The Parliament Blog

‘Parliament Liberia’ Ambassador Raises Hope for Interfaith During Ebola Crisis

Sharing an update with the Parliament about his work in Liberia during the recent Ebola crisis, Ambassador of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Victor Garpulee, gives us hope that in times of humanitarian emergency, commitment to the Interfaith movement is building support between neighbors. Here is his pictorial essay:

Victor’s Parliament of the World’s Religions group in Liberia demonstrates will and commitment to work with students, as well as religious, social, and other institutions to promote the Parliament’s Faiths Against Hate initiative, and eliminate violence and discrimination.





“The banner above is a working material of Parliament Liberia as we go in communities and institutions where there are people of difference faith to sensitize them about respecting people of other faiths.”




An awareness of the Ebola epidemic that is taking away the lives of the people of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.


 


The below letter shows how Parliament Liberia is demonstrating will to work with various institutions across the country.



August 21st, 2014 at 1:12 am

Jainism’s Paryushan Period a Time for Fasting and Forgiveness (August 22 – 31, 2014)

Flickr User Eyton Z captures religious observance in a Jain temple in India.

Paryushan is one of the two most important religious periods for Jains, the other festival is Diwali (the Celebration of Light). According to the Western Calendar, it begins this year on August 22; depending on the sect of Jainism, it can last from eight to ten days.

In India, the native land of the Jain religion, Paryushan comes during the annual monsoon, or rainy season. During this season, the land teems with new life–earthworms, frogs, mosquitos, and other insects come out of hibernation. Since Jains view all life as sacred, including even insects, extra care must be taken not to harm any living creature. Since the simple act of walking can cause one to inadvertently step on an insect, extensive travel is prohibited for monks and nuns. They stay in town for a period of about four months.

During the Paryushan period, monks and laity observe fasting for up to eight days. Those who can’t observe fasting eat only one or two times during the day. When Jains fast, no solid or liquid food is consumed and only boiled water is used from sunrise to sunset. The purpose of fasting is to cleanse oneself of bad karma (the accumulation of bad deeds and their consequences). During this time period Jains do not eat green and root vegetables. They eat lentils, wheat, rice, and other similar foods. They also cut down on cooking activities, since lighting a fire kills living organisms in the air. Jains believe that life exists in plants, earth, fire, water and air so they reduce the consumption of any of these.

Jains observe complete holidays during this period as they go to temples to pray to god, and to listen to sermons given by monks. They do Samayik and Pratikraman:

Samayik means sitting down at one location for a minimum of forty-eight minutes. During this one cannot eat or drink or do any mundane chores. Instead, one should meditate, read holy books and scriptures, listen to sermons, chant mantras, or count rosary beads.

During Paryushan Jains do Pratikraman twice a day, once in the morning before the sunrise and other one after the sunset. Pratikraman means “turning back, confessing, and asking for forgiveness.” They reflect on their daily lives based on five principles to see if they have done anything wrong. These five principles are non-violence, truth-telling, non-stealing, celibacy, non-attachment to wealth and materialistic things in life, and attitudes expressed toward others—including anger, egotism, deception, and greed. Jains ask for forgiveness from everyone, mentally and verbally, and forgive others who may have behaved unjustly toward them.

The last day of the Paryushan is called Samvastari. It is an annual confession day. Everyone fasts for that day. On the last day of the Paryushan all Jain families get together and do Samvastari Pratikraman  following the same daily ritual of Pratikraman, but with special emphasis placed on examining life based on the five principles and behavior with others for the entire year. They extend forgiveness to others, including strangers. They also ask for forgiveness from all the living beings on the planet. Jains believe someone who is a stranger to you in this life may have known you in the past life and you may not have asked for forgiveness during that life time. So asking for forgiveness from everyone during this life time cleanses all the bad karma of all the past lives.

Jains believe that if you have not asked for forgiveness and granted forgiveness to everyone, at least once a year during Samvastari, then your cycle of birth and death will continue forever. You have to break the cycle of life and death to attain Nirvana or Moksha (Enlightenment).

