Monday, February 27, 2017

A Peace-building Commonwealth Wants to Ban Nuclear Weapons

Some blog posts just write themselves.

March 13, 2017, is "Commonwealth Day" - "the annual celebration of the Commonwealth of Nations held on the second Monday in March, and marked by a multi-faith service in Westminster Abbey, normally attended by Queen Elizabeth II as Head of the Commonwealth . . . . ".

The Commonwealth of Nations includes these countries:

Commonwealth Countries

This year, the theme of Commonwealth Day is "A Peace-building Commonwealth."

So what I can't figure out is how certain prominent Commonwealth countries voted "no" to the UN negotiations on a global nuclear weapons ban, when it was approved this past October:

Vote on resolution to negotiate a ban on nuclear weapons in 2017 (L-41)
Green - Yes (123, 76%)
Red - No (38, 24%)
Beige - Abstained
(Via @ILPIwmd - share on Twitter)

Make no mistake -- the majority of the countries of the world approved the resolution to move forward with nuclear ban negotiations . . . the preparatory meetings have already taken place . . . and the first formal sessions will begin at the end of March.

And let's be clear: so many Commonwealth countries were actually sponsors of the resolution that you could practically call it a Commonwealth project:

New Zealand
Papua New Guinea
Sierra Leone
South Africa
Sri Lanka
St. Vincent and The Grenadines
Trinidad and Tobago

Almost all the rest of the Commonwealth countries voted yes. (See the "Full voting result on UN resolution L.41" page on the ICAN website.)

A few Commonwealth countries (such as India and Pakistan) abstained on the vote -- and they may very well participate actively in the negotiations themselves. (There were some reports that India attended the preparatory meeting.)

A peace-building Commonwealth
But there are some "refuseniks."

Australia and Canada, as well as the UK itself, all voted "no." To date, all indications are that those three countries will boycott the negotiations. All of three countries are under the pressure of the ultimate refusenik -- the United States -- to stay away from this vital peace effort.

The Commonwealth really is central to banning nuclear weapons. But right now there remain a few missing pieces in the puzzle.

During this year of "A peace-building Commonwealth," urge the governments of the UK, Canada, and Australia to participate in the the nuclear ban negotiations. You can get involved at

Next step: The Road to the Commonwealth Games Passes Through #Nuclearban Territory


Who would possibly vote "NO" to banning nuclear weapons???


Three in four Australians think the government should support the UN
negotiations to prohibit nuclear weapons. Only one in ten thinks it shouldn't.
(Ipsos Poll, March 2017)
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Outrageous Canada is boycotting nuclear weapons ban talks #cdnpoli
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Hiroshima survivors UK tour 2017 - "Support the global nuclear ban"
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Sunday, February 26, 2017

New This Week (Feb. 27, 2017)

Ash Wednesday is upon us.

This year I'm thinking about the coincidence of Ash Wednesday (March 1) with the day when the US carried out massive nuclear tests on Bikini Atoll. (See  Why People Want a Pacific (and World) Free of Nuclear Weapons.) Considering that nuclear ban talks go forward in a few weeks at the the UN, I'm wondering - will church leaders step up to call on all of us to repent our nuclear folly during Lent?

(And I wonder: will banning nuclear weapons will be on the program when world leaders gather at Westminster Cathedral on March 13 to recognize "2017 - A Peace-building Commonwealth.")

I'm also thinking about another type of ashes and dust . . . .

Anthracite Fields in performance.

Sunday night at Cal Performances, I saw a performance of the earth-shattering oratorio Anthracite Fields. There is a good summary of the piece on Wikipedia.

I've written a lot about my anthracite coal miner Grandaddy Melker:

I wish every person who has ever worked could have their labors commemorated in a piece as moving as Anthracite Fields.

You can listen to all five movements on Youtube. But start by watching this video that gives an overview of the whole project:

*   *   *

UPDATE 2/28: There are now twenty (20) co-sponsors on the bill to rein in presidential first use of nuclear weapons. Please use this script to call and get YOUR representative on that list!

More updates ... 3/2: twenty-one co-sponsors ....

Monday, February 20, 2017

Which Comes First? Loyalty? or Equity?

About 50 people gathered on Sunday at First Church Berkeley for an art response to the anniversary of the 1942 executive order #9066 that resulted in the internment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans. Two survivors of those internment camps shared 1,000 paper cranes with the participants. We were asked to think of ways to make use of them to say, "Never again." So now I'm sharing with you.

