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.
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 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.”
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.
[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.
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
“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.
[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.”
The 15-member delegation of Jews, Christians and Muslims engaged in a series of high-level political and religious meetings in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, including with former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and current Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, to hear a wide range of perspectives on peace, religion and politics and to share their own views about the role the three Abrahamic faiths must play in helping to shape a better world.
The group heard deep concerns, frustrations, and strong sentiments of distrust in the midst of a stalled peace process, but they were encouraged by countless signs of hope and optimism and they were galvanized to be part of the solution together.
They also met 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.
“We’ve built bridges this week,” said Jefferts Schori, “and we’re going to keep traveling those bridges, and exploring the chasms beneath them, and looking over the guard rails for new possibilities, until God’s shalom and salaam and peace prevail in the Land of the Holy One and throughout the oneness of God’s creation.”
However, she said, “this cannot be a zero-sum game” in which one side’s gain is equivalent to another’s loss. “When we can back off from ‘what are they going to take from us,’ we might begin to find the answers.”
Along with Jefferts Schori, the group’s co-leaders were 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). Together, they represent about 15 million Americans.
“We have experienced the land and its people as they understand themselves. We leave with a sense of hope that people of faith, on the ground and in America, can truly be part of the solution,” said Gutow. “We heard from Israelis and Palestinians that our presence as religious leaders from three different faiths coming here at such a difficult time gives hope that our dream can come to fruition.”
Syeed said that there is no other solution “but to come up with an end to the present stalemate. It weighs heavy on everyone living in the Holy Land. We will continue to press our people and our government to resume the efforts for negotiations between the parties and help to build mutual trust and confidence. Faith leaders and congregations will continue to pray for success and do whatever we can to support these efforts.”
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.”
ISNA and JCPA also endorse that vision of lasting peace in the Holy Land through an agreed two-state solution.
“When talking about peace, there is a tendency to look at the obstacles,” said Peres, 91, welcoming the delegation to a 45-minute meeting in Jaffa, Israel, at the Peres Peace Center, which he founded in 1996 to build peace through socio-economic cooperation and development.
“Great things in life cannot be achieved unless you close a little bit your eyes. You cannot fall in love and you cannot make peace unless you close a little bit your eyes. With open eyes you will see all the problems and you will be blind to the opportunities,” said Peres, who twice served as Israeli prime minister – once in the mid-80s and again in the mid-90s – and recently retired as president, largely a ceremonial figurehead role.
Peres, who won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the peace talks that led to the Oslo Accords, said that he believes “there is no separation between God and the spirit … In our land we want religions really to come together. The characteristic of a nation must be multi-cultural and multi-spirited.”
At the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah two days later, Hamdallah shared his desire for peace and reconciliation and described it as an “inspiration” that such a diverse group of religious leaders from the U.S. would visit the region and engage with the people and the issues head on.
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.
Then in July 2014 in the Gaza Strip, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge against the militant Islamic movement Hamas after a surge in rocket attacks. The Israel-Gaza conflict, which erupted following the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers, and the retaliatory abduction and murder of a Palestinian youth, resulted in the death of more than 2,100 Gazans, mostly civilians, and 73 Israelis, mostly soldiers.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has asked the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged war crimes by Israel in the Palestinian Territories. Israel and the U.S. have strongly criticized the move, saying it undermines chances for a negotiated peace deal.
In early January, Israel retaliated by withholding the transfer of $127 million in tax revenues to the Palestinians.
“There’s a serious commitment not to resort to violence,” Hamdallah, who succeeded Salam Fayyad as Palestinian prime minister in June 2013, told the interfaith group. “We condemn all violent activities anywhere, whether in France or Israel, anywhere. We believe that these people who say they are representing Islam, they are not Muslims. Our theme is to achieve our goals through peaceful means.”
But Hamdallah told the religious leaders that he doubts whether the Palestinians could reach an agreement with the current Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Other leaders throughout the week told the interfaith group that it is difficult to see how a peace deal could be reached between Netanyahu and Abbas because the two sides have become so entrenched in their positions.
One senior Israeli official, who asked not to be named, said that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process “involves negotiations between two traumatized people, two people scarred by their past and fearful about their future. The essential aim in negotiation is to not only write your own victory speech but to write the other person’s as well.”
He said that the only way to shift from a zero-sum negotiation involves not just tolerating the other side “but being invested in their desired outcome just as you are in yours.”
The grave error in negotiations, he said, is that people “believe they must be involved in bringing the messiah, or in bringing justice and peace in some cosmic sense. Think a little bit less about bringing the messiah and a little bit more about making people’s lives better.”
During the meeting with Hamdallah, Syeed said that people of faith in the U.S. and around the world were hopeful when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry helped to restart the peace negotiations in 2013 but that they were troubled when those talks broke down a year later. Speaking on behalf of the interfaith delegation, Syeed said: “This is a unique alliance – Muslims, Christians, Jews together, having the same vision, having the same commitment, and expressing our solidarity.”
While much of the meetings centered on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the stalled peace process, and the role of religion, some of the conversations turned to more philosophical and reflective topics and included a number of lighter moments and shared laughter.
“The optimist and pessimist are passing away the same way, so why spend your life as a pessimist?” Peres said. “It’s not the brain that provides us with thoughts and dreams. It’s the other way around. It’s thoughts and dreams that cause the brain to adapt…
“Science has changed the way that people view the world. Science can overcome violence, so you don’t need wars. Science doesn’t have borders, so you cannot establish borders in science. Science cannot be controlled,” Peres added.
Jefferts Schori, a former oceanographer, told Peres that “it is a great blessing to hear you talk about the gift of science and it is leading us to new places. People of faith come with a different kind of knowing and I do not believe that it is different to the kind of knowing that science can offer. But when they come together they invite people to look far more deeply into the heart of reality, to see the connections that emanate from the center and that we cannot survive without one another. It is the driver for peacemaking.”
In other high-level political meetings, the group met with U.S. Ambassador to the State of Israel Daniel Shapiro; U.S. Consul General Michael Ratney; Ruth Calderon, an academic and a member of the Knesset, the Israeli government’s parliament; and Kholoud Al-Faqih, judge of the Sharia Court of Ramallah and the first female sharia judge in the Palestinian Territories.
Al-Faqih spoke to the group in Ramallah about her personal and professional journey, which involved eight years of determination and repeated visits to legal decision-makers until they finally accepted her pleas to enter the judicial training process. It has led to her being ranked by CEO Middle East magazine as number 10 of the 100 most powerful Arab women in the world.
Jefferts Schori relayed the biblical parable, told by Jesus to his disciples, of the persistent widow seeking justice from a judge. “What she does is go and knock on his door every day and bother him until she gets justice,” Jefferts Schori said. “You have done the same thing. You are a wonderful example to us. Thank you.”
Shapiro, who has served as ambassador since July 2011, welcomed the group during a meeting in Tel Aviv, Israel. “The fact that all of you – busy people in your communities – took the time to come and engage in a deep way, is really something I strongly appreciate. It’s a tough set of issues, but it won’t get less tough without people of goodwill throwing themselves into it,” he said.
“There are unfortunately other approaches. Some people turn away from it altogether. Some people choose to attack one side or the other and make it about a point-scoring exercise. Neither of those approaches is going to achieve our goals, which is a peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians,” he added. “An approach that says we need to come, we need to listen, we need to engage, we need to help create linkages between ourselves and both sides and, of course, across the divide, is to me the only approach that has the chance of succeeding.”
Calderon, a Yesh Atid party member who has served as a member of the Knesset since 2012, said that she believes that religion is often “much more creative than diplomacy.”
“This is the place of God, so how can we think that it’s ours or theirs? The whole talk about whom does it belong to always makes me uncomfortable because we know it belongs to God,” she told the group in Tel Aviv. “If I can say that there is one thing that God has taught me it’s that I don’t own things. I’m here on rent, maximum, and that is so simple for us to understand, but so difficult for us to say in parliament … I think there is in the religious language a way to solve the most painful problems … One of the things that I’ve learned in the last three years in parliament is that you cannot leave it to politicians.”
JCPA’s Gutow thanked Calderon for challenging the group to think about what it is that God would want. “If we take that as the measure of how we look at things, I think we’ll really come up with something beautiful.”
In connecting with grassroots organizations, the group met with leaders from the Shades Negotiation Program, which provides future Israeli and Palestinian leaders with constructive problem solving skills and resources to identify and create opportunities for a peaceful and prosperous future in the region.
The interfaith group traveled to Gush Etzion, where the leadership of Roots comprises Palestinian leaders from adjoining villages with Israeli settlers who, despite disagreement on some core issues, believe it is imperative for the communities to put aside political retrenchment and divisive actions and rhetoric in order to begin sowing the seeds necessary to make an eventual peace agreement take hold.
“Without building trust, the suspicions between us will suffocate the political peace agreements,” said Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, a project coordinator for Roots.
Their grassroots organizing includes engaging local leaders, non-violence workshops and religious dialogue.
“We know that there is great disagreement over many issues – over the facts of the past and even about the reality of the present – but we believe that effective dialogue is the secure place for argument and deeper understanding,” according to Shaul Judelman, a project coordinator who has lived in Gush Etzion for the past 13 years. “It is in this space that solutions can be built.”
And in Tel Aviv, the interfaith group heard from EcoPeace Middle East, which brings together Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli environmentalists through cooperative efforts “to protect our shared environmental heritage. In so doing, we seek to advance both sustainable regional development and the creation of necessary conditions for lasting peace in our region,” according to the organization’s website.
