Yesterday a good friend told me "Calmase, Pat" - Be calm and don't make bad decisions. I received a newsletter this weekend from the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity in San Francisco. Rev. Deb Lee is a friend and member of the United Church of Christ Collaborative on Immigration Justice. Her words capture for me a way to respond to the tumultuous decision made by many Americans last week to elect a man as President who wants to build walls and exclude people. If you feel differently, as do I - hopefully these words will speak to you.
This week’s election results have understandably stirred up a tremendous amount of fear. That is real. Understandable. We feel it too.
Although faith teachings of many religious traditions- encourage us to “Fear Not,” that faith, love and understanding are stronger than fear, we know that is not an easy thing. There is a real uncertainty among all of us of what will happen under the Trump presidency. His proposed immigration policies do not bode well for undocumented immigrants, Muslims, those with DACA, and refugees. The proposed policies emphasizing a wall and greater enforcement will do nothing to address the root causes of migration and only result in more deaths of those fleeing violence and desperation.
Much is uncertain, but one thing we can be certain of, is that Solidarity is stronger than fear. Solidarity gives us courage when we are afraid. Solidarity is our protection. The fear may still be there, standing with each other in unity, makes us stronger and more brave to confront the challenge ahead. Our best defense is an organized community committed to each other and bound together with all those at risk.
So let us stand together in solidarity, whether it is undocumented immigrants, Muslims, refugees, African Americans, LGBTQ people, Jews, and other minorities at risk.
The state of California’s legislature has issued a letter expressing their commitment to defend the California’s history as a refuge of justice and opportunity. We must ensure that sanctuary city policies are upheld so that our tradition of fair treatment and due process for all people continue. We ask faith communities to consider declaring themselves “Sanctuary” Congregations or “Immigrant welcoming congregations.” We must all know our rights in a likely period of greater immigration law enforcement. Our concrete and proactive acts of solidarity are needed now more than ever. "
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The cases of Standing Rock, North Dakota and Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon
On October 27, 2016 a jury in an Oregon federal court found the seven men who invaded the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge last winter "Not Guilty" of conspiracy to prevent federal workers from doing their job. The U.S. Attorney might have been wrong to pursue a conspiracy charge as they are tricky to prove beyond a doubt. I was stunned by the decision.
This was a widely publicized and documented invasion of public lands by men who want federal lands restored to local community control and the ability of farmers and ranchers to utilize the land for private means. These men or some of them have done similar invasions in Nevada.
They had spent time in jail awaiting their trial and then suddenly, they were free to leave the state and to return to their homes and I guess, continued struggles for local control of public lands.
Contrast that decision with the reality of the Native Americans in Standing Rock, North Dakota who have been beaten, tear gassed, fired at with rubber bullets and finally bull dozed off their ancestral land. Why? Because they are protesting the building of a pipe line that will cross their ancestral lands, sacred land to them and has the potential to damage the drinking water from the Missouri River which benefits all in that part of North Dakota.
On Friday, October 28 I heard a radio interview on OPB with a Native American from the Umatilla tribes in Oregon who had just returned from Standing Rock. He drew the parallels between Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and Standing Rock - in the Malheur case, private profit or personal gain won and the white men were freed to continue their fight against public good or public lands. Their occupation also destroyed some sacred places of the Paiute tribe in southern Oregon.
In Standing Rock the police defended the private interests of the pipeline against the peaceful protest of the Native Tribes. The interviewer, Dave Miller, asked the Umatilla tribal member, how he felt about the U.S. government and local county police actions. "Well, I don't have any trust that the U.S. government will defend us - it has been several centuries in which the white man's interests always took priority or precedence over that of the Native American." (Loose interpretation of the interview)
The Native Americans at Standing Rock have reached out to all Native American tribes in the United States, Canada and Central America to join them in their peaceful protest. Last week on November 3 500 clergy of many faiths joined in an interfaith worship service at Standing Rock to honor the sacredness of the land.
The events at Standing Rock are similar to the 1973 "uprising" at Wounded Knee. My then husband Carlo along with several Quakers tried to take blankets, food and non-pharmaceutical medicine from Oregon to Wounded Knee. The caravan for peace and justice made it as far as the Oregon-Idaho border when the FBI stopped the caravan and arrested the participants. The case was thrown out finally by the Oregon U.S. Attorney for lack of substantial evidence but remember that Richard Nixon was President of the United States who began the COINPROTEL, a series of covert, and at times illegal, projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aimed at surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting and disrupting domestic political organizations.
I believe that the Native Americans at Standing Rock as well as throughout the United States are trying to build bridges - to educate us all about protecting the environment which is more important than oil production or private profit. They are asking us to join them in the peaceful protest or to support their efforts. Here is a link to an article that explains the Native American religion and the relationship to sacred land. grist.org/article/native-american-religion-and-standing-rock-what-you-need-to-know/
Get involved - Ask your local faith community what you can do and what they are doing. Call the President and ask him to stop the pipeline. Check out the various websites working to stop the pipeline - write a op ed piece - educate yourself about the issues.
And remember - think about building bridges not walls.
It has been two months since my last post. Like many in the United States I have been wrapped up in the political campaigns - local, state and national. The theme of this blog came from my work with American Friends Service Committee before I went to Guatemala in 1969. One of the Quakers during our orientation asked us to build bridges, not walls. He did not mean physical bridges but bridges between people and places. The emphasis on building a wall at our southern border with Mexico and the kind of walls that Donald Trump has proposed to build to keep out - Mexicans and Central Americans fleeingviolence, Muslims, Gay people (and Transgendered also) plus the walls to separate us by class, age, gender, race and ideology. So this blog in two or three parts is my reflection on how we can build bridges.
The Sepur Zarco Case - Seven Months after the verdict
Maudi works as a community psychologist with ECAP in Guatemala. ECAP provides healing to survivors of human rights violations and sociopolitical violence. They work to provide treatment for those that have suffered human rights violations, with a special focus on women and Indigenous groups in Guatemala. Since 1998, ECAP has carried out psychosocial support to many victims and family members and strived to document violent actions, in addition to using research to help as many victims as possible.
Maudi shared the work that she does to heal the community. "Violence destroys the community so we do not focus just on the individual, but the entire community." She is working with the survivors in Sepur Zarco - although the women won the legal case, they have not yet received any community benefits such as a new school and health clinic as ordered by the Judge last February. She offers psycho-social support to the community.
Maudi adds -"women are not victims, they are capable of learning and doing. We learn that from them." We saw a short video of the trial and its outcome. The women covered their faces during the trial but when the verdict was announced, they removed their shawls. I was moved by the image of one woman - as she removed her shawl, her face was proud and her eyes and face illuminated strength. This is in Spanish but worth watching because of the images and faces. www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgCvx_ioOPk
Maudi's organization has its own website: www.ecapguatemala.org.gt/ It too is in Spanish. One question at her presentation was if the materials are available in English - NO, but there are many Spanish speakers in our country who could use the various resources found at the ECAP website - especially for immigrant women who has either been trafficked or sexually abused during their journey north from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
We can build bridges between Guatemala and the United States - to learn from their experiences working with women who are victims of violence. Many of the unaccompanied minors from Central America have also been victimized - why don't we invite the ECAP community health and healing approach to share their knowledge with us? ECAP is a valuable resource for all of us working with refugees and immigrants.
My life has been about crossing borders and cultures and building bridges across the boundaries that normally divide. Have you crossed any borders in your life?