Restoring Indigenous Peoples’ Rights: A Pathway from Australia to Arizona

At the January meeting, the UUA Trustees voted to place a responsive resolution to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery on the business agenda for the General Assembly.  What is the Doctrine of Discovery?  Why have our partner organizations in Arizona called for its repudiation?  How are we as Unitarian Universalist people of faith called to respond?  For the next several weeks, Cooking Together bloggers will address these questions.  This post was written by the Dave Weiman, who has been working with others to educate UUs about this issue. – Ed.

At 7:30 pm on December 3, 2009, Joy Murphy Wandin, senior woman of the Wurundjeri People, was the first person to greet the 6,000 plus people who had come together for the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia, with this traditional ‘Welcome to the Land’:

On behalf of the spiritual ancestors and the traditional owners of Melbourne, I invite you to Melbourne in 2009, for the Parliament of the World’s Religions to share in the traditions, culture and spirit of Australia. (more…)

Let Them Eat Tacos

In this post, reprinted from a January 26, 2012 entry in her own blog, Rev. Kathleen McTigue shares what happened when she and others worked together to hold the mayor of East Haven, Connecticut, accountable for his lack of response to federal indictments brought against police officers in the city, charging them with racial harassment of members of the Hispanic community.- Ed

It’s been a busy week in East Haven, Connecticut.

On Tuesday, the FBI arrested four East Haven police officers on charges of false arrest, excessive force, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. The charges were related to many years’ worth of abuse that Hispanic members of the community have suffered, including racial profiling,  harassment and beatings. In its indictment the Justice Department accused the East Haven police of “biased policing, unconstitutional searches and seizures, and the excessive use of force”. The New York Times called it “a  harrowing picture of arbitrary justice for Hispanic residents.”

One would hope that this kind of news would receive widespread attention and outrage, but in today’s world that seems to be the luck of the draw: sometimes people pay attention and sometimes they don’t. This time, thanks to the remarks of East Haven’s mayor, Joseph Maturo, the wider world is all over the story.

On Wednesday, Maturo was interviewed about the arrest of his police officers by a reporter for WPIX (Channel 11), who asked what he intended to do for the Latino community in light of the charges. Maturo replied, “I might have tacos when I go home. I’m not sure yet”. During the nearly five-minute clip — which immediately went viral — Maturo became more combative but never truly engaged the question. He returned repeatedly to the taco statement.

So today, I helped deliver around 500 tacos to the mayor’s office in protest of both his insensitivity and the larger issue of racism in our area. This brilliant idea was hatched by Reform Immigration for America, which invited anyone outraged by the mayor’s remarks to text them and order a taco to be sent to the mayor. It was enacted by Junta for Progressive Action, the lead organization serving the Spanish-speaking community in the greater New Haven area.

We were a small group, led by Junta’s Acting Director, Latrina Kelly. The restaurant that had agreed to make the tacos was in over its head: the protest orders kept flooding in until within just 24 hours, they’d received over 2,700 texts. The media attention had also made the restaurant owners and workers nervous: they requested anonymity, and accompaniment for delivering the tacos. So, off we went, about a dozen of us carrying trays and trays of tacos. We walked in through the big glass doors of town hall and were met by literally dozens of reporters and television cameras, everyone jockeying for position. (more…)

Immigration and Indigenous Theology

At the January meeting, the UUA Trustees approved a motion to include a report from their Right Relationship Monitoring Committee on the Doctrine of Discovery in their report to congregations, as well as to place a responsive resolution to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery on the business agenda for the General Assembly.  What is the Doctrine of Discovery?  Why have our partner organizations in Arizona called for its repudiation?  How are we as Unitarian Universalist people of faith called to respond?  For the next several weeks, Cooking Together bloggers will address these questions.  This post was written by the Rev. Colin Bossen, who was arrested on July 29, 2010 in an act of civil disobedience. He describes how he learned about the Doctrine of Discovery- Ed.

