Monday, June 22, 2009

New! Youth and Adult Service Trips To Immigrant Communities in Chicago

…your immigrant neighbors according to their needs and your skills. Projects can include painting and yardwork, children’s activities, pastoral care, legal assistance, and others.

…with strangers, with your neighbors, with God. Make friendships across boundaries of language, ethnicity, and birthplace. Be ready for transformation!

…about immigrant realities from those who live them daily. Educational opportunities include immersion experiences in diverse neighborhoods, dialogue with immigrants and policy experts, and recommended reading materials.

Our standard mission trip is 2-3 days, usually on a weekend. Your group will be hosted by a congregation or neighborhood center in Chicago or the surrounding suburbs. Lodging, translation, orientation and logistical support are provided.

Fees are very affordable and go to support the immigrant groups you are serving.

The project is sponsored by a network of faith and community leaders in immigrant neighborhoods. The program coordinator, Sara Wohlleb, is a candidate for ordination in the UCC. She has 17 years of experience serving immigrant communities in various settings.

For more information, contact Sara Wohlleb, Program Coordinator, at 773-456-1641.

Join the Broadview Detention Center Friday morning vigils

There are no illegal people, we are sisters, sons and wives.
There are no illegal people, all are precious in God’s sight.

- song by Dave Martin, sung between each prayer offered

The expected flagpole stands before the entrance of the Broadview Detention. A frayed American flag stuck at ¾ mast, is tangled among too-close tree branches. A poignant image that, for an immigration policy mired and frayed by fear, resentment and racism. The current economic crisis adds more anxiety to the mix. We need comprehensive and compassionate immigration reform, and soon. This broken system is tearing us up.

It’s also tearing the lives of immigrants and their families.

Out of solidarity, in the early morning June 12th, I joined about 40 others in the weekly ecumenical and interfaith vigil at the Broadview Detention Center located just west of Chicago, in Broadview, Illinois. Led by Sr. Joann Persch & Sr. Pat Murphy, the Sisters of Mercy have been doing this every Friday morning for the past 3 years. There were Roman Catholics – sisters, brothers, deacons, priests, diocesan staff, lay people – Jewish friends – a rabbi and a lay person, a Mennonite lay person, and members of the United Church of Christ, both clergy and lay, along with family members of immigrants being deported that day. There have been Hindu and Islamic clergy and lay persons who have participated.

The weekly vigils are simple and profound. The focus is around praying the rosary. Which may not sound very ecumenical or interfaith, but there’s power and truth in the fact that the vast majority of detainees themselves find this prayer to be a deep comfort. In that sense it is an act of solidarity for us to join them in their prayers even as we offer other prayers for the detainees, their families and for all who are working on behalf of compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) estimates 322,000 people passed through its custody in FY 2007, and 277,000 were deported. The numbers continue to grow. At any given time there are about 33,000 immigrants detained in various detention facilities throughout the US, held in a wide variety of facilities ranging from county jails, state and federal prisons and for-profit privately owned immigrant detention centers. County, state and federal prisons receive federal funds for housing immigration detainees. It’s big business.

The Broadview Detention Center is operated by the Chicago ICE office, which oversees all detainees in the states of Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kansas and Kentucky. All immigrants detained in any of these states are brought to Broadview for final processing and deportation. According to the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant Rights, there are consistently about 1,000 people in custody under the supervision of the Chicago ICE office at all times; and 11,000 people have been deported through Broadview in the past year. Deportations take place from this location on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.

On June 12th, approximately 70 people were deported from the Broadview Detention Center. As our prayer vigil drew to a close, the razor-wired gate slid open and a converted school bus and two large vans, each filled with immigrants pulled out onto the street. Religious leaders were invited to step onto the busses to offer prayers and words of encouragement to the immigrants. There is a surreal quality to all of this. For the past year, the Sisters of Mercy have been leading an effort to convince ICE and the State of Illinois to allow pastoral care for the detainees. It’s been just five weeks since ICE has allowed a pastoral presence on the busses. This can hardly be called pastoral care, but at least it’s something. We were on each of the busses for just a couple of minutes – enough time to greet the people, pray the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary (which ends “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and in the hour of our death”) and offer some words of solidarity and encouragement. Then they were off to O’Hare International Airport and Juarez, Mexico.

