The Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto recently joined the Fast and Vigil for Immigration Reform organized on the San Francisco Peninsula by Peninsula Interfaith Action (the local PICO National Network Affiliate) and the Day Workers Center of Mountain View, California.
On May Day, Maria Marroquin, executive director of the Day Worker Center, began a fast that lasted 11 days – one day for each of the 11 million undocumented people currently living in the United States.
Maria spent one night in each of eleven different churches, including our two UU congregations. On May 8, the UU Church of Palo Alto hosted Maria for one night and the next evening she moved to UU San Mateo. During the evening vigil, we sang hymns, played music, prayed, and lit candles.
At UU San Mateo, we challenged our mainly English-speaking congregation to learn hymns from the Spanish version of Singing the Living Tradition. A gong sounded 11 times while we lit candles to honor all who are suffering under our broken immigration system. We were joined by visitors from the First Presbyterian Church of San Mateo who inspired us with their music. Two of us spent the night in the church fasting for 24 hours in solidarity with Maria. The following day, other visitors came to talk with Maria, and together we viewed the PBS production Lost in Detention.
For all who participated, the Fast and Vigil was a profoundly moving experience. Truly we hunger for justice.
People of faith like us are joining fasts with day laborers and immigrant communities across the country. The National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) is looking for people to extend the fast in their cities. Would you and members of your congregation fast for immigrant justice? You can sign up to fast in whatever way works for you. For example, some congregations are choosing a week together with a different person committing to fast each day.
This post was written by Connie Spearing. Connie is the chair of the Immigration Task Force at UU San Mateo.More >
We’re going to be in Louisville for the Unitarian Universalist Association’s 2013 General Assembly. Will you be there too? Join us for a meet and greet with Standing on the Side of Love staff and activists from across the country!
This is your chance to get an insider look at the campaign, provide feedback, share ideas and best practices, and see where we’re headed in the coming months.
We are just starting to plan for the third annual Thirty Days of Love, so this is a great opportunity to help shape the event. Moreover, the immigration reform bill is likely to move to the Senate floor the week of General Assembly and we will have up-to-the-minute information on immigrant justice advocacy as well.
What: Standing on the Side of Love Networking Event
When: Friday, June 21. Drop in anytime between 12:00-1:30pm.
Where: Louisville Marriott Downtown Skybox (Meeting Room 7)
Not going to be in Louisville? No problem–we love to get feedback anytime. We are also collecting photos of people standing on the side of love across the country for a slideshow. You can submit photos and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join us! Click here to RSVP today.
Standing on the Side of Love
The message above went out on Tuesday, June 4, 2013 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.More >
“No, the [Senate bipartisan immigration] bill would not loosen security at borders and ports… Ms. Napolitano’s testimony evoked a world of drones, radar and motion sensors, Border Patrol agents and National Guard troops, fencing and razor wire stretching for miles and miles. The bill calls for up to $6.5 billion in new spending, with expanded workplace-verification and entry-exit visa systems, and still more boots and fencing…”
- From a recent editorial in the New York Times
Do we really need more money for securing the border?
The noontime sun was intense, its light blinding and the air desiccating. Some ten of us were in Nogales, just south of the border, about a year ago. We–all Unitarian Universalists, from different parts of the country–went there to witness conditions at the Arizona-Mexico border. We were standing in the hazy shadow of the monstrous border fence. This is a part of what the Department of Homeland Security calls the “tactical infrastructure.”
To see it is to hate it–so oppressive is its sight. It stands about 25 feet tall–that is four to five times as tall as most of us. It goes on for miles and miles. It is a steel picket-style fence, set in concrete. Each picket is a three or four inch square, incredibly strong. These square pickets stand next to each other, their diagonals separated by a couple of inches. There are connecting structures on the top. Make no mistake: you will have to be very skilled–and very desperate–to try to scale this wall.
So, we were standing in the scorching sun. Our local guide told us about how Nogales–on both sides of today’s border–was once a united community. How the community used the open space that marks the border at festival times. The border was there but it meant very little to the people.
On our left, there was a little hill. The fence, of course, went up on the hill. We decided to walk up the hill, mostly to get a better view of the city.
Oh, but we had company! On the U.S. side of the border, there was a service road, some 50 feet from the fence. There, shining in the blinding sunlight was a white truck, Border Patrol sign emblazed on its side. Our tax dollars are indeed at work. I assumed innocently that they were just on a routine drive, looking for any trouble.
We kept walking. The truck moved. We stopped to talk or just look around. They stopped. We walked some more. The truck crept along. This went on until we reached the top of the hill. After stopping and taking a couple of pictures, we turned back. The truck turned back. And so it went on until we got in our own van and left the area.
We heard that a few weeks earlier, there had been an incidence where a young man trying to scale the fence had been shot at. The Border Patrol is well equipped with helicopters, drones, night vision equipment, and has lots and lots of men, vehicles, weapons, etc. Not to mention practically unlimited power. This certainly is a “militarized” zone!
With so much power, why do we need more and more resources for border security? Is the administration simply trying to mollify the conservatives? Or, is this proposal just another way to funnel money to contractors and equipment manufacturers who will ultimately receive a sizable portion of this allocation?
Are we really that vulnerable?
This post was written by Rashid Shaikh. Rashid is a member of the Immigration Task Force at First Parish Cambridge UU. You can find out more about BorderLinks immigration justice trips via the Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice.More >
This is the third blog post in a series leading up to the UUA General Assembly in Louisville, Kentucky from June 19-23. We are exploring issues of environmental justice and we are standing on the side of love with communities that have been adversely affected by fossil fuel extraction. Click here for more information on this year’s public witness at GA. To learn more, you can also check out previous installments of this series: “There is a Sustainable Way” and “Grateful for Everything, In Spite of Everything.”
