Subject: NCC Newsletter: Cuba, Good Trouble, Misinformation, and Journaling

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Cuba, Good Trouble, Misinformation, and Journaling 
NCC Newsletter
July 16, 2021
My remarks made at the Faith for H.R. 40 Press Conference on July, 13 2021 at the United Methodist Building in Washington, DC:

On behalf of the National Council of Churches and its 38 member communions, I stand here to reiterate our support for HR 40, The Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, the legislation placed before the Congress year after year by Congressman John Conyers of MI and now put forward by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of TX.

This bill simply aims to examine the merits of reparations for African Americans for the 250 years of slavery they endured. Just the merits. That in itself is threatening to a whole lot of people in this nation who want to act as if the consequences of slavery are over and done with. Frankly, we need another commission to study why it took Congress so long just to get to this starting point.

A slight, small beginning toward reparations took place when Gen. Sherman, commander of the US Army Military Division of the Mississippi, issued orders for the confiscation of 400,000 acres of land along the coast of SC, GA, and FL and dividing it into parcels of not more than 40 acres on which were to be settled some 18,000 formerly enslaved families and other Black people living in the area.

Those orders were countermanded by President Andrew Johnson. So, even the limited impact of Sherman’s directive was never implemented. Much more should have been done then. Now is the time to get started.

Not only is it the right thing to do, it is not unprecedented in our history. In 1988, Ronald Reagan apologized for the illegal internment of Japanese Americans during WWII and he signed into law the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 which authorized the payment of $20,000 ($44K) today to each former internee. The legislation admitted that government actions were based on ‘race prejudice war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.’

Japanese Americans lost property and jobs. Lives were destroyed. The apology and payment were for three years of abuse and mistreatment. Black Americans experienced 250 years of slavery, untold suffering, generations of devastation. And yet many Americans don’t even want to talk about what happened, much less attempt to repair some of the damage.

Besides there being an American precedent, there is biblical warrant for reparations, as well. After 430 years of slavery in Egypt, God heard the groaning of the Israelites. And it still took a long and difficult struggle for them to achieve their freedom.

Moses was skeptical of the efficacy of the lobby campaign God recommended to him. "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" he asked God.

God told Moses the Egyptians would listen to his voice. "I know however that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all my wonders that I will perform in it; after that he will let you go."

God also said the Egyptians would give the Israelites jewelry of silver and of gold and clothing. This, my friends, constituted reparations for generations of theft and slavery visited on the Israelites by the Egyptians.

Neither let us forget that when King Darius ordered that the cost of rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem be paid "from the royal revenue." Why? His people had destroyed the temple and carried off into captivity leaders of Jerusalem and held them in slavery for 70 years.

So, we have precedence and even if we didn’t we should begin a new one. I pray this bill will pass. I pray this commission will recommend trillions of dollars of recompense for the descendants of slaves. I pray this will mark a turning point in our nation’s history and in the long march to freedom and liberation.

Grace and Peace,

Good Trouble Vigil 
NCC joins with Faithful Democracy and several civic and human rights organizations for tomorrow's Good Trouble Vigil to be held in person from 8pm-9:30pm ET in Black Lives Matter Plaza, Washington, DC, followed by a march to the White House.

Rev. Aundreia Alexander, Esq., Associate General Secretary of Action and Advocacy for Justice and Peace, will be speaking as part of this event that commemorates the one-year anniversary of John Lewis’ death and honors his life’s legacy in protecting voting and civil rights by demanding congressional action and pushing for the passage of the For the People Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and the Washington D.C. Admissions Act.

Organizations are encouraged to host a vigil or to find local leads where existing vigils are being held. Details on how to participate are on the event website.

RSVP and stay connected to the event on Facebook.
Next Wednesday's Faith & Fire Conversation 2.0 - Faithful Democracy: U.S. Voting Rights and DC Statehood
Date: Wednesday, July 21, 2021 @ 1-2pm ET via Zoom

Quincy Howard, OP, Government Relations Advocate for NETWORK
Bo Shuff, Execcutive Director of DC Vote
Breon Wells, Founder of the Daniel Initiative

Moderator: Minister Christian S. Watkins, NCC Justice Advocacy and Outreach Manager