The initiative has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the demise of the Jordan River, which is drying up and has been polluted with untreated sewage over the course of the past 50 years.
“The problems we saw seemed intractable and a two-state solution felt like a faraway dream,” said Gutow. “But when we met with people on the ground, we saw people who believed in that dream and were in an effort to find a solution to the problems in the land.”
Other members of the delegation were:
• Bishop Prince Singh of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester
• The Rev. John E. Kitagawa, rector of St. Philip’s in-the-Hills Episcopal Church in Tucson, Arizona
• The Rev. Charles K. Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop
• The Rev. Margaret Rose, deputy for ecumenical and interfaith relations
• Alexander D. Baumgarten, director of public engagement and mission communication
• Sharon Jones, executive assistant to the presiding bishop
• Rabbi Leonard Gordon, interreligious relations chair for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs
• Ethan Felson, vice president and general counsel for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs
• Rabbi Batya Steinlauf, director of social justice and interfaith initiatives for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington
• Dr. Muhammad Shafiq, director of the Hickey Center for interfaith studies and dialogue at Nazareth College in Rochester, New York
• Azhar Azeez, president of the Islamic Society of North America
• Mohamed Elsanousi, director of external relations for Finn Church Aid
– Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.
[Trinity Church in the City of Boston] During Martin Luther King weekend, Children’s Defense Fund Founder and President Marian Wright Edelman issued a rallying cry to the predominantly white 900-plus attendees at Boston’s Trinity Church anti-racism symposium: “Wake up! [Martin Luther King] is not coming back. We’re it!”
Edelman’s keynote address was part sermon, part battle cry, part great commission to the people of faith. “When it comes to racial justice and race relations, it’s about time the faith community is the locomotive rather than the caboose!”
“Lots of people like to celebrate and name streets after Martin Luther King,” Edelman said. “Only the few actually want to build a more just society.”
Edelman underscored her exhortations with staggering statistics, saying that 51.3% of black babies are born into poverty and 80% of black children in this country cannot read at grade level in fourth or eighth grade.” She called poverty “racism’s twin.”
Her fiery demeanor as well as her rhetoric underscored Trinity Rector Samuel T. Lloyd’s introduction to the event. “Our gathering here is no small matter,” Lloyd said. “Racism continues to diminish and undermine our entire country.”
In his introductory remarks, Lloyd also noted that the relevance of the event’s topic as well as its timing was not lost on its organizers. Only a few weeks earlier, crowds had processed through Boston and past the periphery of the parish to express outrage at the inordinate number of black men – and 12-year-old boy – killed recently during altercations with police in Missouri, New York, and Ohio.
In her address, Edelman referenced the “cradle to prison pipeline for poor, black children,” correlating the disproportionate number of incarcerated black men to the substandard schooling they had received as children in poor neighborhoods and the resulting illiteracy rates, despair and joblessness.
Diocese of North Carolina Michael B. Curry, the first African-American bishop of a southern Episcopal diocese, also spoke at the symposium, direct his remarks to what he called “the apathetic Church.”
“When we in the Church are silent, we blaspheme,” Curry said. “Conformity to cultural reality yields to silence all too easily. It’s only by acting ‘crazy,’ being willing to take risks and follow the crucified one, that we will move closer to dismantling racism.”
Curry was the guest preacher during Trinity Church services the morning of the symposium.
Both Curry and Edelman joined in a discussion panel with other speakers, authors and activists. The Rev. Liz Walker, pastor of Boston’s Roxbury Presbyterian Church, humanitarian worker in Sudan and former television reporter, faulted the media for not taking a more pro-active role in calling out the debilitating effects of racism and not helping people understand its connection to prevailing social ills. Walker recalled her own painful experiences of being snubbed and assaulted as an African- American in the predominantly all-white school she attended in Little Rock, Arkansas. She also confessed to struggling with her own issues of hope.
“I’m now pastor of a church located in the midst of all that ails this country,” said Walker. “It’s only two miles from here, but I’ve seen more hopelessness there than I’ve seen on all my trips to Sudan.”
Panelist Debby Irving, author of Waking Up White, spoke to her own awakening as a privileged young white woman in a wealthy suburb of Boston. “I always thought the playing field was level for everyone,” said Irving. “I had absorbed messages from my family and culture that white people are superior and that anger at injustice was not a valuable social norm. I was ill-equipped to make King’s dream a reality.”
Tim Wise, author of White Like Me and other books addressing racial inequality, spoke about the tangible evidence of racism in poor black neighborhoods: “When I visit a new city and see the lack of care and money invested in a neighborhood’s infrastructure – its ruined roads and broken street lamps – I know I’m in a poor black neighborhood. When this is no longer the case, I’ll know that systemic racism has finally died.”
Wise, who has spent years working as an activist and racial justice educator, has trained corporate, government, law enforcement and medical industry professionals on methods for dismantling racism in their institutions.
Boston’s Trinity Church has consulted with racial justice educators and consultants, and spent the last several years conducting an examination of its own 300-year-old history with regards to institutional racism. Not surprisingly, its findings mirror attitudes and policies prevalent among much of secular society in previous eras. Trinity clergy and administrators believe that the act of self-examination provides important context for choosing new and creative directions.
Those new directions are behind the creation of the Anne Berry Bonnyman symposium series as well as other, more grass-roots actions that include the creation, in 2007, of Trinity Boston Foundation – a separate 501(c)3 nonprofit organization comprised of educational, character development and leadership programs designed to help Boston’s youth overcome the odds. In addition, the church’s anti-racism team facilitates a monthly book club, as well as what it calls a “Talking Circle” to advance understanding and dialogue regarding issues of race.
– Barbara R. Bodengraven is communications manager for Trinity Church in the City of Boston.
[Episcopal News Service] In a packed service at York Minster Jan. 26 attended by more than 100 bishops from the Church of England and women bishops from across the Anglican Communion, Libby Lane was ordained and consecrated as the first female bishop in the history of the Church of England.
Lane became the eighth bishop of Stockport and will serve as a suffragan (assistant) bishop in the Diocese of Chester.
Lane was anointed with oil by Archbishop of York John Sentamu, who later gave her a Bible.
Libby was first presented by the Bishops of Chester and Exeter (the Rt. Rev. Peter Forster and the Rt. Rev. Robert Atwell) and surrounded by fellow bishops at the foot of the nave platform, according to a Diocese of Chester press release.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby attended as did other senior Christian pastors and faith leader, the release said.
At the end of the service she was given a pastoral staff and went in procession outside the minster where she was photographed and filmed by various media. The consecration was filmed by the major British broadcasters and shown on lunchtime news programs across the various networks, including BBC, Sky News and ITV. The historic event was covered by media from around the word, according to the Chester diocese.
The service was interrupted by a lone protester, the Rev. Paul Williamson, the Associated Press reported. He stepped forward and objected when the congregation was asked if it was their will that Lane be ordained. Williamson said “No!” and asked to speak, arguing there was no precedent in the Bible for women bishops.
Lane remained stoic. Sentamu seemed prepared, according to the AP report, and answered with a prepared statement, a nod to the controversy that led to this moment.
Sentamu then simply moved on, asking the packed church once again if they approved. This time, the response was a thunderous “Yes!”
Lane was appointed Dec. 17. Her appointment and the ordination and consecration on Jan. 26 followed more than a decade of often-emotional debate accompanied by various stages of legislative action. The Church of England voted in July to allow women to become bishops, a decision that was later approved by the U.K. Parliament and given the assent of Queen Elizabeth II. The approvals were required because the church’ effectively changed English law. (The Church of England is an officially established Christian church with Queen Elizabeth II as its supreme governor.)
Libby will be installed in a separate ceremony March 8 at Chester Cathedral.
In a statement shortly after being consecrated, Libby said she had been encouraged by the thousands of messages of support she has received since the news of her appointment was announced. She said:
“Archbishop Sentamu has observed, ‘the way that we show our faith and our love for one another is with two simple things, prayer and parties.’ Today is an occasion of prayer and of party – and I am thrilled that so many want to share in both. I cannot properly express how encouraged I have been in the weeks since the announcement of my nomination, by the thousands of messages I have received with words of congratulation, support and wisdom. I’ve heard from people of all ages, women and men – people I have known for years, and people I have never met; people from down the road, and people from across the world.
“Many those who have been in touch have little or no contact with the Church of England; not all have been people of faith, but every one of them has felt this moment marks something important. That all this personal – and media – attention has centred on me has been a little overwhelming: I cannot possibly live up to everyone’s expectation. And so today, at my consecration, I hold on to words of promise from the Bible, a reassurance that all this does not depend on me … ‘the God who calls you is faithful: He will do it’ (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
“My consecration service is not really about me. With echoes of practice which has been in place for hundreds of years in the church, it is a reminder that what I am about to embark on is shared by the bishops around me, by those who have gone before me and those who will come after. It places the ministry of a bishop in the context of the ministry of all God’s people. And most importantly it retells the good news of Jesus, the faithful one, who calls each of us to follow him.
“Thank you to all who are praying for me and partying with me today. Please continue to hold me in your prayers as, after the example of St. Timothy and St. Titus who are celebrated by the Church on this day, I share in work of proclaiming the gospel, in word and action, and bearing witness to the name of Jesus.”
