Taking Justice General Assembly Home

On Sunday afternoon at Justice General Assembly, UUA vice-presidents Kay Montgomery and Rev. Harlan Limpert reported on resources you might use to help you bring your experiences and learnings from Justice GA back to your congregations. Included was information about witness and action initiatives, curricula for all ages, Beacon press books, discussion guides, and other resources to support your congregation or group as you faithfully consider your response to the related calls for immigration justice, racial justice, justice for indigenous people, and economic justice.

Watch video of the report, view the slide presentation, and read the transcript. Let us know about the conversations you are having in your congregation or group, actions you are taking, and resources that have been helpful. We are looking forward to sharing wisdom and experiences one with another as we move forward from Justice GA as Unitarian Universalist people of faith. -Ed.

Call to Arms

Our experiences at Justice General Assembly and in our own communities have taught us that the work of justice making is long haul work, work for our arms, our feet, our voices, and our hearts.  Rev. Marta I. Valentín offered us this prayer as we awaited the Supreme Court decision, and it is just as pertinent now as it was before General Assembly -Ed.


Spirit of Truth and Justice

Hear us as we ask that you

hold the collective anxiety

that permeates this fear-filled situation.


This is a call to arms.


Arms that will hold broken hearts,

and elated hearts

arms that wrap themselves around

a body, beaten and disfigured

in truth and metaphorically…


Arms that provide a strength

neither giver nor receiver

knew they possessed…


Arms that hold up

the sky of misplaced authority

and righteousness

from crashing down upon heads

struggling to be held high

as each shred of dignity is yanked

from their tired, over-used,

under-appreciated bodies.


This is a call for committed arms

to continue leading heads

and hearts

to know the facts

but feel the truth,

a call to remember

that the freedom we’ve been given

to swing our arms as wide and open

to the sun as we like

has come on the backs of humans

others wish were invisible.


This is a call to arm

ourselves with the facts

but feel the truth

borne out of the power of our

Unitarian Universalist love

and the balance of justice.


Marta I. Valentín

March 29, 2012


Rev. Marta I. Valentín is the minister at First Church Unitarian in Littleton, Massachusetts

Crossing Borders…

Rev. Ann Willever traveled with Borderlinks to the Arizona-Mexico border last month, part of a 23-person delegation that included nine youth and young adults, five ministers, and four seminarians. In this post, she shares some of her many stories from that trip. –Ed.

The Desert

After spending the night in the Borderlinks dorm in Tucson, we set out the next morning in two vans with our first stop Green Valley, just south of Tucson.  There we met Shura, a woman who volunteers with the Samaritans, whose mission is to prevent deaths in the southern AZ desert by providing water and first aid to migrants.  Shura welcomed us into her home where she had arranged an array of items collected from the nearby desert on her dining room table – things that had been carried or worn by migrants…things left behind when they were either apprehended by border patrol or overcome by dehydration or sun stroke:  clothing (including a small child’s Mickey Mouse sweater), shoes, children’s books, baby bottles, beautifully embroidered tortilla warmers.  A pair of high heeled shoes – perhaps for the job interview a migrant might anticipate when reaching the US.  She had many stories of encounters with migrants wandering in the desert over the years – one of the saddest had to be that of the 42 year old man suffering extreme edema who was searching for his son, who he hadn’t seen for two and half years. (more…)

What Solidarity Looks Like: Listen before Acting

In this post, Laura Wagner, chair of the Social Action Committee at First Parish Church Unitarian Universalist in Northborough, MA, shares her story of working with members of the local immigrant community and other allies to make a difference.- Ed.

In August of 2011 a tragic accident occurred in Milford, MA.  An undocumented person from the Ecuadorean community, who was driving while intoxicated, struck and killed a young man.  Animosity between the Milford citizens, the majority of whom are white, and the estimated 2,500 people of the Ecuadorean community (recently migrated to the US, many of whom are undocumented) had already existed prior to the accident.  The accident became the catalyst which unleashed newly intensified anti-immigration action organized by local Milford citizens.

Within eight days following the accident, leaders from the Ecuadorean community emerged and a meeting took place in which 250 people participated after receiving only eight hours notice.  The Ecuadorians, who are mostly Catholic, were offered meeting space and support by the local Catholic Church, St. Mary’s of the Assumption.  Over the coming weeks several more meetings of the Ecuadorean community took place and eventually included allies from Unitarian Universalists, Quakers, AFSC/Providence, MIRA Coalition, Centro Presente, Lutheran Immigrant and Refugee Service, both Latino priests associated with St. Mary’s and an Anglo community members from Milford. (more…)

Congregational Cluster Works Together on Immigration Justice

This month, Cooking Together has explored partnership, both as spiritual practice and as effective strategy. This week’s post is written by Community Ministry intern Kierstin Homblette, who highlights the collaborative work of the congregations in the Boulder Denver Cluster. –Ed.

The seven Unitarian Universalist congregations of the Boulder Denver Cluster have been intentionally moving towards greater collaboration over the last several years. They have endeavored to work together, improve communication between the congregations, and create opportunities for coordination of their events. Although this increasing collaboration exists in many areas of congregational life, over the last year, one of the most exciting developments has been in the arena of immigration justice.

In November 2011 people from the seven congregations who were working on immigrant justice met and shared the goings-on in their congregation and in their immigration-focused groups. Several congregations already had established groups meeting regularly and working in partnership with community organizations, and representatives from these congregations were able to share how they got started, some of their recent successes, and some best practices that had been working for them. (more…)

Screen “Lost in Detention” for Your Congregation!


