January is recognized in the United States as Human Trafficking Awareness Month and the 2009 UCC Synod Resolution against human trafficking urges congregations to recognize January 11 as Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Human trafficking, also known as modern slavery, affected and estimated 40.3 million people in 2016, including 24.9 million people in forced labor and 15.4 million in forced marriage, and is the third most profitable form of transnational crime.
For faith advocates working for justice, trying to bring the voices and concerns of the most vulnerable to the center of public policy decision-making, this last year has felt like an advocacy marathon. And what a marathon you have been running in 2019!
It has been my honor to serve the United Church of Christ (as well as the Disciples of Christ) through Global Ministries in Colombia, as a human rights worker, for the past twelve years. I am not sure there could have been a more meaningful or interesting country in which to work for human rights over this time period.
Elections matter – local, state or national, in a presidential election year or not. The outcomes of elections influence the policies that impact our daily lives – be it health care, education, transportation, student loan debt, clean water, and much more. Election Day 2019 is reminder that a pivotal presidential election year is right around the corner. The stakes are even higher for November 3, 2020. The challenges before our communities, our nation, and our world are immense.
One year ago, we watched you bravely recount your experience of sexual assault by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanagh. We, the faith community, honor your story, and stand with you as we witness the anniversary of this significant moment. We recognize your life has been forever altered because of your remarkable courage, and we thank you. We have watched you suffer from hateful threats of violence against your life, and we are so sorry.
We, as a global community, are at a crossroads. Will we listen to these prophets of our time? Will we hear the warnings of experts and future generations as they prophesize a future in which “the Earth shall mourn, and the heavens above grow black…"?
Thank you for your advocacy and witness in these challenging times...
Understanding who gives money to political campaigns and how campaigns are financed is critically important to being an informed voter and citizen. As we take time to do advocacy for the many issues we care about and doing the important work of building a just world for all – we must strive to enact robust and thoughtful campaign finance reforms. In fact, campaign finance and money in politics is at the root of many of the issues we work on every day.
Sarah was a sophomore in college when she found out that she was pregnant. This was before Roe v. Wade, during a time when women had few options. She was referred for counseling to a member of the Clergy Consultation Network Service, an underground organization of ministers and rabbis who were able to direct women to safe providers of abortion if they wanted to terminate. Sarah did, and traveled out of state to a legal clinic in New York City, in a state which had legalized abortion.
“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14: 19).
On Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019, bombs went off in multiple locations around Sri Lanka. 3 of the locations were churches where Easter was being celebrated. The official death toll as of April 26 is 253 people and more than 500 people were wounded. The Sri Lankan government has stated that the perpetrators were members of a local militant Muslim group, National Thowheed Jamath. Both Christians and Muslims are minority groups in Sri Lanka. The majority of the population is Buddhist (around 70%).
Religious freedom is one of our core national values. It is one of the dynamics of our common life that distinguishes the United States from many other nations in our global community. Our foundation of religious freedom creates the space for a vibrant, pluralistic society with a robust exchange of ideas, visions and perspectives. So it is all the more alarming that such fundamental value would become a tool for exclusion.
The economic justice work of the United Church of Christ is a way to affirm and uplift the call of God to love our neighbor and care for vulnerable communities. God envisions a world where all people live lives of wholeness, with opportunity to thrive. For us this means envisioning legislation and policies that reduce poverty, uphold and enforce workplace fairness practices and create circumstances for people to flourish.
If one were to judge our state of the union based solely on the president’s speech last night, it would be a bleak outlook indeed. The Administration’s sustained attacks on women, migrants, LGBTQ folx, people with disabilities, communities of color and a whole host of vulnerable populations is breathtaking in its scope. Normally, this would be a piece breaking down what was in the State of the Union address and comparing it to the things we had hoped the president would say or refuting incorrect statements, but in what was the third longest State of the Union ever, there was little substance to dig into.
In the midst of this Advent season, even as we move through our days in hope-filled expectation of Emmanuel, God-With-Us, we pause to look back over the road we have traveled this past year. It has been a challenging, chaotic, heart-breaking and exhausting year in so many ways. Still, my heart overflows with gratitude for your tireless, faithful justice witness.
When you picture people who have been trafficked and are now what we call “modern slaves”, who do you picture? The most common picture is of a poor woman or child in forced prostitution or sex slavery. However, this accounted for only 20% of all modern slaves in 2016 (4.8 million people). The remaining 80% of modern slaves (20.1 million people) are in some other type of forced labor; the industries that had the most modern slaves in 2016 include domestic servitude (24%), construction (18%), manufacturing (15%), and agriculture and fishing (11%).
A powerful poem by Warsan Shire called Home has been circulating as a deeply heart-wrenching encapsulation of the refugee and asylum seekers reasons for embarking on their journey. It says, “no one leaves home unless home is in the mouth of a shark; you only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well.”