Sentamu said after the service that history had been made in York Minster. “It is a momentous occasion: a solemn act of worship and a jubilant celebration. I was thrilled to be presiding at the service,” he said. “Jesus Christ calls ordinary people like you and me to serve him joyfully and confidently. We are simply called to serve.”
More biographical information about Lane is included in this story.
[Episcopal Public Policy Network Policy Alert] Yesterday, the Obama Administration took a critical step toward permanent protection for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s Coastal Plain by releasing a long-anticipated report. This report, called the Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP), not only provides useful guidance for conserving the natural habitat of the Arctic but also recommends an official Wilderness designation for its Coastal Plain.
While this report alone cannot permanently protect the Coastal Plain, Congress can heed its recommendation and pass legislation that would achieve permanent protection for this region of the Arctic. The Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act (a bill that would permanently designate the Coastal Plain as Wilderness) was reintroduced to the 114th Congress as HR 239 on January 9th, 2015, and The Episcopal Church will continue to advocate for its passage.
Stirred by our commitment to safeguarding God’s creation and by our solidarity with the Gwich’in (a native Alaskan people who are largely Episcopalian), The Episcopal Church has long advocated for the Coastal Plain’s permanent protection. The release of the CCP is a joyous occasion for The Church and our ongoing effort to protect the Coastal Plain. As we continue our congressional advocacy for the Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act, let us also thank President Obama for taking the initiative to offer this crucial recommendation to Congress.
[Episcopal News Service – Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic] A large crowd gathered to meet Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in mid-December at Holy Cross Church in Santa Fe, in what was once the heart of the Dominican Republic’s sugarcane producing region in San Pedro Macoris.
Jefferts Schori would later preach, but first she was scheduled to have a conversation with the immigrant community about its experience in the wake of a 2013 Constitutional Court sentence that annulled the citizenship of an estimated 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian ancestry, many of them women and children.
“The current reality is that there are generations of people with Haitian ancestry in the Dominican Republic; children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren born in the DR who now have been told that they are not citizens, which means that now they can’t get passports (or) cellphones because they don’t have identification numbers,” said Jefferts Schori, in an interview with Episcopal News Service. “In a number of cases their birth records have been expunged or declared invalid. They can’t go to school, they can’t go to university, they can’t get loans; they simply can’t function in the normal areas of society.
“They are not just undocumented, they are ‘de-documented.’ ”
The court’s 2013 ruling came three years after the Dominican Republic changed its constitution removing jus soli, the right of anyone born in the territory of a state to nationality or citizenship – an almost universal right in the Americas. The 2013 sentence, or ruling, furthered the constitutional change, making it retroactive to 1929 and stripping the citizenship of three generations of people born in the Dominican Republic.
“The de-nationalization imposed by the sentence is an act of injustice, an iniquity; they are Dominicans that have been dispossessed by the sentence,” said Dominican Republic Bishop Julio Holguín, who from the start has been involved with a solidarity committee of lawyers, activists and academics who’ve condemned the court’s action and defended the rights of those affected.
“As a church we feel very committed and obligated to be the voice of those who don’t have a voice.”
Eight months after the sentence, in May 2014, following intense political pressure and international calls for justice, the president introduced and the Dominican Congress passed a law allowing children of “irregular” migrants, or non-residents deemed “in-transit” under a 2004 law who have birth certificates, to become citizens and those without to apply for legal residency and later citizenship.
The May 2014 law would apply to about 20,000 people, which critics say falls short.
Without a birth certificate, a person cannot obtain an identification card, which is required to study, to apply for dignified employment, to marry, to register children, to qualify for state health insurance and pensions, to open a bank account, to apply for a passport, to participate in elections, or even to be baptized.
Obtaining a birth certificate, however, can be an arbitrary, expensive process in the Dominican Republic, given the current right-leaning, anti-immigrant sentiment percolating in advance of presidential elections in 2016. It’s an already arduous task in a developing country with irregular record-keeping procedures made more difficult in small towns and rural areas where workers continue to live in bateyes – the informal communities that grew up around the sugarcane plantations where Haitian migrants typically lived and where poor, marginalized people continue to live long after the sugarcane industry’s crash.
Back at Holy Cross Church, one young woman, Linda, a 24-year-old mother of two, shared her story of living without a birth certificate and thus an ID, which is necessary for her to continue her education and to register the births of her children, a 7-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl, both born in the Dominican Republic, one to a Dominican father, the other to a Haitian.
Linda held documents from the secretary of education saying she couldn’t continue her night school studies without a birth certificate, a photocopy of her mother’s identification card issued by the Dominican government in 2005, and a “to whom it may concern” letter signed and stamped with the seal of a Roman Catholic parish confirming her birth in 1990 and her mother’s identity.
Without a lawyer to assist her in navigating the bureaucracy and what activists, lawyers and members of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic’s Pastoral Committee on Immigration describe as an arbitrary process, Linda’s life and that of her two children will likely remain in limbo.
Others in similar situations or with affected family members in the crowd of more than 250 people were fearful of sharing their story publicly. Following the meeting, however, outside the church during the Eucharist, they came forward in the hope of finding some assistance. Like Linda, many were looking to legitimize their residency in order to study, to work in the formal economy and provide a better life for their families. Without a birth certificate and a nationality, they are stateless, “a person who is not considered as a national by any state under the operation of its law.”
An estimated 10 million people are stateless worldwide, many of them made so by war and others because of economic migration, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which in 2014 launched a 10-year campaign aimed at eradicating statelessness.
In addition to UNHCR, statelessness has caught the attention of the International Anglican Family Network, which supports the campaign for universal birth registration, meaning it supports global efforts to ensure compliance in countries that recognize the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Dominican Republic is party to the convention and therefore agreed to Article 7 which says children have a right to be registered immediately following birth and have a right to nationality, particularly where they otherwise might be stateless.
That said, the United Nations has resisted taking formal action against the Dominican Republic, which is not a party to either the 1954 nor the 1961 conventions on statelessness; and the country has ignored previous international legal attempts to protect the rights of Dominicans of Haitian descent.
In 2005, after seven years of litigation, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered the Dominican Republic to grant birth certificates, and thereby citizenship, to two Dominican-born girls of Haitian descent.
The court concluded that the Dominican Republic had “violated the rights of children of Haitian ancestry and rendered them stateless by refusing to issue their birth certificates because of their race.” Further, the ruling required the Dominican government to reform public policy to address historic discrimination in its birth registration procedures – to issue birth certificates to children regardless of their immigration status or the race of their birth parents, as well as to reform the education system.
In a press release issued immediately following the October 2005 court decision, one of the plaintiffs predicted the historical significance of the decision.
“This watershed decision will change the Dominican Republic just as Brown v. Board changed the United States,” said Laurel Fletcher, the director of the International Human Rights Law Clinic of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.
It did not.
In 2007 the Central Electoral Board, which in addition to organizing and monitoring elections oversees the country’s national identification program, implemented a resolution limiting access to birth certificates and government identification cards to Dominicans of Haitian descent. Recently, Holguín and other members of the solidarity committee held a press conference on Jan. 14 denouncing a recent decision by the electoral board to invalidate the IDs of 2 million people, “continuing the work initiated by the 2007 ruling.”
Years of legislative changes and administrative policies aimed at limiting access to citizenship have further complicated an already complicated, unjust system.
“The justice issues are enormous. The human rights courts in Latin America have ruled this is illegal and have told the DR that it has to change its laws. But thus far the administration in the DR has resisted all such efforts by changing the interpretation of the law, denying that they have exceeded to the human rights covenants in Latin America. It’s not clear that there is going to be any real resolution, quickly,” said Jefferts Schori, during her mid-December visit.
“It’s also apparent that if people have the financial resources to litigate, they often can get relief. But it’s often very expensive and it takes a long time and clearly many people in the working class simply can’t manage it.”
Numerically, the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti is the largest in The Episcopal Church; the Diocese of the Dominican Republic is one of the fastest growing dioceses in Province IX, which covers Latin America. Following the Constitutional Court’s 2013 decision, Executive Council suggested the presiding bishop travel to the Dominican Republic on a fact-finding mission.
Through her visit, which included briefings from the diocese’s pastoral committee; a visit to Centro Bonó, a Jesuit-sponsored nongovernment organization; and informal conversations with journalists, academics and lawyers, who described the situation “as a threat to democracy,” the presiding bishop hoped to make the larger church aware of the situation in the Dominican Republic.
“Certainly education helps people be better advocates with their own legislators. I think our own government has some ability to apply pressure on the Dominican Government. I think the change will come from international pressure,” said Jefferts Schori.
“Trade relationships between the DR, the US and other developed nations are increasing and at some point the economic pressure, the economic and political pressure, is most likely to have an effect.”
Not unlike the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants who have crossed the border into the United States to find work, an estimated 1 million Haitians have crossed the 170-mile border separating Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The similarities don’t end there: Recently minors have been crossing the border in record numbers, and tensions have flared after Haitian fishermen were arrested in Dominican waters near Pedernales, the southern-most border town on the Caribbean Sea.
“Occasionally conflicts arise on the border. Particularly when it is opened to make way for traders on both sides to sell their products,” said Holguín, adding that in this case there were protests outside the Dominican consulate in Haiti. The protest stopped following the fishermen’s release. And that many Haitians cross the border during the holidays, which increases traffic and the potential for conflict.
Additionally, months of ongoing violent protests in Haiti – calling for long-delayed elections and the president’s resignation – and the Haitian parliament’s recent dissolution have further created tension on both sides of the border.
