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Archbishop opens nominations for 2016 Michael Ramsey Prize

ENS Headlines - Monday, April 13, 2015

[Lambeth Palace press release] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has announced the opening of nominations for the 2016 Michael Ramsey Prize.

The prize, which was founded in 2005 by former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, is awarded every three years to the best theological writing in the service of the Church.

In an announcement in the Church Times, the Michael Ramsey Prize’s media partner, Welby said:

“It gives me great pleasure this month to open nominations for the 2016 Michael Ramsey Prize. This will be my first occasion to preside over a process which, thanks to my immediate predecessor Archbishop Rowan, has now become well-established as a prize for recognizing the best theological writing in the service of the Church.

“As I do so I am deeply conscious that I am walking in the footsteps of another much-esteemed predecessor, Archbishop Michael Ramsey. At his memorial tablet in Canterbury Cathedral are inscribed the words: “The glory of God is the living man and the life of man is the vision of God.” It is clear to me that the glory of God was tangible in the person of Ramsey; and that through his work a vision of God was conceived profoundly and communicated effectively. For myself I was first inspired by Ramsey through Chadwick’s biography while at theological college, and I have continued to be inspired by Ramsey’s writing ever since. Best known is probably his The Christian Priest Today, written in 1972 and still in print; but there are so many others to commend, not least his exposition of an Anglican method in theology, in The Anglican Spirit.

“The Michael Ramsey Prize aims to celebrate the most promising contemporary theological writing and to help more people to enjoy it. I am looking forward to seeing the books that will be nominated this year and to exploring how they can help the Church in thinking more deeply, acting more wisely and witnessing more effectively to the glory of God. Along with a team to help with short-listing as well as a panel of judges who make the final call,

“I am particularly eager for books that will help the Church to grow in the areas of my three ministry priorities: of prayer and religious life, of reconciliation, and of evangelism and witness. We are especially keen for nominations from new authors, as well as books written or published in the global south.

“If you have read a book which meets these criteria, published between 2012 and 2014, I warmly encourage you to make a nomination online.”


Presiding Bishop preaches for 300th anniversary of Bruton Parish

ENS Headlines - Monday, April 13, 2015

Bruton Parish, Williamsburg, VA
300th anniversary
12 April 2015

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

What was your most memorable Easter like? What made it memorable? We’re meant to bring our whole selves to the encounter with new life, with a full menu of sensory experience about the bodily reality of resurrection.

Last Sunday I joined an Easter celebration that began outside in the dark of very early morning. A small spark set off a huge bonfire, from which the Paschal candle was lit. We processed into a dark church, proclaiming the light of Christ, and the congregation’s candles soon became a forest of small points lighting up the darkness. Even the ancient tombs in that space were radiant!

Incense was thrown into the bonfire, and a great sweet-smelling copper cauldron of smoke was carried into the church. In a place where its perfume had been absent for months, it was a pungent reminder that death was conquered and Lent was over.

The great noise of bells and organ and voices raising “Glory to God in the highest” gave notice enough to raise the dead that Christ is risen and the world changed forever.

We gathered around a still and enormous font of water that began to flow once again, we baptized infants and adults, then lavished abundant oil on their foreheads to mark them as Christ’s own forever.

And then we gathered around an altar in the midst of a blooming garden to make the feast with bread and wine that Jesus taught us. As the last hymn was sung, we marched out of the church and around the courtyard to glasses of champagne and breakfast – there was even smoked fish to echo another resurrection appearance!

Sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch – all senses joined to awaken our awareness of the risen one. It was a powerful bodily experience.

Thomas missed all that sensory input. Like us, he wants to encounter the reality of resurrection if he’s going to give his heart to the Risen One. For that is what it means to believe – to be-love another, to give your heart, the whole of who you are and what you have. And in the midst of that we discover that we ourselves are beloved.

Think about the marriage liturgy – the partners give rings “as a symbol of my vow, and with all that I am, and all that I have, I honor you.” In other versions the couple say, “with my body I honor you.” Those who are part of the risen body of Christ have plighted our troth, have made our vows to honor God and God’s risen body with all that we are and all that we have. The collect we prayed calls it “the new covenant of reconciliation,” with the hope that we will give evidence of it in word and deed.[1]

Bruton Parish has been loving the members of God’s body for more than 300 years, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until we are parted by death. Even then, we hope for resurrection in a new body. We trust that while God’s beloved will die, through the ages the body will continue to rise and transform the world toward the fullness of God’s vision – the kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

That’s what the community in Acts is trying to do: they were “of one heart… what they owned was held in common, they gave witness to the resurrection, no needy person among them… what they had was distributed as each had need.” Years ago in Nevada, a high school group at summer camp was talking about the challenges of living together in community, and we’d read this part of Acts. One kid piped up, “they sound like a bunch of communists!” Well not exactly, I said, but why do you think Jesus was executed? His disciples had clearly heard the dream of God’s kingdom that there will no longer be suffering or need, that everyone will have enough to eat, shelter and healing, and freedom to live the dignified life for which God created us all.

Even a small taste of that risen life, where there is abundance and feasting so unmistakable that even fools can’t miss it, is enough to give people hope for the long haul. The world despairs when it has no hope for that kind of abundance. The world resorts to violence when it has no hope, or when it fears that what it has will be taken away.

It’s true in the church – think of the conflicts we’ve lived through recently, or during the Revolution, or the Civil War.

The struggles in Congress are mostly lodged in scarcity, and not just financially – it’s as though collaborating for the greater good costs too much – of self-identity, position, privilege, learning, and change… That’s certainly part of the internal struggle for dominance in global Islam right now – one religious faction is using brutality and horrific violence to try to impose its view on the rest. Americans are beginning to pay close attention to how police use force on suspects of different races, and how the legal system as a whole treats people based on their race or their poverty. Justice doesn’t seem to be distributed according to need.

The climatic changes already confronting us are the result of wanton use of the earth’s abundance without considering the needs of all members of the system – the body of God’s creation. Most of the world’s suffering has something to do with an absence of that kingdom vision of plenty. It is often the result of human selfishness or self-centeredness. We don’t give great evidence of living as a resurrected community.

And still we cry, “Christ is risen!” How do we put together what we see around us with the claim that the resurrection has changed the nature of human sinfulness? Perhaps we start with that small group of believers, who gave their hearts to a resurrected life. It’s never easy, for it always requires some kind of dying. But oh, Lord, what a glory it is when we see it and live it!

Thomas is absolutely right to ask for evidence – he ought to be able to see and hear, touch and smell and taste the reality of God’s resurrected life in the community around him, in those who have met the risen Lord.

Real abundance is part of the nature of creation, and it’s meant for all – for Jesus said, “I came that you might have life, and have it abundantly.” When the abundance of creation is not shared, some suffer and die, “when one part of the body suffers, all suffer together; when one part is honored, all rejoice.”[2]

That must have been in Dr. Goodwin’s heart when he persuaded John D. Rockefeller to underwrite the restoration of this community.[3] He saw a dying town, without employment, losing people and hope. He also saw a vision of a community risen to new life, giving itself away to the world, opening its homes and heart to those who might learn something about endurance and struggle, and about sin and imperfection, particularly in the use of some human beings for the purposes of others.

The willingness of this community to give itself away has meant more abundant life for generations. This congregation’s sharing – of alms and loving ministry and music three nights a week, as well as the warts and blessings of history – has shown millions of visitors how good news works. God loves us all, equally, and God dreams that the abundance of creation will be available to all, as each one has need. Keep sharing that, and you will indeed be alive here 300 years from now.

Let the world see and hear and taste and feel and smell the love of God in this place. Alleluia, Christ is risen!

[1] Collect for the Second Sunday of Easter: 1979 BCP p 224

[2] 1 Corinthians 12:26

[3] http://www.history.org/Foundation/general/introhis.cfm

Jan Naylor Cope appointed provost of Washington National Cathedral

ENS Headlines - Friday, April 10, 2015

[Washington National Cathedral press release] The Rev. Canon Jan Naylor Cope, whose pre-seminary career included stints at the National Endowment for the Arts and at the White House, has been named provost of Washington National Cathedral.

Cope, whose appointment was announced by Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde and Dean Gary Hall, has served as vicar of the Cathedral since October 2010, and the congregation has grown by more than 500 members under her leadership.

