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US interfaith leaders leave Holy Land with deeper sense of possibilities

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The interfaith delegation gathers for a group photo outside the Peres Peace Center in Jaffa, Israel, following a meeting with former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

[Episcopal News Service] A tapestry of words such as “vulnerability” and “fragility,” “courage” and “dignity” were woven into a common thread as Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders from the United States concurred that they’d been transformed by a weeklong pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The experience, they said, would augment their responsibility to partners in Israel and the Palestinian Territories and inform the fabric of their future peacemaking work, both in the region and closer to home.

The 15-member interfaith group was co-led by Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori; Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA); and Sayyid Syeed, national director of interfaith and community alliances for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, share a moment of quiet reflection during a visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the holocaust. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

The group held meetings with Israelis and Palestinians, decision-makers, high-level politicians, religious and civic leaders, and shared in one another’s faith traditions as they traveled for nine days in Israel, the West Bank, and Jerusalem. Stops included Tel Aviv, Nazareth, Safed, Tiberius, Ramallah, the West Bank settlement of Gush Etzion and its surrounding areas, and both east and west Jerusalem.

While extended meetings with Palestinian government officials necessitated cancellation of a group trip to Bethlehem, some pilgrims visited the West Bank city between other meetings. The full group toured the separation barrier in its route around Bethlehem and its environs in the West Bank. A group visit to Hebron was canceled because of last-minute schedule alterations as a winter storm approached the U.S. forcing some participants to change their departure plans.

(An ENS article about the group’s meeting with political leaders is available here.)

As the group reflected on the week, in conversation at the Palestinian-run hotel where they were staying inside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, Gutow described the journey as “a pilgrimage of relationship.

Rabbi Batya Steinlauf, director of social justice and interfaith initiatives for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, takes a photo of members of the Muslim delegation (from left) Mohamed Elsanousi, director of external relations for Finn Church Aid; Sayyid Syeed, national director of interfaith and community alliances for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA); and Azhar Azeez, president of ISNA. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

“We thickened together as we traversed the holy soil of the holiest of lands. We saw the beauty of the place and we saw its pain. We grew in our understanding,” he said. “It is not the simple vision with which we entered the land but rather the complexity, the nuance, the stories (good and bad), the difficulties that now define our vision of what is there. Holiness takes a bit of work.”

Jefferts Schori said that the pilgrims’ “willingness to enter into deep conversation and both to teach and to learn in the interchanges will continue to resonate. I feel like we’ve had a taste of the eternal reality which our traditions seek.”

She also noted that, as an interfaith coalition, “we have a voice that can speak to political leaders, to other religious leaders, to other civic leaders. There is the potential to light some fires, in the best sense, around the United States, of hope and possibility if we speak together … May we be vessels and instruments of the peace of the Holy One.”

The Quran, Syeed said, “tells us that we have invested human beings with nobility and dignity, but that in order to maintain that dignity we have a certain responsibility. It’s very difficult for us to go back and lose sight of that dignifying process that God has set for us: to look into each other’s eyes, see that there is an image of God, and believe that we cannot allow ourselves to be degenerated, and we will not allow others to be degenerated. It is our collective duty to save each other.”

Members of the interfaith delegation tour the separation barrier in its route around Bethlehem. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

The visit was planned in response to Resolution B019, passed by the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in 2012, that called for positive investment and engagement in the region and recommended that the presiding bishop develop an interfaith model pilgrimage that experiences multiple narratives. That resolution reiterated the Episcopal Church’s longstanding commitment to a negotiated two-state solution “in which a secure and universally recognized State of Israel lives alongside a free, viable and secure state for the Palestinian people.”

The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has lasted more than 60 years. U.S.-led peace negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders broke down in May 2014, with both sides blaming the other for failing to make adequate concessions on issues such as borders, the status of refugees, the sharing of Jerusalem, and the construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

Alexander D. Baumgarten, director of public engagement and mission communication for The Episcopal Church, and one of the pilgrimage’s organizers, said: “It strikes me that narrative is a really complicated thing, because narrative is born out of our own levels of trust with the communities and the people and the realities with which we identify, for us as well as for Israelis and Palestinians. That is a wonderful thing in many ways but it is also fraught with danger, because in clinging to our own narratives … we might fail to see the authentic truth in another narrative.”

Bishop Prince Singh of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

Bishop Prince Singh of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, a member of the Episcopal delegation, agreed. “We’ve not just celebrated our differences; we’ve moved into engaging more deeply the truths that each of us has grown with and has considered holy, but to be able to recognize it in another truth,” he said. “The various mirrors that have been presented have been a lot clearer because of this kind of transparency in community.”

Throughout the pilgrimage, Singh said that he’d found himself “going to deep places, which I cannot do if I’m not vulnerable. When we look at issues of justice, opinions can differ because of the lenses we use. But if, experientially, this is what beloved community can be, that gives me a lot of hope.”

The pilgrims said that the experience of journeying together as an interfaith community would also bear fruit when tackling pressing issues in their own contexts.

“I feel like God has thrown the pebble in the water and the ripples are just starting,” said Singh. “One such ripple for me is this template that can be applicable to peace on so many levels … One of the things I am taking away from here is to invite people into partnerships, and especially with the government, to see if we can figure out some solutions together, and if the faith communities can be helpful in the process … so that we can address some big issues like poverty and violence in our communities.”

Said Jefferts Schori: “I know there will be abundant opportunities for us to collaborate, in seeking healing in the Land of the Holy One, and in the nation we share in a different hemisphere. Peace building in one place impacts troubled and violent situations elsewhere.”

Members of the pilgrimage group have agreed to continue meeting now that they’re back in the United States, for the purpose of sharing trip reflections and recommendations with elected officials and to lead their own communities through an extended journey of shared advocacy, education and dialogue related to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to Baumgarten, Episcopalians can expect to hear more about this in the months between now and when the 78th General Convention begins in Salt Lake City in June.

Sharing in one another’s faith traditions and learning about Jerusalem as a shared holy city through the eyes of other faith leaders brought a new dimension to the group’s understanding of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim histories and present context in the Holy Land.

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Rabbi Leonard Gordon, interreligious relations chair for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, look out over Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

“We knew that each of our traditions saw the face of God in those hills and valleys; we now know that all of our traditions see the face of God there,” Gutow said. “As we grew together, we were able to feel God’s presence in each of our hearts, not just our own. That is the gift. We understand even more than we did, and seeing God’s face in each other only deepens our responsibility to the land, to each other and, frankly, to God.”

The interfaith group tours the archaeological excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

Mohamed Elsanousi, director of external relations for Finn Church Aid in the U.S., and a member of the Muslim delegation, said that the fellowship among faiths “strengthening our relationships and building trust among us” has been a pivotal part of the trip, especially in deepening his understanding of the land and its meaning as the “sacred places of all the children of Abraham.”

He said the experience also would create space for more opportunities intended to further dialogue and deepen understanding among faiths in the U.S. “This visit has put responsibility on us … because we’ve been given this opportunity to understand” and to act, he said.

Syeed spoke of several U.S.-based initiatives and publications – facilitated by ISNA and its interfaith partners – to combat ignorance, misunderstandings and to change people’s preconceived notions about the Abrahamic faiths.

“We are talking about a fellowship that is determined to change the situation – a transformative fellowship – so that has to be on strong grounds,” said Syeed, with specific reference to two resource guides for interfaith dialogue, Sharing the Well and Children of Abraham.

The pilgrims also recognized that sharing this journey with such a diverse group of religious leaders presents certain challenges and shifts people outside of their comfort zones.

Rabbi Leonard Gordon, interreligious relations chair for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said that the pilgrimage has involved, “a certain amount of contraction, in our regular prayer routines, our regular eating routines, our regular routines of speaking our mind. We have been deferential to one another.”

Gordon acknowledged that there have been moments of tension and discomfort but recognized that “it is hard to be together and to be in this world of conflict that many of us speak about all the time, and we’ve had to be in this place of listening, but I think we’ve done it wonderfully.”

Members of the group reflect on the weeklong pilgrimage before returning home to the U.S. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

Sharon Jones, executive assistant to Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori, was visiting the Holy Land for the first time. She said that the experience has been overwhelming but that she is returning to the United States with a new purpose and with a commitment to finding ways that she can respond.

Initial anxieties about spending a week with a new group of religious leaders and what she might be able to contribute to the pilgrimage were quashed after meeting everyone on the first evening. “I’ve felt community and I’ve felt a lot of trust, and we’ve shared so much.”

The Rev. Margaret Rose, deputy for ecumenical and interfaith relations for The Episcopal Church, said: “If we are pilgrims, we continue to be on that journey … We now need to determine what action should emerge, and that action really should require courage. I have experienced people here as being incredibly brave. So I pray for some bravery and courage to do some things that we haven’t done before.”

Azhar Azeez, president of the Islamic Society of North America, and Rabbi Batya Steinlauf, director of social justice and interfaith initiatives for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, in conversation ahead of meetings with Palestinian government officials. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

Rabbi Batya Steinlauf, director of social justice and interfaith initiatives for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, said that instead of looking at all of the things with which she is comfortable and familiar, she “looked up and out, and it felt really different because I am with a new community that sees from all these different perspectives. It touched me … I think a lot of what we’re trying to do is to see the world from God’s perspective, and I think that is one of the main messages we received: to remember that this belongs to God.”

Steinlauf noted that everyone the group met with “ultimately said that we are going to have hope and be optimistic … because you just have to be, and there’s a sense that, well there could be a miracle. To have such disparate views expressed and yet to hear that all are still holding out hope for a miracle, it’s nice to know that we are all working for one and with perseverance that we might actually get one.”

Azhar Azeez, president of the Islamic Society of North America, also spoke of seeing things from new perspectives, through the eyes of religious leaders, politicians, academics, authors and activists. “This land is a truly blessed land, but at the same time we find some huge challenges … It is very easy for me in America or anyone else in a Western society to talk about these issues, but the real challenges are faced by the people who live over here.”

Several members of the group said they had been moved and inspired by meetings with leaders of grassroots initiatives – the Shades Negotiation Program, EcoPeace and Roots – that bring together Israelis and Palestinians to hear and learn from one another’s narratives, and to build a peaceful society in which everyone can prosper.

“I was totally overwhelmed by the courage it took for each one of them,” said Gutow. “When you go against the tradition, whatever that tradition might be, when you go against your own people, when you’re willing to stand up and say, ‘this is not the right way to do it,’ that takes a certain kind of courage.”

Ethan Felson, vice president and general counsel for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and the Rev. Margaret Rose, Episcopal Church deputy for ecumenical and interfaith relations, talk during a visit to the Yardenit Baptismal Site on the Jordan River. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

Ethan Felson, vice president and general counsel for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said: “In a time when there is so much energy devoted to smashing one side or another, it was enriching to experience true peacemakers at work on the ground smashing their own comfort zones, and to travel among peacemakers doing the same thing.”

The people who are doing the most transformative work, Felson said, “aren’t the ones who are focused on a document or on policies or on calling out something, but rather about remaining where they are in their community in that authentic place and meeting others who similarly remain in that authentic place, and really embracing a different understanding of what it means for two people with different narratives to come to live alongside one another.”

The Rev. John E. Kitagawa, rector of St. Philip’s-in-the-Hills Episcopal Church in Tucson, Arizona, said: “We’ve heard from these incredible voices of people who are really putting themselves on the line, looking at themselves so intently, being able to make those conversions of heart. I am leaving in a more hopeful place than I thought I would be.”

In summing up the pilgrimage, Baumgarten said, “What I’ve been encouraged by on this trip was seeing that, especially away from the spotlight, Israelis and Palestinians really are challenging their communities to walk by a different road, and I think that now, in going home, we really are challenged to challenge our own communities to walk by another road.”

Baumgarten drew on the T.S. Eliot poem The Journey of the Magi, in which Eliot writes in the voices of the wise men, “We returned to our places, these Kingdoms. But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation.”

“That’s how I feel as an outcome of this trip,” said Baumgarten. “I feel that if everyone could come here and walk the road we’ve walked together, none of us would be at ease in our old dispensation.”

– Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter of the Episcopal News Service.

Joining hands in mission on Feb. 22, Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

[Episcopal Relief & Development press release] Congregations across The Episcopal Church will join hands in mission on Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday, Feb.22, with prayers, sermons and special offerings to support the organization’s work worldwide.

This year’s observance has particular significance, as Episcopalians and friends celebrate 75 years of healing a hurting world through the agency’s programs and partnerships. Today, Episcopal Relief & Development works with more than three million people each year in nearly 40 countries to strengthen communities and combat poverty, hunger and disease.

“This 75th Anniversary year is a special time to celebrate the dedicated efforts, generous contributions and steadfast prayers of supporters and partners who have made this journey possible,” said Rob Radtke, President. “I invite all Episcopalians to join me in holding this organization and its vibrant, global community in prayer, both on Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday and throughout the year.”

Five “I Believe” statements provide the core theme for Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday this year, rallying awareness and action in support of clean water, sustainable agriculture, child survival, economic empowerment and strong partnerships for long-term impact. Congregations may focus on a specific program area with downloadable educational and faith formation resources for all age groups, or incorporate the 75th Anniversary Prayers of the People and Collect into their liturgy. Planning guides and bulletin inserts in English and Spanish are available on the organization’s website at episcopalrelief.org/Sunday.

In addition, the 75th Anniversary edition of Lenten Meditations provides daily reflections for Ash Wednesday through Easter, and a new prayer resource called “Walk in Love” – based on the Anglican Cycle of Prayer, with personal stories and detailed descriptions from Episcopal Relief & Development’s partners and programs – offers weekly devotionals for the entire year.

“Lent is a time of reflection, for renewing our commitment to seeking and serving Christ in all persons and prayerfully considering how to use our own talents and resources to create an abundant shared future,” said Sean McConnell, Director of Engagement. “Episcopal Relief & Development seeks to bring Episcopalians and friends into closer relationship with Christ and with one another, as we strive together to build a global community where all God-given gifts are valued and utilized for the good of many.”

Lent was designated at the 2009 General Convention as a time to encourage dioceses, congregations and individuals to remember and support the life-saving work of Episcopal Relief & Development. Although the first Sunday in Lent is the official day, congregations may observe Episcopal Relief & Development on any Sunday during the Lenten season.