“The political situation in Haiti has become difficult … which worries some sectors on the Dominican side,” Holguín.
Colonization and history of Hispaniola
The Dominican Republic, population 10.4 million, and Haiti, population 10.3 million, share the island of Hispaniola, with the Dominican Republic occupying approximately the eastern two-thirds and Haiti the western third of the island. Hispaniola is the second largest of the Greater Antilles’ four islands and the only one shared by two nations.
In 1492, explorer Christopher Columbus landed on Hispaniola in what would become Haiti; a year he later established the first permanent European settlement on the island in what is now the Dominican Republic. The Spanish colonized the island and ruled it until the French claimed the western part, Haiti, in 1660. During centuries of colonial rule the Spanish and the French exploited the island’s natural resources. When labor ran short, the French imported millions of African slaves to work Haiti’s sugarcane and tobacco plantations in what was considered by far the richest colony in the Caribbean. When the slaves rebelled, Haiti became an independent nation in 1804, and the Dominican Republic, then known as Santo Domingo, followed in 1821.
A year later the Haitian army invaded and the two countries were governed by Haiti until 1844, a 22-year occupation portrayed as “harsh and oppressive” that continues to fuel tensions and anti-Haitian sentiments today. On February 27, annually, Dominicans celebrate independence not from Spain, but from Haiti.
Independence in Haiti and the Dominican Republic did not, however, bring about stable democracy. Instead it gave rise to dictatorships, and eventually the likes of Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier and Rafael “El Jefe” Trujillo, the latter ordering the massacre of between 9,000 and 20,000 Haitians living along the border in October 1937.
The massacre and Trujillo’s denigrating portrayal of the Haitian people have left a stain on Dominican-Haitian relations, say historians, politicians and others.
The rise in sugarcane production
Beginning in the 1870s and into the 1880s sugar production began to develop on an industrial scale in the Dominican Republic. Haitians eventually dominated its migrant labor workforce; by 1952 the two countries came to a bilateral agreement ensuring a continuing supply of Haitian workers to meet the seasonal demands of sugarcane production.
At one time, there were eight major sugarcane plantations near Santa Fe, where the presiding bishop visited.
“Many, many Haitians came to work in the DR in the sugar industry under the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo,” said Jefferts Schori.
The arrangement was similar to the bracero program in the United States, which ensured a steady stream of manual laborers from Mexico from 1942 to 1964.
“When the sugar industry collapsed and the labor was no longer needed, the Haitians stayed,” she said.
The Rev. Alvaro Yepes, a member of the diocese’s pastoral community who serves at the Camp of the Mount of the Transfiguration in El Pedregal, said at least 10 members of his community lack birth certificates. Aside from offering prayers and pastoral counseling, he’s frustrated by what little else he can do for them, he said.
“It’s easy to say we are all children of God, but hard to put into practice” when not all members of society are treated equally, said Yepes. He said that, for political reasons, the government often stirs resentments between Dominicans and those perceived to be Haitian immigrants.
In times of crisis, the Dominican Republic has responded generously to Haiti. Given its proximity, it was the first country to respond following the Jan. 12, 2010, catastrophic earthquake that killed between 200,000 and 300,000 people and leveled parts the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince and nearby Léogâne. The Dominican Republic provided emergency assistance, organized volunteers, and most significantly, opened the border restrictively at Jimani, 40 miles east of Port-au-Prince, to Haitians fleeing disaster.
An estimated 1 million Haitians fled to the Dominican Republic, doubling the size of the immigrant population. Of the 2 million Haitians living the Dominican Republic, 70,000 were there legally, according to Human Rights Watch data.
Shared border, shared struggles
Haiti is classified as a low-income country where 58.5 percent of the population lives in poverty; in comparison, the Dominican Republic is classified as an upper-middle-income country, with 40.9 percent of the population living in poverty, according to data from the World Bank.
Both the Haitian and the Dominican economies depend on wages earned by immigrants working abroad and sent back to support families in-country. Remittances make up 7.3 percent of the Dominican economy and 21.1 percent of the Haitian economy, according to World Bank data.
“When our economic system depends on the transportability and the ability of people who want to work to move, as well as the need for people to move for lack of opportunity or (because of) violence, state violence or non-state violence, we’re faced with a recognition that our ancient ways of doing things no longer function,” said Jefferts Schori. “Look at the Philippines: Its economy depends on its migrant labor (and) that’s increasingly true of some nations in Latin America.”
The Dominican Republic has recently ranked consistently among the fastest-growing economies in the world, averaging a 5.5 increase in gross domestic product annually for 20 years. The labor market, however, has remained stagnant, with workers largely employed in low-wage jobs or in the informal economy, according to studies.
In that same two-decade period, remittances – wages transferred home by migrant workers – rose steadily peaking at 11.4 percent of GDP in 2004, and dropping to 6.5 percent in 2011; income inequality has increased in the last decade.
That the economy grows but demand for labor and wages remains stagnant stokes the fires of resentment, which have increases noticeably since 2013, said Franklin Paula, who teaches English at an Episcopal school in Santa Cruz.
There have been demonstrations in response to incidents perceived to be racially motivated, a May 2014 flag burning, for instance, said Paula, who was born in the Dominican Republic but whose family is from Antigua.
And Haitians, he said, who come to the Dominican Republic speaking two or three languages, often are preferred hires at the resorts that cater to European and American tourists, which leads to further resentment among low-wage Dominican workers.
— Lynette Wilson is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.
[Anglican Communion News Service] The Service of Consecration and Ordination of Kenneth Kearon as the new Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe took place at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, Jan. 24 on the Eve of the Conversion of St Paul.
The preacher at the service, Archbishop of Wales Barry Morgan, , said: “Life as a bishop is like a ride on a zip wire … Just as zip wire riders need someone to launch them at the start and haul them in at the end, so too a bishop sets people off on their sometimes daunting journeys of faith and holds them safe as they travel.’ More than that, though, he added, ‘a bishop is someone who climbs onboard the ride first – to lead by example’.”
As well as Morgan and a number of serving and retired bishops of the Church of Ireland – including the Rt. Rev. Sam Poyntz, the new bishop’s father-in-law – Kearon’s consecration brought together a large number of attendees from across the Church of Ireland, the wider Anglican Communion and, notably, the Methodist Church in Ireland also. The president of the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Rev. Peter Murray, along with the Rev. Donald Ker, former president and general secretary of the Methodist Church in Ireland, and former president and co–chair of the Covenant Council, the Rev. Winston Graham, joined with other bishops in the laying on of hands on the new bishop – the first time that participation by Methodist leaders has taken place. Since the decision of both the General Synod and the Methodist Conference allowing for the inter-changeability of ministry, Methodist presidents are now regarded as Episcopal ministers and as such can participate in a consecration service.
The service was led by the Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson, Bishop of Meath and Kildare Pat Storey, and Bishop of Tuam and Killala Patrick Rooke were co–consecrators.
The first reading from Numbers 27: 15–20, 22–23 was read by one of the new bishop’s three daughters, Rachel Kearon; the second reading from 2 Corinhtians 4: 1–10 was read by the Rev. Gillian Wharton and the Gospel, John 21: 1–17, was read by the R.t Rev. James Tengatenga, chair of the Anglican Consultative Council. The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral sang Mozart’s Coronation Mass during the Eucharist.
Kearon was also surrounded by many family and friends at the service, including his wife, Jennifer, and two of his three daughters – Alison and Rachel (pictured right); his daughter Gillian is living in New Zealand and was unable to attend. Kearon’s mother, Ethel Kearon, was joined by his sister, Lynda Goldsmith.
Born in Dublin in 1953, Kearon attended Mountjoy School and Trinity College, Dublin, where he studied Philosophy. Following further study at Cambridge and in Dublin, he was ordained a priest in 1982 and served as curate in All Saints Raheny and St John’s Coolock before his appointment as dean of residence at Trinity College, Dublin. In 1991 he became rector of Tullow before becoming director of the Irish School of Ecumenics in 1999 and secretary general of the Anglican Communion in 2005, the role which he performed until late last year.
Kearon is no stranger to Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, having been a member of the chapter since 1995 and served as its chancellor from 2002. In September 2014, he was elected bishop of Limerick and Killaloe following a meeting of the Episcopal Electoral College which took place at Christ Church Cathedral, and he succeeds the Rt. Rev. Trevor Williams who retired as Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe in July last year.
Enthronement services in the cathedrals in his new dioceses will take place at later dates.
Extracts from the sermon given at the consecration by Morgan are included in the full ACNS story here.
[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori preached at St. George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem, on Jan. 25. She was leading an interfaith pilgrimage to the Holy Land. ENS coverage of the pilgrimage is here.
The full text of the sermon follows.
Conversion of Paul
25 January 2015
St. George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem, Arabic service
Abrahamic Interfaith Pilgrimage
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
I bring you greetings from Episcopalians in the United States and in 16 other countries in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Taiwan. The people of this diocese – in Israel, Palestine, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon – continue in our prayers. We ask you to pray for us.
I am here as part of an interfaith pilgrimage, with a group from the U.S. composed of Jews, Muslims, and Episcopalians. We are here to meet God in one another and in the midst of the Abrahamic traditions we share. We have spent the last week in conversation with people who are working to build bridges and make peace. We have remembered that the work requires vulnerability, and a willingness to make space where God might enter and make peace in us and in the world around us. Listening deeply to the story another person tells is an essential and holy way of opening that space. What does that require of us? Slowing down, sitting down in patience, breathing deeply, and focusing our attention on another rather than ourselves. It is a kind of prayer, listening for the creative word of God in another. It is a conscious act of loving our neighbor as ourselves.