There are about 150,000 Jains in North America and about 30 Jain Temples and Jain Centers. At major Jain centers, scholars from India are invited who will discuss various Jain scriptures for those eight to ten days. Most will stay at the temple from morning until evening reading religious books, doing meditation, and listening to sermons.

The day after Samvastari, which is ninth day, people break their fast and celebrate the end of the Paryushan. They also give a donation to poor and needy.

The following prayer of forgiveness, Khamemi Save Jiva, is recited at the end of each Pratikraman:

I grant forgiveness to all living beings,

May all living beings grant me forgiveness.

My friendship is with all living beings,

My enmity is totally non-existent.

Let there be peace, harmony, and prosperity for all.

Kirit Daftary is a Trustee of the Parliament of the World Religions, Board member of Greater Waco Interfaith Conference, President of Anuvibha of North America, and the Past President of JAINA (Federation of Jains Association in North America)

Condemning ISIL Violence, Parliament Call Urges Prayers and Diplomacy

The Parliament of the World’s Religions condemns the brutality demonstrated by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and all other sides of the ongoing armed conflicts in Syria and Iraq. It is disturbing to see that once again civilians and minorities are the primary victims of this sectarian and religious violence.

The Parliament calls upon faith communities to pray for all victims of these tragic events. We also urge the spiritual leaders of any groups affected by these struggles to follow the principles of peace and non-violence that characterize their own religions, as well as to promote talking rather than fighting with their enemies. Moreover, we applaud the many countries that have provided the humanitarian aid of food, water, and other supplies for the victims.

We question, however, whether bombing ultimately ends violence or simply perpetuates it. The multiple wars in Iraq and Syria have produced more than five million refugees, according to the United Nations. Most of these victims are ethnic and religious minorities—Christian, Yazidi, Shia, and Sunni.

The Parliament also implores the US government to focus on diplomatic solutions to the complex problems in Syria and Iraq rather than on the use of military campaigns. While we support the right of all people to defend themselves against attack, we oppose any suggestion that weapons will lead to unity or lasting peace in the long term. Accordingly, we ask all public leaders to commit themselves to seeking the resolution of conflicts by political, not military, means, and only to supply armaments to any faction when one or more parties violate the agreed upon peace by reverting to armed violence.

In light of these recent events, the Parliament points to the Declaration for a Global Ethic which was read at the concluding plenary of the first modern Parliament on September 4, 1993, in Chicago. In that document, signed by leaders of multiple religions representing the 6,500 participants of that historic Parliament event, the following passage was included: “We condemn the social disarray of the nations; the disregard for justice which pushes citizens to the margin; the anarchy overtaking our communities; and the insane death of children from violence. In particular we condemn aggression and hatred in the name of religion.”

The World of Interfaith, Parliament 2015 Coming to America

The Parliament Board voted to hold the next Parliament of the World’s Religions in the United States in 2015. Dates and city will be announced shortly.

The Board of the Parliament voted this weekend to hold the next Parliament in the United States in 2015. The next Parliament marks the fifth modern Parliament and the first American Parliament in 22 years.

“America is the home base of the interfaith movement and it’s about time the Parliament come back home. The Parliament in 2015 will strengthen the interfaith movement through our listening, sharing and networking with each other,” says Chair of the Board Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid.

The interfaith activism in North America has at least doubled in the last 10 years, whereas it is sprouting all around the world where people who have never heard of the interfaith movement are now becoming part of it. As the next generation connects to issues of peace, justice and sustainability it is time to introduce these emerging leaders to the Parliament.

Dates and location will be announced shortly.

Since 1993, more than 37,000 delegates of 80 countries have come to the Parliament representing 50 plus traditions in programs, plenaries, cultural exchanges and dialogue. Parliaments held in the USA, South Africa, Spain, and Australia have amassed a global interfaith community committed to the advancement of a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world.

We Want To Hear From You:

As the Parliament prepares to announce the next host city please kindly share with us your preferences on themes, plans and costs as we create a Parliament 2015 for you.