“Jan Cope combines a devotion to the Gospel of Jesus with an understanding of how complex organizations function and flourish,” Budde said. “As a pastor and in her previous careers, she has manifested a talent for making friends, building networks and extending Christian hospitality to all. These gifts will serve her well in her new position.”

As provost, Cope will oversee the cathedral’s development department, assist Hall in identifying, cultivating and soliciting major donors and work closely with the cathedral’s leadership on its strategic vision, ministry and mission.

“Canon Cope brings vision, commitment, and deep faithfulness to all areas of her ministry and especially to her service at the cathedral,” Hall said. “She is well-known in Episcopal Church, Anglican Communion, and Washington, D.C. circles.  Her extensive network of church, professional, and personal connections will be invaluable in her new work.”

Cope, who worked as a development officer for the National Endowment for the Arts from 1983-87, became deputy assistant to President George H. W. Bush and deputy director of presidential personnel in 1989. After leaving the White House in 1993, she founded an executive search firm that she maintained until her ordination in 2007.

“I am humbled by the confidence that the bishop and dean have expressed in me, and I am excited to take on this new responsibility,” Cope said. “Part of my excitement comes from the myriad ways in which people encounter God here—through our worship, music, community, art and architecture, programming and service to others. The cathedral’s potential for touching and transforming lives through an experience of God is enormous.”

Cope is first vice president of the Compass Rose Society, an international organization that supports the ministry of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion. She holds a Masters of Divinity from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D. C., and a Doctor of Ministry from Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia.

A former trustee of both the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Washington Theological Consortium, she currently serves on the board of Wesley Theological Seminary.

Cope will be the keynote speaker at the triennial meeting of Episcopal Church Women in Salt Lake City in June. The gathering coincides with the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, at which Cope will serve as a clergy deputy from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.


In Egypt, CARAVAN art exhibition opens as a path to grassroots peace

ENS Headlines - Friday, April 10, 2015

Sheikh Abdel Aziz El Nagar of Al Azhar and Bishop Mouneer Anis attended the CARAVAN art exhibition in Cairo. Photo: Jayson Casper

[Diocese of Egypt] So much is wrong with the Arab world today, it can obscure all that is right. At the heart of both are interfaith relations, and the CARAVAN art exhibition showcases the good while addressing the bad. International in scope, its contributions stretch across continents, touching the famous and simple alike.

“We know much more about the West than the West knows about us,” said award-winning Egyptian actor Khaled el-Nabawi at the Cairo opening on April 4. “But art is sincere and can help us build bridges.”

The event was held at the upscale Westown Hub residential complex, sponsored by SODIC, a large real estate development company committed to promoting the arts for humanitarian purposes. Like them, Nabawi is one of the famous, a group often associated with the arts scene. Prior to Cairo, CARAVAN presented at the acclaimed Eglise Saint-Germain-Des-Pres in Paris, and will travel next to St. Martin-in-the-Fields, at the famous Trafalgar Square in London.

But it is the simple who are most affected by strife between the religions. And the arts often bypass them.

CARAVAN began in Cairo in 2009, seeking to promote interreligious peace and build cultural understanding. Nabawi’s words were well-chosen, for this year’s exhibition is titled The Bridge. Forty-seven premiere and emerging artists, all with connections to the Middle East, designed works specifically to highlight the unity of the peoples of the region – Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Arab, and Persian.

“There is no true conflict between religions in their essence,” said Sheikh Abdel Aziz el-Naggar of the Azhar, also appearing at the opening. “It comes from those who use religion for their domestic or international interests.”

Perhaps this is a message readily received by arts aficionados in Europe and upper-class Egypt. But what about the common man, manipulated by forces touching his faith?

“We as a church believe in dialogue,” said Bishop Mouneer Hanna Anis of the Episcopal Church in Egypt, prior to introducing his Ahzar colleague. “But especially after 9/11, there have been many efforts between men of religion that have not impacted reality as these conflicts continue.”

Something more is needed, and Anis praised CARAVAN specifically.

“We have to be creative so that dialogue reaches the people,” he said. “Paul-Gordon has done this through art, to help build harmony between cultures, and to bring people together.”

The Rev. Paul-Gordon Chandler, an Episcopal priest, is the founder of CARAVAN. An American, he grew up as a minority Christian in mostly Muslim Senegal. He was deeply influenced by the local arts scene, but also disturbed by the tensions between the two faiths.

There has to be a better way, he thought, but it was not until his years as an Episcopal priest in Cairo’s St. John’s Church that a vision began to form. So while he now tours the world highlighting the religious unity represented in Middle East artists, he desires to see something greater take hold.

“In the Middle East the public visibility of things is very important, it gives credibility to endorse at the grassroots,” he said. “It is part of acclimatizing the environment toward positive religious relations.”

High-profile public events make possible the changes at street level. Forty percent of proceeds from art sales will benefit Educate Me, an educational initiative supporting the children of an underprivileged neighborhood in Giza. Last year, $48,000 was given to projects in Egypt and Morocco.

Spin-off projects for CARAVAN are in development in Jordan and Tunisia, and a Maltese-themed initiative will soon tour every nation of the Mediterranean. Middle Eastern art emerges from the region and is taken to the West, but it also returns to spread the message at home.

And lest one think the message of interfaith harmony for the West is only given to like-minded elites, Chandler is also taking The Bridge to rural settings in the United States where misunderstanding of the Arab world is prevalent.

“Art provides a context to address the issues indirectly,” said Chandler. “Art doesn’t stop conflict, but that is not its function. It can’t change events but it can change people.”

And this, for Nabawi, is the hope for CARAVAN and other artistic endeavors in the region. “I am convinced that humanity will prevail,” he said.

“Art is the only thing that can solve what politics breaks.”

– Jayson Casper writes for Arab West Report, Christianity Today, Lapido Media, and other publications, and blogs at asenseofbelonging.org. He has previously written an article on another Anglican interfaith initiative, the Imam-Priest Exchange.

Idowu-Fearon ‘comprometido con la misión reconciliadora de Dios’

ENS Headlines - Friday, April 10, 2015

El arzobispo Josiah Idowu-Fearon (al centro) con el arzobispo de Cantórbery Justin Welby (a la izquierda) y el obispo James Tengatenga, presidente del Consejo Consultivo Anglicano. Foto de ACNS

[Episcopal News Service] Muchos líderes anglicanos y episcopales están celebrando el nombramiento del arzobispo Josiah Idowu-Fearon de la Diócesis Anglicana de Kaduna, Nigeria, como el próximo secretario general de la Comunión Anglicana.

“Josiah es, sobre todo, un hombre de comunión, un oyente atento y una persona que respeta las diferentes formas en que somos llamados a proclamar y vivir las buenas nuevas de Dios en Jesucristo”, dijo a Episcopal News Service el ex obispo primado [de la Iglesia Episcopal] Frank Griswold luego del nombramiento.

Griswold participó junto con Idowu-Fearon en las Conversaciones Internacionales Anglicanas sobre la Sexualidad Humana, [un grupo] nombrado por el anterior arzobispo de Cantórbery George Carey después de la Conferencia de Lambeth 1998.

“Aunque proveníamos de contextos muy diferentes, nuestros divergentes puntos de vista en modo alguno amenazaron nuestro respeto mutuo ni nuestra capacidad de reconocernos mutuamente como verdaderos hermanos en Cristo”, dijo Griswold, quien, como el 25º. obispo primado, invitó a Idowu-Fearon a predicar en la eucaristía dominical de la Convención General de 2003 en Minneapolis “porque quería que la humanidad de su carácter sirviera de provecho a la Iglesia Episcopal y que su perspectiva particular contribuyera a ampliar nuestra comprensión y aprecio de hermanos y hermanas anglicanos en un contexto muy diferente del nuestro”.

Griswold e Idowu-Fearon también fueron panelistas en un debate público en Londres en octubre de 2004 auspiciado por el Foro Pew sobre Religión y Vida Pública en relación con problemas que afectan a la Comunión Anglicana. “Algunos presentes esperaban que el obispo Josiah y yo intercambiaríamos amargas palabras y se quedaron decepcionados por la confianza y el afecto obvios que existía entre nosotros”, dijo Griswold. “Tengo todas las expectativas de que él será una bendición para toda la Comunión en los tiempos que se avecinan”.

