By Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews, PICO National Network
and so it began
the chaos, the void, the formlessness
we felt the night falling
kith and kin threatened by the darkness
bottles and epithets lobbed from passing cars
court police pursuing the peaceful prophets
but Jubilee got it right:
this darkness “is not of the tomb, but of the womb.”
hovering over the uncertainty is a presence, a voice
calling in the Light
the people sitting in darkness
will see a great Light,
and for those who sit in the region and shadow of death
Light is already dawning…
clothed with the sun
prepare to march in the Light
crying out lest hope unborn dies
houses of faith
shod with moral courage
rehearse songs of resistance, prayers of hope
forging acts of revolutionary love
Kindred: We are light.
Now is the time to shine with abandon.
Now is the time to inaugurate the light in others.
In the Light, we can defend and protect the vulnerable.
In the Light, we can nurture Beloved Community.
In the Light, we can cultivate Prophetic Resistance.
In the Light, we can be fearless in our hope, daring in our vision.
In love, in hope, in faith, in the Light
Inspired by Genesis 1:2, Matthew 4:16, Revelation 12:1-4, Valarie “Jubilee” Kaur, James Weldon Johnson, and the prophets of the Resistance.
IndyCan leaders participate in a recent prayer vigil calling on Sen. Todd Young to protect the Affordable Care Act. (Photo courtesy of IndyCan)
PICO National Network, through its Center for Health Organizing, is working to stop is working to stop efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. PICO federations across the country are calling on strategic legislators to protect the ACA and the millions of Americans who rely on it for health care. Below are just a few of the affiliate-organized actions that have happened over the last few months.
San Diego Organizing Project
Roughly 150 leaders from the San Diego Organizing Project, SEIU, and other ally groups recently gathered to tell Rep. Darell Issa (CA-49), “Don’t Take My Health Care.” Sister Maureen Brown from SDOP was a member of the delegation that met face-to-face with Rep. Issa to deliver the message. Both Univision and Telemundo covered the event.
IndyCAN organized a diverse group of clergy members and ACA recipients for a prayer vigil on the floor of Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis, where participants called on newly-elected Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) to protect more than half a million Hoosiers who will lose coverage if the ACA is repealed. IndyCan leader Shelly Dykstra, who called herself an ACA “success story,” shared what would happen to her family if they were to lose their health care coverage.
PICO Affiliate ISAIAH, along with Take Action Minnesota and other allies, organized 40 leaders for two actions, one at the office of Congressman Tom Emmer (MN-06), and another at the office of Congressman Erik Paulsen (MN-03). Their message: “Keep your hands off our health care." Video footage of the actions can be seen on ISAIAH's Facebook page.
For more information about what a repeal of the Affordable Care Act would mean for millions of Americans, read PICO National Network's recent statement decrying efforts by House Republicans to repeal the ACA, and a recent op-ed offering guidance to those working against the repeal published on The Huffington Post.
By Rabbi Miriam Terlinchamp, Temple Sholom, Cincinnati OH
The need for sanctuary is not a new concept for the Jewish people. We have fled persecution for generations – thousands of years of fear and oppression. In each generation, there were righteous people hiding and protecting Jews against targeted hate.
These rescuers began as bystanders, watching with horror the deportation, murder and directed violence against the Jewish people. In each situation, and in particular during the time of the Holocaust, Jews turned outside of their own community for help. By protecting innocent Jewish victims, these righteous people risked their livelihood, their property and in most cases their safety. These bystanders, became our rescuers not through casual acts of charity, but rather through true heroics, without which the death toll of our people would be thousandfold.
It is not just our Jewish history that makes us aware of the need to help and protect others. Our sacred text, our Torah, mentions the commandment to “care for the stranger, for you know the soul of the stranger,” thirty-six times different times. For Jews, this is not just a holy rule, but also a holy number of rules. 18 (known as chai – think l’chaim!) is the number for life, which means that 36 is the number of 2x life (or double chai). This can be interpreted that caring for the other lifts up the sanctity of our life as well as the life of the other.
We live in a world where life is not always valued, where the “other” is not our neighbor but someone to be feared and where hate is acceptable and targeted oppression is mainstream. Yet, these are not the only things that exist in our world. Love exists too. And righteousness. And the pure goodness of our fellow human beings. These are the elements of sanctuary – to protect and love the stranger, to seek out justice in his name, and to care for her as our own. In due time, may we look back upon this time and know that we chose love, we were righteous and we brought more life into our world.
Artwork by Selena Garrauld, Lynn MA
Artwork by Miguel Valdez, Lynn MA
Artwork by Jason Cruz, St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Lynn MA
Artwork by Jason Cruz, St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Lynn MA
Reflection By Rev. Jane Soyster Gould, St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Lynn MA
Lynn, Massachusetts was a stop on the Underground Railroad, and Frederick Douglass lived in Lynn. But our teens know little of the history of the city in which they live. And they get taught nothing about the connections among sanctuary movements of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries that form their immigrant city. Some are the grandchildren of African Americans who came north with the great migration. Others are part of families that fled the violence of El Salvador. Most come from families rooted in the Caribbean, South and Central America, and Africa who came to the United States seeking the American Dream. They all live in a forgotten mill city that offers teens few chances for education, employment, and advancement.
