On the Road to Justice

It has been a hard week. The powerful engage in blatant hypocrisy, outrageous power grabs and violent disregard for human life. Innocent people are dying and families continue to be ripped apart. Lies are rampant. Hatred is on vivid display. I find comfort in communal anger, outrage, and the refusal to accept the dystopia of these difficult days. We continue to fight for a country of justice, kindness and humanity, of inclusion and welcome and community. All are invited to join the fight, to get in good trouble and to refuse to cede the country to the injustices of those in power.

2020 TPS Freedom Bus – On the Road to Justice: Residency Now

This week my journey for justice took me to the Federal Building in San Francisco, where I stood with the TPS community, those who have lived in the U.S. for years (decades, for many) with Temporary Protected Status. In 2018, Trump decided to end this program that provided safety for people whose countries were enduring unrest, violence or natural devastation, thus removing the legal status of 400,000 immigrants. Last week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld this racist decision. 

Those living with TPS have been building their lives, creating families, working in their communities and blessing our country. They are now forced to choose between deportation – separating themselves from their families, communities and lives – or living without paperwork – as second-class residents without rights, living the imminent threat of ICE detention or deportation. In addition to TPS holders, there are another 250,000 U.S. born children of TPS holders who are at risk of losing their parents, being forced to leave their country, or live in fear of ICE ripping their parents away from them. Ending TPS is another of Trump’s many actions to engage in ethnic cleansing of this country’s black and brown residents.

In response to this decision, the TPS community is traveling the country to call attention to their plight, build collective power, warn the immigrant community of the realities of COVID, and uplift the importance and urgency of voting. There is hope that the Supreme Court will weigh in on the injustice of this situation. It is, after all, the failure of congress to create a path to citizenship for TPS holders, along with Trump’s xenophobic attempts to terrorize the immigrant community, that has led to the inhumane choices they are facing. 

The TPS freedom bus, known as La Libertad began its 8-week journey across the country this week. Bay Area faith leaders gathered in support of the TPS community to bear witness to their pain, offer prayers for justice and safety, stand in solidarity, and provide blessings for their journey.

Faith Leaders standing with the TPS community

The voices of those directly impacted continue to ring in my ears. “We belong here.” Yes. “My parents are upstanding people, which is more than I can say about many politicians.” Absolutely. “Use your vote, because we don’t have one.” Indeed. In fact, the power of the vote is their main plea to the country. Voters have the power to stop these injustices. Voters have the power to change this situation and keep these families together. As La Libertad travels the country, my prayer is that freedom would come to the TPS community. Until that time, we must stand together and protect one another. We must vote for the freedom of all who call the United States home. And we must not rest until freedom comes.

for a World Without Walls

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One of my many commitments as Lakeshore’s Pastor of Public Witness is to serve as the Convener of the Bay Area World Without Walls Coalition. Heeding the call from Palestinian and Mexican freedom fighters to unite struggles that challenge all visible and invisible walls that enshrine injustice, we are part of a network of hundreds of communities across the globe organizing, demanding and creating a world without walls of “expulsion, exclusion, oppression, discrimination and exploitation.” You can read the full call for a world without walls here.

While we usually hold a major event around November 9, commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall, this moment of national uprising in the U.S. and intensified annexation in Palestine compels us to respond. I hope you will join us August 28 at 10 a.m. Pacific for an international conversation between Angela Davis and Jamal Juma’, moderated by Kristian Davis Bailey, about the intersections of abolition and liberation in this moment.

Join us for an international discussion of the connections between Black Lives Matter calls to defund the police and abolish the prison industrial complex, and Palestinian calls to tear down all apartheid walls and free Palestine.

Register at bit.ly/AbLib.

Information about our speakers

Our speakers bring years of on-the-ground experience and strategic thinking to the conversation. Angela Davis has been an activist and liberatory scholar since the 1960s. Her 2003 book Are Prisons Obsolete?  laid the strategic groundwork for the current abolition movement, as did the first Critical Resistance Conference, which she co-organized in 1998.

She will be joined, from Palestine, by Jamal Juma’, a leading grassroots organizer since Palestine’s First Intifada in 1987. A founding member of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees, Palestine National BDS Committee, Palestinian Association for Cultural Exchange, and Palestinian Environmental NGO Network, Juma’ is coordinator of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign and Stop the Wall.

