I led this morning’s Bible study on the gospel text for this Sunday (2nd Advent) from Matthew in which John the Baptist confronts the Pharisees and Sadducees with “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” Not exactly the way to win friends, I imagine. But the point I wanted to make was that John was a prophet and we all need prophets in our lives to steer us in the right direction and get us back on track. We need those voices who are willing to identify where things are wrong so that we can begin the work of making them right. Prophets are never the “nice guy” but rather the one that gets under our skin and irritates us to action. Oh, how we need to hear these prophetic voices today!
I have heard the voices of prophets in our midst lately so while we have been exploring the resolutions adopted at our Diocesan Convention in the last two blogs, there are two other issues that are in need of our attention this week: opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline and support for the water protectors at Standing Rock, and the work of Episcopal Migration Ministries in refugee resettlement. I hope you have been following these stories and, perhaps, have already added your voice and support to these concerns. If not, here’s some information to help you speak out for justice.
If you’ve been following the news from North Dakota, you are aware that winter has set in at the camps with blizzard conditions recently. Despite the dangers to the people there, police and security have used water cannons, concussion grenades and rubber bullets against the water protectors. A recent post on social media read:
People are likely to start dying at Standing Rock– if they aren’t already. The Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council released this statement:
“The physicians and tribal healers with the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council call for the immediate cessation of use of water cannons on people who are outdoors in 28F ambient weather with no means of active rewarming in these conditions. As medical professionals, we are concerned for the real risk of loss of life due to severe hypothermia under these conditions.”
Not to mention continuous mass tear gas, rubber bullets, as well as stinger grenades and LRAND (Long Range Acoustic Device) for 3 hours. Law enforcement also shot down three media drones and targeted journalists with less lethal rounds.
National Lawyers Guild legal observers on the frontlines have confirmed that multiple people were unconscious and bleeding after being shot in the head with rubber bullets. One elder went into cardiac arrest at the frontlines but medics administered CPR and were able to resuscitate him. The camp’s medical staff and facilities are overwhelmed and the local community of Cannonball has opened their school gymnasium for emergency relief.
PLEASE CALL THE FOLLOWING AGENCIES NOW:
ND Office of Governor Dalrymple: 701-328-2200
Tie up the fax line too: 701.328.2205
Morton County Sheriff’s Department:
701-328-8118 & 701-667-3330.
ND National Guard: Main Number: 701-333-2000
Public Affairs Officer: 701-333-2007
Call often, please.
Last Friday, November 25, the US Army Corps of Engineers announced that they would be shutting down the camps where the water protectors have been staying on December 5th but since then they have backed down from a forced evacuation. However, on Monday of this week, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple issued an evacuation notice due to the harsh weather conditions. His office said that they will not forcibly remove anyone and “are seeking a peaceful and orderly transition to a safer location.”
This coming weekend, some 2,000 US military veterans plan to mobilize in support of the water protectors wearing their uniforms. Michael A. Wood, Jr., a Marine Corps veteran and former Baltimore police office said, “This is literally what we swore to do — to protect the citizens of America from enemies both foreign and domestic. Just because someone pretties it up with a badge and uniform doesn’t mean it isn’t violence against our people.” The leaders of the camps are hoping that the protest will remain peaceful during the mobilization.
Recently, the media has been picking up this story but for months people have complained that the No DAPL action has not made major news sources. Once voice that still hasn’t been heard is that of President Obama. Supporters of Standing Rock are calling for concerned citizens to ask the President to intervene and stand with them before the new administration takes office in January. To send your message to President Obama, please complete the form at https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact
We need to speak out, we need to make phone calls and we need to pray. On November 26th, thousands of people joined together on-line and at sponsored events to pray with Standing Rock. The group Unify, which has approval from the Sioux Tribal Council, is planning two other on-line prayer events, the next one on December 4th beginning at 11:00 am ET. You can get more information and sign up to participate here – https://praywithstandingrock.com/home They also have a link to listen to the prayers from the November 26th event at that link.
And, while we are on the subject of resources, Rosebud Episcopal Mission, the Episcopal Church serving the Lakota people on Rosebud Indian Reservation in south-central South Dakota, has some resources on their website for offering your support to Standing Rock – https://rosebudepiscopalmission.org/
In a complete 180-degree turn around, Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) has been asking for our continued support for refugee resettlement (in the case of support for Standing Rock, we are the “refugees” offering our help). On Giving Tuesday, November 28th, EMM asked that we demonstrate our support for refugee resettlement now by donating to them online at http://www.episcopalmigrationministries.org/ or by sending a check to:
Episcopal Migration Ministries
815 Second Ave.
New York, NY 10017
Even though “Giving Tuesday” has come and gone, I’m quite sure that EMM would be happy to receive your gift!
