December 9, 2020
Dear CRLN members and friends,
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah 43:1-3
The end of another year approaches, and what a year it has been. Many public voices have expressed the view that 2020 will go down as one of the most difficult years in recent human history, certainly in the memory of the majority of us alive today. We have indeed been through the waters and the fire this past year.
In my opening comments at our 30th Anniversary Celebration in 2019, I expressed my view that at the heart of our work and mission was bringing hope amidst a world of suffering and death, oppression and denial of human rights, maintaining light in the darkness. Perhaps for most of us, that light was never as necessary as it was this past year, as we struggled to maintain that hope in the face of a global pandemic and the rise of right-wing authoritarianism globally and right here at home.
Those challenges even affected our Annual Gathering this year, as we had to meet through the medium of our computer screens rather than face to face. But the fact that we refused to let these obstacles prevent us from gathering and celebrating our important work and the significant accomplishments of the last year demonstrates that the light and hope remains bright, unextinguished, even in these most difficult of times.
We refused to let the pandemic or right-wing authoritarian governments here and abroad stop us from pushing forward with our mission, as you can read in the enclosed insert that lists CRLN’s major activities in 2020. Both our sanctuary efforts and our solidarity with communities in Latin America, especially Cuba, grew and expanded this past year. Our legislative activity was likewise robust, with several significant developments. And we took several public actions, including helping to shut down the infamous plans to open an “ICE Citizens’ Academy” in Chicago. See details in:
So much of what we have been through this past year and the things we have accomplished were captured in the words of our guest speaker at this year’s Annual Gathering, Sister María Magdalena Silva Rentería. The founder and Director of CAFEMIN, a shelter for immigrants located in Mexico City, she joined our event from Mexico. We turned the challenge of COVID, which limited our face-to-face interactions, into the advantage of a virtual gathering, making it easier to have our friends from abroad join us. Sr. María Magdalena shared with us her stories of providing shelter and support for immigrants, as well as her analysis of the issues underlying the crisis of migration and action suggestions for how we can respond in this critical moment. Her experiences were very relevant to our sanctuary efforts, our work with migrants’ rights and our solidarity work with communities in Central America and beyond. If you missed our Annual Gathering, you can watch it on YouTube in English at https://bit.ly/2020CRLNEnglish or in Spanish at https://bit.ly/CRLN2020Spanish
The year ended, as we all know, on a hopeful note. The most authoritarian, anti-immigrant and anti-refugee president in our lifetime was defeated. But regardless of the outcome of the presidential or Senate races, the election revealed something we cannot ignore. We must face the fact that there is a deep moral crisis we must address in our nation, when many of our fellow citizens are OK with racism, misogyny, xenophobia, calls to violence, attacks on democracy and flirtations with authoritarianism. I do not mean this to be a condemnation. I must continue to hope that most human beings have the capacity for love and compassion and, when presented with the impact of their choices on their fellow human beings, will act humanely. But whether out of fear, greed, selfishness, or ignorance born out of the misinformation promoted by powerful interests that profit from the ignorance of the many, far too many of our neighbors have embraced a system of beliefs that is contrary to our values and the values of our faith traditions.
This moral crisis in our nation makes our work more important than ever. It is left to us to build links of solidarity at home and abroad. It is up to us to promote the values of peace and justice. It is up to us to continue to lift up the voices of the oppressed and those struggling for liberation. This is our mission, our moral and material revolution, compassion in action, the only way to overcome the waters and fire that surround us. Thank you for being a part of this work. I am filled with great anticipation for working with all of you to build a new world in the coming year.
This work cannot be sustained without your help. CRLN receives no corporate and/or government funding. We rely completely on our organizational, congregational and individual friends and members, along with some small grants from a few foundations. We call on you to demonstrate your support by making a holiday contribution, an end of the year commitment to struggle for justice, peace, and human rights. With your support and solidarity, we will continue to walk through the fire and remain unburnt, as we enter what I believe will be a time of new beginnings and renewed hope.
P.S. Please make your checks payable to CRLN. You may also make an online donation at www.crln.org/donate. Your contributions are tax-deductible. In addition, please consider remembering CRLN in your will. Our legal title is: Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America.