01: A New Sanctuary Movement is taking shape that could put churches near the center of the American debate on immigration. A small but growing coalition of churches, synagogues and other houses of worship are seeking to rehabilitate the 1980s sanctuary movement by that name, where congregations took in illegal immigrants escaping political violence in their countries. This time, the movement is challenging the immigration system itself, as the nation debates how to deal with the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the USA. The congregations say the immigration system mistreats immigrants and breaks families apart and wants to end raids of job sites that have led to the arrest of thousands of undocumented workers.
Congregations from New York to San Diego have begun to view supporting illegal immigrants — and occasionally sheltering them from deportation — as a moral and religious duty. Churches in Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Chicago and New York are helping and housing immigrants, and such denominations as the Presbyterian Church and the United Church of Christ have given the movement their unofficial support. The movement’s leaders acknowledge their protection is mostly symbolic because the government has the legal authority to send agents into a church and detain immigrants, although they’re betting the government won’t. So far, only a handful of immigrants across the nation are getting financial, legal and other help from the movement. (Source: USA Today, July 8)
02: Ann Holmes Redding is one of the first Christian clergy to claim both a Christian and Muslim identity. Redding, an African-American priest in the Episcopal Church, caused a wave of controversy in an already fragile and contentious church body when she claimed to be “100 percent Christian and 100 percent Muslim.” The bishop of the Seattle diocese where Redding is a priest has publicly supported her position, but the Rhode Island bishop who ordained and supervises Redding, has suspended her for one year. Redding first became interested in Islam through interfaith contacts she had with Muslim leaders who spoke and prayed at her church, St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle. (Source: World, July 21)
03: The new partnership of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and the British relief group Muslim Aid, aims to foster credibility for both Muslim work in Christian countries and Christian relief efforts in Islamic societies. The new arrangement codifies what had been a grassroots relationship dating back to the relief efforts surrounding the tsunami in Sri Lanka in 2004. Both groups will now work together in funneling financial and personal resources as needed in specific hotspots around the world. So far the initiative has caused little protest among Muslim or Methodist constituents, mainly because these groups’ strict humanitarian agendas forbid any proselytizing or evangelism. (Source: World, July 21)
04: One of the leading French Muslim movements, the Union of Islamic Organizations of France (Union des Organisations Islamiques de France, UOIF) is representative of transformations undergone by Islamism, both in Muslim home countries and in the diaspora, according to French researcher Samir Amghar. Originally a minor player on the French Muslim scene, the UOIF won wide support after siding with Muslim girls expelled from schools in 1989 because they insisted on wearing headscarves. Since the 1990s, the UOIF increasingly looked for ways to gain legitimacy and respectability.
Overcoming suspicions, it became accepted from the late 1990s as one of the partners in discussions between the French government and French Muslim organizations. The UOIF belongs to the international networks of the Muslim Brotherhood. The history of the UOIF reflects wider developments within Islamic movements across the Muslim world. Its adhesion to Western political discourse since the 1990 parallels the adoption of democratic values by the moderate segments of Islamism in several Muslim countries.
The UOIF was a leading proponent of the creation of the European Council on Fatwa and Research in 1997. While remaining faithful to Muslim orthodoxy, the council’s purpose is to “contextualize” Islam in a Western environment. In contrast to its initial views, the UOIF no longer considers the West as a temporary place of residence for Muslims, expecting to return to their home countries after political changes would take place. It now sees its role as the training of the future Muslim elite in France and primarily targets the Muslim middle class, such as students. Professional success and careers are valued and encouraged.
The UOIF has become less attractive for jobless and lower-class Muslims in the French banlieues: those segments among young French Muslims tend to find Salafis or the Tabligh (a pietist group with roots in Pakistan) more appealing. (Source:La Vie des Idees, May-June; http://www.repid.com) —By Jean-Francois Mayer