Lenten resources can be downloaded from episcopalrelief.org/Lent. Printed Lenten Meditations and Walk in Love booklets, as well as hope chests, offering envelopes, prayer cards and other materials, may be ordered from Episcopal Marketplace online or by calling 1.866.937.2772. Orders should be placed by February 10 for delivery to most locations by Ash Wednesday, though expedited shipping is available.

“One of the most inspiring aspects of the 75th Anniversary Celebration is talking with Episcopalians who care deeply about the work we do together and are actively sharing their stories and passion with others,” McConnell said. “This year’s Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday will be especially meaningful, as we reflect on our legacy of lifting up those most vulnerable and look toward the next 75 years of building community and relationships that support the holistic well-being of all Creation.”

Episcopal Relief & Development works with more than 3 million people in nearly 40 countries worldwide to overcome poverty, hunger and disease through multi-sector programs that utilize local resources and expertise. An independent 501(c)(3) organization, Episcopal Relief & Development works closely with Anglican Communion and ecumenical partners to help communities rebuild after disasters and develop long-term strategies to create a thriving future. In 2014-15, the organization joins Episcopalians and friends in celebrating 75 Years of Healing a Hurting World.     

Task Force on Study of Marriage presents final report

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Episcopal Church Task Force on the Study of Marriage has presented its final report to the 78th General Convention and to the Church, and for inclusion in Reports to General Convention, commonly referred to as The Blue Book.

The 122 page report in English is here.

The report in Spanish is here.

The Episcopal Church’s Task Force on the Study of Marriage was enabled by Resolution A050 at the 2012 General Convention.

The Episcopal Church’s 78th General Convention, June 25 – July 3, 2015 will be held at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, UT (Diocese of Utah).

The Episcopal Church’s General Convention is held every three years, and is the bicameral governing body of the Church. It is comprised of the House of Bishops, with upwards of 200 active and retired bishops and the House of Deputies, with clergy and lay deputies elected from the 109 dioceses of the Church, at more than 800 members.

Roanridge Trust Award Grants for leadership development programs

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The 2015 Roanridge Trust Award Grants, totaling $160,369 for 10 grants for transformative work across the church, have been announced by Sam McDonald, Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Director of Mission of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.

The Roanridge Trust Award grants are awarded annually for new and creative models for leadership development in small communities.

“It is exciting how the people of The Episcopal Church are engaging the mission opportunities in rural ministry settings,” McDonald stated.  “There is an incredible commitment to creative ministry. The vision for mission and ministries presented in these programs is inspiring.”

The Roanridge Trust was established by the Cochel family, who originally gave a working farm in Missouri called Roanridge to the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. The interest from the sale of the farm generates the grant funds.

Awarded for 2015 work were:

The Episcopal Diocese of Central New York: $4,900 for Utica/Rome District Discernment Team Training

The Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania: $10,000 for Stevenson School for Ministry

The Episcopal Diocese of Dominican Republic (link is external): $12,480 for Proyecto Taller Costura (Sewing Workshop Project)

The Episcopal Diocese of Honduras (link is external): $20,000 for Proyecto Jabes

The Episcopal Diocese of Iowa: $23,500 for Disenfranchised Young Adults:  Bridging the Gap in Rural Communities

The Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee: $10,489 for Social Justice Outreach Programs in Rural Churches

The Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota: $10,000 for Minnesota Indigenous-Ojibwe-Dakota Total Ministry Training Program

The Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska: $30,000 for the Bishop Kemper School for Ministry

The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia: $20,000 for Chaplains of the Harbor Bible Study Training

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina: $19,000 for Lifelong Christian Formation Training Program

For more info on Roanridge Trust

Dallas diocese announces 4 nominees for bishop

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

[Episcopal Diocese of Dallas press release] The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas has announced a slate of four nominees to stand for the election as 7th bishop of the diocese. The candidates are:

  • The Rev. Michael W. Michie, 46, rector of St. Andrew’s, McKinney, Texas;
  • The Rev. David G. Read, 49, rector of St. Luke’s, San Antonio, Texas;
  • The Rev. R. Leigh Spruill, 51, rector of St. George’s, Nashville, Tennessee;
  • The Rev. Dr. George R. Sumner, 59, principal of Wycliffe College, Toronto, Canada.

More information about each of the nominees is available at www.dallasbishopsearch.org.

A petition process for submitting additional names is open from Feb. 3-16. Complete information about the petition process and the petition form are available at www.dallasbishopsearch.org. If petition candidates are received, they will be announced by the Standing Committee and added to the slate no later than April 6, pending the required background checks.

The slate is the result of a seven-month discernment process conducted by a Bishop Search Committee composed of lay and clergy members from across the diocese and reporting to the Standing Committee. With the announcement of the slate, a Transition Committee, also made up of lay and clergy members from across the diocese, implements the next stages of the election process, also reporting to the Standing Committee.

The nominees will participate in a series of open “walkabout” meetings from April 20-23, allowing members of the diocese to meet and learn more about the candidates. More information on the times and locations of the meetings will be forthcoming, along with additional information on each candidate, on the bishop-search website.

The election will take place Saturday, May 16. A majority in each of the two orders (clergy and lay delegates) is required for the election of the new bishop. Consent is required from a majority of the Episcopal Church’s diocesan bishops and standing committees. The consecration of the bishop-elect is scheduled for November 2015.

The search for bishop began with the retirement of Bishop James M. Stanton, who served in the role for 21 years until May 2014. The Episcopal Diocese of Dallas is home to more than 70 congregations in the Northeast Texas area, where the combined average Sunday attendance is about 11,300.

Central Pennsylvania ordains Robert Hughes Schoeck

Monday, February 2, 2015

[Diocese of Central Pennsylvania] The Rev. Robert Hughes Schoeck was ordained a priest on Saturday Jan. 31, 2015, at St. James Episcopal Church, Lancaster. Pictured here (l to r) are the Rev. Lauren Schoeck, wife of Rob, newly ordained the Rev. Rob Schoeck, the Rt. Rev. Robert Gepert and the Rev. David Peck, rector of St. James.

La Universidad de Cuttington en Liberia necesita ayuda para reabrir el próximo mes

Monday, February 2, 2015

En lo que esperan que la universidad reabra, muchos estudiantes de la Universidad de Cuttington, así como profesores y miembros del personal, han sido empleados en la Unidad de Tratamiento del Ébola del condado de Bong, en el Distrito de Suakoko, que es parte del Cuerpo Médico Internacional. Entre ellos se cuentan Chris N. Kollie, fumigador; Alex D. Iolleh, supervisor de sanidad; Jerome D. Padmore, fumigador, la estudiante de enfermería Sophie Jarpa, supervisora de lavado; Nameyeah D. Dunn, enfermera graduada de Cuttington; la estudiante de enfermería Eileen M. Gbassagee, repartidora de medicamentos, la estudiante de enfermería Love Fassama, auxiliar de enfermera. Foto: Universidad de Cuttington.

[Episcopal News Service] El esfuerzo del gobierno liberiano para reabrir las escuelas públicas y privadas del país afectadas por el ébola ha venido a resaltar, una vez más, la importancia que tiene para el país la Universidad de Cuttington —de la Iglesia Episcopal de Liberia— tanto como su precaria situación económica.

El decreto del gobierno ordena la reapertura de 5.000 escuelas públicas y privadas que han estado cerradas desde fines de julio por mandato gubernamental. En tanto las 35 escuelas secundarias de la diócesis liberiana esperan darle la bienvenida a los estudiantes ese día, las tres sedes de Cuttington han obtenido autorización del gobierno para aplazar la reapertura hasta el 16 de febrero debido a la magnitud de la tarea a realizar, según el Rdo. James Callaway, secretario general de los Colegios y Universidades de la Comunión Anglicana.

El campus principal de la Universidad de Cuttington se encuentra en el interior de la región central de Liberia, en el Distrito de Suakoko, a unos 9 kilómetros de Gbarnga, la capital del Condado de Bong. El Condado de Bong es uno de los epicentros del brote del ébola en el África Occidental. El personal de la Universidad ayudó a las comunidades vecinas durante el peor momento de la epidemia, al tiempo que temía por el impacto de la enfermedad en el futuro de la universidad y lamentaba la pérdida de graduados y amigos. Muchos de los graduados que murieron de ébola eran trabajadores sanitarios.

Cuttington, fundada en 1889 en Liberia por la Iglesia Episcopal de los Estados Unidos, tiene otras dos sedes, una escuela para posgraduados en Monrovia, la capital del país, y una universidad comunitaria a unos 72 kilómetros al sur de Monrovia.

La reanudación de las clases en Liberia es “una señal de que el país se está reponiendo”, dijo el Rdo. Ranjit Matthews, encargado de sistemas de comunicaciones en la Red de la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera (DFMS) para el personal de la misión y África.
“La reapertura de Cuttington será un gran paso en la recuperación de Liberia de la crisis del ébola, tal como fue su reapertura en 2004 antes de que la guerra civil se acabara”, añadió el Rvdmo. Herbert Donovan, presidente de los Amigos Americanos de la Universidad de Cuttington.

Cuttington no se ha mantenido ociosa durante los seis meses de clausura. La Agencia de EE.UU. para el Desarrollo Internacional  contrató al Cuerpo Médico Internacional para dirigir una Unidad de Tratamiento de Ébola de 70 camas cercano a la universidad y solicitó la ayuda de Cuttington.

“Gentilmente y en la práctica sin costo alguno, la universidad puso a disposición de estos asociados —que habían venido a ayudar a nuestra amada nación en esta gran batalla por la supervivencia— sus principales instalaciones, incluidos dormitorios, vivienda del personal, almacenes, combustible, cafetería, cocina y terrenos” escribió el 27 de enero el administrador E. Lama Wonkeryor en un informe de 13 páginas sobre la situación.
La Universidad de Cuttington alberga al personal de la organización médica y también es la base de su Colaboración de Adiestramiento Interinstitucional, que prepara a los trabajadores sanitarios para tratar casos de ébola en las Unidades para el Tratamiento del Ébola, según Lisa Ellis, directora de comunicaciones globales del grupo.

Wonkamah G. Gono, de la clase graduando de la escuela de comercio de la Universidad de Cuttington, presta servicios como encargado de adquisiciones del Centro de Tratamiento de Ébola del Condado de Bong. Foto/ Universidad de Cuttington

Algunos de los profesores, empleados y estudiantes de Cuttington han estado trabajando en la vecina unidad de tratamiento, mientras esperan que la casa de estudios reabra, dijo el administrador.

Además, la Armada de EE.UU. abrió un laboratorio móvil de ébola, a principios de octubre, en el nuevo edificio, levantado a un costo multimillonario, del Colegio de Ciencias Aliadas de la Salud. La apertura del laboratorio redujo el tiempo de espera para los resultados de los exámenes de sangre para el ébola de tres a cuatro días a tres o cuatro horas, reduciendo así el tiempo de exposición al virus para los no infectados.

“La estructura no ha sido inaugurada aún”, escribió Wonkeryor refiriéndose al edificio del Colegio de Ciencias Aliadas de la Salud. “Pero puesto que en verdad la universidad está comprometida con servir a la humanidad, esta oferta casi inapreciable puede ayudar a salvar las vidas de liberianos.”

El teniente James Regeimbal descontamina e inspecciona muestras de la documentación recibida en el laboratorio móvil del Centro Naval de Investigación Médica en la Universidad de Cuttington. El Centro Naval de Investigación Médica envió dos laboratorios móviles a Liberia. Cada laboratorio, manejado por dos personas, puede examinar hasta 80 muestras por día. Foto del primer contramaestre Jerrold Diederich/Armada de EE.UU.

El teniente James Regeimbal Jr., microbiólogo que trabaja con el equipo de la Armada que ha establecido esos laboratorios por todo el país, escribió que durante los primeros 60 días “éramos el único laboratorio accesible a las muestras de prueba de la Liberia rural para siete de los grandes condados periféricos. Nuestra localización y la rapidez de las pruebas significó que todos los condados periféricos podían obtener los resultados de las pruebas el mismo día.”

El arzobispo Jonathan Bau-Bau Bonaparte Hart, de Liberia, hizo un llamado el 10 de enero, en el que pedía más de $1.300.000 para lograr la rápida reapertura de Cuttington. La mayor parte de esta solicitud cubre el costo de contratar de nuevo a los maestros, e incluye más de $740.000 en pagos atrasados y costos de reubicación.

Al profesorado no le han pagado desde que la universidad cerró sus recintos en agosto, según un documento que bosquejaba las necesidades de la escuela. Cuttington depende económicamente de las matrículas para pagar a los profesores y para cubrir otros costos operativos.

“Además de pagar los salarios atrasados del personal, existe también la necesidad de añadir una compensación simbólica para ayudar al personal a hacerle frente a algunas de sus dificultades económicas desde el momento de la clausura de la escuela hasta el presente”, escribió Wonkeryor en la solicitud. “Tal gesto puede hacer mucho para ayudarlos a reubicarse, y a prepararse mental y físicamente para trabajar.”

Los restantes $644.000 de la solicitud de Cuttington se necesitan para cosas tales como pupitres y escritorios, tanto para las aulas como para las oficinas de los maestros, renovaciones de dormitorios y cafeterías, materiales para velar contra la propagación del ébola, medicamentos para la clínica de la escuela, nuevos generadores de electricidad para el campus principal y para la escuela de postgraduados en Monrovia (y para el mantenimiento de los generadores actuales), cinco vehículos para uso de la administración, para el transporte de los estudiantes y para generar ingresos, y una podadora de césped y un tractor para el campus principal.

La Armada está utilizando el generador del campus para darle electricidad a su laboratorio, siendo ésta una de las primeras veces en la historia de Cuttington que ha estado generando corriente sin parar. Sin embargo, esa planta se ha reportado que está  desgastada y la solicitud de Hart incluye $60.000 para reemplazarla.

Cuttington también debe liquidar facturas con sus proveedores y lidiar con sus sobregiros bancarios.

El resumen del administrador incluye un presupuesto y una explicación de los problemas en torno a cada una de las áreas que necesitan atención y dinero. Hart hacía notar en un email enviado junto con la solicitud que la diócesis de Liberia estaba explorando la obtención de ayuda financiera y de otro tipo de fuentes locales.