Kristian Davis Bailey, who will be moderating their conversation, is a co-founder of Black for Palestine and a co-author of the 2015 Black Solidarity with Palestine Statement signed by more than 1,000 Black activists. He was a member of Black Youth Project 100 and Students for Justice in Palestine. Kristian currently works at Palestine Legal and is a member of LeftRoots.

There has never been a more critical time for this thought-provoking and inspiring conversation. Please join us as we sharpen our understanding of these critical issues and build our capacity for effective resistance!

In addition to joining this powerful webinar, I also encourage you to check out the world without walls online exhibit Walls in Times of Pandemic where I wrote about the powerful work of Bay Area activists to destroy the walls of ICE detention in the past few months.

Interfaith Vigil at San Quentin

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Interfaith Prayer Vigil at San Quentin, photo by David Bacon

The conditions at San Quentin State Prison are deplorable. The current COVID outbreak has spread to over half the population, sickening over 2000 incarcerated individuals, over 250 employees and claiming the lives of at least 19 people. These illnesses and deaths were preventable – they are the direct result of the lack of concern for those incarcerated and the inhumane treatment they regularly endure.

On July 19, the interfaith community gathered outside San Quentin to decry the conditions that led to this outbreak, demand an end to inhumane practices that cause such conditions in the first place, and declare a vision for restorative justice practices that provide healing for individuals, communities and society. Over 100 people gathered to hear testimonies of incarcerated individuals and their families, mourn lives needlessly lost, and provide public witness of the faith community. We prayed together: Respect Human Lives – Release the Captives – Restore Our Community.

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Our united, ongoing prayer, photo by David Bacon

We made four demands of Governor Newsom: immediately improve the conditions at San Quentin, ensuring that all who are incarcerated are treated with mercy, compassion and human decency; intervene and stop all transfers among prisons and ICE detention centers, ending further spread of the virus; release incarcerated individuals, starting with those in great danger: the medically vulnerable, the elderly and the trans community; reduce the population at San Quentin to 50% of capacity to allow for social distancing – release should be to family, the faith community or other community-based re-entry programs, not other prisons.

SAVE LIVES AT SAN QUENTIN

I encourage you to add your voice by calling Governor Newsom to share our demands, as well as to offer the prayer below, which grounded our action. To learn more about this action, and for a sample script to email, call or tweet the governor, click SQVigilToolkit. Here is a video of the service.

Interfaith Prayer for San Quentin Action

Respect Human Lives 

As human beings, all people, all of us

  • All of us deserve to live – and for incarcerated individuals COVID has become a death sentence
  • All of us are capable of redemption – no one deserves excessive punishment
  • All of us are more than our worst mistakes – we all have the ability to grow
  • No one deserves to live in a cage

Release the Captives

  • Release people to families, faith communities, or community based re-entry programs
  • Release the vulnerable – because they are at great risk – especially the medically compromised, the trans community and the elderly
  • Release those who have completed base terms – they have done their time
  • Release those who have been unduly burdened by lengthy sentences or life without parole – undoing racial injustice
  • Release those who are currently low risk – they are in need of community support
  • Release those who have changed – they are ready to return
  • Release imprisoned community leaders – we need their wisdom and leadership
  • Release us all from the inhumanity of prisons to new ways of community redress & repair.

Restore Our Community

  • Restore families and loved ones
  • Restore individuals to their communities
  • Restore justice to black and brown communities
  • Restore humanity to all communities
  • Restore us back to the oneness of our humanity

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photo by Joyce Xi

Growing Light

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Sunrise outside San Quintin State Prison, July 1, 2020

“What if this is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb?” suggested Sikh faith leader Valerie Kaur, in the wake of the election of Donald Trump. Her words, pregnant with potential, describe well the moment in which we are living – a moment where death is palpable – people are dying of disease, of disadvantage, and of dehumanization at the hands of the state – but also where we are surrounded by signs of new life – community coming together and demanding better, community thinking creatively about how we can support and strengthen the vulnerable in our midst, community enacting new ways of welcoming the stranger, loving our neighbor and protecting and serving everyone around us. Kaur invites us to breathe deeply in this moment of tremendous labor pains, breathe deeply into the birthing process of welcoming something beautiful, something long awaited, something that has the potential to transform our nation. Below is one way I witnessed the power of hope and the promise of new life in the midst of darkness and death this week.

