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Posts Tagged ‘justice’

The Syrian people have been living in crisis for several years, and their situation continues to worsen. In recent weeks the overwhelming challenges facing refugees and internally displaced persons have been in the news with greater regularity, due in part to sorrowful stories of deaths while en route to seek sanctuary in Europe. Many countries that should be hosting people in need are, instead, tightening their borders.

We are meant to carry each other, to show compassion, to reach out with love to those in need. If you are looking for a way to contribute financial resources, I highly recommend reading about the work of Mercy Corps.

Many ordinary citizens are reaching out and trying to offer assistance, urging their governments to adopt humane and welcoming policies. This morning I read of the first refugees arriving not far from my home in southeastern Pennsylvania. In my area, Church World Service is one of the agencies coordinating welcome for Syrian families.

While watching this news unfold, I have been revisiting a beautiful book I reviewed on this blog, The Other Face of God: When the stranger calls us home. I am re-posting the review here in its entirety.

In The Other Face of God, Mary Jo Leddy shares stories of her life at Romero House, a home for people who are, for now, refugees seeking a new home. Her stories describe the lives of individuals with whom she has lived, and out of her experiences a theology of neighborliness and justice emerges. How does the stranger “calls us home”? In Leddy’s words, “Living in the shelter of each other, we begin to live in the neighborhood of God.” This is a powerful book, full of passion and deep faith. As I read, the prophet Micah’s words rang in my heart: “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Through living in Romero House in Toronto for more than twenty years, Leddy has built relationships not only with those living in her house, but in the neighborhood. In building relationships with Romero House residents, Leddy has experienced the critical importance of respecting individual people, not treating people as a “cause” or an “issue.” Strangers can become neighbors when we learn to truly see one another. The distance between “us” and “them” disappears when people work alongside one another to plant a garden, to plan a party, to care for the needy in their midst.

Borders and boundaries between people do not need to be viewed as barriers. Rather, they can be meeting places. When we meet in a spirit of compassion, that meeting place can be full of the Holy Spirit. In Leddy’s view, a Christian should not try “to see Christ in the poor,” but to recognize that the spirit of Christ lives along the border—between you and I, between one and another, wherever compassion meets suffering.

Her narrative addresses the harsh and discouraging realities that people who are living without a country must face. The bureaucratic hurdles for those seeking residency and employment are many, and indifferent to individuality. I appreciated that Leddy drew upon Hannah Arendt‘s analysis of bureaucratic systems, and I think she did so in a way that would be very clear for readers without background in political philosophy. As a counter to the indifference of systems, people of faith are called to love our “enemies.” Leddy provides an insightful analysis of the ways that governments can turn “strangers” into “enemies” to further their political agendas.

Through her life and her writing, Leddy offers a powerful call for the works of mercy to be given “a place of privilege” in religious communities. Like the merciful Samaritan in Luke 10, we must help the stranger in need. We must be willing to truly see the face of a stranger, rather than a “problem,” and to allow compassion to emerge. We must remember that the parable ends with the command of Jesus that we “go and do likewise.”

Amidst the diversity of religious beliefs and places of origin, “perhaps there is only one distinction that matters: those who are learning to love their neighbors and those who remain indifferent to them.”

Mary Jo Leddy’s The Other Face of God: When the stranger calls us home was published by Orbis Books in 2011.

Disclaimer: This review is freely given. No fee was received.

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Nadia Bolz-Weber writes of a faith that caught her completely off guard, a faith grounded in her lived experience. With her direct and refreshing voice, Pastor Nadia testifies that when you are a sober alcoholic, and you have felt your life saved by forces completely beyond your abilities to explain, resurrection begins to make sense. It becomes the most real thing in the world. Pastor Nadia’s memoir, Pastrix: The cranky, beautiful faith of a sinner and saint is honest, powerful, and brought tears to my eyes.

She writes about the church of her youth; encountering the profound limitations of churches; journeying through reckless behavior and toward sobriety; entering, with surprise, into seminary; founding a church where God’s mercy has a chance to shine through.

I have been reading the sermons and columns of Pastor Nadia for a while now, and I find her theology consistently inspiring. She preaches about Jesus transcending cultural boundaries, Jesus inviting everyone to the table, Jesus expecting all of us to forgive, Jesus calling for us to love everyone—especially when it is hard. If I lived in Denver, I feel certain I would make a home at Pastor Nadia’s church, House for All Sinners and Saints.