Open Short Questionnaire…

Please stay connected in the coming days for these important announcements:

  • Parliament 2015 Host City Announcement
  • Parliament 2015 Dates
  • Exclusive Pre-Sale Registration Instructions for Parliament Ambassadors, Supporters, and Partners
  • On-Sale Dates and Rates to attend the 2015 Parliament
  • Sponsorship and Exhibition Details
  • Program Proposals
  • Pre-Parliament Events Planning Around the World
  • Volunteer, Intern, and Professional Openings with the 2015 Parliament

Become a Parliament Ambassador!


Join a select network of global Interfaith advocates conducting listening sessions with their communities to create the next Parliament. Ambassadors extend the Parliament platform for mobilizing people of faith for social action in their local communities and play an indispensable role in the evolution of the Parliament movement. Read more…

The Parliament Will Be Held Every Two Years

The Board of Trustees of the Parliament of the World’s Religions has decided to convene the World Parliament every two years.

As the interfaith movement has doubled and tripled in interfaith action and services in the last decade it has become necessary that this largest summit of people of faith working together for a just, peaceful and sustainable world come together more often. The board also moved by the extraordinary desire throughout the interfaith movement to engage younger people for whom a five-year Parliament cycle is very long.

Announcing the strategic move of the Parliament the Chair of the Board Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid said that “a five-year Parliament cycle was a bit slow for the age of social media, a globalized world, and shorter attention spans. As forces of hate, anger and fear are rising in the world, we must strengthen the interfaith movement by sharing our interfaith experiences and building relationships among faiths and across interfaith networks which can be better sustained through a two-year cycle.”

Initial feedback from the Parliament Ambassador program coupled with data gleaned from the Global Listening Project shows strong support for a faster moving Parliament timetable. More frequent Parliaments will also foster relationships with a widening roster of world leaders interested in supporting and engaging the interfaith movement.

An announcement detailing the launch of this timetable will be released soon.

August 8th, 2014 at 12:04 pm

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A Chardi Kala Walk With Oak Creek Two Years After Hate Shootings

Oak Creek, WI Chardi Kala 6K  on August 2, 2014 marks two years in tribute to the victims of the hate crime shooting of August 5, 2012 at the Sikh Gurdwara. From left, Steve Scaffidi, Mayor of Oak Creek, Parliament Staff Molly Horan, Groundswell Movement Founder Valarie Kaur, and Arno Michaelis, Author of My Life After Hate and Serve2Unite Co-Founder

By Molly Horan

Parliament of the World’s Religions Staff

The brutalizing violence of hate crimes against at least three Sikh-Americans since the events of August 5, 2012 breaks my heart. And yet, every time the Sikh community speaks out, it shares with us all an unrelenting reminder that we cannot lose hope in the work to stop hate.

The Sikh community calls it Chardi Kala.

Say it with me: Chardi Kala! We can end the violence.  

Chardi Kala describes the state in which a person of the Sikh faith aspires to live, in an eternal optimism. Since August 5, 2012, it’s become a kind of rallying call to any and all who wish to practice relentless optimism in the work to stop violence.

I walked in Oak Creek, WI last weekend in solidarity with my Sikh neighbors at the second annual Chardi Kala 6k. The race is organized by Sikh young adults to build community and promote goodness out of something so deeply saddening: the death of six in the Oak Creek gurdwara two years ago in a shooting carried out by white supremacist Michael Wade Page.

To personally witness the spirit of humanity for which Oak Creek has become a model was important to me. It’s in this success – changing the headlines from hate to healing as we say, that I know this Chardi Kala works.

From my desk at the Parliament for nearly two years I’ve tracked how this Chardi Kala has impacted our country:

1)      In 2012, the Sikh Coalition led by a letter written by Rajdeep Singh and endorsed by hundreds of justice oriented groups (finally) wins a hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Domestic Extremism. As a result, the FBI began tracking hate crimes committed against South Asian, Arab-American, Hindu-American and Sikh-American. In other words, the U.S. government shuns the word “other” and acknowledges this pervasive problem.