I did not go to jail expecting to meet a theologian. But jail was where I met Tupac Enrique Acosta. Tupac, like me, was arrested in front of one of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s offices for protesting against Arizona’s anti-immigrant law SB1070 on July 29, 2010. Unlike me, Tupac had an analysis of the bill’s place in history that put it firmly within the context of the ongoing repression of the indigenous peoples of North America.

Tupac, who would probably reject the label theologian, is the leading figure behind the Phoenix-based Nahuacalli, an organization that describes itself as “A Cultural Embassy of the Indigenous Peoples.” He is also closely linked with Puente, the grassroots organization behind many protests against SB1070 in Phoenix, and Puente’s leader Salvador Reza. Understanding his views on SB1070 illuminates that, for some, the struggle over immigration is about something larger. (more…)

Witnessing for Justice and Compassion in Michigan

Within the last year, the Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network (MUUSJN) has partnered with the Alliance for Immigrants Rights and Reform Michigan to educate Unitarian Universalists about immigration reform. On December 28, 2011, members of the alliance had an opportunity to take action that got positive results!  MUUSJN and local Unitarian Universalists from All Souls Community Church of West Michigan  attended a rally in Grand Rapids to stand up for three small children and their immigrant mother, Victoria Lorenzo-Calmo.  In this post,  Randy Block, Director of MUUSJN, tells the story.- Ed.

Victoria Lorenzo-Calmo fled to America in 2001 after being brutally abused by her ex-husband. After coming to the United States, Victoria met and married a man from Guatemala who appreciates and loves her. Until recently, they lived in Grand Rapids, MI with their three children, who are American citizens.  Earlier this year, her husband was deported to Guatemala. Until recently, she awaited her own deportation hearing. Every time the phone rang, Victoria feared it might be the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) calling to tell her that her immigration date had arrived. (more…)

Pacific Central District Youth Prepare for Justice GA

In this post, Dylan Colbert, a youth who belongs to the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church, Walnut Creek, CA, reports on Pacific Central DYGT’s (District Youth Get-Togethers) focused on immigration justice issues. With the support of Mt. Diablo youth advisor Nancy Jasa, the youth are organizing educational events to help them learn more about the issues, and working on fund raisers to enable a large contingent of youth to attend Justice GA in Phoenix. – Ed.

The upcoming General Assembly in Arizona, focused on the inhumane treatment of America’s immigrants, has captured the attention of the youth in the Pacific Central District in California. In an effort to fully understand the immigration issues present today, youth in this district have organized a series of “DYGTs” -District Youth Get Togethers- so that they may understand the issues, brainstorm solutions, and raise money so that they may attend GA. As a youth in this district, I have been pleasantly surprised at the dedication shown by the other youth. Many of them have sacrificed weekends and many hours to researching immigration issues and leading events. So far, the youth have created and discussed a timeline of major events pertaining to American immigration policies and discussed terms relevant to immigration and how they apply to current situations. In future DYGTs, we hope to fully understand the different laws currently in place and continue fundraising so that we may send more youth to GA.

The DYGTs are an outgrowth of the excitement generated by a highly successful Immigration Conference at Mt. Diablo.  The Mt. Diablo congregation has financially supported youth attendance at General Assembly in Phoenix, including donating the proceeds of their craft fair to help with expenses. How has your congregation or your district included youth in your immigration justice work?  What plans have you made for fundraisers to support youth attendance at Justice GA?  Send us your stories! – Ed.


Dylan Colbert, a high school junior who is part of the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church, is one of the organizers of the DYGTs in Pacific Central District and plans to attend General Assembly in Phoenix.

“When a Stranger Sojourns with You in Your Land…”

This is one in a series of posts exploring the wisdom Jewish and Christian scripture and tradition offer as we strive to faithfully respond to immigration issues.  This post was written by Shawna Foster, student minister at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka, Kansas. It first appeared in the congregation’s newsletter- Ed.