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Wednesday morning faith leaders and friends of Chanthon Bun gathered outside the west Gate of San Quinton State Prison, awaiting his release. Bun had received parole, but it was unlikely that he would walk out of prison a free man. Instead, ICE’s practice is to transfer people scheduled for release from prison directly into detention facilities, thus doubly punishing those who do not have full citizenship status. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) commonly notifies ICE of release dates for immigrants, despite our state’s sanctuary laws, thus enacting a prison-to-detention pipeline.IMG_6432

Because ICE transfers often take place in the early hours of the morning through back gates that are used for transfer of supplies, we arrived at 5 a.m. in hopes of witnessing Bun’s transfer. We dreamt of intercepting the transfer, but, realistically, we assumed our role would be to witness it, document it, and be a visible sign to Bun that he wasn’t forgotten as he endured this unjust form of double punishment.

fullsizeoutput_581dBun’s words, “to live is to hope,” grounded our gathering. At sunrise, we offered prayers of hope and pleas for justice and mercy – for Bun and the 1100 inmates in San Quinton who have tested positive for COVID. Knowing the harsh conditions inside, we watched darkness transition to light and clung to Bun’s inspiring words. Bun’s story did not begin with great hope. Born in a Cambodian refugee camp, growing up in poverty, enduring bullying, discrimination and war trauma, Bun found his way on the streets of Los Angeles. At 18, he received a 49 year sentence for a crime he committed that resulted in no physical harm. Yet while in prison, Bun found ways to turn his life around, heal from the trauma he’s endured, educate himself and give back to his community. Bun’s life bears witness to the hope he proclaims.
We don’t know why ICE didn’t show up Wednesday morning – perhaps our presence made an impact, or the countless phone calls to Governor Newsom and CDRC Secretary Ralph Diaz the day and weeks before, or the growing protests outside of San Quintin and media coverage of their COVID outbreak and inhumane conditions, or simply ICE’s notorious ineptness. Whatever the reason, were overjoyed to be able to welcome Bun back to his community who has been walking with him and working with him on his journey for freedom. We were overwhelmed by the power of miracles, the promise of hope, and a moment of transformative clarity that the efforts of those serving love and liberation are making a difference. This celebration is yet another reason to renew our commitment to the world we long for – the world we are fighting for – the world that we are birthing into existence.

On this 4th of July, I am mindful of the words of Langston Hughes, “America will be,” and am encouraged to keep serving as midwife to a land of liberty and justice for all.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man [sic] is free.

 

 

Counter CUFI: Invest in Justice

I believe in a God of Justice – a God of love and life and liberation. I believe that the voice of God is ringing out in the streets filled with protests, in the voices of those at city council meetings demanding more community resources, and in the thoughts of those who are re-considering policing and what it means to protect and serve the vulnerable in our communities. I believe the vision of God’s justice has local, national and global implications, and we are invited to participate in the shaping of a just and equitable world.

Because of my deep beliefs in the need for justice – both challenging injustice and investing our resources in building a just society that provides for all it’s residents – I will be participating in Counter CUFI: Invest In Justice. There are deep connections between the struggles for justice in the U.S. and in the Holy Land. Christians United for Israel (CUFI) is the largest pro-Israel lobby group in the U.S., co-opting Christian theology for political gain. They are supporting and accelerating Israel’s aggressive actions of injustice and inhumanity against the Palestinian people, including ongoing theft of land and resources, state violence and killings, demolition of homes and whole communities, restricting freedom of movement, and codifying racial divisions in apartheid laws.

As a Christian, I am horrified by the ways CUFI is co-opting Christianity to promote these injustices. As an American, I am outraged that my tax dollars ($3.8 billion annually) are helping underwrite these atrocities. As a person of conscience I feel compelled to rise up, speak up and act up to demand better of my faith, my country, and my fellow human being.

I invite you to join me this Sunday for an action holding Christians United for Israel accountable for their support of the racism against and colonization of Palestinian people and lands. We will demand that our government invest in justice both locally and abroad. This action will be grounded in a worship service in the Christian tradition, lifting up the prophetic cries for justice and righteousness. I have been organizing this powerful service entitled Enough! God Demands Justice and Righteousness based on Ezekiel 45:9 and Matthew 23:23.

I believe God’s visions of justice and liberation can be realized. I believe this moment of widespread outrage at business as usual has transformative power. I believe that there are ways each of us can participate in creating new ways of caring for one another. I hope you will join me in worship and action on Sunday!

National Day of Mourning and Lament

Memorial for Choung Woon Ahn outside ICE headquarters in San Francisco, photo by Deborah Svoboda

Mourning and lament are powerful ways to express grief, anguish and heartache. And there is much to lament in this moment. Over 100,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the U.S. Our nation is on fire with rage at ongoing and unchecked police brutality, racial inequality and the ubiquity white supremacy. Our lives and our world have radically and unexpected changed in the last few months and we live with uncertainly of what’s to come. We mourn. We lament. We cry out to God in anguish.