2)      Upworthy, the social sharing website responsible for millions of views of rich, humanity-saving content shares Valarie Kaur’s 9-minute film on the aftermath in Oak Creek on last year’s anniversary, and people remember. On Saturday, she told me being in Oak Creek was like being with family. As a visitor, I was treated the same from the moment I arrived; greeted with hugs, fed free curry (langar!), and departing one another again with hugs, until next time. That is hopeful, right?

3)      Amar Kaleka, son of the slain President of the Gurdwara begins a candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives running on a platform exposing the broken system which created his father’s murderer showing everyone is human and everything can change.

4)      Pardeep Kaleka, son of the slain President of the Gurdwara begins a campaign to empower youth against violence in partnership with Arno Michaelis, a former hate activist-turned-author-turned-peacemaker. Serve-2-Unite brings young Wisconsin teens to learn mindfulness in Chicago and bring it back to the community where they live. That is hopeful, yes?

5)      Rahul Dubey, godson of the slain President of the Gurdwara, works tirelessly to advance interfaith community around the Milwaukee area and organizes a race, the Chardi Kala 6k, to ensure the community will always come together in a positive remembrance of that day.

6)      Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi walks hand in hand with the Sikh community and supports Interfaith activities with all of his authority, demonstrating how all towns in America can operate.

Despite the disproportionate horrors inflicted upon their community, Oak Creek seeks to intentionally live in a way that shows it denounces hate every day. They understand there that denouncing hate is not an annual event or an occasion but a daily affirmation.

Whether we call it Faiths Against Hate here at the Parliament, or Chardi Kala in the Gurdwara, or practicing the Golden Rule in each of its beautiful articulations across faith communities: the spirit of justice is within us if we expel anger from our hearts and see the humanity in others, even if today they may hate us.

And we walk together.

 

Parliament Leaders Address Cities Interested to Host 2017 Parliament Event

Twenty international cities hailing from interfaith, municipal, and tourism institutions gathered to learn about the bidding process to host the 2017 Parliament on a webinar held July 10. Parliament Chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid and Executive Director Dr. Mary Nelson addressed the group on the history of the Parliament, the growth of the Interfaith movement, what happens at a Parliament, and the logistics of building a local organizing team.

10,000 activists from around the world come to share their faith at the Parliament. Mujahid explained why this is an attractive prospect for cities wishing to increase social cohesion and global tourism. It was also noted in the presentation that Nobel Laureates, Bill Gates, Tony Blair, Pope Francis and more leaders are now publicly vocalizing strong support for the interfaith movement. Endorsements from leaders as such represent a growing interdependence between secular and religious institutions in social, governmental, and humanitarian endeavor.

While presenting a multi-million dollar international gathering is a large undertaking, Dr. Nelson shared ways that corporate and faith-based sponsorships combine with civic partnerships to creatively and financially bring the Parliament to life.

An overwhelming response, half from U.S. cities as well as half from first world and developing countries indicates the demand for interfaith is growing universally. Representatives shared their desire to become a Parliament city in efforts to diminish local tensions and build harmonious relationships.

A question and answer session with Dr. Nelson and Imam Mujahid also provided attendees the opportunity to engage both Parliament leaders on ways to submit an optimal bid. Cities are currently sharing letters of intent to submit full bids for the 2017 Parliament.

For more information on becoming a Parliament city, please contact Office Manager Stephen Avino at stephen@parliamentofreligions.org

Can Faith Leaders Help Heal Islamophobia in the Kosher Aisle?

As tensions rise across faith lines during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Parliament Trustee Janaan Hashim shares this photo of 22-year-old daughter Zaineb who experienced hate speech by a shopper in a Kosher section of a grocery store.

By Janaan Hashim, Esq.
Trustee, Parliament of the World’s Religions

My 22-year-old daughter stopped off at a nearby store to grab some groceries on her way home from work.  She has frequented this store and its Kosher section since moving closer to work, happy to find a place that sells food that she can eat, since food from “ahalal kitab” or “people of the book” is considered halal, or permissible for Muslims to eat.

At first she thought it was her post-work appearance that caused the looks and, with one woman in particular, the glares.

