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Global concerns

Concerns for the world go hand in hand with faith.
Here we offer reports and analyses on various issues of justice and peace and stewardship of the environment.
Do you have news to share, concerns you'd like to see addressed here?    Send a note!
Pres. Bush's initiative for "faith-based organizations" is receiving lots of attention.  You may want to start with our page listing some of our reports and analyses on that issue.
Some general areas of concern:

U. S. politics
Economic justice
 
Racial concerns and racism  
Environmental stewardship

Peacemaking & international issues
Gun Control
Immigration Issues  
The Death Penalty
The Media

Recent stories, and some of lasting interest, are listed below.

And we have archive pages listing reports and comments on social issues, from 

bulletall of 2002
bulletSeptember through December, 2001
bulletJune through August 2001
bullet May 2000 through May 2001.
The killings at Virginia Tech -- 3 perspectives     [5-2-07]

The Virginia Tech "massacre" generates different lines of reflection

Witherspoon Issues Analyst Gene TeSelle sorts out some of those lines – as a starting point for more reflection   

"Parent Tears" is a poem in which the Rev. Bobbie McGarey transforms the pain of the Blacksburg killings into a prayer.

Presbyterian pastors in Blacksburg tell of their experience and their roles, and see faith, community and time as vital in the process of healing .  A report from Presbyterian News Service.

Chalmers Johnson on his new book, "Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic"  [3-9-07]

In his new book, CIA analyst, distinguished scholar, and best-selling author Chalmers Johnson argues that US military and economic overreach may actually lead to the nation's collapse as a constitutional republic. It's the last volume in his Blowback trilogy, following the best-selling "Blowback" and "The Sorrows of Empire." In those two, Johnson argued American clandestine and military activity has led to un-intended, but direct disaster here in the United States.

In an interview with Amy Goodman, Johnson summarizes his argument from the book.

Johnson says early in the hour that he is serious about the subtitle of his book:

This is not just hype to sell books - "The Last Days of the American Republic." I'm here concerned with a very real, concrete problem in political analysis, namely that the political system of the United States today, history tells us, is one of the most unstable combinations there is - that is, domestic democracy and foreign empire - that the choices are stark. A nation can be one or the other, a democracy or an imperialist, but it can't be both. If it sticks to imperialism, it will, like the old Roman Republic, on which so much of our system was modeled, like the old Roman Republic, it will lose its democracy to a domestic dictatorship.

More >>

Washington Office forced to discontinue Stewardship of Public Life Networks, opens new network system: "Witness in Washington Weekly"   [5-25-06]

Due to budget cuts in Presbyterian programs, the Washington Office is creating a new network system called "Witness in Washington Weekly" to replace the Stewardship of Public Life Networks.  It will start in late June after the General Assembly and will be activated only when Congress is in session or Presidential actions warrant it.

To get on the new list (even if you are currently on one or more of the current ones!) you can simply click here, and follow the instructions by filling in all the fields and checking the box that says "Witness in Washington Weekly."

FaithfulAmerica.org offers "a word to the overwhelmed" – noting some hopeful developments in the past week, and some specific ways to act on various points of need and opportunity.  [10-28-05]
PC(USA)'s new mission initiative battles HIV/AIDS as 'a matter of faith'
[10-25-05]

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has stepped up its efforts to combat the worldwide spread of AIDS, launching a new campaign: "It's a Matter of Faith."

The project was created after the 2004 General Assembly directed the Worldwide Ministries Division (WMD) to "make a concerted effort to lift up and publicize" opportunities to contribute to the response to the HIV/AIDS crisis around the world.   More >>
U.S. leads global attack on human rights -- Amnesty International   [5-26-05]

Four years after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, human rights are in retreat worldwide and the United States bears most responsibility, rights watchdog Amnesty International said on Wednesday. Governments are increasingly rolling back the rule of law, taking their cue from the U.S.-led war on terror, it said.

"The USA as the unrivalled political, military and economic hyper-power sets the tone for governmental behaviour worldwide," Secretary General Irene Khan said in the foreword to Amnesty International's 2005 annual report.