Here’s the surreal part. The busses were filled mainly with young men – some no more than teens – a few elders and a handful of women. Most are people who, until they were arrested and detained for immigration violations, had been working and caring for their families, maybe going to school. Now they were being treated like dangerous criminals. They were being transported on busses that had literally been turned into cages – bars on the windows and across the doors, bars and thick Plexiglas dividing the detainees from the driver and guards – as if they posed a serious security threat. Each person was handcuffed at the wrist and shackled at the ankles, and all were tied to one another at the waist. I had heard that this is how the people in detention were routinely treated. Still, I was not prepared for seeing with my own eyes. Nor for the gratitude reflected in theirs for our presence, prayers and solidarity, offered through bars and bullet-proof plastic.

We should be clear here. An immigration violation is a civil offense. Yet people are being treated as if they are dangerous criminals. It's street theater par excellence, directed and produced by ICE. The whole thing is meant to instill shame in the detainees and casts them as criminals before the guards and the US public. Our silence makes us complicit and casts us in roles that support a broken immigration system and betray our immigrant brothers and sisters. It’s shameful street theater, meant to get under our skin. Shaken, I was grateful the words of Dave Martin’s song were still ringing in my heart and mind: There are no illegal people, we are sisters, sons and wives. There are no illegal people, all are precious in God’s sight.

Come and join us at one of the Friday morning vigils. Come in prayer to be present and to be a presence. I’ll be there on the 2nd Friday of each month and members of Wellington Ave. UCC are always there on the 1st Friday. And the Sisters and many other friends are there every week. You’ll be welcomed whenever you go.

For more information, contact
Rev. Denise Griebler,
Pastor of St. Michael’s United Church of Christ
630/231-0687 (church office)
630/297-1740 (cell)

Directions to the Broadview Detention Center:
The weekly Friday vigil begins at 7:15 am and lasts about 45 minutes. Religious leaders are invited to remain and offer greeting and prayers on the busses as they depart, as co-ordinated by the Sisters of Mercy.

The Broadview Center is is located at 1930 Beach St, Broadview, IL 60153.

From Chicago drive I-290 W to South 25th Ave exit, 18A, turn right at Lexington St., Turn Left on Beach Street.

From the West, I-290 East. Exit South 25th Ave. Turn Left at the ramp stop sign onto the frontage road. The frontage road bends right and becomes Beach Street.

Threatened by Resurrection

One: During the 1980s, refugees fleeing the terror created in their own countries by United States foreign and trade policies, came across both the Mexican border and the United States border seeking sanctuary. Guatemalan poet, Julia Esquivel, recognizing the terror, torture, and death in her own country, wrote a poem conveying her faith in a God who brings resurrection over and against terror, torture, and death.

Two: That poem remembered the sacred story of John the Baptist who threatened King Herod with his resurrection, the sacred story of Jesus of Nazareth who threatened Caesar and his Empire with his resurrection, the sacred story of Oscar Romero who threatened the rulers of his age with his resurrection, and the Guatemalan people who threatened the rulers of their age with their resurrection.

One: Resurrection reminds the powers and principalities that though they may have terrorized, tortured, and killed the prophets, God is still at work, still speaking, living while dying.

Two: The following litany is an adaptation of Julia Esquivel’s poem, “Threatened with Resurrection” recognizing that United States foreign and trade policies have again created a crisis leading to people leaving home to cross an ever-more dangerous border.

It isn't the noise from the gangs in the streets
that keeps us from resting, my friend,
nor is it the crying of the children in Postville,
their fathers detained in some obscure prison,
nor is it the tumult of those who pass by
in a hurry on their way to the border.

There is something here within us
Which doesn't let us sleep, which doesn't let us rest,
Which doesn't stop pounding deep inside,
It is the silent, warm weeping of Indian women without their husbands,
It is the sad gaze of the children
Fixed there beyond memory,
In the very pupil of our eyes
Which during sleep, though closed, keep watch
With each contraction of the heart
In every wakening...

What keeps us from sleeping
Is that they have threatened us with resurrection!

Because at each nightfall,
Though exhausted from the endless inventory
Of people who have lost their livelihood because of NAFTA,

Of people who have lost their lives in the Sonoran desert,

Of people who have lost their lives locked in a truck trailer in Texas,

Of people separated from their families in a place with unfamiliar terrain, climate, and food,

Of people terrorized by the Mexican or United States police,

Of people in fear of another ICE raid in Laurel, Mississippi, New Bedford, Massachusetts, Postville, Iowa, or Bellingham, Washington,

Of people detained in a who-knows-where U.S. prison.

