THE E-NEWSLETTER OF THE UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST SERVICE COMMITTEE
In the short span of a month, the current administration has brazenly threatened the rights of many communities, including immigrants, refugees, Muslims, and queer and transgender people, and we anticipate potential actions against people with disabilities and non-violent activists, including those in the Black Lives Matter movement. UUSC is working quickly, and in concert with our partners, to determine how we can be instrumental in resisting these harmful policies, while supporting those communities most at risk and finding ways for all of us to move forward and uphold basic human rights.
One of the ways we aim to be more responsive is to revamp our quarterly newsletter, Toward Justice. Starting with this first edition, Toward Justice will be a monthly email that provides information about our current actions and advocacy campaigns. I hope that a timelier update encourages you to take further action with us. We appreciate your continued partnership in the fight for human rights.
Today, I’d like to update you on our joint work with the UUA surrounding sanctuary and “welcoming communities” as well as to share news from a recent trip to Burma, where UUSC President and CEO Tom Andrews and Senior Program Leader Jillian Tuck attended meetings with civil society organizations aimed at addressing the ongoing violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority in Rakhine State.
I invite you to read further about our work on these issues below, as well as to find information on the upcoming celebration of Justice Sunday, and a few of my favorite blogs from the past few weeks.
NEWS & UPDATES
UUSC ACTION IN THE FACE OF HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN BURMA
Earlier this month the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) issued a reportdocumenting “widespread human rights violations against the Rohingya population,” described as “mass gang rape, killings, including of babies and young children, brutal beatings, disappearances and other serious human rights violations by the country’s security forces.”
The Rohingya, a Muslim minority population in Rakhine State, Burma (Myanmar) are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world, experiencing a campaign of ethnic cleansing at the hands of Burmese forces. Since violent clashes in 2012, 130,000 Rohingya have lived in internally displaced persons camps where they rely on international food and medical aid to survive. The situation escalated late last year when a border patrol post was attacked on October 9, 2016 and nine police officers were killed. The government has claimed that the attack was carried out by Rohingya militants and in response, the Burmese military has carried out a new counterinsurgency campaign of indiscriminate killings, mass rape, and a scorched-earth practice that has destroyed over 1,250 Rohingya homes, mosques, and other Rohingya-owned structures. Journalists and independent human rights monitors have been barred from the area and humanitarian aid has been restricted.
UUSC is working directly with our grassroots partners on the ground in Burma, as well as Rohingya leaders and other allied groups who are documenting the atrocities, calling for an independent investigation into the human rights abuses and providing food and aid to those in desperate need. Last week, UUSC staff joined a broad coalition of human rights organizations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to discuss a joint international strategy to respond to the situation.
The government in Burma has shown that it is unwilling and unable to effectively investigate these violations. UUSC will join the OHCHR, the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, and others to call for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to conduct an investigation to verify the atrocities, put an end to the violence and hold the perpetrators of these crimes accountable.
SOLIDARITY & SANCTUARY
Over the past month UUSC has been increasingly alarmed with the actions taken by the Trump administration surrounding immigration, including the recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) guidelines on immigration enforcement. UUSC has several posts explaining the recent executive orders as well as the litigation surrounding them.
Last week, UUSC joined 50 diverse, interfaith religious and interreligious congregations, associations, and organizations to submit an amicus brief in Darweesh v. Trump. This case, filed in the Eastern District of New York, was brought in response to the January 27, 2017 executive order banning refugees from all countries, as well as citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. In the brief, amici “reject the Executive Order for the harm it does to core national values, for its implementation of discrimination based on religion, and for its direct harm to Muslims for the practice of their faith.”
In the wake of these actions, providing sanctuary and pushing for welcoming city policies are some of the ways communities can resist the divisive and racially charged policies the Trump administration is enacting. Sanctuary has long been a way to provide physical safe space to those who are victims of unjust laws, and a way for communities to powerfully enact and embody their commitment to justice. However, we are learning that the best ways to protect and support multiple communities at risk of unwarranted targeting is to address the issues they face through local policies, which reduce and resist criminalization of immigrants, Muslims, and people of color. Together, with the UUA and other partners, UUSC has embarked on an ambitious campaign to support the work of “welcoming communities” who seek to offer sanctuary, support, and solidarity. We are compiling examples of best practice policies for cities, counties, and school systems, and will soon share an easy-to-use guide online.
Over 12,000 individuals, congregations, and organizations have joined us in this effort by signing theDeclaration of Conscience, a pledge to put our values into action in the coming days. Please add your name if you haven’t already and encourage clergy, congregations, and organizations to endorse as well!
If you are interested in learning more about how congregations can offer physical sanctuary to those threatened with deportation, be sure to join our upcoming “Sanctuary and Solidarity” webinar series. The Path Toward Sanctuary: A Practical Guide is scheduled for February 27, 2017 at 7:00-9:00 p.m. (ET). Clickhere to register.
APPLY FOR THE UUSC HUMAN RIGHTS INNOVATION FELLOWSHIP!
UUSC is now accepting applications for its 2017 Human Rights Innovation Fellowship on the subject “Climate Forced Migration.” The Fellowship is a one-year $25,000 grant, awarded to individuals or organizations, designed to bring about systemic change by creating, nurturing, or spreading an innovation in human rights.
This year, UUSC invites applications from individuals or organizations working on innovative and rights-based approaches for communities who face the prospects of internal or cross-border displacement due to climate change. These innovations may be technological or financial products or apps, path-breaking applied research, advances in corporate accountability, legal arguments, methods of mobilization, or methods of community outreach. Learn more about how to apply here.
SAVE THE DATE!
JUSTICE SUNDAY 2017: SUPPORTING COMMUNITIES UNDER SIEGE
This year, Justice Sunday will continue our efforts to defy hate, with a focus on Supporting Communities Under Siege. Come together with UUSC and your congregation to support groups targeted by heightened hostility in the United States, such as undocumented immigrants, and at-risk communities around the world, such as the Rohingya Muslim minority in Western Burma.
While March 26, 2017 is the suggested date for Justice Sunday, we invite your congregation to participate anytime during the spring. More resources will be available in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please save the date and learn more about this year’s Justice Sunday here.
ITEMS OF NOTE