Archive for June, 2009

6/17 Barcelonian Reflection

Josep Pera Colome, Oscar Craviotto and Nathalie Reverdin, Barcelona Delegates

Josep Pera Colome, Oscar Craviotto and Nathalie Reverdin, Barcelona Delegates

Reflections on the Religious Leaders Retreat on Immigration (June 16th and 17th 2009)


Manuel Pérez Browne

If I had to explain what this retreat was about, I would start by saying it was an interfaith meeting of grassroots religious leaders trying to find new and effective ways to be socially and even politically involved, in the case of this particular retreat, on the immigration issue.

What a grassroots religious leader is it’s something we had the privilege to experience and perfectly understand just before attending the retreat when meeting the Episcopal Reverend Earl K., who guided us around his Harlem streets and stories, sharing with us his daily struggles to serve the community. A community, as we could see through all this people greeting him in the street, which obviously recognizes his role and commitment.

There are two points which I found inspiring related with the way these grassroots leaders were trying to define their social and political engagement during the retreat.

The first one is that they were trying to be involved without forgetting the specific and unique contribution they can make: the religious and spiritual one. They were trying to find an engagement including prayers, silences, and spiritual values, the kind of thing other actors cannot do. That’s why I liked very much the presence of contemplatives of different traditions, sometimes accused to ignore practical concerns. As an immigrant has to find a way to be American or Catalan without losing its original identity, a religious community has to find a way to be secularly involved without its religiosity.

The second inspiring point was for all that they invited and had a dialogue with non religious actors: civil organizations, public agencies, etc. Interfaith will never work if it’s about building a world only for faiths.

I would also like to share three other reflections from a Catalan perspective. First is about the immigration problem. It’s definitively an urgency that we share –even if, definitively, the New York and America dimensions make it look more urgent. This urgency, I think, has to be addressed legally but not just legally; not just in terms of laws, rights and reforms but also in terms of mentalities, values, habits, etc. and here’s –we could say in an educational sphere- where I think religious communities have more to say.

Second: Interfaith is clearly more rooted in New York than in the context where I work. It seems to me, religious communities find natural, here, to cooperate, which is not yet the case in Catalunya. But not only Interfaith is more rooted, religious communities itself look to be much more trained, to have much more skills than the Catalan communities. As an example, the documentary produced by the New York African community. The sense of humor and irony contained in this material prove, for me, that the community, even with a lot of struggles, is already quite established. In Catalonia, this particular community but not just this one has still a long way to do in this sense.

Finally, I left the retire thinking, in general, non religious civil society and even public powers have understood much better than in Catalunya the essential role religious actors can play and already play in public sphere, improving society and democracy.


6/17 Glaswegian Reflection

Magdalen Lambkin and Aharon Soudry, Glasgow Delegates

Magdalen Lambkin and Aharon Soudry, Glasgow Delegates

New York Inter Faith Exchange Visit 17 June 2009

Henrietta Docherty


We all arrived safe and sound and settled into Union Theological Seminary on Broadway, New York City in the heart of the university district and what a beautiful  building it is.  On the first day we travelled upstate to the Stony Point Centre for a two day inter faith retreat on the theme of Immigration: estrangement to engagement. This was organised by the Inter Faith Centre to inform and mobilise religious leaders to play a prominent role in meeting the needs of in coming communities.
One of the main impacts of this day was that we are addressing similar issues in Scotland with regards to the problems that arise for refugees/asylum seekers. The number of people these NGO’s are working with in NYC is obviously much greater than in Glasgow. Numerous faith based agencies are working to address the many needs of immigrants through advocacy, education projects, financial advice, legal advice, and services for adults, children and families.  We also heard from Health services, the police (NYPD) and NGOs.  During the retreat members of our group were filmed for a community TV station and Pramila was requested to speak about immigration in Scotland.

For me, this retreat was a unique experience and one that I found both informative and enjoyable. I felt like an explorer discovering new ground, new insights and new concepts. The spirit of fellowship with which the religious leaders and others sought to find out more about each other  was  wonderful and the thought provoking programme was at once  stimulating heart rending and motivating. I have no doubt everyone got something to take back with them.

21st Rabbi Marshall Meyer Retreat; JPM Fellows


21st Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Retreat for Social Justice: Immigration- From Estrangement to Engagement

21st Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Retreat for Social Justice: Immigration- From Estrangement to Engagement

The 21st Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Interfaith Retreat on Social Justice

took place June 16 and 17, 2009, with over one hundred guests and speakers fully engaged in the topic of immigration. From diverse religious leaders and city agencies who provide needed social services that help immigrants integrate, to representatives of the New Sanctuary Movement, Riverside’s Sojourners, American Friends Service Committee, and Cabrini Immigrant Services, the stories of of immigrants who bring their hopes and dreams to the United States came to the fore. For more than 12 million immigrants living in the US who are undocument, the system is rigid and inhumane. Families are at risk of being torn apart due to deportation proceedings and workers struggle with unfair wages and degraded labor conditions. Others struggle even if their papers are in order, without access to needed city services, health care, and language barriers.

The movement to reform US immigration laws is rapidly becoming a faith-led cause. Immigration reform activist Patty Kupfer of America’s Voice galvanized faith-leader attendees to come forward as moral champions.  She urged them to publicize the stories of struggling immigrant congregants with to help put a human face on the immigration debate. At the municipal level, speakers from the Queens Public Library, the New York Police Department and the Health and Hospitals Corporation described efforts to better educate and serve immigrants.

There was a sense of momentum and hope from many on the front lines of the reform battle as the movement for change becomes more organized nationally and even internationally. ICNY’s James Parks Morton International Visiting Fellows from Barcelona, Spain, and Glasgow, Scotland, spoke both informally and within a panel to the group. They welcomed collaboration between countries to better understand and assist immigrants who leave loved ones and livelihoods to immigrate.

The visiting fellows from Barcelona and Spain continue their weeklong visit to New York City with trips to Queens, East Harlem, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, and Friday and Sunday religious services. On Monday they will meet and talk informally with NYC Human Rights Commissioner Patricia Gatling.

On Tuesday June 23 from 9am to 11am, ICNY invites religious leaders to attend a roundtable on Hate Crimes & Immigration, part of ICNY’s innovative Religious Communities and the Court System program. Attorneys from the District Attorney’s office will be the guest speakers. The program will take place at 111 Centre Street, in the 12th floor boardroom of the New York City Civil Court. Reservations name, address, phone, email) are required at 212 870-3515 or

Finally, on Wednesday, June 24 at 3pm, interested members of the public are invited to the visiting fellows’ Closing Symposium at the Union Theological Seminary. Our new international friends will have the opportunity to reflect on their time with us and share their thoughts and experiences.