Local interfaith group to host free film screening and discussion on immigration at LRU on March 1st

The Catawba Valley Interfaith Council (CVIC) and Lenoir-Rhyne University’s Department of Religious Studies will be screening the documentary short Santuario (SantuarioFilm.com) on Sunday, March 1st at 3 PM in Belk Centrum on the campus at of Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory. The screening will be followed by a discussion, with an opportunity for questions and answers from the public, by a panel of local experts on immigration and asylum. Panelists for the event will include Christine Merriman, a member of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Greensboro, Carla Vesta, a local immigration attorney, and Catawba County Sherriff Don Brown.

Juana Luz Tobar Ortega came to the United States over two decades ago as an asylum seeker from Guatemala. Now a grandmother and proud mother of a recent Davidson County Community College graduate, she has been living in North Carolina for eight years and has checked in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) annually and received a stay of deportation. She has no criminal record and had been steadily employed as a seamstress and an active member of her Pentecostal church until 2017.

But in April of that year, she was told without warning that she had 30 days to leave the country or be deported. Unwilling to leave her four children and two granddaughters to return to Guatemala, Juana entered sanctuary at an Episcopal church in Greensboro in May of 2017. Unable to leave for work or be at home with her family, she is now completely confined to the church grounds.

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which CVIC celebrates each year around the anniversary of its signing, includes the ‘right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution,’” said CVIC President and Temple Beth Shalom Rabbi Dennis Jones. “As non-criminal deportation cases like Juana’s have skyrocketed in recent years, we believe it is important for everyone to better understand the circumstances of her situation and hear from the local experts.”

CVIC is a local not-for-profit organization of faith-based and secular communities in the Catawba Valley serving as a catalyst for hope and cooperating for the purpose of dialogue, information sharing, and celebration. Their purpose is to create a more compassionate community and honor the rich diversity of religious, spiritual, and secular traditions in the community. The public is invited to attend this free event and support this important milestone in human rights history.

Head of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services to speak in Hickory for Human Rights Day

The Catawba Valley Interfaith Council (CVIC) is hosting its fifth annual Human Rights Day commemoration at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church ELCA (2259 12th Ave NE in Hickory) on Sunday, December 1st. The service begins at 3:00 PM and will be followed by a short reception with warm cider and cookies. This year’s keynote speaker is Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) with offices in Baltimore, Maryland.

Since its founding in 1939, LIRS has worked to uphold the uniquely American ideal that welcoming immigrants from across the globe with open arms is essential to our nation’s progress and prosperity. “The question we must ask ourselves today,” said Vignarajah, is whether we remain that great nation. Whether we will be defined by walls and cages or by bridges and opportunity” for immigrants and refugees.

Krish O’Mara Vignarajah

A refugee from civil war herself, Vignarajah was appointed to her current role in February of this year. She came to the United States with her parents when she was nine years old. Educated in Baltimore public schools, she studied at Yale University and law school and at Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar. She taught international law at Georgetown University as an adjunct professor. She worked at McKinsey & Company, practiced law at Jenner & Block in Washington, D.C., and clerked for Chief Judge Michael Boudin on the U.S. Court of Appeals.

More recently, Vignarajah served as Policy Director for Michelle Obama and led the President’s and First Lady’s signature Let Girls Learn initiative. Before the White House, she served as Senior Advisor at the State Department under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of State John Kerry, where she coordinated development and implementation of multiple programs including those concerning refugees and migration, engagement with religious communities, the legal dimensions of U.S. foreign policy, and regional issues relating to Africa and the Middle East.

“Now more than ever, we are excited to have someone with her background and knowledge about the experience of immigrant and refugee communities in the United States,” said Rabbi President Dennis Jones (CVIC President). “We couldn’t ask for a more qualified speaker at this time to address this important and pressing issue in the context of our fifth commemoration of Human Rights Day in Hickory.”

In December of 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the aftermath of the Second World War. Articles 13, 14, and 15 specifically address internal and external migration and national identity, including the “right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” This historic event is celebrated each December as Human Rights Day.

CVIC is a local not-for-profit organization of faith-based and secular communities in the Catawba Valley serving as a catalyst for hope and cooperating for the purpose of dialogue, information sharing, and celebration. Their purpose is to create a more compassionate community and honor the rich diversity of religious, spiritual, and secular traditions in the community. The public is invited to attend this free event and support this important milestone in human rights history.

NOTE This #GivingTuesday we’re raising money for Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and your contribution will make an impact, whether you donate $5 or $500. Every little bit helps. And on GivingTuesday Dec 3, Facebook will match a total of $7 million in donations first come, first serve starting at 8 AM ET. Thank you for your support!

