Newsline for Jan. 14, 2022

“Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also” (1 John 4:20-21).

NEWS
1) Brethren Volunteer Service holds winter orientation, seeks applicants

2) Grant sends $15,000 to Church World Service for winter tornado relief

3) Office of Peacebuilding and Policy signs faith letter calling for closing of Guantanamo

4) United Nations committee honors 73rd anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

5) CPT announces new name: Community Peacemaker Teams

6) Brethren bits: Retirement celebration for Dave Shetler, another webinar in “Children as Peacemakers” series, new volume on Contemporary Ecotheology, recent Brethren college vs. Brethren college basketball

Photo of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial courtesy of the National Park Service

Quote of the week:

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

– Martin Luther King Jr. in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Oslo, Norway, 1964.

A note to readers: As many congregations return to in-person worship, we want to update our listing of Churches of the Brethren at www.brethren.org/news/2020/church-of-the-brethren-congregations-worship-online.html. Please send new information to cobnews@brethren.org.

Lifting up Brethren who are active in health care: www.brethren.org/news/2020/brethren-active-in-health-care.html. Add a person to the list by sending first name, county, and state to cobnews@brethren.org.


1) Brethren Volunteer Service holds winter orientation, seeks applicants

By Pauline Liu and Michael Brewer-Berres

Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) will be hosting an in‐person orientation at Camp Bethel in Fincastle, Va., from Jan. 18 to Feb. 4, 2022. This winter Unit 330 will have four volunteers, three of whom are coming through EIRENE, a partner organization in Germany.

The new volunteers are:
Marvin Blenkle from Berlin, Germany
Tate Johnson from McPherson, Kan., with connections to McPherson Church of the Brethren
Johannes Stitz from Gütersloh, Germany
Florian Wesseler from Gütersloh, Germany

For three weeks, BVSers and staff will live in community while building relationships through meaningful conversations, daily devotions, cooking, and working together. They also will take time to get to know the local Virginia community through service and worship.

For more information on future orientations and other FAQs about BVS, please visit www.brethrenvolunteerservice.org.

Upcoming orientation dates are:

Summer orientation
July 31-Aug. 19
Camp Wilbur Stover, New Meadows, Idaho
Applications are due June 19 (with flexibility)

Fall orientation
Sept. 18-Oct. 7
Camp Brethren Heights, Rodney, Mich.
Applications are due Aug. 7 (with flexibility)

– Pauline Liu is the volunteer coordinator for Brethren Volunteer Service. Michael Brewer-Berres is a BVSer and the orientation assistant.


2) Grant sends $15,000 to Church World Service for winter tornado relief

Brethren Disaster Ministries staff have directed a grant of $15,000 from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) to help Church World Service (CWS) distribute relief kits and blankets and give support for unaccompanied minors following the December 2021 tornados.

On Dec. 10-11, a devastating outbreak of 61 confirmed tornados swept through 8 states, with Kentucky, Illinois, and Missouri being most affected. Two extraordinary storms traveled more than 100 miles each, producing tornados along the way. It was the largest outbreak of tornados in December on record and, with 90 confirmed deaths, the deadliest. The resulting destruction leveled whole towns, such as Mayfield, Ky., but also caused additional damage along the 250-mile paths of the storms.

In response, CWS has sent blankets, hygiene kits, school kits, and emergency cleanup buckets to affected communities that requested aid. Some of the kits were assembled by Church of the Brethren congregations.

Tornado damage near Mayfield, Ky. Photo courtesy of NWS Survey

CWS also has focused on providing basic needs and longer-term support for unaccompanied children affected by the tornados. These children fled dangerous situations in their home countries, and many have experienced significant trauma both in the journey to the United States and now in this tornado outbreak.

To contribute financial support to this grant, give online at www.brethren.org/give-winter-tornados.


3) Office of Peacebuilding and Policy signs faith letter calling for closing of Guantanamo

The Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy has signed an interfaith letter calling for the closing of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The office was one of 29 denominations and national faith groups that signed the letter sent to President Biden and all of the leaders and members of Congress on Jan. 11. The text of the letter follows:

Dear President Biden and Members of Congress,

As members of the American faith community, we call on you to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and to ensure that all of the people held there are either released, agree to a plea deal, or receive a fair trial in a federal court.

