Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Conversation

One of the beauties of Windows and Mirrors, AFSC’s travelling mural exhibition about the human cost of war in Afghanistan, is the thought-provoking conversations that emerge from experiencing powerful artistic expression.

I was privileged to be present at the Windows and Mirrors exhibit opening in uptown Charlotte, North Carolina prior to the Democratic National Convention. Denny and JoAnn Fernald of Charlotte Friends Meeting had seen the mural exhibit displayed in 2011 and wanted to bring it to Charlotte during the Convention, knowing it would be an opportunity to reach a wide audience with its message of peace. They worked with a local coalition made up of many faith and community groups, and despite challenges (including the murals getting lost on the day before set up!), held an engaging opening program on September 1.

 As we were setting up the murals, a man walked through the exhibit not looking very pleased. It turns out that he works for the Defense Department in D.C., specializing in Afghanistan and has spent many years in that country.

He very politely shared his views with me: he feels that the U.S. is doing a lot of good in Afghanistan. Since the U.S. cleared out the Taliban, he believes that this has allowed for many positive developments, including girls being able to obtain an education. He was impressed by one feisty young woman he had met who would have been denied an education and likely been taken into custody-or worse-for her outspokenness under the Taliban. This gentleman feels that murals focusing only on the war does not give an accurate picture of what is happening in Afghanistan.  The American public knows so little about the country, he says, that this exhibit keeps viewers focused only on the war. He strongly encouraged me and others to visit Afghanistan and learn more about the realities for ourselves.

I responded by explaining that Quakers in general and the AFSC oppose violence in any form, whether it originates from the Taliban or from the U.S. military. I recognized that there are no easy answers, and that AFSC is also partnering with groups like Community Supported Film, a group that trains Afghan men and women in video-journalism and documentary film making so that Afhgans themselves can share their realities with the rest of the world. (Learn more here: http://csfilm.org/)

I agreed that the American public knows little about Afghanistan, and that what people do know is mostly related to the war. We hear about the drones and new technologies of war; we occasionally hear about the tragic loss of life of US servicemen and women—usually young people, often leaving behind families. However, the media rarely mentions the tens of thousands of Afghan lives lost to the bombs. This exhibit presents a view seldom seen in the mainstream, and encourages viewers to consider the horror of war through the lens of Afghan civilians.

This conversation with the Department of Defense man impacted me. We did not leave in agreement, but we had both shared respectfully, listened to the other point of view, and were able to see the humanity in each other. This exhibit gave us that opportunity.

AFSC’s work stems from the belief in the worth and dignity of every individual, regardless of nationality, political affiliation, legal status, and position on military action. The heartbreak of a U.S. mother who loses her military son is tragically equal to the Afghan mother who loses her child to a drone strike.  Darla Davis, one of the local committee members that helped pull the Charlotte exhibit together, reflected in her remarks during the program, “This exhibit tells the stories I want our children’s children to remember about the human cost of war.  It reflects our struggle to find ways to connect with one another in our common humanity and to love the world even in the midst of the tragedy of war.”

