AN UNPRECEDENTED YEAR OF
SEEKING JUSTICE AND PEACE
2020 has been a year like no other in our lifetimes. Like you, Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace has had to adapt to ensure we continue moving forward. And with your help, we’ve remained steadfast in our mission that Religious Communities Must Stop Blessing War and Violence.
Largely volunteer-driven, with a small part-time paid staff, we’ve continued to hold Friday Forums, convened a major conference, celebrated the life and work of Rev. George Regas, recognized amazing leaders in our movement, and spoken out on critical issues. Here’s what you helped us do:
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, since late March we’ve held our Friday Forums online. These 35-plus meetings have allowed us to raise awareness and spur action on a wide range of issues with new audiences and important speakers from around the world, including:
- Alicia Re Cruz, University of North Texas, on immigration and border justice
- Marjorie Cohn, Esq., Thomas Jefferson School of Law and National Lawyers Guild, on the post-2020 election transfer of power
- Dr. Melba Maggay, writer and social anthropologist, on Covid-19’s impact on impoverished communities in the Philippines
- Amy Spitalnick, Executive Director, Integrity First for America, on IFA’s landmark case against neo-Nazis who instigated deadly violence in Charlottesville, VA
- David Swanson, Cofounder and Executive Director of World Beyond War, on the organization’s latest antiwar efforts
- Gail Walker, Executive Director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace, about her group’s programs supporting organizing and empowerment with communities of color
ONE WORLD: Ending Endless War and Creating a Just, Peaceful, Healthy Planet
On June 7, dozens joined ICUJP at our first-ever virtual conference. When we began planning last year, we could not have predicted how timely it would be! Founded during another tumultuous, world-changing time, ICUJP offered an alternative voice to the “War on Terror.”
All these years later, the issues are slightly different, but the challenge is the same. On June 7, we came together to strategize how we can apply our founding principles to our current tumultuous world – how to push for justice and create a world where all people can flourish, not just a few.
The Rev. Jim Lawson, keynote speaker, challenged us: “Non-violence is a pitch to us that a paradigm has arrived. There is no way through endless war. There is no way through the present systems of endless pain and hurt in the world, except through the paradigmatic change that we move from injustice to justice, from violence to non-violence, from hatred and brokenness to compassion and truth.”
With Rev. Lawson’s words echoing in our hearts and minds, we broke into smaller groups to grapple with specific areas of concern in today’s world:
- Peace with Justice - looking at America’s blind commitment to military dominance and endless war, and ways to strengthen peaceful and humanitarian conflict resolution
- Racial and Religious Justice - The racism, disparities, and religious bigotry revealed by Covid-19, and how people of faith and goodwill can embrace liberation movements to create a multiracial, harmonious democracy
- Environmental Justice - how war plays a big role in the destruction of the earth, and how we can restore a healthy planet
- Economic Justice – how the outsized U.S. military budget robs our economy of social welfare funding, creating stark poverty, and solutions for a new way forward
Our remarkable presenters included Salam Al-Marayati, Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC); Dr. John Cobb, Center for Process Studies; Jodie Evans, CODEPINK; Rabbi Mel Gottlieb, PhD, Academy for Jewish Religion | CA; Hyepin Im, Faith and Community Empowerment; Ashley Gonzalez, Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE); Ben Poor, UniteHere! Local 11; and many more. We ended our day with Calls to Action prepared by Anthony Manousos on behalf of ICUJP - attached here so that you, too, can take action.
2020 George F. Regas Courageous Peacemaker Awards and Rev. Regas’s 90th Birthday Celebration
On the 19th anniversary of 9.11.2001 - the event that launched ICUJP – we presented two online events. The morning Friday Forum invited attendees to reflect on what ICUJP has meant to them over the years. In the evening, the 2020 Regas Peacemaker Awards began with a 90th birthday celebration of our leader and co-founder, the Rev. George Regas. Birthday greetings by video and in person from longtime ICUJP members filled the screen from around the world, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu from South Africa! We sang happy birthday and watched ICUJP videographer Robert Corsini’s fabulous short documentary, which brought so many reminders of George’s bravery and vision for a better world. It was a momentous occasion to appreciate his leadership and courage that has shaped so many of us.