Sin embargo, Donovan afirmó que la universidad está buscando ayuda de manera más amplia. “Como lo sabe cualquiera que haya pasado por un desastre, la ayuda de amigos y vecinos es un mundo de diferencia”, apuntó. Donovan inició una campaña en 2004 después de la segunda Guerra Civil Liberiana para reemplazar los techos de zinc que les habían arrancado a los edificios los saqueadores.

En su solicitud, Hart llamaba a Cuttington, “un orgullo de la Iglesia Episcopal de Liberia” y Matthews dijo que a Cuttington se le conocía como “la Harvard de Liberia.”

El estudiante Chris N. Kollie, que trabaja rociando desinfectante, y la estudiante de enfermería Sophie Jarpa, que es supervisora de lavado, se encuentran en servicio activo en la Unidad de Tratamiento del Ébola en el Condado de Bong, en tanto el condado disfruta del estatus de “ningún caso nuevo” por espacio de más de un mes, gracias en parte a los voluntarios y a la administración de la Universidad de Cuttington. Foto/Universidad de Cuttington.

Cuttington, la única universidad residencial del país, es la sede de la escuela de enfermería de Liberia y, porque ofrece la única licenciatura en enfermería del país, muchos de sus graduados trabajan en situaciones de atención crítica. Muchos aspirantes a médicos estudian una licenciatura en biología en Cuttington antes de solicitar ingreso en la única escuela médica del país —el Colegio de Medicina A.M. Dogliotti—  y los graduados de Cuttington constituyen la mayor parte de los estudiantes de Dogliotti.
Hart explicaba en su solicitud que el carácter residencial de Cuttington hace su administración muy costosa.

El actual brote de ébola comenzó en Guinea en diciembre de 2013 y ahora afecta a Guinea, Liberia y Sierra Leona, según la Organización Mundial de la Salud de Naciones Unidas. Desde entonces, ha habido más de 21.000 casos confirmados, probables y sospechosos de la enfermedad, y más de 8.600 muertes, según informó la OMS el 21 de enero, haciendo notar que se desconocen los resultados de muchos casos. Las incidencias de nuevos casos de ébola han disminuido desde un pico de más de 300 casos confirmados por semana en agosto y septiembre de 2014 a ocho casos confirmados en los siete días que terminan el 18 de enero, dijo la organización.

Naciones Unidas dio a conocer el 19 de enero que el gobierno liberiano había anunciado que la semana pasada no había habido ningún caso nuevo de ébola en 12 de los 15 condados del país.

Matthews participó en una teleconferencia de la Alianza Anglicana el 22 de enero durante la cual Hart hizo notar que si bien los casos de ébola en África Occidental habían descendido considerablemente, aún quedaba mucho trabajo por hacer. Hart, como líder de la Provincia Interna de África Occidental en la Iglesia de la Provincia de África Occidental, supervisa a los obispos de la Comunión Anglicana de Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Cabo Verde, sierra Leona, Gambia, Camerún y Liberia. Él, por tanto, tiene una amplia perspectiva de la devastación y de los retos provocados por la epidemia del ébola.

El Ministerio de Educación del país ha publicado unos protocolos para un ambiente escolar seguro, los cuales, según informes noticiosos, exigen que todos los centros de enseñanza impongan mecanismos para mantener el ébola fuera del aula. [Estos protocolos] incluyen medición de la temperatura corporal, sitios para lavarse las manos, un sistema de referencia [de pacientes] y la capacidad para el aislamiento temporal si algún estudiante cae enfermo.

Para ayudar en el empeño de la reapertura de Cuttington, pueden hacerse donaciones a Friends of Cuttington Inc., una organización 501(c)3 cuyo propósito es “solicitar y recibir contribuciones de donantes para becas y programas de la Universidad de Cuttington en Liberia (exentos de impuestos).” Los cheques deben hacerse pagaderos a Friends of Cuttington y enviarse a la Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, 815 Second Ave., New York, NY 10017

— La Rda. Mary Frances Schjonberg es redactora y corresponsal de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri

Center for Religion and Environment names new assistant director

Monday, February 2, 2015

[Sewanee: The University of the South press release] The Center for Religion and Environment (CRE) has named School of Theology faculty member Dr. Andrew R. H. Thompson as its new assistant director. An environmental ethicist, Thompson was added to the faculty in 2014 as a post-doctoral fellow to expand the School’s commitment to this critical area. In 2013, the School began to offer an M.A concentration in religion and the environment.

“Religion and ecology is an exciting and critical field. Religious commitments and communities will play an important role in any forthcoming solutions to current ecological crises. I can’t imagine a more appropriate, or frankly a more enjoyable, place to be engaging with these issues than in Sewanee.”

Thompson’s book, All My Holy Mountain: A Christian Ethical Approach to Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining, will be published later this year by the University Press of Kentucky.

Thompson is currently co-teaching a course on the ethics of climate change with NASA climatologist Dr. Michael Coffey as part of the M.A. concentration. Coffey will present some of the fundamentals of the Earth’s climate system before addressing how that system is changing and what is driving those changes. Thompson will lead discussions about the difficult moral challenges raised by climate change and the potential ethical responses to those challenges.

“Andrew’s contributions to ethics as it pertains to the environment are important as we expand our academic offerings in this arena,” explains the Rt. Rev. J. Neil Alexander, dean of The School of Theology. “As an Episcopal seminary with access to a distinguished interdisciplinary environmental studies program, an active Center for Religion and Environment that spans the University curriculum, and a 13,000-acre domain rich with lakes, forests, and 50 miles of trails, The School of Theology offers an unparalleled opportunity to study for a graduate degree in the field of religion and ecology.”

Additionally, CRE is relocating its office to The School of Theology, on the first floor of Hamilton Hall. This location better reflects CRE’s role as a link between The School of Theology and other University programs related to environmental concerns.

The Center for Religion and Environment‘s (CRE) threefold mission is to help students of the University of the South and the broader community integrate religious belief with care for the environment, to prepare students across the curriculum for environmentally conscientious work and ministry, and to serve as a focal point for University-wide initiatives related to religion and the environment. Robin Gottfried, professor of economics, emeritus, serves as the executive director of the CRE.

Sewanee: The University of the South comprises a nationally recognized College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, a School of Letters, and a distinguished School of Theology (seminary and The Beecken Center) serving The Episcopal Church. Located on 13,000 acres atop Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau, Sewanee enrolls 1,550 undergraduates and approximately 170 seminarians in master’s and doctoral programs annually. Sewanee is owned by 28 Episcopal dioceses, the only university so directly related to The Episcopal Church.

Southeast Florida diocese elects Peter Eaton as bishop coadjutor

Monday, February 2, 2015

[Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida] The Very Rev. Peter Eaton, dean of St. John’s Cathedral in Denver, Colorado, was elected as bishop coadjutor of the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida on Jan. 31, pending the required consents from a majority of bishops with jurisdiction and standing committees of The Episcopal Church.

Eaton, 56, was elected during a special convention held at Trinity Cathedral in Miami. He was elected on the fourth ballot out of a field of six nominees. He received 87 votes of 161 cast in the lay order and 72 of 125 cast in the clergy order. An election on that ballot required 82 in the lay order and 63 in the clergy order.

“I shall strive every day to be worthy of the trust and confidence that you have placed in me today,” said Eaton following the election. “I am particularly honored to be called to work with Bishop Frade, who, with his wife Diana, enjoys the respect and love not just of the Diocese of Southeast Florida, but of so many in our Church.”

A bishop coadjutor is elected to replace the diocesan bishop upon retirement. Frade, diocesan bishop since 2000, will retire in January 2016.

Under the canons (III.11.4) of The Episcopal Church, a majority of bishops exercising jurisdiction and diocesan standing committees must consent to Eaton’s ordination as bishop coadjutor within 120 days of receiving notice of the election.

Eaton has served as dean at St. John’s Cathedral since 2002. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1982 from King’s College, London, along with an Associate of King’s College in theology. In 1985, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Theology degree from Queen’s College, Cambridge, and in 1989 a Master of Arts degree. In 1986, he earned a Certificate in Theology from Wescott House Seminary in Cambridge. From 1989-1991, he was a graduate research student in Early Christian history and literature at Magdalen College, Oxford.

The other nominees were:

• The Rev. Michael J. Battle, 51, interim dean for students and community life, Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts;
• The Very Rev. DeDe Duncan-Probe, 52, rector of St. Peter’s in the Woods Episcopal Church in Fairfax  Station, Virginia;
• The Rev. John C. N. Hall, 56, rector of St. Boniface Episcopal Church in Sarasota, Florida;
• The Rev. Allen F. Robinson, 44, rector of St. James Episcopal Church in Baltimore, Maryland;
• The Rev. Canon Martin W. Zlatic, 58, rector of St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church in Boynton Beach, Florida.

Pending the required consents, Eaton will be ordained and consecrated as the bishop coadjutor of Southeast Florida on Saturday, May 9 at Trinity Cathedral in Miami.

The Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida includes 76 congregations, with approximately 38,000 parishioners, from Key West north to Jensen Beach and west to Clewiston.

Episcopal City Mission awards grants for Massachusetts social justice

Monday, February 2, 2015

ECM’s 2014 Burgess Urban Fund grantees at award reception with ECM board members and staff.

[Episcopal City Mission press release] Episcopal City Mission (ECM), a faith-based ministry which promotes social and economic justice working through congregations, community-based organizations and people within the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, presented their Burgess Urban Fund grants to 20 Massachusetts grassroots community organizations working to make profound changes to social injustice.

The Burgess Urban Fund (BUF) was established in 1975 to improve the lives of the urban poor and oppressed. Grants are intended to reach community-based organizations that have the power and capacity to reach into many neighborhoods. Over its 40 years, BUF has awarded nearly $7.0 million in grants; this year grants ranged from $10,000 to $20,000.

“The Burgess Urban Fund recognizes that community organizing is an important process that develops power and capacity in solidarity with those in need. Strong organizing requires grantees to engage members of the community to identify shared concerns and create goals for social change; develop new leaders, especially among those affected by social inequality; undertake projects with concrete goals for the core constituency; articulate both the immediate and root causes of the problem through social change, and collaborate with other organizations, regional and statewide,” said Dr. Ruy Costa, Executive Director, Episcopal City Mission. The fund focuses on six key areas: faith-based organizing, immigrants’ rights, workers’ rights, housing/tenants’ rights, poverty-related organizing and youth organizing.

This year’s 20 Burgess Urban Fund grantees are:

Agencia ALPHA, Boston
Boston Youth Organizing Project
Brazilian Immigrant Center, Brighton
Brazilian Women’s Group, Brighton
Brockton Interfaith Community
Centro Comunitario de Trabajadores, New Bedford
Community Economic Development Center of Southeastern Massachusetts, Fall River
Dominican Development Center, Jamaica Plain
Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation: Youth Force
Ex-Prisoners Organizing for Community Advancement, Worcester
Greater Four Corners Action Coalition, Dorchester
Massachusetts Community Action Network, Dorchester
Merrimack Valley Project, Lawrence
MetroWest Worker Center, Framingham
Student Immigrant Movement, Boston
United Neighbors of Fitchburg
WATCH, Waltham
Women Encouraging Empowerment, Revere
Worcester Homeless Action Committee
Youth on Board, Boston

“ECM’s Burgess Urban Fund grant and support of our work has enabled us to have great success with the recent Raise Up Massachusetts campaign winning an increase in the minimum wage from $8 to $11 an hour, and up to 5 days of sick time for all workers.  This will make a huge difference to families that struggle daily to make ends meet and make difficult decisions about whether to go to work or stay home to take care of a sick child. Our 2014 grant will build on this victory towards taking the next step for economic and racial justice,” said Lew Finfer, Executive Director of Massachusetts Communities Action Network.

ABOUT EPISCOPAL CITY MISSION

Incorporated in 1844, ECM seeks to mobilize Episcopal parishes, individuals and resources in partnership with other community organizations for social structural change in Massachusetts, with particular emphasis on the urban poor. ECM does this through support for community organizing, mission-related investments in affordable housing, parish-based community economic development, and public policy advocacy. The Burgess Urban Fund was established as a tribute to The Rt. Rev. John Melville Burgess, former Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts; he wanted a collection of money given to community-based organizations that empowered the poor. ECM’s mission is to work for the economic wellbeing of the underserved as an expression of God’s grace.

Rapidísimas

Monday, February 2, 2015

El poeta, revolucionario y activista nicaragüense Ernesto Cardenal ha cumplido 90 años de vida con un aspecto físico bien deteriorado y con ideas inalterables sobre los cambios que necesita América Latina. En conversación con varios medios Cardenal dijo que los sandinistas de hoy han traicionado la memoria de Sandino que luchó contra la intervención militar en su país. Cardenal también dijo que el papa Juan Pablo II se alió con los peores exponentes de la lucha latinoamericana como el mexicano fundador de los Legionarios de Cristo, Marcial Masiel. Preguntado sobre qué deseaba hacer el resto de su vida, dijo que no “quería homenajes, ni exaltaciones de su obra. Quiero que me dejen morir tranquilo”.

En una festiva celebración, la presbítera anglicana Libby Lane ha sido consagrada como la primera mujer en el episcopado de la Iglesia de Inglaterra, una lucha que llevó varias décadas. Docenas de obispos tomaron lugar alrededor de ella en señal de solidaridad. Cuando el arzobispo de York, John Sentamu, principal consagrante, pidió el consentimiento verbal de la consagración se oyó una fuerte voz diciendo “No, no en mi nombre”. El arzobispo continuó el ceremonial sin inmutarse. Lane será obispa sufragánea de la diócesis de Stockport. Está casada con un sacerdote, toca el saxofón y le encantan los deportes. En la Comunión Anglicana hay 29 mujeres obispas.

La Iglesia Anglicana de Kenia aún mira a la Iglesia de Inglaterra como la “iglesia madre” y por eso le duele acciones de ésta como la ordenación de mujeres. La noticia de que Inglaterra tiene una mujer en el episcopado ha irritado a muchos pero se espera que esto sea “una nube de verano” dicen observadores.