One of a thousand cranes distributed at the 2/19 event.

I moved to California about a year ago. While the US internment of people of Japanese descent during World War II is a legacy that every person in the US must own, it is particularly relevant to California, the home of so many of the people interned.

During the past year, I read Farewell to Manzanar - a memoir that is frequently assigned in high school and college classes here. It is a high impact book -- easy to read, and full of insights about the life of a second-generation girl of Japanese descent who was sent with her family to an internment camp in central California.

Farewell to Manzanar
I say "easy to read," but there is a part of the story that I just can't seem to get past.  Up until 1924, hundreds of thousands of Japanese were allowed to come to the US (plus Hawaii) to work, but they were not allowed to become US citizens. Then, in 1924, immigration from Japan to the US was cut off entirely by US law. (Details here and here.) Any children born to those immigrants in the US were automatically US citizens. All of them were rounded up and interned after war broke out. The pretext was: "You are of Japanese descent and we don't know where your loyalties lie."

In a way characteristic of this country, the US had created a situation combining mistreatment based on "race" identity with discrimination based on (involuntary) lack of citizenship

In 1943, the US government began to try to undo what it had done. It circulated a questionnaire to the internees, including "loyalty questions." If you answered the questions properly, you could obtain leave from internment.

Imagine having been rounded up and sent off to an internment camp, held for a long period, and then being given the "opportunity" to state where your loyalties lie. How would you feel? How would you feel if you were a US citizen? How would you feel if you were an immigrant who had been denied the possibility of ever becoming a US citizen?

The situation faced by those internees in 1943 is relevant to the continuing situation of various groups in the US today, especially immigrant populations and people subject to discrimination. Which properly comes first: loyalty? or equitable treatment? (Is the answer different if you're "white"?)


SANCTUARY (Church, City, State) and Solidarity with Immigrants 

Dirty Wars and Extrajudicial Execution (So 1984!)
Does a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) need to be part of a "new plan of Chicago"?
360 Degree Feedback in New York (2014 NPT Prepcom and How the World Views the United States))

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Why People Want a Pacific (and World) Free of Nuclear Weapons

In the US, if we think at all about our use of nuclear weapons, we think of Hiroshima (and perhaps Nagasaki).

But we should also remember the way we (and others) have subjected people in South Pacific nations to nuclear danger by tests of more and more enormous atomic and hydrogen bombs over the course of decades.

Laurence Hyde: woodcut print from the novel Southern Cross,
a book about atomic testing in the Pacific.

I, myself, got a wake-up call when participating in a commemoration of Hiroshima in Chicago in 2012 and finding the image above, depicting atomic testing in the Pacific.

My eyes were opened further by the film Lucky Dragon No. 5, by Kaneto Shindo. It tells the story of fishermen exposed to nuclear fallout from the (in)famous Castle Bravo nuclear test at Bikini on March 1, 1954.

Castle Bravo h-bomb test at Bikini Atoll, March 1, 1954.

Then, in 2014, a lawsuit was brought to get justice for people in the Marshall Islands.

In 2015, I was at a conference in Hiroshima and obtained a much more comprehensive sense of what US atomic testing in the Pacific was about. (See MARSHALL ISLANDS HIBAKUSHA: Can social media trump empire and entertainment? and the Wikipedia article on the so-called "Pacific Proving Grounds.")

Last year, I was listening to a hymn in church, and it led me to learn more about the leading role of New Zealand in working for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

New Zealand's representative for Foreign Affairs and Trade says,
"We will certainly be active participants in the negotiations
beginning at the UN in New York this coming March.
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NOW . . . Fiji, Indonesia, the Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Samoa, and Tuvalu have been among the co-sponsors of the UN resolution L.41, the passage of which set the stage for negotiations in 2017 on a global ban on nuclear weapons.

2017 is the year in which these countries and others will bring about a global ban on nuclear weapons.

For people in the US, this is a moment to understand the problem of nuclear weapons through the eyes of others -- particularly people who have lived under the shadow of US nuclear weapons. We need to urge our government to stop obstructing the nuclear weapons ban negotiations, and instead give their full support to this effort. Go to to find out how.

Working for a Nuclear-Free and Independent PACIFIC
(Image via @DimityHawkins)


Who would possibly vote "NO" to banning nuclear weapons???

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New This Week (Feb. 20, 2017)

Nuclear weapons: are we done playing God yet?