Zaineb carries her grandmother’s Scotts-Irish complexion, and, but for her hijab, no one would know she is Muslim.  But she has chosen to wear her hijab since her younger days, proud to be Muslim and happy to practice her faith without inhibition.

In the store, Zaineb told me, the glaring woman kept crossing her path.  And then, out of nowhere, she approached Zaineb and, with a scowl on her face, said straight to Zaineb, “Yikh,” then turned and left.  Zaienb was stunned.  And then it clicked.  The realities of the Holy Land have seeped across our borders and onto our land.

I listened to Zaineb, reflected, and prayed.  What emboldened this woman to do such an ugly act toward my daughter?  Would she have the fortitude and gall to do this to a Black woman, a Hispanic, a White?  Doubtful.

I then realized that if people can feel so empowered as to approach a complete stranger and strew their hate toward her, then America hasn’t matured over the decades; in fact, it’s more of an illusive maturity we have, more superficial than substantive.  To me, this woman’s action is the continuation of an ugly, downward spiral for Muslim Americans.  But, I truly believe, it can be stopped, and it can be stopped now.

Zaineb with two of her students in an after-school student enrichment program for Chicago’s inner-city kids which she founded while in college.

I call upon faith leaders to remind their congregants of the importance of always seeing the human in the other.  My daughter did nothing wrong.  And yet, a strange woman decided that my daughter was less than she.  Faith leaders, remind your worshipers to love the other simply because of who created the other and out of love for that creator.  Remind your congregants that we are all God’s children and not to let political differences abroad interfere with the human dignity afforded here at home.

Our laws are in place to bring civility to an otherwise chaotic society.  And while we may have two rights directly opposing each other – freedom of expression and freedom of religion – I urge our faith leaders to take charge and remind their members of the importance of doing unto others as they would have done unto themselves.

Faith leaders: I charge you with maintaining the civility that our faiths call upon.  I charge you with sending a message of peace and harmony between your congregants and the strangers they meet.  I charge you with guiding your people toward not judging a “woman by her clothing” but to, rather, judge others by their actions, and not the actions of people in a land far away.

My daughter was in a store shopping in America of the 21st Century.  Let’s make sure that years from now, such judgmental and degrading treatment is seen only as an isolated incident and not something so endemic that those on the wayside were too blind to see it, too blind to stop it.  Faith leaders and people of faith: let’s stop this hate before it winds into an uncontrollable, spiral downturn that our country has seen in the past.

Janaan Hashim, Esq. is a Trustee of the Parliament, partner at Amal Law Group, LLC and adjunct professor at McCormick Theological Seminary.

August 1st, 2014 at 10:46 am

‘We Refuse to Be Enemies’ Declares Israel-Palestinian Peace Camp in the West Bank

The Statement of the Vision Camp held in July 2014 in the West Bank affirmed by 50 peacemakers of Jewish and Arab descent, joined by international activists.

Fifty peacemakers joining from Israel and Palestine have just completed a five-day “Vision Camp” the organizers say responded to the violence “exploding through the Middle East.” The West Bank-based camp reported through Facebook (and supported by a vocal campaign on Causes.com) sharing a culmination statement declaring “We refuse to be enemies.”

Over the week the activities captivating a mass following on social media inspired  countless shares, likes, and comments to stand against a growing vitriol  polarizing Jews and Muslims by stating #JewsandArabsRefuseToBeEnemies. Like organizations connected promoting moving images of demonstrations held in other Israeli locations.

The 50 campers speaking boldly for peace were moved to assemble stating, “today, in this turbulence, peace workers from Israel, Palestine and other countries are beginning a five-day vision camp in the West Bank. In the middle of the war they hold a peace vigil and create a frequency of calmness in which mutual perception, sharing, deep listening, clear thinking and vision building is possible. They say, “We refuse to be enemies.” And, “Together we can give a clear sign to end the war.”

