2020 ELCA ADVOCACY FEDERAL POLICY PRIORITIES

In the ELCA we believe that, through baptism, God is calling us into the world to serve together. We are a church that views governments as helpful ways God is active in our world and that is energized by lively engagement in our faith and public life. When we, as ELCA members, lift our voices together to influence policies that advance the common good, we further God’s work in our world.

Shaped by the ELCA’s social teaching documents and the experiences of its congregations, ministries and partners, we advocate to end world hunger and stands up for policies that create opportunities to overcome poverty, promote peace and dignity, preserve God’s creation and promote racial justice.

You will find ELCA faith-based advocates meeting with policy makers, taking joint action with values-sharing issue partners, writing letters, making public comments, talking with neighbors, asking questions in town hall meetings — listening, learning, educating and visibly and skillfully asserting policy considerations guided by faith foundations.

In addition to faith-based advocacy organized by local congregations and synods, by Lutheran state public policy offices and by Lutheran Office for World Community representation to the United Nations, ELCA Advocacy is active in Washington, D.C. Following are policy priorities on the national horizon for 2020.

Civic engagement

Anticipating the 2020 U.S. presidential election and supporting the church’s #ELCAvotes initiative, ELCA Advocacy will continue to prioritize policy and practice that increases both government inclusion of and civic participation in our communities.

  Domestic Policy

Child nutrition programs — Restore, protect and adequately fund school and community-based feeding programs as part of the federal safety net, and oppose efforts to convert nutrition assistance programs to block grants to states which would over time diminish free and reduced-fee meal benefits.

Criminal justice reform — End mass incarceration, promote fairer sentencing and support restorative reentry programs in our communities through federal and state funding and reforms.

Civil and human rights — Safeguard and promote protections for vulnerable populations, including communities who face barriers, unjust treatment or inequalities on the basis of racial, ethnic, cultural, gender, sexual orientation or class identity.

  • GO TOs — Find more in ELCA social teaching resources, including the social policy resolution “Advocating for Child Nutrition,” the social message “Human Rights” and the social statement The Church and Criminal Justice.
Domestic Policy: Housing

Budget concerns — Foster bipartisan cooperation and public support for budgeting of federal programs that fund affordable housing and assist people who are homeless.

Shelter and housing reforms — Ensure that the experience of churches and faith-based ministries informs federal reforms and public rule revisions that affect low-income housing programs.

Natural disaster impact — Support federal disaster aid resources and equitable access to recovery programs that assist communities before and after natural disasters.

  • GO TOs — Find more in ELCA social teaching resources, including the social message “Homelessness: A Renewal of Commitment” and the social statement Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All.
Environment Policy

Mitigation, Adaptation and Resiliency — Support legislation and policies that address the global impact of greenhouse gas emissions, incorporating the principles of participation, solidarity, sufficiency and sustainability. Impacts and related policy considerations are multifaceted, including food security threats, agricultural challenges, increased health issues, national security and the forced migration of thousands.

Sustainability — Encourage and advocate for important legislation to protect frontline communities and vulnerable populations that disproportionately experience the negative impacts of environmental degradation, including climate-related changes that exacerbate existing racial, economic, ecological and social injustices.

Creation care strengths of ELCA — Amplify ELCA experiential, educational and creation-care value resources, expressing faithful hope for the future, at this time of pressing and wide-ranging environmental concerns.

  • GO TOs — Find more in ELCA social teaching resources, including the social statements Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice; Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All; and Genetics, Faith and Responsibility.
International Policy

Federal budget considerations — Advocate for robust support for international antipoverty, humanitarian and global health funding (i.e. HIV/AIDS, malaria), as well as funding for conflict prevention and peace-building programs.

Gender Justice — Strengthen U.S. government capacity to prevent gender-based violence, promote girls’ education, protect women and girls during humanitarian crises, and support the economic and health care needs of women and girls globally.

Peace and Diplomacy — Promote human rights and strengthen conflict prevention and peace-building activities around the world, including bilateral and multilateral initiatives.

Migration Policy

Plight of children, women and men fleeing the Northern Triangle of Central America — Raise awareness of the challenges and humanitarian stories on the United States’ southern border.

Human rights of migrants — Restore, protect and promote the human rights of those fleeing violence, poverty, environmental degradation or food insecurity, to name a few causes, and urge the relevant governments and ad hoc institutions to protect migrants, refugees and asylum seekers as established under international law, by denouncing policies and practices that exacerbate the risks and discrimination these populations face.

Militarization of foreign aid — Organize against the allocation of funds to militarize the U.S. southern border and the development of practices that compromise the human rights of migrants.