The UUA has received permission from Frontline  for Unitarian Universalist Congregations to show “Lost in Detention,” provided no admission is charged. This permission means that individual congregations do not have to request public performance permission to screen this film.  The documentary examines current US immigration policy and the enforcement system, including stories of hidden abuse in detention centers. View or purchase the documentary at Frontline’s website, or check the public library.

Unitarian Universalists have an extra reason to watch this compelling documentary. The Frontline documentary’s correspondent is Maria Hinojosa, who will deliver this year’s Ware Lecture at General Assembly in Phoenix. From NPR:

For 25 years, Maria Hinojosa has helped tell America’s untold stories and brought to light unsung heroes in America and abroad. She is the anchor and managing editor of NPR’s Latino USA.

Throughout her career Hinojosa has helped define the conversation about our times and our society with one of the most authentic voices in broadcast. As a reporter for NPR, Hinojosa told groundbreaking stories about youth and violence and immigrant communities. During her eight years as a CNN correspondent Hinojosa took viewers into communities that had never been shown on television. Her investigative journalism presses the powerful for the truth while giving voice to lives and stories that illuminate the world we live in.

Gather a group to screen Lost in Detention at your congregation and let us know about your event. Plan to hear Maria Hinojosa’s June 23 lecture either in person at Phoenix or via uua.org! – Ed.


Open Mind, Open Heart, Open Ears

This month we publish a series of reflections and stories about partnership with those whose communities are most deeply impacted by immigration injustice.  Today’s post by Jesse Jaeger reflects on his experiences and the work of UU Mass Action in building partnerships. – Ed.

As Unitarian Universalist faith-based activists we need to come to our work with open hearts, open minds and, most importantly, open ears. This is particularly true when we are working with communities that have been marginalized by the wider society. Because privilege based on race, gender, education, economic class or immigration status whitewashes our perspective so we think that the experience of the privileged is the experience of everyone, the corner stone of progressive faith based activism needs to be the spiritual discipline of listening. By working to acknowledge our own assumptions and deeply listening to the truths of the communities with which we work, we are able to open our hearts and minds to the reality of their lives. When we enter this authentic space we are then able to be in true partnership with our community partners. (more…)

Rights of Indigenous Peoples- We Need More than Good Intentions!

Our partner organizations in Arizona have called for the repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery and the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.  What do we need to know in order to respond faithfully to this call? This next post in our series was written by Kamila Jacob, who works in the UU United Nations Office. – Ed.


In 1452, a papal doctrine was created endorsing the conquest and exploitation of non-Christian lands and peoples.  One example of the implementation of this doctrine is an event glorified in U.S. history books:  Christopher Columbus sailed the seas in 1492 in search for new land. Columbus followed a doctrine that permitted him to conquer and colonize any “discovered”  lands not already under Christian dominion.  Upon his return home, the bull Inter Caetera of May 3, 1493 was issued by the Pope, affirming the right to conquer lands and impose Christianity.

Centuries later, in 1823, the Doctrine of Discovery was taken up in the U.S. Supreme Court case Johnson v. M’Intosh and the resulting opinion adopted the notion of “discovery” into U.S. Law. The language of this decision is adapted from documents such as the bull Inter Caetera.  Though some claim the court decision does not refer to religion, it states that already established native communities were properly and legally colonized because their religious and cultural practices do not follow that of those in power. Throughout our history, policies and discriminatory laws have been created from this doctrine. These policies and laws continue to exist due to ignorance of this history and lack of action to overturn the Doctrine of Discovery.


The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), adopted at the UN General Assembly on September 13th, 2007, is an aspirational document, which means that it is not legally binding. It acknowledges rights such as religion, culture, and property of indigenous peoples and holds governments aspirationally responsible for the human rights of those who are indigenous.  Canada signed the Declaration on November 12th, 2010, and the government pronounced that it would take steps to make this aspirational document consistent with Canada’s Constitution and laws. President Obama’s signature on UNDRIP on December 16th, 2010 was recognition of past dehumanization and discrimination of Native Americans in the United States.  However,  implementation of this declaration will require more than just good intentions. Fully implemented, this declaration will hold leaders accountable for defending the rights of indigenous peoples.

Native Americans have been discriminated against socially, institutionally, and legislatively for hundreds of years. One aspect of this longtime discrimination has been unfair compensation for land without due process. Now that our nation is a signatory for UNDRIP, it is time for our nation to follow its provisions.  (more…)

A Call from our Arizona Immigration Justice Partners

Our partner organizations in Arizona have called for the repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery and the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.  What do Unitarian Universalists need to know in order to respond faithfully to this call from our partners? This third post in our series was written by the Pacific Southwest District Executive Ken Brown. – Ed.

This past August a number of Arizona Unitarian Universalists met with community people we had been working with for a number of years on issues of migration and the border. The conversation was around what our partners in Arizona would like to see happen at our General Assembly.  Our partners gave us a very clear message that they would like us to pass a resolution calling on President Obama and his administration to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.  When this Declaration was adopted by all but four nations in 2007, the United States was one of the four not adopting it.  Three years later, in December 2010, President Obama adopted the Declaration, making the United States the last nation to sign on to this document.

Watch this video made by Tupac Enrique about Columbus from TONATIERRA, a Cultural Embassy of the Indigenous Peoples supporting local-global holistic indigenous community development initiatives in accord with the principle of Community Ecology and Self Determination.

As President Obama declared when he signed the Declaration, “What matters more than the words – what matters far more than any resolution or declaration – are actions to match those words.”  (more…)