El nombramiento provocó al principio reacciones ambivalentes, con denuncias de que Idowu-Fearon apoyaba la criminalización de la homosexualidad en Nigeria, refiriéndose específicamente a un sermón de 2014 y a una entrevista de 2007. Idowu-Fearon se apresuró a refutar esas afirmaciones, calificándolas de infundadas.

“Nunca he apoyado la ley en Nigeria que criminaliza a la comunidad homosexual y nunca la apoyaré”, dijo Idowu-Fearon en una declaración del 6 de abril. “La Iglesia está llamada a amar y proteger a todos sin discriminación, ‘amar a la persona, pero odiar al pecado’ cualquiera que pueda ser este pecado, corrupción, pecados sexuales de todas clases, abuso de poder o cualquier otra cosa.

“Para la mayoría de los cristianos africanos, la Biblia juzga la cultura, incluida la cultura africana. Como cristianos africanos debemos aceptar otras culturas y la manera que ellas tienen también de entender la relación de la Biblia con la cultura”, añadió. “Yo acepto y promuevo una cultura de respeto por tales diferencias”.

El obispo de Connecticut, Ian Douglas, miembro del Comité Permanente de la Comunión Anglicana, dijo que había conocido a Idowu-Fearon durante más de una década a través de una variedad de organismos y responsabilidades interanglicanas y lo encuentra “comprometido con la misión reconciliadora de Dios, tanto entre personas de diferentes fes como entre las iglesias de la Comunión Anglicana”.

Douglas dijo a ENS que mientras Idowu-Fearon estudiaba en el Seminario de Hartford en los años 90, el obispo nigeriano entabló amistades muy estrechas con líderes y parroquias de la Iglesia Episcopal en Connecticut. “Estas relaciones se mantienen hasta el día de hoy, y…nos han ayudado a conocer y vivir mejor la plenitud de nuestra unidad en Cristo”, afirmó Douglas.

Una de esas relaciones es con la iglesia episcopal de La Trinidad [Trinity Episcopal Church], la cual cada verano auspicia un viaje de misión médica a la Diócesis de Kaduna (la de Idowu-Fearon) en el norte de Nigeria.

El Ven. Tom Furrer, rector de la iglesia de La Trinidad en Tariffville, Connecticut, comparte un momento divertido con el arzobispo Josiah Idowu-Fearon en la catedral de San Miguel, en Kaduna, el día en que Furrer convirtió en arcediano de esa diócesis. Foto cortesía de la iglesia de La Trinidad.

Ha trabajado con Idowu-Fearon durante 15 años

“En tanto otros lo conocen como un experto a escala mundial en las relaciones cristiano-musulmanas, yo le conozco mejor como amigo personal, mentor y pastor”, dijo Furrer, que es el arcediano de la diócesis de Kaduna y presidente de Kateri Medical Services, Inc., una corporación sin fines de lucro que financia y facilita atención médica a campesinos pobres del norte de Nigeria en asociación con la Diócesis de Kaduna.

“La Comunión Anglicana ha hecho bien al elegir a este hombre sabio, humilde, servicial como su próximo secretario general”, dijo Furrer a ENS. “Él ama a nuestro Señor Jesucristo y ama al Cuerpo de Cristo en la tierra. Él hará todo lo que pueda por tender puentes y restañar nuestras heridas”.

Furrer conoció a Idowu-Fearon inmediatamente después de los disturbios de Kaduna en 2000, cuando mataron a cientos de cristianos y otros millares más quedaron sin hogar. “Él estaba profundamente perturbado y visiblemente conmovido por la masacre y el sufrimiento de personas muy pobres que fueron la mayoría de las víctimas de los disturbios”, dijo Furrer. “Si bien su comprensión de las relaciones cristiano-musulmanas es intelectualmente muy sólida, no se trata fundamentalmente de un asunto teórico, sino de un asunto pastoral. Él ha visto de primera mano… los devastadores efectos de las rivalidades interreligiosas. Y ha trabajado ‘en las trincheras’ con líderes musulmanes y cristianos para hacer la paz”.

Durante las misiones médicas anuales, la parroquia de Connecticut y la diócesis de Kaduna han colaborado “para llevar atención médica y amor a millares de personas de la población rural, de los cuales un tercio aproximadamente son musulmanes”, apuntaba Furrer. “Nuestro objetivo siempre es tender puentes de respeto y tolerancia mutuos. He observado a Josiah relacionarse con personas muy pobres y marginadas —musulmanes y cristianos de todas las denominaciones— con gran compasión, humildad y gracia. Para él, la reconciliación y el tender puentes son [tareas] profundamente personales y pastorales”.

Idowu-Fearon ha predicado y enseñado en la iglesia de La Trinidad al menos 30 veces a lo largo de la última década y “es muy querido por la comunidad” en Tariffville, dijo Furrer. “Somos una parroquia relativamente pequeña en un pueblo pequeño… y sin embargo él siempre ha encontrado el tiempo para visitarnos y estar aquí para ocasiones especiales”.

El arzobispo Josiah Idowu-Fearon presenta el Premio de Reconocimiento de la Diócesis de Kaduna a una feligresa de La Trinidad por su papel en la recaudación de fondos para la clínica de la Diócesis de Kaduna. Foto cortesía de la iglesia de La Trinidad.

Hace tres años, la iglesia de La Trinidad honró a una mujer de la parroquia que había trabajado arduamente en la recaudación de fondos para la clínica de la Diócesis de Kaduna y quien se estaba muriendo de cáncer. “Josiah viajó especialmente sólo para honrar a la mujer con el Premio de Reconocimiento de la Diócesis de Kaduna”, dijo Furrer. “La mujer murió dos semanas más tarde. Me dijo que su visita le significó mucho más que cualquier otra cosa que hubieran hecho por ella en toda su vida. En la actualidad, el reconocimiento que él le entregó y una foto de ella con Josiah se destacan de manera prominente en el hogar de su viudo.

Cuando el Comité Permanente de la Comunión Anglicana se reunió a fines de noviembre de 2014, “existía el claro cometido que el nuevo secretario general debía ser ante todo un embajador del amor reconciliador de Cristo para todas las personas”, dijo Douglas, reconociendo que se le dio una primera prioridad a captar candidatos de África, Asia, América Latina y el Pacífico, dado que los últimos cinco titulares han sido de Irlanda, Estados Unidos e Inglaterra. Un “equipo de captación” formado como un subcomité del Comité Permanente, era ampliamente representativo de la diversidad de la Comunión Anglicana, afirmó Douglas. “Si bien yo no fui parte del equipo de captación, sí confío que éste tomó en consideración esas prioridades del Comité Permanente al seleccionar al arzobispo Josiah”.

La obispa primada Katharine Jefferts Schori, quien también es miembro del Comité Permanente de la Comunión Anglicana, dijo que Idowu-Fearon “ha trabajado arduamente para mantener el diálogo entre personas que con frecuencia no querrían hablarse”.

Idowu-Fearon se convirtió en obispo de Kaduna en 1998, y es el actual director del Centro de Estudios Anglicanos de Kaduna. Antes de eso, sirvió como obispo de Sokoto, guardián en el Colegio [universitario] de Teología de San Francisco de Asís en Wusasa, y rector de la catedral de San Miguel [St. Michael’s] en Kaduna.

Idowu-Fearon tiene un doctorado en sociología y un diploma de postgrado en pedagogía de la Universidad Ahmadu Bello de Nigeria; una maestría en Teología Islámica de la Universidad de Birmingham y una licenciatura en teología de la Universidad de Durham.

Ha impartido conferencias y ha publicado ampliamente sobre el tema de las relaciones cristiano-musulmanas. Pertenece a toda una variedad de organismos interreligiosos nacionales y ha trabajado anteriormente con la Oficina de la Comunión Anglicana y el Palacio de Lambeth en varios proyectos. Idowu-Fearon ha sido galardonado como Oficial de la Orden del Níger, ha recibido la Cruz del Arzobispo de Cantórbery, el Premio de San Agustín y es [miembro del Colegio] de los Seis Predicadores de Cantórbery.

Idowu-Fearon, que está casado con Comfort y tiene dos hijos, Ibrahim y Ninma, se espera que asuma su puesto en julio de 2015.

