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.
Religious leaders and activists made an important impact on yesterday’s Democratic primary in Massachusetts for Secretary of State John Kerry’s Senate seat.
There was one major difference between candidates Rep. Stephen Lynch and Rep. Ed Markey – Lynch initially favored construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, and Markey steadfastly opposed it.
In case you’re just joining us, the debate over the Keystone XL Pipeline has global consequences. If the pipeline is completed, vast Canadian reserves of dirty tar sands oil will hit the international market at a time when we need to be drastically reducing our use of fossil fuels in order to curb the most catastrophic effects of the climate change crisis. And that’s to say nothing of the inevitable toxic spills that will happen along the route from northern Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico.
Lynch’s early support for this disastrous project sparked a strong response from local and national faith leaders. The evangelical-led Good Steward Campaign joined forces with Catholics United, Sojourners, American Values Network, Interfaith Power and Light, 350.org and local nuns and activists to organize opposition, gather tens of thousands of petition signatures and publicly speak out against the pipeline. Lynch (who ultimately lost anyway) subsequently walked back his support for this environmentally catastrophic pipeline.
Keystone in particular, and climate in general, are flying somewhat under the radar right now but will take center stage sooner or later. The fact that faith leaders are gearing up and speaking out now bodes well as the debate goes forward.
Catholic Democrats will be decisive in determining the fate of gun violence prevention measures now before Congress. Sens. Joe Donnelly, Heidi Heitkamp, Mary Landrieu and Mark Begich are reportedly still undecided on the bipartisan compromise deal put together by Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Representing “red” states where gun ownership is a proud cultural maker, these on-the-fence Dems could use a moral wake up call as they navigate the shoals of gun policy and politics in the coming days. Their own faith tradition provides clarifying vision. Just last week, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development urged Senators to support a “culture of life by promoting policies that reduce gun violence and save people’s lives…” Catholic bishops have specifically endorsed “effective and enforceable background checks,” the central issue before Senators this week. (Bishops also supported an assault weapons ban and limits on access to high-capacity ammunition magazines. The gun lobby made sure these provisions were scuttled.)
Back in January, prominent Catholic leaders — including former U.S. Ambassadors to the Holy See from the first Bush administration and the Obama administration — challenged Catholic members of Congress with favorable NRA ratings to show “greater moral leadership and political courage.”
Politicians have a tendency to worry about things like elections. In the case of Sens. Landrieu and Begich, midterms loom on the near horizon. The Hill reports that “Landrieu remains one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents heading into reelection next year.” But public service and real leadership is about putting aside political expedience and standing strong in the face of powerful special interests that hurt the common good. Let’s hope these wavering Catholic Democrats find inspiration from their own faith tradition, stand up to the NRA and do what’s right.
Prominent clergy and faith activists from across America will join together on Wednesday, March 20 for a coordinated, multi-state “Loaves and Fishes” Day of Action to highlight the need for moral and political courage in federal budget negotiations. With 21 events across America, plus a press conference on Capitol Hill, the faith community will encourage Congress to question the austerity gospel, and remind them we have enough for all in this country.