Last Thursday, I co-lead a memorial service filled with mourning and lament. We honored the life of Choung Woon Ahn, a 74-year-old who needlessly died in ICE detention. We held the service outside of ICE’s regional headquarters in San Francisco, holding them accountable for his death. Below are the words I shared with the gathered crowd, as well as the video. I share them as another reminder of state violence that is killing black and brown lives all around us. Let us lament and mourn. Let our outrage become a transforming fire.

We gather as family, friends, community advocates, faith leaders and concerned citizens to honor the life and mourn the death of Choung Woon Ahn – a beloved brother and uncle and long-time resident of Bay Area who was unjustly forced to endure the last months of his life in ICE detention at Mesa Verde, where he died in isolation. Our service will lift up those who knew Mr. Ahn and the joy he brought his community. It will lift up those who worked with him for his freedom and it will highlight the inhumane treatment he endured at the hands of ICE and GEO group, the for-profit prison operator that ran the detention center. We will offer prayers from multiple faith traditions as we remember and mourn Mr. Ahn, as well as voice our outrage at the abhorrent conditions that caused his death.

Welcome to Mr. Ahn’s family – we can’t begin to know your pain but we share our deepest condolences, we share our rage at this needless loss of life, and we share our commitment to demand accountability for your brother’s death. 

Welcome to all who are gathered together, those who are physically present, those who are watching online, and those who will watch the recording of this service – this memorial transcends both space and time as we unite in our grief, our lament an our cries for justice. Our physical gathering is outside of ICE regional headquarters in San Francisco to hold them accountable for the death of Choung Woon Ahn. It was their insistence on unnecessary incarceration, it was their refusal to release Mr. Ahn with his medical conditions, and it was their inability to provide for his safety and care that we are here today. ICE and GEO group are responsible for his death.

Mr. Ahn’s death is not an isolated event. We have with us a tombstone of Carlos Escobar Mejia – the first ICE detainee to die of COVID related causes – and we lift up Santiago Baten-Oxlag, who died in detention in Georgia this week, also due to COVID. In addition, we mourn the tragic and needless deaths at the hands of the police of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others. We decry all forms of state violence that are killing black and brown lives in our country. Black and Brown Lives Matter. Immigrant Lives Matter. Every Human Being Is Sacred Across All Borders and we as a community stand together in grief, rage and commitment to our community.

We are surrounded by the hearts of loved ones who are still in detention, and we pledge our commitment to these brothers and sisters – to work for their freedom, release and return to community. As an interfaith community, we believe in the power of redemption – we are ALL so much more than any mistake we have made, we believe in the need for restoration – of individuals to community and of community to each of its members – and therefore we demand release of all who are unjustly, needlessly imprisoned. 

All photos by Deborah Svoboda.

Video of the memorial can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/Lj7_Ptkw_b4

Have A Heart, Governor Newsom

Last Friday, I stood with 29 other faith leaders to send a message of solidarity to ICE detainees on hunger strike, a message of urgency to Governor Newsom to do everything in his power to free detainees, and a message of outrage to ICE leadership about their deplorable and deadly practices. This Friday, I invite you to join me in amplifying these messages of hope, justice, solidarity and joint struggle.

Our action was in direct response to inmates at Mesa Verde Detention Center in Bakersfield. On Good Friday, several dorms went on hunger strike due to the harsh conditions they were enduring, as well as their inability to practice social distancing or protect themselves from COVID-19. The photo above, left, is of detainees sending a message of love and dignity to the larger community, inviting us to stand with them. The photo on the right, taken last Friday, was our response. Please join us today, as we continue to work together to liberate those in detention.

Join us this #FaithfulFriday to lift up the faith voice and call on Governor Newsom to #HaveAHeart and #FreeThemAll!

There are four ways you can join us: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Invite your family, friends, and loved ones to take action with us by sharing: bit.ly/HaveAHeart-Toolkit! 

Here’s a graphic to post, along with your own heart photo. For messaging, more ideas on the actions you can take, or more info on the deadly conditions detainees are enduring check out: bit.ly/HaveAHeart-Toolkit.

Take action today to share the love sent to us from ICE detainees in their journey toward liberation!

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Civic Engagement as Spiritual Practice

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With Alice Butler outside Governor Newsom’s office, using our political power to enact our faith.

