Blog Post by Juliana Morris
Last August, the bodies of 72 Central and South American migrants were found in a shallow grave on a ranch in Tamaulipas, Mexico. The news of the massacre came as a shock to most people in the United States. However, the truth of the matter is that this type of extreme violence, carried out against migrants in transit through Mexico to the United States, is a fact of life for the approximately 400,000 migrants who cross the country each year.
Migrants in Mexico are victims of rape, assault, robbery, and extortion at the hands of corrupt officials, gang members, and local thieves. Women are among the most vulnerable. Amnesty International estimates that 6 out of every 10 female migrants who cross Mexico are raped at some point along their journey.
In the face of this crisis, human rights defenders from throughout Central and North America have organized Caravans for migrant rights entitled “Paso a Paso Hacia la Paz” (Step by Step Towards Peace) to bear witness and demand an end to the violence. The next caravan will depart from the Guatemala-Mexico border on Tuesday July 26th, and travel northwards to the Mexican state of Veracruz, an area that is currently seeing the highest levels of abuses against migrants in transit.
I am honored to have the opportunity to join this caravan as a U.S.-based migrant rights activist. While participating in the group activities and hearing testimony of people directly affected by the violence against migrants in Mexico, I will pay particular attention to the implications that this violence has for the immigrant rights struggle in the United States and for shared Unitarian Universalist pursuit of global justice. I will be reflecting on my experiences in daily blog posts on the Standing on the Side of Love website from July 26th through July 31st. Check back often and join me on this journey!More >
The summer is often a different kind of time for ministers. We try to take vacations to renew ourselves and we often have time to study and plan. This summer I have done both, but not necessarily as I had intended.
After vacation and General Assembly in June, I began a four-week study leave in July. I had described a study leave to my congregation as a time to read and plan. What I may not have said is that it is also a time for personal reflection. Little did I know that I would be handed a life-altering experience in the middle of the month.
On July 13, I read in the Marietta Daily Journal that two Cobb County men, Salvador Zamora and Martin Altamirano, both documented immigrants, had begun a hunger strike on July 1, the day House Bill (HB) 87 went into effect in Georgia. HB 87 is Georgia’s version of Arizona’s 1070. I was deeply moved by their personal decision and conviction and visited them twice to learn more about them and their hunger strike. Inspired by them, I wanted to know how I could be most supportive of them.
Influenced by Karen Armstrong’s book on the topic, up to July 12, my personal reflection time had been to ask the question, “How Do I Live a More Compassionate Life?” (A worthwhile question that I heartily commend to you). Then, on July 13, I began a very intense two days contemplating these two men and their hunger strike. Theirs was a very serious commitment, meaning they would not eat anything until certain goals were met. With a hunger strike, one’s life is in the balance.
With the example of these two men, I began to reflect on the question “What would I die for?” I know that men, women, and children are dying every day because the United States does not have a working immigration policy. HB 87 is clearly a step backwards.
Joining them in their hunger strike seemed complicated since they had begun two weeks earlier. But what was more true is that I had neither the courage nor the conviction of these two men. Again, how could I be most supportive of them?
My decision was to join them in solidarity for 7 days, and like them, under a doctor’s supervision. Like Salvador and Martin, I would eat nothing and drink only water with honey and lemon.
I drafted a press release and held a press conference with Martin and Salvador, which was covered by Univision. My local newspaper also covered the solidarity fast. I was joined by two members of my congregation, the Emerson Unitarian Universalist Congregation, two fellow clergy (one with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference), and our partners at the Cobb Immigration Alliance. I have also requested to write an op-ed for the Marietta Daily Journal.
As I write this on day 6 of my fast (I don’t believe I can call what I am doing a hunger strike), I have gained a new appreciation for people who live with hunger on a daily basis, something I have never had to experience. I anticipate more lessons.
Serious consideration of this question “What would I die for?” is not for the faint of heart. An easier starting place is the question “To what is my life committed?” or more to the point, “How do my life and my daily choices, words, and deeds (even thoughts) reflect the values that I affirm?”
