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20 years after Oklahoma bombing, bishop calls for prayer, remembrance

Episcopal News Service - sex, 17/04/2015 - 12:35

The Field of Empty Chairs at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum includes a chair for each life lost, including 19 smaller chairs for the children who died in the Federal Building by Timothy McVeigh, an act of domestic terrorism that also injured 600 others. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma] Oklahoma Bishop Edward J. Konieczny wrote to the diocese April 15 to call Episcopalians to “hope, love, and community” as they approach the 20th anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Timothy McVeigh bombed the Oklahoma City building on April 19, 1995 (it was Wednesday of Holy Week) in an act of domestic terrorism that killed 168 people and injured 600 others.

Konieczny’s letter follows.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This Sunday marks the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. This attack resulted in the deaths of 168 people and forever changed our capital city, our nation, and ourselves.

As we approach this anniversary, let us not focus our attention on stories of anger, fear, or violence; but, rather, let us turn our attention to the stories of hope, love, and community that surround that day. Let us remember the immeasurably courageous rescuers who plunged into danger to save our neighbors. Let us remember the unified fortitude and kindness our capital city portrayed, reminding us all that we are truly stronger together than we are apart. Let us remember the love, support, and generosity that poured into our capital city from around the world. Most importantly, let us remember the victims who died, their families and loved ones, and those whose lives were changed forever that day. Let us pray for peace, healing, hope, and reconciliation for all on this anniversary and always. I invite congregations to remember this anniversary in their Prayers of the People this Sunday.

Please join me in prayer:
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Faithfully,
+Bishop Ed

Transformed by 12 years in Tanzania, missionaries set to return

Episcopal News Service - sex, 17/04/2015 - 11:21

The Rev. Sandra McCann baptizes an elderly member of St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Chikola, Tanzania, during one of her parish visits in the Diocese of Central Tanganyika.

[Episcopal News Service] As a child, the Rev. Sandra McCann dreamed of someday going to Africa. But she never imagined it would become her home, her ministry and her entire life for 12 years.

When Sandy and her husband Martin reached their mid-50s, they made the audacious decision to give up their successful medical careers in radiology and pathology, sell their home and move to Africa as Episcopal Church missionaries. Their move was delayed for three years and in that time Sandy graduated from Virginia Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree and was ordained as an Episcopal priest.

After an “internship” year in Maseno, Kenya, where they worked alongside fellow Episcopal missionaries Gerry and Nancy Hardison, the McCanns moved to Dodoma, Tanzania’s capital city, and have spent the past decade teaching and healing and living in a community far removed from their former lives in Columbus, Georgia. The experience has changed and expanded their worldview forever, they say.

With support and encouragement from the Episcopal Church’s Mission Personnel Office, and at the invitation of the late Bishop Mdimi Mhogolo of the Diocese of Central Tanganyika, Sandy taught at Msalato Theological College and eventually took up the position of communications director as well as serving as college chaplain.

Episcopal missionary Martin McCann analyzes a specimen at his pathology laboratory in Dodoma, Tanzania. Photo: David Copley

Martin set up a pathology laboratory where diseases could be detected through the use of a variety of investigative techniques, a service that has grown steadily over the past 10 years and was previously nonexistent in the central part of Tanzania. Today, the clinic receives specimens from local government hospitals in Dodoma as well as several mission hospitals.

“The laboratory has brought a new dimension to the healthcare system here,” Martin told ENS. “Physicians, instead of going from symptoms to treatment, are expanding their diagnostic capabilities and evidence-based care. Although there are still great challenges in treatment options, patients are better off.”

Over the years, through generous donations, Martin has been able to replace and upgrade equipment and his staff of one assistant has grown to three, one with a degree in histopathology.

Martin has concentrated his efforts on fine-needle aspiration, a simple procedure for establishing a swift diagnosis that he feels has a vital role to play in resource-poor countries. In 2014, he completed more than 1,200 fine needle aspiration biopsies and 2,200 histopathology cases.

Now in their early 70s, the McCanns have decided 2015 will be their last year in Tanzania, a difficult decision for them, but one that has been made easier by the successful conclusion to an endowment for Msalato Theological College to provide for student sponsorships and faculty salaries.

But before they leave, they are eager to ensure that Martin’s pathology practice will be continued and are urgently seeking a pathologist (or two) to replace him.

[Anyone interested in working as a pathologist in Dodoma should contact the Rev. David Copley, mission personnel officer for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, at dcopley@episcopalchurch.org.]

The McCanns are made honorary members of St. Paul’s Women’s Choir in Mvumi Makula, during a parish visit in the Diocese of Central Tanganyika.

Crossing cultural boundaries, building partnerships and engaging God’s mission locally and globally are at the very heart of The Episcopal Church’s missionary program, which is administered by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society and currently sponsors and supports 47 adult missionaries. Doctors, nurses, teachers, accountants, agriculturalists, computer technicians, administrators, theologians, and communicators are among their many roles.

Missionaries are lay and ordained, young and old, and serve as “representatives of our community who cross cultural boundaries to participate in the mission of God that our brothers and sisters in other parts of the Anglican Communion feel called to respond to,” says Copley, mission personnel officer for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.

It is difficult “to quantify the success of our missionaries because the basic premise is always to strengthen relationships with our partners.” Some of the greatest success stories can be found “in the programs that continue when the missionary presence ends,” Copley added, hence the importance of finding a replacement for Martin to ensure that his pathology practice can continue to serve those in need in central Tanzania.

The recently released Report to the Church details the work of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society in coordinating and supporting Episcopal Church missionaries serving throughout the world.

“The Episcopal Church supports many forms of mission service which include our young adults undertaking a year of service with the Young Adult Service Corps (YASC), older adults on one-year assignments and special short-term projects of less than a year as well as longer-term missionaries. They all have their place in the bigger picture of global mission engagement and all have their merits,” said Copley.

“Long-term missionaries such as the McCanns gain unique insights into the life, culture and faith of the partners they are walking alongside which cannot be gained on shorter-term assignments,” Copley added. “The McCanns have been the physical embodiment of the relationship that The Episcopal Church nurtures in Tanzania and throughout the church. The relationships that they develop with our Anglican partners helps strengthen the Anglican Communion and helps bring the Body of Christ closer together.

“Martin and Sandy have given a significant part of their lives in the service of others and we are grateful for their ministry.”

Martin became interested in becoming a missionary after serving on short-term medical mission trips with various denominations to Haiti and South America. Then with World Medical Mission, Martin served as a pathologist in Kijabe, Kenya, receiving specimens and returning diagnoses from some 42 hospitals and clinics. The laboratory he has established at the Anglican Diocesan Medical Center in Dodoma follows the same model.

For Sandy, installed as a canon of the Diocese of Central Tanganyika in May 2012 in honor of her ministry there, the missionary seeds were planted early in life. “My mother was a Christian who was always doing for others … from sharing her garden, her table, her car, to her hair-cutting skills,” she said. “Wasting anything was a sin. Making do was an art. Our clothes were mended, washed, ironed and passed on when we outgrew them. Whatever we put on our plates had to be eaten, because ‘there are children starving in Africa!’ It was in this atmosphere that I was raised up.”

The McCanns say they feel privileged to have been called to this work, describing it as interesting, exciting, as well as challenging, learning to live in a completely different culture.

The McCanns are made honorary members of St. Paul’s Women’s Choir in Mvumi Makula, during a parish visit in the Diocese of Central Tanganyika.

The best part, however, “has been to meet and get to know Christians who remain faithful in very trying and frustrating circumstances. This has certainly opened our eyes to the difference between a first-world problem and a problem of developing countries,” they say. “Listening to the gospel in an entirely new context is transforming. While in the West we practically skip over curses and ghosts and demons, this is not the case here. The liminal space is very thin between the spiritual and physical worlds. Worshiping and studying with East African Christians has opened our minds to other ways of worshiping and to other ways of understanding God.”

There is a great freedom in being a missionary, Sandy said, being removed from the social pressures in the United States. “There is no keeping up with the Joneses, not that that was ever a priority with us,” she said. “When we would have the students to our house in Kenya, everyone had to bring their own plate – and we found it was a lot of fun squeezing into our small cottage and making do. At Msalato we borrow the one cake pan or the one meat grinder or the one ‘real’ coffee pot. I like living in community like this. … I am old fashioned and love using things up and making do and being creative with what I have, so this suits me.”

The greatest challenges, she said, have been the abject poverty and lack of the most basic resources, especially clean water; bureaucracy and widespread corruption and dishonesty; the fear of authority and of reporting abuses or inappropriate behavior; a prevalent belief in witchcraft, even by Christians and the well-educated; and poor infrastructure.

The recent resurgence of the killing of albino children due to the witch doctors promising that their body parts, hair, and blood will bring fortune in love and wealth is particularly disturbing, she said. “It is shocking how prevalent and strong the primitive belief systems remain in parts of Tanzania,” she said.

Despite the “extreme difficulty and frustration of living honestly in a corrupt society,” the McCanns say that as a result of the experiences of the past 12 years, “we are less judgmental, more patient and more aware of the monumental work it will take to get Tanzania to the stage of economic independence.”

They also have made countless friends and have grown “to admire the Tanzanian people very much. They have shown us that the possibility of deep joy in the midst of daily suffering is real. As the late Bishop Mhogolo once said about being in the village parishes: The people are poor, often they are hungry, but they are still dancing and praising the Lord. It’s true and a beautiful thing to behold.”

Sandy says she has seen God’s hand in everything they have done, “but often only through the ‘retrospectoscope.’ Now we are again taking God’s hand and walking out into the dark trusting him for our next work.”

— Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

Two of Philadelphia 11 say it’s still a struggle for women in the church

Episcopal News Service - qui, 16/04/2015 - 16:20

The Rev. Michelle Warriner Bolt, the Rev Alison Cheek, the Rev. Carter Heyward, Darlene O’Dell and the Rev. Anne Bonnyman at Diocese of East Tennessee’s April 11 Symposium and Celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Ordination of Women in the Episcopal Church, at Church of the Ascension, Knoxville. The event was sponsored by East Tennessee Episcopal Church Women. Photo: the Rev. Paige Buchholz

[Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee] They were compared to witches and called names by male priests that you would least expect to hear coming from the mouths of men of the cloth. Nearly 41 years after becoming two of the first women priests in The Episcopal Church, they don’t regret their decision and recognize that despite much progress, there is still a need to fight for women’s proper role in the church.

The Rev. Alison Cheek, the first woman to publicly preside over an Episcopal Church Eucharist in the United States, and the Rev. Carter Heyward, a prolific author on feminist theology and retired professor at Episcopal Divinity School, were part of an April 11 symposium at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Knoxville, Tennessee, sponsored by East Tennessee Episcopal Church Women.

Cheek and Heyward were two of the Philadelphia 11 who were ordained in Philadelphia by three retired bishops in July 1974 causing uproar in the national church. Although women’s ordination was not specifically prohibited, by practice it had never been allowed. Darlene O’Dell, author of The Story of the Philadelphia Eleven, who also participated in the symposium, said study of the issue had gone on “for over 50 years and promised to go on into oblivion” if action hadn’t been taken.

Cheek, who turned 88 the day of the symposium, said she had entered Virginia Theological Seminary at the urging of her parish priest because she had asked him so many questions. While in seminary Cheek felt the call to priesthood, but let it pass because she knew it wasn’t a possibility. With four young children at home, the Australia native took six years to complete her degree, and then returned to her parish as a pastoral counselor. Her rector then encouraged her to enter the deacon ordination process. She became the first female deacon in the South in 1972.

When Nancy Wittig, another eventual member of the Philadelphia 11 invited her to participate in the Philadelphia ordination, Cheek told her bishop she would participate. He said as an individual he would support her, but as bishop “I may have to depose you.”

Her response: “Anyone who fights my ordination, I’ll fight.”

The symposium audience of about 100 broke into applause.

Heyward, who will turn 80 later this year, fell into the business of religion quite by accident. When she entered Randolph-Macon College in 1963 the religion professors were the ones who were doing exciting work – participating in lunch counter sit-ins, taking text books to activists in jail so they could study and then giving them their oral comprehensive exams in jail. “That’s why I majored in religion,” Heyward said.

And, she said, along the way she learned how religion and the scripture had been misused and misinterpreted and sanitized. She learned how German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer fought the Nazis from prison. It was while she was at Randolph-Macon that she first read the work of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who was still in the midst of his activism.

She said the Philadelphia 11 didn’t necessarily all like one another, but they worked alongside one another to accomplish a mutual goal. Heyward described Cheek as her fellow “bad girl” among the movement “so we had to like one another” and said that the two had become like sisters.

Their critics in those early years would label them either as “too masculine” or “too feminine,” depending on which argument suited the moment. “We couldn’t be easily categorized,” which frustrated the establishment, she said. Yet they made it through by their constant support of one another. Support frequently came by simply picking up the phone and saying, “Let me tell you what happened to me.”

The Rev. Anne Berry Bonnyman, one of the first women ordained in the Diocese of Tennessee, said she owed her ordination to Cheek, Heyward and the other Philadelphia 11 as well as to the Tennessee Episcopal Churchwomen who passed a motion in 1977 encouraging the diocese to offer jobs to women in parishes. At that point, there had been a stalemate, with bishops saying they could not ordain a woman coming out of seminary if she had a job and parishes saying they couldn’t hire a woman until she was ordained.

“It was lay women in large part” who helped shift things, Bonnyman said.

Bonnyman grew up Catholic in Knoxville, and became Episcopalian as an adult when she realized that lay work was not fulfilling her call to ministry. After serving several parishes in East Tennessee, Bonnyman was rector at large parishes in Delaware and Massachusetts before retirement in western North Carolina – which is also where Check and Heyward now live.

Moving forward, Heyward said, women in the church should follow four principles put forth by another member of Philadelphia 11, the late Suzanne Hiatt, who is widely credited with engineering the 1974 ordinations. Heyward co-edited a book of Hiatt’s writings, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me.

The four principles are women should seek the primary role in bringing change about, learn how institutions work that they wish to change, be united in struggling together and avoid horizontal violence, and remember that the church needs them more than they need the church.

Pam Strickland is a freelance writer and editor, and a parishioner of St. James Episcopal Church in Knoxville.

Comunhão Anglicana: Em Favor da Justiça Climática

SNIEAB Feeds - qui, 16/04/2015 - 15:55

O Mundo é o Nosso Hospedeiro: Uma Chamada para uma Ação Urgente em Favor da Justiça Climática

Centro de Conferências e Retiros de Volmoed (um companheiro da Comunidade da Cruz de Pregos), África-do-Sul, 23 a 27 de fevereiro de 2015

Em nome do Pai, do Filho e do Espírito Santo, Amém.

Nós, um grupo de Bispos Anglicanos de várias dioceses da nossa Comunhão global, saudamos as nossas irmãs e irmãos em Cristo em toda a Comunhão Anglicana neste dia tão Santo, Sexta-Feira Santa. Nesse dia, quando o Salvador se esvaziou pelo mundo, compartilhamos a seguinte declaração em espírito de um amor sacrificial e reconciliador.