 

‘Sorry’ written in candles in Hebrew and Arabic Displayed at the demonstration July 26, 2014 in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv.
Image Credit: Lisa Waldbaum

THE STATEMENT, July 26 2014 

As peaceworkers from Israel, Palestine and various other parts of the world, we have been holding a peace vigil in the middle of a war in the West Bank over the last several days. We are gathering here under very simple conditions, creating community life, sharing from our hearts, in silence and in tears, in the midst of shootings and bombings. We are bearing witness and trying to stay in Grace. We have been faced with this senseless killing every day. There have been more than 1000 human victims during the last three weeks. In the last days three Palestinians were shot in the village near the place where we are staying. In these days, we have been faced with untold pain, suffering, desperation and speechlessness; we are also coming face to face with many different opinions and inner and outer struggles.
What we all agree on is: Enough! Stop this killing. No solution can come from war! Each innocent victim of this war is one too many! We refuse to be enemies. We are calling out to all parties: Stop this war! Our feelings are beyond words, but we can no longer be silent. The civil population is being lied to on both sides, and the world is mostly silent and misled by the media. It does not take much political education to recognise the injustice of this war. Many countries are delivering weapons and enriching themselves through the war. But who sits next to the beds of the injured children and crying mothers? Who feels empathy with their bleak destiny? Who heals the wounds, dries the tears and eases the pain of all those who have lost family members or beloved friends?

We, as members of humanity during this vision camp in the midst of the war zone, are striving to convert trust, peace, justice and compassion into realities rather than mere words. This makes us feel like new children from a new earth where war does not exist.
One of our Palestinian participants said, „In 2001, I decided to stop being a victim. We are not two sides; we are one side. We have one common enemy: hatred.” How many more innocent people have to be killed, how many more generations will have to carry guns so their people can feel safe? Are we aware that every killing creates new hatred, new fear and more revenge?

We have decided not to stay silent! We have decided to step out of powerlessness. We have decided to step out of the hypnosis of fear and raise our voices. We have decided to step out of our personal identification and look beyond all the different worldviews towards the fundamental healing of trauma. Compassion is not a question of worldview! Compassion is the emergency call of planet earth and the heart of humanity.

Together, we wish to create a clear and resonant voice, a voice for transformation! Killing cannot lead us to a free or protected land. We are shedding our tears and transforming our pain into a powerful NO! NO to this killing – no tolerance for the violation of human rights, regardless of its source. Israelis will never feel safe, and Palestinians will never be free, unless they begin building mutual relationships of trust and respect. And this land will never be holy while we keep watering it with blood.

Thousands of people are already taking to the streets and demonstrating that they, “refuse to be enemies.” May we grow in numbers and presence! The global system of domination thrives through our powerlessness. We can change this feeling of desperation and powerlessness into readiness for transformation. A true nonviolent revolution starts within ourselves.

We envision breaking the cycle of victimisation, occupation, hatred and revenge. We envision the awakening of the humane heart. We envision millions of people, all over the world, who no longer allow the economically motivated globalisation of war to be carried out on the backs of uncounted innocent women, men and children.
Now, it is our task to demonstrate credible alternatives: stepping out of the system of complicity and stepping into a network of solidarity and compassion. For years now, many of us have been working on new models for living. We are aware that those who are against war need a vision for peace.

This peace vigil is only the beginning. We are committing ourselves. We will dedicate our lives to finding solutions wherever we are.
We love our countries, our homes, and this earth. We declare ourselves to be global citizens for peace! Let us raise our voices: Another life is possible.

We are calling out to specialists from all areas – doctors, water experts, ecologists, technologists, peace activists, decision-makers, spiritual leaders, peace journalists, film-makers, politicians and each and everyone of you: Let us come together and put our wisdom to work! Let us overcome the walls of separation. Together, we will create completely new ways of sharing this planet.