I'm thinking about Lent - which begins next week. In particular, I'm encouraging faith communities everywhere to use this time of repentance to speak out in support of the UN nuclear weapons ban negotiations and put an end, once and for all, to the threat that a few countries pose to everyone else in the world.

Coincidentally, Ash Wednesday this year falls on March 1 - the anniversary of the Castle Bravo nuclear test on Bikini Atoll. (See my new post below on Why People Want a Pacific (and World) Free of Nuclear Weapons.)

Here's more about the GLOBAL network working to ban nuclear weapons in 2017.

*   *   *

A piece of folded paper at an event Sunday in Berkeley has me thinking: Which Comes First? Loyalty? or Equity?

Thursday, February 16, 2017


Preparatory meetings for the UN conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination, commence today. The first full meetings will take place at the end of March at the UN in New York.

Which leads me to a modest recommendation . . . .

Nuclear Ban Treaty Negotiations -- United Nations, New York
27-31 March 2017 / 15 June - 7 July 2017

What if faith leaders everywhere spoke out on the need to support the effort to ban nuclear weapons? This seems particularly important in the US, Canada, Australia, and most of the countries of Europe, whose governments are opposing these negotiations. (See: Who would possibly vote "NO" to banning nuclear weapons??? )

For instance, Christian leaders could designate Sunday, March 26 -- the day before the UN sessions begin -- as a day to lift up this important peace work. This date midway through Lent seems appropriate for talking about the need to make a change, while there's still time.

Woodcut print by Sadao Watanabe
I've checked the lectionary for the day. It includes John 9:1-41. ("One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.")  A fitting text . . . .

So . . . Preach it! Let the bells ring out!

Related posts . . . 

Ring Them Bells for Nuclear Disarmament in 2015

Nuclear Disarmament: Are the Churches the Key?

#NOwar Music: Sometimes you hear it in church

Key resources . . . 

Network of Christian Peace Organizations (NCPO) Nuclear Weapon Ban Briefing 2017

Nuclear Disarmament: The Time is Now (A Resolution Adopted by the General Assembly of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA and Church World Service) 

World Council of Churches pushes for a prohibition on nuclear weapons

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Monday, February 13, 2017


Several groups worked together on Monday in Berkeley to lift up the names and stories of people who have suffered from police violence and other forms of systemic racism in the US. The vigil by members of Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action (BOCA), Justice 4 Kayla Moore, and Berkeley Copwatch was titled "Remember Our Names Black History Month Prayer Vigil" - and took place for five hours between noon and 5:00 p.m. in the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, facing Berkeley City Hall and the headquarters of the Berkeley Police Department.

Members of St. John's Presbyterian Church share names and stories.
(Photo: Mark Coplan)

February 13 is the anniversary of the murder of transgender African American woman Kayla Moore by the Berkeley Police Department 4 years ago. (See SAY HER NAME: Kayla Moore and the Struggle for Justice)

"Remember Our Names Black History Month Prayer Vigil"
(Photo: Mark Coplan)
The photo at right shows the backdrop for the event: the Justice for Kayla Moore banner at left, images of victims of killings by police at right, and artwork by event founder (and BOCA executive director) Rev. Daniel Buford on the raised central area. Rev. Buford is at center, wearing the beret. Kayla Moore's sister, Maria Moore, stands at the far right.

Many people gave testimony about the violence being carried out by representatives of the state all across this country, and particularly against people of color. Dozens of accounts, from research compiled by Rev. Buford, were read and discussed. People shared stories of violence and killings and other injustice that they had been subjected to, or that had affected their friends or families or other members of their communities.

Many people from the congregation I attend, University Lutheran Church (ULC), participated in the vigil. We at ULC have made an intentional commitment to anti-racism work, joining in solidarity with other justice activists in our city, our state, and nationally.

For my own part, I used my time at the microphone during the vigil to lift up the names of some people I have known and/or learned about through my work in Chicago before coming to Berkeley.

I talked about Flint Farmer, who was shot in the back by Chicago police and killed, as he lay face down on the ground. (See: We need to get the police off the streets of Chicago. QED. ) And I talked about Flint's father, Emmett, who I has become a tireless campaigner for justice on behalf of all people subjected to police violence. I said that each time I see the way Maria Moore has devoted herself to activism in response to what happen to her sister, Kayla, I always think of Emmett Farmer.