Path to citizenship — Support policy that reinforces Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

  • GO-TOs — Find more in ELCA social teaching resources, including the social messages “Immigration,” “Human Rights” and “Gender-based Violence.”
How can you get involved?

Become part of the ELCA Advocacy network at ELCA.org/advocacy/signup! You will receive monthly updates on policy activity and be invited to take action at moments when your voice and experience will have an impact.

Find resources for your advocacy efforts at ELCA.org/resources/advocacy and a community with which to engage on social media at @ELCAadvocacy. Together we endeavor to live into our baptismal covenant to serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.

UN Update: January 2020

Lutheran Office for World Community, United Nations, New York, N.Y.

Dennis Frado, director

ELCA HIV & AIDS STRATEGY: In Commemoration of World AIDS Day (1 December each year), LOWC Program Associate Rebecca Anderson spoke on ELCA’s HIV & AIDS Strategy at a one-day Symposium (7 December 2019) hosted by the Peoples’ Community Evangelical Lutheran Church’s HIV Awareness project, in Baltimore, MD. The theme was “Ending AIDS 2030, Act Now.”

Dr. Ulysses Burley III (CEO of UB the Cure) focused his presentation on the UNAIDS Fast-track strategy to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. 30 countries worldwide account for 89% of new HIV infections. The UNAIDS Fast-Track Strategy stresses the necessity of concentrating its resources towards the most affected cities and communities within those countries most affected. This requires significant commitments from both national and international sources.

Ms. Anderson highlighted the Strategy’s recognition that “the body of Christ has AIDS… [we are] a church that is HIV positive.” The Strategy urges the Church to turn outward in compassion through a multifaceted approach of prayer, charity, advocacy and education in combatting the HIV & AIDS pandemic. ELCA, in partnership with the Lutheran World Federation, have been working with companion churches, partners, the government and civil society to “halt the spread of HIV through effective prevention, treatment and care, eliminate the stigma and discrimination experienced by those who are HIV-positive and reduce the conditions of poverty and marginalization that contributes to the spread of HIV.”

Derrick L. Weston (Director of Programs and Volunteers at HopeSprings), spoke about the faith community response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic, particularly in Baltimore and Maryland. Mr. Weston shared statistics for the Baltimore area, stating that the “Baltimore-Columbia-Towson Metropolitan Region is 10th in the nation for diagnosed HIV cases and 4th in the nation for people living with HIV, with 1 in 41 people in Baltimore City HIV positive.” Mr. Weston shared HopeSprings’ best practices, bringing those affected back into a positive relationship with the church. HopeSprings offers a holistic approach and appropriate referral services when working with those affected and works together with the faith community, providing wholistic ministry training and community engagement training.

A Q&A period featured Ms. Patrice Henry (Senior Community Program Coordinator/Project LINK Patient Advocate, John Hopkins University – School of Medicine) who spoke about living with HIV & AIDS. Diagnosed late and considered ‘a miracle’ by the doctor who correctly diagnosed her, Ms. Henry spoke of her journey fighting the stigma she grew up with and her experience counselling those affected.

HUMAN RIGHTS DAY: On Human Rights Day (December 10), the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) hosted an event titled “Celebrating Human Rights Day: Youth standing up for human rights.” In his introductory remarks, Andrew Gilmour (Assistant Secretary-General, OHCHR) spoke about the “sustained and sometimes ferocious pushback against the entire global human rights agenda that we haven’t seen before.” The United Nations Secretary General Antόnio Guterres commended the efforts of young human rights activists, stating “they are powerful torchbearers for a better future, and we owe them all our support.” A video message was given by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, who reminded viewers that “what is at stake is our freedom, our security and our environment, we must all rise up peacefully to achieve a world of rights for all.”

A panel discussion featuring youth took place, moderated by Jessica Stern (Executive Director of OutRight Action International) who emphasized the importance of UN using universal language in policies that translates into local languages. Fatou (Toufah) Jallow (23), from The Gambia, supported this, commenting on her struggle to break the silence and stigma around rape after experiencing such sexual violence, as the English word translates in her local language to “falling on someone” and does not express the gravity of the human rights violation. Feliciana Herrera Ceto, (23) a youth indigenous leader from the Ixil Region in Guatemala, was unable to attend due to her visa being denied but sent her remarks including “[Human Rights] have come at a great cost. I have been criminalized for standing up for the human rights of the indigenous/for exercising my rights to self-determination in order to keep peace in our communities. We don’t enjoy Human Rights.” Carl Smith (17) from the indigenous Yupiaq tribe in Alaska commented on the way climate change has had a detrimental effect on his traditional and cultural hunting rituals. He submitted a complaint to the Child Rights Committee alleging that climate change is violating his human rights. Alexus Lawrence (18) spoke of her childhood experience of homelessness and now advocates to change the face of homelessness, urging all to “understand your power, understand your privilege and use it.”