We were thrilled to present the 2020 award for Justice to Black Lives Matter - Los Angeles and for Peace to The Most Rev. Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town; Jewish Voice for Peace; and World BEYOND War.
18th Annual Close Guantanamo Now! Rally
On January 10, 2020, allied organizations again joined us at the Downtown Federal Building for our annual demonstration protesting Guantanamo Bay Prison’s existence. This prison remains a shameful example of America’s brutal and racist incarceration of predominantly Muslim detainees who have been denied due process in the discredited “War on Terror.”
Speaking Truth to Power
Throughout the year, ICUJP has spoken out on crucial issues of justice and peace including statements on A Cry for Justice for George Floyd and opposing Israeli annexation, and endorsing a coalition opposing Proposition 20.
Your support has made this all possible.
Will you please help us keep the momentum in 2020 with a gift of $50, $100, $250, or more?
Flashback to 2001: In the days following 9/11, the Rev. George Regas saw what was coming. The U.S. would use the attacks as an excuse to start even more endless and unjustified wars. In response, Rev. Regas and other faith leaders launched ICUJP with the mission that Religious Communities Must Stop Blessing War and Violence.
Since then, ICUJP has kept the mission and widened our view. We view "violence" as all forms of injustice that harms people: racial, gender, economic, environmental, and more.
Along those lines, we’ve continued learning from experts and advocates in these areas and more; joined our allies to rally against immigrant detention, exploitation of hotel employees, and war with Iran; granted scholarships to young peace and justice advocates through the SoLa Community Peace Center; and much more.
All of this has only been possible because of you.
Can you give $50, $100, $250, or more today?
Every dollar goes directly toward calling out wrongs and inspiring action to make them right.
Still, so much remains to be done. We must keep:
- Advocating for families and individuals facing loss of income, eviction, and hunger due to COVID-19 lockdowns
- Revealing the criminal justice system’s racial and economic discrimination, which destroys millions of lives through profiling, mass incarceration, and harsh sentencing
- Telling congressional leaders to stop misspending our tax dollars on endless, unnecessary wars that kill countless innocent people
- Calling for compassionate justice for immigrants and the release of children from detention
That’s why we're counting on you to donate as much as you can.
Please join us in working for peace and justice by giving $50, $100, $150, or more today.
People like you give us hope. As someone who cares about peace and justice, you sustain our belief that together we really can help bring change and create a better world.
Since day one, we’ve supported ICUJP with our time, energy and donations. It has enriched our lives and sustained us throughout these difficult years. We know that you, too, will be glad that you are a part of making change happen. And we want to thank you in advance from the bottom of our hearts.
Stephen Rohde, Chair
Grace Dyrness, Vice Chair
ICUJP Board of Directors
Transcript of interviews with Mrs. Laura Smalley, former slave
AUDIO CLIP ONE
Mrs. Laura Smalley: They tend to all the children. Tend to the children. Just like, you know, you bring a
whole lot of children, you know, and put them down, you know, at one house. Well, there somebody
have to look over them, you know and tend to them, that way. Just a house full of them children.
And if one act bad, you know, they'd whup him. They'd whup him too, the old woman. And if the old
woman didn't tend to the children, they'd whup, they'd whup her too.
John Henry Faulk: Hmm.
Mrs. Laura Smalley: You know to make her tend to the children, she wasn't doing nothing. Well she
wasn't a cripted [crippled] woman like me, you know. She wasn't an old cripted woman, satisfied she
wasn't an old cripted woman like me. And they'd whup her. And they had trays, I don't know where
you see a tray. Wooden tray. Dug out, you know, all about that, that long. And all of them you know
would get around that tray with spoons, and just eat. I can recollect that because I ate out the tray.
John Henry Faulk: Hmm.
