders issued by President Trump are directly counter to the biblical tenets to welcome the stranger and treat the sojourner as we would our own citizens.

History will judge us based on how we treat our most vulnerable - the widow, the orphan, and the refugee - during trying times. Offering protection to people seeking safety is one of our nation’s proudest and longest standing traditions, and this kind of callous and discriminatory policy directly contradicts it.

As people of faith, one of our most precious values is to welcome the stranger and assist those most in need. In plain language, to turn away the stranger is un-Christian. President Trump, who was raised in a Presbyterian church in Queens, NY and married in a Reformed Church of America congregation in New York City, both of which are part of the NCC and CWS, should know this.

As Christians, we have a moral responsibility to speak out and advocate alongside our immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters to stop these unjust and immoral executive orders. Through this Ecumenical Declaration, we pledge to "Protect Welcome and Restore Hope" by engaging our congregations and networks in safeguarding the refugee resettlement program and bringing a bold, prophetic voice to stand in solidarity with immigrants and refugees.

But we will not stop at words. As a community, we will hold events across the country in our congregations to bring our membership together to stand united in opposition to xenophobic, and bigoted policies of exclusion this Administration is propagating. We will mobilize our local congregations to make it very clear to all elected leaders - America is a nation of immigrants, was founded on a noble idea of a safe haven for those persecuted around the globe - and we will not change that now.

We commend our member communions and the tens of thousands of local churches that constitute them to dedicate one Sunday during the next three months to honor refugee and immigrant journeys and lift them up in prayer and through prophetic action. We know that hearts and minds are transformed through relationships built through refugee resettlement. 

Yours in Christ,
Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary
National Council of Churches

Ecumenical Declaration: Protecting Welcome, Restoring Hope

We representatives of Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican communions in the United States, Church World Service and the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States, gathered together this 10th day of February, 2017, seek to join our efforts to those of other religious communities striving for the same sacred purposes, and officially declare our strong opposition to the executive order entitled “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals.” On behalf of our joint membership of 37 national member communions constituting more than 30 million Americans, we stand united in our resolve to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God in fellowship with the vulnerable, the outcast, the widow, the orphan, the immigrant, and all persons in need. As Americans, we are a nation of displaced persons.

This executive order drastically reduces refugee admissions; temporarily suspends the entire U.S. resettlement program; ends the resettlement of Syrian refugees; indefinitely bans individuals from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan from entering the United States; and preferences religious minorities. We have already witnessed the heartbreaking consequences of this executive order. Refugees who had waited years to be approved for resettlement to the United States; who had sold their belongings and given up their shelter in preparation to finally find safety, had their flights abruptly canceled and hopes of being reunited with their families in the United States dashed.

By providing preference to Christians and other religious minorities, this executive order actually places them at greater risk in some countries, where they are seen as having special status and protection. We are unequivocally opposed to any policy that restricts access to life-saving protection due to a person’s religion.


Welcome Refugees, Churches Say in a Public Challenge to Trump

The fight against President Trump’s executive orders to turn away refugees, deport undocumented immigrants and build a wall along the Mexican border is about to escalate in many American churches.

A broad network of 37 Protestant and Orthodox Christian denominations will announce on Friday a campaign to mobilize its congregants — some 30 million Americans in all — to lobby the president and members of Congress to rescind the executive orders.

In a declaration hammered out over the last month, church leaders call the orders “unjust and immoral” and say they run counter to “the values we as people of faith hold dear: to welcome the stranger and assist those most in need.”

“It is imperative that we speak out against the notion that refugees are a threat to our safety,” the declaration adds. “They are not.”


Bishop Younan awarded Niwano Peace Prize

Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land was named a recipient of the Niwano Peace Prize for his work toward interreligious dialogue among Christians, Muslims, and Jews in Jerusalem and worldwide.

Younan, who is also president of the Lutheran World Federation, is the 34th recipient of the award, given yearly by the Niwano Peace Foundation (NPF) of Japan to recognize an individual or organization that has dedicated their service and scholarship to promoting peaceful cooperation among religions, particularly in places of difficulty.

Among other accomplishments, Younan’s strong witness for interfaith harmony, equal dignity and respect for all people, nonviolence, and a just peace between Israel and Palestine are being recognized.

A ceremony for Younan will take place in Tokyo, Japan on 27 July.


Federal immigration raids net many without criminal records, sowing fear

Oscar Ramirez and Thermon Brewster walked out of the Rising Hope United Methodist Mission Church just before 7 a.m. — when those who sleep at its homeless shelter must leave for the day.

Outside the church in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County, Va., U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents were waiting.

As the two men and others crossed the street toward a shopping center on Feb. 8, about a dozen ICE agents ordered them up against the wall of a grocery store, questioning them about their immigration status. According to Ramirez and Brewster, the ICE agents then indiscriminately arrested seven of the homeless men — all of them Hispanic — and packed them into a van full of other detainees.


ELCA Ash Wednesday statement on refugees and migrants

Remember the Refugees and Migrants

On this day many people will participate in a liturgy including the Imposition of Ashes. Some presiders blot these ashes upon our foreheads and we are reminded that we are but dust and to dust shall we return. Others trace them upon our forehead in the sign of the cross, a reminder of the place to where the Lenten journey takes us. Even at the outset of this holy season we are reminded that while for some the cross is a stumbling block and for others mere foolishness, it is for those who are being called, the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:23). Remembering Christ crucified we are mindful not only of our personal need for repentance and renewal in doing the work of God, but indeed of the need of all humanity to repent of our indifference to the brokenness of our relationships, to the suffering of millions of people worldwide who are starving, oppressed, enslaved, or seeking sanctuary even if it be in a place far from their homeland.