It’s election Session, and Super Tuesday is upon us. The air is filled with excitement and hope, fear and ugliness. Mailboxes are full of unwanted appeals. Misleading advertisements abound. Candidate gossip and commentary are overflowing, as are passionate pleas to consider the potential of particular politicians. Excitement and exhaustion are intermingled, and for a brief moment – at least in the circles I run in – engagement is silencing apathy. This is heartening.

Politics has a well-deserved bad rap. Newpapers are daily filled with political leaders misusing their power and abusing their position; corruption and politicians all too often go hand in hand. It is easy to become cynical. And yet, let’s not forget that Lakeshore’s current representatives Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas and Congresswoman Barbara Lee are wielding their political power to the benefit of many underrepresented constituents. Public servants still exist, even when they are too few and too far between. And indeed, it is we the people of this country who are responsible for holding our politicians accountable.

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Holding people accountable is not a fun job – just ask any parent, teacher or boss. And yet, holding our politicians accountable is not only the responsibility of every citizen, it is also how we enact our faith and express our deepest values. We the people is only a lofty ideal unless we the people use our political power and do our part.

Accountability isn’t even the goal, it’s the threshold. Much more than keeping public servants “in line,” voters are empowered to inspire public officials, to equip them to enact systems and policies that reflect the country we long to live in, one that actually embraces all its residents, provides for all its residents, and ensures that all its residents the ability to thrive. As we celebrated African American History this month, I was inspired once again by the great cloud of witnesses who have and continue to lead the way in not just dreaming of a better country, but putting their bodies on the line to demand this country live up to its declaration of freedom and justice for all.

In January, I had the opportunity to speak to my Representatives in Washington D.C. and was reminded again of the power of exercising my political voice. It was shortly after our President announced his so called “Peace” Plan, more aptly named the Steal of the Century, and I was eager to share my outrage. A shout out to Kyle Cristofalo of Churches for Middle East Peace (where I serve on the board representing the Alliance of Baptists) for setting up the meetings and showing me the ropes.

While visiting Congresswoman Barbara Lee, I witnessed her staff joyously celebrating as her bill to repeal the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed in the House. This was a testament to her courageous lone vote almost two decades ago to reject a “blank check” for the President to wage war. It was a powerful reminder of the ever changing political tides and the power of persistence in fighting for your values. While speaking with her staffer, I thanked her for Rep. Lee’s bold actions, like co-sponsoring HR 2407, ensuring that US tax dollars do not support the imprisoning of Palestinian children. I encouraged her to function as a leader to her colleagues in taking clear, strong stands to support freedom, justice and equality for all people.

I also dropped by Congressman Mark DeSaulnier’s office (I reside in his district). His Legislative Director took time to meet with me, telling me she recognized my name from all the emails I’ve submitted (let’s hear it for even simple acts like signing on to pre-written emails!). When I offered my thanks for Rep. DeSaulnier’s cosponsorship of HR 2407, she told me his decision was easy: while some of his constituents had concerns about this legislation, 3 times as many urged him to sign it. I also asked that he sign on to a letter restoring humanitarian aid to Gaza, which I’m happy to report he has since done. This encounter was a powerful reminder of the importance of raising our voices – through emails, calls, visits and showing up for town halls – to ensure our values are reflected in our government and with our tax dollars.

I know that not all congressional visits are so positive, and not all districts are so open to listen, but that is all the more reason to raise our voices and vote our values. I trust you are planning to vote on (or before) Tuesday – or whenever your election is held. I hope even more that you are empowered to exercise your political voice in any number of ways in 2020. There is power in civic engagement – and our country’s future depends on the exercise of our power! In the words of Robert Reich:

Citizenship is not a passive sport.”


A slight adaptation of Matthew 25:37-40, NRSV

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you voted for policies that provided for one of the least of these who are members of my family, you voted for policies that provided for me.’ 

Back in Bethlehem

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Wise Women from the West still following Bethlehem’s star

Last December, I traveled to Bethlehem to participate in the Kairos Palestine gathering. This was truly an advent journey of hope and longing as I joined with an international community to hear updates from Palestinian Christians who continue to await (and manifest) God’s redemptive work in their land. Inspired by their witness, representatives of the global Christian community strategized together how we can be Incarnation – God in human form – for one another.IMG_3244 (1)

“Hope where there is no hope” was the theme of our time together, and indeed the situation for Palestinians grows more dire with each passing day as they endure the cruel realities of legalized apartheid, codified in the new Nation-State Law; ongoing attacks aimed at the erasure of their communities and culture; and the devastating feeling of international abandonment. Yet, in the face of these harsh realities, we encountered the deep and abiding power of hope that provides vision, purpose, perseverance and even joy. The kind of hope that defies death and motivates people to plant flowers in the casings of empty tear gas canisters.

