On September 11, 2001, I was in Johannesburg, South Africa, nearing the end of a three-week trip to the country. I'd started in Cape Town, attending the 100th anniversary service of St. George's Cathedral — the site of many anti-apartheid vigils and a sanctuary space for anti-apartheid activists during those traumatic years. Then I traveled to Durban to attend the World Conference Against Racism, joining an amazing gathering of thousands of people representing governments, NGOs, and people's movements from across the world. Unfortunately, the U.S. government boycotted the conference, so it was left to activists like me to "represent" the U.S. voice there.
Today marks the eighth anniversary of the tragic terrorist attacks in the United States, and as we have every year since 2001, the Fellowship of Reconciliation joins members of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows in calling for alternative methods of addressing international conflict. Today, Peaceful Tomorrows released a statement saying, "As the 8th anniversary of the loss of our loved ones approaches, we at September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows remain hopeful that the world and our nation will stop all violent acts in the names of our loved ones. We advocate now as we did on that fateful day that the response to evil must not be more evil, that it must be a response that envisions, not just peaceful tomorrows, but peaceful todays. It is beyond time."
In September 2001, when family members of those who died that day courageously urged our government to not retaliate with violence, FOR stood with them, and served as Peaceful Tomorrows' first fiscal sponsor. Now, eight years after the U.S. government invaded Afghanistan in retribution for the attacks, our nation is mired in a deepening war with rapidly growing casualties of both troops and civilians.
For the past year I've been leading a project to use the film Greensboro: Closer to the Truth in an effort to support dialogue and deliberation about processes of reconciliation and healing as they relate from one community to the next. The film is about a 1979 clash between the Communist Workers Party and the Ku Klux Klan in Greensboro, North Carolina, and the first U.S.-based Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of its kind designed to address it. We have a limited number of DVDs that we are providing to groups/ organizations interested in racism, reconciliation, dialogue, stereotypes and other issues rasied by the film. We will provide a free copy of this DVD in exchange for hosting a screening of the film and small scale dialogue event using the guide we put together to accompany it.
Two young Israeli women, Maya Wind and Netta Mishly, are coming to the U.S. next week to give talks about their courageous efforts to mobilize young Israelis against military service. Maya and Netta are part of a group called the "Shministim," who are Israeli high-school seniors — and prospective conscripts into the mandatory Israeli military — who have been imprisoned for their principled refusal to serve the Occupation of Palestinian territories. What these young conscientious objectors have to say about the occupation and their personal accounts of militarization in Israeli society is of critical importance for U.S. audiences. Please visit their Why We Refuse web site to learn more about their speaking tour, hosted by Jewish Voice for Peace and CodePink, and to support their important work.
Together with more than 100 other national organizations and several hundred regional and local groups, the Fellowship of Reconciliation last week called on the Obama administration to end a controversial program that has been accused of widespread racial profiling and anti-immigrant bias. The 287(g) program, implemented by the Department of Homeland Security during the Bush administration, grants to state and local law enforcement agencies the power of federal immigration enforcement authority, and the program has been accused of serious civil and human rights abuses.
Facilitated by the Detention Watch Network and the National Immigration law Center, the following sign-on letter, to which FOR was a lead signatory, was released on August 27th. The text of the letter follows.
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Several great news stories from the past few days have FOR connections.
This week many universities are beginning their school years, and today I was in conversation with a college professor whose semester began today: a long-time FOR member, Joseph Fahey, professor of religious studies at Manhattan College in New York City. Joseph asked me, "Where did you go to college?" to which I proudly responded, "Wesleyan University in Connecticut." As I often hear when mentioning my alma mater, he replied, "Good school." But then added, "You must know the professor there who played a central role in drafting the Seville Statement on Violence. I regularly use it as a discussion point in the classes I teach."
God and democracy failed in New Orleans. While religious communities rushed to respond to Hurricane Katrina with charitable contributions and volunteers, some of the most powerful religious voices in the country used Hurricane Katrina to espouse a grotesque theology. Two days after Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, Columbia Christians for Life, a Religious Right anti-choice organization, put out a statement claiming that the satellite image of Hurricane Katrina looked like a six-week old fetus:
By Mark Svensson, with Tarik Abdelqader
For over 5,000 years, the practice of slavery has plagued the human species. Today, most people in the United States associate slavery with African-American history, formed by the transatlantic slave trade, and ended by the Emancipation Proclamation. Indeed, a widely accepted notion exists in our nation is that U.S. participation in slavery ended following Lincoln's 1863 Proclamation. Yet this notion could not be any further from the truth.