This pilgrimage had its genesis in a focus on peace in this land. Yet in listening to the stories of struggle we discover the need for peace, and its possibilities, everywhere. In this land we call holy, what Archbishop Suheil calls the Land of the Holy One, we rediscover that peace is born in setting aside both space and attention for the sake of another. It is an act of blessing, or making holy, that reflects the Holy One who has created us in God’s own image, that we might also be one and holy.
Today churches around the world mark the end of a week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Those who have traveled here will return home filled with ongoing prayer for religious unity, that we may show forth the love of God within us and among us, and make evident the one human family God has created.
There is some real irony in the readings for this morning, which commemorate the Conversion of St. Paul. Originally called Saul, he was a pious and observant Jew who found the new movement of Jesus’ followers deeply objectionable. Their preaching was disrupting the peace in the synagogues, he’s afraid of further chaos, and seems honor-bound to do all he can to expel and end this havoc. You heard how Luke begins to tell the story in Acts: “Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord…” Threats and murder are hardly a sign of holiness, yet they are often the companions of zealotry in every religious tradition. Zealotry is in many ways the opposite of that act of holy space-making that will slow down enough to breathe in the words and story of another.
Saul has a blinding encounter on his road toward further threats and possible murder. It stops him in his tracks and takes away his sight. It takes three days and an encounter with another before he begins to see a different way. That encounter is with Ananias, who lives on Straight Street (an indication that he brings a direct and truthful message), and he has good reason to fear Saul, but his prayerful listening prompts him to go and find his persecutor.
Ananias prays that the breath of God might fill and heal Saul and let him see. Saul has a conversion; he turns around, expands his vision of what is possible, and embraces a former enemy. His changed attitude astonishes people who knew him only as an angry and threatening zealot: “Isn’t this the guy who used to terrorize us?”
Yet the sad reality is that others soon began to tell his story as one of reversal, as trading violence toward one group for power plays over his own people. What originated in an expanded awareness of truth gets narrowed down again to a tale of winners and losers. Listen again to the last sentence we heard in Acts: “Saul became increasingly powerful and confounded the Jews… by proving that Jesus was the Messiah.” That is the story told by a group that still feels afraid and anxious – ‘see how powerful our leader is, how thoroughly he conquers the unbelieving.’ It is not exactly the story of Jesus the humble carpenter, the undefended teacher and prophet of wisdom, or the one who refused verbal battle with Pontius Pilate. It’s antithetical to the words of the Son of Man who called people blessed when they’re hated, excluded, and defamed, who said they should jump for joy, because they should know they’re acting like prophets.
Listen again to the heart of this gospel reading: “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life… many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” If you want to find life that endures and expands beyond human limitations, then let go of what you hang on to so tightly – possessions and positions and the supreme truth of your own story. Set those down and receive infinitely more.
Matthew follows this story with one about workers in the vineyard who all get the same pay, whether they work all day or only an hour. At the end the vineyard owner asks, ‘Can’t I do what I want with what belongs to me?’ “Or are you envious because I am generous? The last will be first and the first will be last.” Who owns that vineyard? And whose land is this, but the Holy One’s?
There is something about holiness traditions that cannot stand other holiness traditions, and usually only receives them as threatening and murderous. It’s an attitude that insists that boundaries between traditions have to be strong and high, or something essential will be lost.
There is also something about holiness traditions that can rise above those boundaries, or descend deeper into the heart of all that is, to remember and rediscover the One and only source, who alone is Holy. That way seeks oneness rather than division, and remembers that God’s universe is larger and far more curious than human beings can imagine. That is the truth the psalmist proclaims about God’s mercy and justice being for all people.
Deep in the heart of the Holy One there is no division. Distinction emerges in creation, yes, but it is distinction that is bound in relationship, rather than division. We human beings so often want to focus on the distinctions between us, and deny relationship with those who differ. It only divides us from the Holy One, particularly when we judge ourselves more righteous than another. The first shall be last, the last first, and ultimately we are all in this together.
The distinctions of our traditions – rote and ritual, habit and custom and theological formulations – are guideposts, laws, and patterns that shape us for holiness. They help us stay on Straight Street, the way of the Lord, the road of righteousness. But those distinctions are not the fullness of our created nature. If we have the courage to look beyond the fences and guardrails we can catch a glimpse of the Holy One creating new possibility in our hearts. Those roads are flowing from the same source. Slow down, and rest in the truth of God’s oneness. God’s creation reflects its source, and no part can be diminished by that oneness. Slow down, and breathe in God’s creative, loving breath. Fear and suspicion cannot long survive that slowing down. Breathe deeply, receive the breath of God, and listen for the Holy One, creating peace in your heart.
 The readings in Jerusalem’s lectionary are Acts 9:1-22; Psalm 67; Galatians 1: 11-16a; Matthew 19: 27-30
 Luke 6:22-23
 Matthew 20:15-16
 Psalm 67:1-2, 4
[Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta] Bishop Rob Wright Jan. 26 sent a letter to the chair and members of Georgia’s Board of Pardons and Paroles asking them to spare the life of an intellectually disabled death-row inmate. Warren Lee Hill is scheduled to be executed Jan. 27.
Hill, whose intellectual disability has been twice confirmed by lower courts, had his final appeal to the State Supreme Court denied Jan. 20. The Board of Pardons and Paroles, which meets Jan. 26, provides Hill with a last opportunity for avoiding the death penalty unless the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes.
In his letter Wright made a biblical argument against executing Hill. “While many people support capital punishment, Holy Scripture clearly shows Jesus never taught that we should murder a human being, no matter how heinous the crime.”
He told the board that he was greatly encouraged in July 2014 when they commuted the death sentence to life without parole in the case of Tommy Lee Waldrip.
“Your decision was a victory for morality and human dignity and I praise you for your action. Today I urge you to again take the courageous path and spare the life of Mr. Hill,” he said.
Since 1984, Georgia has executed 56 people, an average of two per year. However, in the past year Georgia has increased the frequency of executions with six scheduled executions.
Since 1954, The Episcopal Church has called repeatedly for an end to executions. Wright said in a letter to more than 200 clergy in his diocese that he hopes they will express concern to state officials — and physically witness their opposition to the death penalty. “As we all know, capital punishment can never bring an end to killing,” he said.
This is not the first time Wright has called an end to Georgia executions. In December, he wrote a letter to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal urging a halt to the practice. At that time Robert Wayne Holsey was facing execution. Holsey was executed Dec. 9 for the murder of Baldwin County sheriff’s deputy Will Robinson.
On Jan. 13 the state also executed Andrew Howard Brannan, a decorated war veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to court records. Brannan was put to death for the 1998 murder of 22-year-old Laurens County Sheriff’s Deputy Kyle Wayne Dinkheller.
Georgia is the only state to require evidence of intellectual disability to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. All other states use a less-strict standard of proof.
In a New York Times editorial published Jan. 23, the editors said “Mr. Hill’s case is a catalog of everything that is wrong with the death penalty.”
Vigils protesting the death penalty are planned for outside Georgia’s death-row prison and in Atlanta and 10 other locations throughout Georgia, according to Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty website.
La visita del papa Francisco a Filipinas reunió una multitud que se considera la más grande de las visitas papales hasta la fecha. Francisco celebró una misa al aire libre que se vio matizada por una pertinaz lluvia en la que instó al mundo a “aprender a llorar” por la suerte de los pobres, los hambrientos, los sin techos y los niños que han sido víctimas de abusos. El papa se detuvo a lo largo de su recorrido para besar a los niños y bendecir las estatuas religiosas en el día en que el calendario eclesiástico se celebra la fiesta del Niño Jesús. Filipinas es una de las naciones asiáticas donde hay más cristianos. En su homilía, el papa instó a los filipinos a rechazar las “estructuras sociales que perpetúan la pobreza, la ignorancia y la corrupción”, un tema que tocó en sus conversaciones con el presidente Benigno Aquino, que también asistió a la eucaristía. El papa se emocionó cuando una niña de 12 años lo abrazó y le dijo que había sido abandonada.
Argentina está pasando desde hace pocos días por una crisis política que puede tener consecuencias en el gobierno y en los políticos de alto rango: todo se debe a la muerte inesperada y misteriosa del fiscal argentino Alberto Nisman, un abogado de 51 años encargado de investigar el atentado a la mutual judía AMIA en 1994. Nisman acusa a la presidenta argentina Cristina Fernández de encubrir a Irán en el atentado a la sede judía. Nisman fue encontrado muerto en el baño de su casa en el barrio porteño de Puerto Madero, según informó la prensa local. Algunos observadores sospechan que se suicidó pero otros piensan que fue víctima de un homicidio. Todavía hay memoria de la bomba que explotó el 18 de julio de 1994 en la mutualista israelita causando la muerte a 85 personas. Los cuerpos de seguridad investigan los hechos.
Según una encuesta realizada por la firma PEW Center estos son los índices de
personas en América Latina que dicen no tener religión alguna: Uruguay 38%,
Chile 25%, Argentina 13%, Nicaragua 12%, República Dominicana 12%.
