Monday, August 29, 2016

Presbyterian Church (USA) Joins National, State, and Local Faith Communities and Organizations Calling on the Administration to Do More for Refugees


August 29, 2016

President Barack Obama 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

We, the undersigned national, state, and local organizations and faith communities, write in advance of the September 20th U.S.-led Leaders’ Summit on Refugees to thank you for convening global leaders, and to urge you to demonstrate global leadership by making bold new commitments to refugee protection, assistance, and solutions, including increased U.S. resettlement. Faced with dramatic refugee crises at home and abroad, our nation is at a critical moment in its history and confronted by a question that strikes at the heart of our national identitywhether we will rise up to the challenges of our time, or give in to fear, division, and retreat.

Never before has the world witnessed such a dramatic scale of human displacement and suffering. Sixty-five million men, women, and children have lost their homes, and twenty- one million of those have been forced to flee their countries. While the images of overloaded boats in the Mediterranean and desperate crowds sleeping in train stations in Europe are more likely to catch the world’s attention, the vast majority of refugee families are struggling to survive in countries neighboring their own beleaguered host countries with their own political, economic, and security challenges. Many of the countries bearing the most responsibilities to host refugees are at a breaking point, and some could further descend into unrest.

In the face of this reality, we commend you for your leadership to convene global heads of state to collectively commit to increasing humanitarian contributions by 30%, and urge your Administration to do all that it can to increase the U.S. contribution.

While humanitarian assistance is the principal lifeline for most refugees, unfortunately, for some it is simply insufficient to ensure their health, safety, dignity or family unity. For refugees with particularly complex personal circumstances, risks and vulnerabilities, resettlement is often the only viable option and may indeed be life-saving. The United States has historically been a beacon of freedom and hope for the world’s most oppressed and persecuted, and our communities have proudly welcomed these families as part of the fabric that make this nation great, but we need to do much more. UNHCR has identified over one million refugees who are in need of resettlement today, yet it will take almost a decade to achieve this target given current commitments.

We urge you to increase the number of refugees, at a level commensurate with global need, who are offered the lifesaving opportunity to create a new life here in the United States. Specifically, we call upon you to provide solutions for 200,000 refugees in FY17 through resettlement and alternative admissions pathways to the United Statesat least 140,000 of which should be admitted through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. A commitment to admit more refugees must be matched with a level of resettlement funding which ensures that refugees have access to the service and support that they need to integrate quickly and successfully upon arrival in welcoming American communities.

Finally, we urge you to demonstrate American leadership by improving the domestic and foreign policy response to the refugee crisis in our own region. Hundreds of thousands of Central Americans the majority of them women and children continue to be forced to flee their homes each year, often due to gang-related violence, displacing internally and across borders in an attempt to find safety in the United States and other countries in the region. While we applaud the limited but very meaningful steps the Administration has recently taken, such as the announced expansion of resettlement opportunities for Central American refugees, many core aspects of the U.S.’s enforcement-centric response to this crisis continue to be mis-aligned with our national values and risk returning refugees to the very danger they have fled.

We urge you to amend the current enforcement policies which have the effect of detaining and deporting Central Americans seeking protection in this country, and ensure that all Central Americans adults, families and unaccompanied children have a meaningful opportunity to seek asylum and other applicable forms of relief under U.S. law. We also urge you to utilize your legal authority to protect those Central Americans in the U.S. who cannot return because of the widespread violence, such as by designating El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala for Temporary Protected Status. And finally, we urge you to ensure that U.S. support to the Mexican government in response to the regional crisis be focused on increasing capacity to screen for protection needs and adjudicate asylum claims consistent with international law, rather than enforcement and deterrence methods that should not be used against asylum seekers attempting to seek protection at our borders or anywhere in the region.

Only by advancing these specific solutions to protect those displaced by violence and persecution will the United States be able to lead by example when we are on a global stage this September.
As you build your Administration’s final legacy, we thank you for highlighting the need to address the suffering of refugees. We look forward to working with you to making these commitments a reality.

Sincerely,

National Organizations & Faith Communities
AFL-CIO
African American Ministers In Action
Alianza Americas
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) 

American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)
American Jewish Committee’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Anti-Defamation League
Bethany Christian Services
Boat People SOS, Inc.