Mrs. Laura Smalley: With spoons, you know, and eat, treat you like mush or soup or something like
that. But feed them, you know, before twelve o'clock. And all them children get around there and just
eat, eat, eat out that thing. And that old woman, you know, she would tend to them. Her name, Aunt
Tishe. Yeah, I know what happen to her. Old woman, name Aunt Tishe. And she—
John Henry Faulk: Just like slopping hogs wasn't it?
Mrs. Laura Smalley: It, Just like a tray, you know, just like a tray, you know, you have, it's made just like
a hog pit, a hog trough, you know.
AUDIO CLIP TWO
John Henry Faulk: Well, do you remember, remember any of the slaves being sold? Do you
remember any slave sellers, you know, men that would just buy and sell slaves?
Mrs. Laura Smalley: No, sir. I never did see it. Why I never, us children never did know that, you know.
We heard talk of it, but then I reckon that was after, after slavery I reckon. We heard talk of it. I used
to hear them talk about, you know, you putting them on stumps, you know. Or something high, you
know and bidding them off like you did cattle.
John Henry Faulk: Hmm.
Mrs. Laura Smalley: Bid them off like you did cattle.
John Henry Faulk: Well, none of your folks were ever sold then?
Mrs. Laura Smalley: No, sir. None of them never was sold.
Unidentified Woman Interviewer: You were born right there and never did leave? You were?
Mrs. Laura Smalley: Born right there and stayed there until I was about nine, ten years old, maybe
more. Stayed right there. We didn't know where to go.
Unidentified Woman Interviewer: Uhmm.
Mrs. Laura Smalley: Mama and them didn't know where to go, you see after freedom broke. Just
turned, just like you turn something out, you know. Didn't know where to go. That's just where they
Unidentified Woman Interviewer: Uh huh. That's right.
Mrs. Laura Smalley: Hmm. Didn't know where to go. Turned us out just like, you know, you turn out
] I say. Didn't know where ta go.
AUDIO CLIP THREE
John Henry Faulk: You remember when the Civil War was being fought?
Mrs. Laura Smalley: Well, I, I can't remember much about it, but I remember this much: When uh, Mr.
Bethany, was gone a long time. Look like a long, long, time. And I remember all the next morning, it
when he, he got up. Now don't get, don't knock with that back there, Well, ah, he, he ah, we all got up
and all of them went to the house. Went to the house to see old master. And I thought old master
was dead, but he wasn't. He had been off to the war, and ah, come back. But then I didn't know, you
know, until the war. I just know he was gone a long time. All the niggas gathered around to see the
old master again. You know, and old master didn't tell you know, they was free.
John Henry Faulk: He didn't tell you that?
Mrs. Laura Smalley: Uh-uh. No he didn't tell. They worked there, I think now they say they worked
them, six months after that. Six months. And turn them loose on the nineteenth of June. That's why,
you know, we celebrate that day. Colored folks—celebrates that day.
Due to our statewide stay-at-home order, ICUJP Friday Forums will take place online until further notice. Until we meet in person once again, we hope you can join us virtually!
ICUJP Friday Forums
7:30-9:30 am weekly
Please note that for security reasons, log-in information will be sent in the weekly Forum invitations only to those on our email list.
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CAPTAIN TRUMP ON THE TITANIC
Rev. Stephen L. Fiske
Trump is like the captain of the Titanic and we are the passengers. The Titanic was the largest, most advanced and powerful ship of its time. The captain was so filled with the hubris of its invincibility and so obsessed with its power that he set the ship at full throttle on its maiden voyage to break the cross-Atlantic speed record, despite the dangers of icebergs in its course through the North Atlantic. He could not stop the huge boat in its accelerating momentum as the crew saw too late the danger in its path. When the boat hit the ice, the ship was not prepared to handle the catastrophe and prevent the disastrous loss of life that ensued.
