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Keep Making Peace makes a difference

Three people marching for immigration reform

When crises seem too large to overcome, it’s important to remember that each and every person can bring about change. That was the message of the 17th annual Keep Making Peace event.


CLARICE MCKENZIE
Michigan Conference Board of Justice

The 2019 Keep Making Peace event was held at University United Methodist Church in East Lansing on April 6. Now in its 17th year, over those years the area-wide event has been hosted by The United Methodist Women and conference boards of Church and Society (now Michigan Conference Board of Justice). The theme for the day was, “One Person Makes a Difference.”

MSU Wesley Foundation Director, Rev. Bill Chu, served as moderator for the day, introducing four difference-makers.         

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha has made a difference in the Flint water crisis. As a pediatrician, she was concerned to see children poisoned by lead. The problem started when the governor-appointed Emergency City Manager changed the city’s water source to the Flint River; to cut costs, the corrosion control product was not added. Dr. Hanna-Attisha has been advocating for clean water for all children since the crisis began five years ago. 

The physician identified the following issues leading to environmental injustice for Flint children and families:  breakdown of democracy by replacing an elected mayor; denial of a contaminated water problem; disinvestment in infrastructure; denial of science; lack of corrosion control for the lead pipes; lack of will to care for the vulnerable segment of society.

Lead damages a child’s cognitive ability. With persistence, Dr. Hanna-Attisha advocated for creation of child development and literacy programs for Flint’s children. Other solutions have been identified, such as the need for a full-service grocery with fresh produce in Flint and the need for clean, affordable water for everyone. Dr. Hanna-Attisha encouraged those listening to open their eyes to injustices around, raise their voices, connect with other advocates, believe science, and put their energy to work.

Mr. Jim Cason lobbies for peace, justice, environmental stewardship, and foreign policy. He is a staff member of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) based in Washington D.C. His basic principle is, “Love thy neighbor – no exceptions.” Underscoring that a democracy takes participation from all of us, Cason emphasized the need for persons to know their story and tell it as they advocate. A particular concern highlighted by Cason is wealth inequality, the wide gap between the wealthy and those in poverty. 

These steps were shared by Cason as ways to strengthen democracy:

  • Keep informed about actions taken in Washington;
  • keep faith active and find the light of God in each person by engaging and connecting with others;
  • find the common ground that can open up the space to work together;

More information can be found at the website: FCNL.org.

The Rev. Melanie Lee Carey, pastor at Nardin Park United Methodist Church, was a delegate at the 2019 General Conference. She said for make peace in the church, trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, and love extravagantly. She stressed that one person can make a difference. Carey acknowledge the deep theological divide in The United Methodist Church that found no legislative solution at the 2019 General Conference. She encouraged patience with the “birthing process” ahead to become a more inclusive church. As a people of hope and love, Carey counseled an attitude of grace that does no harm to others; make love visible. 

The Rev. Paul Perez is the Associate Director of Mission and Ministry for the Michigan Area. His presentation focused on his recent trip with the General Board of Church and Society to the U.S. – Mexico border. Perez spoke of issues at the border as he shared images from the trip. The abundance of migrants seeking asylum is real. Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are Central American countries struggling with drought, poverty, violence and unstable governments, which leads families to seek a safer life in the U.S. A just society, he said, embraces a theology of welcoming the stranger/migrant with compassion. NPR and BBC were mentioned as reliable sources of news on this issue. 

Perez encouraged those present to advocate for change in the root causes of migration in migrants’ home countries and for humane detention in the U.S. without separation of parents from children. Perez noted that at present the U.S. does not have court personnel to handle the number of asylum seekers and the will to welcome them. 

The primary take-away from all presentations … each person can find his or her passion and become involved, learning, listening, talking, advocating, and maybe even marching. One Person Makes a Difference.

 Their website is <FCNL.org>, not “FCYIL…org“ as posted in the article. Would you please post a correction as readers may want to be in touch with Jim and FCNL.

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