Read the Reuters report in TruthOut, or AlertNet

Presbyterian Washington Office provides lots of helpful issue updates:
[2-11-05]

Three current major issues:

bulletSocial Security

Last summer, the 216th General Assembly of the PC(USA) passed a resolution, Reaffirming the Importance of Our Nation's Social Insurance System (Social Security and Medicare). It reaffirms past policy; noting that Social Security and Medicare were enacted to promote the general welfare and to assure a guaranteed income and health care for U.S. workers. As noted by The Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, in a letter to congregations: "These programs enable older Americans, people with disabilities, and their families to live life in fullness." [Read more]

bulletBorder Crossing: Minors in Jeopardy

The Arizona desert is beautiful at just about any time of year. Yet for migrants who have been driven from their homelands because of worsening economic situations, the desert is all too often deadly in its beauty. More than 3,500 migrants have died trying to cross the border since 1998; and at least 219 dead during 2004 on just the Arizona border. In the search for economic survival, many migrants leave their families and make the trek from Mexico or Central America to cross the deserts of U.S. border states. They hold out hope of making enough cash in the fields, farms, restaurants, and office buildings of America ---- not only to survive themselves, but also to have enough to send back home so that their families might also eke out a living. [Read more]

bulletThe Widow's Offering

As the tsunami crisis unfolded, the Bush Administration's announcement of its paltry donation of $15 million in aid incited enough criticism that the amount was increased ---- to $350 million! The criticism sparked a debate: Is the U.S. stingy in what it gives to the developing world? In terms of percentage of national income, the U.S. is at the bottom of the list of developed countries. [Read more]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

2005 Outlook

The 109th Congress has begun its first session. The Washington Office provides its outlook for congressional action in nine issue areas. If you are committed to influencing laws and policies, here's a great place to start.

bullet Africa
bullet Civil Rights
bullet Ecology
bullet Global Security
bullet Health Care
bullet Hunger and Human Needs
bullet Latin America
bullet Middle East
bullet Women and Families
Towards an ethics of solidarity

Religion, conflict & peace discussed at World Social Forum

At the World Social Forum meeting in Porto Alegra, Brazil, as a kind of alternative to the gathering of the rich and powerful in Davos, Switzerland, a global ecumenical coalition (including the World Council of Churches) has sponsored a panel to explore the role of religion in conflicts, and to identify resources within religion for overcoming violence. The emphasis was on an ethic and spirituality that are relational rather than individualistic. Solidarity and accompaniment were affirmed as hopeful signs in an religiously pluralistic world.   [2-1-05]

Earthquake and tsunami devastate South and Southeast Asia

Presbyterians join in sending relief aid to areas devastated by tsunami

Asian media report on the disaster in their own countries   [12-28-04]

Tightening restrictions on Cuba    [7-28-04]

The Washington Office has provided a helpful look at increasingly restrictive policies from Washington, some of the factors in domestic politics that are influencing them (in spite of resistance from younger Cuban immigrants and from the House of Representatives), and recent General Assembly policy statements calling for an end to the embargo and travel restrictions, and moves toward re-establishing diplomatic relations. 

Washington Office signs on to welfare letter

Coalition wants program that can lift families out of poverty
[7-19-04]

The Presbyterian Washington Office has joined a number of other religious groups in urging completion of a welfare-reauthorization plan being considered by the Senate Finance Committee.

The groups have joined in sending a letter to U.S. senators about the federal government's principal cash-assistance program for low-income families, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).

The coalition, the Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs, says in the letter, "We are extremely disappointed that Congress has not yet passed a long-term reauthorization to strengthen the program so families can move out of poverty."

Bait and Switch? Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy    [3-11-04]

The Presbyterian Church has consistently affirmed the importance of respect for human rights, and each General Assembly receives and considers an update on human rights from the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy.

Julie A. Mertus, professor of human rights at American University's School of International Service, offers a critical look at the use of the idea of human rights, especially in U.S. foreign policy. The author's main point is that the U.S. and other nations often affirm the concept of human rights, but use them as a way of justifying their own policies.

What is needed, she says, is a "culture of human rights" that goes beyond the rhetoric.

The adoption of human rights language is an essential step in building a human rights culture, but this alone is insufficient. Human rights concepts enter a culture slowly, as the population develops its own shared (although often contested) understanding of the prominence and importance of the norms. Incrementally, humane values become part of the identity, interests, and expectations of individuals and groups within the society.

America has human rights language without a human rights culture--the talk without the walk. The level of awareness of human rights in the U.S. is extremely low. According to Amnesty International, 94% of American adults and 96% of American youth have no awareness of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Even when they are aware of human rights, U.S citizens are far too willing to tolerate their government's abridgement of international human rights standards.