You can also speak out for refugees and here’s how:
TAKE ACTION TODAY: Tell Your Local, State, and National Leaders to Welcome Refugees
As we prepare for President-elect Donald Trump to take office in January, it is more important than ever for all of our elected officials to hear that their communities welcome refugees. Refugee resettlement saves lives, encourages other countries to keep their doors open to people needing protection, and promotes regional stability and global security. We cannot turn our backs on the refugees we have pledged to welcome. Nor can we discriminate against individuals based on where they’re from or what religion they practice. Refugee resettlement must continue to be a cornerstone of U.S. global leadership.
More than 65 million people have been persecuted and forced from their homes and are seeking safety. As a nation, we must uphold our values of generosity, hospitality and compassion. Our actions must match gravity of this displacement crisis and live up to our welcoming legacy. Please spread the word and have everyone you know share this alert!
Call your Senators and Representatives: 1-866-940-2439
Tell Them Your Community Welcomes Refugees
Please call the same number three times to be connected with your Representative and both of your Senators.
Here’s a sample of what to say:
“I am a constituent from [CITY, STATE], and I urge you to welcome refugees and support the U.S. refugee resettlement program. Resettlement is a core American legacy that extends hospitality and offers a chance for refugees to rebuild their lives in safety and dignity. My community welcomes refugees and I urge you to reflect the best of our nation by supporting refugee resettlement in the United States.”
Feel free to share a personal story about the importance of refugees to you, your faith, your community, your business, etc. Let them know the specific ways that refugees benefit and are welcomed into your community, and why refugee protection is so important to you.
You can also tweet your policy makers:
“@SENATOR/REPRESENTATIVE, my community stands #WithRefugees! Show that #AmericaWelcomes by supporting U.S. refugee resettlement! #RefugeesWelcome”
Share This Message with Your State and Local Officials!
Your state and local leaders need to hear the same message. Tell them that your community welcomes refugees. To find your governor, state legislators, mayor, and local officials, click here: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials. To tweet your state and local officials, click to find the twitter handles for your governor and state legislators.
It is more important than ever for all our nation’s lawmakers to represent the hospitality that communities across the country are demonstrating. Take action today to stand with refugees.
Share why you support refugees. Take an “unselfie” and send it to EMM (firstname.lastname@example.org) tagged with #SupportRefugees to share it on the EMM Facebook page. Post it also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter so that we flood social media with our message of hope.
EMM also has resources for you and congregations:
During this season of preparation for the coming of the Christ child, we remember that soon after Jesus’ birth, his family was forced to flee Roman Palestine becoming refugees in Egypt….We invite you to reflect this advent on these most precious narratives of our faith and their influence in today’s refugee crisis. What are we called to “in the name of these refugees?”
We offer these resources to invite and encourage conversation, reflection and discernment around our individual and collective calls to refugee ministry.
- Advent Reflections: We invite you into the journey of Advent with us as we reflect on the meaning of the season and the ministry of resettlement and welcome. You can find the series on our Vimeo channel – https://vimeo.com/emmrefugees
- Bulletin inserts: Share this bulletin insert with your congregation so members can learn more about Episcopal Migration Ministries, refugee resettlement, and how to join our #SupportRefugees campaign – http://files.constantcontact.com/14dca6bf401/02ff8578-312e-4d8e-999f-ae9a3010f094.pdf
- Prayers of the People: If you are in a congregation, consider using the Prayers of the People for Refugees and Displaced People written by Alyssa Stebbing, Outreach Director of Trinity Episcopal Church, The Woodlands, in the context of a service or vigil – https://www.dropbox.com/s/fm9jzae07t4s3ap/Prayers%20of%20People%20for%20Refugees.pdf?dl=0
Do you hear the prophet’s voice calling you to right some wrongs and bring justice and hope to others? Every prayer, every phone call and letter, every dollar we give makes a difference. We can do this together.
Let us pray –
Gracious and loving God, you send prophets into the world to call us to examine our lives that we might become the voice for those whose voices are not heard, the hands for those whose reach is too short, and the feet for those who are crippled by injustice and oppression. As we wait for the revealing of Jesus at Christmas, may we not sit idle or get lost in the hustle and bustle of the way our culture prepares for this season but, instead, may we use this time of Advent to make a difference in the world around us that others would see Jesus revealed in their lives. We ask this, O Lord, because we know you love it when we pray. Amen.
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee