Saturday, October 18, 2008

Women in Ministry: Margarita Campos Marileo

This is a guest post by Carlos Bonilla and Mayra Giovanetti, American Baptist Missionaries to Chile.

"Behold! My servant whom I uphold, my elect one in whom my soul delights! I have put my spirit upon him . . ." Isaiah 42:1

This is a key verse for Pastor Margarita Campos Marileo, who trusts it is the Lord who upholds here as His servant, who delights in her and who has put His spirit in her.

As we think of men and women of God who surprise us, we think of Margarita. On March 1, 2008, the Convention of Baptist Churches of the Chilean Mission and the Baptist Church of the New Redeemer in San Bernardo made history. Margarita became their first woman Baptist pastor to be ordained to ministry.

Margarita began her church life at Grandma Orfelia's side. Since age 15 she has held posts at the Second Baptist Church in San Bernardo and for the last 18 years she has held different posts with the Women's Convention Board.

As an adolescent it was prophesied that she would be "arrowhead to something big in her Jerusalem and to the nations." Back then there was little knowledge of prophecy, but Margarita knew God knew her. During a Sunday service she acknowledged in her heart to be a pastor and that the Lord was calling her. She attended the Baptist Theological Institute while struggling with her call and refusing to accept it.

The Lord kept confirming He was calling her to pastoral ministry and after a trip to the United States in 1999, she never again ran away from her call. For the first time she publicly acknowledged and accepted in front of the women, with fear: "God called me to be a pastor."

The Lord moved her and her family to the New Redeemer under the pastoral leadership of Victor Aguilar who with the church recognized Margarita's pastoral call. The preparation process for Margarita, her husband Patricio Bravo, and their son Adolfo was their school.

We have witnessed in Margarita the Lord's ministry in a church that is constantly growing, where the presence of His Spirit is evident, doing miracles, and showing His delight in a woman who is now an ordained pastor and surprises us.

This article first appeared in the Guide to Global Servants, 2008-2009, which is published annually by American Baptist International Ministries.

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Today in History

On 18 October 1929, the Persons Case, a legal milestone in Canada, was decided.

Five women from Alberta, later known as the Famous Five, asked the Supreme Court of Canada to rule on the legal status of women. Some decisions of Magistrate Emily Murphy had been challenged on the basis that she was not a legal person, and she was a candidate for appointment to the Canadian Senate.

After the Supreme Court ruled against them, they appealed to the British Privy Council. The Privy Council found for the women on this day (eight years after the case began and eleven years after women received the federal vote), declaring that women were persons under the law.

October 18 has since been celebrated as Persons Day in Canada, and October as Women's History Month. The other women activists in the Famous Five were Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, and Irene Parlby.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Bahamas Human Rights Network Meeting

The Bahamas Human Rights Network is having its next meeting on Thursday, October 23rd at the HUB on Bay Street, at 6:30PM.

We are pleased to announce that Francise Dillet will be giving a special presentation that evening on "Domestic Violence: current legislation and its effectiveness."

We hope you will be able to join us that evening and participate in the discussion. Please feel free to bring along friends whom you think might be interested in the discussion.

The HUB is located on Bay Street, just east of Victoria Avenue. It is on the south side of the street and there is parking adjacent to the building.

See you there!


Making Peace and Justice a Post-Election Priority

Will the outcome of this year's U.S. presidential elections make a difference for the world's poor, oppressed, and marginalized?

Seven months ago, while the presidential primaries were still underway, Baptist ethicist Miguel De La Torre argued that:
So far in this campaign, all three (Clinton, Obama, and McCain) have ignored the fact that the gap between the rich and poor has more than doubled between 1980 and 2005. All three candidates will defend free-market policies and none will seriously address the undemocratic distribution of wealth, resources and privileges in this country.
Noting that "all three (of the candidates) are ontologically white males," De La Torre went on to explain that:
It does not matter if a black man or a white woman is elected president. If the national politics and economics of the captains of industry were to be threatened with a reversal caused by the needs of U.S. marginalized communities--be they blacks, women, or poor whites--the future president would rally all the forces at his or her disposal to maintain the prevailing economic power structures that exist, even if those structures are detrimental to communities that share their gender or skin pigmentation.

