Category Archives: Human Rights

When incivility becomes the norm

by J. Herbert Nelson, II | Stated Clerk of the PC(USA) General Assembly

This statement is a response to the violence on America’s streets after the election of Mr. Donald Trump as President–Elect of the United States of America. It was originally posted by the Presbyterian News Service

Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson

LOUISVILLE – I read several post-election statements and heard news accounts of violence, riots, and protests while in Central America visiting Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission partners. The news images were shocking to both our partners and me. We struggled to understand the results of the election, particularly given Mr. Trump’s stance on immigration, which was the theme of my visit. However, I was not as startled as my Central American friends. Serving as director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C., for six years prior to becoming Stated Clerk prepared me to understand the outcomes we face in electoral politics. Although I have shared parts of this writing before with congregations and audiences, there seemed to always be a sense of skepticism among the hearers. I proclaim the message once again, because the apparent shock for many has left people raising the question, “What happened?”

I wish to affirm in this moment that many in our congregations and communities hold legitimate fear about their safety and the protection of their human rights. We hold close our Muslim, Hispanic, African American, immigrant, and LGBTQ neighbors, and those from other marginalized groups. We hold close the women who give us life and the poor for whom daily bread is not promised. The rash of hateful harassment [1] reported in the wake of the election insists upon the urgency of the call to be one who “… executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 10:18–20, NRSV).

This writing is not a denial of the results of the election. President-Elect Trump is our newly elected leader. However, it is my hope that the post-election anger, pain, and frustration demonstrated on the streets will lay the foundation for a transformed political system in the years to come. Through coalition building and community organizing, we have an opportunity to create a vision of shared prosperity, safety, dignity, and justice that is truly inclusive and compelling to a broad base.

I insist, though, that no matter how robust the infusion of energy into the struggle for justice, it will never be worth the pain, suffering, and yes, death, which will be wrought by the promised policies of the incoming administration. My integrity as a spiritual leader commands me to face the reality that some of our communities are under grave threat. In my recent travels to El Salvador, I spoke with many who expressed fear for their family members’ safety in the U.S.; that the violence they fled El Salvador to escape would be brought upon them tenfold if they were deported back to their country of origin. People with preexisting conditions are troubled over what a sudden loss of healthcare would do to their wellbeing. Same-gender parents are rushing to finish their adoptions and secure their rights as a family. Survivors of sexual assault are contending with a culture that would elect to our highest office a known abuser. In this dark night, the doors of the Church are open as refuge, resource, and organizing home.

As Christians, we cannot accept a nation that normalizes violence, exclusion, and racism in our political rhetoric and public policy. We know God has called us to co-create a world where a dignified life is available to all, and anything less offers no suitable worship. In the coming months and years, “… From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded” (Lk. 12:48 NRSV). We will be asked to open our church basements to late-night meetings, our sanctuaries to provide Sanctuary to those facing deportation, and to intervene in public harassment.

Just as the doors of the Church are open, so too are the doors to the movement for justice. We invite you to join us in our steadfast commitment to stand with the marginalized and our humble desire to contribute to strategy and vision that will help create the kingdom of God.

Read more.

1 Comment

Filed under Current Events, Human Rights, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Arthur Ashe statue

We were in Richmond for Eric’s graduation from Union Presbyterian Theological Seminary. It seemed a moment to view the statue to Arthur Ashe – athlete, author, educator, witness, activist, justice-seeker, and hero of mine for how he played and how he lived and how he faced death.

“The best way to judge a life is to ask yourself, “Did I make the best use of the time I had?”
Arthur Ashe

IMG_8855 (531x800)

4 June 2016
Richmond, VA

Leave a comment

Filed under Human Rights, Photo, Sports

All people have voices

On 11 March 2016, I spoke about the work of advocacy at the orientation for the Presbyterians attending the 60th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. I was asked to post a portion of my remarks and did so on the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations blog. I reprint the words here with the permission of the blog editor (who happens to be me).

All people have voices.
The task of advocacy has nothing to do with giving voice to the voiceless, because
all people have voices.
Some people have voices we choose not to hear.
Some people have voices we ignore.
Some people have voices we force to the margins.
Some people have voices we oppress, repress, suppress.
Some people have voices we have silenced, sometimes for a long time, but
all people have voices.