I recently started to volunteer at VIDA Ministries on Monday nights. VIDA is a outreach ministry sponsored by 12 Presbyterian congregations in the Topeka, Kansas that provides free volunteer-led programs and activities for Spanish-speaking immigrants, including an ESL class along with homework tutoring and nursery for participants’ children. I  built their new website  and included a biblical quote at the bottom. It’s Leviticus 19:33, and clearly puts forth a call to care for the immigrants in our midst.

When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

The director of VIDA was totally surprised to learn that this instruction is in the Bible. I was surprised that he was surprised – wasn’t the call to care for the stranger who sojourns in your land the whole reason VIDA was a ministry of these churches? (more…)

Introducing … “The Journey Toward Phoenix” on blogtalkradio

I am pleased to be a guest speaker for this exciting new project organized by Rev. Carlton Elliot Smith of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, VA.  Here’s a chance to do some “cooking together” on immigration justice issues using talk radio as a medium- ed.

What if we could have a live national conversation among Unitarian Universalists about our Justice General Assembly this June? What if we could learn in real-time about what other congregations across the country were doing to address “Immigration as a Moral Issue”? What if there was an audio forum where UUs could be in dialogue with leaders in our movement about how to prepare for this unique gathering in our 50+ years of history?

It’s all happening, starting this Saturday, January 7, 4:00pm-5:00pm EST. Welcome to “The Journey Toward Phoenix”, an internet-based talk-radio program originating from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, Virginia. Each week, the program will provide a platform to showcase what local congregations are doing regarding the immigration issue in their communities, as well as providing information about resources available from the UUA as we look toward our Justice General Assembly in Phoenix, June 20-24. Leaders in our association will share experiences, plans, and details as they develop, and listeners will be able to call-in live to ask questions of our guests.

Among the topics we expect to cover over the next six months are youth involvement in Justice GA, the DREAM Act, Secure Communities, the emerging detention industrial complex, UU curricula and resources regarding immigration, participating in Justice GA on a budget, our public witness in Phoenix, and working with community partners.

This week’s topic is “Immigration as a Moral Issue.” The program will feature Marilyn Baker and Sarah Bazzi, co-conveners of the Immigration Working Group at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, Virginia, in the first half-hour. In the second half-hour, we welcome Gail Forsyth-Vail, Adult Programs Director at the Unitarian Universalist Association (and editor of this blog!). Listen in to the conversation this and every Saturday from 4 -5 PM Eastern. There’s a phone number on blogtalkradio page so you can pose a question of our guests or contribute a comment.

Looking forward to greeting you on the radio as “The Journey Toward Phoenix” becomes reality!


Rev. Carlton Elliott Smith is a Team Minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, VA. Throughout 2010-2011, much of his attention is going toward the congregational/denominational focus on justice for immigrants and their families.

The Birth of Jesús

This is an excerpt from the Epilogue of The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona Borderlands, by Margaret Regan.  The book was chosen as the 2010-2011 Common Read for Unitarian Universalists, and has a downloadable discussion guide.

The weekend before Christmas 2008, temperatures dropped sharply across southern Arizona. By midnight on December 21, the border town of Douglas was shivering in the low 40s. By the time a baby boy was born in the desert a few hours later, it was down to 34, so cold the soft earth had hardened and the cactus spines were crackling. The baby’s mother, Lilian Escalante Abrego, had been hiking the wilderness for three days, in a group of quince compañeros caminando, “fifteen friends walking”: five women,a nine-year-old girl, and nine men. Lilian had started out with a friend in their native Honduras, and the two of them had met the rest of the migrants along the way. The journey
lasted weeks, and the travelers had become close. That night they were in the foothills of the Perilla Mountains, ten miles east of Douglas, hoping to make it to a road and a ride. Lilian wasn’t expecting her baby until January. But in the wee hours of December 22, she went into labor.

Unlike those who walked with Josseline, Lilian’s compañeros didn’t even consider going on without her. They shook off their backpacks and spread a yellow blanket on the cold desert floor, trying, vainly, to find a spot free of rocks and prickers. “I lay down on the ground,” Lilian said later, and the wayfarers gathered around under the stars to await the birth of the child. They were in ranch country, and cattle were lowing. With Navidad on her mind, Lilian prayed to the Christ Child.

