Last week, 150 people gathered in Durham, North Carolina, for Ruth’s Journey: Building Communi-TEA, a one-of-a-kind interfaith tea and dialogue where local women of remarkably diverse backgrounds discussed the impact of immigration on women and their families. The Old Testament story of Ruth cuts across many faith traditions, and serves as a powerful model for us today. She was a sojourner, a migrant worker, a teacher, and a mother.
Rev. Anne Hodges-Copple, Bishop Suffragan-Elect of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina started the event, reminding us that we were all once immigrants and that all women have a story to tell. The program was moderated by Renee Chou, reporter / anchor for WRAL-TV, who shared her own family’s immigration story. From there, numerous women from the community shared their experiences as immigrants who have realized the American dream, refugees who have overcome terrifying obstacles, and community leaders who serve and work with these newcomers to our nation.
I was most inspired by Vimala, a remarkably strong leader who emigrated from India several decades ago, escaped an abusive marriage, but was then barred by our immigration system from working, pursuing an education or becoming a citizen. Incredibly, she now owns her own successful business. And she eagerly awaits immigration reform.
Ultimately, these women reminded us of the moral and human dimension of immigration reform. They called on Senator Kay Hagan, who sent a staffer to the event, for a plan that prioritizes family unity, improves the lives of refugees, and creates a roadmap to citizenship.
The event was sponsored by Faith in Public Life, Church World Service , NC Council of Churches, The NAACP, The United Methodist Church, Church Women United, NC Immigrants Rights Project, The Sisters of Mercy, One World Market, Mom Africa Designs, and Respite.
See below for videos of the Ruth’s Journey event:
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Watch John Gehring, Senior Writer & Catholic Program Director at Faith in Public Life, on Current TV’s The War Room as he discusses the groundbreaking election of Pope Francis:
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Today, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that religious institutions can opt out the contraception mandate of the Affordable Health Care Act. Here are a few of the responses from social justice advocates, religious leaders and commentators:
John Gehring, Catholic Program director at Faith in Public Life
“This is a strong signal that the administration is responsive to the concerns of Catholic institutions. The values of protecting women’s health and the conscience rights of religious employers should not be in conflict. Those who demonize this president for being hostile to religion should drop the reckless rhetoric.”
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
“Today, the administration issued proposed regulations regarding the HHS mandate. We welcome the opportunity to study the proposed regulations closely. We look forward to issuing a more detailed statement later.”
Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter
“The proposed final rule on the contraception mandate, announced by the Department of Health and Human Services today, will widely be portrayed as a victory for the Catholic Church. This is mistaken. It is really nothing short of a miracle. And, it is a particular kind of miracle, the kind that happens in politics too infrequently, when a decision that has no real political justification is, nonetheless, taken because it is the right thing to do… [The White house] listened to those who proposed a sensible solution and urged a policy fix. The White House gave more than they had to. Politically, this is a huge win.”
Sr. Carol Keehan, President and CEO, Catholic Health Association of the United States
“Following last year’s proposed rule, the Catholic Health Association had asked during the comment period for some changes in the contraceptive coverage section of the rule on preventive services. Now that a new proposed rule has been released for review and comment, we look forward to studying it in relation to our members’ expressed concerns and sharing our assessment of the changes.”
Brent Walker of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, American Baptist Press
“The proposed rules signal an on-going effort by the administration to provide for the preventive health care needs of women employees while seeking to honor the conscience objections of religious employers and their affiliates… The proposed rules laudably clarify and simplify the definition of religious organizations and affiliated nonprofits, and seek to provide an acceptable alternative for self-insured employers.”
James Salt, Executive Director, Catholics United
“This is a victory not only for the Obama Administration, but for the Catholic Church… As Catholics United said from the very beginning, reasonable people knew it was right to be patient and hopeful that all sides could come together to solve this complex issue. The White House deserves praise in alleviating the Church’s concerns… As sensible Americans already know, and this new rule affirms, religious identity is protected and cherished in this country… The divisive right-wing myth that religious liberty is somehow attacked has been thoroughly debunked, and today’s ruling is just another nail in that coffin. Now the Church can focus on what brings us together: serving the least among us, including the poor and marginalized.”