Connect,  like, and share: https://www.facebook.com/aVisionCampinIsraelPalestine

Download the statement of the 50 participants of the Vision Camp here:
Hebrew: http://www.tamera.org/fileadmin/PDF/We_refuse_to_be_enemies_-_heb.pdf
English:http://www.tamera.org/fileadmin/PDF/0726_We_refuse_to_be_enemies_-_statement.pdf
German:http://www.tamera.org/fileadmin/PDF/0726_We_refuse_to_be_enemies_-_statement_-_de.pdf
Portugese:http://www.tamera.org/fileadmin/PDF/We_refuse_to_be_enemies_-_statement_-_pt.pdf

August 1st, 2014 at 10:12 am

A Call for Compassion for Children Arriving From Central America

By Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño of The United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, and Bishop J. Jon Bruno, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and President of the Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders. Via Huffington Post.

Unaccompanied minors crossing the United States – Mexico border has become a humanitarian issue as tens of thousands of children from Central American countries arrive in the United States expecting welcome due to law challenging deportation from countries which do not share borders with the U.S. Image: Flickr User Denise_Rowlands

Last week, we, alongside Dr. Robert K. Ross, President and CEO of the California Endowment and Fred Ali of Weingart Foundation, visited some of the hundreds of children temporarily being housed at the Port Hueneme Naval Base. The stories of these children, the dangerous conditions under which they were forced to leave their homes, and their arduous journeys to travel to the United States touched us all. These children are just a few among the 52,000 children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras who are currently being held in a variety of temporary shelters.

The ongoing and highly politicized public debate about immigration has quickly and incorrectly come to engulf this latest humanitarian situation. The fact that these are young, frightened children who have risked their lives and fled extreme violence to come here, often on their own, has been forgotten. This is in fact an international emergency that calls upon all of us to put the health and well-being of these children before any political grandstanding.

Like so many of our own ancestors, these children are fleeing incredible social crises, which have inspired them to make the difficult choice to leave home solely in hopes of survival. Currently, many Central American nations are struggling with extreme violence connected to drug trafficking and gangs. As we learned in a recent Reuters article, a young immigrant named Jeffrey fled his home of La Ceiba, Honduras because a local gang charged him the equivalent of $24,000 not to kill him. Like Jeffrey, many children are sent away from their homes and families to avoid being drafted into local gangs and cartels with the certain future of incarceration or death. In response, desperate parents with few alternatives have opted to send their unaccompanied children north in hopes of their finding refuge in the United States. But, instead of finding safe harbor, tens of thousands of children, have struggled on long journeys fleeing danger only to get caught in a political limbo while our nation tarries over their fates.

The status of these children poses a humanitarian dilemma. As children await a possible future of deportation, violence and possibly death, it is time for us to cast aside partisan differences and seek solutions to ensure their long-term health and safety. We can choose to use this moment to find the best in ourselves and have compassion for these children. If people from every faith and every community work together, we can live up to our shared values and take care of the most vulnerable among us. As we met these children, we learned that they are children of prayer, prayers that sustain them and give them hope.

We all know that where a child is born shouldn’t determine how long she lives, but it does. However, we must remember that under God, there is a universal citizenship — a status that makes us all equal under His eyes and worthy of love, dignity and respect, regardless of what side of the man-made border you are from. All children have basic human rights, no matter what they look like or where they come from. From universal citizenship springs unconditional love that goes beyond skin color, language and race. Around the world families desire for their children to be safe, content and healthy and if they are not able to provide such privileges, the most desperate go as far as sending their children to distant shores. As communities of faith and philanthropy, we have a responsibility to step up during this time of massive suffering among innocent children. If we don’t help the children in our society, the most defenseless among us, who will?

In 2004, Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño became the first Hispanic woman to be elected to the episcopacy of The United Methodist Church, the second-largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. Today, she is one of 50 bishops leading more than eight million members of her denomination. Bishop Carcaño serves as the official spokesperson for the United Methodist Council of Bishops on the issue of immigration. After serving for a term as Bishop of the Phoenix Area giving oversight to United Methodist work in Arizona, southern Nevada, and southeastern California, she was assigned in 2012 to the Los Angeles Area where she now leads United Methodist work in southern California, Hawaii and other islands in the Pacific Ocean. The Bishop is also a participant in FaithSource, a resource for journalists looking for diverse voices of faith to speak to key issues, sponsored by Auburn Seminary.