COMMEMORATION OF THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF CEDAW: On December 18, the United Nations held a commemorative event for the 40thanniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Since its adoption by the General Assembly in 1979, it has become a leading force for transformative change for women’s equality and empowerment. Assistant Secretary-General Andrew Gilmour (OHCHR) stated in his opening remarks that “one manifestation of all this is cases of intimidation and reprisals carried out against women who have cooperated with the UN and the human rights mechanisms.”

The President of the General Assembly, H.E. Mr. Tijani Muhammad-Bande, highlighted “it is a day to celebrate…this treaty has significantly improved the lives of women over the last 40 years.” Mr. Muhammad-Bande urged men and boys around the world to understand that a woman in power is not a threat and called on all Member States to uphold the rights of women.

In the following panel discussion, Ms. Bandana Rana (Vice-Chair of the CEDAW Committee) highlighted that CEDAW has “received hundreds of state parties reports on their obligations to promote and protect women’s rights”, and has seen an increase in the adoption of “legislative and administrative reforms to eliminate discrimination and prevent gender-based violence against women.” Ms. Rana stated “we must affirm the gains we have made in advancing human rights, build on the hope of women’s mobilization and transformative actions, and take collective action to forge solidarity with other movements demanding accountability of its states and the private sector.”

INTERNATIONAL MIGRANTS DAY CELEBRATION: The United Nations celebrated the resilience, human rights and dignity of Migrants worldwide on International Migration Day (December 18). The International Organization of Migration (IOM) hosted an event of music, documentary sharing and firsthand accounts of migration from the Democratic Republic of Congo to America. In his opening remarks, Mr. Ashraf El Nour, the IOM UN Office Director, highlighted that “we often forget the experiences, stories, sacrifices of individual migrants. Today we would like to celebrate the human face of migrants…Human mobility should not be prohibited or restricted, or even worse – criminalized.” Mr. Nour emphasized that migrants add value to the societies they are in and urged all to quell toxic migration narratives.

H.E. Ms. Gerladine Byrne Nason, the Permanent Representative of Ireland (pictured), commented from a global perspective that “migrants today are all too frequently treated as a threat to security”. She stated the need to engage with host countries to eradicate frequent toxic migration narratives. Ms. Nason shared 2019 migration statistics, stating in 2019 there were “25 million refugees, 3.5 million asylum seekers and 41 million internationally displaced peoples.”

A film screening of “One Way Ticket”, was showcased and the Director and two of the film’s protagonists, Mr Jean Pieere Ntegyeye and Mr. Isaiah Bahati, joined for a panel discussion around their journey from the same migrant camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo to America. Mr Gregoire Grosset, the director, commented on the interviews he conducted within migration camps and highlighted that “even when they [migrants] face[d] distress, they never complained” and that they maintained quiet dignity through their suffering.

Read International Migration Day UN News article here.

NEW LOWC FACEBOOK PAGE! The Lutheran Office for World Community has some exciting news. We now have our very own Facebook account that can be accessed here. We will share more of our work and engagement with the United Nations on this new media platform and welcome all to the page!

Worship Resources for COP25

This week, LOPP-CA joins many other faith leaders and advocates at COP25 in Madrid to call our leaders to repentance and action on climate justice. In collaboration with these faith leaders, we have created A Path of Hope, worship resources for COP25.

The Conference of Parties, known as COP, is the body responsible for implementing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The parties are the 197 nations and territories which have signed on to the Framework Convention in commitment to reducing emissions and developing. The first COP meeting was in Berlin in 1995, after the UNFCCC was formed in 1992. COP25 is the 25th yearly meeting of the Conference of Parties.

Collect for the COP

Regina Q. Banks, Director, Lutheran Office of Public Policy of California

God our creator, God our provider, God our nurturer and our sustainer and our guide, we have failed you. In love you have given us a home, and we have fouled it. Your children now gather in Madrid at the COP 25 climate change meeting to deliberate about how to mend what we have so callously broken. Strengthen them Lord. Pour out your spirit on the hearts of the participants. Instill in the delegates hearts that are humble and minds that are fixed on justice. Empower the parties and the observers to spread the word about all that is happening in the discussions and the enormity of the tasks ahead. Steel their resolve. Fortify the heads of state, and ministers, and diplomats, and scientists, and teachers, and activists, and advocates for the duties ahead. Be in their midst. Continue to have mercy on your creation, O Lord. We come to you meekly asking mercy for their work and ours. And in the accomplishment of the goal may you be glorified and praised. Amen.