Yet we continue to love life,
And do not accept their death!

Because we have felt their inert bodies
and their souls penetrated ours doubly fortified.
Because in this marathon of Hope,
there are always others to relieve us
in bearing the courage necessary
to arrive at the goal which lies beyond death.

They have threatened us with Resurrection!

Because they are more alive than ever before,
Because they transform our agonies,
And fertilize our struggle,
Because they pick us up when we fall,
and gird us like giants
before the fear of those demented drug cartels.

They have threatened us with Resurrection

because they do not know life (poor things!)

This is the whirlwind which does not let us sleep
the reason why asleep, we keep watch,
and awake, we dream.

No, it's not the gunfire from the gangs in the street,
nor the shouts from the drug cartels along the border,
nor the headlines about leprosy and swine flu.
It is the internal cyclone of a kaleidoscopic struggle
which will heal the wound of the widow, the orphan, and the migrant
forced off a Mexican farm, fallen in the Sonoran desert, forgotten in a U.S. prison.
It is the earthquake soon to come that will shake the world
and put everything in its place . . .

Accompany us then on this vigil
And you will know what it is to dream!
You will then know how marvelous it is
To live threatened with resurrection!
To dream awake,
To keep watch asleep
To live while dying
And to already know oneself resurrected!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Gloria Vicente at the Illinois Conference Meeting

by Rev. Michael Swartz

At the Illinois Conference Meeting at Springfield, Illinois, Gloria Vicente was the speaker at the Illinois Maya Ministries luncheon that took place on Saturday, June 6, in the Convention Center. Gloria, along with her husband, Santos, and their baby, Nicolas, were present with about twenty conference members, and we all had lunch together.

Gloria, as the speaker, shared some of her own journey with us. There is something remarkably engaging when persons give witness to their own experience. There is power when we construct the narrative of our life. Gloria began by talking about the experience of her family.

The village where she lived was totally destroyed by the military. It was quite near the village of the Nobel Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu, and Gloria’s father knew Vicente Menchu, Rigoberta’s father. Gloria’s father met with Vicente Menchu the night before he was killed in the 1980 burning of the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala City. The Campasino Unity Group had entered the Spanish Embassy and the Guatemalan police burned down the building on January 31, 1980, killing 36 persons, including the Spanish Ambassador. This was a defining event in the Guatemalan Civil War, and in Gloria’s life.

Gloria’s family fled to Mexico, and later to Texas. In Texas they were sheltered by a Presbyterian Church, and later they came to Chicago and were offered sanctuary by the University Church in Hyde Park. This was all part of the Sanctuary movement, and she came to Chicago in 1985, when she was ten years old.

Gloria remembers interpreting into English for her father as he spoke to groups in the Chicago Metropolitan Sanctuary Alliance and in the Chicago Religious Leadership Network.

Later, accompanied by a delegation of Disciples and members of the United Church of Christ, she travelled with her father and saw for the first time the village of Sac Ja in Guatemala. She saw the place where he grandparents were killed. She saw their names listed among those killed on the pillars in front of the National Cathedral in Guatemala City. She walked the land that they had worked as campasino farmers. This was a profound experience for Gloria, having grown up in the United States. This required quite a lot of emotional processing.

“As I learned to process the pain it made me want to go (back to the homeland of my ancestors) and serve as a missionary,” says Gloria. “I feel called to serve and to be a bridge builder.” Gloria is aware that on the one hand she has a lot in common with the people in Guatemala, and on the other hand her differences are significant as well – growing up in Chicago. “I want to return and accompany others as we were accompanied in our time of need.”

Gloria is now assigned by Global Ministries – a joint ministry of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),, and she is working in Santa Cruz, in the highlands of Guatemala with ACG – Guatemalan Cultural Action. This is in the K’iche’ region and Gloria is impressed with her co-workers.

Gloria has been living and learning in Guatemala. She was married to Santos Par, whom she met in Guatemala. Her husband is K’iche’, and she has been learning the language. Her husband is from Huehuetenango. Among her responsibilities with ACG is to receive international delegations. She said she hoped to see some of us who were at the luncheon in Guatemala!