The prison at Guantanamo was opened as part of an effort to hold suspected terrorists outside of the protections of U.S. law. This was wrong to begin with, however this immoral act was compounded by the decision to torture many of the prisoners. In the fullness of time we now know that many of the people sent to Guantanamo were never involved in terrorism in the first place.

Even today, 20 years after the prison was opened, most of the prisoners have never been tried or convicted of any crime. Guilty or innocent the right to a trial is a bedrock American value, yet it has been denied to those at Guantanamo. Allowing the government to claim a war-based authority to hold people for decades without charge or trial, in a conflict that has no clear endstate or conditions for victory, and for which the government does not recognize clear geographic boundaries, is an extraordinary and dangerous expansion of governmental authority.

While the sustained immorality of holding people without trial ought to be reason enough to close the prison, it is also unreasonably expensive – costing more than half a billion dollars each year, or over $13 million per prisoner per year. This is an utterly irrational figure to spend on a prison for only 39 people.

As our elected leaders, you are responsible for spending American tax dollars wisely. More importantly you are responsible for upholding American values. The prison at Guantanamo does neither. We pray that you will close it.


4) United Nations committee honors 73rd anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

By Doris Abdullah

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” –Article 1, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

On Dec. 9, 2021, the NGO Human Rights Committee gathered to Honor the 73rd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was my first United Nations in-person meeting since the COVID-19 March 2020 shutdown.

Sadly, the pandemic has increased the threats and challenges to human rights around the globe. COVID’s deadly attacks increased the misery of the most marginalized persons globally and in our own country. Older persons, the disabled, and those in low-paying jobs with limited resources and health care are suffering the worst. The pandemic continues to compete with growing white supremacist groups, racism, antisemitism, and nationalist militarist thugs who bring terror and death in many countries.

The Declaration of Human Rights delineates the freedoms from torture; slavery; cruel and inhumane conditions; arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence; and attacks upon a person’s honor and reputation–to name a few of the 30 articles.

Doris Abdullah (at left) at a meeting of the UN High Commission celebrating the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Photo courtesy of Doris Abdullah

Anti-human rights groups exploit the power imbalances between people and make it hard to defend human rights. They turn the human rights language upon itself. For example, human rights defenders who dare call out the treatment of women or journalists in Saudi Arabia are called “Islamophobics,” and defenders of Palestinians who are abused by the government in Israel are called “anti-Semitic.” We all know the difference between being against a government policy treatment of women or a minority people, and being against a people because of their gender, political leanings, race, or religious group, but truth is not the goal of the abusers of human freedoms.

We were addressed by human rights defenders and survivors as well as staff from the New York office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR). The deteriorating conditions of the Uyghurs in China and Christians in Myanmar (Burma) were highlighted. The number of Uyghurs held in camps, detained in prisons, taken and never returned home, or just disappeared were given at 9 million and seem to be mostly men. Those reporting to the meeting said that Uyghur homes were entered by authorities and stripped of all religious materials, and women in those homes were abused and reported as non-compliant if they did not submit to whatever the military men required of them. Non-compliant women and girls disappeared as well.

Constant surveillance and limiting communications to the outside are the main tools of the Chinese government to control Uyghur movement and access within China. The misuse of technology to control people through surveillance and tracking is another threat to human rights, as are killer robots and media misinformation–not just in China, but in many industrial and non-industrial countries alike.

As in China, freedom of religion and association is not respected or allowed in Myanmar (Burma). Before the military coup last year, the ongoing targeted group were the Rohingya Muslim minority. Many Rohingyas went to the neighboring country of Bangladesh and thousands were killed in country. Now it is the Christians in Myanmar who are being target for abuse and killing.

This gives added weight to the 19th century German sociologist Max Weber’s theory that they will come for you when they run out of other groups to target. In other words, none of us are free if our neighbor is not free. We are all in this world together and should not tolerate abuse of any group over another group.

Let us continue our struggle for universal human rights in peaceful deeds of advocacy.

— Doris Abdullah is the Church of the Brethren representative to the United Nations. She is a minister at First Church of the Brethren in Brooklyn, N.Y.


5) CPT announces new name: Community Peacemaker Teams

A release from CPT:

We have a new name. Christian Peacemaker Teams is now Community Peacemaker Teams.