 

National Update: November 2019

EXTENDED SNAP COMMENT PERIOD  |  PARIS AGREEMENT WITHDRAWAL  |  GLOBAL HEALTH SECURITY ACT  |  PEACE IN SOUTH SUDAN  |  CREATION CARE WEBINAR

ADVOCATES RESPOND DURING EXTENDED SNAP COMMENT PERIOD:  When new information from the Department of Agriculture was highlighted, estimating that more than 800,000 students access to free and discounted meals if a proposed rule change to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was adopted, Lutherans used an extended comment period to express their opinions.

The proposed rule change to “categorical eligibility” of extremely poor communities would terminate SNAP access for nearly 3.1 million people. Thank you for your response through the ELCA Advocacy Action Center. We will continue to monitor the situation and report updates.

 

PARIS AGREEMENT WITHDRAWAL REACTION:  Religious and community partners are deeply concerned by the United States’ formal withdrawal from the Paris Agreement as announced Nov. 4 by the Trump administration. Global cooperation is required to address this critical moment in time. Future generations will live with profound impact of the actions we take today.

“We see the despoiling of the environment as nothing less than the degradation of God’s gracious gift of creation,” reads the ELCA social statement “Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice.” Caring, serving, keeping, loving, and living by wisdom, the statement continues, sum up what is meant in Scripture witness by acting as God’s stewards of the earth. ELCA Advocacy staff and partners will be at the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) in December and will continue working with faith-based actors addressing climate change together.

 

GLOBAL HEALTH SECURITY ACT COMMITMENT:  In the wake of more pandemics, such as HIV, SARS, Avian flu, Ebola and Zika, more action is needed from the global community to address the health care needs of our communities. If passed, the bipartisan Global Health Security Act of 2019 (H.R. 2166) would revitalize U.S. government commitment to advancing global health security.

H.R. 2166 would strengthen U.S. commitments under the Global Health Security Agenda, a multilateral initiative launched in 2014 to build countries’ capacity to manage infectious disease threats and elevate health security as a global priority. An Action Alert in the ELCA Advocacy Action Center is available to facilitate messages of support to legislators.

 

SUPPORT FOR PEACE IN SOUTH SUDAN:  For the past six years, a power struggle among different political and military factions in South Sudan has subjected its people to a high level of violence. Hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese have been killed, and millions have been displaced. In late October the U.S. Senate introduced a resolution (S. Res. 371) to reaffirm U.S. government support for South Sudan.

The resolution calls on parties to ensure implementation of the September 2018 agreement between the factions, including formation of a new transitional government. Additionally, the resolution encourages the U.S. Secretary of State and the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development to continue providing humanitarian assistance to South Sudanese and work with other agencies to hold corrupt officials and human rights abusers accountable. ELCA Advocacy thanked senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Todd Young (R-IN) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) for their leadership.

 

WEBINAR TO EXPAND ELCA CREATION CARE:  The ELCA is responding as stewards of God’s good creation, and we need more #CreationCareAmbassadors to spread enthusiasm and information and to help strengthen our response. You can learn more on Dec. 11 from the free webinar “ELCA Caring for God’s Creation Today: Pass It On!”

The moment is now. The opportunities are many. The resources exist and are expanding. Learn about what’s happening and how you can make a difference, through this webinar hosted by ELCA Advocacy and our ecumenical collaborator, Blessed Tomorrow, on Wednesday, Dec. 11, at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Maybe being a #CreationCareAmbassador is for you. Let’s pass it on! Registration info from facebook.com/pg/elcaadvocacy/events/.

U.N. Update: November 2019

Lutheran Office for World Community, United Nations, New York, N.Y.