Pai, perdoe o cobiçoso desejo das pessoas e nações de tomarem posse daquilo que não lhes pertence. Pai, perdoe a avareza que explora o trabalho das mãos humanas e devasta a terra.

Nesse tempo de crise climática sem precedente, chamamos os nossos irmãos e irmãs da Comunhão Anglicana para juntar-se a nós em oração e em ação pastoral, sacerdotal e profética. Chamamos com humildade, mas com uma determinação urgente, animados pela nossa fé em Deus que é Criador e Redentor e pela dor da experiência do nosso povo nas nossas dioceses e províncias, e a sua necessidade de ver sementes de esperança.

De maneiras diferentes, cada uma das nossas dioceses é impactada pela injustiça climática e degradação do meio ambiente. Aceitamos as provas da ciência em relação à contribuição da atividade humana à crise climática e o papel desproporcional das economias baseadas em combustíveis fósseis. Mesmo com anos de reclamações dos cientistas nos alertando das consequências da falta de ação, há uma ausência alarmante de concordância global em relação a como devemos lidar com a situação. Acreditamos que o problema não é apenas econômico, científico e político, mas também espiritual, pois a barreira contra uma ação efetiva está ligada a questões básicas existenciais de como a vida humana é percebida e valorizada: incluindo as reivindicações morais conflitantes de gerações presentes e futuros, interesses humanos contra não-humanos, e como o estilo de vida dos países ricos deve ser equilibrado com as necessidades do mundo em desenvolvimento. Por essa razão a Igreja precisa, urgentemente, encontrar a sua voz moral coletiva.

Ao longo do ano passado, facilitado pelo grupo diretor da Rede Ambiental da Comunhão Anglicana – RACA (ACEN na sigla em inglês) – fomos convidados, através de email, estudos pessoais e conferências virtuais, a começar a refletir sobre como vamos viver na prática, com urgência e esperança, a Quinta Marca de Missão de “Salvaguardar a integridade da criação e sustentar e renovar a vida na terra.”

As nossas reflexões chegaram a um novo parâmetro quando, em fevereiro de 2015, o presidente da ACEN, o Arcebispo Thabo Makgoba, cortesmente acolheu uma reunião face a face na África-do-Sul. Isso nos proporcionou a oportunidade de compartilhar as experiências das nossas dioceses e, dentro do contexto da Eucaristia e oração diárias, ouvir novamente o chamado de Deus nas Escrituras e na Criação (Salmos 104, 148, 24) e discernir o futuro da caminhada. Estamos firmes nas promessas de Deus, aquele que restaurará toda a criação (Romanos 8:18-25) e que fará novas todas as coisas (2 Coríntios 5:17; Apocalipse 21:5).

Ouvimos as histórias de dioceses afetadas por eventos climáticos cada vez mais fortes e extremos; por mudanças nas condições meteorológicas sazonais; aumento no nível do mar; acidificação do mar e diminuição das áreas de pesca; os impactos devastadores da poluição; o desmatamento, e as destrutivas práticas de mineração, extração de energia e transporte. Lamentamos o deslocamento das pessoas por causa dos efeitos das mudanças climáticas, e, consequentemente, a perda da sua cultura, identidade e sentimento de pertença. Sabemos que Deus confiou em nós, os seus filhos, a responsabilidade de cuidar da sua criação (Gênesis 1:28-29, 2:15), mas temos sido desleixados (Jeremias 2:7). Por isso, a justiça climática para nós cristãos exige uma resposta de fé.

Juntos lutamos com as dimensões práticas e espirituais da justiça climática à luz das ideias e imperativas da nossa fé cristã. Reconhecemos que alguns de nós servimos em culturas e nações que são os maiores contribuintes para o aquecimento global, enquanto outros moram em lugares que contribuem pouco para o problema, mas que são afetados por ele desproporcionalmente. Também percebemos, com humildade, as diferenças culturais, políticos, históricos e teológicos entre nós, os quais procuramos deixar de lado a fim de construirmos juntos uma resposta para essa crise.

A linguagem que usamos para enfrentar essa questão e os interesses e poderes que temos que confrontar variam significantemente de um lugar para outro. Porém, a crise é compartilhada, e a solução para ela só pode ser encontrada se intensificamos uma unidade de pensamento e prática para derrubar as barreiras da desigualdade e da injustiça na nossa vida em comum.

Compartilhamos a compreensão de que a criação é sagrada, e que somos chamados para servir (ebed) e proteger (shamar) a terra agora e nas gerações futuras (Gênesis 2:15). Reconhecemos que temos sido cúmplices de uma teologia de dominação (Gênesis 1:26), e entendemos que a dominação humana da terra só pode ser experimentada à luz do mandamento de Jesus de que o maior é aquele que serve (Lucas 22.26). Observamos que existem grandes questões econômicas e políticas em jogo nessa complexa conversa sobre as reservas de combustíveis fósseis ainda não exploradas e o desenvolvimento de formas de energia sustentáveis e renováveis: incluindo os subsídios das indústrias de combustíveis fósseis e a forte influência das grandes corporações nas políticas do governo ao redor do mundo.

Acreditamos que ouvir as vozes dos povos indígenas, cuja relação com a criação permanece ligada à sua espiritualidade e relação com Deus, é de uma importância central para o ministério da justiça climática. Fomos tocados profundamente quando participamos de um Rito Eucarístico Indígena que ligou a Criação, a Moralidade, e a Redenção de maneira bíblica, íntegra e compreensiva.

Foi doloroso admitir que as mulheres frequentemente carregam um peso desproporcional da mudança climática, principalmente porque são a maioria entre os pobres do mundo e, muitas vezes, para sua sobrevivência, são mais dependentes nos recursos naturais que estão sendo ameaçados pelas mudanças climáticas.  As vozes e contribuições das mulheres, portanto, são essenciais para enfrentarmos as mudanças climáticas.

Existe uma necessidade imperiosa de ouvir as vozes dos nossos jovens que herdarão os desafios e catástrofes que nós não conseguimos enfrentar e impedir. Acreditamos que devemos ser reconciliados com a Criação e uns com os outros e que esse chamado é urgente. Acreditamos que a questão da mudança climática, no fundo, é uma questão moral.

Reconhecemos que a salvação em Cristo nos chama para responsabilidades além de nós mesmos. Especialmente no mundo desenvolvido, a nossa visão de salvação tem se focado nas nossas almas individuais e a nossa caminhada até o Céu. A nossa responsabilidade de cuidar da Criação de Deus tem sido esquecida ou ignorada. Temos agido como se Cristo tivesse morrido apenas para salvar a raça humana. É necessário resgatar a verdade da redenção de todas as coisas em Cristo, que é a mensagem da cruz vivificadora.  (Colossenses 1:20; João 3:16).

Escutando uns aos outros aprendemos que para atender a vida e saúde do nosso planeta hoje e no futuro, precisamos de sacrifícios agora, tanto pessoais quanto coletivos, uma compreensão maior da interdependência de toda a criação e um compromisso verdadeiro com o arrependimento, a reconciliação e a redenção. Para isso é necessária uma profunda mudança de coração e de mente. Seguindo as palavras de 1 Coríntios 12:26, o nosso estudo e discussões serviram para enfatizar a ligação entre o estilo de vida e uso dos recursos em uma parte do mundo e os efeitos disso no mundo todo. Discernimos uma chamada para revitalizar a nossa vocação humana que recusa deixar alguns pobres e outros ricos, e que redescobre a nossa alegria e reverência às maravilhas da criação de Deus (Salmo 96: 11-12). Fomos desafiados a ir além de pedir justiça pelas ações dos governos e grandes corporações, e a assumir a prática do arrependimento e restrição, praticando justiça entre norte e sul, masculino e feminino, criação humana e mais-que-humana na nossa vida em comum como Igreja.

As igrejas da Comunhão Anglicana são locais e globais. Enraizadas em nossa teologia da criação e em solidariedade umas com as outras podemos assumir responsabilidade pela ação em toda a Comunhão, usando os recursos que Deus nos deu de inteligência, espírito e determinação.

Para viver como o Salvador, que une todos a ele, nós nos comprometemos com as seguintes ações e a desenvolver um plano estratégico de ação nos próximos meses. As iniciativas listadas abaixo são passos iniciais importantes para chamarmos todos os Anglicanos para se unirem a nós nesses esforços:

Como bispos nas nossas províncias, dioceses, congregações e comunidades:

•                Nós nos comprometemos como irmãos e irmãs em Cristo na humildade, reconhecendo as nossas diferenças de circunstâncias e de política, a apoiar uns aos outros na conversa e na oração, a continuar a discernir o caminho de Deus, a desenvolver recursos eco teológicos e a formar propostas estratégicas para a ação global e local.

•                Nós nos comprometemos a jejuar pela justiça climática no primeiro dia de cada mês em solidariedade com a terra e reconhecendo que a nossa vida em comum como Igreja tem contribuído para a atual crise climática. O nosso jejum vai continuar enquanto discernimos, em oração, que ainda precisamos do arrependimento como Igreja.

•                Vamos trabalhar para fortalecer as nossas parcerias ecumênicas e inter-religiosas no mundo e dentro das nossas jurisdições, mostrando solidariedade com todas as pessoas de boa vontade em resposta à crise climática.

•                Vamos desenvolver e distribuir recursos educacionais para todos (adultos, jovens e crianças) sobre as mudanças climáticas, a justiça climática, e os princípios éticos e práticos da vida sustentável nos contextos globais e locais.

•                Vamos desenvolver e distribuir material litúrgico sobre o Cuidado da Criação para uso nas nossas paróquias e outros locais de culto.

•                Pedimos uma revisão das práticas de investimento das nossas igrejas, visando apoiar a sustentabilidade e justiça social, desinvestindo em indústrias envolvidas principalmente na extração ou distribuição de combustíveis fósseis.

•                Pedimos o fortalecimento de diretrizes éticos de investimento, que consideram a justiça da criação não-humana além dos interesses das gerações futuras da humanidade…

•                Pedimos programas de formação teológica para postulantes, e formação contínua para o clero ordenado, que incluem um aprofundamento sobre eco-justiça e eco-teologia.

•                Pedimos às instituições anglicanas que integrem nos seus currículos e na vida comunitária as questões de sustentabilidade ambiental e ética, e que ensinem uma abordagem teológica da justiça climática.

Incentivamos Anglicanos em todo lugar a:

•                Se juntar em oração e jejum para a justiça climática no primeiro dia de cada mês como parte da sua vida e adoração.

•                Implementar medidas de conservação de energia nos templos e prédios da igreja mudando para fontes renováveis de energia o mais rápido possível.

•                Tomar medidas para conservar, reciclar e recolher água ao redor das igrejas e suas propriedades.

•                Nutrir a biodiversidade no terreno da igreja criando um habitat seguro para as espécies nativas.

•                Apoiar as comunidades locais dividindo recursos de água, energia e terra fértil para a produção local de alimentos.

•                Apoiar iniciativas de uso da terra sustentáveis, inclusive colocando um freio em relação ao desmatamento de florestas nativas.

•                Defender práticas sustentáveis para a água, alimentação e agricultura nas nossas comunidades. É imperativo que se considere a relação entrelaçado dos sistemas de alimentação, água e energia.

Chamamos os líderes políticos, económicos, sociais e religiosos nos nossos vários países para enfrentar a crise da mudança climática como a questão moral mais urgente atualmente. Incentivamos esses líderes a:

•                Trabalharem com todo o compromisso e pressa possível, para escrever acordos justos, ambiciosos, contabilizáveis e vinculativos no nível nacional e internacional.

•                Desenvolverem políticas que realmente assistem os refugiados do meio-ambiente e do clima e a promoverem mecanismos de cooperação intergovernamentais que asseguram os seus direitos, segurança e reassentamento.

Em conclusão

Afirmamos aquilo que cremos através das palavras do Credo: “Creio em Deus Pai, todo-poderoso, Criador do Céu e a Terra.” E afirmamos que essa declaração é o fundamento do Evangelho de Jesus Cristo nosso Senhor.

A nossa declaração é oferecida em oração, com gratidão a Deus, o criador, mantenedor e redentor a quem toda a glória e louvor sejam dados, agora e sempre.

Deus todo-poderoso, Tu criaste os céus e a terra e tudo que neles há. E Tu criaste os seres humanos à sua semelhança e foi muito bom; Concede-nos a coragem para reconhecer as nossas falhas no cuidado da sua criação. E pela Tua graça, ajude-nos a parar com a degradação do nosso meio-ambiente. Através de Jesus Cristo, nosso Senhor, que vem para que tenhamos vida em abundância. Amém.

Presentes nessa iniciativa estavam os seguintes bispos:

O Arcebispo da Cidade do Cabo e Primaz da Igreja Anglicana de África do Sul, O Reverendíssimo Dr Thabo Makgoba

A Bispa de Edmonton, Igreja Anglicana do Canadá, a Reverendíssima Jane Alexander

O Bispo de Western Kowloon, Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, o Reverendíssimo Andrew Chan

O Bispo de Davao, Igreja Episcopal das Filipinas, o Reverendíssimo Jonathan Casimina

O Primaz da Igreja Episcopal Escocesa, e Bispo de St Andrews Dunkeld & Dunblane, o Reverendíssimo David Chillingworth

O Bispo de Nova Iorque, A Igreja Episcopal, o Reverendíssimo Andrew Dietsche

O Bispo de Argentina do Norte, Igreja Anglicana de América-do-sul, o Reverendíssimo Nicholas Drayson

O Bispo de Harare, Igreja da Província de África Central, o Reverendíssimo Dr Chad Gandiya

O Bispo de Salisbury, Igreja de Inglaterra, o Reverendíssimo Nicholas Holtam

O Bispo Indígena Nacional, Igreja Anglicana do Canadá, o Reverendíssimo Mark MacDonald

O Bispo da Zambia Oriental, Igreja da Província da África Central, o Reverendíssimo William Mchombo

O Bispo Johannesburg, Igreja Anglicana do Sul da África, o Reverendíssimo Stephen Moreo

O Bispo de Namibia, Igreja Anglicana do Sul da África, o Reverendíssimo Nathaniel Nakwatumbah

O Bispo de Madhya Kerala e Vice Moderador da Igreja do Sul da Índia, o Reverendíssimo Thomas Oommen

O Bispo de Vanua Levu e Taveuni, Fiji, Igreja Anglicana em Aotearoa, Nova Zelânida e Polinésia, o Reverendíssimo Apimeleki Qiliho

A Bispa de Swaziland, Igreja Anglicana do Sul da África, a Reverendíssima Ellinah Wamukoya

O Bispo Auxiliar da Diocese de Perth, Igreja Anglicana da Austrália, o Reverendíssimo Tom Wilmot

O Bispo Moderador, Igreja de Bangladesh e Bispo de Dhaka, o Revereníssimo Paul Sarker, O Bispo da Amazônia, Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil, o Reverendíssimo Saulo Mauricio de Barros, e a Bispa da Igreja Episcopal de Cuba, a Reverendíssima Griselda Delgado, participaram na iniciativa mas não puderam estar presentes na reunião.