Idowu-Fearon se cuenta entre dos docenas de obispos de África y Norteamérica que, en mayo de 2014, como parte de la quinta Consulta de Obispos Anglicanos en diálogo, reunidos en Coventry, Inglaterra, renovaron su promesa de reconciliación en la Comunión Anglicana y de andar juntos como una familia a pesar de las profundas diferencias culturales y teológicas.

El Rvdmo. Mark MacDonald, obispo indígena de la Iglesia Anglicana del Canadá, ha conocido a Idowu-Fearon durante 17 años, desde que ambos compartieron el mismo dormitorio en la Conferencia de Lambeth de 1998. MacDonald definió el nombramiento como “la mejor de las noticias” y habló de Idowu-Fearon como “centrado en Cristo, imparcial ante una falta y amante y siervo sincero de esa comunión que Dios nos ha dado en la Comunión Anglicana”.

“Es mi porción particular de esta Comunión, es útil y alentador notar que él entiende y vive, guiado por la Escritura, en la perspectiva del mundo tanto de Occidente como del modo de vida más tradicional de… los pobres, la mayoría del mundo”, dijo MacDonald a ENS. “No atrapado en el reduccionismo de Occidente, el conoce sus dones, así como el dolor de su legado. Al igual que los mejores de los nuestros aquí, yo creo que él tiene la capacidad de hablar desde un futuro donde encontramos nuestra común humanidad —en Cristo y, llamando en Cristo, al resto de la creación y la humanidad— de un modo que junte lo mejor de Occidente con la sabiduría y la profundidad de nuestros modos de vida tradicionales”.

El Rdo. Olav Fykse Tveit, secretario general del Consejo Mundial de Iglesias, envió una carta a Idowu-Fearon felicitándolo por el nombramiento y reconociendo que es un “papel que exige una gran responsabilidad y liderazgo en la medida en que usted imparte una visión para la diversidad de las provincias anglicanas. Está llamado a servir las necesidades de la Comunión, promocionando causas de esperanza y celebración, y encontrando firmes respuestas a sus desafíos.

“Este ministerio que usted está asumiendo es valioso y sagrado. Tiene la posibilidad de profundizar las relaciones dentro de la Comunión y fuera de ella, y de dar testimonio del espíritu de reconciliación a través de su propia fidelidad y visión”, añadió Tveit.

Idowu-Fearon sirvió en el Comité Central del CMI de 2006 a 2013 y participó en la Consulta Internacional Cristiano-Musulmana de Ginebra en noviembre de 2010.

“Su récord excepcional de labor dedicada a las relaciones cristiano-musulmanas es un don específico que le lleva a su nuevo papel”, decía Tveit en su carta. “Desarrollar el papel de las iglesias como hacedoras de la paz y asociadas en el diálogo en un momento cuando la violencia religiosamente motivada está causando devastación a tantos es una urgente demanda para todos nosotros fieles cristianos”.

Tveit afirmaba que las iglesias de la Comunión Anglicana “son líderes dinámicos en la vida de nuestra fraternidad de iglesias, por lo cual damos gracias a Dios. Oramos que su sabiduría y experiencia infundirán no sólo las actividades de la Comunión Anglicana a este respecto, sino también las de la amplia familia ecuménica. Buscamos trabajar con usted en ésta y otras muchas áreas de nuestra común vida cristiana”.

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

Advancing to General Convention 2015: Virtual binders replace physical binders

ENS Headlines - Thursday, April 9, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Plans have been underway for over one year to ensure the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church is as paperless as possible. In this “Convention of Screens,” much of the legislative work will be displayed electronically on tablets or on projection screens in the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies.

To that end, each registered deputy and bishop along with the first clergy alternate/first lay alternate will be provided an iPad for their use during General Convention. The iPads will have access to the Virtual Binder, an application that replicates electronically most of what previously had been provided in the physical binders that have been part of General Convention. The iPads will also contain reference materials such as Constitutions and Canons, the Journal, and The Blue Book, as well as other materials supportive of the legislation processes of General Convention.

“The Virtual Binder provides enhanced support for the legislative work of the church, and allows us to reduce greatly the use of paper,” explained the Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe, Executive Officer of the General Convention.

The Joint Standing Committee on Planning and Arrangements and the General Convention Office have been leading the efforts to make GC 2015 as paperless as possible, and to reduce reliance on paper copies to improve legislative efficiencies on all levels and in all places as possible.

How it will work
The Virtual Binder application will work on a local network when deputies and bishops are on the floor of their respective houses.

The Virtual Binder will be updated automatically on the floors of both Houses, allowing for faster distribution of calendars, resolutions, committee and other reports. This will be done wirelessly, through a dedicated intranet that can be accessed only by the Virtual Binder on the iPad provided to bishops and deputies.

“This means,” Barlowe continued, “that although you may have other personal electronic devices with you, only the iPads provided by General Convention will be updated during legislative sessions.”

There will be no internet access on the iPads while in the Houses.  However, if one hooks them into a hotel internet or other Wi-Fi internet outside of the Houses, the Virtual Binder application will continue to work across that connection away from the Houses.  For example, Barlowe explained, they can be used at night if someone has internet in the hotel.

Training sessions have been planned both before and during General Convention. Also, trained volunteers will be on hand, and technical staff will be available for support.

Because they are rentals, at the conclusion of General Convention, all iPads must be returned, or a replacement fee will be charged.

Virtual Binder iPads will not be available for visitors, vendors, or volunteers. However, legislative information will be available on large screens on the floors of each house, on the Media Hub and on the General Convention website here during General Convention.

Coming soon
Currently being prepared are instructions and reference materials on the use of the Virtual Binder. These items will be available on the General Convention website here.

In addition to the Virtual Binder, a free app for anyone with an IOS or Android
Smartphone or tablet will be provided. The app will contain schedules, maps, vendor information, and other useful materials.

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

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

Note: Deputies who relinquish their seats to an alternate deputy will pass their iPad to the alternate as part of the exchange of credentials, if the alternate has not already been issued an iPad.


Standing in solidarity with the world’s persecuted minorities

ENS Headlines - Thursday, April 9, 2015

Displaced Iraqi Christians who fled from Islamic State militants in Mosul, pray at a school acting as a refugee camp in Erbil. Photo: REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

[Episcopal News Service] Church bombings, brutal beheadings, forced conversions and mass migration have become the shocking trademarks of extremist factions in the Middle East and Africa, persecuting religious minorities and wiping out Christian populations that in some places – such as Iraq, Syria and Egypt – date back to the first century.

For many in the West who see them only through the gaze of the media, these oppressed communities may seem a million miles away. For others, including many Episcopal and Anglican leaders, they are global neighbors, fellow Christians or interfaith partners, and people in urgent need of a lifeline.

“Jesus is pretty clear that our neighbors are sometimes, perhaps often, those we least expect or wish to overlook,” the Rev. Christopher Bishop, rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Radnor, Pennsylvania, told Episcopal News Service. “The only real difference between us and someone in Mosul or Kirkuk, for example, is bad, bad luck. We need to act on their behalf just as – were the roles reversed – we would long for them to act upon ours.”

Displaced Iraqi Christians who fled from Islamic State militants in Mosul, pray at a school acting as a refugee camp in Erbil. Photo: REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

Bishop and his parishioners have chosen action over inaction and are committed to walking alongside the displaced Christian communities that are living in tents, abandoned buildings and basements in Erbil, Iraq.

The church has launched the ministry and website Stand With Iraqi Christians, and one of its members lives and works in Erbil. Bishop is planning to travel to Erbil in the coming months “to deliver financial, emotional, and communications support and to build relationships with the communities of survivors.”

According to the people Bishop knows in Erbil, “the situation for everyone, particularly the Christian minorities, is simply desperate,” he said. “We know it’s not just the Christians being brutalized – it’s Muslims, it’s Yazidis, it’s basically anybody who is not committed to the medieval orthodoxy of the Daesh,” the Arabic name for the self-styled Islamic State, the extremist rebel group that controls territory in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Nigeria and is attempting to enforce a strict and draconian version of Sharia law.

A displaced Iraqi Christian child who fled with his family from Islamic State militants in Mosul, rocks the cradle of his brother in a school, which is now used as a refugee camp in Erbil. Photo: REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

“The mission at St. Martin’s is ‘to seek God, and be Christ’s body in the world,’” said Bishop. “This crisis transcends religious boundaries and nations, and hopefully can inspire all of us to act. If we are going to claim this powerful and empowering witness to God’s reason for our being, that means reaching out the hand of friendship and support to those near and far who are suffering or in need of loving.”

