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Our Churches Are Burning

Rev. Dr. Earl Trent, Jr.  |  July 1, 2015

Our churches are burning. In the two weeks since the massacre at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, fires at predominantly African-American churches are again terrorizing communities. Now is the time for the United States of America to confront this violence visited on houses of worship and the African-American community, directly and resolutely.

During the 1990s, CWS provided aid and comfort during a series of church arson attacks in the South. The fact that in 2015, with an African-American serving as president, when a black church burns our first thought immediately turns to arson is a haunting reminder that we still have far to go in achieving widespread tolerance and understanding.

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Bringing Water to Refugees

Aaron Tate  |  June 25, 2015

As I step on to the red dirt of Nyarugusu Refugee Camp in Western Tanzania, I am surrounded. Of course, the children come first, they greet the car as it rolls up and they follow us as we get out, laughing and joking as we go. We visit the mass shelters laid out in rows, plastic-wrapped buildings where 180 people sleep, no interior walls, no privacy. We see the crowded common spaces, full of people cooking, hanging clothes, doing daily chores.

I’m walking with staff from our partner agency, and we are greeted warmly by the Burundian refugees that we meet. “Ça va?” “Ça va bien.”

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Welcoming the Pope's Clear Message on Climate Change

Jasmine Huggins  |  June 23, 2015

Last week, Church World Service joyfully welcomed Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change, Laudato Si (Be Praised). In it, he calls for a new relationship between humankind and the earth; reduced consumption; a renewed focus on people living in poverty and for justice in their access to and quality of natural resources; for greater investments in renewable energy and for urgent action on reduction of greenhouse gases. He applauds environmentalist and development groups around the world while expressing frustration at the failure of political leadership to put the common good over narrow interests.

This was the first papal encyclical of its kind and came almost one year after the climate change march in New York City, just weeks ahead an upcoming address to the UN General Assembly and to the U.S. Congress and a few months before the UN and world leaders prepare to meet in Paris to hammer out a binding international agreement on how to tackle climate change.

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World Refugee Day: Hard work pays off for family

Edwin Harris  |  June 19, 2015

Everything on the walls is crisp and unwrinkled. The white carpet is so clean that it almost shines. It’s not hard to see 41-year-old Nai Ponyar’s work ethic evidenced in every part of his two-bedroom apartment in Carrboro, North Carolina.  A calendar with two pens neatly tucked under the eight remaining months of 2015 sits alongside study material for the state driver’s license exam and several pictures of Buddha with prayers in Mon script.  Ever proud of his children, printouts of school photos cover the table.  His 10-year-old daughter, Mi Htaw Pakaw, smiles charmingly in one portrait while her brother Mehm Lwi Rot poses as begrudgingly as any 6-year-old boy for the camera.

As a young adult in his native Myanmar (Burma), Nai Ponyar farmed rubber to make ends meet. Rubber tapping begins at midnight, leaving Nai Ponyar working through the night till morning.  While rubber helped keep him fed, it didn’t allow him any time for other pursuits: “It was the only job. People didn’t improve their knowledge.” Looking for better pay, Nai Ponyar moved to Thailand to build toilets in 1992. He lived in Thailand for five years before he immigrated again; this time he crossed illegally into Malaysia.

Nai Ponyar and Family

Weeping for Charleston

Rev. Dr. Earl Trent  |  June 18, 2015

Last night, a peaceful Bible study group was shattered by an act of senseless gun violence in Charleston, S.C. It is with profound grief, sadness and tears that Church World Service reacts to the tragic shooting at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, an historic congregation of the CWS member African Methodist Episcopal Church. The nine lives lost are a stain on a political system that refuses to confront and address the rampant gun violence currently plaguing the United States.

The importance of Mother Emanuel cannot be overstated and the sacrilege of a hate crime happening in her sanctuary must not stand. Mother Emanuel AME is the oldest African-American church in the South, hosted the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1962, was a center for organizing during the Civil Rights movement and continues its prophetic witness to social justice today. This church has been a force for positive change since it was founded and proudly continued this legacy under the leadership of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney.

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World Refugee Day: We are one

Mandy Maring  |  June 17, 2015

Sitting on the curb outside his Durham, North Carolina, apartment complex, James shares his mantra, “We are all one.” It’s an accepting and inclusive declaration, especially coming from someone who has faced unimaginable oppression and religious persecution.

His legal name is Mohammad Mirab, but he goes by James. His father died while James was still a child growing up in Iran, and his mother was left homeless on the streets. James and his three brothers were sent to one orphanage while his sister was sent to another. The children received a living stipend, and his sister saved hers and bought their mom a place to live. After a few years in the orphanage, when James was old enough to start working, he too supported his mom.

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World Environment Day 2015: Lessons from Sesame Street

Jasmine Huggins  |  June 5, 2015

Was anyone out there a hardcore Sesame Street fan?  I certainly was.  Perhaps I should be embarrassed, but even today, at my ripe old age, I still remember many of those songs and their lyrics so very well.  One of them was about Willie Wimple, who walked around the streets tossing garbage everywhere, in streets and in rivers and lakes. “Now if every kid did it, can’t you see, what an icky, messy, dirty, no fun world it would be. YUCK.”  So went the jingle.

Today, I am remembering young Willie and humming that memorable tune.  It is World Environment Day - the day designated by the United Nations to raise awareness and call for action around the globe on environmental protection.   The WED theme this year is “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.” The message could not come any sooner, for scientists have been telling us for several years now that the world is perilously close to damaging tipping points in the management of increasingly vulnerable ecosystems.   

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