Thomas J. Reese, S.J., Senior Fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, Religion Dispatches
“HHS and the administration have gone out of their way to resolve the concerns of religious institutions that object to covering contraceptives in their insurance programs. They fixed the four-part definition of religious employer by eliminating the confusing first three parts and relied on the traditional definition of churches in the Internal Revenue Code. They have also found creative ways to provide contraceptives to the employees of religious colleges and hospitals without the involvement of these institutions. “
Bill Donahue, President, Catholic League
“While many aspects of the new proposal need to be examined before a final conclusion can be rendered, the decision to expand religious exemptions, and to adopt the IRS definition of a religious institution, is a sign of goodwill by the Obama administration toward the Catholic community.”
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Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami joined the calls of fellow U.S. Catholic Bishops last week with this op-ed urging lawmakers to pass legislation that will create a road map to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans:
“An earned path to citizenship for the undocumented, supported by the U.S. Catholic bishops and a strong majority of the American people, does not have to mean an “amnesty”. Reasonable requirements for permanent legal status and a chance at citizenship — such as paying a fine and any back taxes still owed or learning English — would in fact be gladly embraced by these immigrants who remain in illegal status not because they want to but because legal remedies are not available to them…
A path to citizenship for the undocumented should be the centerpiece of any immigration reform effort this year. A path to citizenship offers immigrants the opportunities and freedom that are the essential components of the American dream.”
Archbishop Wenski is not the only religious leader urging lawmakers to create a roadmap to citizenship. At PICO National Network’s “Separated Families Supper Table,” event, Rev. Richard Smith of San Francisco hosted a symbolic supper for families that have been torn apart by America’s broken immigration system, and prayed for passage of a common-sense immigration process that would reunite families:
“As people of faith the only solution to our harmful immigration policy that recognizes the inherent dignity and rights of all human persons is full citizenship for the 11 million aspiring Americans who work in our communities, raise their children alongside ours and worship with us,” he noted.
The “Separated Families Supper Table” event, which lifted up the stories of families torn apart by our immigration system, launched the PICO National Network’s Campaign for Citizenship, which “represents Americans of faith who believe that full citizenship rights for 11 million aspiring Americans is the only moral response to our broken patchwork of immigration laws that is consistent with the American values of freedom, fairness and family.”
And just this week, the Interfaith Immigration Coalition sponsored a National Faith Call-In Day with over 1,000 faith leaders from diverse backgrounds calling on their Senators “…to pass immigration reform in 2013 that prioritizes family unity and provides a pathway to full citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people living in the United States.”
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In the wake of a national tragedy, religious leaders want for more gun regulation.
As the Obama administration prepares for a showdown with the NRA and the gun lobby, a broad range of faith leaders are voicing their support for stricter gun control laws. A recent survey published by the National Association of Evangelicals showed that 73 percent of evangelical leaders support an increase in gun regulation.
Core teachings in Scripture as well as the recent tragedies in Aurora, CO and Newtown, CT, have united Christian leaders like never before in supporting common-sense gun control laws.
Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals, the organization that conducted the survey said in a statement:
“Evangelicals are pro-life and deeply grieve when any weapons are used to take innocent lives… [We] want our laws to prevent the slaughter of children.”
The results of the survey come right after the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement calling for action in response to Sandy Hook tragedy. Several Bishops along with President of the USCCB, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, have expressed their solidarity in calling on lawmakers to adequately address gun regulations.
A brief excerpt from their official statement is as follows:
“We offer particular words regarding the issue of the regulation of fire arms, the standards for the entertainment industry, and our service to those with mental health needs. As religious leaders, we are compelled to call on all Americans, especially elected leaders, to address these issues.
With regard to the regulation of fire arms, first, the intent to protect one’s loved ones is an honorable one, but simply put, guns are too easily accessible. The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, in their document, ‘The International Arms Trade (2006),’ emphasized the importance of enacting concrete controls on handguns, for example, noting that “limiting the purchase of such arms would certainly not infringe on the rights of anyone.”
Bill Lenz, Senior Pastor of Christ the Rock Community Church, a participant in the NAE survey states:
“Most of my experience with guns has been as a hunter in the great Wisconsin outdoors. I do not believe that guns are the heart of the problem, but there should be strong regulations on who can bear arms,” he said. “The easy access to guns has undoubtedly contributed to horrible tragedies. There are multiple ways to address our current problem, and greater gun regulations are one of them.”
The growing consensus among Christians that stricter gun laws are needed to make our communities safer indicates a shift in the way that they view the issue of gun control. In fact, according to a recent USA Today/Gallup Poll, general support for gun control has increased from 43% in October 2011 to 58% in December 2012.
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