Durante la celebración del Día de Martín Luther King, Jr. se repitió una y otra vez que en materia de relaciones raciales “se ha progresado mucho pero todavía hay que hacer mucho más”. Varios oradores se quejaron de que los jóvenes afroamericanos tienen restricciones académicas y laborales que les impiden avanzar como el resto de la población.
La disputa entre miembros de la facultad y seminaristas del Seminario General de Nueva York, una institución de educación teológica de la Iglesia Episcopal fundado en 1817 ha llegado a su fin. Las partes litigantes llegaron a un acuerdo para beneficio de todos. El seminario tiene alrededor de 120 estudiantes, cursando estudios de maestría y doctorado en teología.
La guerrilla islamista de Boko Haram constituye una seria amenaza para la paz mundial cuyas atrocidades se repiten con frecuencia. Su más reciente acto es el secuestro de unas 200 mujeres cristianas en Nigeria que días más tarde fueron puestas en libertad. Las mujeres dijeron que recibieron maltratos físicos y ultrajes. Hasta ahora la prensa internacional y los países vecinos se han contentado con relatar los hechos. Y nada más. En Nigeria 55 por ciento de sus habitantes son cristianos y 45 por ciento son musulmanes.
Según un informe de las Naciones Unidas aunque muchas mujeres están mejor preparadas académicamente ahora que hace 20 años, todavía siguen sufriendo la violencia física, sexual y sicológica de sus esposos o compañeros. Esta violencia es ejercida contra la mujer por su condición de mujer siendo ésta, “consecuencia de la discriminación que sufre tanto en leyes como en la práctica, y la persistencia de desigualdades por razones de género”. Una de cada tres mujeres de la población mundial se habrá visto afectada por esta violencia, señala el informe.
CONFUSIÓN. Al llegar a la casa de un feligrés al clérigo le presenta a un jovencito al que con toda cortesía le pregunta: “Jaimito ¿Quieres ser cristiano?” Contesta Jaimito: “No, señor, prefiero ser Messi”.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 10:15 a.m. EST Jan. 23 to include information about a memorial service and additional details.
[Episcopal News Service] Marcus J. Borg, a New Testament scholar, theologian and author who was associated for years with the search for the historical Jesus and who sought to put the New Testament in what he believed was its proper context, died Jan. 21.
He died peacefully and without pain at his home in Powell Butte, Oregon, at 7:05 a.m. PST, the Rev. Nathan LeRud, acting cathedral dean, said in the announcement.
The Rev. Marianne Borg said “Marcus rose before the sun,” according to the announcement.
There will be a memorial service honoring Borg’s life at the cathedral on March 22. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will officiate.
“Marcus Borg was a gifted teacher and profoundly significant voice of reasoned faith for many, both in and outside the church,” Jefferts Schori said via e-mail from the Holy Land where she is leading an interfaith pilgrimage. “His teaching and writing led countless numbers of people into deeper and more authentic relationship with the Holy One. His gifts of insight, profound faith, and the ability to show others a path will be greatly missed.”
“Marcus also modeled for the world and the church what it is like to build collegial relationships with people who hold deep and differing convictions, and to discover greater truth and friendship in the midst of that kind of dialogue,” she continued. “I had the great privilege to know him as a teacher and a colleague over more than 30 years, and I will miss him deeply. May he rest in peace and edify the angels. Pray for Marianne and his children and give thanks for a life well lived in the search for truth.”
Borg, 72, was a leader in the Jesus Seminar, which worked to construct the life of Jesus through historical critical methods that looked at ancient texts such as the Bible to discern the world they described. The seminar’s fellows voted on the relative authenticity of about 500 statements and events concerning Jesus.
The seminar portrayed Jesus as a Jewish wise man and faith healer who traveled the countryside, dining with and healing people whom Jewish dogma and social norms treated as outsiders. This Jesus was seen as a prophet who preached about the possibility of liberation from injustice.
Not all theologians and religious scholars agree with the seminar’s approach and findings. Yet others passionately agreed and many Christians credit Borg and others such scholars with reviving their faith.
“Very many people who had left the Christian faith have returned to it through Marcus’ evangelism (though he would grimace at my use of the word, I suspect),” the Very Rev. Barkley Thompson, dean and rector of Christ Church Cathedral in Houston, wrote in his blog after learning of Borg’s death. “Marcus was a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ in word and in deed. He understood Jesus (and especially the Resurrection) differently than I do. But the veracity of his faith was clear. And calm. And passionate.”
Borg had been national chair of the Historical Jesus Section of the Society of Biblical Literature and co-chair of its International New Testament Program Committee and president of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars.
Borg was installed May 31, 2009, as canon theologian at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, where he had taught frequently and where the Rev. Marianne Borg was on staff at the time. Since their retirement, the Borgs have attended Trinity Episcopal Church in Bend, Oregon.
“Adult theological re-education at the congregational level is an urgent need within American churches today,” Borg said at the time. “It is essential to Christian formation. And from my own experience and from a number of studies, I know that it has been a source of re-vitalization in hundreds of congregations around the country.”
As a lecturer and author, Borg traveled as much as 100,000 miles a year. He was the Hundere Chair of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University where he taught for 28 years until his retirement in 2007. He was the author of 21 books, including Jesus: A New Vision (1987) and the best-seller Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time (1994); The God We Never Knew (1997); The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (1999); Reading the Bible Again for the First Time (2001), and The Heart of Christianity (2003), both best-sellers.
His latest books are Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most (2014) Speaking Christian (2011); Putting Away Childish Things (a novel – 2010); Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary (a New York Times Best-Seller – 2006); Conversations with Scripture: Mark (2009); and three books co-authored with John Dominic Crossan, The Last Week (2006), The First Christmas (2007), and The First Paul (2009). He is the co-author with N. T. Wright of The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions.
In Convictions, a book that he said grew out of a sermon he preached at Trinity Cathedral on his 70th birthday, Borg wrote that there was “nothing remarkable about my life, nothing heroic.” And he said that while it was hard for him to turn 60 because that milestone felt “like the end of potential and the beginning of inevitable and inexorable decline,” turning 70 in 2012 felt “interestingly empowering.”
Borg said that from this vantage point he was exploring what it meant to be Christian and American, having been shaped by those two memberships, and more especially “to be Christian and to live in the richest and most powerful country in the world, often called the ‘American Empire.’”
He called God “real and a mystery,” in Convictions and asked his readers to “Imagine that Christianity is about loving God. Imagine that it’s not about the self and its concerns, about ‘what’s in it for me,’ whether that be a blessed afterlife or prosperity in this life.”
More information about Borg can be found on his website.
– Religion News Service contributed to this obituary.
[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church of England’s Lichfield Diocese has broken new ground by advertising for a lay or ordained diocesan pastor to connect and support people online.
According to Bishop of Stafford Geoff Annas, the Diocesan Online Pastor is “a brave new role” with a focus on enabling teenagers and young people to “build up and nurture each other in the Christian faith.”
Speaking on the Church of England’s weekly podcast Annas stressed that while it was “not a substitute for face-to-face contact” the role would help the church meet needs that young people had and that weren’t currently being met.
“The emphasis is about how [young people] can better join in in their churches, but it’s also about keeping them aware of what’s going on in other churches,” he said.
“A lot of young people nowadays don’t see themselves even in denominational terms they see themselves as young Christians and the way they live out their faith is very different from traditional ways. It’s all part of reimagining of what it means to be ‘church’ in the coming years.
“I think where we’ve got problems is that young people see church in a totally different way. We’re not going to get them to sign up to endless meetings…the Church of England particularly is at an interesting moment. It’s at a turning point.”
Archdeacon of Stoke on Trent Matthew Parker told the Church of England’s Jillian Moody that success in this role “will look like more of our young people feeling that they are involved, connected. Relating not just to one another, not just to the wider church, but ultimately relating to God in a way that feels appropriate to them and speaks to where they are.”
The job description states, “To reach new generations we recognise that we must learn to relate more effectively to the world and the experience of young people and young adults. Increasingly, this generation inhabits a virtual environment sustained by an array of social media applications and digital devices.”
It cited recent research that found that adults in Britain spend more time in each day using devices than they do sleeping. Those aged 16-24, doing more than one task at a time, squeeze 14 hours and 7 minutes of media activity into each day, in just over 9 hours.
The job advert continues, “If Christian mission requires a commitment to going where people are and speaking the language they speak, then we cannot afford not to have a focused and engaged online presence if we wish to reach new generations with the gospel.”
The Online Pastor’s work would enable younger people to:
* become Christians through hearing the gospel in the language of digital media;
* grow in their faith and discipleship if they are already Christians;
* connect with other Christians in the diocese both on and offline;
* worship regularly and participate in their local church as well as a wider fellowship and lived out faith online;
* receive invitations to local Christian worship, events and gatherings appropriate to their age group;
* engage online in fellowship and the lived-out faith of transforming communities and practicing generosity;
* receive alerts, post and respond to prayer requests, access daily devotional material and discover links to appropriate and helpful online communities and resources;
* safely report any concerns they may have to the appropriate person (particularly in respect of safeguarding issues)
This is not the first time an Anglican has been appointed exclusively for an online ministry – the Rev. Mark Brown was ordained to a digital ministry by the Anglican Church of Australia more than a decade ago and, among other things, set up an Anglican Cathedral in the online virtual world Second Life.
Nevertheless, this is thought to be the first time a Church of England diocese will appoint someone specifically to a ministerial role that puts the digital space, and young people, at its heart.
For more information is here.