This Lent we call our Churches to be continually mindful of the global refugee and migration crises, and the injustices and conflicts that have swelled the statistics to a number greater than ever in the history of the world. We acknowledge the good work done by so many of our synods and dioceses and parishes in sponsoring refugees, welcoming them, accompanying them and advocating for them as they settle in our countries. Similarly, we commend the compassionate work of our partner churches in other lands and intergovernmental bodies caring for migrants and refugees. We call on our Churches not to weary of this good work in the name of God.


State of Appalachia: Gathering faith voices for a thriving Appalachia

March 31 - April 1
at 
Pipestem Resort State Park in West Virginia

Over 50 years ago, the Commission on Religion in Appalachia (CORA) formed as a voice for justice in the mountains. The Commission on Religion in Appalachia (CORA) did historic, ground-breaking work to organize faith leadership.

Many of us who continue to echo its message feel that NOW is an especially meaningful and critically important time to come together once again to examine the economic, environmental and spiritual conditions of our region, to problem solve, and to organize.

Today, in the spirit of CORA, the State of Appalachia conference will examine the spiritual, economic, and ecological situation of our home.

Together, we will chart a path forward.


Egypt's Al Azhar calls for respect between religions

(Ed. note: NCC President and General Secretary Jim Winkler was present at this Cairo meeting.)

Egypt's Al Azhar has formally adopted the "Al Azhar Declaration of Islamic-Christian Mutual Co-existence" in Cairo, condemning the use of violence in the name of religion and calling on people of different faiths to live together in harmony and with mutual respect.

The declaration came at the end of the two-day "Freedom, Citizenship, Diversity and Integration" conference organized by Al Azhar and the UAE-based Muslim Council of Elders, which brought together religious leaders and dignitaries from over 50 countries.

In the final session of the conference, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Dr Shaikh Ahmad Al Tayeb, noted that the Declaration "condemns all crimes committed in the name of religion", which he said is "conduct refused by all religions and norms."

The Grand Imam's comments come at a time in which the region is plagued with sectarian and religious violence, including a string of recent high-profile attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt.

"Christians are targeted in their own homelands," Dr Shaikh Al Tayeb said. "Regardless of (the efforts) of terrorists, they will never undermine our determination to secure a common livelihood."


We're Hiring! Operations Manager and Executive Assistant

The Operations Manager and Executive Assistant is responsible for providing administrative and organizational support to the General Secretary/President of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) and overseeing all office management, computer networks and systems, office equipment, contracts administration, and human resources administration. This position will be located in the NCC’s Washington D.C. offices and is non-exempt and non-bargaining unit.

Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been a leading force for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States. The 38 NCC member communions — from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches — include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.


Commentary: Confronting Anti-Semitism in America

No one is born hating, but, tragically, some are taught to hate, whether in the name of racial purity, religious doctrine, political dogma, ethnic stereotyping, sheer jealousy—you name it.

To state the obvious, Jews have never been immune from these age-old cancers. Nor is it the case today.

In the last few weeks alone, there have been bomb threats by the dozens against Jewish community centers across the country. Other Jewish institutions – organizations, synagogues, schools – have been on the receiving end of menacing calls and messages. Cemetery desecrations of Jewish headstones in St. Louis and Philadelphia have occurred. Nazi graffiti and slurs have been encountered in Buffalo. Swastikas have been burned into the hallway carpeting in front of Jewish students’ rooms in a school dormitory. The list goes on.

Yes, they coexist with another reality, namely, that most American Jews live comfortable and secure lives in a land where pretty much every door is now wide open to them, and where a recent survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center, showed that Jews are the most positively viewed religious group in the United States. But that’s of little solace to those who have experienced, directly or indirectly, the impact of this wave of bigotry and viciousness.


Ecumenical Opportunities:

The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty is hiring a Communications Associate: the Communications Associate assists the Director of Communications in implementing the strategic communications program of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, working to convey the importance of religious liberty for all people and the separation of church and state.


Religions for Peace USA is hiring an Executive Director: Religions for Peace USA envisions a nation in which people of faith and goodwill live together in respect and mutual support, creating paths to peace and justice. Religions for Peace USA's mission is to inspire and advance common actions for peace through multireligious cooperation among our nation's religious communities. Religions for Peace USA seeks an Executive Director to be the organization's primary organizer and administrator, working to coordinate a bold, shared witness for peace and justice among our member religious communities and to provide a moral compass in the religiously pluralistic context of the United States of today and the future.


The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations is seeking an intern to provide research, policy, and administrative support during the summer of 2017, from May to August. This policy, research, and advocacy internship, based at our Capitol Hill office, provides the intern with opportunities to learn and practice the skills of policy research and analysis, advocacy, and engagement. While the intern will have significant autonomy in their work, the staff works closely with them to provide an enriching experience and access to outside experts and resources; an intern can expect mentoring and training in skills desirable in any policy-based office. The internship will be full time and will include a stipend.



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