She and Santos are in the United States right now. Her son, Nicolas was born in the US. He will soon have a surgery and then they will be able to return to Guatemala.

In the last few years Gloria has become ever more aware that her life has purpose. The very unusual experiences she has had, being born of Mayan people in Guatemala, travelling through Mexico to arrive in Chicago. Having been sheltered by the church and given sanctuary, then to return as a missionary and bridge-builder to Guatemala – give her an ability understand and to act in this moment.

Gloria’s talk was an inspiration to us all.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Guatemalan Cultural Action (ACG), Healthy Stove Project

On May 2002 a group of doctors from the United States spent one week making house visits in ACG's communities. A total of 250 community members were examined. At week's end, the doctors informed ACG that their findings included eye infections, respiratory problems, constant headaches, burns, chronic fatigue, etcetera. Such findings were the result of smoke inside the families' homes on a daily basis, created by floor or raised cooking fires without chimneys. While men tended to the agricultural sphere of labor outdoors, it was apparent that women, girls, and small children were the most effected. ACG evaluated the doctors' findings and were determined to begin a healthy stove initiative.

ACG also found that the new stoves burn a third less firewood. So there is a reduction in the amount of trees cut needed to burn for fires in the home. Ecologists have determined that a group of 500 people need a total of one square kilometer of forest in order to meet their annual usage of firewood. The average annual consumption of firewood for one family is between 600-900 kilograms. A healthy stove reduces this amount by two thirds. (The Sphere Project, Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response, Oxfam, p. 208)

Here's what you can do! Help ACG build stoves for over 1500 families still on a waiting list. Support the work of Illinois Maya Ministries. Make a difference today on your own, with your family, with your church, and help a family breathe easier. You can do this by: Making a special gift of $300 to cover the cost of a healthy stove. Write a check to the Illinois Conference UCC with an important memo indicating: Illinois Maya Ministry, Healthy Stoves.

Please send to: Illinois Maya Ministry; Illinois Conference UCC; 1840 Westchester Blvd, #200; We
stchester, IL 60154.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Illinois Conference Meeting Workshops

Friday Workshop: Immigration and the Midwest: The Destruction of a Small Town
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid of a rural Iowa community has brought two Iowa communities to the breaking point. Learn more about the Illinois Maya Ministry delegation to those communities, the local United Church of Christ response, and how you can protect your community. Illinois Maya Ministy is working to develop a more humane immigration policy. Browse educational materials available to educate your congregation. Begin discussion with Illinois Maya Ministry about how your congregation might become part of a future delegation.

Friday Workshop: Gloria Vicente: Global Ministry Missionary and Illinois Conference Member
Gloria Vicente will be returning to Guatemala soon to
continue her work as a Global Ministry Missionary in partnership with Guatemalan Cultural Action. Her workshop will focus on the programs & mission of ACG, including information and stories and pictures of the microcredit program, scholarships, and “healthy stove” project.

Legislation to Close the School of the Americas

From the School of the Americas Watch Website:

HR 2567 Campaign

Representative Jim McGovern and 42 other members of the House of Representatives have reintroduced the Latin America Military Training Review Act. This legislation would suspend operations at the SOA/ WHINSEC, investigate torture manuals and human rights abuses associated with the school, and conduct an assessment of military training in Latin America.

Has your House Rep cosponsored HR 2567? Check out the list of cosponsors at the bottom of this page. If not, take action and be a part of the legislative campaign to close the SOA/ WHINSEC!

First step: Click here to email and fax an automatic letter to your House Representative and ask them to cosponsor HR 2567!

Here are some resources to help you with your work:

  • Check out the list of HR 1707 cosponsors from 2007-2008 to see who still needs to sign up
  • Use this sample letter as a guide to write to your Member of Congress
  • Tale a look at other sample resources in the sample materials section
  • Check out our sample phone script and make a quick phone call to Congress! You can contact the DC office of your Representative by calling the Capitol Hill Switchboard toll free at 1-800-473-6711, (or 202-224-3121). Ask to speak with the foreign affairs legislative assistant and here is a suggested message for you to convey:

    "As a constituent living in _________, I am calling Congressman/woman ________ to urge him/her to contact Rep. McGovern and ask to be a cosponsor of the Latin America Military Training Review Act, also known as HR 2567. This legislation would suspend operations at the School of the Americas, renamed WHINSEC, and investigate the history of human rights abuses and failed policies of the institution.

