Last Sunday I joined hundreds of Unitarian Universalists and tens of thousands of other concerned citizens at the largest ever gathering in the United States on climate change: the Forward on Climate Rally. One of the major demands of the day was urging President Obama to not approve the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
Before the estimated 40,000 participants encircled the White House, we heard a number of inspiring speakers, including Bill McKibben of 350.org, Michael Brune of the Sierra Club, Chief Jacqueline Thomas of Saik’uz First Nation, and Crystal Lameman of the Beaver Lake Cree First Nation.
Many oppose the pipeline because of the threat that extracting all that oil presents to the climate. Others oppose it because of the threat of a major spill from the pipeline and the potential for increased air pollution from refineries processing the tar sands in impoverished communities. While I share these concerns, my principal focus is the effect approving the pipeline will have on the First Nations people whose health and way of life are currently at risk from the impacts of tar sands development. If the pipeline is approved, the rate and extent of extracting oil from the tar sands will increase dramatically. Already people living downstream and downwind are suffering from an increase in rare forms of cancer. Fish in the Athabasca River are often visibly deformed and unsafe to eat.
Mikisew Cree First Nation leaders believe that water pollution from tar sands development may be linked to an increased incidence of cancers found in the population of Fort Chipewyan located directly downstream from the most intensive tar sands development. In 2006, these concerns were brought into the public eye when Dr. John O’Connor, who serves small First Nations communities in the regions where the are sands are extracted, reported a high number of cases of unusual cancers, particularly a rare form of bile duct cancer called cholangiocarcinoma. Despite these and other alarming findings, the Canadian government continues to deny these illnesses are a result of extracting oil from the tar sands. Concerns have also been raised that the amount of water being withdrawn from the Athabasca river system will threaten fish populations and the health of the Peace-Athabasca Delta.
In the face of this denial, First Nation leaders have been forced to turn to the courts to assert their constitutionally protected rights. According to Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation: “The federal government is neglecting its environmental responsibilities and ignoring our concerns. When the government fails to engage with First Nations about our concerns, and fails to respect our rights, these things have nowhere to go but the courts.”
It is because of these concerns that I am standing on the side of love with First Nations people in Canada, and adding my voice to theirs in opposition to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. While the rally might be over, our work continues. Learn more about our work on environmental justice here.
This post was written by Rev. Craig C. Roshaven, Witness Ministries Director at the Unitarian Universalist Association.More >
Last month, I attended the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force Creating Change conference in Atlanta, Georgia. In attendance were, roughly, 3,500 LGBTQ activists, allies, advocates, lobbyists, justice workers, and those who represent faith communities that are welcoming to all of us.
As I prepared for the work of this conference, I opened up memories of the past year, and the pain that others have shared with me, in the struggle for equality. The struggle, by the way, is getting old. The very fist time that I exchanged information with an LGBTQ civil rights advocate so that we could work on marriage equality, was 21 years ago. I was so much younger and full of fire for the fight.
Now I see how much the fight has cost us. Sometimes I want to wake up and have this all be over and done with. I do not want to read about another family torn apart, another same sex couple denied rights, benefits, and services. And in the worst of the worst case scenarios, I do not want to read about the death of one more partner who trusted that the military, or her company, would do the right thing and release benefits to her partner.
My soul…literally every fiber of my being, is aching for change to come, to see my people treated as equal in the eyes of the law. Will I allow this to define me or my purpose on this earth?
Hell no…because in my world the ultimate source is my higher power. Love. By all of the names that we call our higher power, God, Goddess, Earth Mother, Buddha, Allah, Spirit of Life, The Divine, Maker, the great unknown…I call this love. I have never believed in a punishing God. If there is a source that is greater and all loving then so be it, and let it love each of us equally.
Ahead of me lies a huge and life changing responsibility. I have to deliver the right words to my people, who come to this work open, vulnerable, hungry for knowledge and community, seeking, teaching, working, and often, hurting. Finding the words that are going to help them on their journey has not been the easiest thing for me, so I step back, and I witness. What I see is pain all around me. What I see is a community of civil rights advocates who are not going to allow a second-class citizenship be a reality for any of us.
What I see is hope.
What I see is a pathway of justice burning brightly leading us into the future.
Each one of us can be a contributor to this revolution that is ongoing and being carried out by the few to benefit the many. If you have not written or called a Senator or Representative regarding a piece of legislation or a concern, now is the time.
We need one another, because we cannot walk alone. There will be no marriage equality, or stronger hate crimes legislation, access to adoption for all people, fairness…if we do not do this work together.
Please, waste no time. Use today to join the movement.
This post was written by Sun Principe, an LGBTQ & Immigration Ministry Consultant from Phoenix, Arizona. You can get find Sun on Twitter at @sunprincipe.More >
This spring, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to pass compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform. As people of faith, we must raise our voices for an immigration reform bill that promotes justice and compassion, and that keeps families together. Last year, we stood on the side of love in Phoenix, faithfully witnessing against the harsh practices and policies directed against immigrants and their families. What we did in Phoenix was meaningful, but now what? What is next on the Road from Phoenix?
Congress will likely pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) legislation this year and whether it is compassionate in addition to comprehensive depends on how much we and other faith communities influence the outcome.
No matter where you live, you can make a difference in this debate. The first step is to commit to doing an in-district lobby visit, i.e. neighbor-to-neighbor meeting, with your members of Congress. In-district visits are one of the most effective ways to ensure that your voice is heard. Click here for our step-by-step guide to doing an in-district lobby visit.
Your members of Congress will be in their home offices for a “state work period” from March 25 to April 5, so call now and make an appointment to meet with them ASAP. It’s easy to make an appointment to speak with your legislators, and a small group from your community can have a real impact.