The Conversation will be broadcast on NCC's YouTube and Facebook channels later on the same day at 7pm ET.
Standing Strong for Voting Rights
Yesterday, Rev. Aundreia Alexander, Esq., NCC Associate General Secretary of Action and Advocacy for Justice and Peace, spoke at the "Day of Action on Capitol Hill" for our voting rights coordinated by The Black Women’s Roundtable and The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. The event at the United Methodist Building in Washington, DC urged the U. S. Senate to pass the For the People Act and end the filibuster. After marching to the Hart Senate Office Building nine of the group took a direct action and were detained. With Rev. Alexander were Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus; Melanie Campbell, president of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation; and Rev. Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, CEO and co-founder of Skinner Leadership Institute.
This Month's Spiritual Practice to Sustain Our Work for Justice is Journaling
Each month, the Christian Education, Faith Formation, and Leadership Development (CEFFLD) Convening Table shares personal stories of practices that have nourished them for the long haul of justice ministries.

This month, Rev. Brenda K. Smith writes about her spiritual practice of journaling and provides some suggestions on how to do it.

"Throughout challenging times in my life, I often journal my feelings and thought I would want to do that during this pandemic, but it is only now, now that we are coming out of it that I feel ready to bare my soul in writing. I write my journals as if God was sitting in front of me and I am sharing how I am feeling. I share my hurts, joys, fears, contentment, anger, and a host of other emotions. I come away from my time of journaling either feeling God’s presence comforting me or feeling distant from God, which prompts me to pray or read scripture to keep me connected to my faith.

In the literature I have read on lament, we need to share our laments before we can move on to recovery from a traumatic event. Journaling provides a practice that will help us move from pain to power, and that power is the power of our resiliency."
For the Life of the World Now Available on YouTube
The video for the webinar, Ecumenical Readings of “For the Life of the World: Toward a Social Ethos of the Orthodox Church” and Its Implications for the US and Global Contexts, which was held on April 21, 2021, is now available on the NCC YouTube channel for viewing. Details about the event can be found on the NCC website.
Recent Letters Signed by the NCC 
A Coalition Letter with 29 Civil Rights Organizations: Urging Congress Against Strengthening Qualified Immunity and Limiting Employer Liability for Law Enforcement  AT THIS LINK

A Letter to Majority Leader Schumer with over 90 Advocacy Groups: Hold Another Vote on Voting Rights AT THIS LINK 

COVID-19 Pandemic Response:
Interfaith Vigil For Global Vaccine Access

Because more must be done to ensure equitable and expedient access to vaccines, almost 60 religious organizations will hold the Vigil on Global Access to COVID-19 Vaccines next Tuesday, July 20, 2021, from 12:20 - 2pm ET at 3rd St. SW & Madison Dr. NW on the National Mall.

Jim Winker, NCC President and General Secretary will speak during the interfaith event in Washington, DC, while additional faith leaders, including Rev. Prof. Dr. Ioan Sauca, Acting General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, will speak virtually from around the world.

The vigil will "call on President Biden to show leadership and convince German Chancellor Merkel to support the TRIPS waiver for vaccine access. Faith leaders will urge the president to share the knowledge countries need to make their own safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments. Finally, they will use their unified voice to call on President Biden to launch and invest in a global vaccine manufacturing program of scale and urgency to end the pandemic."

The vigil will also mourn the 4 million people worldwide who have died from COVID-19. 

NCC is one of the many organizing groups for this vigil which also includes the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Friends Committee on National Legislation, the Episcopal Church, the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, and United Church of Christ, as well as local and regional churches from our member denominations and our interfaith partners.

New COVID-19 Misinformation Resources from the US Surgeon General
Because health misinformation takes away our health choices, Dr. Vivek Murthy held a meeting yesterday to announce the release of his first health advisory. The advisory addresses what individuals, families, and communities can do and Dr. Murthy specifically encouraged churches and faith groups to play a part in stopping health misinformation in order to end the pandemic. 

In order to be able to talk to people exposed to the misinformation, individuals can stay updated on the specific events and themes circulating each week by reading the Virality Project's Weekly Briefing 

From our Partners:
Groundbreaking Symposium on Digital Access
The symposium, "Communication for Social Justice in a Digital Age" which is co-organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and World Association for Christian Communication, will focus on the impact of digital transformation on communities and societies. The aim is to "explore the challenges of digital communication with a social justice lens, and to identify opportunities for concerted and collaborative actions with faith communities and among faith, civil society, academic, media and technological organizations."