Essa declaração e o seu conteúdo tem direitos autorais:  The Anglican Consultative Council and the Anglican Communion Environmental Network 2015. Permissão é cedido para reproduzir porções dessa publicação. Cópias também podem ser feitas para distribuição com a devida citação.

Agradecemos o apoio do Fundo do Arcebispo de Cantuária para a Comunhão Anglicana e do Tearfund para tornar possível essa iniciativa.

Tradução para o português: Sra. Ruth Barros (Diocese Anglicana da Amazônia/IEAB)

South Carolina Supreme Court agrees to hear appeal

Episcopal News Service - qui, 16/04/2015 - 12:26

[The Episcopal Church in South Carolina] The South Carolina Supreme Court April 15 granted The Episcopal Church in South Carolina’s motion and will hear the appeal of a circuit court decision giving the name and property of the local Episcopal Church diocese to a breakaway group.

The court also denied a motion from the breakaway group for a greatly expedited schedule in the case, and set September 23 as the date for oral arguments in the case, saying that no extensions would be granted. The Episcopal Church in South Carolina had asked the court to take the case, bypassing the state Court of Appeals, in an effort to avoid expense and delay for all parties.

The diocese now has 30 days in which to file briefs in the appeal, according to Thomas S. Tisdale Jr., chancellor of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

“We are pleased that the court has agreed to hear the case and we look forward to presenting our positions on these important issues before the Supreme Court,” Tisdale said.

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, noting the large number of attorneys in the case – including more than 40 for the plaintiffs of the breakaway group – asked the Supreme Court to allow court documents to be provided in electronic format and reduce the number of paper copies. The court granted that motion. The order also reminded all parties in the appeal that they have a duty to pare down the lower court record and present only the materials necessary to help the court in “rendering an educated decision.”

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina represents 30 congregations and about 7,000 Episcopalians who remained part of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion after a breakaway group announced it was leaving the church in November 2012. A few months after the split, the breakaway group sued The Episcopal Church, and later added The Episcopal Church in South Carolina as a defendant, seeking control of all the diocesan property, the official name and seal, and the properties of the parishes who joined as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

That case went to trial in July 2014 in Circuit Court in St. George before Judge Diane S. Goodstein. In February, Goodstein ruled in favor of the breakaway group. The Episcopal Church in South Carolina and The Episcopal Church then filed motion for reconsideration which the judge rejected February 13, clearing the way for the appeal, which was filed March 24.

Also, in a separate federal legal case involving the church schism, attorneys for Mark Lawrence, bishop of the breakaway group, filed a petition for rehearing on April 14 with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in vonRosenberg v. Lawrence. The petition asks the appeals court to reconsider its March 31 ruling in favor of the Rt. Rev. Charles G. vonRosenberg of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. The ruling sent the case back to U.S. District Court in Charleston for another hearing.

The federal case focuses on the issue of false advertising under the federal Lanham Act,  alleging that Lawrence, by continuing to represent himself as bishop of the diocese, is committing false advertising, according to a brief filed with the appeals court in 2014. The suit seeks an injunction against Lawrence.

Canada: Church leaders sign climate change declaration

Episcopal News Service - qui, 16/04/2015 - 10:10

[Anglican Journal] On April 15, Christians from across Eastern Canada gathered at the Green Churches Conference/Colloque Eglises Vertes in Quebec City to learn about how churches can practice better environmental stewardship and to sign an ecumenical declaration committing their churches to creating a “climate of hope” in the face of worsening climate change.

Rooting itself in ancient biblical teachings and modern climate science, the declaration committed churches to enact “an ecological shift” by “bringing improvements to our places of worship.” It also pledged churches to “act as good citizens in order to build a society which is greener and more concerned about the future of the next generations.”

The principal signatories of the declaration were Cardinal Gérald Lacroix, primate of the Catholic Church in Canada; Archpriest P. Nectaire Féménias of the Orthodox Church of America; the Rev. David Fines, former president of the Montreal/Ottawa conference of the United Church of Canada; Bishop Dennis Drainville of the Anglican Diocese of Quebec; Diane Andicha Picard, Guardian of the Sacred Drum Head for Andicah n’de Wendat; the Rev. Katherine Burgess, incumbent at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Quebec City; and Norman Lévesque, director of the Green Church Program.

However, to emphasize the collective responsibility of churches in fighting climate change, the declaration was read by all present, and everyone was given the opportunity to sign.

The reading of the declaration followed a presentation by Dr. Alan K. Betts, an atmospheric scientist based in Vermont who has been studying the effects of climate change for more than 35 years. Betts explained how the unusual weather patterns of last winter — in which parts of western North America experienced record highs while Easterners experienced an especially cold winter — were in keeping with larger changes to weather patterns consistent with the rise of C02 in the earth’s atmosphere.

But Betts also spoke about questions that touched much more closely on faith, arguing that climate change was a “spiritual denial” of the facts. “Climate deniers do not want to see truth,” he said. “We are in a society where the rich are very dependent on propaganda to defend fossil fuel exploitation.”

While Betts was very clear about the enormity of the threat that climate change poses, he did not suggest that there was no hope, but argued that people “united with the spirit and the science” can cause change, “because when we stand for truth, creation responds.”

The conference was organized by Green Churches, an ecumenical network that began in 2006 as a project of Saint Columba House, a United Church mission in Montreal. In the nine years since it began, the network has grown to include 50 churches across Canada from Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, United, Presbyterian, Mennonite, Evangelical and Quaker traditions.

Following Betts’ presentation and the reading of the declaration, participants spent the late morning and afternoon of the one-day conference in a series of workshops, held in both English and French, focusing on practical ways in which churches could reduce their carbon footprint and energy use. One workshop, led by the Rev. Cynthia Patterson and Sarah Blair of the Diocese of Quebec, looked at the work that the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Trinity is doing to return its grounds to their original function as gardens.

Lévesque, director of the Green Church Program, said that while there were slightly fewer people in attendance than he had expected, he was impressed with the number of prominent church leaders in attendance, such as Cardinal Lacroix and Bishop Drainville.

He was also struck by the participants’ passion. “The people here, the interest — it was more than interest — it was conviction,” he said, adding that it was important that participants included people with the power to change church structure.

Elana Wright, who works for the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace and led a workshop on the relationship between food justice and climate justice, was likewise impressed with the level of participation.

“It showed that there is a critical mass of people that want to take action and do something,” she said, “and they are following the Christian principles of respect for creation and really putting it into action and bringing it to their church leaders.”

Drainville also viewed the conference as being highly important — so much so, in fact, that he delayed his flight to the House of Bishops meeting by a day in order to participate.

“It is always a great opportunity to spend time with people who see the same kind of priorities,” he said, “and obviously as an Anglican, believing strongly in the Marks of Mission and particularly the fifth mark of mission [To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth], coming here and showing our solidarity as we respond to the needs of creation is very important.”

The next Green Churches Conference is scheduled to take place in Ottawa in autumn 2016.

Southern African primate warns against xenophobic violence

Episcopal News Service - qui, 16/04/2015 - 09:49

[Office of the Anglican Archbishop Of Cape Town] Warning against “the specter of revenge attacks” from African migrants living in South Africa, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town has added his voice to calls for an end to the current outbreak of xenophobic violence.

“Foreigners are God’s people too and deserve the dignity and protection we enjoy,” he said in a statement issued in Cape Town.

The full text of his statement follows:

“After the attacks on African migrants in South Africa were ended in 2008, we hoped we had seen the end of xenophobic conflict in our country.

“But more than five years on, the tension has erupted again, people are dying again and now we are seeing the specter of revenge attacks from migrants.

“Foreigners are God’s people too and deserve the dignity and protection we enjoy. This is not ubuntu, it is painful and deeply regrettable.

“I join my colleagues in the churches and other religious leaders in calling for an end to the attacks, in calling for restraint on all sides and in sending our condolences to the families of those who have died.”

Anglican UN office award honors women’s rights work

Episcopal News Service - qua, 15/04/2015 - 15:11

Beth Adamson poses with the Award for Global Service that was recently presented to her by the nglican Communion Office at the United Nations. Photo;maryFrances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Communion Office at the United Nations has honored Beth Adamson with its Award for Global Service for her dedicated work to strengthen Anglican women’s presence at the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

The award, created in 2003, honors volunteer service that furthers the work of the Anglican Communion through the vehicle of the UN Office.

“There is a person among us who has faithfully committed her time and considerable talents over eleven years to be sure that the representative participation of Anglican women from across the world in each [UNCSW] was as contributive and meaningful … as possible,” said ACOUN treasurer Marnie Dawson Carr at the award presentation in March in New York during the 59th UNCSW.

Adamson, who lies in Connecticut, had become the official Anglican Consultative Council representative to UNCSW and was a “constant source of updated knowledge, wisdom and counsel to the ACOUN and CSW,” said Dawson Carr.

For the past ten years, Adamson has served on the planning committee for the annual UNCSW sessions and as advisor to the executive committee that oversees preparations for the non-governmental organizations forum at the annual sessions.

Since 2011 she has been the co-chair of the UN Working Group on Girls (WGG), which advocates for the rights and empowerment of girls.

Adamson worked closely with then-Under-Secretary-General Michelle Bachelet as the latter initiated the new role of eExecutive rirector of UN Women. In 2013 Bachelet’s successor Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka asked Adamson to serve as a New York-area observer to the UN Women’s Global Advisory Board.

“Since 2004 Beth has been central to the growth and strengthening of the Anglican Communion delegation to the UNCSW,” said Rachel Elizabeth Chardon, ACOUN general program and administrative officer. “She has a natural ability to listen to others and what they might bring to the overall picture.”

“I have always felt it is a gift and an honor to be given the opportunity to work on behalf of social justice for women and girls within the domain of the UN, and every day I am grateful to the Anglican Communion for the privilege to do the work I feel called to,” said Adamson.

The ACOUN Award for Global Service has been conferred only once before, in 2004, to Angela King, former UN Under-Secretary-General, who gave particular support to ACOUN work focusing on women and children.

The Anglican Communion opened its UN office in New York in 1991. Its aim is to lift up Anglican voices in key areas of concern at the United Nations, and to communicate the experience, goals, and vision of the UN to the Communion. Current focal areas are human rights, especially the rights of women and indigenous peoples; refuge and migration concerns; sustainable development; and the environment.

Anglican Church of Canada reaffirms resolve to fight anti-Semitism

Episcopal News Service - qua, 15/04/2015 - 09:51

[Anglican Church of Canada] The re-release of a document exploring the context of the Holocaust is the latest step taken by the Anglican Church of Canada to promote Christian-Jewish dialogue and continue the struggle against anti-Semitism in all its forms.

Commended in 1989 by the church’s National Executive Council — the precursor to the Council of General Synod — From Darkness to Dawn: Rethinking Christian Attitudes Towards Jews and Judaism in the Light of the Holocaust was written by the Subcommittee on Jewish-Anglican Relations, following a 1983 resolution that condemned racism and anti-Semitism. The resolution also called for the production of materials to help Anglicans learn more about anti-Semitism.

The study program From Darkness to Dawn was made available online this year, in advance of the annual commemoration of the Holocaust, or Shoah, on April 15.

Archdeacon Bruce Myers, coordinator for ecumenical and interfaith relations, noted that despite From Darkness to Dawn’s official commendation, it is unclear how widely the study program has been taken up by the church at large.

Myers himself only discovered the document while doing research in the General Synod archives on the church’s involvement in Christian-Jewish dialogue.

“It’s a fine document into which a considerable amount of time and work was invested, but it appears to have been only minimally received by our church,” he said.

“Even if a few of the references [that] the document makes seem a bit dated, the larger issues it deals with — especially the historic roots of anti-Semitism and the church’s historic complicity in it — haven’t changed.”

The strong stand by the Anglican Church of Canada against anti-Semitism dates back to 1934, when the General Synod of what was then known as the Church of England in Canada adopted a resolution condemning the persecution of Jews in Germany and recognizing Jewish contributions to human history.

More recently, in 2013, General Synod approved a resolution committing the church to “resolutely oppose anti-Semitism” as well as anti-Arab sentiment and Islamophobia.

While the Anglican Church of Canada, along with other churches, participates in national-level dialogue with the Jewish community through the Canadian Christian-Jewish Consultation (CCJC), the CCJC has been in a state of limbo since 2012, when Jewish representatives stepped away from the table due to a decision by one of the participating churches to boycott goods produced on Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

On a local level, however, Christian-Jewish dialogue remains as vibrant as ever.

In Montreal, local Christian and Jewish representatives continue to meet regularly. Bishop Barry Clarke of the Diocese of Montreal and the Rev. Patricia G. Kirkpatrick, who teaches Hebrew Bible and Biblical Hebrew at McGill University, represent the Anglican church at the dialogue.

In 2013, the Christian-Jewish Dialogue of Montreal promoted interfaith dialogue about the proposed Quebec Charter of Values — which would have banned the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols by public employees in Quebec — through discussion groups, radio and TV interviews, and the production of a video entitled Nous sommes québécois.

“It may seem strange to people out in the community that a Jewish-Christian dialogue would launch a campaign stressing issues of diversity, and why it is that individuals should be allowed to wear their religious icons — whether it be a kippah or a cross around your neck or a veil on your head,” Kirkpatrick said.

“But we felt strongly that we could actually engage the larger community with this kind of political issue that was right on our doorstep in order to highlight those aspects of anti-Semitism that are almost global, in the sense that all people can all of a sudden be the recipients of draconian legal measures brought on by governments wanting to forbid certain religious…rights and privileges.”

The responses to the proposed Charter of Values, she suggested, illustrated the importance of promoting community dialogue to guard against the type of scapegoating that has targeted Jews and other minorities throughout history.

Global Relations Coordinator Andrea Mann, who serves as the church’s lead staff member on Israel-Palestine issues, noted that the definition of anti-Semitism has changed over the years.

“I think that Christians want to better understand what it means to be anti-Semitic in the contemporary context,” she added, “and are going to find some help in that regard in From Darkness to Dawn.”

Pakistan’s Christians faithful and resilient in face of persecution

Episcopal News Service - ter, 14/04/2015 - 09:56

The Very Rev. Patrick Augustine, rector of Christ Episcopal Church in La Crosse, Wisconsin, lays the foundation stone for a new Christian church near Muzzaffarabad during a recent solidarity visit to Pakistan.

[Episcopal News Service] Pakistan is one of the world’s most troubling epicenters for terrorism where minorities are targeted by religious extremists for having different beliefs or affiliations. Yet the persecuted Christian community – 1.5 percent of 180 million people – remains steadfast in faith despite the daily persecution they face.

Last month, two bomb blasts in a Christian neighborhood of the Pakistani city of Lahore killed 17 people and wounded more than 70 as worshipers attended Sunday Mass at St. John’s Roman Catholic Church and Christ Church, a Church of Pakistan church and a member of the Anglican Communion.