With eagerness I await Pastor Nadia’s forthcoming book, Accidental Saints: Finding God in all the wrong people, to be released September 2015.

Meanwhile, I shall try to remember this: “The kingdom of heaven, which Jesus talked about all the time, is, as he said, here. At hand. It’s now. Wherever you are. In ways you’d never expect.”

Disclaimer: This review is based on a copy of the book borrowed from my local public library. No fee was received.

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“Even when one sees something ugly in another person, one should give heart to the fact that there, too, dwells the name of the Blessed One, for there is no place empty of God.” —Rabbi Jacob Joseph Katz
I strongly recommend From Enemy to Friend: Jewish wisdom and the pursuit of peace to all readers interested in interreligious dialogue and peacemaking. In this book Rabbi Amy Eilberg has done a compelling job presenting personal stories, classical Jewish texts, and peace and conflict theory to bring readers a powerful vision to guide our everyday lives as peacebuilders. There is inspiration for all who feel that “peace is not a utopian ideal, but a daily need.”

For anyone unfamiliar with the rich peace tradition in Jewish texts, Rabbi Eilberg shares that “the command repeated more frequently than any other in the Torah — 36 times, in fact — is the command to love, to reach out to, and do justice to the stranger.” She offers rigorous yet accessible engagement with Jewish texts, highlighting the many ways that peacemaking forms a central component of Jewish teachings.

Rabbi Eilberg illustrates that peacemaking is not merely a set of tools or techniques, but a way of being in daily life. As peacemakers, we must begin with transforming our own hearts, and extend our efforts into the world of our neighbors. With regular practice, we can learn to “unclench our fists, minds, and hearts when we feel wounded,” and live into the truth that “all human beings, even those who have hurt and threatened us, are human creatures like ourselves, worthy of the same respect and dignity we demand for ourselves.”

When the fear and hate that are revealed in the news become overwhelming, we can remember that many ordinary people hold peacemaking as the central value. For example, I learned of the exciting work of Clergy Beyond Borders, essential for building understanding in a pluralistic society. In another example of peacemaking lived, Rabbi Eilberg writes about the intentional community Oasis of Peace/Neve Shalom/Wahat al Salam, where Jewish and Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel live together. Across our religious traditions we need guidance and inspiration, to learn to lay aside our fears and suspicions of difference that often get in the way of building relationships.

Readers will find that From Enemy to Friend offers inspiration, deepened understanding, and rich material for reflection. In a world that is hungry for peace, Rabbi Eilberg’s inspiring and helpful work deserves a wide audience.

Disclaimer: A copy of his book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. No fee was received.

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In the past few weeks, when I sit down to write my book reviews, I simply cannot concentrate. Instead of writing, I revisit news sites, reading too much about the humanitarian crisis in Syria. I have a stack of wonderful books awaiting their reviews, yet I cannot share them with you today.

Today, I ask you to pray. Please, pray the God in God’s mercy will bring peace to Syria. Pray that God in God’s mercy will transform hearts so that justice and true security are restored to the people.

After you pray, please consider making a donation to Mercy Corps. They are doing wonderful work to help Syrian refugees with shelter, clean water, and trauma counseling. Imagine, nearly 2 million people have had to flee their homes. More than half of those people are children. Even if you only can spare a dollar, donate before August 31 and your donation will be doubled.

Mercy Corps: Be the Change

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Let justice roll down like a mighty river and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. —Amos 5:24

When I read this verse, I hear it in the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As Dr. King well knew, the call of the prophets of the Hebrew Bible continues to have powerful resonance and compelling relevance for our needy world. We need to be challenged and pushed, because continually turning to God is hard work. Remembering to show mercy to the vulnerable is not always easy; complacency and busyness get in the way.

How would it feel to hear this verse read by a woman, calling other women to work together and to examine their hearts? With Rebecca Seiling’s new book, I have an opportunity to explore this question. In Let Justice Roll Down: Women engaging the world, Rebecca Seiling has prepared a beautiful study of the book of Amos, demonstrating the importance of this text for our times and empowering women to live the message of Amos. She asks the urgent question, “How can we use our hands and our bodies to worship God during the week, after our corporate worship is over?”

Commissioned by Mennonite Women Canada and Mennonite Women USA, Let Justice Roll Down conveys the message of Amos through the lens of the Mennonite commitment to peacemaking, nonviolence, and reconciliation. The author makes clear her status as a woman from one of the wealthier countries of North America, and her writing carries reminders to be aware of one’s social position and cultural identity. The words of Amos will reach the ears of those with material wealth in a different way than it reaches those who suffer material deprivations.