The West Virginia hills are part of our spiritual geography. We love the mountains in all seasons–in spring with their special, tender greenness and the happy sound of melting streams; in summer with their deep green and flowery finery; in autumn with their crisp evenings, crackling bonfires, gloriously colored leaves; in winter with the clarity of their trees etched against blue skies and snowy whiteness. In all seasons they nurture our soul. We love them and feel that they love us, too. We want them to be here for generations to come.
We also grieve the mountains. It hurts to see them blown up and to hear that blowing them up is the only way to meet our nation’s energy needs. It hurts when free-flowing streams are buried and clean water is destroyed. We believe the mountains and the streams know we grieve their passing because we are interconnected, part of the same web of life.
We live with the paradox of love and grief–that even as we work to save mountains we benefit from the injustice of their destruction; for we consume the electricity that comes from coal deep inside the mountains. We enjoy the comfort and convenience of everyday living–turning on a light, using our computer, etc. The hard truth is that our everyday lives are intertwined with the grief of destruction. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Coal can be mined differently.
The common necessities of life for us humans–unpolluted water for drinking, unpolluted air for breathing, unpolluted land for raising food–don’t have a price tag, but is that supposed to make them expendable? In Prenter, West Virginia, an entire town has only brown water coming from the faucets, thanks to the reverberations from mountain blasting that ruined the wells. The water is absolutely unusable. People cannot drink, cook, or even wash with it without being in some way poisoned. The town of Prenter sued, and after many years, the suit was settled in favor of the town in fall 2012.
Residents in and around coal mining communities fear for their health and their economic security. Miners fear for their jobs and worry about supporting their families. They also fear for their safety while mining. Health concerns are exacerbated by carbon dust and silica that are now blown above ground, along with residue from the explosives and dust and rocks that make up mountains. The particulate matter of the air we all breathe–even if we’re miles from a blasting site–increase asthma, bronchitis, and respiratory irritations. Even black lung disease, which can be prevented, is increasing among surface miners.
We even fear visiting our loved ones buried in cemeteries that have been declared off limits by coal companies. Some cemeteries have been blown to smithereens as part of mountain top removal mining. We’re still trying to pass a bill to protect family cemeteries and allow families to visit their dead. It is unjust for the mining companies to disrespect the dead, some of whom served these companies faithfully all their working lives.
With so much fear, there is a lot of anger and confusion. For too long, those who cared about the environment were portrayed as tree-hugging environmentalists, pitted against miners who think we’re out to take their jobs away. Although coal can be mined without blowing up mountains, many believe it when the coal company tells them that saving mountains means no jobs. Because others have presented us as being on opposing sides, miners are often skeptical when environmentalists support their calls for safety on their job sites.
We aren’t on opposing sides. We care about the health and safety of our community as much as we care about our earth. We are on the side of love and justice–for the environment and for miners.
We need laws as if life matters–yours, mine, and the critters and plants that are part of the mountains and streams. If they are alive and healthy, so are we. We need laws that respect our earth, the water we drink and the air we breathe, written to include all industries that extract our state’s resources. We need laws that protect the health and safety of all workers and job training programs to create new economic opportunities that are sustainable. We firmly believe that we can afford both to respect life and figure out energy needs–from a variety of sources. Such diversity would promote health for us and our planet.
We are heartened that federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials visited our state for the first time a couple years ago to see mountain top removal and its effects. They met at our UU Congregation in Charleston (UUC) with representatives from environmental grassroots groups in West Virginia and Kentucky. We are proud that the UUC is seen as an accessible, trusted place where environmental justice concerns can be worked on.
We are excited that GA 2013 is in Louisville and that so many UUs will be able to join together for public witness. We will be led by UUA President Rev. Peter Morales, Tim DeChristopher, and local UU clergy and interfaith and community partners including Wendell Berry in a rally entitled Energy for Change: Interfaith Action for Clean Energy and Healthy Communities. Won’t you join us?
This post was written by Rev. Rose Edington and Rev. Mel Hoover, co-ministers of the UU Congregation in Charleston, West Virginia.More >
This spring, the members of the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Terre Haute, Indiana, are working to build relationships with our Muslim neighbors.
We invited members of the local Muslim community to join us for conversation and dessert. Our Social Action Committee worked with a Muslim student, Emhemed Hamed, to plan the program in partnership with the Islamic Center of Terre Haute, the Indiana State University (ISU) Muslim Students Association, and the ISU Interfaith Fellowship.
The event involved 45-50 participants and was extremely successful. The evening included a call to prayer and we were all invited to watch and listen to it. Later, we UUs sang our closing Sunni hymn that we sing at every Sunday service at the end of the event.
The conversations made a big difference for all who came. One man said he would never forget the evening and some Saudi women invited one of our members to lunch. A woman who adjusted my new bifocals and is studying Arabic said that her Muslim friends who had gone told her how great it was and how comfortable they felt. They especially enjoyed a painting by one of our members (now deceased) that displays many different symbols for the major world religions.
Check out this slideshow of photos that Emhemed made from the event:
We, in turn, were invited to attend a celebration for all the Muslim students who graduated from Indiana State University this year. Our congregation was given a very lovely thank you certificate for our support of the Islamic Center of Terre Haute. We are excited to build on these relationships and collaborate more in the future.
Our congregation has also been inspired to join the Shoulder to Shoulder campaign, which will help support our interfaith work.
This post was submitted by Catherine Mcguire, a congregant at the First UU Congregation of Terre Haute.More >