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OSJ Prayers: May 30, 2018

Concerns and Confusion over #WhereAreTheChildren

In April 2018 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reported that 1,475 of 7,635 “unaccompanied minors”—immigrant children who cross the border without their parents—whom they had placed with sponsors no longer had a confirmed location. This has sparked outcries among concerned citizens, who are raising awareness using the hashtag #WhereAreTheChildren. But the children may not necessarily be at risk—it is likely that some sponsors, especially people who are undocumented, did not want to answer a telephone call from the federal government. This situation underscores why the recently announced “zero tolerance” policy at the U.S.-Mexico border is problematic. Under this policy, any adult caught entering the U.S. irregularly—even an individual seeking asylum—is criminally charged and separated from his or her children. These children are then considered “unaccompanied minors” and transferred to HHS for placement with sponsors or other caretakers, including (potentially on a large scale) at military bases. More than 600 families have been separated since this zero tolerance policy was implemented earlier this month. The U.S. has greatly reduced its refugee and asylum admissions, even as the danger and fear of persecution in Central America has increased.

God, for so many people facing an impossible decision—to stay home and face violence and the threat of death, or to make the dangerous journey north and face the threat of violence and separation from children—we lift prayers for wisdom. We pray for compassionate, human-centered policies. We pray for accountability when leaders fail to meet the standards we read about in Scripture—that government officials are put into place in order to do good.

New Study Estimates over 4,600 Deaths from Hurricane Maria

A new study on the effects of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico estimates the death toll at 4,645 lives, far higher than the official figure of 64. According to the researchers, delays or an inability to receive medical treatment, damaged roads, the lack of power, and a slow response by the federal government exacerbated the initial direct effects of Hurricane Maria. Puerto Rico, home to more than three million U.S. citizens, has struggled in its recovery efforts, with some areas still lacking electricity eight months after the hurricane struck the island. The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season is due to begin shortly.

God, we lament the deaths of so many in Puerto Rico, and we especially lament those that could have been prevented if sufficient aid were given. For the continued efforts of medical workers, volunteers, responders, and relief and development workers providing critical help in Puerto Rico, we pray for renewed energy. For the attention of U.S. leaders to the ongoing needs, we pray. For protection from more storms, we offer our hopeful prayers.

AfD March Draws 13 Counterprotests in Germany

Around 5,000 supporters of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party marched through Berlin, Germany, on Sunday. However, at least 13 registered counterdemonstrations occurred in the city, drawing 25,000 protesters. The AfD is the third largest party in Germany; originally founded as an anti-European Union (EU) party in 2013, it has since developed anti-immigration and anti-Muslim stances as well. Several European countries have recently seen the rise of nationalist parties, including Italy—where parties with sentiments similar to those of AfD won Italy’s elections two months ago and just received approval to form a government—and Hungary, whose parliament is currently debating new laws that, if passed, would criminalize helping asylum seekers and amend the constitution to prevent other EU countries from transferring asylum seekers to Hungary, in defiance of EU policy on migration.

God, we give thanks for the people who showed such support for immigrants in Berlin—may it send a hopeful message to people in need of hope. For the increasing, globally present attitude that immigrants are a burden, we lament and lift prayers for renewal, Lord. Change our hearts, that we might see you in the faces of people who cross borders, vulnerable and depending on mercy and hospitality. Teach us to welcome the stranger.

Canada MMIWG Inquiry Enters Second Phase

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) is holding hearings in Calgary, Alta., this week. The first phase gathered testimonies from more than 1,000 families. This next phase will focus on government agencies and services, with government and non-profit sector employees scheduled to testify over the course of the week. While the overall inquiry is scheduled to conclude in November, the commission recently requested an extension until December 2020. A 2014 report found 1,181 police-recorded incidents of the murders or disappearances of Indigenous women and girls.

For this next phase of the inquiry, we offer our prayers, Lord. We ask for effective, truthful testimonies; we ask that real solutions may become clear; we ask that the deep dignity of the women and girls affected by this trend may be protected, honored, and upheld.

Ontario Youth Convention Highlights Refugee Experience

The recently concluded 2018 All Ontario Youth Convention drew on the theme “Here” and engaged the 297 youths present in worship, prayers, and workshops. World Renew ran a “Refugee Experience” for the youths at the convention, presenting five separate scenes that simulated a snapshot of a refugee’s experience. Read more here.

CRC’s Climate Witness Project

You might have seen various references to the CRC’s Climate Witness Project (CWP), but have you signed up to be a Climate Witness Partner yet? The Climate Witness Project has over 500 CRC members from 78 congregations in the U.S. and Canada who are committed to wise stewardship, advocacy, and climate solutions in the face of climate change. Join the CWP here!

Applause!

A big round of applause for Danielle Chun (OSJ's Mobilizing and Advocacy fellow for 2017-18), as this is her last OSJ Prayers newsletter. Danielle has been a true gift to OSJ this year — a positive, constructive, decisive, industrious, creative, and kind presence. We will deeply miss her, and we wish her the best as she goes to grad school to continue developing the many gifts God has given her.

God, for Danielle Chun we give thanks. Lead and guide her, call her in unique ways, work through her to bring about your justice in the world, and give her a deep sense of how much she is loved. As she takes this next step, hold her in the palm of your hand. 

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