On the international scene, whoever the future president may be, it will be her or his job to protect the interests of the empire abroad. Therefore, in terms of U.S. global economic policies, it really doesn't matter if we elect a black man, a white woman or conclude that all the change we really need is another white man.
Ultimately, De La Torre concludes that regardless of who wins the White House in November, that person will simply be the new "face of a global neoliberalism that continues to privilege the few at the expense of the vast majority of the world's population."

Sadly, this year's elections are turning out just as De La Torre has predicted. Even though economic justice for the poor is one of the central themes of both the Old and New Testaments, neither of the two major party candidates, both of whom claim to adhere to the Christian faith, have addressed this concern in the last three presidential debates. While John McCain tries to dance around the fact that his economic policies favor America's wealthiest citizens, Barack Obama has firmly positioned himself behind American's so-called middle-class, most of whom--while not anywhere near as rich as McCain's constituency--are still amongst the world's wealthiest people.

The good news is that, just a few days ago, the leadership of the National Council of Churches in the USA wrote an open letter to Senators Obama and McCain, calling upon them to make the poor and poverty, both in the U.S. and abroad, a major priority in their campaigns. While it seems unlikely that such a letter will be cause for a major shift in either candidate's campaign at this late date, it is still important because it alerts the candidates, the nation, and the world to the political priorities of the American church. Regardless of who wins the election, the NCC has made clear that it stands on the side of the poor and will seek to hold the occupant of the Oval Office--whomever that may be--accountable to that priority.

Poverty, of course, is just one of many priorities that we as Christians should have when it comes to the struggle for peace and justice. And like poverty, few--if any--of those priorities have been addressed by McCain and Obama. Regardless of the outcome of this year's elections, we will clearly have our work cut out for us.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

IOM Report on Haitian Rights in the Bahamas

I've been a bit negligent in posting regularly over the past two months or so. Nevertheless, life goes on and quite a lot has happened regarding our understanding of the Haitian situation in the Bahamas.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Diary of Anne Frank: Similarities between the Jews and Haitians

This essay was written by one of the Haitian-Bahamian students in our ministry--a tenth grader at a local public high school--in response to seeing the film The Diary of Anne Frank. I have posted it here with her permission.

The similarities between Jews and Haitians starts with the government. Because of the government they had, the Jews found their country to be unsafe and unsuitable to live in. The Haitians had the same problem. I believe it started with Papa Doc. The Haitians became poor and found Haiti unbearable so they did only one thing they could have think of and that is to escape.

Of course for both nations because of the fact they don't have anyone and don't know anyone, they try to find someone to help them and they end up sharing a place with other people so that they could hide. Jews and Haitians can't just decide to roam the streets without documents or they would be shipped off back from whence they came.

Jews and Haitians have no choice but to get along with the person they're living with because getting kicked out is not an option, because they have no where to go. Just like the Jews Haitians when they are caught they are kept in a detention center. They could be there for days before deportation. They both have to keep a low profile or not be seen at all. All Jews and Haitians are in danger and they hope that each day that goes by they don't get caught.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Race and the (U.S. Presidential) Race

Regardless of which candidate you might favor in this year's U.S. presidential elections, I think it's safe to say that this year's race is turning out to be quite a case study in race and racism that will be analyzed and cited by academics, activists, politicians and pundits for decades to come. Two recent columns in the New York Times help to shed some light on the situation.

Frank Rich focuses on the nature of the increasingly overt racism that has been observed amongst McCain-Palin supporters in recent weeks.

All’s fair in politics. John McCain and Sarah Palin have every right to bring up William Ayers, even if his connection to Obama is minor, even if Ayers’s Weather Underground history dates back to Obama’s childhood, even if establishment Republicans and Democrats alike have collaborated with the present-day Ayers in educational reform. But it’s not just the old Joe McCarthyesque guilt-by-association game, however spurious, that’s going on here. Don’t for an instant believe the many mindlessly “even-handed” journalists who keep saying that the McCain campaign’s use of Ayers is the moral or political equivalent of the Obama campaign’s hammering on Charles Keating.

