TOGETHER global initiative is launched by United Nations 

United Nations TOGETHER program logo
Courtesy of the United Nations TOGETHER program

Church of the Brethren Newsline
January 28, 2017

By Doris Abdullah

“TOGETHER is a global initiative that promotes respect, safety and dignity for everyone forced to flee their homes in search of a better life.”

TOGETHER is a United Nations initiative to promotes tolerance, tear down the walls of discrimination, and reveal the cruelties in xenophobic behavior and policies towards migrants and refugees. The UN Department of Public Information (DPI), of which Church of the Brethren is a member, launched TOGETHER at the first 2017 NGO (non-governmental organization) and DPI briefing last Thursday.

Brethren here in Brooklyn and numerous other Church of the Brethren congregations have a history of working with and helping desperate migrants and refugees. I am asking for your continuous help in promoting TOGETHER, and I am calling us to speak out even more loudly on the plight of migrants and refugees under the TOGETHER umbrella.

The idea is to encourage critical thinking as we give testimonies and highlight encounters with persons from different races, religions, and cultures with whom we interact. I hope to bring some of our works with migrants and refugees to the attention of DPI during the year, and will need your help in the framing.

This is Holocaust Remembrance Week, which ties in with Wednesday’s UN General Assembly NGO dialogue on the Sustainable Development Goals, TOGETHER, and the plight of migrants and refugees. Goal 10 seeks to reduce inequality within and among countries and goal 16 seeks to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development and provide access to justice for all. I do not see a means to reduce inequality or build peace within or between societies as long as discrimination, xenophobia, and intolerance prevail.

The tripartite of discrimination, xenophobia, and intolerance are an evil that we as believers are called to speak out against, use peaceful actions to stop, and bring awareness to by shining a light on its ugliness. We shine that light with our voices raised high.

President Trump’s executive order to ban all persons from the predominant Muslim countries of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, and Sudan has dehumanized all Muslims. We must remember that Jesus, a Jewish baby, was a refugee in Egypt when King Herod’s army pursued him to kill him in his own country (Matthew 2:16-21).

Similarly, the order to build a wall to keep “Mexicans” out of the country threatens our efforts here in Brooklyn to offer sanctuary and aid the dispossessed. We must remember the “six refugee cities” that God ordered the 12 tribes to build in their new lands (Number 35:6).

Here at Brooklyn First Church of the Brethren we continue in a 108-year tradition of welcoming “the other.” The late Phill Carlos Archbold, who had served as our pastor and as Annual Conference moderator, was a migrant from Panama and an active promoter of migrant and refugees causes. Most of the people who cross through Brooklyn First doors each Sunday come from some place outside of the United States. A young man from El Salvador walked through our doors two months ago after being released from a Texas detention center. He had to flee for his life as the Salvadoran gangs had ordered his death. Violence, conflicts, and war are the lead factors for those who flee their homes. We offered him a place at the congregation table of praise and worship along with all the others.

It is going to be more difficult to keep our eyes fixed on scripture and stay biblically focused as we drift further away from the world of reality toward politics and conflict as entertainment. However, like Paul, “I am convinced that nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate me from the love of Christ Jesus our Lord.” I will fight on and pray that you are there by my side.

— Doris Abdullah is the United Nations representative for the Church of the Brethren and a past chair of the UN NGO Human Rights Sub-Committee for the Elimination of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance. For more information about TOGETHER go to together.un.org .