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Justice Prayers - January 29th 2020

Our times are in your hands.  We come to you now in our strength and in our weakness, in our hope and in our despair, in our buoyancy and in our disease.  We come to pray for ouselves and for all like us who seek and yearn for life anew with you and from you and for you.  - Walter Brueggemann

"Public Charge" Rule Change in U.S. Can Now Become Effective

The Supreme Court says that the Trump administration can put into effect changes to a rule impacting immigrants, even as those changes are challenged in the courts. The “public charge” rule change makes it harder for low- and moderate-income immigrants to gain legal status in the U.S. by greatly expanding the definition of “public charge” - a determination made by the government to predict if immigrants are likely to rely on certain public benefits in the future. Immigrant advocates worry that the changes will dramatically reduce legal immigration to the US, and as a result, increase illegal immigration. Most categories of immigrants are already ineligible for most public benefits, and this rule does not change that.

For the many immigrants, and family members of immigrants, who are afraid because of the confusion around this rule change -- afraid to get help, afraid to be known, afraid to be seen -- we offer our prayers for comfort, for community, for support. We pray families that will be kept separated, for children who will long for a parent, for spouses who will remain distant from their partner. We pray, God, for a strong voice to emerge that speaks against policies that marginalize those who are poor, that oppress the foreigner, that break apart loving families. Empower us to raise our voices, Lord, against injustice.

Holocaust Remembrance Day and Anti-Semitism

Jan. 27, 2020 is Holocaust Remembrance Day, an annual day to remember and commemorate those who died in the Holocaust. Incidents of anti-Semitism are on the rise globally, as well as in the U.S. In its latest audit, the Anti-Defamation League reported 1,879 acts against Jews in the U.S. in 2018, the third highest number in 40 years. The organization also cited New York Police Department figures that said there had been more anti-Jewish incidents in the city in 2019 than all other crimes added together.

God, we pray for the ways that hate can hide in each of our hearts, and the ways that injustice can arise in our common life together. Guard us against such beliefs and actions, and empower us to root out small and large systems that make people vulnerable to oppression and injustice. In your mercy, Lord, help us to never forget the horrors of the Holocaust, and never discard the lessons it teaches.

Suggested Changes to Fees for Inmates in U.S.

Lawmakers in three US states are drafting a bill that they hope will end the growing trend of prisons charging inmates high fees for reading ebooks or making video calls to their families, while paying under a dollar an hour for prison labor. State prisons in nine states have struck deals with private equity telecom companies to introduce pay-per-minute reading and video conferencing services in their facilities. In December, the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation launched a pay-per-minute ebook policy, which charges inmates five cents per minute of reading. The fee equates to roughly an hour of prison labour. In Missouri, where prison visits are increasingly being banned or restricted, inmates are being charged more than one month’s prison wages ($7.50) to make a 30-minute video call. Congressional representatives are looking to create a bipartisan-supported bill to curb the practice.

We remember the prisoner, Lord. We remember her humanity, we remember his dignity. We pray for justice, big and small, to come to the U.S. criminal justice system. We pray for this policy idea to begin the conversations needed to spark change, and move the system from retribution toward restoration.

Displacement in Somalia

The number of Somalis being pushed out of the countryside and into the capital Mogadishu has reached an unprecedented high, putting pressure on the city’s already poor infrastructure and threatening its faltering recovery from three decades of conflict. More than 800,000 internally displaced people dwell in informal settlements across Mogadishu. They are crammed into makeshift shelters with little or no sanitation and limited access to the most basic services. There are “critical” levels of malnutrition. Scattered over 700 sites across the capital, families mainly consisting of women and children share common latrines and survive on one meal a day. Last week about a dozen children had died of starvation in one encampment in Kahda district. 

We pray for children who are without parents, for the sick who are without medicine, for the hungry who are without food, for the disabled who are without assistance, for the helpers who are without the means to help. We pray for peace in Somalia, Lord, and for the hearts of the world and the actions of the powerful to be moved to change this tragic reality for so many thousands of human beings.

Deaths Among Refugees in Libya
A 16-year-old is the latest person to die in a network of Libyan detention centres where refugees and migrants are locked up indefinitely after they are returned to the war-torn north African country by the EU-funded coastguard. Fellow detainees in Sabaa detention centre, Tripoli, named the boy as Adal Debretsion, an Eritrean who had reportedly been locked up for more than a year. They said the teenager died on the 12th of January of an unknown illness and a lack of medical care. “We really feel sad and we are scared,” said another Eritrean, one of roughly 400 people still being held there. Friends said Adal was from Elabered, near Keren in Eritrea, and that he had left home three years ago at age 13. They said his mother had begged and struggled to find the high ransom smugglers demanded when he first reached Libya. 
God, we know that you care for the migrant, the foreigner, the stranger. We know that you call us to do the same. In Libya there are so many people who have found no welcome, who have fled for safety that has been denied to them. Bring hope, Lord. Bring change. Open the doors of those who have space to welcome. Open the hearts of those who are called your children. Open the minds of those who have the power to shape policies. 

Becoming (part of) the Answer to our Own Prayers

Office of Social Justice Sunday 

Office of Social Justice Sunday Is Next Week! OSJ Sunday is an opportunity for us all to reflect on the biblical call to justice.  Your gifts help us to provide resources for learning about the root causes of poverty, hunger, and oppression, and help us to empower the church to call on those in power to improve systems and enact just policy.  Check out the variety of resources you can incorporate into your service on this day (including a liturgy and prayer). 

Thank Your Governors: US

Though the Executive Order requiring state and local consent for refugee resettlement has been blocked in court, we can still say THANK YOU to the 42 governors that gave their consent. Thank YOUR governor today for standing up to continue welcoming refugees!  

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