Americans and Europeans often think of Christianity as being Western, he said. But “its origins, obviously, are in the Middle East. The idea that faithful Christian communities dating back to the first century after Christ will be forever extinguished is beyond catastrophic – it ought to utterly horrify all of us who treasure the gorgeous continuities that these churches represent to our current prayer, liturgical and communal lives. It makes me feel first mournful, then motivated.”

The Rev. Bill Schwartz, an Anglican priest based in Qatar and an Episcopal Church missionary since 1993, regularly visits Iraq. Having returned from Baghdad three weeks ago, he said there is a clear sense of dismay among many Iraqis about the exclusively conservative Sunnis called Daesh, and the corruption in the Iraqi government and its inability to protect its citizens.

“The Daesh are intolerant of anyone who disagrees with their perspective, and that perspective doesn’t seem to be consistent,” said Schwarz, whose recently published book, “Islam: A Religion, A Culture, A Society,” addresses the complexities of faith in Islamic contexts. “Many Sunni Muslims are also denigrated and persecuted by Daesh forces … The recent monocultural presentation of Islam that Daesh is promoting has created a polarization in Iraqi society between those who are exclusive and those who wish the society to be inclusive.”

While reluctant to condone violence of any kind, Schwarz said that he believes the military offensive against Daesh “is unfortunately necessary for the protection of those oppressed and for the security of the world.”

The Rev. Bill Schwartz, an Anglican priest and an Episcopal Church missionary based in Qatar, delivers an address at the opening ceremony of the Anglican Centre in Qatar. Photo: Ginger Camel

Schwartz, archdeacon of the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf, and manager of the Anglican Centre in Qatar, also acknowledged that the Iraqi government needs to crackdown on corruption in its ranks so the country can begin to function normally and prepare for “re-creation of civil society with secure social parameters so that people can learn to trust each other and live together.” He added that “huge amounts of funding and investment” are necessary to rebuild ruined cities and societies, as well as investment in job creation.

The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council at its March meeting passed a resolution condemning the use of religion for the purpose of advancing political agendas “directed at terrorizing, victimizing, and oppressing individuals and communities and impairing their ability to enjoy basic human rights because of their religious beliefs and social, ethnic, class, caste, gender, and national affiliations.”

The resolution also calls on the world’s governments “to confront the reality of religious persecution, protect religious minorities and civilians within the framework of international and humanitarian law, address political exclusion and economic desperation that are being manipulated by the forces of extremists, scale up humanitarian and development assistance to host countries and trusted NGOs, and accept for resettlement a fair share of the most vulnerable people where return to their countries of origin is impossible.”

Not more than two weeks after Executive Council had passed its resolution, the world was mourning the deaths of more than 150 Kenyan students, mostly Christians, targeted in a pre-dawn attack at Garissa University on April 2 by a gang of Islamic extremists claiming to be affiliated with Somalia’s al-Shabab militant group.

In his Easter Day sermon at Canterbury Cathedral, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said the students were martyrs, “caught up in the resurrection: their cruel deaths, the brutality of their persecution, their persecution is overcome by Christ himself at their side because they share his suffering, at their side because he rose from the dead. Because of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead the cruel are overcome, evil is defeated, martyrs conquer.”

Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of the Anglican Church of Kenya described the attack as “a calculated manifestation of evil designed to destroy our nation and our faith,” but he said that their deaths will not be in vain, just as “Jesus’s death upon the cross was not in vain. By his death, death has been destroyed … We call on the government to do all in its power to protect the lives of its citizens and we call on the world community to recognize that this latest outrage is not just an attack on Kenya, but part of an assault on world peace. The time has come for the world to unite as never before in defeating this growing menace.”

As many in the United States and other Western countries are challenged with how to address extremism and persecution in the Middle East and Africa, Executive Council encouraged all Episcopalians “to engage in prayers, support, education, and advocacy for displaced people and the churches that are providing succor and hope to those displaced people who have been uprooted by conflict and living in refugee camps.”

The West can also show support and solidarity, Schwarz in Qatar said, through generosity in giving to relief efforts; investment, both through large corporations and small mission groups; and through the fostering of political will to look at the long-term problems rather than simply the next election (in the United States and Europe as well as in Iraq).

The Rev. Canon Robert Edmunds, Middle East partnership officer for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, said: “We sometimes hear the term ‘Christian presence’ in the Middle East and it sounds passive and lacking in vitality when the truth of the matter for those who live there is quite different. The Christian presence throughout the region is about Christians whose family and religious roots reach back to the time of Christ. These are not sojourners in a strange and foreign land, but people whose lives are an integral part of the landscape, the history, the culture and the traditions which have and continue to shape each generation.”

The presence of the indigenous Christian churches “provides the language of love of God and all neighbors which is in danger of being silenced,” Edmunds added. “We in the West must continue to give these atrocities visibility both in terms of solidarity with our brother and sister Christians, but to encourage political leaders to seek lasting and durable solutions for peace for the benefit of all. To lose the indigenous Christian voice in the region would be catastrophic for the future.”

Before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Iraq was home to about 1.5 million Christians – about 5 percent of the population – who trace their roots back almost 2,000 years. Today, fewer than 400,000 Christians remain.

Some of those Christians have fled to neighboring countries, many of which have their own issues of instability and extremism, and are struggling to meet the basic demands of the increased influx of refugees. Others find their way to more stable countries throughout Europe and beyond.

In July 2014, France responded to the persecution of religious minorities in Iraq by offering asylum to Christians from Mosul, home to one of the Middle East’s oldest Christian communities.

The Association d’Entraide aux Minorités d’Orient (Association to Aid Middle Eastern Minorities), established in 2007 by Bishop Pierre Whalon of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe and Iraqi businessman Elish Yako, assists some of the refugees with their integration into society.

Many of the refugees are members of the Chaldean Catholic Church, which dates back to the first century, when the region around Iraq was known as Babylon.

“For them,” Yako told ENS, “the most important thing is their freedom … and to practice their religion without being afraid of terrorists and [of someone] kidnapping their children.”

Yako stays in regular contact with every family the association has helped to resettle, including, for instance, a family of four – mother, father, son and daughter – that lives about 18 miles south of Paris. They moved to France in 2009 after receiving repeated death threats. The children told ENS that they are happy finally to practice their religion freely and they are proud of it.

“These people ought still to be in Iraq,” Whalon told ENS. “A lot of them still own homes. They never wanted to leave them. They lease them out; they expect to return. Of course, today the situation is impossible. So of course we want Christians to stay [in Iraq], but we want them to live.

“The ones that can live to tell the tale, they witness to the power of God,” he added. “It says a great deal to me about the value of what we do and what we are in the world.”

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

Peregrinos investigan sobre los refugiados y el proceso de reasentamiento en Ruanda y Kenia

ENS Headlines - Thursday, April 9, 2015

El campamento de refugiados de Gihembe alberga a 14.500 refugiados congoleses que han buscado refugio en Ruanda. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

[Episcopal News Service] A poco más de una hora en auto en las afueras de Kigali, la capital de Ruanda, 14.500 congoleses viven encima de una loma y en su falda en chozas de barro colorado, enclavadas en el interior del país, lejos de la provincia de Kivu Norte, de la República Democrática del Congo, de donde la mayoría de ellos huyó del conflicto armado y de la violencia a mediados de los años 90.

El campamento de refugiados de Gihembe se estableció en 1997 luego que milicias armadas masacraran a refugiados congoleses que habían encontrado albergue en un campamento de refugiados en el noroeste de Ruanda. Muchos residentes han pasado tal vez dos décadas en Gihembe, uno de los cinco campamentos de refugiados en Ruanda que atiende a 74.000 de ellos, más de la mitad menores de 18 años.

Desde 1998, más de 5,5 millones de personas han muerto en el Congo debido a la violencia armada, las enfermedades y la desnutrición; 2,5 millones se han visto desplazadas internamente y unos 500.000 han huido del largo conflicto del país, la vasta mayoría de los cuales vive en campamentos de refugiados en las regiones de los Grandes Lagos y en el Cuerno de África. Los refugiados congoleses constituyen la sexta población de refugiados del mundo y el 18 por ciento del total de los refugiados de África.