You can get involved in this groundbreaking symposium addressing digital transformation scheduled for September 13-15, 2021 in two ways:
  • Participate in a public dialogue about digital communication, or 
  • submit a case study that sets an example for the world.
Expressions of interest are invited for active participation in a symposium. 

UCC Passes Resolution Declaring Racism a Public Health Crisis
At its virtual Special Edition General Synod on Sunday, July 11, 2021, United Church of Christ (UCC) delegates approved “A Resolution to Declare and Respond to Racism as a Public Health Crisis” during the opening plenary. The resolution was submitted by the UCC’s Council for Health and Human Service Ministries and the Council on Racial and Ethnic Ministries.

The Resolution was made "to enable and encourage local churches, conferences, and organizations to develop methods to:
a. Raise the church's consciousness of racism as a public health crisis from theological, bioethical, and public health perspectives.
b. Monitor and advocate for public policies that work towards health equity by addressing social determinants of health and divest in those that cause harm, violence, and death.
c. Discover ways in which current ministries and mission connect with and can address racism as a public health crisis and explore new ways of incorporating this lens into the life of the church.
d. Examine, in radical honesty, past and current organizational policies and practices in how they contribute or create barriers to health equity and racial justice.
e. Identify current and potential relationships with members of CHHSM, COREM, other health and human service organizations, advocacy groups, faith and community-based organizations, and academic institutions to collaborate on responding to racism as a public health crisis."
Reparations: A Moral & Spiritual Responsibility
Along with Religions for Peace USA, NCC is co-hosting a webinar, Reparations: A Moral & Spiritual Responsibility, on Thursday, July 22, 2021 from 2pm to 3pm ET. The event will feature Rev. Dr. Michael C.R. Nebors.

Rev. Aundreia Alexander, Esq., NCC Associate General Secretary for Action and Advocacy for Justice and Peace, will be one of the respondents to his address.

Register for the Zoom call at the event site or watch it live on Facebook.
PC(USA) Reports on the Current Situation in Cuba
In the article, "Cubans take to the streets to protest dire economic conditions and rising COVID-19 numbers" the Presbyterian Mission Agency reports the Presbyterian-Reformed Church of Cuba's call:
  • To our Cuban people to remain calm and avoid at all costs violent solutions to the situation of social instability and pandemic crisis that we are experiencing.
  • To our State and Government to maintain the dignity to which we have always been committed as a nation, to maintain open channels of dialogue to deal with the critical situation we are experiencing and to avoid, at all costs, violence, as the most genuine expression of who we are as one nation.
  • To our Presbyterian communities, to pray tirelessly for peace and discernment for our leaders, for citizen tranquility and for healing for our people. May our speech of goodwill be the voice that we raise, at all times, and may we be mediators in the search for peaceful solutions to the situation we are experiencing.”
The Presbyterian-Reformed Church of Cuba concludes by affirming that "the gospel which we have been called to preach will always be the good news for the world, justice, and peace for ‘the little ones’ and abundant life for all Creation. And for that we will continue to work tirelessly.”
Bishop Curry's Pastoral Letter to the people of Cuba
The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church, sent a letter to Bishop Griselda Delgado Del Carpio, to the brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Diocese of Cuba, and to all of God’s children in the country. The letter states that he stands in solidarity with them "during this time of sickness, food insecurity, economic suffering, and civil unrest" and he stands for "the human rights of all peaceful protesters."

He beseeches all people in The Episcopal Church "to pray for our Cuban brothers and sisters and to hold them in your hearts and minds in the days to come." May we all answer his call.

SET Communiqué on the Current Situation in Cuba
Carlos E. Ham S., Seminario Evangélico de Teología (SET) Principal in Matanzas, Cuba, wrote a letter to partner churches and institutions on July 12, 2021, describing the situation in Cuba. We include his letter below in its entirety:

"We greet you in the name of our common Lord Jesus Christ and at the same time we thank you for your prayers and your expressions of concern related to the current situation in our country.

We are living an acute economic crisis and a crisis of values since the “special period” (decade of the 1990s) when the Soviet Union and socialist bloc collapsed; we have not yet recovered from those times. The crisis has become worse due to several factors.

On one hand, the aggressive policy of the governments of the United States against Cuba, particularly during the Donald Trump administration, which imposed 242 measures, most of them during the Covid-19 pandemic, against our people to try to smother us. On the past session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on June 23, 184 nations voted in favor of the Republic of Cuba against the blockade, with two votes against and three abstentions.

