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Committee listens to development aid, Korea reunification, war issues

By Sarah T. Moore
[Episcopal News Service] 

Korea reunification and humanitarian concerns, just and unjust war, and the church’s support of  United Nations program pledging action on international humanitarian development goals grabbed the attention of deputies in July 30 hearings of the National and International Concerns Committee.
The committee considers testimony as it decides what form resolutions will take as they move on to both houses for action during the next week.
Mary Miller, a member of the Standing Commission on Anglican and International Peace With Justice Concerns, spoke in support of resolutions A036 and A037 regarding the Korean Peninsula and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Status of Forces Agreement With Korea. Miller and several subsequent speakers, including an Anglican priest from Korea, said that a longtime goal of the Korean people was reunification of the North and South, its families and geography.
Faith McDonnell and Diane Knippers of the Institute of Religion and Democracy stressed the humanitarian concerns. “North Korea is a whole country which is a mass of labor camps,” McDonnell said. Concerned with misdirected humanitarian aid, she quoted agencies by saying, “Food aid goes only to one place: Pyongyang to give to the military, leader Kim Jong-Il, and his party. I don’t want our church to go on record that we shouldn’t demonize this country.”
Speaking to a resolution (C033) that asks to extend benefits to immigrants and undocumented workers, James Tempro of Long Island noted there are 8.5 million undocumented persons in the United States. “The economy of the U.S. needs these workers if it is to prosper, especially as the baby boom retires. The system in place leaves millions of undocumented workers in limbo and, in Long Island, at the mercy of unsavory characters. I ask support for this resolution, remembering the accomplishments of Cesar Chavez.”
Molly Russell, a Hispanic missioner in South Carolina, said Hispanic people are “changing the demographics of the diocese. We have the power and influence to make our political leaders aware. People need to be recognized as human people and not machines. In a place where a church is found and growing and welcoming people from different countries, I need to be able to say ‘the Episcopal Church supports you.’”
Richard Perkins, director of Episcopal Migration Ministries, said the ones least able to protect themselves are undocumented workers. “They are the most vulnerable.” He spoke of low wages, orderly flow of workers, and an expansion of the Temporary Worker Program to cover workers legitimately employed filling a recognized labor shortage.
Thomas Woodward of Salinas, Calif., in the Diocese of El Camino Real, described a successful ministry of two congregations in one church, St. Paul’s and San Pablo, serving chief executive officers of lettuce-growing companies as well as workers who are contract labor for harvesting lettuce, celery, broccoli, and strawberry crops.
“After 15 to 20 years of back-breaking work, some of these people have no Social Security accounts and no recourse," he said. “Labor camps are close to the Grapes of Wrath descriptions. When the church is involved, the church can make a difference. We do not do enough.”
Popping up around the Minneapolis Convention Center are "0.7%" buttons being pinned on coats and shirts. This refers to a challenge to all Episcopal dioceses and congregations to contribute 0.7% of their annual budgets to fund international development programs, proposed in resolution D006 from the Diocese of Massachusetts.
Resolution D006 asks that the church endorse the United Nations Millennium Development Goals pledging to address issues of poverty, universal primary education, gender equality and empowerment of women, child mortality rates, maternal health, HIV/AIDS, environmental stability and global partnership for development.
“We challenge the people to come together in global partnership,” said Ian Douglas, deputy from Massachusetts. The Diocese of Massachusetts three years ago took seriously this challenge to pledge 0.7% from diocesan income. “We’re working on close to $100,000 a year going to international relief and development, addressing HIV/AIDS through the churches in Africa. Very important basic fundamental funding for that came for the Diocese of Massachusetts or it would not be happening. What we could do for the world debt relief.”
The U.S. government failed to fulfill its commitment to fund international development aid at 0.7% of U.S. gross national product and is the last in giving among the 20 richest nations.
The Episcopal Church can lead by example by affirming and acting to contribute 0.7% of annual budgets to international relief and development, according to Douglas, the resolution proposer.