The warning signs of the coronavirus were known in December, when Dr. Li Wenliang discovered the virus in his clinic in Wuhan City and issued a warning to colleagues. The Chinese authorities accused him of spreading rumors over the Internet and disturbing the social system in China. Dr. Li was forced to sign a government memo condemning him for illegal behavior and for spreading false information. He was arrested. The warnings were at first kept quiet by the Chinese who did not want the world to know of the disease. They thought they could keep it under control, but the attempt to suppress the whistleblower and the virus failed. The spread of the virus could not be contained, and the warning went out to the world. The momentum of the contagion quickly got out of hand. Dr. Li himself was infected and died in the hospital on February 7, as the pandemic was spreading worldwide.
Meanwhile, Trump ignored the warnings, scoffed at the science, and previously in 2018, had defunded and broken down the entire government pandemic response chain of command put in place by the Obama Administration precisely to monitor the warning signs, prepare for, and respond to such a pandemic. Now the Trump administration was completely unprepared. In his hubris and ignorance, the President insisted that the situation was under control, and that it was a Democratic “hoax.” “The risk to Americans remains very low,” he proclaimed and further stated, “we’re very, very ready for this. It’s a little like the regular flu that we have shots for. And we’ll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner.”
His misleading remarks, lacking fact and empathy, brought public panic in the face of the reality, while businesses began to suffer, the virus spread, and the Stock Market plunged. As the various world governments attempted a response without US leadership, the economies and health of the world began to sink like the Titanic. Now the pandemic continues to spread exponentially in the US and worldwide, and every day the death rate continues to rise as the news gets darker and darker.
How is it that the greatest and richest country in the world cannot provide enough personal protective gear for our nurses, doctors, and medical workers, who, at the front lines of this pandemic, are in danger of catching the virus and being immobilized themselves? Then who will take care of the tsunami of the sick with a shortage of health workers and hospital beds as has happened in Italy? How is it that respirators, ventilators, and the all-important test kits are in very short supply or not available at all? It sounds a lot like not enough lifeboats to save the panicking passengers from drowning in the icy waters, as the captain and crew scramble desperately for a way out of this, while the great ship goes down beneath them.
The crisis grew bigger than the President’s hubris. He could no longer blame it on the Democrats, or Obama, or Hillary, or on the media and fake news. His psyche needs a target to blame, however, to deflect attention from his own inadequacies. So he has called the disease “the China virus” invoking the vitriol of the Chinese and further condemnation for his blatant racism. His adversarial trade-war approach to dealing with China at a time we need all the data we can gather, all the help we can muster, is ill advised and self-defeating.
To his credit, he did begin to step aside and let the experts explain the depth and stark realities of the situation, and to mobilize the late starting but much-needed response. But bailouts are only a band aid in the holes of the hull. Now we must hope and pray that Trump’s response will slow the pandemic and eventually ease the arc of the disease. And we must all do our share to support the effort. But there is another danger lurking in this crisis.
In the mobilization to combat the pandemic, the president has now declared himself “a war-time president” and has invoked The Defense Production Act. Through this wartime act, the president is directing private industries to manufacture the urgently needed medical equipment along with the protective gear, at a hyper-production pace. While meeting this imperative, he has mobilized the National Guard and is engaging the Army Corps of Engineers. These may be effective and necessary steps, but also portend to inevitable enforcement of Martial Law. This can fit directly into the president’s continual quest to consolidate his power, to assume dictatorship, and further the demise of democracy. Under Martial law, should it be enacted and continue into November (God forbid), while we are all sheltered in place for the good of our own health, it would not be surprising to see the president attempt to postpone or cancel the election and try to continue in power, emulating his role model, Vladimir Putin.
But there is another alternative to this speculation. Unlike the Titanic, we are not doomed. As we are now all forced to partake in the social distancing and containment directives brought upon societies worldwide, we have the opportunity to pause from the acceleration of these drastic measures in this drastic time. We can reflect and reconsider who we are and how we function together in our nation and on this planet. We can mobilize our collective activism to defeat this disease, and, absent from marching in the streets and meeting in person, mobilize online to defeat the madness of this presidency.