“Messages of love and support have flooded in, and churches and agencies around the Anglican Communion are working together to ensure an effective and coordinated practical response as well as continued prayer,” according to a news release from the Anglican Alliance, which connects and strengthens the development, relief and advocacy activities of churches, agencies and networks of the Anglican Communion.

On a recent conference call with representatives of Anglican Communion churches and agencies, Bishop Irfan Jamil of the Diocese of Lahore talked about the priorities for his church and community after the bombings.

Jamil and his team have been visiting the bereaved and those injured by the bomb blasts, the release said. Episcopal Relief & Development has sent a solidarity grant to enable the church to respond to those in need following the attacks.

The Church of Pakistan (United) and the Roman Catholic Church held a joint funeral service for the victims. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby joined the service by phone and his prayers were translated and shared with the mourners.

“Bishop Jamil inspired those on the [conference] call with his emphasis on the role of church leaders in building peace, harmony and mutual understanding and with his message to the Anglican Communion to continue to stand alongside the Church in Pakistan in these times of trauma,” the release said.

The most devastating attack in Pakistan happened in September 2013 when two suicide bombers targeted All Saints Anglican Church in Peshawar at the end of a Sunday worship service, killing 127 people and injuring 170. Many of the victims were women and children.

Bishop Samuel Azariah of the Diocese of Raiwind, moderator of the Church of Pakistan, spoke with Episcopal News Service shortly after that tragic day, saying that even after years of intense persecution from religious extremists, the Christian population in Pakistan is growing in numbers. “Nothing will dampen our spirits. Bombing, murder, burning, shooting will not dampen our spirits and our commitment to Jesus Christ,” he said.

Bishop of Peshawar Humphrey Peters said in an Easter message last week that the terrorist attacks “have left a permanent scar on the memory and soul of the Christian community of Pakistan … On the one hand, all these threats, incidents of violence and targeted persecution dishearten the Christian community of Pakistan. But on the other, it has strengthened the faith and … their commitment of faithfulness with Lord Jesus Christ.”

It was this resilience and deep faith that the Very Rev. Patrick Augustine experienced when he visited Pakistan earlier this year as an expression of solidarity with the Christian community there.

Members of the congregation at All Saints Anglican Church in Peshawar.

The Pakistan-born rector of Christ Episcopal Church in La Crosse, Wisconsin, preached during Sunday worship on Jan. 25 at the now-heavily guarded All Saints, built in the ancient bazaar of the old city Peshawar in 1865. He found a church that is thriving and full of faithful Christians. “I was touched by the power and commitment of their faith,” he told ENS.

“The terrorists believe they have a cause to impose Islam by violent force, beheadings and detonating explosives to kill those whose belief systems differ,” he added. “Suffering is everywhere and it has overwhelmed our humanity.”

Christians in Pakistan are “pounded by Islamists in brutal suicide bombings, daily harassment and imprisonments,” Augustine said.

Following Sunday morning worship at All Saints Anglican Church in Peshawar, the Very Rev. Patrick Augustine prays with a family that lost several relatives in the bomb blasts of September 2013.

There is the prominent case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman and mother of five who was arrested in June 2009 after being accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad – which she denies – and sentenced to death by hanging. She is still in a Pakistani jail despite almost 1 million people worldwide appealing for her release. Some blasphemy charge cases receive high profile in the media, but thousands more go unreported.

Pakistani blasphemy law identifies it as a crime to defile the Holy Quran, with a possible sentence of life imprisonment. But offenses against the Prophet Muhammad may be punishable by death.

“This draconian law is a sword hanging over every Christian’s head. Once accused, the individual is at risk from zealous Islamists who believe that they earn merit with Allah by killing a blasphemer,” Augustine said. “Thousands of innocent people have been imprisoned and killed on false charges of blasphemy.”

Augustine lamented the inaction of the Pakistan government, which, he says, “has allowed extreme Islamic groups to propagate hate … violence, intolerance and spread extreme ideas into ordinary mosques and community centers.”

But Augustine – who in 2012 was awarded the Cross of St. Augustine by former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams in recognition of his contributions internationally to evangelism, ecumenism, and peace and reconciliation between faiths – said that “people want peace. We live in a world fashioned by God so that we all need one another as members of the human family. There are people of goodwill among both Christians and Muslims. I beg all people of goodwill to speak out and not fall prey as silent spectators.”

The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council at its March meeting passed a resolution condemning the use of religion for the purpose of advancing political agendas “directed at terrorizing, victimizing, and oppressing individuals and communities and impairing their ability to enjoy basic human rights because of their religious beliefs and social, ethnic, class, caste, gender, and national affiliations.”

The resolution also calls on the world’s governments “to confront the reality of religious persecution, protect religious minorities and civilians within the framework of international and humanitarian law, address political exclusion and economic desperation that are being manipulated by the forces of extremists, scale up humanitarian and development assistance to host countries and trusted NGOs, and accept for resettlement a fair share of the most vulnerable people where return to their countries of origin is impossible.”

The Rev. Canon Robert Edmunds, Middle East partnership officer for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, said: “We sometimes hear the term ‘Christian presence’ in the Middle East and it sounds passive and lacking in vitality when the truth of the matter for those who live there is quite different. The Christian presence throughout the region is about Christians whose family and religious roots reach back to the time of Christ. These are not sojourners in a strange and foreign land, but people whose lives are an integral part of the landscape, the history, the culture and the traditions which have and continue to shape each generation.”

The presence of the Christian churches throughout the region “provides the language of love of God and all neighbors which is in danger of being silenced,” Edmunds added. “We in the West must continue to give these atrocities visibility both in terms of solidarity with our brother and sister Christians, but to encourage political leaders to seek lasting and durable solutions for peace for the benefit of all. To lose the Christian voice in the region would be catastrophic for the future.”

Augustine’s friends, family and parishioners expressed concern about him visiting Pakistan at such a volatile time. But on his journey, Augustine said that he found countless signs of hope and unexpected surprises.

The Very Rev. Patrick Augustine with youth leaders of the Diocese of Peshawar, some of whom were injured and lost family members in the bomb blasts at All Saints Anglican Church.

One early Sunday morning in February, Augustine and 20 Christians from Islamabad drove for four hours to be with a Christian family near Muzzaffarabad. The family has been living there since 1933, but they are the only Christians in an otherwise exclusively Islamic area. Augustine described it as a deep privilege and a historical day as he relayed how he was asked to celebrate Holy Communion and preach, then lay the foundation of a church that will seat 50 people.

On his first day of arrival in Islamabad, he visited a tailor’s shop with a friend. One of the Muslim brothers who run the shop asked Augustine to pray for him. When Augustine told him that he prays in the name of Jesus the brother said that he had no objection to that.

As he was about to leave, the other two brothers approached Augustine and asked him to pray with them also. “I looked at them and saw in their eyes hunger for God for healing and blessing,” he said. “I laid my hands on them and asked God to bless them, their shop and bless Pakistan to be a land with peace. This was an amazing opportunity to experience in a land where Christians are discriminated and persecuted on daily basis.”

Two days later, Peters, the bishop of Peshawar, received a phone call about an attack by a Muslim mob on a Christian-run school in the city of Bannu. The school has 1,800 students and 99 percent are Muslim. Peters and four clergy decided to leave immediately and Augustine was invited to accompany them. “It is a highly security-sensitive area and not many Americans would be able to make this dangerous journey. It was a privilege to go … and stand in solidarity with a suffering church,” Augustine said.

The Very Rev. Patrick Augustine prays with the displaced Christian community in Bannu.

Inside the compound, there were 200 Christian families internally displaced from the Waziristan area, a stronghold of Al-Qaeda and Taliban forces and the region where American drones have targeted terrorists.

“One million are internally displaced,” Augustine said. “Christian families were living in refugee camps … and not given food and shelter. It has been an Anglican area since 1860s. The bishop invited Christians to pitch tents inside the church compound where the school and hospital are situated. They are able to provide education and medical help to Muslims and Christians in this city.

“I spent one whole day visiting these displaced people, listening to their stories, holding hands and praying with them. … I did not get a sense that these people were ready to give up their faith, but that they were very strong, deeply rooted and committed to following Jesus in the way of the cross.”

– Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter of the Episcopal News Service.

RIP: Former Diocese of Eastern Oregon Bishop Rustin R. Kimsey

Episcopal News Service - seg, 13/04/2015 - 17:44

[Episcopal Diocese of Easter Oregon] A sixth generation Oregonian, the Rt. Rev. Rustin R. “Rusty” Kimsey was born on June 20, 1935 in Bend, Oregon, to Lauren Chamness Kimsey and Lois Elena (Moorhead) Kimsey. He died at home on April 10 at the age of 79.

The Rt. Rev. Rustin R. Kimsey, the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Eastern Oregon, spoke at the Aug. 4, 2014 memorial service for the Rev. Tish Croom. Photo: Angela Gorham/Diocese of Eastern Oregon

Educated in Bend and Hermiston public schools and the University of Oregon (B.S. 1957), Kimsey’s Christian formation was secured from boyhood at Ascension School and Conference Center in Cove, Oregon. Kimsey attended the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, receiving a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1960.

Ordained a deacon and priest that same year, Kimsey served churches in Redmond, Baker City and The Dalles. In 1969 he was appointed to the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council, the governing body of the Episcopal Church between triennial meetings of General Convention. He was re-elected to the council twice and served a total of thirteen years.

During that time he was appointed to serve as the Episcopal Church’s priest representative on the Anglican Consultative Council, an international council representing 85 million Anglicans worldwide. In 1977 he served as the Episcopal Church’s chair of the first Partners in Mission Consultation, in which Anglican and ecumenical partners from around the world listened, critiqued and helped shape the ministry and mission of the Episcopal Church.

Active in community and regional concerns, Kimsey helped establish mental health programs for all ages, volunteered at the Regional Training Center for those with disabilities, served on the advisory board of Haven and was appointed by then-Gov. Victor Atiyeh to the Columbia River Gorge Commission.

In 1980 Kimsey was elected as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Eastern Oregon, and on Aug. 4 he was consecrated at The Dalles High School Kurtz Gymnasium, followed by a gala procession to historic St. Paul’s Chapel on Union Street. “Old St. Paul’s” was soon to be the spiritual home and administrative center for the diocese. For 20 years, 59,000 square miles of the sacred turf east of the Cascades was “home” for Kimsey’s ministry to others in the name of Christ. He established and strengthened communities of faith to be more open and inclusive, waged battle with inappropriate leadership and abusive authority, enhanced ecumenical and interfaith relationships, encouraged congregations to become involved in their towns and villages as partners in responding to human need and social justice issues, reflecting the hospitality of Christ.

Kimsey served on several boards and commissions for the House of Bishops. The highlight was his chairmanship of the Episcopal Church’s Commission on Ecumenical Relations from 1994-2000.  During those years the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church forged an agreement, Called to Common Mission, which brought these two faith communities into full communion.

Kimsey retired as bishop of Eastern Oregon in 2000. In 2005 he accepted an appointment as assisting bishop of Navajoland, retiring from that sacred duty in July 2006. Kimsey was appointed assisting bishop of the Diocese of Alaska in 2009 until Alaska chose its current bishop in 2010.

He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Gretchen (Rinehart) Kimsey; their children, Sean Kimsey of The Dalles and Bangkok, Thailand (Khing); Megan Jarman of Seattle, Wshington (Mark); Larry Parlin of Lyons, Oregon (Leisa); grandchildren, William and Lauren Jarman; an older brother, Lloyd Kimsey of Carlsbad, California; an aunt, Margaret Troedson of Pendleton, Oregon and several cousins, nieces and nephews.

A public service of Compline and Vigil will be held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on April 24 with the Rev. Patrick Bell officiating. A service of thanksgiving for Kimsey’s life and ministry will be held on April 25 at Calvary Baptist Church in The Dalles with diocese of Eastern Oregon Bishop Provisional Bavi “Nedi” Rivera officiating. Following a luncheon, the burial will take place at the Dufur Cemetery.

Memorials may be given to Ascension School Camp and Conference Center, Box 278, Cove, OR 97824, St. Paul’s Memorial Fund, 1805 Minnesota St., The Dalles, OR 97058, Episcopal Relief and Development Fund, Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058, or Mid-Columbia Health  Foundation,  1700 E. 19th St., The Dalles, OR 97058.

Editor’s note: A letter to the Diocese of Eastern Oregon from Gretchen Kimsey following the death of her husband is here. The Kimsey family kept the diocese updated about Kimsey’s health, including this last one posted March 16.

Los peregrinos de #ShareTheJourney siguen compartiendo su viaje y haciéndose promotores de los refugiados

Episcopal News Service - seg, 13/04/2015 - 11:45

A principios de marzo, un grupo de episcopales que tomó parte en una peregrinación de #ShareTheJourney a la región africana de los Grandes Lagos visitó la oficina de la Organización Internacional para la Migración en Kigali, Ruanda, donde se reunieron con Didacus Obunga, director de operaciones de esa institución —que aparece a la derecha— y con el Dr. Samuel A. Baghuma, médico del [Servicio] Nacional de Salud para la Migración —que se ve al centro. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

[Episcopal News Service] La Iglesia Episcopal ha estado reasentando refugiados durante 75 años, y trabajando con congregaciones locales y agencias de reasentamiento a través de Estados Unidos para darle acogida a algunas de las personas más vulnerables del mundo que huyen de la violencia, la guerra y la opresión política, étnica y cultural.

A principios de marzo, ocho episcopales viajaron a Kenia y a Ruanda para aprender cómo es el reasentamiento de refugiados en la actualidad a través de las lentes de refugiados congoleses en una peregrinación de #ShareTheJourney organizada por el Ministerio Episcopal de Migración, el servicio de reasentamiento de refugiados de la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera (DFMS).

La DFMS [Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society] es el nombre con el cual la Iglesia Episcopal está incorporada, funciona empresarialmente y lleva a cabo la misión.

“Nuestra esperanza”, dijo Deborah Stein, directora del Ministerio Episcopal de Migración, “es que los participantes puedan compartir el entusiasmo que han mostrado a través de esta peregrinación con las personas de sus parroquias, de sus comunidades, de sus diócesis, y convertirse en campeones y promotores de los refugiados: comunicarle a la Iglesia en su sentido más amplio las maravillosas oportunidades que tienen los episcopales que participan en la labor salvavidas del reasentamiento de refugiados, y en última instancia que los episcopales vean que existe un lugar para ellos en este quehacer”.

Alyssa Stebbing, directora de servicios comunitarios de la iglesia episcopal de La Trinidad [Trinity] de The Woodlands en la Diócesis de Texas, fue a la peregrinación con una conciencia acerca de los refugiados que se acrecentó durante el viaje.

“Esta experiencia realmente me ha quitado las anteojeras”, dijo Stebbing, quien se propone participar con la comunidad interreligiosa del área metropolitana de Houston y compartir lo que ella ha aprendido en la peregrinación.

El Ministerio Episcopal de Migración es una de nueve agencias asociadas con el Departamento de Estado de EE.UU. para acoger y reasentar refugiados en Estados Unidos. A través de la Iglesia, el Ministerio Episcopal de Migración colabora con 30 comunidades en 26 diócesis.