[St. James’s Episcopal Church – Richmond, Virginia] Thirteen missionaries from St. James’s Episcopal Church returned on January 17 from Cuba after a week within the Episcopal Church of Cuba working on a variety of projects including the development of a rural retreat named after a Virginian, Bishop Alexander Hugo Blankingship, who was the diocese’s Bishop from 1939 until the Cuban Revolution, reported The Reverend Carmen Germino, associate rector of St. James’s.
“It was exciting to be back in Cuba just after hearing the news of our governments’ thawing relationship,” said Germino.
“While the economic needs in Cuba are still immense, we felt a palpable spirit of hope from our friends there. The development of Camp Blankingship will only increase that sense of optimism and unity. The forty-four Episcopal churches in Cuba are separated by great distances, and Camp Blankingship will offer a central meeting place in a beautiful setting,” she explained.
Planning for the trip began in mid-2014 as a result of initial visits to the country in 2013 as part of an inter-faith team that included members from Temple Beth Ahabah and St. James’s, neighbors in faith on West Franklin Street in Richmond.
“On our initial trip, I felt an incredibly strong attraction to the Blankingship project,” said DeWitt Casler, one of the mission team in 2013 who returned to Cuba in 2014 on a church fact-finding trip and as part of the 2015 mission.
“When Bishop Griselda started talking about [Blankingship’s] dream of a youth camp, I felt that there was a reason for this connection and attraction,” he explained.
Bishop Blankingship’s daughter, Toni Donovan, lives in Richmond and worships at St. James’s. She and her family arrived here after fleeing Havana in 1961 as Castro turned the Cuban government towards communism. One of her sons, Anthony Donovan, was on the recent mission and represented the family’s hopes for Camp Blankingship. That retreat was the recipient of a 2014 United Thank Offering grant from the Episcopal Church Women’s foundation through the Diocese of Florida’s Cuba Committee to continue work on the project.
Germino added, “Bishop Blankingship’s legacy in the Cuban Episcopal churches is strong, even after many years. We met Cubans who were confirmed and ordained by him decades ago, and still remember him fondly. The Blankingship family’s ongoing connection to the Church of Cuba was fortified when Anthony presented Bishop Griselda with a gift—his grandfather’s framed Certificate of Consecration as a Bishop. It was a heartwarming moment.”
Missionaries this past week were DeWitt Casler, Anne Daniel, Anthony Donovan, Jane Dowrick, Carol Ann Fuller, Sam Fuller, the Reverend Carmen Germino, Edward Leake, Judy Philpott, Moses Reid, Zach Reid, Barbara Robinson, and Bobbie Smith.
St. James’s Episcopal Church is at 1205 West Franklin Street near Virginia Commonwealth University. It was established in 1835 and has been located at the intersection of West Franklin and Birch Streets since 1912. Over the past twenty years, St. James’s has sent over 600 missioners on sixty trips, making it one of the most active mission programs in the Episcopal Church.
For more information, visit the church’s website at www.doers.org.
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Episcopal Church Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop (JNCPB) has released the following statement with an update of progress following its recent meeting:
The Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop (JNCPB) met January 12 – 14. After nearly two years of conducting its work electronically, the committee gathered for the purpose of discerning the list of candidates to continue in the process. Committee co-chair, Bishop Edward Konieczny, said that during the time together the committee’s “passionate, emotional, and difficult work laid an incredible foundation that we will aim to continue with grace.”
More than 165 people representing over 60 dioceses submitted names during the nomination period last fall. Bishops whose names were submitted were invited to continue in the discernment process as established by the JNCPB by submitting information and materials for consideration. Video conferencing afforded the opportunity for committee members to talk with the candidates.
The Canons charge the Committee to present a slate of no fewer than three nominees. The JNCPB will announce the names of its nominees in early May. During the 10 days following release of the slate, deputies and bishops may indicate their intent to nominate any other bishop from the floor. The JNCPB will release names of any additional nominees in early June.
The JNCPB will present all the nominees to both Houses of General Convention on Wednesday, June 24. A formal nomination of candidates will follow on Friday, June 26. Bishops will elect the next Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church during a sequestered session on Saturday, June 27. The House of Deputies will then vote to confirm or not confirm the election by the House of Bishops.
Please keep all those who entered the discernment process, the candidates, their families and dioceses, and the members of the JNCPB in your prayers.
The JNCPB committee is composed of a lay member, a priest or deacon, and a bishop elected from each of the nine provinces of the Episcopal Church, plus two youth representatives who were appointed by the President of the House of Deputies, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings. The General Convention Deputies and bishops serve a three-year term to conclude at the close of General Convention 2015 in Salt Lake City.
Members listed here.
On Twitter at: @PB27Nominations or #JNCPB
[Virginia Theological Seminary press release] Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded $500,000 to Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) for a program entitled “Deep Calls to Deep: A Program to Strengthen Episcopal Preaching.”
“The task of preaching is central to the work of formation,” said the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D., dean and president of VTS. “This four-year program will create options for our graduates to grow, develop and hone the craft of preaching. We are honored that the Seminary has been recognized as an appropriate home for this exciting project.”
The Rev. Ruthanna Hooke, Ph.D., will oversee the program as executive director. Hooke is also an associate professor of homiletics and incoming associate dean of chapel. Donyelle McCray, Ph.D., instructor of homiletics and director of the Office of Multicultural Ministries, will serve as associate director. The core of the program is peer learning in groups to invite the connection between preaching and the rest of one’s life.
“‘Deep Calls to Deep’ seeks to help working preachers and seminarians to renew their preaching practices by deepening their connection to the Holy Spirit,” said Dr. Hooke. “At the core of our program is the opportunity for peer learning in community, as we believe that through this collegiality preaching is best developed and supported. We want to reach out to those who undertake the crucial and yet taxing work of preaching in our churches, to provide them with the nurture and challenge that will support them in this ministry for the long haul.”
A central goal of the program is to explore embodiment and spirituality as two tools to rejuvenate the preaching of those who have been in ministry for at least five years. This grant from Lilly Endowment recognizes the outstanding work that the Seminary does both in preaching and in continuing education with its graduates.
The Vestry of Christ Church, Alexandria is pleased to announce that they have called The Reverend John Hood Branson to serve as the Interim Rector to lead the congregation during the search process for a new permanent rector, usually a one to two-year period. The Rev. Branson will conduct a forum from 9:00 to 9:45 a.m. on Sunday, January 25 in the Auditorium at Christ Church to introduce himself and discuss the role of interim rectors in Episcopal parishes and his role at Christ Church.
The Rev. Branson is an experienced parish priest who has capably led large congregations similar to Christ Church for over 30 years. Most recently, he served as the Interim Rector at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Lake Forest Illinois, the largest church in the Diocese of Chicago. Prior to serving there, he was the Rector at Christ and Holy Trinity Church in Westport, Connecticut for 22 years. The Rev. Branson, and his wife Judyth, will reside in the Old Town area of Alexandria during their time at Christ Church.
“The Vestry was impressed by Reverend Branson’s commitment to shepherding his flock, his collegial style and ability to deeply connect with all around him, and the breadth and depth of his church management skills,” according to Janet Osborn, Christ Church Senior Warden.
The Episcopal Church considers it a best practice to have a period of time with an interim rector after a long-term rector retires in order for the congregation to identify their goals as a community, define and prioritize the skills and attributes that are most important in the next rector, and hire the next permanent rector.
For additional information or additional photo, Contact: Tara Knox, Development Director, Historic Christ Church; Alexandria, VA, 703-626-4837 (cell), 703-778-4928(direct), 703-549-5883 (fax), firstname.lastname@example.org.
Historic Christ Church is a historic church with an active congregation. Located at 118 N. Washington St. in Alexandria, VA, Christ Church is home to 2,400 parishioners and provides ministry to communities local and global. The parish home of George Washington and many other government and legislative leaders since, Historic Christ Church has long been at the center of the religious and public life of the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area. Nearly all the Presidents have attended Christ Church during their term of office. Other visitors include British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Senator Elizabeth Dole, former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, Rosa Parks, and Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is currently leading an Interfaith Abrahamic Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
The pilgrimage is in response to Resolution B019 approved at General Convention 2012, recommending the interfaith pilgrimage. Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori recently noted to Executive Council that this resolution “asked me to develop an interfaith pilgrimage to the Holy Land, with equal representation of Episcopalians, Jews, and Muslims, to model and encourage similar efforts and dialogues by others.”
The Presiding Bishop is joined in leadership of the pilgrimage by Rabbi Steve Gutow, President and CEO of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, New York City, and a trustee of Faith in Public Life; Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, National Director for the Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA); and their respective delegates. The Episcopal Church delegation includes Bishop Prince Singh of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester and the Rev. John E. Kitagawa, Rector ofSt. Philip’s in-the-Hills, Tucson, AZ.
Note: Episcopal News Service will provide full coverage of the pilgrimage upon its return to the United States.
[Episcopal News Service] Entonces se le acercó Pedro y le dijo: Señor, ¿cuántas veces perdonaré a mi hermano que peque contra mí? ¿Hasta siete? Jesús le dijo: No te digo hasta siete, sino aun hasta setenta veces siete”. Mateo 18:21-22.
Al menos el 90 por ciento de la labor de consejería de la psicóloga Ona Graham con individuos y familias conlleva el asistir a aquellos a los que anima el resentimiento y guardan rencores… enseñarles a las personas a identificar donde guardan la ira y el odio” y buscar y extender el perdón.