This was her fifth baby and the labor was short. After only two hours, Lilian brought her baby to the light, lo dio a luz, as the Spanish term for childbirth has it. At three thirty in the morning, near where Silverio Huinil Vail had died eight years before, Arón Jesús Escalante Abrego was born.

“One of the muchachas”—the women—“cut the umbilical cord with a knife,” Lilian said. Both the baby and his mother were in trouble. Arón Jesús was dangerously small and Lilian was bleeding vaginally. She had banged up her legs during the trip, and her feet were badly blistered. “I couldn’t run,” she said. “I couldn’t even walk. I wanted help from la migra.” So someone lit a fire. The birthplace was in lonesome country, and the agents never saw the flames blazing in the winter night. When no help came, ten of the migrants set out to find it.
“A man stayed with me in the desert,” Lilian said. “A Mexican compañero. He told me, ‘I’m not going to leave you alone.’ ” Nicknamed Capulina, he had already teasingly asked the widow Lilian to marry him. She’d teased him right back, saying he was too old, forty to her thirty-nine, but at her moment of crisis he was there at her side. “He cried when the baby was born.”

At daybreak, the others found a solitary ranch house and banged on the door. The owner peered out and, hearing of the birth in the desert, put in an emergency call to the Border Patrol. When la migra arrived, the migrants regaled them with the story of the Christmas baby. The agents hurried out, and in the morning light tracked the walkers’ footprints back to the yellow blanket. They found Arón Jesús and Lilian swaddled in sweaters and trembling in the cold…

On Christmas Eve, the upward arc of Lilian’s story—and the heartwarming tale of the Border Patrol’s rescue of a new baby in Christmas week—spiraled back down. In the early afternoon, I found her dressed and sitting on the edge of the hospital bed, discharge papers in hand. A new Border Patrol agent was standing by. Now that she was medically able to travel, the agent had orders to take her to the station. Never mind that she was a nursing mother with a newborn son in intensive care. And never mind that it was Christmas Eve…

From The Death of Josseline copyright Margaret Regan 2010. Published by Beacon Press.

Read the full story of Lilian and baby Arón Jesús in the Epilogue to The Death of Josseline. It is one of many moving immigration stories from the Arizona Borderlands found in Regan’s book. How have you used Regan’s book in your congregation?  What insights did the book offer to you?  How did it call you to action?  Send us your stories!

Connecting the Dreamers with Dr. King

In this post, Rev. Carlton Elliott Smith writes about how he put together a service for Martin Luther King Sunday that explored the dreams of undocumented immigrant youth and connected them with the dream of Dr. King. Perhaps you might consider doing something similar in your own community.– ed.

This time last year, I wondered what to do about the Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday worship service. Naturally, I was thinking about his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. At the same time, I was among the many immigrant advocates hoping for the passage of the  Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrant youth and young adults brought to the United States by their parents as minors. Then it came to me: What about doing a service that would bring together Dr. King’s Dream and the dreams of the Dreamers? The idea for the service, “Dreamers and the Dream” was born. The title comes from the song “Here’s to Life”. The version of it I know and love best is sung by the late Shirley Horn:

Here’s to life / and the joy it brings

Here’s to life / to dreamers and their dreams (more…)

Training the Next Generation of UU Social Justice Leaders

The Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of California (UULMCA) is paying attention to training the next generation of UU Social Justice leaders.  This fall, they launched a 10-month internship program for passionate, idealistic, and entrepreneurial young adult leaders. Under the direction of Rev. Sonya Sukalski, the program aims to build leaders who are healthy in spirit, mind, and body. They will engage with current campaigns and leaders while also discovering how to sustain a lifelong commitment to social justice via theological reflection, community building and personal spiritual practice. The SALT program flyer invites you to follow adventures of this year’s 16 SALT Fellows on the website of the UULMCA, and to look for them at Justice GA in Phoenix!