Dennis Frado, director

HIGH-LEVEL MEETING ON 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD: The United Nations General Assembly held a High-Level Meeting for the 30th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), on November 20, 2019. This convention protects the rights of children everywhere to be free from discrimination, violence, and neglect and remains the world’s most ratified treaty. Opening Remarks were given by H.E. Mr. Tijani Muhammad-Bande (President of the General Assembly), H.E. António Guterres (UN Secretary-General), Ms. Henrietta Fore (UNICEF Executive Director), and other Special Representatives/ Rapporteurs. These top UN officials noted the important gains that had been made over the past 30 years and urged refreshed commitments. The meeting featured a “kid’s takeover” segment with participation of children and goodwill ambassadors through speeches, multimedia, and artistic performances across the three themes of Climate Change, Humanitarian, and Education. A  meeting concluded with Member States invited to provide their interventions on their perspectives regarding the 30th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. You can access the full event on http://www.webtv.un.org

NEVER IS NOW SUMMIT ON ANTI-SEMITISM AND HATE: LOWC Director Dennis Frado joined Kathryn Lohre, ELCA Assistant to the Presiding Bishop and Executive for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations, in attending the annual “Never is Now Summit on Anti-Semitism and Hate” sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Featured speakers at the November 21 event included ADL International Leadership Awardee Sacha Baron Cohen and ADL Courage Against Hate Awardee Hamdi Ulukaya, Founder & CEO of Chobani. Cohen’s serious remarks challenging bigotry and intolerance highlighted the role of social media in perpetrating such attitudes and called for holding leaders of social media companies accountable.

CONGRESSIONAL BRIEFING ON TREATMENT OF CHILDREN IN ISRAELI MILITARY DETENTION: Bishop Thomas Aitken of Northeastern Minnesota Synod represented Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton at a congressional briefing held November 20, which focused on the treatment of children in Israeli military detention. Organized by the Faith Forum on the Middle East, Churches for Middle East Peace, and the American Friends Service Committee, the briefing featured Rep. Betty McCollum (D-4th-MN) and several Christian leaders speaking on the importance of holding governments, including Israel, accountable for observing international human rights standards when utilizing U.S. military assistance as required by U.S. law. Bishop Aitken said, “It is in our DNA as a Church to not turn a blind eye to this issue”.

INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN COMMEMORATION: On November 25 the United Nations held a commemorative event for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Participants wore orange in support of the UN’s “Orange the World: General Equality Stands Against Rape” Campaign to end violence against women, with a particular focus over the next two years on rape. One in three women and girls experience sexual violence in their lifetime.

Ms. Ajna Jusic (President of the Association “Forgotten Children of War,” Bosnia), a 26-year old panelist, shared her heartbreak of discovering in her teens that she is a child born of war-time rape. Women who were raped in Bosnia, and the resulting children, are still living in a society where they are ostracized. This drives her current work to pass a law acknowledging the “forgotten children of war” as people who have human rights.

Ms. Karen Naimer (Deputy Director of Programs and Director of the Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones/Physicians for Human Rights (PHR)), is a grantee of the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UNTF), who has changed the handling of rape cases. Using a multidisciplinary approach, PHR gathers professionals from the medical, policing and judiciary fields to work with survivors, ensuring they receive the best care and support possible. She also highlighted that “faith leaders carry enormous clout in their communities. They are change-makers and we need to bring them into the discussion as well” and “anyone who carries a certain level of importance, privilege and credibility in their communities – they are the people who need to be part of the conversation and part of the solution.” 

16 DAYS CAMPAIGN: Also on November 25, the 2019 “16 Days of Activismagainst gender-based violence” campaign kicked off. The international, annual campaign coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadershipruns for 16 days and ends on Human Rights Day, December 10, 2019. “16 Days is an opportunity for us to highlight what we are doing, what the situation is. But 365 days is to do the work” said Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka United Nations Under-Secretary-General/UN Women Executive Director. This campaign aims to raise awareness, demonstrate solidarity and pressure governments to implement commitments to eliminate all gender-based violence (GBV) against women. Read the full 2019 campaign guide here. The International Labour Organization (ILO) is considering a legally binding convention on GBV. The Center for Women’s Global Leadership has created an online 16 Days Toolkit #ILOendGBV, on “ending gender-based violence in the world of work”. Through LWF’s partnership with Ecumenical Women at the UN (EW), LOWC participated through short blog posts.

PRESIDING BISHOP’S STATEMENT CONCERNING STATE DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCEMENT ON ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS: Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton issued a statement on November 19 in response to an announcement by Secretary of State Pompeo asserting that the “establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law.” Noting that the ELCA has long called “for an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory, [and] the cessation of all settlement activities and withdrawal from settlements on Palestinian territory to the 1967 boundaries”, she said the announcement made realization of an end to “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict more difficult and distant, rather than advancing the cause of peace.”