"Remember Our Names Black History Month Prayer Vigil"
(Photo: Mark Coplan)
I talked about Rekia Boyd, who was shot in the head by an off-duty Chicago police officer. (See: Chicago Vocabulary Lesson: "Overcharging" and "Undercharging") I talked about how people in Chicago made a commitment to #SayHerName, so that everyone would know Rekia's story. I talked about how the systemic injustice included not just the police, but the also the district attorney's office that failed to hold the police accountable. And I talked about how the people of Chicago voted states attorney Anita Alvarez out of office for her failures in cases like that of Rekia Boyd.

I talked about people who had suffered from police torture in Chicago -- people like Darrell Cannon and Mark Clements. I talked about seeing Mark show up to speak at protest after protest after protest against police crimes. If Mark -- freed after spending 28 years imprisoned on trumped-up charges -- can find the energy and courage to keep showing up to be an advocate for others, what's stopping the rest of us?

In the course of the afternoon, we lifted up the names of stories of people from dozens of places around the country. Systemic violence against people of color is not just a Bay Area thing, it's not just a Chicago thing, it's happening everywhere. (Flashback: National Forum on Police Crimes, May 2014)

A full album of photographs from the event is available on Flickr.


CHICAGO: Accountability ... Police AND City Council
Chicago Justice: Connecting the Dots

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New This Week (Feb. 13, 2017)

We were out in force in Berkeley on the 13th to "Remember Our Names" -- a Black History Month vigil in observance of the many lives lost to police violence across this country. (Story below: DURING BLACK HISTORY MONTH: Remember Our Names)

(And we had a big turnout a week ago for the immigrant solidarity rally at the nearby detention center.)

I'm thinking ahead to Lent, and hoping many pastors will seize the opportunity to preach on the global nuclear ban negotiations on March 26 . . . .

14 de febrero - Tlatelolco 50: Un regalo para el mundo
#LatinAmerica leads the way to #NOnukes world
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The heart above is inspired by Tlatelolco 50: A Gift to the World. The 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Tlatelolco falls on Valentine's Day - Tuesday, February 14, 2017.

All this week, actions in connection with the upcoming nuclear weapons ban talks continue - see @nuclearban for updates.

I'm excited that the global network to oppose nuclear weapons is growing rapidly. I'm particularly hopeful about the potential impact of April 22 Science Marches worldwide.

UPDATE 2/15: There are now eighteen (18) co-sponsors on the bill to rein in presidential first use of nuclear weapons. Please use this script to call and get YOUR representative on that list!

   More updates ... 2/17: nineteen co-sponsors ....

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

VIETNAM and the NUCLEAR BAN: Out From Under the Shadow of US Nuclear Terror

Vietnam is one of the co-sponsors of the UN resolution L.41, the passage of which set the stage for negotiations in 2017 on a global ban on nuclear weapons.

When I sat in a session at the UN in 2014, I got an unforgettable reminder that most of the countries in the world are non-nuclear-weapons states, and that they urgently desire the US and other nuclear weapons states to eliminate nuclear weapons. (See 360 Degree Feedback in New York (2014 NPT Prepcom and How the World Views the United States) )

But my reading in recent weeks has given me another reminder: Vietnam is a country that has experienced the direct and very imminent threat of nuclear attack by the US in living memory. It is sickening to think that, on top of the immense killing and devastation that the US wrought in Vietnam (as well as its neighbors), it subjected Vietnam to the even greater threats of nuclear attack.

. . . under the gaze of US Secretary of Defense (1961-8) Robert McNamara

For example . . .

1954 - US Secretary of State Allen Dulles gave his "Massive Retaliation" speech, as the French sought to relieve Bien Dien Phu. There are multiple reports of discussions about using US nuclear weapons to come to the rescue of the French, including a plan developed by US Vice President Richard Nixon.

1961 - US General Lyman Lemnitzer and General Curtis LeMay urged JFK to authorize the use of nuclear weapons in Southeast Asia: "If we are given the right to use nuclear weapons, we can guarantee victory," promised Lemnitzer. (See James W. Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable, p. 101 and 109.)

By 1968, the antiwar movement was lampooning the
Johnson campaign's upbeat "All the Way with LBJ" slogan
with a mushroom cloud suggesting a nuclear bomb.
1964 - US military commanders met in Hawaii to figure out what to do about Vietnam. As they laid the groundwork for the introduction into Vietnam of massive numbers of US troops in 1965, 1966, and 1967, the planners held out the very clear possibility that China would enter the war on the side of Vietnam, and the US would "have to" use nuclear weapons. (See Barbara W. Tuchman, The March of Folly, p. 315.) A few months later, the famous "Daisy" ads began to run: they suggested candidate Barry Goldwater might use nuclear weapons in Vietnam if he were elected president.