The work of advocacy leads us
to uncover the voices of our sisters and brothers whose voices we ignore, drive to the margins, suppress, or silence
to hear the voices of our sisters and brothers
to listen, truly listen, passionately listen to the voices of our sisters and brothers
to heed the voices of our sisters and brothers
and then to work with our sisters and brothers whose voices we ignore, drive to the margins, suppress, or silence
to amplify the voices of our sisters and brothers
to bring the voices of our sisters and brothers to the halls of privilege and the tables of power
to invite and call and challenge all people, particularly privileged, powerful people, to hear the voices of our sisters and brothers
to demand that all people, particularly privileged, powerful people, listen, truly listen, passionately listen to our sisters and brothers whose voices we ignore, drive to the margins, suppress, or silence because
all people have voices.

See you along the Trail.

1 Comment

Filed under Human Rights, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations

A Thanksgiving prayer for Syrian refugees

My friend, the Rev. Sung Yeon Choimorrow works for Interfaith Worker Justice. She recently wrote a reflection on Syrian and Iraqi refugees in which she 535553_418699534886667_1200697668_nexpresses her “prayer that the spirit of hospitality and generosity will rule this nation. It is my prayer that we give thanks that we get to partner with our creator in this journey of seeking justice and peace.”

She reminds us that the U.S. “narrative of exclusion and oppression isn’t a new one. It is one that has repeated and continues to repeat itself in history.”

And she challenges us to make sure that

Fear does not win. When people who live in hope and fight for justice work together, we can and do drive out fear. We, the people of faith must act on our convictions to stand up against Islamophobia that is driving our legislators to pass a bill that would stop women and children fleeing war from coming to our shores. We, the people of faith must act on our convictions to stand up against splitting up families due to deportations. We, the people of faith must act on our convictions to stand up against poverty wages and corporate greed that puts profits before people.

For her words, which I encourage you to read, I say “Thanks.”

To her prayer, I humbly say “Amen.”

See you along the Trail.

The photo shows the Rev. Sung Yeon Choimorrow attending the UN Commission on the Status of Women in 2013 and was taken by our mutual friend, Bruce Reyes-Chow.

Leave a comment

Filed under Human Rights

For all who work

I give thanks this day for all who work –
whether that work is
paid or unpaid
honored or unrecognized
whether that work
earns a pay check or simply involves the day-to-day tasks of living
whether that work is
a labor of love
or somehow combines all of the above.

I give thanks for all who have lived and died
to protect the lives and rights of those who work.

I give thanks for all who live and give of themselves,
and risk themselves,
to make a better world for all who work.

I confess and grieve that the life I live,
the privilege and comfort I enjoy,
too often rests on the backs of brothers and sisters who work.

I recognize that all too often sisters and brothers work
in dangerous conditions, in situations where they are exploited, violated.

I pray that the day will come when all people have work to do
work that is safe and meaningful,
work that is honored and valued,
work that pays a wage that allows the workers
to provide a decent living for themselves and for their families.

I pray that I will receive the grace and the wisdom and the courage
to in some small way
make a contribution to the dawning of that day.

I give thanks this day for all who work.

See you along the Trail.

Leave a comment

Filed under Current Events, Family, Friends, Human Rights

Make a difference

Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on Earth.
– Roberto Clemente

Roberto_ClementeToday Roberto Clemente would have turned 82.

Tomorrow the world marks World Humanitarian Day.

Coincidence?

Clemente was a great baseball player. He was an even greater humanitarian and human being.

I wear his jersey today as a reminder of his challenge to make a difference.

Feliz cumpleaños, Roberto. Te recuerdo.

See you along the Trail.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Baseball, Human Rights, Pittsburgh Pirates

17 March – each year, every year

I speak for no others,
only for myself.
For me, this day has
nothing to do with
green beer or
green rivers or
green clothing,
this day has nothing to do with
pinching me or kissing me;
my bad jokes aside,
this day has nothing to do even with Jameson.
Today is a day
to remember oppression
to honor resistance
to recognize that, despite the efforts of
systems of race and racialization
to separate us,
struggles for dignity and justice,
freedom and equality,
human rights and humanity
are inseparably linked:
none of us are free until all of us are free.
for that reason, in that spirit, and in my own fashion,
I mark this day, and each 17th of March.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Fitzgerald, from County Cork, on my mother’s side.

See you along the Trail!

Leave a comment

Filed under Antiracism, Current Events, Human Rights, Ireland