Written by: Reverend Angel Luis Rivera-Agosto, Area Executive for Latin America and the Caribbean
December 12, 2017
Written by: Dr. Doris García Rivera, President
Last night President Trump opened his address to Congress by proclaiming that "The state of our union is strong," followed by his assessment of his agenda in 2017, and laying out a vision for what 2018 might hold. We feel it is appropriate to provide our own brief review of the United States' impact on our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world through their own words.
Ban on travelers from Muslim majority countries and reduction in refugee resettlement
On the president's decision to reduce the number of refugees admitted to the United States, and to block travelers from seven Muslim majority countries, we heard from Bishop Emeritus Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land:
I am worried, not only for those who can no longer enter your country, but for the safety of my neighbors in this region. I am afraid that the decision to deny entry for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries while suggesting preferential treatment for Christians from those same countries will be harmful to many smaller communities in the region. This approach will be especially harmful to Arab Christians. In the Arab world, Christians have a long history of living side by side with our Muslim neighbors. We reject any move to divide Arab society along religious lines, and continue to see ourselves as deserving equal citizenship with equal rights and equal responsibilities.
I am worried, because I myself am a refugee, and know firsthand the struggles refugee families face. At the same time, as a Lutheran bishop, I know that turning away refugees of any religion contradicts the message of Jesus Christ. Jesus himself was also a refugee, who sought refuge and safety with his family in Egypt. Throughout his life, through his teaching and his actions, Jesus showed concern for the stranger and the outcast. Read the full letter
As a result of this decision, approximately 80,000 refugees who would have received safety and the opportunity to work for a new life in the United States, have been left in refugee camps or have opted for more dangerous routes to escape persecution. The lack of American leadership in the program was cited by many other governments as an excuse to reduce their resettlement efforts as well. Islamophobic retweets by the president also prompted rebuke from American faith leaders.
Relocation of US Embassy to Jerusalem
The President also further hindered the possibility of peace between Palestinians and Israelis with his decision to relocate the United States Embassy to Jerusalem. A move that was widely decried by partners and the international community. This action provoked the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem to write an open letter to the president saying:
Our solemn advice and plea is for the United States to continue recognizing the present international status of Jerusalem. Any sudden changes would cause irreparable harm. We are confident that, with strong support from our friends, Israelis and Palestinians can work towards negotiating a sustainable and just peace, benefiting all who long for the Holy City of Jerusalem to fulfill its destiny. The Holy City can be shared and fully enjoyed once a political process helps liberate the hearts of all people that live within it from the conditions of conflict and destructiveness that they are experiencing. Read the full letter
In a letter from the South Africa Synod of the United Congregational Churches of Southern Africa, partners responded saying:
We found his announcement of treating Jerusalem as a capital city of the Israeli government manipulative and misleading. This utterance insinuates that Jerusalem only belongs to the State of Israel and that Palestinians are aliens in the area. Nothing could be further from the truth than President Trump’s dangerous insinuation. His utterances feed into the wrong notions that Palestinians are not children of Abraham hence aliens in the area. Read the full letter
Response to Hurricane Maria
Last night the president also called on Americans to continue to support recovery efforts in Puerto Rico where, four months after Hurricane Maria, tens of thousands of citizens remain without power. There was no hint of irony in his statement, even though just the day before, aid to Puerto Rico had been dramatically reduced. In the midst of the worst disaster on the island in recent memory, Global Ministries and partners responded immediately to the needs of the communities. A webinar was held with Miguel Antonio Morales, General Pastor of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ in Puerto Rico), prayers were lifted up from Rev. Edward Rivera-Santiago, General Pastor, United Evangelical Church of Puerto Rico, and we were moved by the testimonios, of the individuals serving as wounded healers. Much work remains to be done, and you can hear a vision for a more hurricane resilient and sustainable future for Puerto Rico in a webinar on February 15th, with Juan Rosario Moldanado of Amaneser 2025.
Use of racist language describing Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries
Partners in several countries replied with words of thanks when Global Ministries shared our letter to the President with them, calling on him to apologize for his hurtful and offensive descriptions of Haiti, El Salvador, and the countries of Africa. The affirmation that "We are Family...No Matter What" prompted many partners to reply with messages echoing that our bond as brothers and sisters would not be overshadowed by the words of government leaders.