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. But really every month is domestic violence awareness month and sexual assault awareness month to those who have had to endure abuse and violence. These past few weeks have shown in stark, real, and devastating terms the world that women live in. (Read more.)
Our Just Peace identity as a church challenges us to work for justice in a holistic way, and so we must address immigration not only at our border, but also examine the broader systemic push factors that impact our neighbors in Central America. (Read more.)
August 6 and August 9 are the anniversaries of the only two instances where nuclear weapons were used as a tool of warfare. August 6, 1945 at 8:15am was when the first atomic bomb was dropped over Hiroshima and August 9, 1945 at 11:01am was when the second was dropped over Nagasaki. Both bombs leveled the cities and killed more than 150,000 people, half of whom were killed the day of the bombings from the explosion and ensuing fire, while the other half were killed in the days, weeks, months, and years that followed. The exact number of victims is still unknown. (Read more.)
It is hard to believe, but August is just around the corner. This has been a challenging and fast-paced year for justice advocacy, and it is important to take time in the midst of the struggle to renew and re-energize body, mind and soul. But the lazy, hazy “dog days” of August are actually a critical time for justice organizing and mobilizing. Here are some ways you can take advantage of August opportunities to influence public policy and prepare for the November elections.
June is Pride month. We often hear proclamations of support and welcome for the LGBTQIA community during this time. Like all of our Creator’s children, those fabulous creations of God should be openly affirmed, but saying we’re all created in the image of God and living into that declaration are entirely different.
Too often in our history, the anti-war movement and those causes working for justice for the poor, or the environment, or LGBTQ rights, or any number of issues have remained separate. The Poor People’s Campaign is a call and reminder that our causes are the same. Justice and peace, as we have articulated in the United Church of Christ, are connected. Just Peace remains a vision for a world that could be, a world in which all are included, all are liberated, and together we build a Just World for All.
At the core of democracy is the foundational principle of voting. It is the most fundamental access point for individuals to engage in the public dialogue and have a voice in the public policy decision-making process that can shape the future of our local, regional, national and global collective life. President Roosevelt once said, “Nobody will ever deprive the American people the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they can ever do that is by not voting.”
He was only partially right. (Read more.)
On Monday, May 14 the Poor People's Campaign will launch 40 days of action and advocacy in state capitols and in Washington, DC calling for voting rights protections, programs to address poverty, attention to ecological devastation and measures to curb militarism and the war economy.
Each week will have an issue focus and this first week's theme is, "Somebody’s Hurting Our People: Child Poverty, Women, LGBTQ Community and People with Disabilities." These are the very communities that will be directly harmed by changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP.
There’s been a lot of talk in the news recently about the Administration’s proposed rescission request. The House has now taken up the proposal and will be considering H.R. 3, the legislative vehicle for the request. These are bad proposals – the rescissions request is bad policy and the eagerness of the House to comply with the Administration taking charge of the Congressional budget process sets a bad precedent. The request eliminates funding that will result in unmet needs in public health, education, job training, housing and other critical programs. (Read more.)
As the system stands now, gaining access to needed services – including SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits and Medicaid (which provides limited health services to low income individuals) - is already very challenging. The approval process is riddled with complications and hoops to jump through.
This process is about to get a lot harder and a lot more restrictive. Here are just a few examples of the significant ways the Administration and Congress are attempting to kick people off these programs and decrease the scope of government assistance, all under the guise of “encouraging self-sufficiency.” (Read more.)
We are excited to introduce two new members of the UCC National Staff team. Rev. Dr. Sarah Lund has joined the Wholeness Advocacy Team of Justice and Local Church Ministries, serving as Minister for Disabilities and Mental Health Justice, a new part-time position. Roberto (Robert) Ochoa will join the National Staff this month as Program Associate for Congregations of Color. (Read more.)
Standing in the Valley: Reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., thousands of marchers gathered in Washington, D.C. at the National Council of Churches’ Unite to End Racism Rally, to remember his legacy and commit to the ongoing work of dismantling racism in America.
Rev. Karen Georgia A. Thompson – a poet, pastor and our UCC Minister for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations – was there. Here she shares her poetry and, in doing so, provides us with an opportunity to deeply reflect on the history of our nation and our faith, the ways that racism has shaped us as individuals and as a people, and our call to vision a new way forward.
Finding one’s place in the world can be hard. So, securing somewhere to call home is a blessing. Our sacred texts call us to welcome everyone into the inn. Conflict, corruption, and climate change are displacing people worldwide.
The National Council of Churches, along with multiple Christian denominations and interfaith partners, put their heart and souls into an incredibly moving day marking the beginning of a multi-year campaign to end racism in the United States. A.C.T. Now To End Racism (Awaken-Confront-Transform) is intended to continue racial equity and equal justice work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The rally event was held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of King in Washington, D.C. April 4th on the National Mall. (Read more.)