For thirty-five years, CPT has committed itself to the transforming power of nonviolence through activism grounded in partnerships with local peacemakers worldwide. We are excited to announce this name change as it better reflects who we are. We have grown in membership and partnership, and after multiple years of consultation with our community and partners, we only thought it fitting to live into our growth.

We chose the word community because it reflects the diversity of our membership. Everyone at CPT is encouraged to bring their expression of spirituality or faith or what motivates them to the work of peacebuilding while grounded in our shared values of equality, human dignity, justice and peace. Community also reflects the essence of our work. It evokes a sense of togetherness and solidarity with our partners and within CPT while highlighting the openness and accountability central to our work.

Our name change also recognizes our journey of undoing oppressions. As an organization that seeks to address structures of power and privilege, it is important that our language be inclusive and life-affirming. In the CPT community, all are welcome to partner with us toward collective liberation.

Our mission remains the same: building partnerships to transform violence and oppression. We will continue the strategic work of long term relationships and partnerships with people and communities fighting for justice. Our commitment is unwavering in challenging and dismantling the systems of power, violence and oppression that prey upon the most vulnerable among us: this is the basis of our work.

We are excited about our growing membership and living into our diversity where the sacred is recognized and revealed in many traditions and tongues, identities and images, colours and cultures.

We’re grateful for our community that has supported us in finding this new name that embodies and reflects who we are and for walking with us into this new chapter.

We hope you are as excited as we are for a larger table where we can celebrate our partnerships and build new alliances as a community working together for justice and collective liberation.

— Find this announcement online, along with some answers to frequently asked questions, at https://cpt.org/about/cpt-name-change


6) Brethren bits

— “You are invited!!!” said an announcement of a retirement celebration for Dave Shetler, from the District Board of Southern Ohio and Kentucky District. The celebration for Shetler’s service as district executive is set for Jan. 23, from 2-5 p.m. (Eastern time), to be held online as a virtual gathering. Register to attend at www.sodcob.org/_forms/view/32462. Donations in Shetler’s honor can be made to the district Brethren Disaster Ministries, Camping and Retreat Ministries, or to the Brethren Retirement Community in Greenville, Ohio. “Please join us as we honor Dave’s 11 years of ministry to our district,” said the invitation. For questions, contact Todd Reish, chair of the District Board, 937-621-4172.

— On Earth Peace has announced another webinar in the series “Children as Peacebuilders: Equipping Resilient Leaders-Kingian Nonviolence” to take place at 12 noon (Eastern time) on Saturday, Jan. 22. The seminars are intended for parents and educators to discuss issues around justice and inclusion. This month the speaker Robin Wildman will be talking about Kingian Nonviolence principles and how to teach them to children. RSVP for the event at www.onearthpeace.org/children_as_peacemakers_equipping_resilient_leaders_kingian_nonviolence.

— The World Council of Churches has shared information about a new eco-theology book that combines diverse views with best practices. The new volume titled Contemporary Ecotheology, Climate Justice and Environmental Stewardship in World Religions is the latest of the continued fruits of the 6th International Conference on Ecological Theology and Environmental Ethics, or Ecothee, which took place in September 2019. The publication, edited by Louk A. Andrianos, Tom Sverre Tomren, et al, is intended as a scientific anthology showing the diversity of ecotheology found in various religious traditions. Find out more at www.oikoumene.org/news/new-eco-theology-book-combines-diverse-views-with-best-practices.

— A Brethren college vs. Brethren college game took place on Dec. 19, 2021, at the University of La Verne, Calif., reported Maddy Minehart (MU women’s basketball ’19) to Newsline. “The Manchester Spartans traveled to California and took on the La Verne Leopards during their West Coast trip. This was the schools’ first-ever meeting. La Verne won, 113-59.”


Newsline is the email news service of the Church of the Brethren. Inclusion in Newsline does not necessarily convey endorsement by the Church of the Brethren. All submissions are subject to editing. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Contributors to this issue include Doris Abdullah, Hadil Alhayek, Michael Brewer-Berres, Maddy Minehart, Nancy Miner, Nate Hosler, Pauline Liu, Roy Winter, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Please send news tips and submissions to cobnews@brethren.org . Find the Newsline archive at www.brethren.org/news . Sign up for Newsline and other Church of the Brethren email newsletters and make subscription changes at www.brethren.org/intouch . Unsubscribe by using the link at the top of any Newsline email.


Find more Church of the Brethren news: