Pastoral Letter on the El Paso Shootings
Recently, we were in El Paso at the invitation of the Border Network for Human Rights to highlight the violence that their community has been suffering. We heard stories of families separated, asylum seekers turned away and refugees detained like prisoners of war. We heard how their community has been militarized and how poor border communities have been especially targeted. We promised that we would do everything in our power to compel the nation to see this violence. Just a few days later, a terrorist opened fire in El Paso. And then another attack occurred in Dayton.
In reflecting on these outbreaks of violence, our hearts are broken. This moment demands a moral reckoning with who we are and who we want to become as a nation.
The truth is that, while every generation has worked to push us toward becoming a more perfect union, we have also tolerated lies that beget violence. America’s founding fathers spoke of liberty, while drafting documents that called Native Americans savages, accepted the enslavement of Africans, and ignored the voices of women. This hypocrisy created space for slaveholder religion to bless white supremacy, pseudo-science to justify eugenics, a sick sociology to pit people against one another, and predatory policies to scapegoat non-white immigrants and blame poverty on the poor.
To our religious leaders and people of faith, we call on you to offer moral leadership in the public square. If you have condoned the lies of white nationalism or remained silent, you have failed to keep your sacred vows. We ask you to recall the struggles of our ancestors so we can work together to build up a more perfect union in our common life.
We call on all people of faith and conscience to sign on to this letter and share it throughout your networks. Let us prevent this violence from defining who we are as a nation and people.
Forward together, not one step back.
- Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, President, Repairers of the Breach and Co-Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival
- Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, Director, Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice and Co-Chair of the *Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival
- Rev. Teresa Hord Owens, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
- Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President, Union of Reform Judaism
- Minister Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Red Letter Christians
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, wrote Aug 1, 2019.
(Religion New Service, July 30, 2019) — Sixteen years ago, when I and other human rights advocates were deported from Iraq by Saddam Hussein’s regime just days before its collapse, we were welcomed into a United Nations refugee camp on the Jordanian border, where we received medical attention, food and accommodations in spacious air-conditioned tents.
The same can’t be said for those staying at the makeshift camp at the U.S. border in Juarez, Mexico, where 200 migrants from Central America and Africa have found temporary shelter.
When we arrived there on Sunday (July 28), we met migrants in the dirt courtyard outside a block building without air conditioning and heard their stories under the desert sun.
I had traveled to Juarez with fellow leaders of the Poor People’s Campaign, the Revs. William J. Barber II, Liz Theoharis and Robin Tanner, as well as Imam Omar Suleiman of the Yaqeen Institute, Rabbi Rick Jacobs of the Union for Reform Judaism and Shane Claiborne of the Red Letter Christians network.
We were there at the invitation of the Border Network for Human Rights, a grassroots advocacy group that has organized in the borderlands for more than 20 years.
In each of our religious traditions, we minister to families in the midst of marriage and child-rearing, sickness and death, economic hardship and unexpected tragedy. The migrants we met in Juarez have faced challenges that would threaten any family. They shared stories of gang violence, domestic abuse and political turmoil in their home countries, along with the trials of their precarious journeys through Mexico.
Socialist Debs award
Every year since the mid 1960s the Indiana based Eugene V. Debs Foundation holds Eugene Debs Award Banquet in Terre Haute, to honor an approved social or labor activist. The 2005 honoree, was Rick Jacobs.