“La ira es una capa que nos envuelve y que nos separa de Dios. Le digo a la gente que ser rencoroso es como beber veneno y esperar que otro muera. Eso no es lo que Dios quiere para uno”, afirmó Graham, feligresa de la iglesia episcopal de San Nicolás [St. Nicholas Episcopal Church] en Hamilton, Georgia.
Richard Blackburn, director ejecutivo del Centro Menonita por la Paz en Lombard con sede en [la ciudad de] Lombard, Illinois, dijo que la creciente ansiedad social repercute en las familias y las congregaciones. Pequeños malentendidos pueden convertirse aceleradamente en un conflicto eclesial crónico y afectar a las congregaciones e incluso la vida diocesana.
“El perdón es fundamental si vamos a ser capaces de transcender el conflicto y concentrarnos en la misión y en el propósito que tenemos como Iglesia”, afirmó Blackburn, en una entrevista con Episcopal News Service. Él calcula que dedica aproximadamente unos 180 días al año a enseñar sobre los conflictos o a mediar en disputas con una amplia variedad de grupos religiosos, entre ellos los episcopales.
“Parte de los efectos de la ansiedad crónica… es que las personas parecen cada vez menos capaces de mirarse a sí mismas y de reconocer su parte en el desarrollo del conflicto”, dijo Blackburn. “La gente se aferra a su versión de la culpa y no puede ni siquiera ver su propia parte. Esa es la clave para perdonar: todas las partes dispuestas a mirarse a sí mismas y a reconocer que dondequiera que existe un conflicto de relaciones todos tienen un papel en él”.
Ayuda también, agregó, a inculcar una cultura de perdón, reconciliación y conciencia de la omnipresente gracia de Dios que a todos nos es dada.
Perdonarse a sí mismo y cultivar la transformación
Hace aproximadamente cuatro décadas, Jon Bruno, el obispo de Los Ángeles, mató a un hombre de un disparó, algo que él recuerda todos los días.
Antes de ser ordenado sacerdote y obispo, era agente secreto de la policía en Burbank, California, y tuvo que tomar una decisión instantánea para salvar la vida de otro policía que lo acompañaba.
Un sospechoso les había comenzado a disparar, contó Bruno a ENS recientemente. “Hizo un disparo que vino a dar en el poste que estaba a mi lado”, recordaba él. “Mi compañero se levantó con una linterna en la mano y lo alumbró, lo cual no se supone que uno haga. El hombre se volvió y levantó el brazo para disparar y yo le tiré”.
El sospechoso era alguien a quien había llegado a conocer durante una investigación encubierta, dijo Bruno. “Me había invitado a su casa y yo había hecho cabalgar a sus niños en mis rodillas…Le disparé con una escopeta de dos cañones y murió en el acto. Durante mucho tiempo me despertaba todas las noches soñando con lo que había ocurrido. Resultaba muy doloroso revivir eso todas las noches de mi vida”.
Una investigación y la encuesta del médico forense exculpó a Bruno de cualquier delito, pero no fue hasta que buscó ayuda de un sacerdote episcopal que pudo comenzar un proceso de perdón que finalmente habría de transformarlo.
“Me dio la absolución después de hacer la Reconciliación de un penitente en el Libro de Oración”, recordaba Bruno. “Yo había creído que teníamos que sufrir las razonables consecuencias de nuestras acciones. Estaba convencido de haber cometido un pecado contra Dios. En ese tiempo, pensaba, ¿qué es esto, qué me va a librar de esto? Pero esa noche volví a casa y dormí apaciblemente”.
Eso condujo a la transformación. “Cambió mi actitud respecto a lo que era el perdón, que sale del corazón y de la mente así como de la presencia de lo santo, todo en paralelo al mismo tiempo, y he estado dispuesto a perdonar a la gente desde entonces”.
Ahora, “siempre que oigo de un policía involucrado en un tiroteo, oro por esa gente”, agregó Bruno. “Durante años, he sido capellán del departamento de policía aquí en Los Ángeles, y trabajo con tipos que han matado a personas. Y lo que les digo es, debes perdonar a esa persona para que puedas perdonarte, porque el pecado de la ira es tan malo como el de segar una vida.
“Te arranca de tu centro. No te deja ser plenamente humano, no te deja ser un verdadero seguidor de Dios”.
Maryland: una tragedia que se tornó transformadora.
Frank Kohn dijo que no tuvo que esforzarse para perdonar al asesino de su hermana, tan sólo recordar como ella había vivido.
Su hermana, la Rda. Mary-Marguerite Kohn, co-rectora de la iglesia episcopal de San Pedro [St. Peter’s Episcopal Church] en Ellicott City, Maryland, fue herida de muerte en un incidente ocurrido en mayo de 2012 que tuvo amplia divulgación. También murieron [en el mismo incidente] Brenda Brewington, administradora de la parroquia, y Douglas Jones [el autor de los hechos] que volvió el arma contra sí mismo”.
“Al parecer, él visitaba con frecuencia la despensa de la iglesia y nadie sabe lo que realmente sucedió porque no sobrevivieron testigos”, dijo Kohn a ENS.
“Obviamente, yo no conocía a esta persona y en verdad estaba enojado con alguien que le había hecho algo así a mi familia y que había afectado mi vida de esa forma, pero estoy seguro de que no es la manera en que mi hermana se hubiera enfrentado con esto”, afirmó él. “Ella habría entendido la situación en que él estaba”.
Su hermana era siete años mayor que él. Había dedicado su vida a ministrar a los marginados y a las víctimas de traumas, dijo Kohn, de 57 años, que es fitopatólogo. Cuando se produjo la agresión, él inmediatamente salió de su casa en San Luis para Baltimore donde “el apoyo de toda la parroquia y la comunidad me arroparon, y fueron extraordinarios. Como resultado he terminado haciéndome muy buen amigo de algunos de sus amigos más cercanos”.
Más de un mes después del funeral, en otro viaje a Baltimore, también conoció a miembros de la familia de Jones en un momento transformacional. “Ellos alquilaban una casa contigua a la propiedad de la iglesia. Esa puede haber sido la razón de que este tipo estuviera rondando por allí. De manera que la parroquia y esta familia se conocían bien”, apuntó Kohn.
“Enseguida resultaba evidente por cuánto sufrimiento estaba atravesando esta familia por lo que había sucedido”, dijo él. Ciertamente, eran víctimas y no tenían nada que ver con lo que su hermano y cuñado había hecho”.
El perdón fue inmediato, contó Kohn. “Digo que yo no creo que ellos hubieran hecho algo por lo cual ser perdonados, pero resultaba obvio que era como quitarles un gran peso de encima. También tuve la oportunidad de expresarles mi condolencia y mi comprensión por lo que estaban pasando”.
El Rdo. Tom Slawson, vicario de San Pedro, dijo que la iglesia renovó el lugar donde se produjo la agresión, extendiendo la capilla que ya ha sido dedicada para conmemorar allí el ministerio de Kohn.
Los hechos también suscitaron “una especie de arrepentimiento colectivo” entre los miembros de la congregación que antes habían tenido algún conflicto.
Eugene Sutton, el obispo de Maryland, dijo que toda la comunidad diocesana se había concentrado en cultivar el espíritu de perdón y reconciliación. “El hecho cierto es que la Iglesia anuncia constantemente que el reino ha venido con un espíritu de reconciliación, de compasión, de perdón, de justicia y de paz, y nadie más dice eso. La Iglesia es la institución que nos va a llevar allí”, recalcó Sutton.
Perdón a cortos pasos
Sutton y otras personas dicen que la Iglesia tiene una posición privilegiada para ayudar a la sociedad a avanzar hacia el perdón, afirmó también Sutton.
“La Iglesia es el único lugar que dice eso en todos los oficios eucarísticos, a quien se sienta junto a ti o tu alrededor, le deseas las bendiciones y la paz de Dios… que estoy reconciliándome contigo y debo hacerlo porque Dios me ha perdonado y no puedo acercarme a la mesa del Señor para que él me alimente si no trato de ser bueno con los que me hicieron mal.
“Todos nos hemos portado mal con el Señor y él aún nos acoge”, añadió Sutton.
El Rdo. Jeff Jackson, rector de la iglesia de San Nicolás [St. Nicholas] en Hamilton, cerca de Atlanta, dijo que el rito de la reconciliación es otra “forma maravillosa de enseñar el perdón”.
“La Iglesia Episcopal tiene una estupenda tradición, el don que Dios le ha dado a los sacerdotes de poder escuchar [el arrepentimiento] y de pronunciar ese perdón, esa absolución, y eso nos permite oír tangiblemente las palabras que Dios de manera intangible nos dice todo el tiempo, que nos perdona y nos ama y nos restaurará”.
Graham, la neuropsicóloga, ofrece una receta para aprender a perdonar:
- Renunciar a la venganza
- Refrenarse o “dejar de pulsar el botón de respuesta”.
- Librarse de la ira
- Olvidar el dolor asociado con ella “aprender la lección que te está reservada”.
“Si estás enojado con alguien”, dijo ella, “durante las próximas dos semanas pídele a Dios que le dé a esa persona todo lo que quieres en tu vida y yo te garantizo que, al cabo de las dos semanas, verás a esa persona de manera diferente.
“Empezarás a ver a esa persona desde el punto de vista de Dios y entonces tendrás libertad de espíritu”.
–La Rda. Pat McCaughan es corresponsal de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.