The test for religious leaders in this context has been nothing short of a demand for a prophetic voice which sees, names, and challenges the reality of a system that destroys the lives of some while parading as “law and order” for others. Faith leaders are finding themselves tangled in a quagmire of competing rhetoric about what makes for peace, walking the line of proclaiming prophetic vision amid a culture, a church, and a people tightly wrapped in the clutches of white supremacy.
So much in the world needs to change, but the people doing the most to change the world are often zealous. I know I was — and self-righteous, too. Yet perpetual effort to forge a new world did not heal my soul; rather, it deepened my soul’s sense of separation from love. To put it theologically, a friend involved with left-wing Catholic Worker style communities describes a subtle culture of “not enough,” as communal embodiment of what Martin Luther called “works-righteousness.”
In recent days more than 100 undocumented immigrants have reportedly been detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents. Texas Observer reports that as many as five immigrants were detained on Feb. 9. According to the Los Angeles Times, immigration activists claim that about 100 people have been taken into custody by ICE this week, resulting in a protest in downtown Los Angeles. And news of the arrest and deportation of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos — a mother who was previously convicted for using false papers to gain employment and afterward obeyed an order to report to ICE every six months — have circulated through social media and news outlets.
Pwint Phyu Latt is a Muslim peace activist in Burma who sought to promote interfaith relations with Buddhists, the nation’s religious majority. She was sentenced this year to two years in prison and two more years of hard labor.
Gulmira Imin is a Uighur Muslim in China who led the 2009 Uighur protests against its communist government. She has been in prison ever since.
On Dec. 6, protests ensued at Texas A&M University during an on-campus speech from Richard Spencer, a white nationalist and the self-proclaimed head of the so-called "alt-right" movement, reports the Houston Chronicle. Protesters were met with — and pushed by — law enforcement officials in riot gear and riding on horseback.
The protests that break out on the streets in the aftermaths of killings are not just about the latest individual case, but the lack of trust in a system of policing and criminal justice that justice needs to be put back into. The protests are about accountability in an age where police who use excessive force and act outside the law that they pledge to protect are almost never held accountable.
Now is not the time for fracking oil – a pipeline destined to leak, another broken treaty, or further racist, heartless disregard for a people who have already suffered unconscionable cruelties. Now is the time for intensive care for a dying world. It is also a time for reparations – to the indigenous tribes of this land, to African Americans, and to all those around the world on the receiving end of our violence. By reparations, I mean not just compensation, but real healing of relationships. War, arrogance and greed have pulled us all to the brink of destruction, and only cooperation, humility and generosity can save us.
In the last year, the group has met with civic leaders, including four mayoral candidates, police commissioner Kevin Davis, and the governor’s Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council, the council tasked with crafting a plan to reduce the prison population in Baltimore. Several leaders, including Archbishop Lori, went to West Baltimore following the protests to help clean up and lead services. Imam Earl El-Amin of the Muslim Community Cultural Center of Baltimore said several members had developed a relationship with a seniors’ building during the uprising, sharing medicines and food. Rev. Deckenback’s church has been accepting donations over the last year for areas impacted by protests.
The morning after a Chicago rally for Donald Trump was canceled for fear of violence, the city’s Catholic archbishop warned that “enmity and animosity” are hallmarks of today’s politics and a “cancer” that is threatening the nation’s civic health.
“Our nation seems to have lost a sense of the importance of cultivating friendships as fellow citizens who, being equal, share much in common,” Archbishop Blase Cupich said in a homily March 12 at Old St. Patrick’s Church.
St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger declared a state of emergency in Ferguson, Mo., today, urging County Police Chief Jon Belmar to “exercise all powers and duties necessary to preserve order, prevent crimes, and protect the life and property of our citizens,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
The state of emergency comes after the arrests of at least 56 protesters, including prominent activists Deray Mckesson and Johnetta Elzie and famed writer Cornel West.
Sunday marked the 1-year anniversary of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Both in Ferguson, and across the country, the memorials and marches were held to remember those lost to police violence. Here in Washington, D.C., we attended one such demonstration and asked protesters what the #BlackLivesMatter movement has meant to them over the past year.
“IT ALL STARTED with pig races,” said Dawud, the groundskeeper at the Muslim American Society’s mosque in Katy, Texas. Soon after the group purchased the land, their neighbor, Craig Baker, began hosting well-publicized hog heats for some 300 spectators every Friday evening. Baker’s timing was deliberate, chosen to correspond precisely with the jummah prayers—the holiest time of the week for Muslims—and to offend their dietary restrictions, which forbid pork.
That was back in 2006. Today, things are more peaceful. Follow the narrow road that curves amid loblolly pines and sage grass, and you’ll see sun gleaming off the black roof of the now-finished mosque. “It was a matter of disagreement, but it’s over now,” said Dawud last fall. “I am happy it’s done and we are at peace.”
But while the pig races have ended, signs of hostility linger: Two blue and white billboards bearing a Christian cross and a Star of David are posted just off the edge of the mosque’s property. The intended message isn’t subtle: “Muslims, you don’t belong here.”
Though many Americans actually had favorable views of Islam after 9/11, a recent study by Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative found that those views became increasingly negative throughout the Iraq war.