Last summer 7 teens in our congregation took part in an Underground Railroad Learning Trip. They visited sites from Massachusetts to Maryland. They walked, quite literally, where Harriet Tubman walked. They saw monuments that marked the location of speeches of white, male politicians and ignored the thousands of Africans sold into slavery on the same spot. And in Baltimore they met with local Black Lives Matter Movement leaders because it's all connected.
Immigrant teens... undocumented teens... teens with undocumented parents... mixed race teens... black teens... GLBTQ teens... molested and abused teens... bipolar teens... homeless teens... unaccompanied teens... drop-out teens... unemployed teens... teens with their own children... incarcerated teens... teens in the system... confused and conflicted teens... addicted teens... angry teens... They all need places of safety and security. They need to tell their own stories and hear the stories and struggles of others. They need to make the connections so that they, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr., can be "creatively maladjusted" to racism, discrimination, religious bigotry, wealth inequality, militarism, xenophobia, sexism, heterosexism, hatred, and violence. And so that they remember that they stand in a long line of prophetic resisters who offered sanctuary.
In worship, we invite all to the eucharistic feast saying, "This is the Lord's Table and all are welcome here." My hope and prayer during these difficult days is that we will open our doors and hearts wide offering sanctuary to all who need a place of safety.
By Rev. Neal Anderson, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Nevada
As people of faith, our various theological understandings call us to act in the face of injustice. May we continue to find the ways in which we answer that call.
Please read in the spirit of meditation and prayer:
Spirit of life, spirit of love,
May this prophetic community of resistance be revived and revitalized in a spirit of devotion to the common good.
May we affirm the worth and dignity of immigrants creating a clear pathway to citizenship for aspiring Americans and not one more deportation.
May we affirm the worth and dignity of all workers by ensuring our commitment to organizing, collective bargaining and resisting corporate greed.
May we affirm and promote the worth and dignity of all Americans of voting age by ensuring access to the power of the ballot to every person.
May we affirm the worth and dignity of all our children by ensuring well funded quality education for all.
May Black Lives Matter in every institution and system of this nation as we resist the stain of white supremacy.
May we affirm and promote the worth and dignity of every person by resisting the hegemony of economic and racial narrative that permits the exclusion of our people and our communities from realizing power in public life and facilitates the extraction of wealth and resources from our communities.
Give us the strength and wisdom to fight back against injustice and dehumanization. May we speak truth to power!
We are exposing, in our words and deeds, the destructive nature of Empire and declaring our commitment to “fight for our freedom” from Empire, to resist it with every resource at our disposal.
May we be reminded by our common mean that we are strongest when we work together toward a common vision and when we stand on the side of love!
May it be so, blessed be and
By Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews
Catalina Morales, an immigration organizer with PICO National Network federation ISAIAH, can sum up the importance of congregations providing sanctuary to undocumented immigrants in just 30 seconds.
“When people know that someone is undocumented, their humanity is taken away, so there are a million things that can happen to someone who is undocumented because they’re not seen a human being anymore,” she said during a recent Immigration 101 teach-in held by ISAIAH. “So, part of declaring sanctuary—and why it’s so crucial for this to happen in a congregation— is you’re saying ‘no, this person is a child of God, and they’re not alone.’”
On Jan. 17, faith communities across the country will unite around the principle that no one should stand alone. They’re joining forces for a Sanctuary Day of Action in support of those living in the United States without documentation, and sending a powerful message to President-elect Trump: we will stand together against harsh immigration proposals that threaten to tear apart families.
The Sanctuary Day of Action is an effort of PICO National Network, The Sanctuary Movement, Church World Service, Groundswell Movement, the United Church of Christ, and Justice and Witness Ministries. These groups, which are already working to bolster faith-based sanctuary efforts and keep families together— are using the occasion of Trump’s inauguration to bring attention to their efforts.
Hundreds of new congregations will join the Sanctuary Movement to declare their congregations as safe havens if the Trump administration makes good on its promises to engage in the mass detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants. While undocumented immigrants are the primary targets, we know that African-Americans, Muslims, and others may need sanctuary as well. These congregations, which cross many different faith traditions, are taking a prophetic stand and affirming their dedication to protecting communities of color, immigrants, refugees, and deportation protection policies, such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
PICO’s member organizations and congregations have been involved in this movement—congregational sanctuary is part of PICO’s Protecting Our Families platform and the work of LA RED, PICO’s campaign to protect the rights and help preserve the dignity of immigrant families.
PICO federation Acting in Community Together in Organizing Northern Nevada (ACTIONN) was recently part of a community effort to provide sanctuary to Reno, Nevada resident Jose Gastelum-Cardenas. Because of the effort, Gastelum-Cardenas, who received physical sanctuary from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Nevada for four days, received a yearlong suspension of his deportation status. “We have grown in faith a lot,” Gastelum-Cardenas’ wife, Arlene Torres, told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Thanks to the work of the Merced Organizing Project (MOP) and Faith in the Valley, seventeen congregations in the greater Merced area are in the process of becoming designated sanctuary spaces for undocumented immigrants, and members of other groups who may fear for the actions of the incoming administration.
“It’s all about creating an inclusive community,” MOP community organizer Crisantema Gallardo recently told New America Media. “With those sanctuaries, we want to let them know that in that congregation, they are welcome and seen, and that they are going to be treated with respect.”
Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews is PICO National Network's Director of Clergy Organizing.
For updates on PICO’s sanctuary work and the Sanctuary Day of Action, follow @PICOnetwork on Twitter. To follow the day's events online on Jan. 17, use the hashtag #SanctuaryRising.
By Rabbi Margie Klein Ronkin, ECCO Massachusetts
My whole life, my family and community have spoken the phrase, “Never again.” Those two words bring to mind horror stories of family members who died in Nazi concentration camps, relatives who survived the Sho’ah (Holocaust) but were haunted for the rest of their lives by the knowledge of how much horror people can inflict on each other. When we say, “Never again,” we remember all the people who stood silent while our people were labeled, rounded up, and ultimately murdered.
The words are easy to say, but in the past few weeks, I have been wondering how easy they are to say AND mean. When we are called, it may not be easy. When we are called, we will likely be called to stand for someone who doesn’t look or think or act like us, people whom we have been taught are dangerous, defiled, disgusting. So now I must ask myself, “What would I be willing to risk to honor the dignity of another? My freedom? My family? My life?”
Leader 1: In these troubled times, we need each other more than ever.
Leader 2: Will you stand with your brothers and sisters?
All: Like the operators of the underground railroad shepherded runaway slaves to freedom, we will open our homes and hearts to those wrongfully pursued.
Leader 1: Will you stand with your brothers and sisters?
All: Like the people of Denmark who protected Jewish families in the Holocaust, we will provide sanctuary for immigrants and Muslims.
Leader 2: Will you stand with your brothers and sisters?
All: Like the leaders of the civil rights movement, we will fight for a world where children are judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
Leader 1: Will you stand with your brothers and sisters?
All: Like the Water Protectors at Standing Rock, we will build courageous community.
Closing Prayer: Let us be as courageous as the operators of the Underground Railroad, and the righteous Gentiles who risked it all to save Jewish families, and the leaders of the Civil Rights movement, and the Water Protectors of Standing Rock. Let each of our communities be sources of righteousness and faith in times of division. God who loves courage and justice, help us to respond with courage to this moment.
By Rev. Dr. Cassandra Gould, Missouri Faith Voices
Most of us have spent our lives adhering to the rules and following the letter of the law to the best of our ability. We pride ourselves in being “good people of faith.” Yet the Holy Writ is filled with stories of ordinary people who exhibited extraordinary courage and became prophetic leaders in times of trouble. This often meant breaking the law of the land in order to follow moral laws and provide sanctuary for those at risk.
Acts 17:5-9 records the following:
“But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.”
When faced with the oppressive actions of the Empire, Jason – like the midwives in Egypt, Rahab in Jericho, and many others – made a choice to act prophetically. It was risky business then and it is risky business now.
As the world prepares for this new season in American politics, there are many uncertainties. Uncertainty often creates an environment that fosters fear, anxiety and stress. Practices of spiritual discipline such as prayer, fasting and self-care will be important tools of preparation for the season of action that is upon us. To be prepared and fail to act is fruitless.
We can choose apathy and ignore the danger that looms for many while pretending to be “good people.” Or we can be prophets of resistance and protect our sisters and brothers at all cost even if it means breaking the rules and causing holy trouble to provide sanctuary for those at risk.
I leave you with this familiar poem by Pastor Martin Niemoller:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
By Megan Black, PICO National Network
"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone?” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11)
The other day I asked my sister to tell me what she thinks of when she hears the word “solidarity.” She tilted her head to the right, furrowed her brow, and started laughing sheepishly. "I think 'where’s the dictionary?!’” she said. And it’s true: it’s hard to define solidarity in clear and actionable terms.
In 1891 Pope Leo XIII issued an encyclical to the Catholic faithful called Rerum Novarum - "Of Revolutionary Change". This encyclical laid the groundwork for how Catholics and other Christians would come to understand the principle of solidarity (among other principles of social justice).
But Pope Leo never once used the word “solidarity” because it did not yet exist theologically. Actually, the concept of solidarity – and all that it might, can, and should mean for the faithful – is only a few decades old, which means the story of how people of faith practice solidarity to transform the world is still being written.
So the story of solidarity is ours to tell, and the moment is as ripe as it could be. Pope Leo points us to the wise sage of Ecclesiastes for guidance. In times of profound division and isolation, we are called to be agents of God’s solidarity in the most concrete and physical ways. May we have faith enough in God and each other to offer our strength and resources to lift up those who have fallen, and may we find shelter against the cold of isolation by sharing the warmth we possess.