ELCA at COP25

By Ruth Ivory-Moore, Program Director for Environment and Corporate Social Responsibility

The 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) gets underway in Madrid, Spain today, and an unprecedented number of people from the ELCA are present as part of an ELCA Advocacy delegation – including Lutheran state public policy office directors, young adult leaders, global companions and members of the Lutherans Restoring Creation network. Negotiators and civil society observers meet annually at conference of parties (COP) conferences to hammer out resolutions to remedy, mitigate and adapt to a warming climate. Despite being in a crisis situation, where severe weather patterns are intensified and disaster damage and loss of life are more frequent, we must and can turn this around.

This moment in time involves using all tools at our disposal with a recognition that our human existence is interlinked with all of creation. “Lutherans are called to listen to the cry of the Earth along with the anguished cry of every broken soul so that we assume personal, ecclesial and public leadership in addressing both human justice and Earth justice together,” reads “Why Lutherans Care for Creation.” We are equipped at COP25 to use God’s creative wisdom to take stock of where we are now and where we need to be and to devise plans to wisely steward our place caring for the earth.

Days at a COP are long. Side events, displays and key speakers draw participants to opportunities for engagement and collaboration as well as learning. Lasting and collaborative relationships will be formed and strengthened with our neighbors, whether geographically in Pennsylvania, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa or Asia-Pacific. There are no boundaries to the devasting impacts of a warming earth, be they wildfires out West or historic flooding in Venice, or be they ecological system changes such as migrating species from moose to microbes. Knowing we are living into our role as stewards of creation energizes COP encounters with unparalleled enthusiasm.

Two youths who spoke at an interfaith climate emergency consultation in New York City in September 2019 implored us to think of caring for the earth not as a movement but as part of who we are. The resource, “Why Lutherans Care for Creation,” asserts: “For Christians, care of the Earth is not an ‘environmental cause.’ Rather, it is central to our holy calling to treasure the Earth and to care for it as our common home, fully integrating creation-care into our love of God and neighbor.”

ELCA participants bring another core conviction to COP25. While the environmental impact of a warming climate is dire, hope triumphant over despair is central to our tradition. As the ELCA Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice social statement reminds us: “We testify to the hope that inspires and encourages us. We announce this hope to every people, and witness to the renewing work of the Spirit of God.”

UN Update: October 2019

Lutheran Office for World Community, United Nations, New York, N.Y.

by Dennis Frado, director

THIRD COMMITTEE OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY: During October, UN Special Procedure mandate-holders and other experts delivered reports to the General Assembly’s Third Committee (on Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Issues), as mandated by the Human Rights Council. These reports focused on the advancement of women, indigenous issues, the protection of children and the promotion and protection of human rights to name a few. The meetings were chaired by H.E. Mr. Christian Braun, Permanent Representative of Luxembourg and can be viewed online here.

Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under-Secretary General and Executive Director, UN Women, gave opening remarks on the Third Committee’s session on Advancement of Women, highlighting that “violence against women and girls and the renewed pushback against women’s rights remain pervasive around the world so as we prepare for the 25th Anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action in 2020, we need renewed commitment from all.” The Secretary-General focused two reports on Advancement of Women, titled “Improvement of the situation of women and girls in rural areas” and “violence against women migrant workers.” A report was also submitted by the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

The Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples report focused on the implementation the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination through autonomy and self-government. The report includes eight recommendations, one including the role of States in adopting and implementing “all measures necessary to ensure the adequate recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands, territories and natural resources, as that recognition represents the cornerstone of their autonomy and self-government and is essential for their survival as distinct peoples.” Documentation of all reports for the Third Committee’s agenda items can be accessed online here.

UNITED NATIONS DAY: On October 24, 2019, the United Nations celebrated United Nations Day, marking 74 years since the UN Charter came into force in 1945, launching the United Nations. The Charter consists of a preamble and 19 chapters, calling for the U.N. to “maintain international peace and security, promote social progress and better standards of life, strengthen international law and promote the expansion of human rights”. The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres commented at its commemoration that “United Nations Day highlights the enduring ideals of the Charter, amid stormy global seas, the Charter remains our shared moral anchor.” Guterres has announced that 2020 will kick off with a UN75 initiative that will feature the world’s largest international dialogue on “the role of global cooperation in building the future we want ” to commemorate the 75thanniversary. A special UN Day Concert, featuring musicians from Qatar (pictured above with the Secretary-General) was also held and can be viewed online here.

MANDATE ON SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN CONFLICT: The ten-year anniversary of the Mandate on Sexual Violence in Conflict was commemorated at the United Nations ECOSOC Chamber on 30 October, 2019, hosted by the Republic of South Africa and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. The event began with imagery from the exhibition “Youth Speak Out Through the Arts” (pictured left), showcasing art from a diverse group of youth working in New York as well as two young artists working in Iraq.