I am increasingly of the opinion that immigration is becoming the moral question of the day. Even as we make progress in the cause for GLBT rights (a struggle far from over), our nation seems to have a perpetual need to find a new group to scapegoat. Successes in the GLBT rights movement give me hope and strength when the light of meaningful immigration reform seems dim.
Blessings to you all in this important work we do.
Rev. Jeff Jones
Cobb County, Georgia Unitarian Universalist Minister
You might not guess this, but it can be easier to find a liberal rabbi to officiate a same-sex wedding than to find one to officiate a Jewish wedding for an interfaith couple. This Saturday night at midnight, I will be officiating the first legal gay wedding in the State of New York. The couple found me in Massachusetts through www.InterfaithFamily.com’s free Jewish Clergy Officiation Referral Service, after being turned away by several rabbis in the NY area.
What never ceases to amaze me is the dedication some interfaith couples have to finding Jewish connection in this important celebration in their family’s life. It also doesn’t surprise me that a gay interfaith couple, which faces potential discrimination on several fronts, continues to search for that connection as well. Thankfully we have this web based service, and the dedication of its staff to equality, that makes it possible.
I have worked with www.InterfaithFamily.com for several years, but began officiating and co-officiating interfaith weddings 20 years ago. It was both the high level of acceptance my religious Jewish family had towards people of diversity, and my own struggle as a gay man to find connection in the religious heritage I deeply loved, that moved me to make it easier for people to find connection here as well. Reform Judaism has been full of social justice activities and drive for the world around us, but is only in the past decades seeing the challenge it places on its own committed members and potential members, by not welcoming both GLBT and interfaith couples in a bigger way.
There has been a shift in both the welcoming of GLBT and interfaith families of recent past, but institutional change is slow and haphazard. Gay, lesbian and transgender rabbis are welcome to study for ordination, but the prayer books, religious school materials and social conversations still refer to heterosexual families as primary and desired. Interfaith programming has increased and many of the congregations in our liberal movements are more than 40% interfaith families. However, the leadership of the movement still can’t accept an interfaith married person into the rabbinic school. And, with a nearly 50% or greater number of Jews in interfaith partnerships and marriages nationally, the liberal Jewish movements still see them as a minority when it comes to programming and organizational decision making.
It is both the GLBT and interfaith nature of this wedding, with its high profile status as the first legal gay wedding in NY, that may give us the power to move the liberal Jewish world further in its path toward internal acceptance of all its diversity. With the liberal Jewish world coming around to the reality it faces, of both interfaith and gay families (some living in the same households) making Jewish choices, there can be great strength in changing the nature of acceptance of diversity on a national level. As much as this wedding is a triumph for same-sex families, we still have a lot of work to do to bring national value to acceptance of the full diversity of our populous.
May this wedding be not just the first of many in NY, but the gentle push forward that makes room for other states and other religious movements to open their doors wide to the people who already love so much of what we value as a free and inclusive society.
Lev is a Reform Rabbi and the Director of the Resource Center for Jewish Clergy at Interfaithfamily.com. Lev can be found teaching courses on Jewish living and life cycles, and facilitating workshops on ‘Inclusion and Welcoming’ of unaffiliated Jews and interfaith families in Jewish life and community. In his spare time, Lev travels the world officiating life cycle events for Jewish and interfaith/intercultural couples and families. Lev was ordained in the Reform Movement of Judaism in 1994, holds a law degree from Yeshiva University, a BA in Psychology from Clark University, and is currently attending Regis College/ Lawrence Memorial Hospital School of Nursing (RN). Lev lives in Malden, MA with his partner Andrew.