Mertus is the author of Bait and Switch: Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy (Routledge, 2004) and an analyst for FPIF (Foreign Policy in Focus)

 
Church World Service urges U.S. to stop sending Haitian refugees back to chaotic homeland   [3-11-04]

Church World Service (CWS), the global humanitarian agency, on March 8 sent an initial shipment of emergency food and medicine to Haiti.  The agency is also advocating for U.S. protection of Haitian asylum-seekers.
Haiti: Another U.S. coup d'etat?
[3-9-04]

Tom Driver, a member of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, looks at the recent events in Haiti through the lens of his 20 years of observing that country, most recently on a visit in 2000.  He sees the removal of President Aristide as the culmination of a long U.S. campaign to unseat him because he has not been cooperative enough with U.S. desires.

For confirmation of Driver's view, if you're surprised at his assertion of a U.S. coup d'etat, you might look at an essay by Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and a former economic advisor to governments in Latin America and around the world. His article in the Los Angeles Times on March 4, is headlined "From His First Day in Office, Bush Was Ousting Aristide."

Click here for a Washington Office report on Haiti.

The Presbyterian Washington Office has posted a very helpful wrap-up of Congressional actions (or inactions) on issues of interest, including:

Africa
Civil Rights
Ecology and Environment
Global Security
Health Care
Hunger and Human Needs
Latin America
Middle East

Women and Families      [1-8-04]

Free trade or fair trade: the struggle moves to Miami  
[11-18-03]

The Free Trade Area of the Americas is being negotiated this week in Miami, with expectations (now a bit shaky, perhaps) that this extension of "free trade" to the whole of North and South America (except for Cuba, of course!) would be put into effect in 2004. We offer an index to a few reports that will give some background and analysis of this important event.
Presbyterian Peace Fellowship announces special events at School of America protests   [11-6-03]

The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship invites everyone to two special events during the protests at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia -- Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 22-23.

Thoughts on truth and lies from a "Christian" White House  [11-3-03]

Greg Garret, who teaches at Baylor University, reflects on the varieties of lying in light of his 6-year-old son's simple definition: "A lie is when you don't tell the truth."

He concludes: "Other writers can talk about how policies of the Bush White House starve the hungry, harm the widow and orphan and discomfort the prisoner. That is not my aim today. I am simply trying to teach my son to tell the truth, and I'd appreciate it if the president of the United States would give me a little backup."

Guatemala faces election filled with threats; one seminarian sees in Scripture a call to listen and speak  [10-1-03]

Guatemala, where "patriotism ... is often identified with militarism rather than the struggle for peace and justice" is approaching a presidential election in which retired general Efrain Rios Montt is seeking a return to power. In this threatening time, the Rev. Karla Koll, a PC(USA) mission co-worker, reports on the challenges of the time, and asks for prayers for this nation and its people.

One of her seminary students, in a paper for a bible course, examined Mark 7:31-37, the account of Jesus' unstopping the ears of a deaf man. Koll reports his conclusion that (in her words) "The church should not be deaf and mute today, but should assume responsibility for listening carefully to the world around it, for speaking out and for working for peace and justice. Good words for Christians in any context."

Senate votes to overturn FCC media ownership rules
[9-16-03]

The Presbyterian Washington Office reports on a vote in the US Senate which rejected strong efforts by the President and many Republican legislators to allow further consolidation of media ownership and control.
WTO meeting in Cancun collapses - a victory for the South?  [9-16-03]

The failure of the World Trade Organization Ministerial in Cancun has been widely reported. We offer here a perspective you may not find in the U. S. press: a view from the South.

The Mexico Solidarity Network reports on the collapse of the meeting "amid North-South divide." Then a second report (below) focuses on impact of protests and marches by "thousands of campesinos, unionists, students, anarchists and NGOs."

So what about all those lies?
[7-9-03]

Peter Sawtell, Executive Director of Eco-Justice Ministries, reflects on the emerging "pattern of lies" from the Administration in Washington – those used to justify the invasion of Iraq, as well as those being trotted out to justify the continual downgrading of environmental protections.

Mission co-worker in Colombia urges support for Synod executive in Colombia, under threat for his defense of human rights   [4-15-03]

UPUSA mission co-worker Alice Winters calls our attention to serious threats against Milton Mejía, and offers specific information to help us contact the President of Colombia on his behalf.

See also the Presbyterian News Service report on threats against the Rev. Milton Mejía, and the "escape" from custody of the man who threatened him.

Health care is a basic right, say church leaders    [3-17-03]

Presbyterians and other religious leaders join in declaring that access to adequate health care "is a basic right ... on par with other human rights such as the rights to food and shelter."

The religious leaders said the 40 million Americans who have no health insurance are casualties of "a crisis with moral and ethical dimensions" that "must be an urgent national priority."