Consideration of military intervention in Venezuela
In Venezuela, as the country sought a way forward in the midst of economic uncertainty and political instability, President Trump openly considered military actions against the current government. This prompted a letter from Global Ministries and the leadership of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ. While the military option was not further pursued, the words of that letter still bear an important reminder:
Global Ministries has been engaged in a relationship of solidarity and accompaniment with the people of Venezuela for more than 60 years. As such, we have walked alongside Venezuelans throughout various moments in the history of that nation. As we watched the news of the recent election, we would like to share with you our deep concern for the people of Venezuela and their future. We are deeply convinced that any US military intervention in Venezuela would exacerbate the current crisis and could bring back the darkest pages in the history of the country when the military overthrew civil governments to install dictatorships and de facto presidencies. Every time Venezuela has suffered a military episode in its recent times, the lives of the poorest and the most vulnerable population have been severely damaged. Read the full letterRead more
The Alliance for Sustainable Resources Management (AMANESER 2025) is an ecumenical network of grassroots organizations whose purpose is to promote sustainability in Puerto Rico so that the island can design its development as “prosperous, fair, democratic, sustainable and happy.”Read more
Months ago, the Puerto Rico Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Youth Confraternity (La Confra, acronym in Spanish) initiated a challenge to raise awareness among Christian youth in general about the need to work on prophetic and pastoral issues. Who could have known that a natural disaster would be the perfect setting for this group of excellent young leaders to deepen their commitment to God and neighbor? Hurricane María devastated Puerto Rico on September 20th, 2017 as a Category 4 storm like no other natural phenomenon since 1928. The death toll continues to climb and it destroyed nearly all of Puerto Rico infrastructure, including electric, water and communications services. This is the context where the youth of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Puerto Rico are putting words into practice.Read more
Henri Nouwen has a very interesting quote that reminds us of the way our Puerto Rican partners are responding to the crisis after the devastation caused by Hurricane María through the island. He said that “nobody escapes being wounded. We all are wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. The main question is not “How can we hide our wounds?” so we don’t have to be embarrassed, but “How can we put our woundedness to the service of others?” When our wounds cease to be a source of shame, and become a source of healing, we have become wounded healers.” When our wounds cease to be a source of lament or sense of defeat, and become a source of witness, commitment, service and hope, then we become wounded healers. Nouwen says that Jesus is God’s wounded healer: through his wounds we are healed. Jesus’ suffering and death brought joy and life. His humiliation brought glory; his rejection created a community of love. As followers of Jesus we can also allow our wounds to bring healing to others.
The following “testimonios” from pastors serving the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Puerto Rico and the United Evangelical Church of Puerto Rico, are the best examples of what it means to be wounded healers in accompanying the most affected rural and urban communities in Puerto Rico, that suffered the loss of their homes, work, and well-being, but also who suffered from a strong blow against their emotional and spiritual safety. It is from this departure of every security that these voices are lifted up.
Two earthquakes and two hurricanes marked the history of the Caribbean with destruction and despair in the past few weeks. Many of our partners have suffered the devastating effects of these natural phenomena, piling up on top of the permanent social, economic, political, and emotional challenges of everyday life on these lands of sun and blue skies.Read more
From the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) General Minister and President Terri Hord Owens; Julia Brown Karimu, president of Division of Overseas Ministries and co-executive of Global Ministries; Lori Tapia, interim national pastor for the Central Pastoral Office for Hispanic Ministries; Vy Nguyen, executive director of Week of Compassion; and Angel Rivera-Agosto, area executive for Latin America/Caribbean, Global MinistriesRead more
Hurricanes Irma and Harvey have battered the southern coast of the United States as well as wreaking untold damage across the Caribbean. Many of the most heavily hit areas have not been heard from yet, and this page will be updated as new information from partners is received.
Please continue to hold all of those impacted in your prayers.
You can make a gift towards the recovery work by following the links
- One Great Hour of Sharing Response (UCC)
- Week of Compassion Response (Disciples of Christ)
- Global Ministries Partners Response