De los 15,5 millones de refugiados en todo el mundo, menos de un 1 por ciento serán reasentados, de los cuales más de un 75 por ciento vendrá a Estados Unidos.

El Dr. Muddassar Ban Abad, que supervisa el Centro de Evaluación de la Salud de la Organización Internacional para la Migración en Nairobi, Kenia, conduce a los peregrinos de #ShareTheJourney en un recorrido por las instalaciones. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

En 2014, el Ministerio Episcopal de Migración y sus asociados ayudaron a reasentar a 5.155 de las decenas de miles de refugiados que llegaron a Estados Unidos a través del proceso de selección del Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados (UNHCR). Ellos se esforzarán en servir a otras tantas personas este año, de los 70.000 refugiados que Estados Unidos planea reasentar.

Muchos de esos refugiados provendrán de la República Democrática del Congo. A lo largo de los próximos años, el UNHCR se propone reasentar 50.000 refugiados del Congo, el 80 por ciento de los cuales vendrán a Estados Unidos.

La peregrinación, que se extendió del 2 al 13 de marzo, financiada por una subvención del Fondo Constable de la Iglesia Episcopal, instruyó a los participantes en la difícil situación de los refugiados y en el proceso que deben seguir [para obtener refugio], de manera que puedan compartir su experiencia con sus iglesias, diócesis y comunidades.

En Ruanda, visitaron Gihembe, un campamento que alberga a 14,500 refugiados provenientes del Congo Oriental. Allí escucharon preguntas y preocupaciones de los refugiados en el contexto de una reunión comunitaria. Los peregrinos también se impusieron del proceso de reasentamiento desde una perspectiva exterior a través de reuniones con el UNHCR, el Centro de Apoyo al Reasentamiento en África del Servicio Mundial de Iglesias y otras organizaciones no gubernamentales.

El Rdo. Frank Logue, canónigo del Ordinario en la Diócesis de Georgia, les habla a los refugiados durante una reunión comunitaria en el campamento de refugiados de Gihembe. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

Para el Rdo. Frank Logue, canónigo del Ordinario en la Diócesis de Georgia, poder reunirse con los refugiados y escuchar sus frustraciones respecto al proceso de reasentamiento resultó ilustrativo.

“Creo que es difícil para cualquiera de nosotros apreciar lo que es huir de su país, lo que significa ser un refugiado, de manera que haber tenido la experiencia de reunirme y hablar con los refugiados resultó provechosa”, dijo Logue, que viajó con su esposa, Victoria.

La visita al campamento de refugiados incluyó un recorrido por su clínica sanitaria, un aula de una escuela primaria, una iniciativa para la capacitación de mujeres y un aula de inglés como segundo idioma para refugiados que ya han sido aprobados para el reasentamiento.

Reunirse con 10 mujeres portadoras del VIH en el campamento de refugiados, que encuentran esperanza en plantar hongos, le hizo una gran impresión a Cookie Cantwell, coordinadora del ministerio de los jóvenes en la IV Provincia.

“Una vez que uno se ve expuesto a algo que sabes que cambiará para siempre tu perspectiva, tienes que compartirlo”, dijo Cantwell, que proviene de la Diócesis de Carolina del Este. “Una vez que has sido tocada, tienes que tomar una decisión sobre lo que vas a hacer al respecto”.

Una refugiada somalí que trabaja como asistente de salud de la comunidad posa con Cookie Cantwell, durante una visite a Refugee Point, una organización que se dedica a capacitar a algunas de las refugiadas más vulnerables en Nairobi y otras localidades del mundo entero. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

Para Cantwell eso significa compartir la historia de las mujeres. “Están viviendo, no se están muriendo”, afirmó.

Muchos de los peregrinos compartieron sus experiencias en blogs.

“Una de las cosas que les pedimos a todos los peregrinos que han participado en el viaje de #ShareTheJourney es que, cuando regresen a sus hogares, utilicen su experiencia para hablarles a tantas personas como les sea posible a fin de compartir lo que han aprendido: convertirse en promotores de los refugiados, visitar una oficina local de EMM, ver lo que sucede en el otro extremo donde reciben a los refugiados, ver lo que pueden hacer para compartir la información de lo que aprendieron mientras estuvieron en Nairobi [en Kenia] y en Ruanda”, dijo Stein.

Jessica Benson, de la Diócesis de Idaho, había entablado una relación con una familia congolesa reasentada en Boise a través de la Agencia para Nuevos Americanos. Pero ver el proceso de reasentamiento desde el extremo opuesto fue una experiencia completamente distinta, dijo ella.

Los peregrinos aprendieron, por ejemplo, que una vez que a una familia la destinan para reasentamiento y comienza el lento proceso de los antecedentes, los exámenes médicos y de seguridad, cualquier cambio en el estatus familiar, tal como el nacimiento de un niño, puede retrasar el proceso.

“Una de las cosas que se fijó en mi mente es que los niños son examinados al mismo nivel de los adultos”, dijo Benson, añadiendo que ella tampoco conoció a muchos refugiados que vivieran en ciudades, fuera de los campamentos.

Antes de que la peregrinación hubiera terminado, Benson ya se había puesto al habla con un legislador estatal para coordinar una reunión. Ella también se proponía hablarles a los estudiantes, en el sistema de educación pública donde el número de estudiantes refugiados haya aumentado, a fin de educarlos en el proceso de reasentamiento, afirmó.

Alice Eshuchi, directora nacional de Heshima en Kenia, conversa con Alyssa Stebbing, directora de servicios comunitarios de la iglesia episcopal de La Trinidad en The Woodlands, Diócesis de Texas, durante una visita a la oficina de operaciones de Heshima. Heshima Kenya se especializa en identificar y proteger a niños y jóvenes que aparecen solos y separados de sus familias, especialmente niñas y mujeres jóvenes y sus hijos que viven en Nairobi. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

Luego de visitar el campamento de refugiados en Ruanda, los peregrinos visitaron Heshima, un programa urbano en Nairobi, Kenia, que se dedica a capacitar a niñas y mujeres jóvenes, muchas de las cuales han perdido a sus familias o se encuentran separadas de ellas.

Para Spencer Cantrell, miembro del Proyecto Nacional de Defensa de las Mujeres Inmigrantes en Washington, D.C., el contraste entre el campamento de refugiados y el programa urbano era pasmoso. En el campamento, ella visitó el alojamiento de un hombre que había perdido toda esperanza, a pesar de que su familia había sido reasentada en Misisipí. Eso era difícil de reconciliar con la esperanza que emanaba de las actitudes positivas de las niñas y mujeres jóvenes en Nairobi, muchas de ellas sobrevivientes de traumas y violencia sexual y muchas de ellas madres adolescentes, dice ella.

“Estoy buscando los medios de compartir esto con la Iglesia”, dijo Cantrell, ex misionera en Hong Kong con el Cuerpo de Servicio de Jóvenes Adultos, que ahora vive en la Diócesis de Washington.

Entrar en un aula en el campamento de refugiados llena de muchachos impacientes, cuatro años por debajo de su nivel de escolaridad y compartiendo dos o tres libros, resultó descorazonador para el Rdo. Burl Salmon, capellán de una escuela intermedia y decano de vida comunitaria en la escuela episcopal de La Trinidad [Trinity Episcopal School] en la Diócesis de Carolina del Norte. Sin embargo, el se sintió alentado por la compenetración que el maestro tenía con sus alumnos, dijo. “Él veía la educación como la puerta que ellos tenían para alcanzar el éxito”.

“La educación es universal”, dijo Salmon. “Para uno es un salvavidas y para el otro es un hecho”.

De vuelta a Estados Unidos, además de establecer relaciones con una oficina afiliada al Ministerio Episcopal de Migración, entre las formas en que los peregrinos y otros episcopales pueden seguir aprendiendo sobre los refugiados y seguir abogando por ellos se incluyen: organizar un evento para el Día Mundial del Refugiado, que tiene lugar anualmente el 20 de junio; animar a una congregación a copatrocinar a una familia refugiada; compartir sus experiencias con refugiados en la Convención General de la Iglesia Episcopal; abogar por los refugiados en la esfera local y estatal mediante citas con funcionarios electos y hablando en reuniones cívicas, y hacerse miembro de la Red Episcopal de Política Pública, que participa en política pública a escala federal.

Una de las cosas que la Iglesia Episcopal, que está presente en muchos países, debería de hacer es alentar a otros países a aumentar el número de refugiados que reasientan, dijo el Rdo. canónigo Scott Gunn, de la Diócesis de Ohio Sur, uno de los peregrinos y director ejecutivo del Movimiento Adelante [Forward Movement], un ministerio de la Iglesia episcopal con sede en Cincinnati, Ohio, que estimula el discipulado.

Hay 2,7 millones de refugiados y solicitantes de asilo en África Oriental, en el Cuerno de África y en la región de los Grandes Lagos. Etiopía y Kenia acogen a la mayoría de las personas que huyen de la violencia y la inestabilidad política en Somalia, Sudán del Sur, Eritrea y el Congo.

“Noventa y nueve por ciento de los refugiados no serán reasentados”, dijo Gunn. “También debemos hacer todo lo que podamos para influir en la estabilización de las condiciones en África Oriental; un país está recibiendo los refugiados de otro país.

“Si 2,7 millones de personas pudieran ser repatriadas, todo el mundo saldría ganando. Es un juego moralmente escandaloso el que se lleva a cabo con las vidas de las personas”, dijo Gunn. “Ningún ser humano debería jamás tener que pronunciar estas palabras: ‘yo no tengo esperanza’”.

– Lynette Wilson es redactora y reportera de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

Empowering Episcopalians and the next generation to care for creation

Episcopal News Service - seg, 13/04/2015 - 10:41

Students from Campbell Hall and St. Margaret’s Episcopal Schools observe elephant seals during mating season on the coast of Big Sur, California. From birth to death and everything in between, the full cycle of life was on display. Photo: Diocese of Los Angeles

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians old and young often turn to the phrase “this fragile earth, our island home” when talking about stewardship of the planet. It comes from Eucharistic Prayer C, found in the Book of Common Prayer.

A little further down the page, the prayer continues: “You made us the rulers of creation. But we turned against you, and betrayed your trust; and we turned against one another.”

Over the last 21 days, Episcopalians have been participating in 30 Days of Action, a campaign designed and initiated by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society to engage individuals and congregations in a conversation about climate change. (The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is the name under which The Episcopal Church is incorporated, conducts business and carries out mission.)

The campaign, which began with a live, webcast forum on March 24, culminates on Earth Day, April 22. Resources and activities for the campaign include advocacy days, bulletin inserts, stories, sermons and outdoor excursions.

The 30 Days of Action, as well as the fifth of the Five Marks of Mission, are a call to action to regain that trust and to come together in community to care for creation.

As James Pickett, a climate-change activist and young adult from the Diocese of Western Massachusetts, makes clear in a recent blog post, unless Anglicans and Episcopalians take seriously the fifth of the Five Marks of Mission, “To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth,” the other four marks are irrelevant.

“If we don’t treasure creation, the other marks of mission cannot be accomplished,” wrote Pickett.

Just talking about climate change and its related justice issues doesn’t cut it, according to Pickett and others; it’s about living the marks and putting faith into action.

Last fall, Pickett and other Episcopalians joined the more than 300,000 people from across the country and the world on the streets of New York for the People’s Climate March, the largest demonstration for climate action in history.

As evidenced in the activities and resources included and developed for the 30-day campaign, it’s impossible to have a conversation about climate change and not talk about justice issues implicit in the Five Marks of Mission.

“When The Episcopal Church adopted the Five Marks of Mission, I was struck by the practical nature of the language and its action-oriented invitation,” said lifelong environmentalist Bronwyn Clark Skov, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s officer for youth ministries. “I am especially thankful for the specificity of the Fifth Mark of Mission, ‘to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.’”

“It could be argued that this area of ministry is an undercurrent of the Baptismal Covenant, but these newer words open greater possibilities for imagining our role as Christian citizens caring for the earth, our home,” she said. “This is a wonderful teaching point when engaged with young people and discussing how their Christian identity might impact the choices they make.”

An environmentalist since her father encouraged her as a child, Skov recalled learning about recycling early on.

“I remember sorting newspapers to drop off at the once-a-month newspaper drive. I was taught to rinse out tin cans, remove both ends and carefully flatten the can on the rug on the kitchen floor, so as not to damage the linoleum beneath the woven fabric,” she said. “When engaged in ministry with young people, I name and claim this lifelong habit and invite young people to join me in my commitment to reduce, recycle and reuse those items that will not easily biodegrade in a landfill. This behavior has become a part of who I am, a piece of my personal identity.”

The Five Marks of Mission begin to address how Episcopalians can become environmental stewards and turn toward one another in community, rather than betraying the earth and turning away from one another, as the eucharistic prayer states.

Children and teenagers especially feel empowered by the language used in the marks, said Skov. She refers to them as a way to practice the vows made at baptism, and she invites young people to name and claim the ways in which they are already living some of the marks.

“The beauty of the fifth mark, treasuring the earth with intentionality, is a place where we can engage in our communities in partnership across denominational, religious and political divides,” she said. “Mission and ministry in this area [are] easy to embrace with school-age humans as they learn about the environment in classroom settings and can then see the intersection of their secular experience in the world with their values as a member of a community of faith.”

More than 1,000 high school-aged students attended last year’s Episcopal Youth Event in Pennsylvania, where climate change was among the issues discussed and where youth were becoming agents of transformation.

Americans’ views on climate change vary from state to state, town to town and sometimes family member to family member. Climate change is an increasingly charged political issue that often pits conservatives against liberals. At the same time, religious communities across the spectrum have joined in the call to reduce carbon emissions and to treat climate change as a moral issue.

In an interview with The Guardian that ran on the day of the climate-change-crisis forum in March, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori described climate change as a moral challenge already threatening the livelihood and survival of people in the developing world.

“It is certainly a moral issue in terms of the impacts on the poorest and most vulnerable around the world already,” she said.

Across the board, Episcopalians are taking that moral challenge seriously, including by contributing to the 30 Days of Action.

As the Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, missioner for creation care in the Diocese of Western Massachusetts, put it in a sermon written for the Sunday after Easter: “Climate change isn’t just an ‘environmental’ issue – it’s a ‘civilization’ issue. It’s not just about polar bears – it’s about where our grandchildren will find clean water. It’s about how societies will handle growing epidemics of infectious diseases such as malaria, cholera and dengue fever. It’s about where masses of people will go as rising seas drive them from their homes or when the rains don’t fall and the fields turn to dustbowls. It’s about hungry, thirsty people competing for scarce resources and reverting to violence, civil unrest or martial law in the struggle to survive.”

Formation resources focused on creation care
The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s Lifelong Christian Formation Office and other clergy and lay Episcopalians active on climate-change issues have compiled comprehensive resources for environmental liturgy, including the 30 Days of Action.

“The formation offices have been talking about climate change and caring for the environment with children and their families for years,” said the Rev. Shannon Kelly, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s acting missioner for campus and young adult ministries.