De los más de 500.000 refugiados congoleses en la región, se estima que 160.000 cumplen las condiciones para optar por un reasentamiento, según el Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados (UNHCR, por su sigla en inglés).

Dado el número, lo mucho que ha durado el conflicto y el que no haya ninguna señal de paz, el UNHCR y sus asociados han priorizado en los últimos años el reasentamiento de los refugiados congoleses. El objetivo es 50.000 para 2017 —de los cuales el 80 por ciento estaría destinado a venir a Estados Unidos.

Paul Kenya, funcionario para el reasentamiento de la UNHCR en Ruanda; Deborah Stein, directora del Ministerio Episcopal de Migración y peregrinos de #ShareTheJourney escuchan al Dr. Pascal Kalinda Murego hablar acerca de la salud de los refugiados y de los servicios de salud que se ofrecen en el campamento de Gihembe. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

A principios de marzo, ocho episcopales participaron en una peregrinación del grupo #ShareTheJourney auspiciado por la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera (DFMS) a la región de los Grandes Lagos de África y visitaron Gihembe para imponerse de las dificultades de los refugiados congoleses y del Programa de Estados Unidos para la Admisión de Refugiados.

La DFMS [Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society] es el nombre con el cual la Iglesia Episcopal está incorporada, funciona empresarialmente y lleva a cabo la misión.

“El propósito”, dijo Deborah Stein, directora del Ministerio Episcopal de Migración, el servicio de reasentamiento de refugiados de la DFMS, era “mostrar la Iglesia Episcopal a través de las lentes de los refugiados congoleses que están destinados al reasentamiento, cómo funciona ese reasentamiento desde el principio hasta la llegada a EE.UU.

Fue también una oportunidad de inspirar a los peregrinos a convertirse en promotores de los refugiados, añadió Stein.

La peregrinación del 2 al 13 de marzo, incluyó escalas en Kenia y Ruanda, donde, además de visitar el campamento, los peregrinos se reunieron con representantes y funcionarios de reasentamiento que trabajan para el UNHCR, la Organización Internacional para la Migración, el Centro de Apoyo al Reasentamiento en África del Servicio Mundial de Iglesias y otros proveedores de servicios a refugiados y asociados en [la tarea del] reasentamiento.

A través del Ministerio Episcopal de Migración, la DFMS se asocia con 30 entidades de reasentamiento en 26 diócesis de toda la nación. Esta es una de nueve agencias —cinco de ellas de carácter religioso— que colaboran con el Departamento de Estado de EE.UU. para recibir y reubicar a refugiados en Estados Unidos.

La participación de la Iglesia Episcopal en la labor de reasentamiento se remonta por lo menos a la segunda guerra mundial, cuando las iglesias patrocinaron a refugiados que huían de la opresión nazi. A partir del Fondo del Obispo Primado para Ayuda Mundial (en la actualidad Agencia Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo) y la posterior asociación con el Servicio Mundial de Iglesias, la DFMS estableció el Ministerio Episcopal de Migración en 1988.

Alumnos de una escuela primaria estudian en un aula del campamento de Gihembe. Más de la mitad de los 14.500 residentes del campo son menores de 18 años. Foto de Wendy Johnson/EMM.

Un refugiado es alguien que ha huido de su país de nacionalidad debido a “un temor bien fundado de persecución” por razones de raza, religión, etnia o filiación política o social. Se trata de un estatus internacionalmente reconocido y legalmente protegido .

Estados Unidos formalizó su programa de reasentamiento de refugiados con la Ley de Refugiados de 1980 en respuesta al creciente número de refugiados que huían del comunismo en el Sudeste Asiático. Hasta entonces, las iglesias habían patrocinado visas de refugiados, pero a mediados de los años setenta, ese proceso era insuficiente para responder a la necesidad, explicó Stein.

En la actualidad, hay 15,5 millones de refugiados en todo el mundo. el mandato del UNHCR es brindarles protección internacional a los refugiados.

El UNHCR se concentra fundamentalmente en la repatriación, o el regreso seguro al país de origen, seguido por la naturalización o la residencia legal en el país anfitrión. La tercera opción es el reasentamiento en uno de los más de 20 países en todo el mundo que aceptan refugiados. Globalmente, menos del 1 por ciento de los refugiados recibe [permiso de] reasentamiento, y de esos el 75 por ciento se destina a Estados Unidos.

“El éxito de los programas de reasentamiento depende de la asociación y la coordinación. Debemos contar con países para el reasentamiento dispuestos a recibir refugiados”, dijo Paul Kenya, funcionario de reasentamiento que trabaja para el UNHCR en Ruanda, en una entrevista con Episcopal News Service en Kigali. “También debes tener asociados para trabajar con el UNHCR en la identificación y para ayudar en el proceso de las entrevistas, la coordinación de los exámenes médicos y la logística del viaje. Incluso el gobierno de Ruanda nos ayuda en la verificación del estatus del refugiado y en otorgar visas para abandonar el país”.

A través de encuestas, la mayoría de los refugiados congoleses dice que no están dispuestos a regresar a su país debido a las condiciones del conflicto bélico que allí reina y porque no pueden recuperar sus tierras si regresan, explicó él.

“El reasentamiento se convierte, pues, en la única solución viable para la mayoría de estos refugiados”, dijo Kenya, añadiendo que el año pasado 2.000 congoleses fueron reasentados en Estados Unidos procedentes de campamentos en Ruanda. Esperamos continuar esta prometedora asociación con otra estrategia multianual que abarque los próximos tres o cuatro años, con un promedio de al menos 3.000 refugiados cada año”.

Una madre y un niño posan para una foto en el campamento de Gihembe. La mayoría de las familias del campamento están encabezadas por una mujer soltera. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

Una vez identificado para el reasentamiento, ya sea por parte del UNHCR, de un gobierno anfitrión o de otro asociado, el caso del refugiado o de una familia de refugiados se remite al Centro de Apoyo al Reasentamiento en África del Servicio Mundial de Iglesias, que abarca 49 países subsaharianos y ayuda a la Oficina de Población, Refugiados y Migración del Departamento de Estado de EE.UU. a procesar refugiados para su posible admisión en Estados Unidos.

Las familias se procesan como un caso, siendo cinco miembros el tamaño promedio de una familia. Muchas familias refugiadas congolesas están encabezadas por mujeres, la mayoría de las cuales son sobrevivientes de traumas y de violencia sexual o de género.

Entre tanto, los peregrinos se enteraban — a través de reuniones con funcionarios importantes en las oficinas centrales de Nairobi del centro de apoyo a los refugiados— del proceso, que incluye extensivas verificaciones de antecedentes, que toma un promedio de dos años y que está sujeto a retraso por cualquier cambio que tenga lugar en la familia, tal como un matrimonio o un nacimiento. El Servicio de Ciudadanía e Inmigración de EE.UU., una división del Departamento de Seguridad Nacional, toma la determinación final en los casos destinados a los Estados Unidos.

“Preparamos muy bien la referencia del caso de manera que pueda pasar el proceso”, dijo Miro Marinovich, director del centro de apoyo.

Residentes del campamento de Gihembe se congregan en torno a la llave de agua para llenar sus bidones. La escasez de agua es usual en el campamento. Foto de Wendy Johnson/EMM.

Los refugiados han vivido con escasez de agua y comida y limitadas oportunidades de educación y de trabajo, añadió Marinovich. “Queremos garantizar que eso nunca les suceda otra vez”.

De los 174.000 refugiados en Ruanda, el 99 por ciento son congoleses, y la mayoría son mujeres y niños. El UNHCR comenzó a trabajar con países de reasentamiento en una estrategia multianual para reasentar refugiados congoleses en 2012, de los cuales llegó a identificar a 10.000 de ellos en campamentos de Ruanda.

Una vez que un acaso es aprobado para reasentamiento, el ritmo se acelera considerablemente. La Organización Internacional para la Migración o IOM, que maneja los exámenes médicos y los viajes, entra en funciones, trasladando a los refugiados a un centro de tránsito regional, donde permanecerán durante dos semanas pendientes de los últimos exámenes médicos y de las verificaciones de seguridad. Durante ese tiempo, comienzan las clases de orientación cultural.