1968 - The Johnson administration considered the use of nuclear weapons for the relief of Khe Sahn, in response to the Tet Offensive. (See Rick Pearlstein, Nixonland, p. 228.) Later that year, General LeMay became the running mate of Governor George Wallace. When asked if he would use nuclear weapons to end the war, he gave a meandering reply that concluded, "I would use anything we could dream up, anything we could dream up -- including nuclear weapons, if it was necessary." (Nixonland, p. 348-9)

1969 - Richard Nixon, once firmly ensconced in the White House, made the threat of using nuclear weapons central to his strategy for bringing North Vietnam to the negotiating table. (See "the Madman Theory.")

 . . . and on it goes.

Is it any wonder that Vietnam and its neighbors entered into the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty in 1995? Is it any wonder that in 2017 Vietnam is a committed proponent of a global ban on nuclear weapons?

The US has opposed the negotiations on a global ban on nuclear weapons. I would invite every person in the US to reflect on the shameful history of US nuclear terror, and (re-)commit themselves to causing the US to cooperate in bringing the global ban to fruition.


Who would possibly vote "NO" to banning nuclear weapons???

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SCIENCE MARCHES: Are All These Countries In the Dark About Nuclear Weapons?

I'm excited about the Science Marches scheduled to take place around the world on April 22, 2017.

But one thing puzzles me.

Here's a map I saw today of all the Science Marches announced to date:

Science Marches (map by Doug Duffy)

I made a mental comparison with a different version of the world map that I've been studying intently in recent months:

Vote on resolution to negotiate a ban on nuclear weapons in 2017 (L-41)
Green - Yes (123, 76%)
Red - No (38, 24%)
Beige - Abstained
(see Who would possibly vote "NO" to banning nuclear weapons???)

What I notice when I compare these two maps is that the key countries who voted NO to negotiations at the UN to ban nuclear weapons in 2017 are the same countries exhibiting great enthusiasm about April 22 Science Marches -- the US, Canada, Australia, and the EU countries.

Now, there is no doubt in my mind that the people who have the most insight about the devastating consequences of nuclear weapons -- and can best grasp the nature of the risk involved -- are trained scientists.

How can it be that the countries that are so rich in scientific spirit are the same ones obstructing the effort to get rid of nuclear weapons?

So here's my question to all the scientists: will you cause your governments to hear and heed your voices in time for them to come out from under the nuclear shadow and into the light of a world free from the danger of nuclear catastrophe?


. . . on the scientists at the Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory (the "Met Lab") who spoke up too late.
. . . how International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) put influenced Gorbachev on nuclear disarmament.
How to get involved in the nuclear ban campaign.


FACTS we should see at every #ScienceMarch: Impact of #nuclear #war
"Impact on Environment and Agriculture" from Reaching Critical Will
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UPDATE March 27: "Over 3,000 Scientists Support UN Nuclear Ban Negotiations" - "Delegates from most UN member states are gathering in New York to negotiate a nuclear weapons ban, where they will also receive a letter of support that has been signed by thousands of scientists from around over 80 countries – including 28 Nobel Laureates and a former US Secretary of Defense. “Scientists bear a special responsibility for nuclear weapons, since it was scientists who invented them and discovered that their effects are even more horrific than first thought”, the letter explains." (emphasis added)

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Monday, February 6, 2017

New This Week (Feb. 6, 2017)

I ask people in the US to face up to a sobering fact: countries like Vietnam are so urgently working to ban nuclear weapons in part because of their history of being on the receiving end of threats from OUR country. (See VIETNAM and the NUCLEAR BAN: Out From Under the Shadow of US Nuclear Terror)

I'm excited about the phenomenal growth of the Sciences Marches around the world. I'm wondering if this offers an opportunity to finally get the nuclear weapons states to support abolition. (See the post below -- SCIENCE MARCHES: Are All These Countries In the Dark About Nuclear Weapons?)

Tlatelolco 50
(Art: Daniel Uria (Bolivia))
I'm also excited about . . . 

February 14 is the 50th anniversary of the nuclear free zone in Latin America and the Caribbean. (See post below - Tlatelolco 50: A Gift to the World.)

February 10 is a big nuclear ban THUNDERCLAP - you can help it happen.