Ms. Amina Mohammed, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, stated that “sexual violence in conflict has been called history’s greatest silence, the least reported, the least condemned.” Mohammed reflected on the creation of the mandate as the UN’s commitment to “highlight, prevent and seek justice for these crimes” after it was established through the adoption of Security Council resolution 1888 in 2009.

A ‘survivors hearing’ panel was held with panelists sharing first and secondhand testimonies and recommendations from those who have experienced sexual violence in conflict. Ms. Nadia Murad and Dr. Denis Mukwege, 2018 Peace Prize Laureates, officially launched the “Global Fund for Survivors of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence” to help survivors and their families rebuild through locally designed solutions including reparations for survivors. Read the 2019 annual “Conflict Related Sexual Violence” report of the United Nations Secretary General here.

Golden Rule can have national impact

by ELCA Advocacy

What do you expect to hear in the forthcoming 365 days as we approach the 2020 national election? Do you clench up a bit – anticipating rancor in the airwaves, on screens… not even excluding at coffee shops, dinner tables and perhaps even Fellowship Halls?

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) was among those who helped shape “Golden Rule 2020: A Call for Dignity and Respect in Politics” out of concern about the polarization in our country by emphasizing the applicability of Christian ethical principles to our political discussions. “We believe that we can find guidance through this national dilemma in the teachings of Jesus,” reads a Statement of Support joined by the ELCA and several other Christian denominations and organizations. It continues:

“In particular, we believe that Jesus’ command to “do unto others as you would have the do unto you” should be taken seriously by Christians who engage in political activity. We also believe that if enough people follow this ‘Golden Rule’ principle, it will help generate the respect and civility we so desperately need in our country.’”

“When our tone is automatically uncivil and it’s automatically accusatory, how can we ever hope that we’re actually going to communicate with somebody else if we’ve already belittled and accused them?” said the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop, in a Religion News Service article (10/31/19) highlighting that civility is not mutually exclusive to speaking out against injustice.

Bishop Eaton drew present applicability in the article from Martin Luther’s explanation of the eighth commandment in the Small Catechism: “We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.”

On November 3, 2019 and in the year ahead, congregations and individuals are invited to pray for the healing of the divisions in our country and promote the use of the Golden Rule in our own political discussions and election activities in 2020. Resources affiliated with the Golden Rule 2020 movement include a #ReviveCivility pledge from the National Institute for Civil Discourse plus games and activities such as “Media Literacy for High School Students” and an one-on-one discussion guide.

Christians have differing theological and political views. The Golden Rule can give us guidance when we need to come together to solve our common problems.

National Office: September 2019

ELCA Advocacy office in Washington, D.C.

from Rev. Amy E. Reumann, director

PROPOSED SNAP RULE CHANGE | AUGUSTA VICTORIA HOSPITAL | INTERFAITH CLIMATE CONSULTATION | YOUNG ADULT HILL VISITS

THIRD PROPOSED RULE CHANGE TO SNAP BENEFITS ANNOUNCED:  On Oct. 1, the United States Department of Agriculture proposed another rule that would cut SNAP benefits, this time by a total of $4.5 billion over five years. The cut would result from changes in how states take households’ utility costs into account in SNAP benefits determination. ELCA Advocacy opposes this new proposed rule.

Lutheran advocates have already submitted public comments pertaining to previously proposed changes. In the period through April 2, ELCA Advocacy network participants opposed time limits on food benefits. In the period through Sept. 23, participants opposed categorical eligibility elimination for SNAP benefit determination. Additional opportunity for response by the ELCA Advocacy network is in development.

AUGUSTA VICTORIA HOSPITAL:  Since September 2018, congressionally allocated U.S. aid has been redirected from hospitals in East Jerusalem to other projects. Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH) and the other members of the East Jerusalem Hospitals network are critical to the region’s health care and well-being. ELCA Peace Not Walls asks advocates to urge lawmakers to reverse this unilateral policy decision.

AVH is owned and operated by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and several other member churches of the LWF. Without international assistance, Augusta Victoria and other hospitals in East Jerusalem face cuts to services. AVH is unable to make minimum payments to pharmaceutical suppliers of cancer medication and is currently running out of vital medication to treat its patients. Learn more from PNW.

ROBUST AND INSPIRATIONAL INTERFAITH CLIMATE CONSULTATION:  Organized by the ELCA and planning partners, “Climate Emergency: Faith-based Organizations Raising Ambition — Leaving No One Behind” drew representatives from more than 45 groups, including World Council of Churches, Islamic Relief, AME Zion Church, and the Buddhist and Catholic faiths. The consultation, held Sept. 24, amplified the momentum of the UN Climate Change Summit and youth-led actions around the world.