    New information indicates that WHINSEC has allowed known human rights abusers to instruct and receive training at the school. Argentina and Uruguay are two more countries that have made public announcements they will no longer send students to the school, citing the negative image and history of this institution. Despite demands by Congress to have oversight over the curriculum and promote human rights, the Pentagon is now denying all requests to provide information to human rights organizations and the public about students and graduates of the school.

    I urge you to contact Cindy Buhl in Representative McGovern's office and ask that your boss be added as a cosponsor of this legislation. I hope you will represent my views and support this bill."

    Other important Links:

  • Legislative 101 Flyer
  • Roll Call results for the May 2008 Defense Authorization Amendment
  • "Names" Amendment Information
  • Roll Call results for the June 2007 Foreign Ops Amendment

    Learning about your Representative

    An important part of a successful meeting with your Member of Congress on the SOA/ WHINSEC issue in the 111th Congress is doing your homework. Here are some key places to get the information you need to know the history and background of your legislator and their support (or oppositon) to the issue:

  • Check out the list of cosponsors for HR 2567. These Members of Congress support a suspension of operations at the SOA/ WHINSEC, an investigation of the school, and an assessment of U.S. foreign military training
  • List of the new members in the House of Representatives for the 111th Congress
  • Vote results for the June 2007 Foreign Ops Amendment to cut funding for the SOA/WHINSEC
  • House of Representatives homepage
  • Senate homepage
  •, a comprehensive source of information about Congress

    For more information on the detailed history of SOA Watch's meetings with your Representative and their voting history since their election to Congress, contact the DC office.

    Tips and Resources on Setting up a Meeting

    SOA Watch has pulled together tips on setting up a meeting with your Member of Congress that will help you with all of the ins and outs of a successful meeting with your legislators.

    Cosponsors of HR 2567 (as of 5/25/09 - date of last cosponsor) 42 + McGovern

  • Rep Baldwin, Tammy [WI-2]
  • Rep Bishop, Timothy H. [NY-1]
  • Rep Brady, Robert A. [PA-1]
  • Rep Braley, Bruce L. [IA-1]
  • Rep Capuano, Michael E. [MA-8]
  • Rep Carson, Andre [IN-7]
  • Rep Clay, Wm. Lacy [MO-1]
  • Rep Conyers, John, Jr. [MI-14]
  • Rep Cummings, Elijah E. [MD-7]
  • Rep DeLauro, Rosa L. [CT-3]
  • Rep Driehaus, Steve [OH]
  • Rep Ellsworth, Brad [IN]
  • Rep Farr, Sam [CA-17]
  • Rep Fattah, Chaka [PA-2]
  • Rep Frank, Barney [MA-4]
  • Rep Grijalva, Raul M. [AZ-7]
  • Rep Gutierrez, Luis V. [IL-4]
  • Rep Higgins, Brian [NY-27]
  • Rep Hinchey, Maurice D. [NY-22]
  • Rep Hodes, Paul [NH]
  • Rep Holt, Rush D. [NJ-12]
  • Rep Kind, Ron [WI-3]
  • Rep Kucinich, Dennis J. [OH-10]
  • Rep Lee, Barbara [CA-9]
  • Rep Lewis, John [GA-5]
  • Rep Lynch, Stephen F. [MA-9]
  • Rep Maloney, Carolyn B. [NY-14]
  • Rep Markey, Edward J. [MA-7]
  • Rep McCollum, Betty [MN-4]
  • Rep McDermott, Jim [WA-7]
  • Rep Moore, Gwen [WI-4]
  • Rep Oberstar, James L. [MN-8]
  • Rep Platts, Todd Russell [PA-19]
  • Rep Price, David E. [NC-4]
  • Rep Rothman, Steven R. [NJ-9]
  • Rep Schakowsky, Janice D. [IL-9]
  • Rep Serrano, Jose E. [NY-16]
  • Rep Tonko, Paul [NY]
  • Rep Waxman, Henry A. [CA-30]
  • Rep Welch, Peter [VT]
  • Rep Wu, David [OR-1]
  • Rep Yarmuth, John A. [KY-3]