On the other hand, the Covid-19 pandemic that has brought negative consequences: the sad death of loved ones, which produces a great emotional impact on the people. Furthermore, the State loses millions of dollars above all due to the fall of tourism; despite that, it invests millions of dollars to try to heal and save the people. A significant example of that is the development of scientific research and the production of five vaccine candidates against Covid-19 (Soberana 01, 02, Plus; Abdala and Mambisa). Recently, Cuba authorized its Abdala vaccine in the midst of the worst outbreak of the pandemic. The project showed over 92 percent electivity in the application of three doses in the last stage of clinical trials, thus becoming the first Latin American vaccine. However, we are suffering a collapse of health institutions, particularly here in the province of Matanzas, the present epicenter of the pandemic, with dire scarcity of medicines.

Finally, the crisis has intensified because of the economic measures taken by the State at the beginning of this year. Even though salaries have increased and the government has reiterated the promise that no one will be defenseless, the truth is that the population has to pay five times more for food and electricity, water, gas, telephone and other services.

In the last few days, particularly the past Sunday, July 11, there have been disturbances, protests and vandalism, mainly caused by many of the accumulated dissatisfactions along these years that have worsened in the last few months. Moreover, these dissatisfactions have been fueled and promoted from outside the country – in a very opportunistic way – as well as from within through the social media. Even though disturbances like those from last Sunday have stopped in the country, there is an uneasy calm.

As churches, we are interceding for our people, giving comfort, care, producing and sharing sense, offering messages of faith – strength and hope, as well as dialogue, reconciliation and peace with justice. In addition, we are offering solidarity and witness, making diaconal work or service – through the Living Waters project, helping and serving food for the vulnerable, and through laundry for the elderly people.
In the case of SET, last month the only Pediatric Hospital of the province of Matanzas exceeded its maximum capacity. The Ministry of Public Health of the province requested the help of the Seminary, to serve as an annex center of the Children’s Hospital to accommodate children who were considered suspicious of having contracted Covid-19 with their companions. We immediately agreed, following the long traditions of our institution of service to the civil society.

On June 20, we held a joint meeting, and both institutions worked intensely from that moment on to create the necessary conditions in the visitors’ building, ensuring the protection of the members of our community and the properties. We were able to fit out 120 capacities; some for those children positive to the disease and one accompanying parent; some for those who were suspicious of having it plus one accompanying parent. Besides, adults who are positive or suspicious of being positive to Covid-19 are also assisted here. We also host teams of 10 people, doctors and nurses for hospital aid. All capacities have been occupied since June 21, discharging those who recovered from the disease and transferring those who needed it to the Intensive Care Unit.

At present, 10 SET workers are working in the different areas. The kitchen team prepares food for 140 people every day including breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks. Even when the Ministry of Public Health is supplying with all the logistics, including foodstuff, SET offers the infrastructures, covering its expenses.

As to our teaching objectives, the Matanzas campus is closed at present and our Higher Ecumenical Institute of Sciences of Religions (ISECRE) continues working in virtual mode in the midst of “vacations”. We are getting ready to begin the new course 2021-2022 on August 30 and we are learning to conduct the process of teaching-learning in virtual mode and distance courses. To do this we have received help from partner institutions abroad that have graciously shared their vast experiences with us. We understand the great challenges we have ahead of us, i.e., the formation of renewed pastorate and leadership in the churches and other religious institutions serving in Cuba for the new times, for this Kairos of our nation, in a post-Covid period that will not be the same; and the proactive participation in the new society we are trying to build.

We greatly appreciate your consistent solidarity accompaniment through your prayers and through public advocacy to lift the blockade which damages directly our bilateral mission relationships. The blockade hinders the possibility to send financial resources to our Seminary, including other countries because of its extraterritorial nature. We request an international campaign to oppose a military intervention against our country incited by politicians in that country, especially those of Cuban origin. We will be grateful for any donations of medicines and food, for which we will send indications in the next few days."

Christian Unity Gathering Registration Opens Soon!

NCC's annual Christian Unity Gathering (CUG) will be held virtually on October 11 - 12, 2021 with the theme, "In New Wineskins: From Pandemics to Possibilities to Promises," based on the scripture in Luke:

And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, ‘The old is good.’


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