“Young people encounter caring for the environment every day as they talk about recycling, ‘upcycling’ and conservation in their schools, at home and at church. Bringing this important subject into the life of the church and into the programs creates space for the children and adults to think, pray and experience how caring for the environment is caring for God’s creation.”

Environmental Stewardship Fellow Cindy Coe works in the garden with students of the Episcopal School of Knoxville. Photo courtesy of Episcopal School of Knoxville

In Tennessee, exploring nature is becoming an integral component of learning to read.

In early June, the Diocese of East Tennessee will offer “Reading Camp Knoxville” to third- and fourth-graders who are both living in poverty and struggling to learn to read. As part of the program, the children, who come from urban areas, will go on afternoon field trips, hiking in wooded areas working in gardens, said Cindy Coe, who is on the planning committee and working with afternoon extracurricular activities.

“All of these activities are geared to fostering a sense of connectedness and appreciation of the natural world. The best way to do this is to actually get children outdoors, exploring nature,” said Coe, who last year received an environmental-stewardship fellowship from the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.

Through the fellowship, Coe is working to develop the next generation of leaders.

“This is not something that can be done by ‘book learning’ only,” she said. “Activities that encourage children to look closely at natural objects, mapping activities and identifying a special place outdoors are all effective ways to help children bond with nature. If a child is able to develop a bond with nature, chances are that the child will grow up with an appreciation of the environment and will care for the environment as an adult.”

Coe is working on developing new resources to introduce creation care to children and youth in The Episcopal Church, for use in camps, schools and parishes.

She hopes, she said, that all Christian formation programs in The Episcopal Church eventually will include some aspect of environmental stewardship.

In Virginia, Coe also is working with the planning team of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Greenwood, Virginia, to design a vacation Bible school program based on care for creation and the Fifth Mark of Mission called “Earth, Our Island Home.”

The parish takes seriously the words “this fragile Earth, our island home” in Eucharistic Prayer C, said Coe.

“So the concept of creation care has a special meaning for the parish,” she said. “ Each day, children will participate in worship, hear a story based on creation care and take part in noncompetitive games designed to introduce environmental stewardship.”

Arts and crafts will embrace environmental stewardship, as children will be offered objects to “upcycle” and make into new creations, she said. “New life will be an important theme of the camp, connecting themes of recycling, composting and gardening with the Christian story of resurrection and new life in Christ.”

In the Diocese of Los Angeles, where the Rev. Andrew K. Barnett serves as the bishop’s chair for environmental studies, young people are learning to care for creation by learning to love it.

“I think that we will not fight to save a thing we do not love, by which I mean in order to empower people to care for ‘this fragile earth our island home,’ we first have to find that meaningful and valuable in a deep way, and talking about it doesn’t really cut it,” said Barnett, before the March 24 forum.

“So I have really made a significant priority of taking kids outside. So we take these wilderness retreats to places like Big Sur, Lake Lopez, Yosemite and Catalina Island. We have games, we go kayaking, we go hiking, we do service projects,” he said.

“The kids love it, they just love it. They light up because they are doing exactly what we need, which is community, connection and reference in these incredible, awe-inspiring places. So you don’t have to say this is important, this is beautiful, because it is immediately present or it’s just in your bones.”

Barnett serves as school chaplain at Campbell Hall Episcopal School in the Diocese of Los Angeles, where Bishop J. Jon Bruno and the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society partnered to host the March 24 forum

Barnett talks to the students about climate change in stark terms, incorporating research and science — not to exaggerate, he said, but to name the severity of the threat.

“Kids can handle that truth. They don’t like things being sugar-coated. They prefer: ‘This is going to be the biggest challenge of your generation,’” said Barnett. “Our generation has abjectly failed in our attempt to reduce emissions. We talked about it a lot, we have a lot of meetings, but emissions keep going up.

“If you fail at this task, most other tasks won’t matter, because climate change affects almost everything worth caring about and, other than nuclear annihilation, presents the greatest threat to humanity that we’ve ever known.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misattributed the authorship of the words “this fragile Earth, our island home,” which appear in Eucharistic Prayer C. They were written by Howard E. Galley Jr.

– Lynette Wilson is a reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service.

Fort Worth: Scott Mayer announced as nominee for provisional bishop

Episcopal News Service - seg, 13/04/2015 - 08:49

[Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth press release] The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, a group of elected clergy and lay leaders, announced on April 10 that the Rt. Rev. J. Scott Mayer, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwest Texas, is the nominee for the next provisional bishop of Fort Worth. The Rt. Rev. Rayford B. High, Jr., provisional bishop of Fort Worth, has called a special meeting of the convention on May 16 at which the diocese’s clergy and lay representatives will vote on Mayer’s nomination.

The Standing Committee selected Mayer in consultation with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and in accordance with Canon III.13.1 of The Episcopal Church.

In a letter to the diocese sent on April 10, High said he is stepping down five months before the planned date of November 2015 following the death of his wife, Pat, in March.

“I feel very good about this decision of the Standing Committee, and I am in full support of their recommendation,” High said in his letter.

Mayer will continue as bishop of Northwest Texas while also serving as bishop of Fort Worth under the proposed arrangement, which will continue until the Fort Worth diocese is positioned to elect a full time bishop. The plan calls for him to split his time between the two dioceses. The dioceses are not merging. This model of episcopacy is similar to the arrangement with the Rt. Rev. Edwin F. (Ted) Gulick, Jr., the diocese’s first provisional bishop who also was serving as the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky at the time. A similar arrangement currently exists with the Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe, who serves as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania and as provisional bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem (Pennsylvania). The previous two provisional bishops of Fort Worth have been retired. The Rt. Rev. C. Wallis Ohl, Jr., the second provisional bishop, was the retired bishop of Northwest Texas when elected. High had retired as bishop suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas when he was elected.

The Rev. Curt Norman, president of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, said, “When the Standing Committee began working on episcopal transition plans back in November 2014, our intention was to build on the faithful work of previous Standing Committees. Our predecessors chose quite well with bishops Gulick, Ohl, and High. Our work was cut out for us because each of those bishops was God’s choice for our diocese at the appropriate time. In recent months, we’ve had discussions with the Presiding Bishop’s office, as well as different bishops across the Episcopal Church. After considering which models of episcopacy would best support the mission and ministry of Fort Worth for the long term, this Standing Committee is firm in its resolve that God is calling Bishop Mayer to shepherd us into the next chapter in the life of our diocese. We could not be more excited.”

“It is with gratitude and a deep sense of calling that I accept your invitation to stand for election as your provisional bishop,” Mayer said. “I love Fort Worth and I am passionate about the proclamation of the Gospel as expressed in and through The Episcopal Church.”

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said that High “has been a gift to the Diocese of Fort Worth and I am grateful for all his good work. I applaud his ability to recognize what is best for him and the diocese in this season of loss for him and his family. Bishop Mayer is an excellent choice to be part of this provocative — and I mean this in the best sense of the word — arrangement to serve the Church in new and imaginative ways. Bishop High, Bishop Mayer, and the people of both dioceses are in my prayers.”

If elected, Mayer will assume his new duties prior to the 2015 General Convention of The Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City this summer. He will work with the deputation – elected lay and clergy deputies to General Convention – from Fort Worth as well as the deputation from Northwest Texas. High’s official day of departure from office is June 30.

High lives in Fort Worth, and along with the Rt. Rev. Sam B. Hulsey, retired bishop of Northwest Texas who also lives in Fort Worth, will be available to assist Mayer as needed.

Mayer is a native and lifelong Texan, born in Dallas and raised in Lubbock and Fort Worth. Mayer has long and deep connections to Fort Worth. He and his younger brothers were baptized and confirmed at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, attended Fort Worth public schools, graduated from Southwest High School, and enjoyed memorable summer days playing ball at University Little League. Several family members continue to reside in the Fort Worth area.

In 1977, Mayer received his BBA Degree in Management from Texas Tech University. He and Kathy Kistenmacher met while attending Texas Tech, and were married in 1978. After 12 years of sales in the automotive aftermarket, the family moved to Austin where Mayer earned a Master’s in Divinity from the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest in 1992.

Mayer was ordained deacon in 1992 by the Rt. Rev. Donis Patterson and priest in 1993 by the Rt. Rev. James Stanton, both in the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas. He then served as curate at St. James Episcopal Church in Texarkana, before being called to the Church of the Heavenly Rest in Abilene, first as associate rector in 1994, and then as rector in 1995. He was consecrated as bishop of the Diocese of Northwest Texas on March 21, 2009 in Lubbock, where he and Kathy now reside. The Mayers have two grown children, both married, and two grandchildren.

Jan Naylor Cope appointed provost of Washington National Cathedral

Episcopal News Service - sex, 10/04/2015 - 12:00

[Washington National Cathedral press release] The Rev. Canon Jan Naylor Cope, whose pre-seminary career included stints at the National Endowment for the Arts and at the White House, has been named provost of Washington National Cathedral.

Cope, whose appointment was announced by Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde and Dean Gary Hall, has served as vicar of the Cathedral since October 2010, and the congregation has grown by more than 500 members under her leadership.

“Jan Cope combines a devotion to the Gospel of Jesus with an understanding of how complex organizations function and flourish,” Budde said. “As a pastor and in her previous careers, she has manifested a talent for making friends, building networks and extending Christian hospitality to all. These gifts will serve her well in her new position.”

As provost, Cope will oversee the cathedral’s development department, assist Hall in identifying, cultivating and soliciting major donors and work closely with the cathedral’s leadership on its strategic vision, ministry and mission.

“Canon Cope brings vision, commitment, and deep faithfulness to all areas of her ministry and especially to her service at the cathedral,” Hall said. “She is well-known in Episcopal Church, Anglican Communion, and Washington, D.C. circles.  Her extensive network of church, professional, and personal connections will be invaluable in her new work.”

Cope, who worked as a development officer for the National Endowment for the Arts from 1983-87, became deputy assistant to President George H. W. Bush and deputy director of presidential personnel in 1989. After leaving the White House in 1993, she founded an executive search firm that she maintained until her ordination in 2007.

“I am humbled by the confidence that the bishop and dean have expressed in me, and I am excited to take on this new responsibility,” Cope said. “Part of my excitement comes from the myriad ways in which people encounter God here—through our worship, music, community, art and architecture, programming and service to others. The cathedral’s potential for touching and transforming lives through an experience of God is enormous.”

Cope is first vice president of the Compass Rose Society, an international organization that supports the ministry of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion. She holds a Masters of Divinity from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D. C., and a Doctor of Ministry from Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia.

A former trustee of both the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Washington Theological Consortium, she currently serves on the board of Wesley Theological Seminary.

Cope will be the keynote speaker at the triennial meeting of Episcopal Church Women in Salt Lake City in June. The gathering coincides with the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, at which Cope will serve as a clergy deputy from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.

 

In Egypt, CARAVAN art exhibition opens as a path to grassroots peace

Episcopal News Service - sex, 10/04/2015 - 11:34

Sheikh Abdel Aziz El Nagar of Al Azhar and Bishop Mouneer Anis attended the CARAVAN art exhibition in Cairo. Photo: Jayson Casper

[Diocese of Egypt] So much is wrong with the Arab world today, it can obscure all that is right. At the heart of both are interfaith relations, and the CARAVAN art exhibition showcases the good while addressing the bad. International in scope, its contributions stretch across continents, touching the famous and simple alike.

“We know much more about the West than the West knows about us,” said award-winning Egyptian actor Khaled el-Nabawi at the Cairo opening on April 4. “But art is sincere and can help us build bridges.”

The event was held at the upscale Westown Hub residential complex, sponsored by SODIC, a large real estate development company committed to promoting the arts for humanitarian purposes. Like them, Nabawi is one of the famous, a group often associated with the arts scene. Prior to Cairo, CARAVAN presented at the acclaimed Eglise Saint-Germain-Des-Pres in Paris, and will travel next to St. Martin-in-the-Fields, at the famous Trafalgar Square in London.

But it is the simple who are most affected by strife between the religions. And the arts often bypass them.

CARAVAN began in Cairo in 2009, seeking to promote interreligious peace and build cultural understanding. Nabawi’s words were well-chosen, for this year’s exhibition is titled The Bridge. Forty-seven premiere and emerging artists, all with connections to the Middle East, designed works specifically to highlight the unity of the peoples of the region – Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Arab, and Persian.

“There is no true conflict between religions in their essence,” said Sheikh Abdel Aziz el-Naggar of the Azhar, also appearing at the opening. “It comes from those who use religion for their domestic or international interests.”

Perhaps this is a message readily received by arts aficionados in Europe and upper-class Egypt. But what about the common man, manipulated by forces touching his faith?

“We as a church believe in dialogue,” said Bishop Mouneer Hanna Anis of the Episcopal Church in Egypt, prior to introducing his Ahzar colleague. “But especially after 9/11, there have been many efforts between men of religion that have not impacted reality as these conflicts continue.”

Something more is needed, and Anis praised CARAVAN specifically.

“We have to be creative so that dialogue reaches the people,” he said. “Paul-Gordon has done this through art, to help build harmony between cultures, and to bring people together.”

The Rev. Paul-Gordon Chandler, an Episcopal priest, is the founder of CARAVAN. An American, he grew up as a minority Christian in mostly Muslim Senegal. He was deeply influenced by the local arts scene, but also disturbed by the tensions between the two faiths.

There has to be a better way, he thought, but it was not until his years as an Episcopal priest in Cairo’s St. John’s Church that a vision began to form. So while he now tours the world highlighting the religious unity represented in Middle East artists, he desires to see something greater take hold.

“In the Middle East the public visibility of things is very important, it gives credibility to endorse at the grassroots,” he said. “It is part of acclimatizing the environment toward positive religious relations.”

High-profile public events make possible the changes at street level. Forty percent of proceeds from art sales will benefit Educate Me, an educational initiative supporting the children of an underprivileged neighborhood in Giza. Last year, $48,000 was given to projects in Egypt and Morocco.

Spin-off projects for CARAVAN are in development in Jordan and Tunisia, and a Maltese-themed initiative will soon tour every nation of the Mediterranean. Middle Eastern art emerges from the region and is taken to the West, but it also returns to spread the message at home.

And lest one think the message of interfaith harmony for the West is only given to like-minded elites, Chandler is also taking The Bridge to rural settings in the United States where misunderstanding of the Arab world is prevalent.

“Art provides a context to address the issues indirectly,” said Chandler. “Art doesn’t stop conflict, but that is not its function. It can’t change events but it can change people.”

And this, for Nabawi, is the hope for CARAVAN and other artistic endeavors in the region. “I am convinced that humanity will prevail,” he said.

“Art is the only thing that can solve what politics breaks.”

– Jayson Casper writes for Arab West Report, Christianity Today, Lapido Media, and other publications, and blogs at asenseofbelonging.org. He has previously written an article on another Anglican interfaith initiative, the Imam-Priest Exchange.