Statement on terrorist attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand

The Board of Directors for the Catawba Valley Interfaith Council (CVIC) issued the following statement in response to the terrorist shootings at the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand last week:

It is tragic but true that we humans have a regrettable capacity for hate and violence. The ruthless killing of 50 and the injuring of so many others in New Zealand is the latest evidence. We in the leadership of the Catawba Valley Interfaith Council have had our hearts broken by this news. No words can express the sorrow we feel for the pain and loss suffered by so many as a result of this terrorist act. As hard as it is to do, it is worth stepping back and trying to understand both causes and cures for such violence toward innocent others. There seems to be consensus that an ideology stoked by fear is one of the root causes of this destructive dynamic. We fear what we do not know, what seems “foreign,” what we think is a threat to our own well-being. In our present-day American society, this tendency seems especially targeted toward those in the Muslim community, although persons of other races and religions are certainly not immune, such as those of African-American, Jewish, and Hispanic heritage. While the susceptibility to associated ideologies of hate can develop and be spread in a viral manner in this era of electronic social media, it is fortunate that we humans also have an extraordinarily strong capacity for love and compassion; this is the key to the antidote for such toxic views.

As we creatively consider ways to exercise our compassionate pro-social impulses, it is imperative to address the problem of violence at the macro level in terms of societal policies. But, perhaps equally critical is to focus on healing efforts closer to home in the context of our own families and community. What can we, each of us, do in our daily lives to reduce the tendency toward viewing those who are different from ourselves as so great a threat as to justify verbal and/or physical attack? There are no easy answers, and action can be uncomfortable. But for a start, we can try to understand and accept the truth that what we have in common is vastly greater than our differences. We are more likely to discover this if we talk with each other and really listen to each other in order to try to understand where our needs and interests overlap. Again, each of us has opportunities to do this. Let us therefore wake up and realize that the alternative is simply not acceptable in the long run if we humans are to survive and thrive on this single precious planet that we are so fortunate to inhabit together. Let us take responsibility and stand up for our true “in-group,” the entire human race.

The Board is sending the following message to members and friends of the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre:

Catawba Valley Interfaith Council upholds and supports you in your time of grief and sorrow. Our organization came into being a few years ago to help build trust and understanding among the many faith groups in the community and to foster love that unites and celebrates diversity. The hate motivated tragedy that you have experienced makes us more determined than ever to speak out and act in ways that bring people together for the good of all.

Your congregations have experienced much suffering and loss. We suffer with you because when any part of the human family experiences acts of violence and expressions of hate, everyone is less safe. As we dream and plan for a new tomorrow, it is important that we labor together to break down all that separates and work together to construct a climate where everyone feels secure and loved.

Catawba Valley Interfaith Council stands with the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre as you deal with everything such a terrible expression of hate has caused. It is our hope that as all of us move through the healing process, we may experience a brighter future for our faith communities and for our nations.

In your moment of grief and loss, please know that your friends and neighbors across the sea hold all of you in our hearts, in our thoughts, and in our prayers. We pledge to work tirelessly to foster understanding and peace between the adherents of all faiths and between the inhabitants of all lands.

Catawba Valley Interfaith Council
Board of Directors

Rabbi Dennis Jones (Jewish)
Rev. Donald P. Flick (Christian)
Robert Nehls (Christian)
John Esse, Ph.D. (Buddhist)
Julie Cline (Unitarian Universalist)
William Keener (Humanist)
Mindy Makant, Ph.D. (Christian)
Rev. Cliff Moone (Christian)
Rev. Nancy Stahl (Christian)
Michele Francois (Christian)
Barbara Laufer, Ph.D. (Jewish)
Rev. Patrick Campbell (Christian)
Rev. Jill Isola (Christian)
Rev. Jennifer Forrester (Christian)

Crying Kiwi 02

Cartoon of a crying kiwi, drawn by Invercargill cartoonist Shaun Yeo in response to the 50 people killed in the Christchurch mosque shootings of 15 March 2019. This cartoon was widely printed and shared in the aftermath of the attacks, and was described as “perfectly capturing this shocking and horrendous tragedy” (Source: Wikipedia – CC BY-SA 4.0)

City of Hickory Proclaims December 10th Human Rights Day

Update (12/9): Due to snow, our roads are still unsafe to travel and Lenoir-Rhyne University facilities will be closed tomorrow (Monday, Dec. 10). As a result, we are rescheduling our Human Rights Day service to Monday, December 17 (location pending). We’ll post updates to this event and send a follow-up email later in the week once the venue is confirmed.

HICKORY – The City of Hickory has proclaimed Monday, December10 as Human Rights Day and Saturday, December 15 as Bill of Rights Day again this year. The proclamation, read by Mayor Hank Guess on behalf of the Hickory City Council at their meeting on Tuesday night, recognizes the need for individuals and their governments to “take a stand and continue to work together to make freedom, justice and equal opportunity available for all” while encouraging the citizens of Hickory to reflect on the importance of our nation’s history.

Human Rights Day is observed internationally each year on December 10, the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This year marks its 70thanniversary. Bill of Rights Day is observed in the United States every year on December15, the day the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution were ratified in 1791.These occasions are intended to serve as reminders that human rights empower people and are relevant to all of us, every day.

CVIC accepts proclamation.
Mayor Hank Guess presents proclamation to Rabbi Dennis Jones and Rev. Cliff Moone.