Cuando los peregrinos visitaron un centro de tránsito en Nairobi, los niños jugaban afuera en un parque infantil con equipos plásticos, en tanto los adultos en el aula aprendían de economía y presupuestos. Además de salones dedicados a la vida en Canadá, Australia y Estados Unidos (que tiene dos de ellos), una cocina y un baño modelos familiarizan a los refugiados con las comodidades modernas.

Una báscula para pesar el equipaje de los pasajeros que se van está situada debajo de un toldo de metal, con sillas plásticas al lado. Un asiento de avión familiariza a los refugiados con el viaje aéreo. Para los que necesiten ropa de viaje, hay atuendos de ropa y zapatillas deportivas para los hombres y ropa más tradicional para las mujeres.

El relacionarse con asociados al reasentamiento del exterior le dio a los peregrinos una mejor idea del proceso y le permitió al personal del Ministerio Episcopal de Migración compartir información sobre lo que le sucede a los refugiados cuando llegan a Estados Unidos.

“Con mucha frecuencia las personas que participan del procesamiento en el exterior no tienen la menor idea de lo que sucede una vez que un refugiado sube a un avión y viene a Estados Unidos”, dijo Stein. “En consecuencia, así como somos capaces de aprender de nuestros colegas en el UNHCR, la IOM y el centro de apoyo al reasentamiento de refugiados, también podemos compartir información con ellos acerca de lo que les sucede a los refugiados cuando llegan a Estados Unidos”.

Paul Kenya, funcionario de reasentamiento que trabaja en Ruanda para el Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados, y Jessica Benson de la Diócesis de Idaho, hablan con estudiantes en una clase de Ingles como Segundo Idioma en el campamento de Gihembe. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

Durante una reunión comunitaria en el campamento de Gihembe, los refugiados, muchos de ellos frustrados por los años que llevan viviendo en el campamento, estaban desesperados por obtener información acerca de sus casos particulares y lo que podía hacerse para adelantarlos. Pese a que les dijeron que los peregrinos no podían responder a preguntas acerca del proceso, sino más bien ofrecerles información sobre la vida en Estados Unidos, ellos vieron una oportunidad de preguntar por sus casos individuales.

La República Democrática del Congo es el segundo país de África en extensión territorial y el cuarto en población, con más de 80 millones de habitantes. En lo que respecta a recursos naturales, entre ellos cobre, plata, oro, diamantes, uranio y otros minerales, es uno de los países más ricos del mundo.

Como vecinos, el Congo y Ruanda han estado conectados durante mucho tiempo y a veces en guerra.

En la década del setenta del siglo XIX, el rey Leopoldo II de Bélgica segmentó una sección selvática de África Central y la convirtió en su colonia privada, llamándola el “Estado Libre del Congo”. En realidad, no era “libre”. Leopoldo creo un [gigantesco] campo de trabajo forzado para la cosecha del caucho donde se cometieron asesinatos y atrocidades a una escala masiva. En 1908, en respuesta a las protestas por tales violencias, el Congo cayó bajo la jurisdicción del Estado belga.

A fines de los años 30, los belgas reclutaron a miles de ruandeses para trabajar en sus ranchos y plantaciones ganaderas en Kivu Norte. La agitación en Ruanda luego de su independencia de Bélgica en 1962 llevó a otros 100.000 ruandeses a la frontera del Congo. En 1971, el gobierno congolés les concedió la ciudadanía a todos los ruandeses que estaban en el país desde 1960; pero más tarde se las revocó.

Durante la guerra civil de Ruanda a principio de los años noventa y en el genocidio de 1994, durante el cual se calcula que fueron masacradas de 800.000 a 1 millón de personas en 100 días, los ruandeses siguieron huyendo hacia los países vecinos, entre ellos el Congo. A partir de 1995, los congoleses comenzaron a huir en oleadas de la violencia en el este del Congo, siendo la más reciente de esas migraciones la que comenzó en 2012.

Con aproximadamente una décima parte del área del Congo, Ruanda es del tamaño de Massachusetts. Con una población de 11.7 millones, es el país más densamente poblado de África. Siguen habiendo ruandeses desplazados en Uganda, Tanzania y el Congo más de 20 años después del genocidio.

Los peregrinos de #ShareTheJourney depositaron una ofrenda floral durante su visita al Monumento en Memoria del Genocidio en Kigali, Ruanda. Se calcula que de 800.000 a 1 millón de personas perecieron durante el genocidio ruandés. Foto de Wendy Johnson/EMM.

“Ruanda espera que más de 100.000 ruandeses regresen —de manera que no hay una perspectiva de integración para los refugiados [congoleses], y el reasentamiento se convierte en la única opción para ellos”, dijo Kenya.

El reasentamiento es una manera en que la comunidad internacional puede ayudar a aliviar la carga de los países de la región que acogen a refugiados.

Antes de los ataques terroristas del 11 de septiembre, Estados Unidos reasentaba alrededor de 80.000 refugiados al año, y hasta llegó a 120.000 a la altura del reasentamiento de refugiados del Sudeste Asiático a principio de los años ochenta. Después del 11 de septiembre, el número descendió a 32.000. Más de una década después, la cuota de 2015 se fijó en 70.000.

La cifra de reasentamiento es importante, dicen algunos funcionarios, porque envía un mensaje de disposición a otros países que [también] reasientan y alivian una fracción de la carga del país anfitrión.

A diferencia de las torturas y asesinatos en Darfur, Sudán y Sudán del Sur, y del gran número de los que huyen del terrorismo en Somalia, el brutal conflicto del Congo no ha recibido el mismo nivel de atención.

Hay 2,7 millones de refugiados y solicitantes de asilo en África Oriental, el Cuerno de África y la región de los Grandes Lagos. Etiopía y Kenia han recibido a la mayoría de las personas que huyen de la violencia y la inestabilidad política en Somalia, Sudán del Sur, Sudán, Eritrea y el Congo. Los somalíes constituyen el grupo de refugiados más numeroso de la región, con más de 970.000 refugiados inscritos.

Dos nuevos campamentos se abrieron en Ruanda en 2012, la última vez que se produjo una escalada en el conflicto del Congo. Aun sin un flujo constante de refugiados, los campamentos tienen un crecimiento anual de un 3 por ciento, debido a los niños que nacen en ellos.

“El gobierno de Ruanda está sobrecargado con los refugiados, sin embargo, las fronteras siguen estando abiertas”, dijo Kenya. “En los últimos dos años, la población del campamento se ha duplicado, de suerte que el reasentamiento les ofrece esperanza a los refugiados, crea un instrumento para compartir responsabilidad con los países y le da al UNHCR una solución duradera.

“Le pedimos a los países que ofrecen reasentamiento que incrementen sus espacios porque la situación en el terreno muestra que las necesidades de reasentamiento existen”.

A diferencia de otros países de la región que reciben a refugiados —siendo Etiopía y Kenia los mayores— Ruanda no tiene una política de campamento obligatorio, explicó Kenya. El UNHCR ha comenzado un programa alternativo a los campamentos, integrando sus servicios de educación y salud con el gobierno ruandés.

“Si les refugiados regresan alguna vez [a la República Democrática del Congo] o hay alguna otra solución, entonces al menos adquieren sus destrezas y sus vidas funcionan casi a un nivel normal”, puntualizó Kenya. “Pero con la situación de la RDC, no veo la posibilidad del regreso”.

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

Pilgrims continue to #ShareTheJourney, become refugee advocates

ENS Headlines - Thursday, April 9, 2015

In early March, Episcopalians taking part in a #ShareTheJourney pilgrimage to the Great Lakes Region of Africa visited the International Organization for Migration’s office in Kigali, Rwanda, where they met with Didacus Obunga, an IOM operations officer, right, and Dr. Samuel A. Baghuma, national migration health physician, center. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church has been resettling refugees for 75 years, working with local congregations and resettlement agencies across the United States to welcome some of the most vulnerable people in the world who’ve fled violence, war, political, ethnic and cultural oppression.

In early March, eight Episcopalians traveled to Kenya and Rwanda to learn about refugee resettlement today through the lens of Congolese refugees on a #ShareTheJourney pilgrimage organized by Episcopal Migration Ministries, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s refugee resettlement service.

The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is the legal and canonical name under which The Episcopal Church is incorporated, conducts business and carries out mission.