Standing in solidarity with the world’s persecuted minorities

Episcopal News Service - qui, 09/04/2015 - 13:38

Displaced Iraqi Christians who fled from Islamic State militants in Mosul, pray at a school acting as a refugee camp in Erbil. Photo: REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

[Episcopal News Service] Church bombings, brutal beheadings, forced conversions and mass migration have become the shocking trademarks of extremist factions in the Middle East and Africa, persecuting religious minorities and wiping out Christian populations that in some places – such as Iraq, Syria and Egypt – date back to the first century.

For many in the West who see them only through the gaze of the media, these oppressed communities may seem a million miles away. For others, including many Episcopal and Anglican leaders, they are global neighbors, fellow Christians or interfaith partners, and people in urgent need of a lifeline.

“Jesus is pretty clear that our neighbors are sometimes, perhaps often, those we least expect or wish to overlook,” the Rev. Christopher Bishop, rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Radnor, Pennsylvania, told Episcopal News Service. “The only real difference between us and someone in Mosul or Kirkuk, for example, is bad, bad luck. We need to act on their behalf just as – were the roles reversed – we would long for them to act upon ours.”

Displaced Iraqi Christians who fled from Islamic State militants in Mosul, pray at a school acting as a refugee camp in Erbil. Photo: REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

Bishop and his parishioners have chosen action over inaction and are committed to walking alongside the displaced Christian communities that are living in tents, abandoned buildings and basements in Erbil, Iraq.

The church has launched the ministry and website Stand With Iraqi Christians, and one of its members lives and works in Erbil. Bishop is planning to travel to Erbil in the coming months “to deliver financial, emotional, and communications support and to build relationships with the communities of survivors.”

According to the people Bishop knows in Erbil, “the situation for everyone, particularly the Christian minorities, is simply desperate,” he said. “We know it’s not just the Christians being brutalized – it’s Muslims, it’s Yazidis, it’s basically anybody who is not committed to the medieval orthodoxy of the Daesh,” the Arabic name for the self-styled Islamic State, the extremist rebel group that controls territory in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Nigeria and is attempting to enforce a strict and draconian version of Sharia law.

A displaced Iraqi Christian child who fled with his family from Islamic State militants in Mosul, rocks the cradle of his brother in a school, which is now used as a refugee camp in Erbil. Photo: REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

“The mission at St. Martin’s is ‘to seek God, and be Christ’s body in the world,’” said Bishop. “This crisis transcends religious boundaries and nations, and hopefully can inspire all of us to act. If we are going to claim this powerful and empowering witness to God’s reason for our being, that means reaching out the hand of friendship and support to those near and far who are suffering or in need of loving.”

Americans and Europeans often think of Christianity as being Western, he said. But “its origins, obviously, are in the Middle East. The idea that faithful Christian communities dating back to the first century after Christ will be forever extinguished is beyond catastrophic – it ought to utterly horrify all of us who treasure the gorgeous continuities that these churches represent to our current prayer, liturgical and communal lives. It makes me feel first mournful, then motivated.”

The Rev. Bill Schwartz, an Anglican priest based in Qatar and an Episcopal Church missionary since 1993, regularly visits Iraq. Having returned from Baghdad three weeks ago, he said there is a clear sense of dismay among many Iraqis about the exclusively conservative Sunnis called Daesh, and the corruption in the Iraqi government and its inability to protect its citizens.

“The Daesh are intolerant of anyone who disagrees with their perspective, and that perspective doesn’t seem to be consistent,” said Schwarz, whose recently published book, “Islam: A Religion, A Culture, A Society,” addresses the complexities of faith in Islamic contexts. “Many Sunni Muslims are also denigrated and persecuted by Daesh forces … The recent monocultural presentation of Islam that Daesh is promoting has created a polarization in Iraqi society between those who are exclusive and those who wish the society to be inclusive.”

While reluctant to condone violence of any kind, Schwarz said that he believes the military offensive against Daesh “is unfortunately necessary for the protection of those oppressed and for the security of the world.”

The Rev. Bill Schwartz, an Anglican priest and an Episcopal Church missionary based in Qatar, delivers an address at the opening ceremony of the Anglican Centre in Qatar. Photo: Ginger Camel

Schwartz, archdeacon of the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf, and manager of the Anglican Centre in Qatar, also acknowledged that the Iraqi government needs to crackdown on corruption in its ranks so the country can begin to function normally and prepare for “re-creation of civil society with secure social parameters so that people can learn to trust each other and live together.” He added that “huge amounts of funding and investment” are necessary to rebuild ruined cities and societies, as well as investment in job creation.

The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council at its March meeting passed a resolution condemning the use of religion for the purpose of advancing political agendas “directed at terrorizing, victimizing, and oppressing individuals and communities and impairing their ability to enjoy basic human rights because of their religious beliefs and social, ethnic, class, caste, gender, and national affiliations.”

The resolution also calls on the world’s governments “to confront the reality of religious persecution, protect religious minorities and civilians within the framework of international and humanitarian law, address political exclusion and economic desperation that are being manipulated by the forces of extremists, scale up humanitarian and development assistance to host countries and trusted NGOs, and accept for resettlement a fair share of the most vulnerable people where return to their countries of origin is impossible.”

Not more than two weeks after Executive Council had passed its resolution, the world was mourning the deaths of more than 150 Kenyan students, mostly Christians, targeted in a pre-dawn attack at Garissa University on April 2 by a gang of Islamic extremists claiming to be affiliated with Somalia’s al-Shabab militant group.

In his Easter Day sermon at Canterbury Cathedral, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said the students were martyrs, “caught up in the resurrection: their cruel deaths, the brutality of their persecution, their persecution is overcome by Christ himself at their side because they share his suffering, at their side because he rose from the dead. Because of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead the cruel are overcome, evil is defeated, martyrs conquer.”

Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of the Anglican Church of Kenya described the attack as “a calculated manifestation of evil designed to destroy our nation and our faith,” but he said that their deaths will not be in vain, just as “Jesus’s death upon the cross was not in vain. By his death, death has been destroyed … We call on the government to do all in its power to protect the lives of its citizens and we call on the world community to recognize that this latest outrage is not just an attack on Kenya, but part of an assault on world peace. The time has come for the world to unite as never before in defeating this growing menace.”

As many in the United States and other Western countries are challenged with how to address extremism and persecution in the Middle East and Africa, Executive Council encouraged all Episcopalians “to engage in prayers, support, education, and advocacy for displaced people and the churches that are providing succor and hope to those displaced people who have been uprooted by conflict and living in refugee camps.”

The West can also show support and solidarity, Schwarz in Qatar said, through generosity in giving to relief efforts; investment, both through large corporations and small mission groups; and through the fostering of political will to look at the long-term problems rather than simply the next election (in the United States and Europe as well as in Iraq).

The Rev. Canon Robert Edmunds, Middle East partnership officer for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, said: “We sometimes hear the term ‘Christian presence’ in the Middle East and it sounds passive and lacking in vitality when the truth of the matter for those who live there is quite different. The Christian presence throughout the region is about Christians whose family and religious roots reach back to the time of Christ. These are not sojourners in a strange and foreign land, but people whose lives are an integral part of the landscape, the history, the culture and the traditions which have and continue to shape each generation.”

The presence of the indigenous Christian churches “provides the language of love of God and all neighbors which is in danger of being silenced,” Edmunds added. “We in the West must continue to give these atrocities visibility both in terms of solidarity with our brother and sister Christians, but to encourage political leaders to seek lasting and durable solutions for peace for the benefit of all. To lose the indigenous Christian voice in the region would be catastrophic for the future.”

Before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Iraq was home to about 1.5 million Christians – about 5 percent of the population – who trace their roots back almost 2,000 years. Today, fewer than 400,000 Christians remain.

Some of those Christians have fled to neighboring countries, many of which have their own issues of instability and extremism, and are struggling to meet the basic demands of the increased influx of refugees. Others find their way to more stable countries throughout Europe and beyond.

In July 2014, France responded to the persecution of religious minorities in Iraq by offering asylum to Christians from Mosul, home to one of the Middle East’s oldest Christian communities.

The Association d’Entraide aux Minorités d’Orient (Association to Aid Middle Eastern Minorities), established in 2007 by Bishop Pierre Whalon of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe and Iraqi businessman Elish Yako, assists some of the refugees with their integration into society.

Many of the refugees are members of the Chaldean Catholic Church, which dates back to the first century, when the region around Iraq was known as Babylon.

“For them,” Yako told ENS, “the most important thing is their freedom … and to practice their religion without being afraid of terrorists and [of someone] kidnapping their children.”

Yako stays in regular contact with every family the association has helped to resettle, including, for instance, a family of four – mother, father, son and daughter – that lives about 18 miles south of Paris. They moved to France in 2009 after receiving repeated death threats. The children told ENS that they are happy finally to practice their religion freely and they are proud of it.

“These people ought still to be in Iraq,” Whalon told ENS. “A lot of them still own homes. They never wanted to leave them. They lease them out; they expect to return. Of course, today the situation is impossible. So of course we want Christians to stay [in Iraq], but we want them to live.

“The ones that can live to tell the tale, they witness to the power of God,” he added. “It says a great deal to me about the value of what we do and what we are in the world.”

— Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter of the Episcopal News Service.

Pilgrims continue to #ShareTheJourney, become refugee advocates

Episcopal News Service - qui, 09/04/2015 - 10:54

In early March, Episcopalians taking part in a #ShareTheJourney pilgrimage to the Great Lakes Region of Africa visited the International Organization for Migration’s office in Kigali, Rwanda, where they met with Didacus Obunga, an IOM operations officer, right, and Dr. Samuel A. Baghuma, national migration health physician, center. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church has been resettling refugees for 75 years, working with local congregations and resettlement agencies across the United States to welcome some of the most vulnerable people in the world who’ve fled violence, war, political, ethnic and cultural oppression.

In early March, eight Episcopalians traveled to Kenya and Rwanda to learn about refugee resettlement today through the lens of Congolese refugees on a #ShareTheJourney pilgrimage organized by Episcopal Migration Ministries, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s refugee resettlement service.

The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is the legal and canonical name under which The Episcopal Church is incorporated, conducts business and carries out mission.

“Our hope,” said Episcopal Migration Ministries Director Deborah Stein, “is that the participants will be able to share the enthusiasm they have shown throughout this pilgrimage with people in their parishes, in their communities, in their dioceses, and become champions and advocates for refugees: to communicate to the broader church about the wonderful opportunities for Episcopalians to be involved in the life-saving work of refugee resettlement, and ultimately that Episcopalians will see a place for themselves in this work.”

Alyssa Stebbing, outreach director for Trinity Episcopal Church of The Woodlands in the Diocese of Texas, came into the pilgrimage with an awareness about refugees that heightened through the journey.

“This experience has really taken the blinders off,” said Stebbing, who plans to engage with the interfaith community in greater Houston and share what she learned on the pilgrimage.

Episcopal Migration Ministries is one of nine agencies partnering with the U.S. Department of State to welcome and resettle refugees to the United States. Across the church, Episcopal Migration Ministries works with 30 communities in 26 dioceses.

Of the 15.5 million refugees worldwide, less than 1 percent will be resettled, with more than 75 percent of those coming to the United States.

Dr. Muddassar Ban Abad, who oversees the International Organization for Migration’s Health Assessment Center in Nairobi, Kenya, leads #ShareTheJourney pilgrims on a tour of the facility. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

In 2014, Episcopal Migration Ministries and its partners helped to resettle 5,155 of the tens of thousands of refugees who came to the United States through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) screening process. They’ll work to serve as many people this year, as the United States plans to resettle 70,000 refugees.

Many of those refugees will come from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Over the next several years, UNHCR plans to resettle 50,000 refugees from the Congo, with 80 percent to be resettled in the United States.

The March 2-13 pilgrimage, funded by an Episcopal Church Constable Fund grant, educated the participants about the plight of refugees and the refugee process so that they might share their experience with their churches, dioceses and communities.

In Rwanda, they visited Gihembe, a refugee camp housing 14,500 refugees from eastern Congo. There, they heard questions and concerns from refugees in a town hall setting. The pilgrims also learned about the refugee-resettlement process from the overseas perspective through meetings with the UNHCR, Church World Service’s Africa Resettlement Support Center and other non-governmental organizations.

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Georgia, speaks to refugees during a town hall-style meeting in Gihembe Refugee Camp. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

For the Rev. Canon Frank Logue, canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Georgia, to be able to meet with refugees and listen to their frustrations regarding the resettlement process was informative.

“I think it’s hard for any of us to appreciate what it’s like to flee your country, what it means to be a refugee, so to have had the experience of meeting and talking to refugees was helpful,” said Logue, who journeyed with his wife, Victoria.

The visit to the refugee camp included a tour of its medical clinic, an elementary school classroom, a women’s empowerment initiative and an ESL classroom for refugees approved for resettlement.

Meeting 10 HIV-positive women at the refugee camp who find hope in growing mushrooms made a big impact on Cookie Cantwell, youth ministries coordinator for Province IV.

“Once you’re exposed to something that you know will forever change your perspective, you have to share it,” said Cantwell, who is from the Diocese of East Carolina. “Once you’ve been touched, you have to make a decision about what you’re going to do about it.”

A Somali refugee woman who works as a community health worker poses with Cookie Cantwell, during a visit to Refuge Point, an organization that works to empower some of the most vulnerable refugees in Nairobi and other locations worldwide. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

For Cantwell, it means sharing the women’s story. “They’re living, they’re not dying,” she said.

Many of the pilgrims blogged about their experiences.

“One of the things we asked of all of the pilgrims that have participated in the #ShareTheJourney trip is that, when they come home, they use their experience to talk to as many people as possible to share what they learned: to become advocates for refugees, to visit a local EMM affiliate office, to see what happens on the receiving end to see what they can do to share the information they learned while they were in Nairobi [in Kenya] and Rwanda,” said Stein.

Jessica Benson of the Diocese of Idaho had built a relationship with a Congolese family resettled to Boise through the Agency for New Americans. But seeing resettlement from the overseas end was a completely different experience, she said.

The pilgrims learned, for example, that once a family is referred for resettlement and begins the lengthy process of background, security and medical checks, any change in the family’s status, such as the birth of a child, can delay the process.

“One of the things that stuck in my mind is that infants are screened at the level of adults,” said Benson, adding she also didn’t know large numbers of urban refugees lived in cities, outside the camps.

Before the pilgrimage had ended, Benson already had reached out to a state legislator to schedule a meeting. She also planned to speak to students in the public-school system where the numbers of refugee students have increased to educate them about the resettlement process, she said.

Alice Eshuchi, country director for Heshima Kenya, talks with Alyssa Stebbing, outreach director for Trinity Episcopal Church of The Woodlands in the Diocese of Texas, during a visit to Heshima’s operations office in Nairobi. Heshima Kenya specializes in identifying and protecting unaccompanied and separated refugee children and youth, especially girls, young women and their children living in Nairobi. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

After visiting the refugee camp in Rwanda, the pilgrims visited Heshima, an urban program in Nairobi, Kenya, that empowers refugee girls and young women, many of whom who have lost or been separated from their families.

