Newsline Special: Puerto Rico earthquakes, responding to Iran crisis

“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them” (Psalm 34:7).

1) Brethren Disaster Ministries and district leaders report from Puerto Rico following earthquakes

2) Office of Peacebuilding and Policy issues action alert on Iran crisis, denomination joins in signing faith statement

A note to readers: Global Mission and Service is calling for prayer for pastor Lawan Andimi, a district leader in Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) who has been abducted by a faction of Boko Haram. “Please pray for our brother in Nigeria,” said the request. Andimi was abducted from the town of Michika in Adamawa State in northeast Nigeria. A release from Christian Solidarity Worldwide, published by “The Nigerian Voice” reported that Andimi also chairs the Christian Association of Nigeria in Adamawa State, and that he was declared missing following a raid on Michika on Jan. 3. A video of Andimi speaking in English and Hausa has been released by his captors, in which he expresses his faith in God. Find the article at .

1) Brethren Disaster Ministries and district leaders report from Puerto Rico following earthquakes

Brethren Disaster Ministries staff and church leaders in Puerto Rico have reported following a series of large earthquakes. The denomination’s disaster ministry is working in Puerto Rico doing hurricane repair and rebuilding, in collaboration with Puerto Rico District of the Church of the Brethren.

Jenn Dorsch-Messler, director of Brethren Disaster Ministries, reported following telephone calls and email exchanges with district executive José Calleja and district disaster coordinator José Acevedo as well as Brethren Disaster Ministries long-term volunteer Carrie Miller.

“We are ok, so far. Keep praying for us,” said Calleja. “Our churches are good and our pastors are okay. I have activated a district fasting and prayer chain for our island starting on January 13 thru February the 2nd.”
At this time, no serious damage to buildings and no injuries or deaths are reported among Church of the Brethren members and congregations in Puerto Rico. Despite communication difficulties, the district is working to get status updates from all of the churches and members.

The main effect of the earthquakes was in the southwest and west of the island although the earthquakes were felt strongly throughout Puerto Rico, reported Dorsch-Messler. On Tuesday, the island was without power and many areas without water service due to three power plants suffering significant damage. In the northern areas, houses that were old and not well made were affected. People living on the coast were worried about the possibility of a tsunami although authorities said there was no risk of one.

“We are getting many reports from other denominations of churches that are damaged and specifically more widespread is the PTSD that losing power and water and being in shelters has brought on for so many Hurricane Maria survivors,” said Dorsch-Messler.

On Tuesday the island’s VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) said at least 255 people are in shelters. It is expected to be several days before electricity service is resumed.

Brethren Disaster Ministries is calling for prayer for all affected by the earthquakes, those who are nervous to go back into buildings for fear of further shocks, with special concern for those living in some of the poorer areas that were affected.

2) Office of Peacebuilding and Policy issues action alert on Iran crisis, denomination joins in signing faith statement

The Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy has issued an action alert calling for no war with Iran. The alert follows on the Jan. 3 killing of Iranian military leader General Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike. In related news, the Church of the Brethren is one of more than 20 faith-based bodies that signed a joint statement warning against escalating tensions with Iran.

The action alert cites the Church of the Brethren’s identity as a historic peace church and reaffirms the denomination’s position against war in an Annual Conference statement made in 1970 as well as the 1980 resolution titled “The Time Is so Urgent: Threats to Peace” that recognizes “the perilous complexities and ambiguities in the process of seeking peace in the [Middle East]” but observes that “goodwill and peaceful relationships are not generated by foreign military intervention.”

“Additionally, the 2013 ‘Resolution against Drone Warfare’ urges the Church of the Brethren to call on the President and Congress to halt the use of drones in places both foreign and domestic and ‘reject a deadly and destructive campaign that has killed and wounded many people and created a climate of fear,’” the action alert says. “There is no doubt that a war with Iran would have disastrous consequences, and this Administration’s use of military force is causing tensions to escalate between the two nations at a perilous degree.”

The action alert calls on Congress to act to reassert its war powers by refusing authorization for war with Iran and related attacks, to block funding for war with Iran, and to approve the Khanna-Gaetz Amendment that would prevent federal funds from being used for any military force in or against Iran without congressional authorization.

Find the full action alert at .

Faith Statement on Escalating Violence with Iran

The Church of the Brethren is one of the denominations that have signed a statement on escalating tensions with Iran. The statement was issued Jan. 3. It says, in part:

“As people of faith, we condemn the United States’ dangerous aggression towards Iran, including the assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani and the deployment of additional troops to the region. We urge the Administration to step back from the brink of war. Our faith communities see the futility of war, and its power to dehumanize. We know that human flourishing entails breaking cycles of violence, being courageous peacemakers, and focusing on the root causes of conflict. Violent conflict is a path of mutual destruction. Instead, all actors must move forward in a way that upholds our shared, sacred human dignity.”

Find the full statement at .

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