Foundation statement and request to offer additional resources for planning observances of the 10th anniversary of the events of 9/11/01
In anticipation of the tenth anniversary of the events of 9/11/01, a cluster of Unitarian Universalist peace leaders, ministers, UUA staff, and leaders of UU related non-profits have mobilized around the hope that this anniversary will honor a dream of peace for all humanity. On September 11, 2010, voices of peacemaking were all but drowned out by the hate-filled rhetoric condemning the building of a Sufi community center near Ground Zero. This high decibel Islamaphobia, coupled with a bullying nationalism, intensified nationwide, sadly co-opting an opportunity to remember that individuals from close to 90 nations perished that day. Our hope is to transform that remembrance into interfaith actions of peacemaking and compassionate justice.
Over the past months, we have sought to prepare a roster of resources for our larger UU world to tap in planning interfaith observances of this tenth anniversary, resources that will enable us all to plan mindfully and compassionately for this tenth anniversary. You will find resources that span liturgy, public witness/social justice events, interfaith partnerships, and ongoing activities catalyzed by what we do on this milestone day.
We invite you to help expand these resources into a rich repertoire of possibilities by sending your responses to the following questions to Rev. Alex Holt at firstname.lastname@example.org by August 11.
Specifically, for the tenth anniversary of the events of September 11, 2001:
• What are your plans for liturgy?
• What are your plans for public witness and social justice events?
• What are your plans for interfaith partnerships?
• What are your hopes for ongoing activities inspired by what we all do on 9/11/11?
You will find the resources at http://911peacecircles.wordpress.com/resources/, growing day by day. Within and beyond Unitarian Universalism, we can stand on the side of love by doing the work that love calls us to do.
Dr. Sharon Welch
Rev. Dr. Susan Suchocki-Brown
Rev. Dr. Sarah Lammert
Rev. Alex Holt
Rev. Dr. Galen Guengerich
Rev. Dr. Frank Carpenter
Rev. Dr. Jan Carlsson-Bull
Dr. Hal Bertilson
Post by UU Pacific Southwest District Executive Rev. Ken Brown
From the moment Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier, civil rights and baseball have been linked. This July 12th the nation will be watching the All Star game for more reasons than a love of baseball. Though asked by numerous civil rights organizations and concerned baseball fans, Bud Selig refused to move the All-Star game from Arizona. Selig has remained silent on the issue of civil rights but we hope fans and players will follow in the civil rights tradition the Major League Baseball is so proud of and show their support of our cause by wearing white ribbons in support of federal immigration reform and against hate-based legislation.
Shortly after SB1070 was passed, some baseball players and management stepped up to the plate, like White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, San Diego Padre Adrian Gonzalez, and Florida Marlin Jorge Cantu, who spoke out against SB1070. But here in Arizona, more than a year later, the backlash from this draconian legislation is still being felt, and for this reason we want to use the platform of the All Star game, when the country will have their eyes on Arizona, to join with those ball players who bravely voiced their concerns last year and continue to speak out against the injustice of hate-based, racially polarizing bills. We ask that you lend your voice to the growing call for compassion and unity both within Arizona and within the United States as we work for a federal solution and not a piece-meal state approach.
What does SB1070 have to do with baseball?
Baseball is a game that transcends barriers and brings America together, reminding us of what makes our country and this game unique: our diversity. More than 25% of major league players are immigrants. Many players may themselves be considered “reasonably suspicious” under the current law. This is wrong. This is a violation of the freedoms we hold dear as Unitarian Universalists and citizens of the United States, and it must stop. Divisive, scape-goating legislation has no place in our communities and should never be tolerated.
SB1070, the “Papers, Please” law has united a variety of nonprofit, business, civil rights, student, and community groups to decry the tone in which policy-makers around the country are using migrant populations for their political gain. While the call to boycott Arizona continues, we are asking that you stand with us as we work to Unite Arizona and celebrate our state’s true All Stars, to celebrate all of us, the folks who work every day, contribute to our economy, and make Arizona their home. We hope as fans and players come to Arizona they will be able to see it for what is, a welcoming place. We are working to make sure Arizona continues to be a welcoming place for all, not just some of its residents, and with your help we can make it happen.More >