CASA
Catholic Relief Services
Center for Applied Linguistics
Center for Victims of Torture
Church World Service
CODEPINK for Peace
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach
Disciples Center for Public Witness
Disciples Home Missions
The Episcopal Church
Ethiopian Community Development Council, Inc.
Fig Tree Revolution
Franciscan Action Network
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ Guatemala Human Rights Commission
HealthRight International
Heartland Alliance International
HIAS, Global Jewish Organization for Refugees
Human Rights First

International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)
 International Rescue Committee
Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States 

Jesuit Refugee Service/USA
Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) 
Just Foreign Policy
Khmer Health Advocates
Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)

Latin America Working Group (LAWG) 
Leadership Conference of Women Religious Liberia Medical Mission
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) 

Lutheran World Relief
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns 
MoveOn.org
National Council of Churches, USA
National Council of Jewish Women
National Immigrant Justice Center
National Religious Campaign Against Torture 

National Center for Lesbian Rights 
NETWORK Lobby
No One Left Behind
Nonviolence International-USA
Office of Social Justice, Christian Reformed Church in North America 

Oxfam America
Pax Christi USA
Peace Action
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Rabbinical Assembly
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities 

Refugee Alliance Network
Refugee and Immigration Ministries, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) 

The Refugee Center Online
Refugee Solidarity Network
RefugePoint
Sister Parish, Inc.
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas' Institute Justice Team
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
United Church of Christ
U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops/Migration and Refugee Services 

Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
We Belong Together
Week of Compassion, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Win Without War
Women's Refugee Commission



State and Local Organizations & Faith Communities
ACCESS (Michigan)
Advocates for Refugees in California (California)
Arkansas United Community Coalition (Arkansas)
The Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture (New York)
Bhutanese Association of St. Louis (Missouri)
Bhutanese Community of Oregon (Oregon)
Boston Center for Refugee Health & Human Rights (Massachusetts)
College of Southern Idaho Refugee Programs (Idaho)
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Central States Synod (Kansas & Missouri)
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (Delaware-Maryland Synod)
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Florida-Bahamas Synod (Florida)
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Gulf Coast Synod (Texas & Louisiana)
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Northwest Washington Synod (Washington)
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, South Carolina Synod (South Carolina)
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, South Central Synod (Wisconsin)
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Southeastern Synod (Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama)
English Learning Center (Minnesota)
Family & Children's Association (New York)
Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services (Florida) 

International Institute of Los Angeles (California)
Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) (Oregon)

Interfaith Partnership for Refugee Resettlement (Connecticut) 
Interfaith Refugee Ministry Wilmington (North Carolina) 
International Center of Kentucky (Kentucky)
International Institute of Akron (Ohio)
International Institute of Buffalo (New York) 

International Institute of St. Louis (Missouri) 
International Service Center (Pennsylvania)
Jewish Child & Family Services (Illinois)
Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay (California) 

Jewish Family Service of Seattle (Washington)
Jewish Family Services of Silicon Valley (California)
Just Peace Circles, Inc. (Maryland)
Karen Organization of San Diego (California)
Kino Border Initiative (Arizona)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer (California)
Lutheran Community Services Northwest (Washington)
Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains (Colorado & New Mexico) 

Make the Road New York (New York)
Maryland Welcomes Refugees (Maryland)
Massachusetts Peace Action (Massachusetts)
Mosaic Family Services (Texas)
New York Immigration Coalition (New York)
OneAmerica (Washington)
Raleigh Immigrant Community, Inc. (North Carolina)
Refugee Services of Texas (Texas)
Rutland Welcomes (Vermont)
Samaritas (Michigan)
Sandy Spring Friends (Quakers) Peace Committee (Maryland)

Sister Parish, Faith Lutheran Church (North Dakota)
Somali Bantu Community of Greater Houston (SBCGH) (Texas) 

South Sudan Center of America (Nevada)
Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning (Colorado)
St. Thomas Lutheran Church (Indiana)
St. Stephen's Episcopal Church (Florida)
Survivors of Torture, International (California)
US Together, Inc. (Ohio)
Utah Health and Human Rights (Utah)
World Relief Fox Valley (Wisconsin)
Youth Co-Op, Inc. (Florida)