(The growth of the global network to ban nuclear weapons is breathtaking - see Network Power and the Movement to Ban Nuclear Weapons.)

Worried about TRUMP and nuclear weapons? There's a bill for that.

MEANWHILE . . . we enter Week 2 of Black History Month and I ask Which Way for the Church? Anti-Racism? or Comfort?

FINALLY . . . Resistance to the Trump immigration ban continues all over. Here's a picture from this past Saturday - an immigration solidarity vigil in Richmond, just north of Berkeley:

About 100 people gathered for a vigil and rally at the detention center in Richmond.

Lots more here: SANCTUARY (Church, City, State) and Solidarity with Immigrants.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

SANCTUARY (Church, City, State) and Solidarity with Immigrants

I'm participating in a lot of conversations these days about Sanctuary, including developments where I live (Berkeley, CA), and the many other places across the US that are standing in solidarity with immigrants.

I decided to assemble some of the materials I've been sharing in one place.

FIRST . . . check out these awesome photos of the vigil this past Saturday at the detention center in Richmond (just north of Berkeley):

About 100 people turned out for the vigil at Richmond Detention Ctr on Feb 4!
(photo: David Bacon - see full album on Facebook)

We had a big group from University Lutheran Chapel.
(See video below for more on Sanctuary activities at ULC.)

For more information on the monthly vigils at Richmond Detention Center, and the many opportunities for involvement throughout the East Bay and other parts of California, see:

Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity (IM4HumanIntegrity)
East Bay Interfaith Immigration Coalition (EBIIC)

In particular, I want to pass along the powerful words of IM4HumanIntegrity program director Deborah Lee, shared with us on Saturday:

We stand here in prayer and solidarity with the (150-300) immigrants who are asylum seekers, green card holders, and long term residents, who are being held here under civil immigration charges.

We stand here – in front of one of the 250 immigration detention centers across this country – many county facilities like these, and the majority for profit -private prison facilities owned by GEO and CCA.

We stand here in prayer and solidarity ALS0 for the hundreds of other incarcerated individuals – 2.4 million incarcerated in our nation in 7,500 prisons -- disproportionately black and brown – reflected of persistent and unacceptable racial inequities through every social institutions and especially our criminal justice system. We painfully acknowledge that 70% of those who remain detained here in this facility are PRE-trial , have been granted bail, but cannot afford it.

We pray for All their families. Often the chief breadwinner is taken away, a mother or a father, putting children and families in economic jeopardy, facing the threat of homelessness. We pray and offer our moral, spiritual and concrete support to the families whose loved ones are held here. We invite them to speak their truth right here into our circle - to give their testimony so that they know, they are not alone.

We stand here today in solidarity with all those impacted by the illegal ban of refugees, green card holders, visa holders and family members from the 7 countries and other countries at risk - which was overturned by a judge last night. We are here to stand Against the Executive Orders that would triple ICE agents, build a comprehensive border wall, punish sanctuary cities, and collect fines and fees from undocumented persons and those who help them.

We stand here in prayer and solidarity because this prison- is a symbol of the militarized and punitive mindset towards immigration and other social problems. This prison and the proposals to build the wall – at the cost of $4 million per mile- and other anti immigration policies makes all of our communities less safe and secure. We demand that government resources be used to invest in our communities and address root causes of migration


We pray, knowing that all our faith traditions call upon us to welcome strangers and aliens, to practice compassion, forgiveness and understanding for those in prison, for they are our sisters and brothers and our families, and them, we were once strangers and aliens in this land.

We remember and must not forget that:

10 years ago – thousands of Muslims forced to register were deported and many families were torn apart.

1 grandmother ago there was the Chinese Exclusion act.- banning all from China and eventually from the whole Asia Pacific rim.

1 grandmother ago by Executive Order 120,000 Japanese Americans were Interned.

1 grandmother ago Jewish children and families in need of safety and protection were turned away and denied entry.

1 grandmother ago during the Great depression there was the mass Deportation of Mexicans and Filipinos

2 grandmothers ago slavery was legal and those of African descent were only considered 3/5 of a person.

2 grandmothers ago- this was Mexico.

3 grandmothers ago- this was Ohlone land and that despite everything it is STILL.

We lift up the dignity and resilience and love of those who endured. May their spirits strengthen us to resist and end the injustices in our time.

