Sunday, January 29, 2012

Why Pagans should participate in interfaith

Dear All,

As Don pointed out there have been a couple of discussions recently predicated on why Pagans should participate in interfaith and what we, as Pagans, get out of it. The recent article in which I am extensively quoted is actually a specific response based on an article that Chas Clifton wrote in Patheos asking that very question. I think that between Don's “larger picture” and my more practical responses we pretty much covered the gambit of reason and purpose.

Recently I posted an open letter from Chief Lyons asking the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly  to speak out against the Doctrine of Discovery. The UU's are considering this move just following, though not necessarily in response to, the fact that the Executive Council of the World Council of Churches is also considering adopting a resolution to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery. I asked if we, the Covenant, could consider educating ourselves on this topic and perhaps do something similar. Would it help?

Let me give you another concrete example of interfaith cooperation in response to a very driven Pagan organization, The Hindu American Foundation. For a small group of people this is an incredibly organized and potent organization. It recently posted a plea for all of its newsletter recipients to email the Norwegian Ambassador in Washington DC in outrage over the fact that two young children were removed from the home of Hindu immigrants because this couple fed their children with their hands and allowed them to sleep in their bed. I looked into this and indeed the Norwegian Child protective services has a habit, much like a few of our state governments, of removing immigrant and indigenous children from their homes under some pretty loose criteria. The worst of it was not that the protective services felt that the children's welfare was somehow being so threatened, that the parents were totally forbidden to have any contact with the children more than once a year. And so I clicked on the link, filled in the information, which included my name, address and some other bits, and added my voice.

I added my own voice, not that of the Covenant nor even on your behalf, just mine. Imagine my surprise to discover that I was one voice in 6000 to respond within 24 hours. Shortly after that the Ambassador was in contact with HAF representatives and word, not confirmed at this time, is that the government has agreed to release the children to an uncle who still lives in India. HAF reports:

On Monday evening, a representative from the Norwegian embassy called the HAF office and acknowledged their receipt of thousands of emails on this issue. Our Associate Director, Jay Kansara, pressed the official for additional information on the case, as there are still a number of questions left unanswered.

 Jay met with Norwegian Ambassador Strommen himself. Although the Ambassador was unable to reveal the details of the case while it is still pending, he indicated that he was encouraged by the open discussions and communication between all parties involved.

The latest media reports suggest that an agreement has been reached between the Indian and Norwegian governments allowing the children to return to India and live with their uncle, Arunabhas Bhattacharya. But even as of this morning, the Norwegian Embassy is still unable to confirm such an agreement.

I am still outraged that the children must be deported and estranged from their parents in order to live with family. You are all parents. How would you feel if come social worker demanded entry into your house simply because they can, and because you had not been shopping yet for the week, or did not have enough of a particular item that they felt was somehow mandatory for a healthy child, they just gather up your children and leave. No word on when or if you will ever see your children again. This is happening on Reservations right here in the US right now in part due to the attitudes and laws that have resulted from the Doctrine of Discovery.

Now imagine that this has happened and 6000 people stand up with you and say, this is wrong and we want, we demand redress! You never met these people and they never met you, most of them don't know each other; but through the networking of interfaith, they have heard of your plight and responded; one voice 6000 times strong.

CoG and Lady Liberty League and several more of us put together don't have the clout that HAF has. In part this is due to the fact that a much larger section of that community are in professional positions that allow them to leave their work for a year or more and donate their time and MONEY to serving their community in Washington DC and other parts of the country, working tirelessly for their people. A comedian once said that there were only four acceptable professions open to a young American Hindu, Doctor, Lawyer, Engineer, failure. I am often reminded of this when I attend predominantly Hindu or Hindu sponsored events. Much of the work that they and other organizations like theirs do reflects directly upon our own practices and social freedoms and bears support. Further they welcome that support and in turn are very open to sharing through the interfaith network the power of that political engine with us.

As I said in my response to Chaz, it pays to have friends. I might...could...will even say it pays to have friends in well connected, high places.

Chief Lyon's Letter
UN study - Impact on Indigenous Peoples of the international legal construct known as the Doctrine of Discovery

R Watcher, National Public Information Officer
National Interfaith Representative

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