“Hope is the capacity to see God in the midst of trouble and to be co-workers with the Holy Spirit who is dwelling in us. From this vision derives the strength to be steadfast, remain firm and work to change the reality in which we find ourselves.” (Kairos Palestine, 2009)

This hope, grounded in a faith that has been forged in the harshest of realities, refusing to be extinguished, and embodied in acts of love and resistance, serves as a powerful reminder of what it means to be followers of Jesus. As our own country is embattled in a fight for its soul, its core values and its future, we who have great privilege have much to learn from the Palestinian people who are leading the way in what it means to resist evil through love, to be hope for one another, and to continue to allow God to be born in their very midst.

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As an international community, we drew strength from one another: from South Africa to India, Korea to the Philippines, Europeans, North and South Americans, we took courage from the joint struggles we are engaged in, challenging the many manifestations of racism, militarism, and ethnic cleansing rampant in our world. IMG_3279We affirmed the deep interconnectedness of our struggles and the power of partnering together in our mutual efforts to demand
freedom, justice and equality for all people. We committed to being a global circle of prophets, working in our own local communities, to be the very presence of God in the world.

From the Palestinian Christians, we were asked to manifest hope through participating in boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS), being liberative church, rejecting any theology that dehumanizes any of God’s children, leading sacred pilgrimages, and lifting up the profound theology of the Kairos Palestine letter of faith, hope and love (a Palestinian “Letter from Birmingham Jail”).

Inspired by all I witnessed in Bethlehem, and in response to the Palestinian invitation to be manifestations of hope, my congregation spent the month of January educating ourselves on the state-sactioned violence and injustices endured by the Palestinian people, reading carefully the Kairos Palestine letter, and ultimately committing to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality through boycotting Hewlett Packard until they end their complicity with Israel’s occupation and human rights abuses. To learn more about how your congregation can take the HP Free pledge, check out HP Free Church.

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There is still so much to do. Injustice abounds. Inhumanity is rampant. And yet, as the Advent season of hope led to Christmas, the celebration of God with us, and now Epiphany, the season of manifestation and light, we are invited to be manifestations of the God of Justice and Love in our world. May the light of Love and Justice continue to grow brightly within us and through us, and may we be emissaries of God’s light for and with one another.

 

 

Freedom, Justice and the 4th of July

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On the eve of the 4th of July, my heart is heavy with the plight of so many seeking basic freedoms and having these freedoms denied by the actions (and inactions) of the United States government.

I know the crafters of the Declaration of Independence never intended to include all people in its lofty pronouncement that “all men are created equal…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” yet I refuse to accept that these words are mere propaganda. Over the centuries, Americans have protested, organized, fought, bled and died for the expansion of these ideals – for liberty and justice for all. And while these goals still remain aspirational, they continue to be aspirations worth fighting for, worth demanding of our government, worth birthing ever more fully into existence in our country.

As a child, I daily pledged myself to my country: a republic that promotes liberty and justice for all. I feel it my patriotic duty, this 4thof July, to decry the lack of liberty and justice in my country, and prayerfully commit myself to the work of liberation.

To this end, I have decided to walk around Oakland’s beloved Lake Merritt (roughly three miles) seven times this 4th of July – reminiscent of the ancient Israelites circling Jericho seven times before its walls came tumbling down – prayerfully surrounding this symbolic center of my community, denouncing acts of injustice perpetrated by my country and demanding my country restore basic human rights to all its residents.

I will walk a lap for each of the following groups who continue to be denied freedom and justice in significant ways:

  • for migrants seeking safety, security and a better life
  • for Black and Brown lives suffering from systemic racism and police brutality
  • for Palestinians, Central Americans and all in the international community seeking justice, equality and freedom
  • for indigenous people seeking to protect and honor their sacred lands
  • for the poor who seek shelter, food and good education
  • for women everywhere seeking equality for themselves, freedom for their bodies, and opportunities for their families
  • for the earth, which cries out from exploitation

I invite you to join me in your own way, connected to your own traditions of prayer and protest, to demand more from our country, to commit yourself to stand for and work for more from our country, and to do you part to reclaim for our beloved country all that we long for it to become.

May we who believe in freedom (and justice) not rest until it comes.

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