To learn more about the Universal Declaration and the right to education in particular, the Catawba Valley Interfaith Council (CVIC) encourages the public to attend its annual Human Rights Day service at 7:00 pm on Monday, December 10 in Grace Chapel at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory. Bobbie Cavnar, the 2016 State Teacher of the Year for North Carolina, will be their keynote speaker and talk about education as a human right. “Human Rights Day reminds us that our shared humanity is rooted in these universal values and that equality, justice and freedom prevent violence and sustain peace,” said Rabbi Dennis Jones (CVIC President).

Bobbie Cavnar with his students
Bobbie Cavnar with students.

Drafted by a diverse group of representatives from all regions of the world, including Eleanor Roosevelt who served as the first Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights and played an instrumental role in its creation and adoption, the Universal Declaration sets out universal values and a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations and establishes the equal dignity and worth of every person.

Hansa Mehta of India, an advocate for women’s rights and the only other female delegate to the Commission, is widely credited with changing the phrase “All men are born free and equal” to “All human beings are born free and equal” in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration. Begum Shaista Ikramullah of Pakistan advocated for freedom, equality and choice and championed the inclusion of Article 16, on equal rights in marriage, which she saw as a way to combat child marriage and forced marriage.

CVIC’s annual celebration of Human Rights Day is intended to engage the Catawba Valley community to help promote understanding of how the Universal Declaration empowers us all and to encourage further reflection on the ways that each of us can stand up for rights, every day. CVIC is a local not-for-profit organization of faith-based and secular communities in the Catawba Valley serving as a catalyst for hope and cooperating for the purpose of dialogue, information sharing, and celebration.

Media inquires: CatawbaValleyInterfaithCouncil@Gmail.com 

Human Rights Day Service to Focus on the Right to Education

Update (12/9): Due to snow, our roads are still unsafe to travel and Lenoir-Rhyne University facilities will be closed tomorrow (Monday, Dec. 10). As a result, we are rescheduling our Human Rights Day service to Monday, December 17 (location pending). We’ll post updates to this event and send a follow-up email later in the week once the venue is confirmed.

HICKORY – The Catawba Valley Interfaith Council (CVIC) invites the public to join them on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for their annual celebration of Human Rights Day. The service will be at 7:00 pm on Monday, December 10 in Grace Chapel at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory. Bobbie Cavnar, the 2016 State Teacher of the Year for North Carolina, will be the keynote speaker and talk about education as a human right.

Copy+of+Copy+of+IMG_8944Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Mr. Cavnar attended Florida State University and earned a Master of Arts in English from The University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2011. He started his teaching career as a student teaching intern at Marjory Stonemon Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and is currently an Advanced Placement Literature teacher and English Department Chair at South Point High School in Gaston County where he has taught for the past 14 years. Cavnar is the recipient of numerous awards for teaching excellence, and he serves as teacher advisor to the North Carolina State Board of Education and the Governor’s Education Advisory Council. He believes the opportunity of a free, public, and equal education offered to all Americans is not only fundamental to the success of our society but also to keeping the historical promise made in our own founding documents.

Article 26 of the Universal Declaration affirms the right to go to school, continue your studies as far as you wish and learn regardless of race, religion or country of origin. Drafted by a diverse group of people from Australia, Canada, Chile, China, France, Lebanon, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States, the Universal Declaration was designed to prevent the repetition of the horrific human rights violations that had been committed during World War II. In 1948 the drafting committee of the United Nation’s Commission on Human Rights was chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, an Episcopalian, who combined her passion for human rights with a political realism that many credit with making this accomplishment possible. A Lebanese academic, philosopher, and ethicist, Charles Malik, led the philosophical debate over the Universal Declaration, and the Chinese playwright, philosopher, diplomat and Vice Chair Peng Chun Chang is said to have argued for the universal validity of Confucianism. Rene Cassin, a jurist, judge, and legal advisor to Charles de Gaulle, wrote the first draft, based on a blueprint provided by John Humphrey, a Canadian secular humanist and Director of the UN’s Human Rights Division.

UDHR_Anim3Christian churches, whose leaders served as consultants to the Commission, hailed the passage of the Universal Declaration and claimed a share in credit for what they described as “one of the outstanding achievements of the United Nations since its establishment.” Christian mission organizations in particular welcomed “one of the most important and significant statements of its kind” from Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, the delegate from Pakistan, who rose to support the right of individuals to change their religious belief (Religion News Service, 1948). The wife of the president of Argentina, Evita Peron, made a last minute plea over the radio to the U.N. in favor of care for the elderly.

CVIC’s annual celebration of Human Rights Day is intended to engage the Catawba Valley community to help promote understanding of how the Universal Declaration empowers us and to encourage further reflection on the ways that each of us can stand up for rights, every day. As it has done the past few years, CVIC will again ask the Hickory City Council to issue a proclamation recognizing Human Rights Day and the need to defend human rights for everyone. CVIC is a local not-for-profit organization of faith-based and secular communities in the Catawba Valley serving as a catalyst for hope and cooperating for the purpose of dialogue, information sharing, and celebration.

Media inquiries: CatawbaValleyInterfaithCouncil@GMail.com