For Spencer Cantrell, gender violence fellow at the National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project in Washington, D.C., the contrast between the refugee camp and the urban program was stunning. In the camp, she visited the dwelling of a man who had lost all hope, despite his family having been resettled to Mississippi, she said. That was hard to reconcile with the hope emanating from the positive attitudes of the girls and young women in Nairobi, many of them survivors of trauma and sexual violence and many of them teenage mothers, she said.

“I’m looking at ways to share this with the church,” said Cantrell, a former Young Adult Service Corps missionary to Hong Kong now living in the Diocese of Washington.

To walk into a classroom in the refugee camp full of eager young boys, four years below grade level and sharing two or three books, was heartbreaking for the Rev. Burl Salmon, middle school chaplain and dean of community life at Trinity Episcopal School in the Diocese of North Carolina. Yet he was encouraged by the rapport the teacher had with his students, he said. “He saw education as their ticket.”

“Education is universal,” said Salmon. “For one it’s a lifeline, and for the other it’s a given.”

Back in the United States, besides engaging with an Episcopal Migration Ministries affiliate office, ways the pilgrims and other Episcopalians can continue to learn about and advocate for refugees include: organizing an event for World Refugee Day, which takes place annually on June 20; encouraging a congregation to co-sponsor a refugee family; sharing their experiences with refugees at The Episcopal Church’s General Convention; advocating for refugees at the local and state level by scheduling appointments with elected officials and speaking at civic gatherings; and becoming a member of the Episcopal Public Policy Network, which engages in public-policy advocacy at the federal level.

One of the things The Episcopal Church, which is present in multiple countries, should do is to encourage other countries to increase the number of refugees they resettle, said the Rev. Canon Scott Gunn of the Diocese of Southern Ohio, one of the pilgrims and the executive director of Forward Movement, a Cincinnati, Ohio-based ministry of The Episcopal Church that encourages discipleship.

There are 2.7 million refugees and asylum seekers across East Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region. Ethiopia and Kenya host the majority of people fleeing violence and political instability in Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Eritrea and the Congo.

“Ninety-nine percent of refugees will not be resettled,” Gunn said. “We also need to do whatever we can to influence the stabilization of conditions in East Africa; one country is taking another country’s refugees.

“If 2.7 million people could be repatriated, everybody wins. It’s a morally outrageous shell game that’s being played with people’s lives,” said Gunn. “No human being should ever have to utter the words: ‘I have no hope.’”

– Lynette Wilson is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

Alison Poage to lead Booher Library at Seminary of the Southwest

Episcopal News Service - qui, 09/04/2015 - 06:41

[Seminary of the Southwest press release] Dean and President Cynthia Briggs Kittredge has announced that Alison O’Reilly Poage, interim director of the Booher Library at Seminary of the Southwest, has been offered and has accepted the position of director of the Booher Library.

“I am happy to announce that the search committee recommended unanimously that she be appointed to this position based on her qualifications and her excellent work since her arrival in January,” said Kittredge.

Poage served most recently as director of the Cutchogue New Suffolk Free Library in Cutchogue, New York. She has lived in Austin before, having worked for the Austin Public Library system from 2007-2010. She received her Master’s of Library Science degree from City University of New York in 2001.

Academic Dean Scott Bader-Saye says, “We are fortunate to have found a candidate with strong administrative skills, a gift for hospitality, a collegial management style, and a true commitment to the mission of this school. Allison has already proven herself able and willing to carry the Booher Library through a time of transition and innovation. She is exactly what we need in a permanent director.”

Pilgrims study refugees, resettlement process in Rwanda, Kenya

Episcopal News Service - qua, 08/04/2015 - 12:35

Gihembe Refugee Camp is home to 14,500 Congolese refugees who’ve sought shelter in Rwanda. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

[Episcopal News Service] A little more than an hour’s drive outside Rwanda’s capital Kigali, 14,500 Congolese refugees live atop and along a hillside in red mud huts safely nestled in the country’s interior, far from the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu province from which most of them fled armed conflict and violence in the mid-1990s.

Gihembe Refugee Camp was established in 1997 after armed militias massacred Congolese refugees receiving shelter in a refugee camp in northwest Rwanda. Many residents have spent nearly two decades in Gihembe, one of five refugee camps in Rwanda serving 74,000 refugees, more than half younger than 18.

Since 1998, more than 5.5 million people have died in Congo from fighting, disease and malnutrition; 2.5 million people have been internally displaced; and some 500,000 have fled the country’s lengthy conflict, with the vast majority living in refugee camps in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa regions. Congolese refugees form the sixth-largest refugee population in the world and 18 percent of the total refugee population in Africa.

Of the more than 500,000 Congolese refugees in the region, an estimated 160,000 are eligible for resettlement, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Given the numbers, the protracted nature of the conflict and no sign of peace, in recent years UNHCR and its partners prioritized the resettlement of Congolese refugees. The goal is to resettle 50,000 people by 2017 – with 80 percent destined to come to the United States.

Paul Kenya, a resettlement officer for UNHCR in Rwanda, Deborah Stein, director of Episcopal Migration Ministries, and #ShareTheJourney pilgrims listen as Dr. Pascal Kalinda Murego talks about the health of refugees and the health services provided in Gihembe camp. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

In early March, eight Episcopalians participated in a #ShareTheJourney pilgrimage led by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society to Africa’s Great Lakes region and visited Gihembe to learn about the plight of Congolese refugees and the United States Refugee Admissions Program.

The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is the name under which The Episcopal Church is incorporated, conducts business, and carries out mission.

“The purpose,” said Deborah Stein, director of Episcopal Migration Ministries, the refugee-resettlement service of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, was “to show The Episcopal Church, through the lens of Congolese refugees bound for resettlement, how resettlement works from the beginning to arrival in the U.S.”

It was also an opportunity to inspire the pilgrims to become advocates for refugees, added Stein.

The March 2-13 pilgrimage included stops in Kenya and Rwanda, where, besides visiting the camp, the pilgrims met with representatives and resettlement officers working for UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration, Church World Service’s Africa Resettlement Support Center and other overseas refugee-service providers and resettlement partners.

Through Episcopal Migration Ministries, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society partners with 30 resettlement affiliates in 26 dioceses nationwide. It is one of nine agencies – five of them faith-based — working in partnership with the U.S. Department of State to welcome and resettle refugees to the United States.

The Episcopal Church’s involvement in refugee resettlement dates back at least to World War II, when churches sponsored refugees who fled Nazi oppression. Beginning through the Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief (now Episcopal Relief & Development) and later partnering with Church World Service, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society established Episcopal Migration Ministries in 1988.

Primary school students study in a classroom in Gihembe camp. More than half of the camp’s 14,500 residents are under the age of 18. Photo: Wendy Johnson/EMM

A refugee is someone who has fled his or her country of nationality because of a “well-founded fear of persecution” based on race, religion, ethnicity or political or social affiliation. It is an internationally recognized and legally protected status.

The United States formalized its refugee-resettlement program with the Refugee Act of 1980 in response to the increased numbers of refugees fleeing communism in Southeast Asia. Until then, churches sponsored refugees’ visas; but by the mid-1970s, that process was insufficient to meet the need, explained Stein.

Today, there are 15.5 million refugees worldwide. UNHCR’s mandate is to provide international protection for refugees.

UNHCR’s primary focus is on repatriation, or safe return home, followed by citizenship or legal residency in the host country. The third option is resettlement to one of the 20-plus countries worldwide that accepts refugees. Globally, less than 1 percent of refugees receive resettlement, with 75 percent destined for the United States.

“The success of resettlement programs depends on partnership and coordination. We must have resettlement countries willing to receive refugees,” said Paul Kenya, a resettlement officer working for UNHCR in Rwanda, in an interview with Episcopal News Service in Kigali. “You must also have partners to work with UNHCR to identify refugees and help in the processing of interviewing, coordinating medical examinations and travel logistics. Even the government of Rwanda helps us in verifying refugee status and giving exit visas to leave the country.”

Through surveys, most Congolese refugees say they are unwilling to return to their home country because of the conflict there and because they cannot regain their land if they return, he said.

“Resettlement, then, becomes the only viable solution for most of these refugees,” said Kenya, adding that last year, 2,000 Congolese refugees were resettled to the United States from camps in Rwanda. We hope to continue the partnership coming up with another multi-year strategy to cover the next three or four years, with an average of at least 3,000 refugees each year.”

A mother and child pose for a photo in Gihembe camp. The majority of the camp’s households are headed by single women. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

Once identified for resettlement, either by UNHCR, a host government, or another partner, a refugee or refugee family’s case is forwarded to the Church World Service’s Africa Resettlement Support Center, which covers 49 sub-Saharan countries and helps the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration to process refugees for possible admission to the United States.

Families are processed as a case, with five members being the average family size. Many Congolese refugee families are headed by women, the majority of them survivors of trauma and sexual- and gender-based violence.

As the pilgrims learned through meetings with senior staff members at the resettlement support center’s Nairobi headquarters, the process, which includes extensive background checks, takes an average two years and is subject to delay by any change in the family, such as a marriage or a birth. The U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, makes the final determination on cases bound for the United States.

“We prepare the best case for referral so that they can make it through the process,” said Miro Marinovich, the support center’s director.

Residents of Gihembe camp congregate around the water tap to fill their jugs. Water shortages are common in the camp. Photo: Wendy Johnson/EMM

The refugees have lived with food and water shortages, limited opportunities for education and work, Marinovich added. “We want to ensure that that never happens to them again.”

Of the 74,000 refugees in Rwanda, 99 percent are Congolese, and the majority are women and children. UNHCR began working with resettlement countries on a multi-year strategy to resettle Congolese refugees in 2012, identifying 10,000 refugees in camps in Rwanda for resettlement.

Once a case is approved for resettlement, the pace picks up considerably. The International Organization for Migration, or IOM, which handles medical examinations and travel, kicks into gear, transporting the refugees to a regional transport center, where they’ll stay for two weeks pending final medical and security checks. During that time, cultural orientation classes begin.

When the pilgrims visited a transit center in Nairobi, children played outside on plastic playground equipment while adults in the classroom learned about finances and budgeting. Besides rooms devoted to life in Canada, Australia and the United States (which has two rooms), a model kitchen and bathroom acquaint refugees with modern amenities.

A scale to weigh departing passengers’ luggage sits under a metal awning, plastic chairs off to the side. An airplane seat familiarizes refugees with air travel. A travel wardrobe, for men a tracksuit and sneakers, for women more traditional clothing, is available for those in need of travel attire.

Connecting with overseas resettlement partners gave the pilgrims a better understanding of the process and allowed Episcopal Migration Ministries’ staff to share information about what happens to refugees when they arrive in the United States.

“Most often the people who are involved in the processing on the overseas-side have no idea what is happening once a refugee gets on a plane and comes to the United States,” Stein said. “So, as much as we were able to learn from or our colleagues at UNHCR, IOM and the refugee-resettlement support center, we were also able to share information with them about what happens to refugees when they get to the United States.”

Paul Kenya, a resettlement officer working for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Rwanda, and Jessica Benson of the Diocese of Idaho, talk with students in an ESL class in Gihembe camp. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

During a town hall meeting at Gihembe camp, refugees, many of them frustrated by years of living in the camp, were desperate for information about their individual cases and what could be done to move them along. Despite being told that the pilgrims couldn’t answer questions about the process, but rather offer them information on life in the United States, they saw an opportunity to ask about their individual cases.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is Africa’s second-largest country geographically and fourth-largest by population, with more than 80 million people. In terms of natural resources, including copper, silver, gold, diamonds, uranium and other minerals, it’s one of the richest countries in the world.

As neighbors, Congo and Rwanda long have been connected, and at times at war.

In the 1870s, King Leopold II of Belgium carved out a section of Central African rainforest and made it his private colony, calling it the “Congo Free State.” In reality, it wasn’t “free.” Leopold created a forced labor camp to harvest wild rubber. Killings and atrocities were committed on a massive scale. In 1908, in response to protests over such violence, Congo fell under the Belgian state.

In the late 1930s, the Belgians recruited tens of thousands of Rwandans to work their cattle ranches and plantations in North Kivu. Unrest in Rwanda following its independence from Belgium in 1962 drove another 100,000 Rwandans over the border into Congo. In 1971, the Congolese government granted citizenship to all Rwandans who’d been in the country since 1960; that citizenship later was revoked.

During Rwanda’s civil war in the early 1990s and the 1994 genocide, during which an estimated 800,000 to 1 million people were massacred within 100 days, Rwandans continued to flee into neighboring countries, including Congo. Congolese refugees fled violence in eastern Congo in waves, beginning in 1995, with the most recent wave starting in 2012.

About a tenth the size of the Congo, Rwanda is about the size of Massachusetts. With a population of 11.7 million, it is the most densely populated country in Africa. Rwandans continue to be displaced in Uganda, Tanzania and the Congo more than 20 years after the genocide.

#ShareTheJourney pilgrims laid flowers during a visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda. An estimated 800,000 to 1 million people were killed during the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. Photo: Wendy Johnson/EMM

“Rwanda is expecting over 100,000 Rwandans to return — so there really is no prospect for integration for the [Congolese] refugees, and resettlement becomes the only option for them,” said Kenya.

Resettlement is one way the international community can help alleviate the burden from countries in the region that host refugees.

Before the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the United States resettled roughly 80,000 refugees annually, and upwards of 120,000 at the height of Southeast Asian resettlement in the early 1980s. After 9/11, the number decreased to 32,000. More than a decade later, the 2015 quota is set at 70,000.

The resettlement figure is important, say officials, because it sends a message of willingness to other resettlement countries, and it alleviates a fraction of the host country’s burden.

Unlike the torture and killing in Darfur, Sudan and South Sudan, and the large numbers of Somalis fleeing terrorism in Somalia, Congo’s brutal conflict hasn’t received the same level of attention.

There are 2.7 million refugees and asylum seekers across East Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region. Ethiopia and Kenya host the majority of people fleeing violence and political instability in Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Eritrea and Congo. Somalis make up the largest refugee group in the region, numbering more than 970,000 registered refugees.

Two new camps opened in Rwanda in 2012, the last time the conflict in eastern Congo escalated. Even without a steady flow of refugees, the camps have a 3 percent annual population growth as babies are born in the camp.

“The Rwanda government is overburdened with the refugees, yet it is still opening its borders,” Kenya said. “In the last two years, the camp population has doubled, so resettlement provides hope for the refugees, it provides a tool to share responsibility with the countries, and it gives UNHCR a durable solution.

“We ask resettlement countries to increase their spaces because the situation on the ground shows the resettlement needs are there.”

Unlike other regional countries that host refugees — Ethiopia and Kenya being the largest — Rwanda doesn’t have a forced-encampment policy, explained Kenya. UNHCR has started a program alternative to camps, integrating its education and health services with the Rwandan government.

“If the refugees ever go back to the [Democratic Republic of Congo] or there’s another solution, then at least they build their skills and their lives are almost managed at a normal level,” said Kenya. “But with the DRC situation, we don’t see the possibility of return.”

– Lynette Wilson is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.