We are the receivers of a most serious ongoing warning that transcends boundaries, cultures, nations, races, and politics. As we come together now and take the steps of battling this coronavirus, and as we hunker down in our own domains, let us see this as a chance to reverse direction and change course. Although we will bear the weight of increased suffering and loss, of economic hardship, especially those of us towards the bottom of the food chain, and face the haunting uncertainties of the daily developments, the virus is uniting the planet in the collective activism of the global community to save ourselves. We will get through this.
While the Coronavirus may well have derived from animals openly slaughtered, cleaned, and sold in the “wet market” of Wuhan, seemingly removed and far away deep within the culture and boundaries of China, it is symptomatic of a deeper disease we are called to recognize – blindness to the truth of our global interconnectedness and interdependence. The Coronavirus might have been contained, if the whistle blower had been heeded at first, if the warning had been put out sooner, and the proper preventative steps had immediately been taken, both in China and here. We are suffering the consequences of that blindness. Now we see that we are all in this together as a global people and can only solve it through global recognition, collaboration, and cooperation. For the first time in history, the will of the whole world is being forced to come together to pool our scientific, economic, environmental, social, and political resources to face the dilemma of our collective disease.
We must use this crisis to amend our ways, heal, recover, learn from, and see beyond this pandemic. As we go forward into the future, this disease-catalyzed collaboration and cooperation must now become the health-induced new norm for our planetary survival on all levels of societal endeavor. The world as we have known it has stopped, and we can use this crisis to restart our engines based on a rebuild and overhaul of all parts.
We can no longer be warring and embattled nations, tribes, religions, and factions built around the old model of walls of separation, exclusivity, of domination. colonization, and imperialism, of racism and sexism, of tribalism, enmity, and the divisive battling of competitive wills. We can no longer be debt slaves to the worldwide war economy and banking system which create economic disparity and injustices, and which support an adversarial, violent, weapons-based international culture that breeds contempt, mistrust, and the insanity of nuclear madness. None of this is healthy, nor sustainable.
We can no longer treat our planet as an endless resource pool to plunder and desecrate, and as a garbage dump for our toxic waste, enabling the collapse of nature’s biodiversity. We can no longer deny the existential threat of the climate crisis. We must make the same unified global effort as in our battle with the pandemic, by being Earth Stewards, mobilized towards eco-justice, conversion to renewables, and to sustainability, now before it is too late. We can no longer be drugged and mesmerized by the material values of monied interests concerned more with greed and profit than with people’s real needs and rights. All of us on this planet are inextricably intertwined, and we can no longer ignore the interdependent health concerns and wellbeing of the planetary population.
The current captain of the vessel of the most powerful nation in the world, Donald Trump, seems only concerned with his ego, wealth, and the public perception of him as a great king. He acquired the helm through the antiquated dysfunction of the electoral college system, with help from Russian interference, despite losing the popular vote by over 3 million. It is this current captain who espouses ultra-right wing nationalism, is disparaging to our allies, is a white supremist, denies science, is preoccupied with his wall, is a womanizer, violates the Constitution, and hob-nobs with dictators and despots while giving tax-cuts to the ultra-rich, furthering the demise of democracy into a corporatocracy. It is the current captain who denies climate change, withdraws from the Paris Accords, and does all he can to support the fossil fuel industry while desecrating the environment. It is the current captain at the helm who denies responsibility for his blindness to the danger that was fast approaching and for the stunning lack of preparedness for the calamity now taking place. The list of his corruptions, lies, and crimes is only exceeded by his total ineptness to meet the challenge of the Coronavirus pandemic.
We must see this as a time of extraordinary and challenging transition, of healing and rethinking, of embracing a new paradigm where interdependence, cooperation, honest dialogue, respect across differences, peaceful co-existence, non-violence, and earth stewardship are the pillars of a new global identity. We must embrace change and delete what no longer serves us. We must pray for our President, our nation, and the world. We are all travelers together on this spaceship Earth, spinning through space in a fragile life-support bubble like an orbiting incubator. Now is the time to wake up, heal, regroup, and learn how to keep the life-support systems on board afloat, operational, and healthy.