“Our hope,” said Episcopal Migration Ministries Director Deborah Stein, “is that the participants will be able to share the enthusiasm they have shown throughout this pilgrimage with people in their parishes, in their communities, in their dioceses, and become champions and advocates for refugees: to communicate to the broader church about the wonderful opportunities for Episcopalians to be involved in the life-saving work of refugee resettlement, and ultimately that Episcopalians will see a place for themselves in this work.”

Alyssa Stebbing, outreach director for Trinity Episcopal Church of The Woodlands in the Diocese of Texas, came into the pilgrimage with an awareness about refugees that heightened through the journey.

“This experience has really taken the blinders off,” said Stebbing, who plans to engage with the interfaith community in greater Houston and share what she learned on the pilgrimage.

Episcopal Migration Ministries is one of nine agencies partnering with the U.S. Department of State to welcome and resettle refugees to the United States. Across the church, Episcopal Migration Ministries works with 30 communities in 26 dioceses.

Of the 15.5 million refugees worldwide, less than 1 percent will be resettled, with more than 75 percent of those coming to the United States.

Dr. Muddassar Ban Abad, who oversees the International Organization for Migration’s Health Assessment Center in Nairobi, Kenya, leads #ShareTheJourney pilgrims on a tour of the facility. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

In 2014, Episcopal Migration Ministries and its partners helped to resettle 5,155 of the tens of thousands of refugees who came to the United States through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) screening process. They’ll work to serve as many people this year, as the United States plans to resettle 70,000 refugees.

Many of those refugees will come from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Over the next several years, UNHCR plans to resettle 50,000 refugees from the Congo, with 80 percent to be resettled in the United States.

The March 2-13 pilgrimage, funded by an Episcopal Church Constable Fund grant, educated the participants about the plight of refugees and the refugee process so that they might share their experience with their churches, dioceses and communities.

In Rwanda, they visited Gihembe, a refugee camp housing 14,500 refugees from eastern Congo. There, they heard questions and concerns from refugees in a town hall setting. The pilgrims also learned about the refugee-resettlement process from the overseas perspective through meetings with the UNHCR, Church World Service’s Africa Resettlement Support Center and other non-governmental organizations.

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Georgia, speaks to refugees during a town hall-style meeting in Gihembe Refugee Camp. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

For the Rev. Canon Frank Logue, canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Georgia, to be able to meet with refugees and listen to their frustrations regarding the resettlement process was informative.

“I think it’s hard for any of us to appreciate what it’s like to flee your country, what it means to be a refugee, so to have had the experience of meeting and talking to refugees was helpful,” said Logue, who journeyed with his wife, Victoria.

The visit to the refugee camp included a tour of its medical clinic, an elementary school classroom, a women’s empowerment initiative and an ESL classroom for refugees approved for resettlement.

Meeting 10 HIV-positive women at the refugee camp who find hope in growing mushrooms made a big impact on Cookie Cantwell, youth ministries coordinator for Province IV.

“Once you’re exposed to something that you know will forever change your perspective, you have to share it,” said Cantwell, who is from the Diocese of East Carolina. “Once you’ve been touched, you have to make a decision about what you’re going to do about it.”

A Somali refugee woman who works as a community health worker poses with Cookie Cantwell, during a visit to Refuge Point, an organization that works to empower some of the most vulnerable refugees in Nairobi and other locations worldwide. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

For Cantwell, it means sharing the women’s story. “They’re living, they’re not dying,” she said.

Many of the pilgrims blogged about their experiences.

“One of the things we asked of all of the pilgrims that have participated in the #ShareTheJourney trip is that, when they come home, they use their experience to talk to as many people as possible to share what they learned: to become advocates for refugees, to visit a local EMM affiliate office, to see what happens on the receiving end to see what they can do to share the information they learned while they were in Nairobi [in Kenya] and Rwanda,” said Stein.

Jessica Benson of the Diocese of Idaho had built a relationship with a Congolese family resettled to Boise through the Agency for New Americans. But seeing resettlement from the overseas end was a completely different experience, she said.

The pilgrims learned, for example, that once a family is referred for resettlement and begins the lengthy process of background, security and medical checks, any change in the family’s status, such as the birth of a child, can delay the process.

“One of the things that stuck in my mind is that infants are screened at the level of adults,” said Benson, adding she also didn’t know large numbers of urban refugees lived in cities, outside the camps.

Before the pilgrimage had ended, Benson already had reached out to a state legislator to schedule a meeting. She also planned to speak to students in the public-school system where the numbers of refugee students have increased to educate them about the resettlement process, she said.

Alice Eshuchi, country director for Heshima Kenya, talks with Alyssa Stebbing, outreach director for Trinity Episcopal Church of The Woodlands in the Diocese of Texas, during a visit to Heshima’s operations office in Nairobi. Heshima Kenya specializes in identifying and protecting unaccompanied and separated refugee children and youth, especially girls, young women and their children living in Nairobi. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

After visiting the refugee camp in Rwanda, the pilgrims visited Heshima, an urban program in Nairobi, Kenya, that empowers refugee girls and young women, many of whom who have lost or been separated from their families.

For Spencer Cantrell, gender violence fellow at the National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project in Washington, D.C., the contrast between the refugee camp and the urban program was stunning. In the camp, she visited the dwelling of a man who had lost all hope, despite his family having been resettled to Mississippi, she said. That was hard to reconcile with the hope emanating from the positive attitudes of the girls and young women in Nairobi, many of them survivors of trauma and sexual violence and many of them teenage mothers, she said.

“I’m looking at ways to share this with the church,” said Cantrell, a former Young Adult Service Corps missionary to Hong Kong now living in the Diocese of Washington.

To walk into a classroom in the refugee camp full of eager young boys, four years below grade level and sharing two or three books, was heartbreaking for the Rev. Burl Salmon, middle school chaplain and dean of community life at Trinity Episcopal School in the Diocese of North Carolina. Yet he was encouraged by the rapport the teacher had with his students, he said. “He saw education as their ticket.”

“Education is universal,” said Salmon. “For one it’s a lifeline, and for the other it’s a given.”

Back in the United States, besides engaging with an Episcopal Migration Ministries affiliate office, ways the pilgrims and other Episcopalians can continue to learn about and advocate for refugees include: organizing an event for World Refugee Day, which takes place annually on June 20; encouraging a congregation to co-sponsor a refugee family; sharing their experiences with refugees at The Episcopal Church’s General Convention; advocating for refugees at the local and state level by scheduling appointments with elected officials and speaking at civic gatherings; and becoming a member of the Episcopal Public Policy Network, which engages in public-policy advocacy at the federal level.

One of the things The Episcopal Church, which is present in multiple countries, should do is to encourage other countries to increase the number of refugees they resettle, said the Rev. Canon Scott Gunn of the Diocese of Southern Ohio, one of the pilgrims and the executive director of Forward Movement, a Cincinnati, Ohio-based ministry of The Episcopal Church that encourages discipleship.

There are 2.7 million refugees and asylum seekers across East Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region. Ethiopia and Kenya host the majority of people fleeing violence and political instability in Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Eritrea and the Congo.

“Ninety-nine percent of refugees will not be resettled,” Gunn said. “We also need to do whatever we can to influence the stabilization of conditions in East Africa; one country is taking another country’s refugees.

“If 2.7 million people could be repatriated, everybody wins. It’s a morally outrageous shell game that’s being played with people’s lives,” said Gunn. “No human being should ever have to utter the words: ‘I have no hope.’”

– Lynette Wilson is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

Alison Poage to lead Booher Library at Seminary of the Southwest

ENS Headlines - Thursday, April 9, 2015

[Seminary of the Southwest press release] Dean and President Cynthia Briggs Kittredge has announced that Alison O’Reilly Poage, interim director of the Booher Library at Seminary of the Southwest, has been offered and has accepted the position of director of the Booher Library.

“I am happy to announce that the search committee recommended unanimously that she be appointed to this position based on her qualifications and her excellent work since her arrival in January,” said Kittredge.

Poage served most recently as director of the Cutchogue New Suffolk Free Library in Cutchogue, New York. She has lived in Austin before, having worked for the Austin Public Library system from 2007-2010. She received her Master’s of Library Science degree from City University of New York in 2001.

Academic Dean Scott Bader-Saye says, “We are fortunate to have found a candidate with strong administrative skills, a gift for hospitality, a collegial management style, and a true commitment to the mission of this school. Allison has already proven herself able and willing to carry the Booher Library through a time of transition and innovation. She is exactly what we need in a permanent director.”