Marcus Borg, prominente teólogo liberal luterano y uno que ha estudiado profundamente la vida de Jesús, ha fallecido a la edad de 72 años. Fue uno de los fundadores del “Seminario de Jesús”, un movimiento que trata de buscar en textos antiguos las palabras de Jesús y qué significado tienen ahora a la luz de nuevos descubrimientos. Borg mantuvo su filiación con la Iglesia Luterana aunque con frecuencia asistía a la Iglesia Episcopal donde su esposa, Marianne, sirve en una parroquia.

El papa Francisco dijo desde el balcón de su apartamento en la Plaza de San Pedro en ocasión de la Semana de Oración por la Unidad Cristiana: “¡Es feo que los cristianos estemos divididos! Jesús nos quiere unidos en un solo cuerpo pero nuestros pecados, la historia nos ha dividido y por eso debemos orar mucho para que el Espíritu Santo nos vuelva a unir”.

Con la muerte del rey de Arabia Saudita, Salman bin Abdul–Aziz Al Saud, se abre un nuevo capítulo en la nación petrolera y amiga de occidente.  Su muerte coincidió con la sentencia de 10 años de prisión y 1,000 azotes por criticar al islam. Muchos se preguntan si el nuevo rey introducirá nuevos cambios durante su reinado. Veremos.

La Iglesia Presbiteriana en Estados Unidos próximamente dará un cambio radical que seguramente causará controversias. El cambio consiste en permitir que hombres y mujeres del mismo sexo puedan contraer matrimonio en la iglesia y servir como pastores. La decisión, que también se aplica a diáconos y ancianos gobernantes, no requiere que la iglesia ordene a candidatos gays pero elimina las barreras que hasta ahora impedían su ordenación. Uno de los líderes del movimiento gay dijo que “en las congregaciones hay muchas personas que se sienten llamados por Dios al ministerio ordenado”. La Iglesia Presbiteriana una de las principales denominaciones protestantes en Estados Unidos tiene una feligresía de 2.8 millones de miembros.

La obispa presidenta de la Iglesia Episcopal visitó recientemente la República Dominicana y sostuvo un diálogo con miembros de la comunidad haitiana residentes de Santa Fe, San Pedro de Macorís. Muchas de estas personas han perdido su ciudadanía por decisión de la Corte Constitucional de 2013 que los despojó de su ciudadanía dominicana por su origen haitiano. Se cree que unas 200 mil personas están en esa situación.

El presidente venezolano Nicolás Maduro pasa por una seria situación política. Su extenso viaje por Asia y el Oriente Medio no produjo los préstamos que buscaba, su popularidad ha ido en picada, cada día el desabastecimiento es mayor y ahora niega que los ex presidentes de Colombia, Chile y México visiten al encarcelado líder político Leopoldo López acción que le traerá “mala prensa” tanto en Venezuela como en otros países.

CONSUELO. Encomienda al Señor tu camino, confía en él que él actuará. Salmo 37:5

Standing Committee asks Maryland bishop suffragan to resign

Friday, January 30, 2015

[Episcopal News Service] The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland wants Bishop Suffragan Heather Cook to resign her position in the diocese in the wake of her involvement in a fatal car accident.

“The Standing Committee has concluded that Bishop Heather Cook can no longer function effectively in her position as Bishop Suffragan. Therefore, we respectfully call for her resignation from her service to the Diocese,” the committee said in a Jan. 28 statement.

Diocese of Maryland Bishop Suffragan Heather Cook, who remains on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into her involvement in a fatal accident, has been asked by the diocesan standing committee to resign. Photo: Diocese of Maryland

The committee’s request is “under advisement right now,” Cook’s attorney, David Irwin, told Episcopal News Service Jan. 30. “We just got the letter a couple of days ago.”

The Standing Committee said the unanimous decision was made Jan. 22 “after significant and prayerful discernment, and with due and proper consideration of the best interests of the Diocese and its people.” The committee sent Cook a certified letter on Jan. 26 asking for her resignation.

In a Jan. 28 press release, Maryland Bishop Eugene Sutton said, “It was clear that our lay and clergy leaders on the Standing Committee felt that the best interests of the diocese would be served were Heather to resign. Since this does not impede the Episcopal Church’s investigation into the matter, it is my hope Heather will see the wisdom in this recommendation.”

The diocese “is acting as swiftly as it can in the context of the Episcopal Church’s disciplinary action,” the release said, adding that “… nothing prevents her from resigning as an employee of the Diocese of Maryland.”

Cook spent six days in a Baltimore jail after being charged in connection with a fatal car accident in which she allegedly was intoxicated and texting as she struck and killed bicyclist Thomas Palermo, 41. She is also accused of leaving the scene for more than 30 minutes before returning and being arrested. She is now out on bail and at an alcohol-treatment facility, her lawyer said.

The diocese said shortly after the accident that Cook was involved.

The bishop faces eight charges, including four criminal counts of negligent manslaughter by vehicle, criminal negligent manslaughter by vehicle, negligently driving under the influence resulting in a homicide and negligent homicide involving an auto or boat while impaired. Those four charges carry a combined maximum penalty of 21 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

The other four charges are traffic offenses of failing to remain at an accident resulting in death, failing to remain at the scene of an accident resulting in bodily injury, using a text-messaging device while driving causing an accident with death or serious injury, and driving under the influence of alcohol.

Cook was formally charged Jan. 9 and turned herself in later that day after an arrest warrant was issued. She was booked into jail and a $2.5 million bail was set. A judge later refused to lower the bail amount, according to news reports.

Cook was bailed out Jan. 25 by Mark H. Hansen, a deposed Episcopal priest whom she referred to as her “steady companion” and a “passionate Anglican” in an autobiographical statement submitted as part of the search process that resulted in her being elected suffragan in May 2014. The bishop said in her autobiographical statement that she and Hansen had dated in their 20s and reconnected in 2012.

Hansen posted $35,000 in collateral and signed a $215,000 promissory note agreeing to pay $1,000 a month, according to the Baltimore Sun. The paper reported that the only condition of her release is that she not drive.

Cook returned that day to Father Martin’s Ashley, a drug and alcohol treatment facility near Havre de Grace, Maryland, where she had spent 12 days after the accident before being charged, Irwin told ENS.

A preliminary hearing had been scheduled for Feb. 6 but Irwin said Cook withdrew her request for that hearing. The next step in the legal process is up to Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who said Jan. 9 when she charged Cook that she intended to present the case to a grand jury.

Meanwhile, The Episcopal Church’s disciplinary process is in motion. Title IV of the Canons of The Episcopal Church governs ecclesiastical discipline of clergy members. Canon 17 of Title IV outlines the disciplinary process for bishops.

There is also an ongoing review of the process that resulted in Cook’s election, said Sutton in a Jan. 13 pastoral letter.

Cook was arrested in 2010 in Caroline County in the Eastern Shore for driving under the influence of alcohol and for marijuana possession. Cook pleaded guilty to drunken driving in that incident, and the prosecution of marijuana possession charge was dropped. A judge sentenced her to supervised probation and ordered her to pay a $300 fine. Court records available online do not note the length or conditions of Cook’s probation.

Cook disclosed the arrest to diocesan leaders during the bishop suffragan search process, according to a diocesan statement released after the Dec. 27 accident, but the entire convention that elected Cook on May 2, 2014, however, was not told about it.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

Environmental stewardship fellows foster ministry rooted in creation

Friday, January 30, 2015

When kids get out into the natural world they develop a sense of awe and wonder, and are more likely pay attention of environmental issues as they get older, says Cindy Coe, one of two environmental stewardship fellows. Here Erynn Smith, Abundant Table’s director of farm education, shows some young students how look for bugs in the field. Photo: The Abundant Table

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church is addressing the call of the fifth Mark of Mission to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth in a number of ways, including through the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s support for the work of two women who want to bring Episcopalians of all ages in closer touch with the earth.

In Tennessee, Cindy Coe’s focus is “getting children outside” to grow a lifelong concern for creation and, in California, Sarah Nolan’s is helping the church see “good agriculture and good food as a justice issue.”

Each of them is six months into a two-year, $48,000 environmental stewardship fellowship awarded by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society to provide leadership on key environmental issues in U.S. communities.

“The environmental fellowship program represents a new way in which the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is engaging and supporting mission at a local level,” said Alexander D. Baumgarten, director of public engagement and mission communication for The Episcopal Church.

“Conceived and awarded through a process of consultation that included members of the Executive Council, bishops and other leaders, and key stakeholders in environmental ministry, the fellowships allow the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society not only to support innovation and creativity at a local level, but to ensure that it becomes a gift to the wider Church,” said Baumgarten.

The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society staff consults regularly with the environmental fellows to discern ways, beyond the program’s funding, to support the fellows’ work. (The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is the legal and canonical name under which The Episcopal Church is incorporated, conducts business, and carries out mission.)

“The Justice and Advocacy Mark 5 Fellowships are crucial to the future of our Church as we seek to reconnect with our food sources, lift up the intersections of poverty and environmental issues, and understand what we can do as individuals and church communities to mitigate and adapt to our changing climate,” said Jayce Hafner, domestic policy analyst in the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s Office of Government Relations.

Abundant Table Episcopal Service Corps Intern Jeannette Ban harvests salad greens. The Abundant Table’s origin is rooted in the Episcopal Service Corps, a partner of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. Photo: The Abundant Table

Nolan, she said, “will grow networks of communities striving for conscientious consumption (for example, procuring elements of worship from local growers) and dedicated to learning more about how our food is produced.”

Coe’s fellowship involves what Hafner called “the next generation of leaders” who are “an essential contingent of our Church.”

“Through educating youth at summer camp, an environment where self-awareness and creative expression is encouraged, she will empower future leaders to leverage their gifts for the ecological well-being of our Church and our world,” she said.

Hafner looks “forward to seeing the fruits of these fellows’ efforts, and am already very impressed by how much they have accomplished thus far,”

Coe’s interest in environmental stewardship issues was rooted when she developed Episcopal Relief & Development’s Abundant Life Garden Project with Brian Sellers Petersen, who is now senior advisor to the president of Episcopal Relief & Development. The project is an interactive, Scripture-based program that invites elementary school-aged students to explore the organization’s work through the themes of water, seeds, soil, animals and harvest.

The curriculum for dioceses, congregations and other Episcopal institutions that Coe is devising during the life of her fellowship is an outgrowth of that project and will involve a healthy dose of getting kids outside, “spending time in nature and experiencing the environment,” she said.

“I would like to introduce creation care as part of Christian formation of children and youth in our church,” she said.

Saying she has “really done a deep dive” into secular research on environmental education, Coe believes that such education is connected to wellness, developing spirituality and becoming aware of the social-justice issues connected to the care of creation.

Getting children connected to nature means “they will become attuned to environmental issues and stick with it for life,” Coe said.

Her research has also included debriefing her 10-year-old son, Jack, about what he liked and didn’t like at various summer camps. “He has been an invaluable resource,” she said with a laugh. “He’s given me some really valuable information about what works, what’s effective, what was fun, what was boring.”

“As far as teaching about nature, we have to get kids outside,” she said, adding that research shows children like to find a special place outside to make their own. Part of the budding curriculum will encourage children to “go out, find a special place, build a fort and have fun with it.”

By doing that sort of thing, children develop a sense of place, Coe said, and “they learn to appreciate God’s creation.”

“You learn a sense of awe, a sense of wonder and that links into spirituality,” she said. St. Francis and other saints understood and honored the connection between nature and spirituality, Coe added, but “that’s something that we’ve either forgotten or neglected in our Christian history lately.”

Yet, “Kids get this. Kids can be silent in nature better than the rest of us,” she said.

Coe has been asking for feedback from colleagues around the church on the parts of the curriculum that she has completed. She plans to discuss it at late January meetings of the Episcopal Camps and Conference Centers organization and of FORMA, a group of Episcopal Church formation ministers.

The curriculum, which can be used in whole or in part, will be available to be field tested in the summer of 2015. She will then tweak the materials with feedback she gets. The sections of the curriculum that are currently available can be found here. That page also includes a method for giving Coe feedback.

The next step is to find a way or ways to publish the curriculum before the summer of 2016.

Connecting Episcopalians to the earth is also the taproot of Nolan’s fellowship work, as is connecting Episcopalians involved in food-based ministries to each other. Those ministries across the church are “innovative and life-giving” and, yet, they are fragmented, she said.

Nolan is the director of programs and community partnerships for The Abundant Table, a Ventura County, California, sustainable farm that offers “faith-rooted, land-based and farm-to-school experiential learning opportunities for school-aged children, youth, young adults and communities,” according to its website. The organization also provides greater access to sustainably grown foods for residents of the southern California county.

Its roots date to the mid-2000s when Nolan was campus chaplain at California State University, Channel Islands. The chaplaincy decided to start a program through the Episcopal Service Corps, a partner of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, in a rural setting and bring the campus ministry and the wider community to that work. As the farm grew, young adults approached the ministry expressing an interest in connecting their interest in food justice to their faith life. Their interest overran the farm’s number of internship placements, Nolan said.

Abundant Table team members celebrate their muddy carrot harvest. Carrots from the sustainable farm will go to the Ventura Unified School District in California. Photo: The Abundant Table

She began looking for other places where those young adults might work. That exploration led in 2012 to a fellowship from the Episcopal Church Foundation to begin to grow a network of folks doing land-based ministry and identifying resources for those ministries. Soon she was in touch with a number of people, among them Brian Sellers Peterson, with whom Coe had worked with on the Abundant Life Garden project. Sellers Peterson had been looking at food-based ministries around the church and connected her with the Beeken Center, part of the University of the South’s School of Theology. She, Sellers Peterson and the center began developing an informal network of ministries. That work led to her application for the environmental stewardship fellowship, she said.

Strengthening the loose network that already exists among the church’s food-growing and food-sharing ministries could impact both the church and the communities in which is present in two ways, Nolan said.

One is involves connecting church pantries with church-supported gardens and farms, while also looking at the potential of the church’s buildings and lands to see how they could be “used and coordinated in such a way that it makes an impact on the local communities and the food system” in those communities.

Secondly, Nolan notes that there is “a lot of work going on around theology, liturgy and spirituality that’s really rooted in the earth, environmental stewardship and creation care.” She sees an opportunity to help people share those resources in order to “connect folks to a growing spirituality that would have an impact on the spiritual life of the church [by] invigorating and renewing the theological and spiritual life of the church.”

“The term that’s been thrown around quite a bit is looking at soil as sacrament,” Nolan added.

At the end of her fellowship time, Nolan said, she hopes to have developed a website or some other platform, modeled on the practices of Story Corps, where Episcopalians involved in food-based ministries can share their stories as “encouragement and also as an inspiration” to the church. Her other hoped-for outcome is the formation of a functioning network that can hold gatherings and support regional and national efforts.

And, Nolan said, her work is not just for people already involved in such ministry.

“It’s important for the church to see how the growing and sharing of food is an open door to understanding environmental sustainability and stewardship,” she said.

Often environmental conversations center on climate change and conservation of natural spaces, which Nolan acknowledged as important, but she said the church’s food, farming and gardening work can be a way for people who might not be inclined to participate in those conversations to get involved. By participating in such work, they can discover the links between environmental concerns and seeing “good agriculture and good food as a justice issue.”

The 2013-2015 budget passed by General Convention is structured around the Anglican Communion’s Five Marks of Mission and provided significant unallocated sums for new work targeted around each Mark of Mission. The intention was that the resulting work would be done in new, collaborative partnerships with dioceses and congregations. The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society has provided seed money and/or matching grants as well as staff support and expertise for the new work.

Coe’s and Nolan’s fellowships are support out of the budget allocations for Mark Five: To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

The recently released Report to the Church details the budget-supported work of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society to date in the current triennium.

— The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

El conflicto israelí-palestino no es una solución de ganadores y perdedores

Friday, January 30, 2015

Wearing cassocks, Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem Suheil Dawani and Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori lead the interfaith delegation through the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City. Walking behind, from left, are Azhar Azeez, president of the Islamic Society of North America [ISNA); Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA); Mohamed Elsanousi, director of external relations for Finn Church Aid; Bishop Prince Singh of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester; Rabbi Leonard Gordon, interreligious relations chair for JCPA; the Rev. Charles K. Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop; and Sayyid Syeed, national director of interfaith and community alliances for ISNA. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

[Episcopal News Service] En la búsqueda de una solución pacífica para el conflicto israelí-palestino, las personas de fe deben ser socios eficaces comprometidos a escuchar múltiples testimonios, dicen miembros de una amplia delegación interreligiosa de EE.UU., encabezada por la obispa primada de la Iglesia Episcopal Katharine Jefferts Schori, durante una peregrinación de una semana a Tierra Santa.

La delegación de 15 miembros, judíos, cristianos y musulmanes, participó en una serie de reuniones políticas y religiosas de alto nivel en Israel y los Territorios Palestinos, entre ellas con el ex primer ministro israelí Shimon Peres y con el actual primer ministro palestino Rami Hamdallah, a fin de oír una amplia gama de perspectivas sobre la paz, la religión y la política y compartir sus propios puntos de vista acerca del papel que pueden desempeñar las tres religiones abrahámicas en ayudar a configurar un mundo mejor.

El grupo escuchó graves preocupaciones, frustraciones y serios sentimientos de desconfianza en medio de un paralizado proceso de paz, pero también se sintieron alentados por incontables muestras de esperanza y optimismo y galvanizados por ser parte de la solución juntos.

También se reunieron con líderes de iniciativas populares —El Programa de Negociación Shades, EcoPeace [EcoPaz] y Roots [Raíces]— que reúnen a israelíes y palestinos para oír y compartir mutuamente sus historias, y para edificar una sociedad pacífica en la cual todo el mundo pueda prosperar.

“Tendemos puentes esta semana”, dijo Jefferts Schori, “y vamos a seguir transitando por esos puentes, y explorando los abismos que se encuentran debajo, y buscando nuevas posibilidades más allá de las barandas protectoras, hasta que el shalom y el salaam y la paz de Dios prevalezcan en la Tierra del Bendito y a través de la unicidad de la creación de Dios”.

Sin embargo, dijo ella “esto no puede ser un juego de suma y cero”, en la cual la ganancia de una parte equivalga a la pérdida de la otra. “Cuando podamos abandonar [la actitud de] ‘qué nos van a quitar’, podremos comenzar a encontrar las respuestas”.

Junto con Jefferts Schori, los otros líderes del grupo fueron el rabino Steve Gutow, presidente del Consejo Judío para las Relaciones Públicas (JCPA) y Sayyid Syeed, director nacional de alianzas interreligiosas y comunitarias de la Sociedad Islámica de América del Norte (ISNA). En su conjunto, representan a unos 15 millones de norteamericanos.

“Hemos experimentado la tierra y su gente tal como ellos mismos las entienden. Nos vamos con un sentimiento de esperanza en que las personas de fe, tanto sobre el terreno como en Estados Unidos, pueden en verdad ser parte de la solución”, dijo Gutow. Les escuchamos decir a israelíes y a palestinos que nuestra presencia como líderes de tres religiones diferentes que vienen aquí en momentos tan difíciles alienta la esperanza de que nuestros sueños puedan llegar a realizarse”.

Syeed dijo que no había ninguna otra solución “salvo salir del actual punto muerto. Es una carga pesada sobre todos los que viven en Tierra Santa. Seguiremos ejerciendo presión a nuestro pueblo y a nuestro gobierno para reanudar los empeños de negociaciones entre las partes y ayudar a edificar la confianza mutua. Los líderes y las congregaciones religiosos seguiremos orando por el éxito y haciendo todo lo que podamos por apoyar estos empeños”.

La visita se planeó en respuesta a la Resolución B019, aprobada por la Convención General de la Iglesia Episcopal en 2012, que requería la inversión y la participación positivas en la región y que recomendaba que la Obispa Primada llevara a cabo una peregrinación interreligiosa modelo que tuviera la experiencia de múltiples testimonios. Esa resolución reiteraba el compromiso de la Iglesia Episcopal, de larga data, con una solución negociada de dos estados “en la cual un estado de Israel seguro y universalmente reconocido viva al lado de un estado viable y seguro para el pueblo palestino”.

ISNA y JCPA también respaldan esa visión de una paz duradera en Tierra Santa mediante una solución pactada de dos estados.

“Cuando hablamos de la paz, hay una tendencia a mirar los obstáculos”, dijo Peres, de 91 años, quien recibió a la delegación para una reunión de 45 minutos en Jafa, Israel, en el Centro Peres de Paz, que él fundó en 1996 para edificar la paz mediante la cooperación y el desarrollo socioeconómicos.

El ex primer ministro israelí Shimon Peres (al centro) recibe a la delegación interreligiosa el 20 de enero. De izquierda a derecha se encuentran Sayyid Syeed, director nacional de alianzas interreligiosas y comunitarias de la Sociedad Islámica de América del Norte; el rabino Steve Gutow, presidente del Consejo Judío para las Relaciones Públicas; la obispa primada de la Iglesia Episcopal Katharine Jefferts Schori y Alexander D. Baumgarten, director de Actividad Pública y Comunicación de la Misión de la Iglesia Episcopal. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS

“Las grandes cosas en la vida no pueden lograrse a menos que uno cierre un poquito los ojos. No puedes enamorarte y no puedes hacer la paz a menos que cierres un poquito los ojos. Con los ojos abiertos verás todos los problemas y no captarás las oportunidades”, dijo Peres, que ha sido dos veces primer ministro israelí —una vez a mediado de los ochenta y otra a mediados de los 90— y que recientemente se jubiló de presidente, un cargo en gran medida representativo y de carácter ceremonial.

Peres, que gano el Premio Nobel de la Paz 1994 por su papel en las conversaciones de paz que condujeron a los acuerdos de Oslo, dijo que él cree que “no hay separación entre Dios y el espíritu… En nuestra tierra queremos que las religiones anden juntas. La característica de la nación deben ser multicultural y multiinspiracional”.

En la sede de la Autoridad Palestina en Ramala dos días después, Hamdallah expresó su deseo de paz y reconciliación y calificó de “inspiración” que un grupo tan diverso de líderes religiosos de EE.UU. visitara la región e intercambiara con las personas y los problemas que enfrentan.

El primer ministro palestino Rami Hamdallah recibe a la delegación en la sede de la Autoridad Palestina en Ramala, el 22 de enero. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS

Las negociaciones entre los líderes israelíes y palestinos, orquestadas por EE.UU., se interrumpieron en mayo de 2014, culpándose mutuamente ambas partes de no hacer las concesiones adecuadas en asuntos tales como las fronteras, el estatus de los refugiados, la compartición de Jerusalén y la construcción de asentamientos israelíes en los territorios palestinos.

Luego, en julio de 2014, Israel lanzó la Operación Borde Protector en la Franja de Gaza contra el movimiento islámico Hamás luego de un aumento de los ataques con misiles. El conflicto de Israel y Gaza, que estalló luego del secuestro y asesinato de tres adolescentes israelíes y del secuestro y asesinato, en represalia, de un joven palestino, dio lugar a la muerte de más de 2.100 gazanos, la mayoría de ellos civiles, y de 73 israelíes, la mayoría soldados.

El presidente palestino Mahmoud Abbas ha solicitado al Tribunal Penal Internacional que investigue presuntos crímenes de guerra cometidos por Israel en los Territorios Palestinos. Israel y EE.UU. han criticado enérgicamente esa movida, diciendo que socaba las oportunidades de [llegar a] un acuerdo de paz negociado.

A principio de enero, Israel, en represalia, le retuvo a los palestinos la transferencia de $127 millones en ingresos provenientes de impuestos.

“Hay un compromiso serio de no recurrir a la violencia”, le dijo, al grupo interreligioso, Hamdallah, que sucedió a Salam Fayyad como primer ministro en junio de 2013. “Condenamos las acciones violentas en cualquier lugar, ya sea en Francia o en Israel. Nuestro tema es alcanzar nuestros objetivos a través de medios pacíficos”.

Pero Hamdallah les dijo a los líderes religiosos que él duda de que los palestinos puedan llegar a un acuerdo con el actual gobierno israelí, liderado por el primer ministro Benjamin Netanyahu. Otros líderes a lo largo de la semana le dijeron al grupo interreligioso que es difícil imaginar cómo podría llevarse a cabo un proceso de paz entre Netanyahu y Abbas, ya que ambas partes se han atrincherado mucho en sus posiciones.

Un importante funcionario israelí, que pidió no ser identificado, dijo que el proceso de paz israelí-palestino “conlleva negociaciones entre dos pueblos traumatizados, dos pueblos marcados por su pasado y temerosos de su futuro. El objetivo esencial en la negociación no es sólo escribir el discurso de tu propia victoria, sino escribir la de la otra parte también”.

Dijo asimismo que el único modo de cambiar de una negociación de suma-cero conlleva no sólo tolerar a la otra parte “sino apostar por el resultado que ellos desean tanto como por el tuyo”.

El grave error en las negociaciones, añadió, es que la gente “cree que debe participar en el advenimiento del Mesías, o en traer la justicia y la paz en un sentido cósmico. Hay que pensar un poquito menos en traer al Mesías y un poquito más en mejorar las vidas de las personas”.

Durante la reunión con Hamdallah, Syeed dijo que la gente de fe en EE.UU. y en todo el mundo se mostró esperanzada cuando el secretario de Estado de EE.UU., John Kerry, ayudó a reiniciar las negociaciones de paz en 2013, pero que se preocuparon cuando esas conversaciones se interrumpieron un año después. Al hablar en nombre de la delegación interreligiosa, Syeed dijo: “Esta es una alianza única: musulmanes, cristianos y judíos juntos, compartiendo la misma visión, teniendo el mismo compromiso y expresando nuestra solidaridad”.

Si bien gran parte de las reuniones se centraron en el conflicto israelí-palestino, el estancamiento del proceso de paz y el papel de la religión, algunas de las conversaciones derivaron hacia temas más filosóficos y reflexivos e incluyeron un cierto número de momentos más ligeros y de risas compartidas.

“El optimista y el pesimista transitan por el mismo camino, luego, ¿por qué vas a pasarte la vida como pesimista?”, dijo Peres. “No es el cerebro el que nos suministra ideas y sueños. Es al revés. Son la ideas y los sueños los que hacen que el cerebro se adapte…

“La ciencia ha cambiado la manera en que la gente ve al mundo. La ciencia puede imponerse a la violencia, de manera que uno no necesite las guerras. La ciencia no tiene fronteras, de manera que uno no puede establecer fronteras en la ciencia. La ciencia no puede controlarse”, añadió Peres.

La obispa primada de la Iglesia Episcopal Katharine Jefferts Schori le expresó su cordial gratitud al ex primer ministro israelí Shimon Peres por su hospitalidad y su sabiduría. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS

Jefferts Schori, quien fuera oceanógrafa, le dijo a Peres que “es una gran bendición oírle a usted hablar del don de la ciencia y que el mismo nos conduzca a nuevos lugares. Las personas de fe concurren con un tipo distinto de conocimiento y yo no creo que sea diferente del tipo de saber que la ciencia puede ofrecer. Pero cuando se reúnen invitan a personas que miran con mucha mayor profundidad en el meollo de la realidad, para ver las conexiones que emanan del centro y [comprobar] que no podemos sobrevivir los unos sin los otros. Este es el impulso a la pacificación”.

En otras reuniones políticas de alto nivel, el grupo se reunió con Daniel Shapiro, el embajador de EE.UU. ante el Estado de Israel, con el cónsul general de EE.UU. Michael Ratney, con Ruth Calderón, académica y miembro del Knesset —el parlamento del gobierno israelí— y con Kholoud Al-Faqih, jueza del Tribunal de Sharía de Ramala y la primera mujer que ejerce ese cargo en los Territorios Palestinos.

El grupo interreligioso se reúne con el cónsul general de EE.UU. Michael Ratney (sentado a la derecha de la bandera de EE.UU.). Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS

Al-Faqih le habló al grupo en Ramala acerca de su trayectoria personal y profesional, la cual conllevó ocho años de determinación y de repetidas visitas a los que deciden los asuntos legales hasta que finalmente aceptaron su solicitud de ingresar en el proceso de adiestramiento judicial. Esto dio lugar a que la revista CEO Middle East la catalogara como la No. 10 entre las 100 mujeres árabes más influyentes del mundo.