The book is very useful for personal reflection, but ideal for a women’s gathering, small group, or class, where women together can explore what the cry of Amos means for their lives. Each chapter includes a suggested reading from Amos, an overview that contextualizes the verse, questions to ask oneself or discuss in a group, suggestions for songs, and a closing prayer. While written from a perspective of Mennonite Anabaptist theology, women from across denominational lines will find the writing speaks to them.

I encourage you to read Let Justice Roll Down. Let Amos inspire you, and the prayer of Rebecca Seiling fill your heart: “God of justice, come and be light for our eyes.”

Disclosure: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. No fee was received.

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On days when you need a lift, a few words of encouragement can be a blessing. If you are seeking inspiration, you can turn to Mothers, Sisters, Daughters: Standing on their shoulders by Edwina Gateley and Sandra Mattucci. Gateley offers brief biographies of 22 inspiring women, followed by a poem about each woman’s life work and its reverberations in the world. Each selection is accompanied by a portrait rendered by Mattucci.

The women featured in the book were all chosen because they “brought some light into our world.” The women include the famous, the sainted, and the little known; lives of the 20th-21st century, the middle ages, and biblical times. It is powerful to see the story of U.S.-born Rachel Corrie, who died in 2003 while demonstrating her commitment to peace, alongside the story of Brigid of Kildare, 5th-century Irish religious leader. We read about Miriam, sister of Moses, and then Annalena Tonelli, who lived a life of radical poverty while bringing health services to the poor in Africa. Each woman’s story manifests deep faith and commitment, and carries a strength of purpose. The book can be read through cover to cover, or you can choose one biography at a time from any place in the book.

This volume would provide a helpful focus for a women’s retreat or study group. It gives a starting point for readers who want to learn about women’s contributions in many arenas of social justice and human rights work. Mothers, Sisters, Daughters would make a suitable gift for women who are interested in history, inspirational stories, or poetry. May these women continue to inspire and uplift future generations.

 

Disclosure: Orbis Books kindly provided a copy of this book for review purposes.

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In The Other Face of God, Mary Jo Leddy shares stories of her life at Romero House, a home for people who are, for now, refugees seeking a new home. Her stories describe the lives of individuals with whom she has lived, and out of her experiences a theology of neighborliness and justice emerges. How does the stranger “calls us home”? In Leddy’s words, “Living in the shelter of each other, we begin to live in the neighborhood of God.” This is a powerful book, full of passion and deep faith. As I read, the prophet Micah’s words rang in my heart: “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Through living in Romero House in Toronto for more than twenty years, Leddy has built relationships not only with those living in her house, but in the neighborhood. In building relationships with Romero House residents, Leddy has experienced the critical importance of respecting individual people, not treating people as a “cause” or an “issue.” Strangers can become neighbors when we learn to truly see one another. The distance between “us” and “them” disappears when people work alongside one another to plant a garden, to plan a party, to care for the needy in their midst.

Borders and boundaries between people do not need to be viewed as barriers. Rather, they can be meeting places. When we meet in a spirit of compassion, that meeting place can be full of the Holy Spirit. In Leddy’s view, a Christian should not try “to see Christ in the poor,” but to recognize that the spirit of Christ lives along the border—between you and I, between one and another, wherever compassion meets suffering.

Her narrative addresses the harsh and discouraging realities that people who are living without a country must face. The bureaucratic hurdles for those seeking residency and employment are many, and indifferent to individuality. I appreciated that Leddy drew upon Hannah Arendt‘s analysis of bureaucratic systems, and I think she did so in a way that would be very clear for readers without background in political philosophy. As a counter to the indifference of systems, people of faith are called to love our “enemies.” Leddy provides an insightful analysis of the ways that governments can turn “strangers” into “enemies” to further their political agendas.

Through her life and her writing, Leddy offers a powerful call for the works of mercy to be given “a place of privilege” in religious communities. Like the merciful Samaritan in Luke 10, we must help the stranger in need. We must be willing to truly see the face of a stranger, rather than a “problem,” and to allow compassion to emerge. We must remember that the parable ends with the command of Jesus that we “go and do likewise.”

Amidst the diversity of religious beliefs and places of origin, “perhaps there is only one distinction that matters: those who are learning to love their neighbors and those who remain indifferent to them.”

Mary Jo Leddy’s The Other Face of God: When the stranger calls us home was published by Orbis Books in 2011.

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