Hundreds gathered at Gallery Place Metro in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday night in solidarity with Baltimore activists to protest the death of Freddie Gray. The crowd marched for two hours across the city until reaching their final destination at the White House.
Leaders from multiple activist groups were helping lead the crowd, including Eugene Puryear, a candidate for the At-Large seat in the D.C. Council. The crowd began the march with chants of, "All night, all day, we're going to fight for Freddie Gray!" More solidarity events have been planned by the event organizers in the upcoming days.
Recent protests in Baltimore are raising the question of (non)violence anew. Should violent protesters be criticized? Should Christians call for nonviolence?
Some bluster “Of course!” while others say that’s not the point.
Over at The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates, who grew up in Baltimore, is challenging calls for nonviolence in an article entitled “Nonviolence as Compliance.” Calling “well-intended pleas” for nonviolence “the right answer to the wrong question,” Coates writes:
When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is "correct" or "wise," any more than a forest fire can be "correct" or "wise."
The line bears repeating: “When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse.” Are newly scared white folks simply “calling timeout?”
Coates wants to ground our conversation about violence in the narrative of a larger “war.” For him, violence did not “break out” last night – violence has always been present. Coates wants to shift our focus from the shorter story of rock-throwers to the much longer story of the black experience in the United States.
As the clergy marching in Baltimore put it, “There’s been a state of emergency way before tonight.”
As thousands took to the streets in Baltimore on Monday night to protest the death of Freddie Gray on th eday of his funeral, nearly 100 clergy joined the protesters.
Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black male, died April 19 while in police custody, one week after his arrest. Although one of the officers reported Gray “was arrested without force or incident,” Gray died of severe spinal injury, prompting citizens to question how Gray was treated in custody.
Maybe I am the only one wondering “What can I do?” as I watch and read the news of demonstrations throughout the country. I have a lot of excuses. I can’t go to the protests tonight because my son has a concert. I don’t coordinate the church service and announcements, so I can’t control what will and won’t be said. I’m on sabbatical so I won’t be a part of the conversations that I hope will happen between colleagues at meetings. But I hope I am not the only one wondering what can be, needs to be, ought to be done.
The videos are chilling – Eric Garner’s life is being choked out of him until he goes limp on the sidewalk and Tamir Rice is being gunned down, the police squad door barely opening as the officer drives by. The images of protests and protesters being tear gassed and throwing canisters back at police armed in riot gear remind me of the summer I spent in Korea, marching in protests against U.S. military presence. That was the summer I learned about wearing damp handkerchiefs near my eyes and over my nose to help with the sting of tear gas and how to wet the wick of a homemade Molotov cocktail before lighting and lobbing. A few years later in a hotel room in Indiana after a job interview, I watched protests and riots take over Los Angeles. Living with, wrestling with injustice day in and day out is a bit like a kettle of water just about to hit boiling. At some point, the water boils, the steam is released.
“Excuse my ignorance, I thought I was a free black man.”
“I’m 11 [years old], I matter.”
“You can choose to look away, but never again can you say you didn’t know.”
“How many times do we have to protest the same [s**t]?”
“White silence is white violence.”
“We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
These signs, and many others, lined the horizon of Pennsylvania Avenue on Saturday in Washington, D.C. In a ‘Justice for All’ march organized by Al Sharpton and the National Action Network, thousands of protesters gathered to protest police actions that have resulted in the deaths of unarmed young black men across the United States.
After marching from Freedom Plaza to the U.S. Capitol, protesters listened to speakers from national racial justice organizations address some of these most recent acts of police brutality.
Al Sharpton sought to draw attention to the diversity present on the streets.
“This is not a black march or a white march. This is an American march for American rights,” he said.
Indeed, the black community was not alone in speaking up against police brutality. One Latina activist encouraged her Latino brothers and sisters to “voice their pain” from police harassment and “come forth and unify with the African American community so we can be strong together.”
“¡Ya Basta!” she concluded. [“Enough is enough!”]
1. Read the Torture Report
While its 525 pages — and disturbing subject matter — may cause you to opt for the news coverage and analysis, you can actually read the entire Torture Report yourself — even before Melville House Books ensures it’s on the shelves your local bookstore. Download now.
2. WATCH: John McCain’s Floor Speech on Torture
In case you do need some context on the importance of releasing this report, watch this floor statement by Arizona Sen. McCain, quite an authority on the matter. “I know the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies, our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights, which are protected by international conventions the U.S. not only joined, but for the most part authored.”
3. Two Years Since Newtown: WATCH This Father’s Story
Sunday marks the two-year anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in which 20 children and six faculty and staff were killed. Mark Barden, the father of Daniel, 7, who was killed in the tragedy, tells his powerful story in this video.
4. What MSU Protesters Are Really Fighting For
With all of the “controversy” over the Rolling Stone UVA rape story, it might be tempting to think that college campus sexual assault — and the mishandling of cases by college administrators — is not quite on the epidemic scale the piece made it out to be. (Y’know, kind of like when it’s cold outside and people say, “So much for ‘global warming!’” *facepalm*) But it’s not just one person’s story, and it’s not just UVA. Check out this piece to see what’s happening on another college campus.