La obispa primada Katharine Jefferts Schori le ofrece palabras de aliento a Kholoud Al-Faqih, jueza del Tribunal de Sharía de Ramala y la primera mujer en llegar a ese puesto en los Territorios Palestinos. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS

Jefferts Schori recurrió a la parábola bíblica, contada por Jesús a sus discípulos, de la viuda persistente que buscaba que un juez le hiciera justicia. “Lo que ella hace es ir y tocar a su puerta todos los días y lo fastidia hasta que obtiene justicia”, dijo Jefferts Schori. “Tú has hecho lo mismo. Eres un magnífico ejemplo para nosotros. Gracias”.

Shapiro, que ha prestado servicios como embajador desde julio de 2011, le dio la bienvenida al grupo durante una reunión en Tel Aviv, Israel. “El hecho de que todos ustedes —personas ocupadas en sus comunidades— se tomen el tiempo de venir y de participar de una manera profunda, es realmente algo que yo aprecio encarecidamente. Es una serie de problemas arduos, pero no serán menos arduos sin la intervención de personas de buena voluntad”, dijo.

El embajador de EE.UU. ante el Estado de Israel, Daniel Shapiro (el segundo de izquierda a derecha sentado) se reúne con el grupo interreligioso en Tel Aviv. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS

“Desafortunadamente, hay otros enfoques. Algunas personas se distancian completamente de esto. Algunas personas deciden atacar a una parte o a la otra y lo convierten en un ejercicio de ganar puntos. Ninguno de esos enfoques va a lograr nuestros objetivos, que es un futuro pacífico para israelíes y palestinos”, añadió. “Un enfoque que dice que debemos volver, que debemos escuchar, que debemos participar, que debemos ayudar a crear vínculos entre nosotros mismos y con ambas partes y, desde luego, salvando la línea divisoria; es para mí el único enfoque con la oportunidad de tener éxito”.

Calderón, miembro del partido Yesh Atid y quien ha sido miembro del Knesset desde 2012, dijo que ella cree que la religión con frecuencia es “mucho más creativa que la diplomacia”.

Ruth Calderón, miembro del Knesset [el parlamento israelí], se dirige al grupo interreligioso en Tel Aviv. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS.

“Este es el lugar de Dios, luego, ¿cómo podemos pensar que es nuestro o de ellos? Toda la discusión en torno a quien esto pertenece me hace sentir incómoda, porque sabemos que pertenece a Dios”, le dijo ella al grupo en Tel Aviv. “Puedo decir que si algo Dios me ha enseñado es que no poseo cosas. Estoy aquí de alquiler, máximo, y eso es tan sencillo para nosotros de entender, pero tan difícil para nosotros de decirlo en el parlamento… Creo que hay en el lenguaje religioso un modo de resolver los problemas más dolorosos… Una de las cosas que he aprendido en los últimos tres años en el parlamento es que no puede dejárseles a los políticos”.

Gutow, de JCPA, le agradeció a Calderón por retar al grupo a pensar en qué es lo que Dios quiere. “Si tomamos eso como la medida de cómo miramos las cosas, creo que en verdad llegaremos a lograr algo hermoso”.

Al conectarse con organizaciones de base, el grupo se reunió con líderes del Programa de Negociación Shades, que le brinda a futuros líderes israelíes y palestinos destrezas constructivas para la solución de problemas y recursos para identificar y crear oportunidades para un futuro pacífico y próspero en la región.

El grupo interreligioso viajó a Gush Etzion, donde el liderazgo de Roots [Raíces] reúne a líderes palestinos de aldeas limítrofes con colonos israelíes que, pese al desacuerdo en algunos asuntos fundamentales, creen que es imperativo para las comunidades echar a un lado el atrincheramiento político y las acciones y la retórica divisionistas a fin de empezar a sembrar las semillas necesarias para hacer que pueda afincarse un acuerdo final de paz.

El rabino Steve Gutow, presidente del Consejo Judío para las Relaciones Públicas presenta el liderazgo de Raíces en Gush Etzion. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS.

“Sin crear confianza, la sospecha entre nosotros asfixiará los acuerdos políticos de paz”, dijo el rabino Hanan Schlesinger, coordinador de un proyecto para Raíces.

Su organización de base incluye entablar relaciones con líderes locales, talleres sobre no violencia y diálogo religioso.

“Sabemos que existe un gran desacuerdo sobre muchas cosas —sobre los hechos del pasado e incluso acerca de la realidad del presente— pero creemos que el diálogo efectivo es el lugar seguro para la discusión y para profundizar la comprensión” según Shaul Judelman, coordinador de proyectos que ha vivido en Gush Etzion durante los últimos 13 años. “Es en este espacio que se pueden crear las soluciones”.

Y en Tel Aviv, el grupo interreligioso escuchó a EcoPaz del Oriente Medio, que reúne a ambientalistas jordanos, palestinos e israelíes mediante empeños cooperativos “para proteger nuestra herencia ambiental compartida. Al hacerlo, buscamos avanzar tanto en el desarrollo regional sostenible como en la creación de condiciones necesarias para una paz duradera en nuestra región”, según la página web de la organización.

La iniciativa ha lanzado una campaña para crear conciencia del fin del río Jordán, que se está secando y que se ha contaminado de aguas negras sin tratar en el transcurso de los últimos 50 años.

“Los problemas que vemos parecen incurables y una solución de dos estados se percibe como un sueño remoto”, dijo Gutow. “Pero cuando nos reunimos con personas sobre el terreno, vemos a gente que cree en ese sueño y persistimos en un empeño para encontrar una solución a los problemas de esta tierra”.

Otros miembros de la delegación fueron:

Episcopales

  •  Rvdmo. Prince Singh, de la Diócesis Episcopal de Rochester.
  •  Rdo. John E. Kitagawa, rector de la iglesia de San Felipe de las Colinas [St. Philip’s in-the-Hills] en Tucson, Arizona
  •  Rdo. Charles K. Robertson, canónigo de la Obispa Primada.
  •  Rda. Margaret Rose, subdirectora de relaciones ecuménicas e interreligiosas.
  •  Alexander D. Baumgarten, director de Actividad Pública y de Comunicación de la Misión.
  •  Sharon Jones, asistente ejecutiva de la Obispa Primada.

Judíos

  •  Rabino Leonard Gordon, presidente de relaciones interreligiosas del Consejo Judío para las Relaciones Públicas.
  •  Ethan Felson, vicepresidente y consejero general del Consejo Judío para las Relaciones Públicas.
  •  Rabino Batya Steinlauf, director justicia social e iniciativas interreligiosas del Consejo Judío de Relaciones Comunitarias del Área Metropolitana de Washington.

Musulmanes

  •  Dr. Muhammad Shafiq, director del Centro Hickey Center para estudios y diálogos interreligiosos en Nazareth College, Rochester, Nueva York
  •  Azhar Azeez, presidente de la Sociedad Islámica de América del Norte.
  •  Mohamed Elsanousi, director de relaciones exteriores de Finn Church Aid

– Matthew Davies es redactor y reportero de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

February 15: World Mission Sunday

Thursday, January 29, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Traditionally celebrated on the last Sunday after Epiphany, World Mission Sunday in 2015 is February 15 in The Episcopal Church.

The purpose of World Mission Sunday is to focus on the global impact of the Baptismal Covenant’s call to “seek and serve Christ in all persons” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 305), and to raise awareness of the many ways in which The Episcopal Church participates in God’s mission around the world.

“World Mission Sunday gives us an opportunity to remember that all humanity is created in God’s image and that we are called to reflect on how we are living into our baptismal vows and to engage concretely in mutual and interdependent relationships with our brothers and sisters around the world,” noted the Rev. David Copley, Mission Personnel Officer.

Currently, Episcopal Church missionaries are located in many international locales, including Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, France, Ghana, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Jerusalem, Kenya, Mozambique, Panama, the Philippines, Qatar, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Tanzania, and Uruguay.

Resources
Resources and information on World Mission Sunday are here.

A Bulletin Insert in English and Spanish is here.

Mission Personnel is here.

Young Adult Service Corp here.

For more information, contact Elizabeth Boe, Global Networking Officer, at eboe@episcopalchurch.org.

#ShareTheJourney pilgrimage to highlight refugee work of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society

Thursday, January 29, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Join #ShareTheJourney with Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM), the refugee resettlement service of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, and eight Episcopal pilgrims as they participate in an 11-day pilgrimage to the Great Lakes region of Africa.

#ShareTheJourney is designed to raise awareness of ways in which the Missionary Society, through EMM, works to facilitate refugee resettlement work throughout The Episcopal Church.  The pilgrimage is funded through a Constable Fund grant awarded last year by the Episcopal Church Executive Council. The Constable Fund provides grants to fund mission initiatives that were not provided for within the budget of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society passed by the General Convention.

“Through the #ShareTheJourney pilgrimage, we are bringing awareness to the plight of Congolese refugees and the ministry of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society in resettling refugees from Congo and other conflict areas,” explained Deborah Stein, EMM director. “Through real-time social media, our participants will serve as the eyes of the church as they witness conditions where refugees are currently living, and the responses we offer through resettlement.”

Through the #ShareTheJourney pilgrimage from March 2-13, stories of refugees and their resettlement in the United States will be highlighted through traditional and social media.  During the pilgrimage, participants will share their experiences through blogs and posts here.

The pilgrims will travel to Nairobi, Kenya and Kigali, Rwanda. Among the planned visits are the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre and the Gihembe Refugee Camp in Rwanda as well as operations supported by Church World Service’s Resettlement Support Center (RSC)-Africa, and the UN refugee agency UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).

The pilgrims
Participating in the pilgrimage are:
• Jessica Benson, Diocese of Idaho
• Spencer Cantrell, gender violence fellow, National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project (NIWAP), Diocese of Washington
• Cookie Cantwell, Province IV Youth Ministries Coordinator, Diocese of East Carolina
• The Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, Executive Director, Forward Movement, Diocese of Southern Ohio
• The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary, Diocese of Georgia
• Vicki Logue, Diocese of Georgia
• The Rev. Burl Salmon, Middle School Chaplain and Dean of Community Life, Trinity Episcopal School, Diocese of North Carolina
• Alyssa Stebbing, Outreach Director, Trinity Episcopal Church of The Woodlands, Diocese of Texas
The Missionary Society
• Deborah Stein, Director, Episcopal Migration Ministries
• Kurt Bonz, Program Manager, Episcopal Migration Ministries
• Wendy Johnson, Communications Manager, Episcopal Migration Ministries
• The Rev. Ranjit Mathews, Network Officer for Mission Personnel and Africa
• Lynette Wilson, Editor/Reporter, Episcopal News Service

How can you participate?
• Through #ShareTheJourney on Facebook or Twitter through @EMMRefugees and #ShareTheJourney.
• Participate through interactions, retweets and posting a photo of yourself holding a hand-written sign indicating: #ShareTheJourney with @EMMRefugees.

Episcopal Migration Ministries
Episcopal Migration Ministries is the refugee resettlement service of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. Each year this ministry works in partnership with its affiliate network, along with dioceses, faith communities and volunteers, to welcome refugees from conflict zones across the globe.

#ShareTheJourney as the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society celebrates 75 years of resettling refugees in the United States. #ShareTheJourney is a multi-media effort to educate, form, and equip Episcopalians to engage in loving service with resettled refugees and to become prophetic witnesses and advocates on behalf of refugees, asylees, migrants, and displaced persons throughout the world.

Check out the website here and here.

Learn more EMM’s history and how to participate in local refugee settlement here.

West Texas notified of successful canonical consent process

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Office of Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has notified the Diocese of West Texas that the Rt. Rev. David Reed has received the required majority of consents in the canonical consent process.

As outlined under Canon III.11.4 (a), the Presiding Bishop confirmed the receipt of consents from a majority of bishops with jurisdiction, and has also reviewed the evidence of consents from a majority of standing committees of the Church sent to her by the diocesan standing committee.

Currently serving as Bishop Suffragan for the Diocese of West Texas, the Rt. Rev. David M. Reed was elected Bishop Coadjutor on October 25. He will become Bishop Coadjutor on February 28. Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori will officiate.

Liberia’s Cuttington University needs help to reopen next month

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Many Cuttington University students, faculty and staff are employed at the International Medical Corps’ Bong County Ebola Treatment Unit in Suakoko District, awaiting the university to reopen. They include Juyah J. Massaqui, sprayer; Chris N. Kollie, sprayer; Alex D. Iolleh, safety monitor; Jerome D. Padmore, sprayer, nursing student Sophie Jarpa, wash supervisor, Cuttington graduate Nurse Nameyeah D. Dunn; nursing student Eileen M. Gbassagee, dispenser, nursing student Love Fassama, nurse aid. Photo: Cuttington University

Editor’s note: This story was updated Jan. 30 at 6:10 p.m. EST to change donation information at end.

[Episcopal News Service] The Liberian government’s push to reopen the Ebola-stricken country’s public and private schools and universities in February is once again highlighting both the importance of The Episcopal Church of Liberia’s Cuttington University to the country and its precarious financial situation.

The government’s order calls for the country’s 5,000 public and private schools, which have been closed since the end of July by order of the government, to reopen Feb. 2. While the Liberian diocese’s 35 secondary schools are planning to welcome students that day, Cuttington’s three campuses have government approval to postpone reopening until Feb. 16 because of the magnitude of the undertaking, according to the Rev. James Callaway, general secretary of the Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion.

Cuttington University’s main campus is in the interior of the central region of Liberia in Suakoko District about six miles from Gbarnga, the capital of Bong County. Bong County is one of the epicenters of West Africa’s Ebola outbreak. University personnel reached out to surrounding communities during the worst of the epidemic while worrying about the epidemic’s impact on the university’s future and mourning the loss of graduates and friends. Many of the graduates who died from Ebola were health-care workers.

Cuttington, founded in 1889 in Liberia by the U.S.-based Episcopal Church, has two other campuses, a graduate school in the country’s capital, Monrovia, and a community college nearly 45 miles south of Monrovia.

The planned resumption of school in Liberia is “a sign of the country coming back,” said the Rev. Ranjit Matthews, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s network officer for mission personnel and Africa.