Never done a lobby visit before? No worries! Join the Interfaith Immigration Coalition webinar on Monday, March 4 at 4pm ET for an informative presentation on neighbor-to-neighbor visits. Click here and scroll down to “Step 3″ for more details.
With your help, people of faith will play a key role in ensuring that immigration reform is compassionate, and reflects the worth and dignity of all people. Commit to doing an in-district lobby visit today!
Standing on the Side of Love
PS: The first 50 congregations to sign-up will receive a packet of Standing on the Side of Love goodies to support their work–click here to register your in-district visit today!
The message above went out on Monday, February 25, 2013 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.More >
Every April, youth and adults from around the United States and Canada gather in New York City for a three-day seminar on a topic of global concern, hosted by the Unitarian Universalist–United Nations Office. This year 175 youth, young adults, and adults will come together April 4–6, 2013 to learn about and dialogue around lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) issues—and you’re invited!
“I attended the UU-UNO Spring Seminar in 2010. I am a youth and a UU. My seminar experience was absolutely amazing. Between sleeping on the floor of a church on central park west with 60+ other UU youth and attending meetings at the UN as a fourteen-year-old, it was a fun and educational trip. Not only did I enjoy the intergenerational aspects of the trip, it also brought my church’s youth group closer and led to us taking other trips together over the past few years. My favorite part had to be meeting other teen UUs, many of who I am still close friends with!”
—Olivia Legan from Los Angeles, CA
Come be a part of this powerful intergenerational gathering for education, dialogue, and justice! Early bird deadline is March 1; registration closes March 15. Find out more and register now!
The seminar will feature keynote speakers Andre Banks, Co-Founder and Executive Director of All Out, an organization that uses social media and “people power” to advance the lives and freedoms of LGBT people globally, and Charles Radcliffe, Chief of the Global Issues Section of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Through panel discussions with other notable speakers, collaboration groups, and fun activities, participants will engage with issues such as LGBTQ representation in media and culture, global discrimination and criminalization of LGBTQ peoples, and how to make a difference in the international fight for recognition and equality.
“Unitarian Universalists have always embraced love (divine or human), good work (social justice), and the search for community. Adlai Stevenson, Unitarian Universalist and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, carried on this tradition for absolute love, work for social justice, and the establishment of a global community when he drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today, the UU-United Nations Office carries on that quintessentially Unitarian Universalist charge into the new millennium with our annual intergenerational Spring Seminar. Bridging gender, generations, race, and more, together we carry the mantle of our Unitarian and Universalist ancestors to bear witness, bring awareness, and create change globally. Together we are lifting up and affirming our faith tradition on a global stage.”
—Dylan Debelis, UU-UNO intern from Portland, OR
PS: Can’t attend this year, or know someone who can’t afford to? Help sponsor youth attendees in need by donating or holding a fundraiser! To contribute, click here, scroll down, and click the secure link to make an online payment using the UU College of Social Justice Program Payment Form, and then enter “Scholarship” in the Participant field and “UUUNO” in the Program Code field.More >
When it happens in your own neighborhood, you cannot ignore it; you cannot turn your back.
When I learned of a local undocumented day laborer named Hector who had been arrested after being falsely accused of assault by the man that hired him, I knew we had to act. Hector and his wife and three-year old daughter are residents of Canoga Park, the tiny community which is also home to my congregation, Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church.
We called NDLON and asked how we could help. In addition to the petition demanding that Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) drop its immigration hold on Hector and donating to his legal fund, we helped mobilize UUs to participate in a press conference which was held on Valentine’s Day. What a perfect way to celebrate the holiday: standing on the side of love with immigrant families.
We also reached out to the UU Legislative Ministry of California. As part of their Immigrant Justice Team, we are helping to link congregations with local immigrant justice allies and coordinating actions to advance compassionate immigration reform.
I proudly represented our UU contingent at the Valentine’s Day press conference as one of the speakers, here is what I said:
“We Unitarian Universalists are here today to stand on the side of love with Hector and his family, with day laborers across the country and with the more than 11 million immigrants in our country to say, ‘Not one more.’
Not one more unnecessary, indefinite detention, not one more deportation that rips families apart, no more injustice for our immigrant communities.
UU’s have had a long history of commitment to immigration justice since 1963 and Emerson UU church right here in the valley has also long supported immigrants’ rights since housing a family in the first sanctuary movement, supporting farm workers’ rights and the grape boycott in the 70′s, and supporting an immigrant family throughout the second sanctuary movement.
And our commitment continues today with the fight for immigration reform that is not merely comprehensive, but also compassionate. Immigration reform, which keeps families together, restores human values to immigration law, and supports an affordable, confidential and generous path to citizenship.
It starts with Hector. Hector’s story is part of a pattern of abuse of day laborers. Workers who stand up for their rights should be protected, not punished. ICE needs to take action to prevent employers from retaliating against workers based on immigration status. This can start by lifting Hector’s ICE hold
Our Unitarian Universalist faith promotes the inherent worth and dignity of every person and justice equity and compassion. As people of faith, we believe immigration is a moral issue and we must come together as a nation to take care of ALL of our people.
At Emerson church, we begin our service by reciting our covenant which declares, ‘Love is the spirit of this church’ — ‘La doctrina de este Iglesia es amor.’ Let us turn that love into to action. We are all part of this community and we work together for this country. Todos somos parte de esta communidad y trabajamos juntos para este pais.”
You can help Hector by signing the petition to drop the ICE hold. Click here to take action.
This post was written by Sara LaWall, Ministerial Intern at Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church in Canoga Park, California.More >