Solidarity Now with Indigenous Water Protectors

As minister from the UU congregation closest to Standing Rock, I have important news. In a sea of injustice, it is very good news.

Since the Water Protector camps went up in 2016, the movement at Standing Rock has been hailed as world-changing, showing us what prayerful resistance to contemporary forms of colonialism, like the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), can look like – and how crucial it is to maintain our commitment to the water and to one another, even as DAPL ultimately got pushed through Indigenous treaty lands. And even today, Indigenous-led resistance continues from Standing Rock to organizing to Stop the Bayou Bridge Pipeline and beyond

Before the Water Protector camps at Standing Rock were forcibly evacuated last year, UUs showed up – you showed up – with your bodies, resources, and prayers. As UUs, whether we came to camp or participated from home, we knew what solidarity looked like.

Overwhelmingly, we were welcomed as relatives – and experienced as relatives.

A World Where All of Us Thrive

I brought a lot of people in my heart with me when I and more than 70 people of faith went to #FloodtheDesert to put water out where people who are migrating need it and in solidarity with No More Deaths humanitarian aid workers facing criminal charges. I brought my father’s family who crossed the Mekong and then the Pacific Ocean as part of their migration journey. I brought the names of so many fighting deportation, keeping hope alive in detention, of Black, Muslim, indigenous, and undocumented organizers who are facing down charges and trials and prison time because the state is targeting them for their justice work. 

Organizers are calling for all current charges against humanitarian-aid workers to be dropped and for land managers in the west desert to ensure that civil humanitarian response is allowed on public land without fear of harassment or prosecution. Please sign on to the call to #dropthecharges and assert that people arriving at our border deserve to be met with #waternotwalls.

Humanitarian Aid is Never Criminal

During World War II, Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat, wrote illegal visas for Jewish families fleeing Lithuania. He did not follow the rules about who should get a visa and who should not. He followed his moral compass. He wrote them for anyone who asked. He issued 10-day visas for transit through Japan in clear violation of his orders. He decided he had the power - even though he could have assumed he had none. I have the seal to stamp the visas; I have my signature. He wrote visa after visa. 

I learned about Sugihara the same day I learned some children who have been separated from their parents at the border are being drugged to keep them listless and sleeping. The guardians  who have been reunited with their children find their children are not the same—they are changed from the trauma they’ve experienced. 

Just like Sugihara, we must all ask what our conscience requires of us in this time when the most inhumane abuse is being carried out against the most vulnerable by the government.

When asked what the most important commandment is, Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and ...Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” 

Answering the Call to #FreeOurFuture - Webinar Tomorrow 9pm ET/6pm PT

Across the United States, ICE is destroying families and our communities. They fall into a long line of state and state-sponsored policing mechanisms that target communities of Color under the guise and misnomer of safety and security. A few weeks ago, over one hundred UUs gathered in San Diego answering Mijente’s call to action. Check out how it went down! Tomorrow, Wednesday July 25th at 9:00pm ET/6:00pm PT join us for a webinar with other people of faith and conscience for a next steps call to hear about what is emerging from Mijente and partner organizations’ #FreeOurFuture work. RSVP here.

Now more than ever, our faith requires us to make bold demands that are rooted in visions of liberation articulated by communities most impacted by white supremacy. As people of faith and justice we are taking this time to reflect on why we need to #AbolishICE and #FreeOurFuture. Check out just a few shared reflections from UUs about why we need to abolish ICE below.

ICE policy is being used to dehumanize lives and treat them as not blessed with inherent worth. This agency, created in a time of national fearfulness, has as its basis Islamophobia and racial profiling and is being used by extremists to perpetuate a culture which makes it impossible for us to realize the Universalist dream of a world community (also named in our principles) living where all are given full rights and the conditions in which people can thrive. What we also need to be exploring theologically is what affirming inherent worth and dignity, grounded as those ideals are in our Universalist heritage, means. It means not just lip service but actively working to make sure people are safe, protected and can thrive. Our nation's immigration policy neither acknowledges the ways our nation has created unsafe conditions in other nations or honors our moral requirement to respond to the massive human suffering ICE policies and practices perpetuate and actively cause.

Rev. Leslie Takahashi, Lead Minister, Mt. Diablo UU Church

I am a first-generation American. My mother came to the US as a non-English-speaking child seeking asylum from the communist takeover of her country in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.  She was escaping brutal poverty. At that time, the US was believing and accepting immigrants who claimed asylum at their borders. The story of a teenager without job or language skills fleeing a war-torn country was a cause for our country’s compassion and sympathy, and she was helped by a network of Americans.  She was sponsored by a great-aunt and then adopted by a family in New Haven, Connecticut, and eventually became a citizen. I know how lucky I am to be alive - my mother earned sympathy and eventually citizenship partly because her skin happened to be white. Today our government is denying asylum and ripping families apart because of racial discrimination.  We must not allow this to happen any longer. We must show compassion and justice to the desperate families now seeking asylum at our borders. Please, join me and the UUA in fighting to abolish ICE.

Mandy Neff, Director of Religious Education, First Parish in Cambridge

We look forward to continuing this conversation and commitment together, with you. Please do join us tomorrow - or sign up to receive the video following the conversation.

In faith,

Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen, Senior Strategist

Nora Rasman, Campaign Manager

Turn Off | Turn Up

Nyctinasty: some thoughts for my own community of faith folks with some privilege

The plants on my porch seem like they close up at night. Get a little smaller, shrunken, like they can tuck themselves in under their own covers. The internet says it’s real and called nyctinasty. The theories are abundant for why - to conserve sweet smells, keep from freezing, protect the pollen inside. Every morning they open up again. They shake it out, get up the gumption and begin.

We’re doing some things that afraid people do: withdrawing, hunkering down, narrowing our horizons. I see some of us on Facebook and in my inbox, around my kitchen table and at the work check-in call. We are taking a social media sabbath, getting off the news, taking a break, going on vacation, plotting an escape, retirement, a different job, a different country.  

And some of us have every reason to be afraid for our literal, actual, human lives. Others of us have every reason to be afraid for the lives of the values that we hold dear. Locate your fear. Reality check it. Don’t be cavalier with surveillance, targeting and threats of fascism. But, if you have more privilege, be on guard for the fear that seduces you into inaction, cowardice and complicity. That guides you away from boldness, vision and risk. Tricks you into thinking your survival is at risk and only your survival matters. When really, your survival, physically, may not be at risk. Consider it. Consider the buffers of money saved in USD even if it’s not a lot. Consider all you could sell. Consider what may be blue passport and visas. Consider the people you could call if it really came to that who also have those things.