“Cuttington’s coming back will be a big step in Liberia’s recovery from the Ebola crisis just as its reopening was in 2004 before the civil war was over,” added the Rt. Rev. Herbert Donovan, president of the American Friends of Cuttington University.

Cuttington has not been dormant during the six-month closure. The International Medical Corps was contracted by the U.S. Agency for International Development to operate a 70-bed Ebola Treatment Unit near the university and asked Cuttington for help.

“Graciously…, major facilities including dormitories, staff housing, warehouses, fuel farm, cafeteria, kitchen (and) fields amongst others were all put at the disposal of these partners who hath come to assist our beloved nation in this great battle for survival,” Provost E. Lama Wonkeryor wrote Jan. 27 in a 13-page status report.

Cuttington University houses the medical organization’s staff, and it is also the base of its Multi-Agency Training Collaborative, which trains health workers to manage Ebola cases in Ebola Treatment Units, according to Lisa Ellis, the group’s director of global communications.

Wonkamah G. Gono, a graduating senior of the business college of Cuttington University, serves as the procurement officer at the Bong County Ebola Treatment Center. Photo: Cuttington University

Some of Cuttington’s faculty, staff and students have been working in the nearby treatment unit while waiting for school to resume, the provost said.

In addition, the U.S. Navy opened a mobile Ebola laboratory in Cuttington’s new multimillion-dollar College of Allied Health Sciences building in early October. Opening the lab cut the wait time for Ebola blood test results from three to four days to three to four hours, thus also reducing exposure to the virus for those who are not infected.

“The structure has not even been dedicated,” Wonkeryor wrote of the College of Allied Health Sciences building. “But since indeed the university is committed to serving humanity, this almost priceless offer was made to help save the lives of Liberians.”

Lt. James Regeimbal decontaminates and inspects sample documentation received at a Naval Medical Research Center mobile laboratory at Cuttington University. The Naval Medical Research Center sent two mobile testing labs to Liberia. Each two-person lab is capable of testing up to 80 samples per day. Photo: Chief Petty Officer Jerrold Diederich/U.S. Navy

Lt. James Regeimbal Jr., a microbiologist working with the Navy team that set up such labs all over the country, wrote that during the first 60 days “we were the only lab accessible to rural Liberia testing samples for seven of the large outer counties. Our location and rapid testing meant that all the outer counties could get same-day results.”

Archbishop Jonathan Bau-Bau Bonaparte Hart of Liberia issued an appeal Jan. 10, asking for more than  $1.3 million to get Cuttington ready to open. The largest part of that appeal covers the cost to bring the teachers back, including more than $740,000 in back pay and resettlement costs. Many faculty members are foreign nationals who traveled home during the worst of the Ebola epidemic and now the school would like them to come back, Hart wrote.

The faculty has not been paid since the university had to close its campuses in August, according to a document outlining the school’s needs. Cuttington is financially dependent on tuition to pay its faculty and cover other operational costs.

“In addition to paying staff salary arrears, there is also the need to add some token as compensation package to assist staff in offsetting some of their financial challenges from the time of closure of schools up to the present,” Wonkeryor wrote in the appeal document. “Such a gesture will go a long way in helping them to resettle, and be mentally and physically prepared for work.”

The remaining $644,000 of Cuttington’s appeal is needed for things such as chairs and desks for both classrooms and teachers’ offices, dormitory and cafeteria renovations, materials to guard against the spread of Ebola, medications for the school’s clinic, new generators for the main campus and the graduate school in Monrovia (and servicing of existing generators), five new vehicles for use by the administration and for transporting students and generating revenue, and a lawn mower and tractor for maintaining the main campus.

The Navy is running the campus generator to power its laboratory, making this one of the first times in Cuttington’s history that it has had round-the-clock power. However, that generator is reportedly wearing out and the appeal from Hart includes $60,000 to replace it.

Cuttington must also settle bills with its suppliers and deal with its bank overdrafts.

The provost’s summary includes a budget and explanation of the issues surrounding each of the areas needing attention and money. Hart noted in an e-mail sent with the appeal that the Liberian diocese was exploring financial and other assistance locally.

Still, Donovan said the university is looking more broadly for help. “As anyone who has been through a disaster knows, help from your friends and neighbors makes a world of difference,” he said. Donovan spearheaded a campaign in 2004 after the second Liberian Civil War to replace zinc roofs which had been ripped from Cuttington’s buildings by looters

In his appeal, Hart called Cuttington “a pride of The Episcopal Church of Liberia” and Matthews said Cuttington is known as the “Harvard of Liberia.”

Student Chris N. Kollie, who works spraying disinfectant, and nursing student Sophie Jarpa, who is a wash supervisor, are on active duty at the Bong County Ebola Treatment Unit while the county enjoys “zero new case” status for more than one month running, thanks in part to the volunteers and the administration of Cuttington University. Photo: Cuttington University

Cuttington, the country’s only residential university, is home to Liberia’s nursing school and, because it offers the country’s only bachelor’s degree in nursing, many of its graduates work in critical-care situations. Many aspiring doctors study for a bachelor’s in biology at Cuttington before applying to the country’s only medical school, A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine, and Cuttington grads make up the largest portion of Dogliotti students.

Hart said in his appeal that Cuttington’s residential nature makes it very expensive to run.

The current Ebola outbreak began in Guinea in December 2013 and now involves Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to the United Nations’ World Health Organization. Since then there have been more than 21,000 reported confirmed, probable and suspected cases of the disease, and more than 8,600 deaths, WHO said Jan. 21, noting that outcomes for many cases are unknown. Incidences of new cases of Ebola have declined from a peak of over 300 new confirmed cases per week in August and September 2014 to eight confirmed cases in the seven days ending Jan. 18, the organization said.

The United Nations said Jan. 19 that the Liberian government had announced that the past week had seen no new Ebola cases in 12 of the country’s 15 counties.

Matthews participated in an Anglican Alliance teleconference Jan. 22 during which Hart noted that while Ebola cases in West Africa have dropped considerably, there is still much work to be done. Hart, as head of the Internal Province of West Africa in the Church of the Province of West Africa, oversees the Anglican Communion bishops from Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Cameroon and Liberia. He thus has a broad view of the devastation and challenges wrought by the Ebola epidemic.

The country’s Ministry of Education has published protocols for a safe school environment, which call for all places of learning to introduce mechanisms for keeping Ebola out of the classroom, according to news reports. They include temperature checks, hand-washing stations, a referral system and the capacity for temporary isolation should a student fall sick.

To help Cuttington’s efforts to re-open, donations may be made to the Friends of Cuttington Inc., a 501(c)3 organization whose purpose is “to solicit and receive donor contributions to scholarships and programs of Cuttington University in Liberia (tax exempt).” Checks should be made payable to Friends of Cuttington and sent in care of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, 815 Second Ave., New York, NY 10017.

— The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

La Obispa Primada aborda el problema de la nacionalidad en la República Dominicana

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

La obispa primada Katharine Jefferts Schori predicó a mediados de diciembre en la iglesia de la Santa Cruz en Santa Fe, región de San Pedro de Macorís, que una vez fue el centro de la región azucarera de la República Dominicana. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS

[Episcopal News Service – Santo Domingo, República Dominicana] Una gran concurrencia acudió a saludar a la obispa primada Katharine Jefferts Schori a mediados de diciembre en la iglesia de la Santa Cruz, en Santa Fe, en lo que una vez fuera el centro de la región azucarera de la República Dominicana en San Pedro de Macorís.

Jefferts Schori predicaría después, pero primero su programa incluía un conversatorio con la comunidad inmigrante acerca de su experiencia a raíz del veredicto del Tribunal Constitucional en 2013 que anuló la ciudadanía de unos 200.000 dominicanos de origen haitiano, muchos de ellos mujeres y niños.

“La realidad actual es que hay generaciones de personas con antepasados haitianos en la República Dominicana; hijos, nietos e incluso bisnietos nacido en la RD a los que ahora les han dicho que no son ciudadanos, lo cual significa que ahora no pueden obtener pasaportes (o) teléfonos celulares, porque no tienen números de identificación”, dijo Jefferts Schori en una entrevista con Episcopal News Service. “En muchos casos han eliminado o invalidado sus registros de nacimiento. No pueden asistir a la escuela, no pueden ir a la universidad, no pueden obtener préstamos; simplemente no pueden funcionar en las áreas normales de la sociedad.

“No sólo están indocumentados, sino que son ‘de-documentados’ “.

El dictamen del tribunal en 2013 se produjo tres años después de que la República Dominicana cambiara su constitución y eliminara el ius soli, el derecho de cualquier persona nacida en el territorio de un Estado a su nacionalidad o ciudadanía —un derecho prácticamente universal en América. El veredicto, o dictamen de 2013, llevaba más lejos el cambio constitucional, haciéndolo retroactivo a 1929 y despojando de la ciudadanía a tres generaciones de personas nacidas en la República Dominicana.

“La desnacionalización impuesta por el dictamen es un acto de injusticia e iniquidad; son dominicanos que han sido desposeídos por la sentencia”, dijo Julio Holguín, obispo [episcopal] de la República Dominicana, quien desde el comienzo ha sido parte de un comité de solidaridad compuesto por abogados, activistas y académicos que han condenado la decisión del tribunal y defienden los derechos de los afectados.

“Como Iglesia nos sentimos muy comprometidos y obligados a ser la voz de los que no tienen voz”.

Ocho meses después del dictamen, en mayo de 2014, luego de intensa presión política y de llamados internacionales a la justicia, el presidente [de la república] presentó y el Congreso dominicano aprobó una ley que permitía a los hijos de migrantes “irregulares”, o de presuntos no residentes “de tránsito” que tuvieran certificaciones de nacimiento, convertirse en ciudadanos, y los que carecieran [de esa certificación] solicitar residencia legal y posteriormente la ciudadanía.

La ley de mayo de 2014 se aplicaría a unas 20.000 personas, lo cual, dicen los críticos, es una cifra muy exigua.

Sin una certificación de nacimiento, una persona no puede obtener un carnet de identidad, que es requisito para estudiar, para solicitar un empleo digno, para casarse, para inscribir los hijos [en el registro civil], para tener derecho a seguros estatales de salud y a pensiones, así como para abrir una cuenta bancaria, solicitar un pasaporte, participar en las elecciones e incluso para ser bautizado.

Sin embargo, obtener una certificación de nacimiento puede ser un proceso arbitrario y costoso en la República Dominicana, dada la actual inclinación derechista y el sentimiento antiinmigrante que se deja sentir con vistas a las elecciones presidenciales de 2016. Es ya una tarea ardua en un país en desarrollo con procedimientos de archivo irregulares, que se hacen más difíciles en pequeños pueblos y zonas rurales donde los obreros siguen viviendo en bateyes —las comunidades informales que crecieron en torno a las plantaciones de caña de azúcar, donde solían vivir los inmigrantes haitianos y donde personas pobres y marginadas siguen viviendo mucho después del colapso de la industria azucarera.

En la iglesia de la Santa Cruz, una joven, Linda, de 24 años y madre de dos niños, compartió su historia de vivir sin una certificación de nacimiento y, por tanto, sin un documento de identidad, que necesita para continúe su educación y para inscribir los nacimientos de sus hijos, un niño de 1 año y una niña de 5, nacidos ambos en la República Dominicana, uno de ellos de padre dominicano, el otro de haitiano.

Linda conserva un comunicado de la Secretaría de Educación en el que le dicen que ella no puede continuar sus estudios en una escuela nocturna sin una certificación de nacimiento, una fotocopia del carnet de identidad de su madre emitido por el gobierno dominicano en 2005 y un “hago constar” firmado y acuñado con el sello de la parroquia catolicorromana que confirme su nacimiento y en 1990 y la identidad de su madre.

Sin un abogado que la ayude a abrirse camino en [el laberinto de] la burocracia y en lo que los activistas, abogados y miembros del Comité Pastoral sobre Inmigración de la Diócesis de la República Dominicana describen como un proceso arbitrario, la vida de Linda y la de sus dos hijos probablemente permanecerá en un limbo.

Otros en situaciones semejantes o con miembros de su familia afectados se encontraban en el grupo de más de 250 personas temerosas de compartir públicamente sus historias. No obstante, luego de la reunión, afuera de la iglesia durante la eucaristía, ellas se aventuraron a hablar con la esperanza de encontrar alguna ayuda. Al igual que Linda, muchos buscaban legitimar su residencia a fin de estudiar, trabajar en la economía regular y proporcionarles una mejor vida a sus familias. Sin una certificación de nacimiento y una nacionalidad, son apátridas, “aquellos a los que ningún estado considera un ciudadano del país conforme al funcionamiento de sus leyes”.

Se calcula que hay unos 10 millones de apátridas en todo el mundo, muchos de los cuales han sido empujados a ese estado por la guerra, y otros debido a la migración económica, según cifras del Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados, organismo éste que en 2014 inició una campaña de 10 años al objeto de erradicar este problema.

Además de la labor del UNHCR, la carencia de nacionalidad ha captado la atención de la Red Internacional de la Familia Anglicana, que apoya la campaña a favor de la inscripción de nacimiento universal, lo cual significa que apoya los empeños que se llevan a cabo a nivel mundial para garantizar el cumplimiento de este requisito en países que reconocen la Convención de los Derechos del Niño, de 1989. La República Dominicana es signataria de la convención y por consiguiente conviene con el Artículo 7 en que los niños tienen el derecho a ser inscritos inmediatamente allí donde, de otro modo, podrían convertirse en apátridas.

Dicho eso, Naciones Unidas ha resistido el emprender una acción formal contra la República Dominicana, que no es parte de la convención de 1954 ni de la de 1961 sobre la condición de los apátridas; y el país ha ignorado intentos legales internacionales previos de proteger los derechos de los dominicanos de ascendencia haitiana.

En 2005, después de siete años de litigio, el Tribunal Interamericano de Derechos Humanos le ordenó a la República Dominicana que le otorgara certificaciones de nacimiento, y por tanto ciudadanía, a dos niñas dominicanas de nacimiento y ascendencia haitiana.