Pressuring Taco Bell --
Tomato pickers, supporters start 2nd week of hunger strike

[3-4-03]

Presbyterian News Service reports on the second week of a fast by more than 50 farm workers and their supporters (including Presbyterians) outside Taco Bell's corporate headquarters in Irvine, CA,  in support of demands for negotiations for decent wages and working conditions.

Washington Office joins others calling for opposition to "Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act," H.R. 235  [2-27-03]
Washington Office provides a new online advocacy tool

[2-6-03]

The Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has added a new Legislative Action Center to its Internet site to enhance its advocacy efforts with CapWiz, the nation's premiere online political action tool.

CapWiz is the driving force behind online grassroots democracy for nearly 1,000 associations, corporations, media outlets, state organizations, and 80% of Fortune Magazine's Washington Power 25. CapWiz will allow the PCUSA Washington Office to add a content-rich, interactive government-relations area to its Web site, where visitors can make their voices heard in the U.S. Congress and regulatory agencies.

CapWiz allows Web site visitors complete access to their elected officials by simply entering their ZIP code. Visitors may view their senators and representative's pictures, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, staff, committee assignments, voting records, and more. In addition to elected officials, visitors may also locate local and national media contacts in all 50 states.

Several compelling free features have recently been added to CapWiz that will assist the PCUSA Washington Office's advocacy efforts: ElectionWiz with Voter Registration provides information on candidates, key races and issues and includes an optional component for facilitating online voter registration; Alert Stickers allow you to post topic-specific alerts on affiliates' or supporters' sites, allowing their site visitors to easily link back to the Presby Legislative Action Center and take action on issues the Washington Office promotes.

A little note from your WebWeaver:

You can access this promising new channel for on-line legislative advocacy by going to the Washington Office home page http://www.pcusa.org/washington/index.htm, then clicking on "Presby Legislative Action Center" on the right of the home page.

Or you can scroll down the page till you find a box on the right side of the page that says "Contact Congress." Key in your ZIP code and you'll go to the CapWiz page for your district (senators and representative).

Or go directly to the CapWiz page

Let's pay attention to "the common good"

Jane Hanna reminds us of a concept rooted deeply in the Biblical faith and in American history:  the common good.  Our society's growing focus on private gain poses a threat to us as a nation, and even as individuals.  And certainly it's a threat to the rest of the world.   [1-31-03]

National Council of Churches calls for a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Iraq, on Monday, January 27, 2003   [1-24-03]
Administration policies still reflect racism in America
[1-20-03]

Triangle Foundation of Michigan points to continuing problems of racism (and more) in our society, reflected in recent actions by the President of the United States.

As budgets shrink, more federal money is going to faith-based groups for work with the homeless   [1-14-03]

The US Department of Veterans Affairs has announced that 40% of the groups receiving federal grant funds to support work with the homeless are religious groups. This means that nonreligious groups that have received funds in the past are receiving less money this year, and will have to cut the number of beds they offer to homeless people. Both religious and nonreligious groups say that it appears to them that the religious groups received special treatment in the award process.

Religious groups watch with wary eye as Congress opens [1-9-03]

A Religion News Service story details the varied concerns of different religious groups as Congress reconvenes under the cloud of war (and its assorted high costs) and a new Republican dominance.

The Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, speaks for many of the groups when he says, ""Money is disappearing by the hundreds of billions into the tax cut and then the war. The political situation for poor people this year is pretty grim."

But the Christian Coalition is on the job, pushing to make elements of President Bush's earlier tax cuts permanent.

Leave No Jobless Worker Behind
[1-4-03]

As Congress reconvenes, labor groups urge support for meaningful help for jobless workers.

Year-end report on Congressional action   [1-2-03]

The Presbyterian Washington Office provides a helpful year-end wrap-up on Congressional action (and inaction) on issues on which the PC(USA) has expressed interest.

Stories on social and global concerns from all of 2002, are listed in Global Concerns Archive # 4.

Stories on social and global concerns from September through December, 2001, are listed in Global Concerns Archive # 3.

Stories June through August 2001 are listed in Wide World Archive # 2.

And there's another page listing reports and comments on social issues, from May 2000 through May 2001.

 

Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, PVJ's Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!

You can post your own news and views, or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.

 

John Shuck’s new "Religion for Life" website

Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck, a Presbyterian minister currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.

Click here for his blog posts.

Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."

 

John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood -- by a progressive New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY.

 

Voices of Sophia blog

Heather Reichgott, who has created this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:

After fifteen years of scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy, students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and thoughtful community.

 

Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!

 

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