Rev. Deborah Lee
Program Director
Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity (IM4HumanIntegrity)

You can see Deborah speak in this brief video about the Sanctuary project at University Lutheran Church in Berkeley. (Over 700 congregations have pledged their commitment to resist deportations and discrimination through Sanctuary.)

Short video about SANCTUARY by filmmaker Theo Rigby of Immigrant Nation.

(And here's a separate blog post that I wrote on the day of the Sanctuary press conference depicted in the video: IN BERKELEY: Declaring Sanctuary, Changing Hearts and Minds.)

Three related resources

We need lots of resources to build up communities of resistance step-by-step. Here are a few . . .

First, check out the "Faith on the Move" 6-part study guide from Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. It was prepared by Rev. Dr. David Vásquez-Levy and invites people to think deeply about our faith tradition in connection with today's events. (Exodus, anyone?) We used it for adult study at ULC and it was fabulous.

Second, and related, pastors from First Congregational Church in a great video (under 3 minutes) that gets to the truth of what the Bible says about how to treat immigrants:

Third, a provocative set of study topics -- "9 Phrases the Migrant Rights Movement Needs to Leave in 2015" -- from Latinos Rebels. (Who's ready to tackle this during Lent?)

Finally, here are a few related posts that I wrote in past years:

WELCOME MAT USA: Come in! Come in! (Get out! Get out!)
Wanna Fix the U.S.A? Welcome an Immigrant Today!

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Friday, February 3, 2017

Tlatelolco 50: A Gift to the World

People from Mexico have a lot to be proud of. Especially their leadership in eliminating nuclear weapons.

The Treaty of Tlatelolco was signed in Mexico on February 14, 1967, establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone throughout Latin America. The 50th anniversary of the treaty is being celebrated, and it coincides with what is now a global movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

To put this in perspective, let's consider the trajectory of nuclear weapons since 1967.

The nuclear weapons era - and the significance of the Treaty of Tlatelolco.
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The graph above shows the excruciatingly slow progress in reductions of US nuclear weapons since the peak of the buildup in the early '60s. The red line is the Treaty of Tlatelolco. How important it was that the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean responded to the suicidal behavior of the US, the USSR, and other countries by drawing a line and saying, "It stops here and now!"

I recommend the Wikipedia article on the treaty, because it gives perspective on how the Tlatelolco treaty and its related agreements pulled many other countries (including nuclear weapons states) into participating, in various ways, in the nuclear weapons-free paradigm. The Latin American treaty is the precursor of regional nuclear weapons-free zones in the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, Mongolia, Central Asia, and Africa, among others, as well as the worldwide Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

What does this mean for us right now? The map below shows the results of the historic vote at the UN in October, 2016, that set the stage for the 2017 negotiations on a global nuclear weapons ban.

Vote on resolution to negotiate a ban on nuclear weapons in 2017 (L-41)
Green - Yes (123, 76%)
Red - No (38, 24%)
Beige - Abstained
(Via @ILPIwmd)

The vote was 123 in favor (green on the map above) and 38 opposed (red). And so the negotiations will proceed.

Let's consider the role of Mexico: virtually all of Latin America and the Caribbean is green on the map above, indicating that all those countries voted in favor of going forward with negotiations on a ban.

Now let's consider the role of the US. The US is red, because it voted against the negotiations on a ban. Moreover, Canada is red. Australia is red. Most of Europe is red. To a very large extent, that can be attributed to US pressure on all those countries to vote against the ban negotiations. (Thankfully, within Europe a few very strong proponents of nuclear disarmament -- particularly Austria -- led the way on the campaign for ban negotiations. And now, one by one, others of those countries are coming to their senses and saying that they will participate in the negotiations.)

So: thank you MEXICO (and the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean) for a wonderful Valentine's Day gift to the world. Let's hope this gift reaches its fully fruition with the 2017 nuclear weapons ban negotiations!

Want to know more?

 . . . Frequent updates from the treaty organization @OPANAL on Twitter.
 . . . Get involved in the 2017 nuclear weapons ban movement:
 . . . related post: Network Power and the Movement to Ban Nuclear Weapons.

You can help spread the word by sharing the poster below -- and all the Tlatelolco 50 posters on flickr.

"nuclear ... NO ahora, no nunca"
Poster by Nancy Camargo (Mexico) commemorating
the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Tlatelolco.
(Please share on Twitter.)

