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Social action agency speaks out on Iran, immigration reform

By Kathy L. Gilbert*
April 25, 2006 | WASHINGTON (UMNS)

Facing two of today's most critical issues, the United Methodist Board of Church and Society passed resolutions urging the United States and Iran to stop their "dangerous rhetoric" and called for Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

The resolution, "Iran: Diplomacy Over War," begins by quoting Ecclesiastes 9:17-18 (The Message): "The quiet words of the wise are more effective than the ranting of a king of fools. Wisdom is better than warheads, but one hothead can ruin the good earth."

Recently the rhetoric between the two countries about Iran's nuclear energy program has reached "dangerous" levels, said members of the board of directors at their April 20-23 spring meeting in Washington.

"We strongly urge the governments of the U.S. and Iran to moderate their language and begin constructive conversation about a peaceable future," the resolution states. "We call upon Iran to work with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations Security Council to take confidence-building measures, including suspension of uranium enrichment activities and the clarification of all outstanding issues related to the verification of its nuclear program."

The resolution goes on to urge all nations to work to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and lead the world to the elimination of nuclear weapons.

In another resolution, the board made a strong statement in support of comprehensive immigration reform in the United States.

"I think it is important we go on record about these two critical issues," said Jim Winkler, top executive with the United Methodist Board of Church and Society.

The board also took action on a wide range of issues, including child marriage and the death penalty.

'Reckless rhetoric'

"Open discussion continues in the United States regarding an attack on Iran," Winkler said in his opening address to the board. "Let me make it clear that I consider the present government in Iran to be reprehensible. I find a lot of governments to be reprehensible."

However, he reminded board members that in 1953, the United States overthrew the elected government of Iran to put Shah Mohammed Pahlavi, "a dictatorial, murderous tyrant," back in power.

"I suspect only a small percentage of Americans are aware of this history," he said. "I guarantee you the people of Iran remember this fact.

"I pray that both the United States and Iran will tone down the reckless rhetoric used in recent months. I pray the United States will announce to the world that we yearn for a day when no nation or group on the planet possesses weapons of mass destruction and that the United States will turn over a new leaf and take the lead in dismantling them."

Immigration reform

The resolution on immigration reform celebrated the movement for civil rights for people who are undocumented and expressed concern about the level of anti-immigrant emotion the debate has created.

"We are deeply concerned with the anti-immigrant legislation that passed the U.S. House of Representatives in December 2005," the resolution states.

"Because of the injustice of U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner's bill, we are compelled by our faith to publicly state that if such a bill is passed into U.S. law, we will have no other choice than to follow the commands of Jesus to minister to the stranger, and to obey our conscience and our Scriptures, even if that leads us to commit acts of civil disobedience."

The resolution calls for reform that will include earned pathways to citizenship for all immigrants, protection of the rights of workers through safe, orderly and legal avenues to enter the United States, reuniting families separated by migration, and effective and humanitarian border protection.

Resolutions and other items

In other action, the board:

  • Passed a resolution calling upon the international community to work toward ending child marriage. (See related story.)
  • Passed a resolution recognizing the 50th anniversary of the United Methodist Church's opposition to the death penalty. The board urged all United Methodists to "practice transformative love, to comfort the victims of crime, to humanize those convicted of crime and to advocate for an end to the death penalty in our criminal justice system."
  • Joined the National Religious Campaign against Torture. Several interfaith groups belong to the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, which is rooted in different religions that stand in opposition to "torture and cruel and inhumane practices by anyone for any purpose."
  • Became a co-sponsor of "Lost Boys: Found!" at George Mason University. "Lost Boys: Found! A Time for Reunion, Vision, Advocacy and Hope with the Lost Boys of Sudan" is a reunion of the "Lost Boys" from Sudan who have resettled in the United States. The gathering will be July 7-8 at Crossroads United Methodist Church in Ashburn, Va. The "Lost Boys" will speak on the humanitarian crisis in Sudan. The board approved a $5,000 Peace with Justice grant for the event.
  • Joined the Herndon Alliance coalition. The faith-based organization works for comprehensive health care reform, with the goal of providing quality affordable health care for everyone.
  • Became a member of Informed Meeting Exchange. Member organizations pledge to conduct meetings in environments free from the threat of labor disputes. Anthony Dougdale with UniteHere presented information about the struggle of hotel workers in the face of continuing mergers and consolidation of hotels.
  • Passed a resolution to establish the Social Justice Ministries Endowment Fund through the United Methodist Foundation. The fund will support the work of the Board of Church and Society.
  • Adopted a proposed revision of the Social Creed, which will be presented to the 2008 General Conference for action. (See related story.)
  • Awarded $138,600 in Ethnic Local Church grants and $49,500 in Peace with Justice grants.

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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