El tribunal llegó a la conclusión de que la República Dominicana “había violado los derechos de las niñas de ascendencia haitiana y las había convertido en apátridas al rehusar emitirles sus certificación de nacimiento debido a su raza”. Además, el dictamen le exigía a la República Dominicana que reformara la política pública para abordar la discriminación histórica en sus procedimientos de inscripción de nacimientos: para emitir certificaciones de nacimiento a los niños independientemente de su estatus migratorio o de la raza de sus padres, así como para reformar el sistema educativo.

En un comunicado de prensa publicado inmediatamente después del fallo del tribunal en octubre de 2005, uno de los demandantes predijo la importancia histórica del dictamen.

“Este fallo fundamental cambiará a la República Dominicana tal como Brown v. Board cambió los Estados Unidos”, dijo Laurel Fletcher, directora del Consultorio Jurídico Internacional de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad de California, adscrito a la Escuela de Derecho de Berkeley. Pero eso no sucedió.

El obispo de la República Dominicana Julio Holguín y miembros del comité de solidaridad celebraron una conferencia de prensa el 14 de enero para denunciar un dictamen reciente de la junta electoral de invalidar los documentos de identidad de 2 millones de personas.

En 2007, la Junta Central Electoral, que además de organizar y regular las elecciones, supervisa el programa nacional de identificación del país, puso en vigor una resolución que limitaba el acceso a las certificaciones de nacimiento y carnets de identidad del gobierno a dominicanos de ascendencia haitiana. El 14 de enero, Holguín y otros miembros del comité de solidaridad sostuvieron una conferencia de prensa en la que denunciaron una reciente decisión de la junta electoral de invalidar los documentos de identidad de 2 millones de personas “prosiguiendo así con la obra iniciada por el dictamen de 2007”.

Décadas de cambios legislativos y de políticas administrativas destinadas a limitar el acceso a la ciudadanía han complicado aún más un sistema que ya era complicado e injusto.

“Los problemas de justicia son enormes. Los tribunales de derechos humanos en Latinoamérica han dictaminado que esto es ilegal y le han dicho a la RD que tiene que cambiar sus leyes. Pero hasta ahora el gobierno en la RD ha resistido todos esos esfuerzos por cambiar la interpretación de la ley, negando que hayan violado los pactos de derechos humanos en América Latina. No resulta claro que vaya a ver alguna solución real, rápidamente”, dijo Jefferts Schori, durante su visita de mediados de diciembre.

“Es obvio que si la gente cuenta con los recursos económicos para litigar, con frecuencia pueden obtener alguna satisfacción. Pero eso suele ser muy costoso y toma mucho tiempo y claramente muchas personas de clase obrera simplemente no pueden hacerle frente”.

Numéricamente, la Diócesis Episcopal de Haití es la más grande la Iglesia Episcopal; y la Diócesis de la República Dominicana es una de las diócesis de más rápido crecimiento en la IX Provincia, que abarca [parte de] América Latina. Luego del dictamen del Tribunal Constitucional en 2013, el Consejo Ejecutivo sugirió que la Obispa Primada viajara a la República Dominicana en una misión en busca de información precisa.

Mediante su visita, que incluyó informes del comité pastoral de la diócesis, una visita a Centro Bonó, una organización no gubernamental auspiciada por jesuitas, y conversaciones informales con periodistas, académicos y abogados, que definieron la situación “como una amenaza a la democracia”, la Obispa Primada esperaba a hacer a toda la Iglesia consciente de la situación en la República Dominicana.

“En verdad la educación ayuda a las personas a llevar una mejor labor de promoción social con sus propios legisladores. Creo que nuestro propio gobierno tiene alguna posibilidad de ejercer presión sobre el gobierno dominicano. Creo que el cambió advendrá a partir de la presión internacional”, dijo Jefferts Schori.

“Las relaciones comerciales entre la RD, EE.UU. y otras naciones desarrolladas van en aumento y en algún momento la presión económica, la presión económica y política, tiene muchas posibilidades de tener un efecto”.

A semejanza de los más de 11 millones de inmigrantes indocumentados que han cruzado la frontera de Estados Unidos para encontrar trabajo, se calcula que 1 millón de haitianos ha cruzado la frontera de 273 kilómetros que separa a Haití de la República Dominicana. Las similitudes no terminan aquí: recientemente, los menores han estado cruzando la frontera en cifras récord, y aumentaron las tensiones después de que varios pescadores haitianos fueran arrestados en aguas dominicanas cerca de Pedernales, un pueblo de la costa del Caribe y el punto fronterizo más al sur [entre las dos naciones].

“Ocasionalmente surgen conflictos en la frontera. Particularmente cuando está abierta para facilitar a comerciantes de ambos lados que vendan sus productos”, dijo Holguín, añadiendo que en este caso hubo protestas frente al consulado dominicano en Haití. La protesta terminó luego de la liberación de los pescadores. Y muchos haitianos cruzan la frontera durante los días feriados, lo cual aumenta el tráfico y las posibilidades de conflicto.

Adicionalmente, meses de constantes y violentas protestas en Haití —en que se pedía la celebración de elecciones aplazadas por mucho tiempo y la renuncia del presidente— y la reciente disolución del parlamento haitiano han generado mayores tensiones en ambos lados de la frontera.

“La situación política en Haití se ha hecho difícil… lo cual preocupa a algunos sectores del lado dominicano”, opinó Holguín.

Colonización e historia de La Española

La República Dominicana, con una población de 10,4 millones de habitantes, y Haití, con una población de 10,3 millones, comparten la isla de La Española, en la cual la República Dominicana ocupa aproximadamente dos tercios de la región oriental y Haití el tercio occidental de la isla. La Española es la segunda isla en extensión territorial de las cuatro que constituyen las Antillas Mayores y la única que comparten dos naciones.

En 1492, el explorador Cristóbal Colón desembarcó en La Española, en la parte que llegaría a convertirse en Haití; un año después estableció la primera colonia europea permanente en los que ahora es la República Dominicana. Los españoles colonizaron la isla y la gobernaron hasta que los franceses ocuparon la parte occidental, Haití, en 1660. Durante siglos de gobierno colonial, españoles y franceses explotaron los recursos naturales de la isla. Cuando la mano de obra se redujo, los franceses importaron millones de esclavos africanos para trabajar en las plantaciones de caña de azúcar y tabaco en lo que llegó a tenerse por la colonia más rica del Caribe. Cuando los esclavos se rebelaron, Haití se convirtió en una nación independiente en 1804, y la República Dominicana, entonces conocida como Santo Domingo, lo siguió al año siguiente.

Un año después, el ejército haitiano invadió y los dos países fueron gobernados por Haití hasta 1844, una ocupación de 22 años definida como “brutal y opresiva” que sigue alimentando las tensiones y los sentimientos antihaitianos en la actualidad. Todos los años, el 27 de febrero, los dominicanos celebran su independencia, no de España, sino de Haití.

Sin embargo, la independencia en Haití y la República Dominicana no produjo democracias estables. Más bien hubo periódicos regímenes de fuerza que, finalmente, dieron lugar a las muy semejantes dictaduras de François Duvalier (“Papa Doc”) y Rafael Trujillo (“El Jefe”). Este último ordenó la masacre de entre 9.000 y 20.000 haitianos que vivían a lo largo de la frontera en octubre de 1937.

La masacre y el denigrante retrato que hacía Trujillo del pueblo haitiano dejó una mancha en las relaciones dominico-haitianas, dicen historiadores y políticos entre otros.

El auge de la industria azucarera

A partir de la década del 70 y 80 del siglo XIX, la producción azucarera comenzó a desarrollarse a escala industrial en la República Dominicana. Los haitianos finalmente se impusieron como fuerza laboral migrante; para 1952, los dos países llegaron a un acuerdo bilateral que garantizaba un continuo suministro de obreros haitianos para hacer frente a las demandas de la producción azucarera, durante la temporada anual de la zafra. En un momento llegó a haber ocho grandes plantaciones de caña de azúcar cerca de Santa Fe, donde estuvo de visita la Obispa Primada.

“Muchos, muchos haitianos vinieron a trabajar a la RD en la industria azucarera bajo la dictadura de Rafael Trujillo”, dijo Jefferts Schori.

Los acuerdos fueron semejantes al del programa de braceros en Estados Unidos, el cual garantizó un flujo permanente de obreros manuales provenientes de México de 1942 a 1964.

“Cuando la industria azucarera se desplomó y la mano de obra ya no era necesaria, los haitianos se quedaron”, dijo ella.

El Rdo. Álvaro Yepes, miembro de la comunidad pastoral de la diócesis, quien atiende el campamento del Monte de la Transfiguración en El Pedregal, dijo que al menos 19 miembros de su comunidad carecen de certificaciones de nacimiento. Además de ofrecerles oraciones y atención pastoral, él se siente frustrado por lo poco más que puede hacer por ellos, dijo.

“Es fácil decir que todos somos hijos de Dios, pero difícil ponerlo en práctica” cuando no a todos los miembros de la sociedad se les trata de la misma manera, apuntó Yepes, quien agregó que, por razones prácticas, el gobierno todavía provoca resentimientos entre los dominicanos y los que se perciben como inmigrantes haitianos.

En tiempos de crisis, la República Dominicana ha respondido generosamente a Haití. Dada su proximidad, fue el primer país en responder luego del catastrófico terremoto del 12 de enero de 2010 que mató entre 200.000 y 300.000 personas y destruyó totalmente partes de la capital haitiana de Puerto Príncipe y de la vecina [ciudad de] Léogâne. La República Dominicana proporcionó ayuda de emergencia, organizó voluntarios y, lo más significativo, abrió la frontera en Jimaní, a 64 kilómetros al este de Puerto Príncipe, para [dejar entrar] a haitianos que huían del desastre.

Se calcula que 1 millón de haitianos huyó a la República Dominicana, duplicando así el tamaño de la población inmigrante. De los 2 millones de haitianos que viven en la República Dominicana, 70.000 se encuentran allí legalmente, según los datos de Human Rights Watch.

Frontera y problemas compartidos

Haití está clasificado como un país de bajos ingresos donde el 58,5 por ciento de la población vive en la pobreza; en comparación, la República Dominicana se clasifica como un país de altos a medianos ingresos, con un 40,9 por ciento de la población que vive en la pobreza, según datos del Banco Mundial.

Tanto la economía haitiana como la dominicana dependen de remesas ganadas por inmigrantes que trabajan en el exterior y les envían ayuda a sus familias en el país. Las remesas constituyen el 7,3 por ciento de la economía dominicana y el 21,1 por ciento de la economía haitiana, según datos del Banco Mundial

Se calcula que en Estados Unidos residen un millón y medio de dominicanos y unos 600.000 haitianos.

“Cuando nuestro sistema económico depende de la capacidad de transporte y de la posibilidad de moverse de las personas que quieren trabajar, así como de la necesidad de las personas de mudarse por falta de oportunidades o (debido a) la violencia, violencia estatal o no estatal, hemos de admitir que la manera que teníamos de hacer las cosas ya no funciona”, dijo Jefferts Schori. “Fíjense en la Filipinas: su economía depende de su mano de obra migrante (y) eso es cada vez más cierto de algunas naciones de América Latina”.

La República Dominicana ha sido clasificada recientemente entre las economías de más rápido crecimiento del mundo, con un promedio de 5,5 de aumento anual del producto interno bruto a lo largo de 20 años. Sin embargo, según algunos estudios, el mercado laboral ha permanecido estancado, con obreros empleados en gran medida en trabajos de bajos salarios o en la economía informal.

En ese mismo período de dos décadas, las remesas —jornales transferidos al país por trabajadores migrantes— aumentaron constantemente alcanzando el pico del 11,4 de PIB en 2004, y descendiendo al 6,5 por ciento en 2011; la desigualdad en el ingreso ha aumentado en la última década.

Que la economía crezca, pero la demanda de trabajo y los salarios permanezcan estancados atiza los fuegos del resentimiento, el cual ha aumentado notablemente desde 2013, dijo Franklin Paula, que enseña inglés en una escuela episcopal en Santa Cruz.

Ha habido manifestaciones en respuesta a incidentes que se perciben motivados por prejuicios raciales, por ejemplo la quema de una bandera en mayo de 2014, dijo Paula, que nació en la República Dominicana, pero cuya familia es de Antigua.

Y a los haitianos, señalaba él, que vienen a la República Dominicana hablando dos o tres idiomas, con frecuencia prefieren contratarlos en los balnearios que sirven a turistas europeos y norteamericanos, lo cual da lugar a mayores resentimientos entre los obreros dominicanos que devengan bajos jornales.

— Lynette Wilson es redactora y reportera de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

Rob Wright among Georgia’s ‘100 Most Influential’

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Bishop Rob Wright pauses with Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver of Decatur and Speaker of the House of Representatives David Ralston in February 2013 on the occasion of Wright’s speaking to the House. Photo: Don Plummer

[Diocese of Atlanta] Those recognized as Georgia’s 100 most influential people recognized Jan. 27 at a luncheon given by Georgia Trend magazine included Bishop Rob Wright.

Georgia Trend included Bishop Wright in the listing with the state’s U.S. senators, the chancellor of the university system and business leaders for “wading into the gun debate, urging its defeat and then the veto of HB60, the concealed carry law,” and, when the bill passed, for banning guns in Episcopal churches in Middle and North Georgia. He was also noted for his support of blessing same-sex relationships.

Bishop Wright’s  inclusion was also notable for being the only clergy member on the 2015 list.

Bishop Wright’s wife, Dr. Beth-Sarah Wright, accepted the honor at an Atlanta luncheon. The bishop, who was at the Harvard Kennedy School at a course on Leadership for the 21st Century, issued a statement on being included in the Georgia Trend listing.

“Thank you for this unexpected recognition. I am honored to be included among Georgia’s most influential men and women. I am particularly pleased that Georgia Trend magazine included someone from the faith community. And so I accept this honor in the name of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta and every person of good faith throughout our state.  It is my faith that puts me alongside of Georgians of all kinds to achieve a more educated, less violent, more understanding Georgia, which I pray one day soon will be free from the scourge and shame of capital punishment. Again, thank you.”

Ben Young, associate publisher of Georgia Trend, said Bishop Wright was selected because of the impact of his actions.

“We research news stories and identify people who are making a difference,”  Young said in an interview prior to today’s event. “We chose (Bishop) Wright because his activities on health care and the gun issue were getting noticed.”