We must pray, but we must also act. We can no longer allow ourselves to be victims of suicidal policies led by a madman at the helm of an inherited system that is broken. We are better than that. We need to see that we are not this disease, we are not this dysfunction. We are divine beings born here to share this world in peace with each other, to embrace our journey towards health and wholeness of body, mind and spirit, and to grow and to blossom “endowed with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Unlike the passengers on the Titanic, as we get through this crisis, we have the opportunity to mobilize our activism, to correct our course, and to continue that pursuit across the ocean of our challenges, towards a new future with a new captain and crew at the helm, come November.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there 'is' such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”
William Faulkner said: “The past is never dead. It's not even past.”
John Connor in the Terminator movies said: “The future is not set. There is no fate, but what we make for ourselves.”
The Buddha said: “The past is already gone, the future is not yet here. There's only one moment for you to live, and that is the present moment.”
Fidel Castro, facing imprisonment for attempting to overthrow the Battista dictatorship in Cuba, said: "History will absolve me," meaning that in the future that was yet to be written, justice and liberation would triumph.Read more
My name is Miriam Perez and I am writing to thank you for sponsoring me as a Peace Kids Youth Intern. I am currently in 11th grade at Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools SVAH, class of 2020. Upon graduation, I hope to attend a four year university in order to pursue my dream job of becoming a graphic novel illustrator and author. Having this career will allow me to share different thoughts and ideas I have so that hopefully others can learn something from them.Read more
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War"
Originally published in CounterPunch
Ken Burns, branded as “America’s Storyteller,” was shut out at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards ceremony on Sunday, September 9. (The “primetime,” higher-profile Emmys were awarded later, on September 17.) Burns’s latest project, the mammoth PBS series, “The Vietnam War,” was nominated for Emmys in four categories. One by one, through the evening, all four prizes were awarded to other nominees.
It was a surprising conclusion to Burns’s quest for recognition, and canonization, of a project that cost $30 million dollars, and which spanned 10 evenings on PBS, totalling 18 hours of viewing time. (Burns and his associates and PBS had already failed to receive a Peabody nomination in April.)Read more
Life is a remarkable thing.
The next time ICUJP meets, I shall have turned 60. I find the thought of it extremely perplexing. It is only a little time ago that I remember my 6 th birthday with almost as much clarity and with a similar perplexity. What, I wondered, was so special about this day, and why was I receiving a new toy?
To me, now, as I contemplate all this, the experience is not just remarkable but equally it is beautiful. If there is any major difference between my 6th and 60 th birthdays it is, perhaps, that I am beginning to understand this mystery of life, if only by the minutest of fractions.Read more
A Reflection on my Moral and Spiritual Life
I want to talk about the importance and meaning of reflection to ethical living. Think about the basic meaning of a reflection. Consider what you see when you look at a reflection -- what Michael Jackson referred to as "The Man in the Mirror." The first and most important figure to whom we must apply a spiritual vision and a moral interrogation is ourselves. To me, some of the most vital moral and spiritual work we can do is in self-examination and self-criticism, identifying, learning from and overcoming our own transgressions, weaknesses and failures.
I was raised Orthodox Jewish in an immigrant working class family in Brooklyn. My father came to the US from Poland as a teenager in the early 1930s. My parents met on a picket line when my mother was fired for joining a union. I lived a very sheltered life in a small apartment in a large apartment house, walking distance from my yeshiva elementary school and from the two synagogues that we prayed at. I spent six days a week in yeshiva starting when I was about 4-1/2, all the way through high school, and Friday nights and Saturdays at the synagogue from as early as I can remember. I learned to read Hebrew pretty much simultaneously with English, and spent half of every school day studying Torah and the prophets, and later the Talmud in yeshiva high school.Read more