Friday, August 26, 2016

PCUSA Joins Faith Groups in Statement on Anti-BDS Legislation


Employing Economic Measures as Nonviolent Tools for Justice In the Israeli-Palestinian Context
August 22, 2016 

The U.S. Congress and 22 states across the U.S. are considering, or have passed, laws that penalize or criminalize the use of economic measures to oppose Israeli policies towards Palestinians that many find unjust and discriminatory. The targets of these proposed laws are organizations and agencies that endorse, in full or in part, the Palestinian call for the use of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS). Such actions are anti-democratic, suppress legitimate criticism, and restrict our freedom to determine our own investment and selective purchasing practices. We affirm and defend the right of churches and organizations to witness using economic measures in the specific case of Israel-Palestine.

The BDS call, issued in 2005 by over 100 Palestinian civil society organizations, seeks to promote a nonviolent response to end Israel’s 50-year military occupation of Palestinian territories and dismantle the separation barrier, much of which is built on Palestinian land; to recognize the full equality of Palestinian citizens of Israel; and to respect, protect, and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties, according to UN resolution 194. U.S. churches, among many others, are clear in seeking an end to the occupation.

Churches and church-related organizations have employed such nonviolent tactics in many instances of injustice, both domestically and globally, over the decades. The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the boycott of products made by slave labor are some historical precedents. Some more recent examples include:
  •   Support for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to seek fair wages for farmworkers who pick tomatoes used by major restaurant chains. The churches have affirmed boycotts of Taco Bell and Wendy’s in support of the farmworkers.
  •   Support for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) in the boycott of Mt. Olive Pickle Company in order to seek better wages for those who pick cucumbers.
  •   Support for United Farm Workers (UFW) in grape and lettuce boycotts aimed at securing fair wages for farmworkers.
  •   Opposition to the use of racially offensive names and logos by professional sports teams through boycotts.
  •   Participation in the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility to promote socially responsible practices by various companies through shareholder activism.
  •   Divestment to oppose the policy of apartheid in South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s.
  •   Corporate engagement with and/or divestment from fossil fuel companies in the context
    of the climate change debates. 

    Through the use of such nonviolent but impactful measures at the intersection of faith and finance, the churches have participated in making a difference, promoting justice, and effecting change. Indeed, when corporate social responsibility standards do not lead businesses to change their practices, then it is often only through the concerted economic pressure of civil society and public interest groups that positive political and social reforms occur.
Economic Measures (Examples of engagement corrected for accuracy, 8/25/2016) Page 1
The current effort to penalize or criminalize such use of economic leverage in the specific case of Israel-Palestine is therefore offensive and disturbing. It strikes us as an attempt to remove a responsible, powerful, and legal method of public witness as an option. To target economic measures in any way on one specific policy issueIsrael-Palestineis selective and inconsistent. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld, without dissent, the right to boycott (1982).

As churches and church-related organizations, we may not endorse all aspects of the Palestinian civil society BDS movement; nor do we all have similar policies on the use of economic leverage in the context of Israel-Palestine. However, we all share a hope and desire for an end to occupation, and we continue to advocate for that. If we choose, through debate and reflection, to employ our economic leverage to advance that policy objective, as we do many others, we understand it as our right to do so. It is an assertion of our right as stewards of our financial resources to spend and invest as we choose, and to do so responsibly, according to our theological and moral conviction, expressed in our denominational or organizational policies.

We must be clear: such an assertion of this right is an effort to change unjust Israeli policy toward Palestinians, not to delegitimize the State of Israel, nor to marginalize or isolate our Jewish neighbors, or their enterprises. Our choices to purchase and invest responsibly, and to advocate with corporations or governments, including our own, are motivated by our firm commitments to justice and peace for all people, without discrimination or exclusion.

As churches and church-related organizations, we reject any efforts by the State to curtail these rights, and will continue to exercise them, as appropriate and in accordance with our faith and policies.

American Friends Service Committee
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Church of the Brethren, Office of Public Witness
Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Pax Christi International
Pax Christi USA
Presbyterian Church (USA)
United Church of Christ
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society