The consultation featured inspirational opening and closing prayers, robust discussions and a passionate report from two student activists who were instrumental in the massive youth mobilizations in New York and around the world on September 20. The consultation is preparing an action plan that reflects the discussions held.

YOUNG-ADULT FAITH LEADERS MAKE HILL VISITS:  An advocacy day for young-adult faith leaders was co-hosted by ELCA Advocacy, Bread for the World, Church World Service and other ecumenical partners in the last week of September. The participants, including ELCA young adults, met with their members of Congress to urging support of foreign assistance development and humanitarian funding.

Lutheran seminary student Wylie Cook said of the event, “It was absolutely humbling to work with fellow young people of faith who came together and sought bipartisan support advocating for foreign assistance funding, which assists the most vulnerable and marginalized around the world. Our common faith values coalesced into a formidable force and illuminated God’s intending of abundant life for all, ‘on earth, as it is in heaven.’”

UN Update: September 2019

Lutheran Office for World Community, United Nations, New York, N.Y.

from Dennis Frado, director 

“TIME FOR HARD CHOICES” REPORT LAUNCH: On September 6, 2019, the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation and the Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office launched a report titled “Financing the UN Development System: Time For Hard Choices.” Split into two sections, part one provides UN funding data on revenue and expenditure, while part two delves into the financial complexities of the 2030 Agenda, told from the perspective of more than 30 authors within and outside the UN system. Read the full report here.

30TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD: UNICEF installed a display of 3,758 backpacks at the UN Headquarters, representing the ”senseless loss of a young life to conflict,” and a “reminder to world leaders of the stakes,” in the lead up to the 30th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child on November 20. The 2019 Annual Report of the Secretary General on children and armed conflict states, “more than 12,000 children were killed or maimed in conflict zones last year, the highest number since the UN started monitoring and reporting this grave violation.”

“WOMEN IN POWER” CALL TO ACTION: H.E. Mrs. Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, the 73rdPresident of the General Assembly, led the final informal high-level event in her “Women in Power” series. The call to action was titled “Voices for Change and Inclusion: Joining Forces and Redoubling Efforts to Achieve Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment for All,” influenced by Espinosa Garcés’ eight priorities to advance female leadership. During opening remarks, Ms. Susan Malcorra stated, “We are deeply convinced that for peace to be achieved and sustained, the full participation and potential of women must be unleashed.” View the session here. This event is in line with the call for action to accelerate full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, as we head towards its 25th Anniversary in 2020. Read more here.

ANNUAL PRAYER FOR PEACE: In the lead up to the United Nations International Day for Peace (21 September) and the general debate during the 74th Session of the General Assembly, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations hosted its 33rd Annual Prayer for Peace service. Archbishop Bernardito Auza led three prayers by Pope Francis, UN Secretary-General António Guterres spoke of the value of such a service, and His Excellency Tijjani Muhammad-Bande of Nigeria, President of the 74th session of the General Assembly, expressed how ”it is important to seek the help of God in the work of the United Nations.” 

LOWC FOR CLIMATE JUSTICE: On Friday, September 20, 2019, LOWC staff joined an estimated 60,000+ students, adults and activists in the Climate Strike for climate action in New York. Greta Thunberg delivered a speech during the event in New York stating, “we are doing this to wake leaders up… We are a wave of change, together and united we are unstoppable .” It is estimated that more than 1 million people participated in climate strikes globally across 125 countries on this day.

The UN Youth Climate Summit and SDG Action Zone took place the following day (September 21) at the United Nations Headquarters where Greta Thunberg criticized world leaders for their lack of urgency, during the opening session. Young entrepreneurs from around the world were given the opportunity to take the mic and discuss solutions.

On September 22, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres convened the Climate Action Summit 2019, where leaders were urged to showcase “concrete, realistic plans to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020, in line with reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45% over the next decade, and to net zero emissions by 2050.” During the event (view here), members of governments, the private sector, civil society and other international organizations came together to develop six action portfolios to curb global greenhouse gas emissions and promote global action.

74TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONVENES: The 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA74) began on 17 September with the general debate taking place 24 – 30 September under the new GA President, His Excellency Tijjani Muhammad-Bande of Nigeria. To view what each country had to say during the General Debate, click here. Many other high-level events were held, such as on Universal Health Coverage, the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, financing for development, and the review of progress made in addressing priorities of small island developing states (SIDS) also took place during this time.