PS - added February 16, 2017: Preparatory meetings for the UN conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination, commence today. Here is a picture of the president of the conference:

Elayne Whyte Gomez, Costa Rica, President
Preparatory meetings for the UN conference to negotiate a legally binding
instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination

PS - added April 17, 2017: The first session of the UN conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination, has taken place, and preparations are under way for the next session beginning June 15 in New York City. The support of the Treaty of Tlatelolco countries has been vital!

Thank you #BOLIVIA.
(Please share this message on Twitter.)

Thank you #CUBA.
(Please share this message on Twitter.)

Thank you #GUYANA.
(Please share this message on Twitter.)

Thank you #JAMAICA.
(Please share this message on Twitter.)

Thank you #PERU.
(Please share this message on Twitter.)

(Please share this message on Twitter.)

Thank you #URUGUAY.
(Please share this message on Twitter.)

(See even more memes of nuclear ban supporters.)

A new day is dawning . . . .(See: Who would possibly vote "NO" to banning nuclear weapons??? )

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

CHURCH: What are we in the middle of?

I have been doing a lot of thinking about church life in the US - particularly about church life in mainline protestant denominations like the one I belong to, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

Almost every church-related activity I participate in stirs up memories. I think particularly of going to a Lutheran church in Summit, NJ, in the '60s and '70s.

Part of me measures today's church experiences against the yardstick of church during those growing-up years*. (*About a half a century ago. Yikes.)

Another part of me finds joy in today's church experiences for their own sake -- and even in the feeling that we might actually be creating a new thing together.

What are we in the middle of?

Sadao Watanabe, The Last Supper
I've started to wonder what "my" church -- the denomination I'm affiliated with -- will be like in ten years. It startles me to realize that the answer probably ought to have less to do with my "growing-up years" idea of church, and more to do with some newly-created thing.

I wonder about worship in new ways . . . and fellowship in new ways . . . and faith formation in new ways . . . and social justice in new ways . . . and evangelism in new ways . . . . Before long I realize that, in my imagination, I'm really just recycling a bunch of old ideas, perhaps with a bit of current affairs and/or exotic flair added.

Then it occurs to me that what church does is respond to life. So the answer to the question, "What will the newly-created thing be?" has something to do with the answer to the question, "What are we in the middle of?"

Put another way: the opportunity for the denomination lies in engaging with what our society is experiencing.  The more widespread, difficult, and amorphous that phenomenon is, the greater the likelihood that "it" is what church needs to engage with.

Centrifugal force: economic inequality

Sadao Watanabe, Lilies of the Field
My sense is that the growing economic inequality in US (and other) society is where church will find its calling more and more with each passing month and year.

A few notes:

* Economic inequality is readily apparent to a certain degree -- we care about "poverty" -- but is enormously underestimated by most people, and poorly understood by almost everybody. There was a small splash made in the last year or two on the subject of the growing (and structurally irremediable?) economic inequality in Western societies by Thomas Piketty's book Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Bernie Sanders' 2016 Democratic primary candidacy got some traction on the topic of economic inequality.

* Church communities are already inherently involved in dealing with economic equality hands-on, i.e. within congregations themselves. And yet there is almost limitless possibility to do new things in this dimension.

* Church communities are also involved in addressing economic inequality, through service and advocacy, beyond their own walls. Again, there is enormous scope to do new things in this dimension, as well.

The opportunity lies in the existence of a widespread/difficult/amorphous phenomenon which so far shows no signs of yielding to known approaches. It is tempting to see an analogy to the early Church, when the widespread/difficult/amorphous phenomenon was called the Roman Empire, and something new had to be created because the obvious approaches were not getting people anywhere.

Can church succeed?

Sadao Watanabe, Miracle of Loaves and Fishes
If we set our sights on something we already know church can succeed at, we're probably not thinking big enough. We will know we are considering the appropriate phenomenon when we realize, "This may not work."

Here's what I will be thinking about in the coming year:

* How does the Gospel witness equip church to respond to economic inequality that is massive and growing rapidly?

* What strengths and gifts do we, as church, have at our disposal as we face it?

* What might we, as church, be willing to give up in order to get it right?

* What's standing in our way?

It may not be possible to envision exactly what church will be like ten years from now. But it does seem likely that the broad outlines are close at hand, if we are willing to reach for them.

2017: Which Way for the Church? Anti-Racism? or Comfort?
Declaring Sanctuary, Changing Hearts and Minds
DECOLONIZE THIS: The ELCA's Doctrine of Discovery Challenge
KAIROS: The Moment You've Been Waiting For?

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