-Lori Fernald Khamala, AFSC, Greensboro, NC

Thursday, May 17, 2012

AFSC sponsors vigil to prevent NC mother’s deportation

AFSC sponsors vigil to prevent NC mother’s deportation

Orfilia Reyes and her son
Orfilia Reyes and 15-year-old US citizen son Fredi comfort each other at the vigil
 Briana Miller
Reflection on Vigil for Orfilia Reyes
By Lori Fernald Khamala, Immigrant Rights Program Director 
May 15, 2012--Greensboro-- My favorite moment of last night was sitting down in the darkened church, holding a candle, closing my eyes and listening to the most beautiful music I might have ever heard. It was undoubtedly a spiritual experience.  Orfilia Reyes and her two sons, Fredd and Fredi, played and sang together like they do every week at church.  But this time was different.  This time, they were playing to keep their family together. 
Around 120 people gathered at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Greensboro, NC on Tuesday evening, May 15 to support the Reyes family as they struggle to keep Orfilia Reyes here in the country. She arrived in the US more than 20 years ago, seeking political asylum after two brothers were assassinated in Guatemala. Because of erroneous advice from a past attorney, a missed deadline, and a refusal by immigration authorities to re-open her case, she is now set to be deported by June 7.
We in the Greensboro AFSC office usually focus more on community education, policy issues, “the big picture.” But in this case, we have had the great privilege of working extensively with the Reyes family. We have accompanied the family on visits to congressional representatives and TV interviews. Working with the family, we led the coordination of last night’s vigil, program, media outreach, publicity and bringing along a number of other partners, as well as action items like petitions, phone calls and postcards. 
Spending time with the Reyes family has given me an intimate view into how our broken immigration system impacts individuals on a deeply personal level. This family, especially 15-year-old US citizen Fredi, is absolutely terrified to the core at the prospect of Fredi’s separation from his mother, if he remains behind in the US if his mother is deported. Yet they are equally terrified of the prospect of Freid’s loss of his educational opportunities and his community, if he accompanies his mother to Guatemala, a country not his own. 
Attendees of the vigil were deeply moved. Many were also deeply angered that our government is spending time and taxpayer dollars on trying deport a woman who has given so much to our local community, a woman who doesn’t even have a traffic ticket on her record. During the vigil, participants took time to sign postcards and petitions, and make phone calls to immigration authorities asking them to halt Orfilia’s deportation. 
This vigil was especially meaningful so close to Mother’s Day, when we think about how important it is for mothers to be with their children. As a mom myself I know what it feels like to be willing to do absolutely anything for your child to have the best life possible. Getting to know this family, not only have I been able to witness the strength, bravery and courage of a mother to take risks for her family, I have also witnessed children who are willing to do anything for their mom. I am honored to stand with this family and I hope you will too. 
Take Action!
View the video, Fredi Reyes’ Letter to my country:http://youtu.be/pOEMf3VVgRo
Sign the petitionhttp://chn.ge/orfilia
Make the call: Ask ICE to please re-open Orfilia’s case. Orfilia Sagastume-Reyes, A#073-189-266. 
· ICE’s John Morton: 202-732-3000 
· ICE’s Peter Vincent: 202-732-5000
Sample phone script:
“Hello. I am calling to urge ICE to please re-open the case of Orfilia Reyes, A-number 073-189-266 so that she can be granted a green card. She is the mother of a 15 year old US citizen son. She has lived and paid taxes in the US for more than 20 years and has no criminal record. She meets all the criteria for prosecutorial discretion. Please re-open her case.”
Media Links:
 **YES Weekly: features family on cover for Mothers Day issue:  
 **WFMY News 2 video & coverage of family before vigil:
 **Front Page Greensboro News & Record article on the vigil:
 **Fox 8 interview with family and vigil coverage:
**Que Pasa:
**Hola Noticias:
**WFMY News 2 vigil coverage:

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The fifth annual Lake Junaluska Peace Conference, "Love in Action: the Transformative Power of Nonviolence"

Thursday, November 8, 2012 (All day) - Sunday, November 11, 2012 (All day)

The fifth annual Lake Junaluska Peace Conference, "Love in Action: the Transformative Power of Nonviolence," will draw upon the lessons of nonviolent campaigns and their leaders who discovered a force that can change the world. Participants will explore the principles and learn the applications of nonviolence as taught by Gandhi, King, and many spiritual leaders who offered this alternative paradigm for resolving conflict, achieving justice, and building peace.
Speakers include: Leymah Gbowee, Liberian Peace Activist and 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Rev. Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Jr., Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence, Candler School of Theology and Civil Rights leader, Michael Nagler, President of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, and Alan Storey, Central Methodist Mission in Cape Town, Africa. 
Participants will have a unique opportunity to become a part of an ongoing multi-faith community of peacemakers who practice nonviolent witness to societal and global transformation.   Through the addresses, panels, and workshops, the conference provides peacemaking skill building experience that will empower and sustain us individually and in community as we do the hard work of peacemaking in a world broken and corrupted by systemic violence. 
The conference will be held at Lake Junaluska, NC November 8 - 11, 2012.  Early bird registration ends September 10th.  Scholarships are available for college and seminary students.  The scholarship application deadline is October 1st.
For more information visit us at www.lakejunaluska.com/peace


Lake Junaluska Conference Center‎
91 North Lakeshore Drive Lake
JunaluskaNC 28785
Contact Information: 
(800) 222-4930 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

AFSC Office of the Carolinas Press Release 5/10/2012

For Immediate Release:                                                                               Contact:  Lori Fernald Khamala
May 11, 2012                                                                                                                     336-854-0633             /                                    919-491-0039                  LKhamala@afsc.org

Greensboro, NC – A Vigil for Immigrant Justice organized by FaithAction International House, Center for New North Carolina, Greensboro Immigrant Rights Working Group, Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, and the American Friends Service Committee will take place on May 15, 2012 at 6:30 p.m. at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, 2205 W. Market Street, Greensboro NC advocating for Orfilia Sagastume-Reyes of Thomasville, NC.

Director AFSC’s Immigrant Rights Program Lori Khamala said that Mother’s day reminds us of how important it is for mothers to stay with their children.

“The Reyes family is a part of this community and we cannot let this family be separated,” said Khamala.

Reyes is currently set to be deported on June 7, 2012. 

Reyes, the mother of a US citizen honor student, fled political persecution and death threats in Guatemala, coming to the US with her family in October 1990, following the assassination of her brother, Orfilia 

In 1993, Orfilia applied for asylum in the US, however, based on the erroneous advice by a previous lawyer, Orfilia and her family withdrew their asylum application, which resulted in an order of deportation.

Since then, Orfilia has been trying to fix her status, without result and has no criminal record. Should ICE re-open her case, she would be eligible for a Green Card.

 “This case demonstrates how broken our immigration system is,” said Khamala. “Her son is a US citizen, an honors student and a talented musician and yet the US Government is trying to take her away.”