What makes them different, and what has pumped up the Weimar-like rage at McCain-Palin rallies, is the violent escalation in rhetoric, especially (though not exclusively) by Palin. Obama “launched his political career in the living room of a domestic terrorist.” He is “palling around with terrorists” (note the plural noun). Obama is “not a man who sees America the way you and I see America.” Wielding a wildly out-of-context Obama quote, Palin slurs him as an enemy of American troops.

By the time McCain asks the crowd “Who is the real Barack Obama?” it’s no surprise that someone cries out “Terrorist!” The rhetorical conflation of Obama with terrorism is complete. It is stoked further by the repeated invocation of Obama’s middle name by surrogates introducing McCain and Palin at these rallies. This sleight of hand at once synchronizes with the poisonous Obama-is-a-Muslim e-mail blasts and shifts the brand of terrorism from Ayers’s Vietnam-era variety to the radical Islamic threats of today.

That’s a far cry from simply accusing Obama of being a guilty-by-association radical leftist. Obama is being branded as a potential killer and an accessory to past attempts at murder.
While such instances of overt racism as described by Rich are no doubt having an influence on the election, Nicholas Kristof argues that the type of racism that is really driving this election is much more subtle and, typically, unconscious on the part of the persons who wield it.

The racism is difficult to measure, but a careful survey completed last month by Stanford University, with The Associated Press and Yahoo, suggested that Mr. Obama’s support would be about six percentage points higher if he were white. That’s significant but surmountable.

Most of the lost votes aren’t those of dyed-in-the-wool racists. Such racists account for perhaps 10 percent of the electorate and, polling suggests, are mostly conservatives who would not vote for any Democratic presidential candidate.

Rather, most of the votes that Mr. Obama actually loses belong to well-meaning whites who believe in racial equality and have no objection to electing a black person as president — yet who discriminate unconsciously.

The bottom line is that Barack Obama--America's first black presidential contender--is plagued by race on both sides of the aisle. On one hand, he must confront the shameless racial and ethnic slurs from overzealous McCain supporters. And on the other, he must overcome the invisible, unconscious racism that is deeply rooted in the hearts and minds of those who sincerely believe that they support racial equality. No doubt, the barriers posed by the latter group will me much more difficult to overcome.

UPDATE:Michael Westmoreland-White over at Levellers identifies some additional resources on race and the Bradley effect (or lack thereof) in this year's election.

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U.S. Policy Pushes and Pulls Migrants

Miguel De La Torre, a columnist for notes that the United States is one of the only nations in the world to make humanitarian aid a crime.

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Haiti Watch

Following Haiti's devastation by four back to back storms last month, editorials in the Miami Herald and the New York Times (see here and here) have joined Haiti's president René Preval and members of congress in calling for the Bush administration to grant temporary protected status (TPS) to undocumented Haitian immigrants currently residing in the United States.

After the storms, the Bush administration temporarily suspended deportations but has not yet taken the next step of granting TPS. In the past, the U.S. has routinely granted (and the Bush administration has regularly renewed) TPS to Hondurans, Salavorans, and Hondurans when their countries faced similar devastating catastrophies yet, as the Miami Herald puts it, Haitians can't seem to "catch a break." Haiti's poverty, which was already the worst on this side of the globe prior to the storm, has--practically overnight--become infinitely worse. The last thing Haiti needs right now is, as the New York Times argues, "a forced influx of homeless, jobless deportees."

If you are a U.S. citizen, consider contacting President Bush and your congressional representatives and encourage them to support TPS for Haitian nationals. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you can also encourage support for this measure by contacting the U.S. ambassador in your country of residence.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Race in the Bahamas

Ward Minnis over at Mental Slavery has written an informative post about race in the Bahamas. Too often, we overlook the fact that race is not so much a biological or genetic phenomenon as it is a social construction. If you have any doubts about that, consider for a moment how race is understood in the Caribbean, in general, and the Bahamas, in particular.

Minnis writes:
This color line is tricky. It’s no where near as rigid as the “one drop” rule that governs blackness in the United States. The Bahamian black/white line is a fluid boundary that varies in different islands and even in different settlements / villages on the same island. For example on the same island of Eleuthera, I am read as black in Tarpum Bay and white in Lower Bogue.
More interesting still is how race is often closely linked with national identity. Back when I was studying TESL in Puerto Rico, I had an American classmate who had previously spent five years teaching English in Taiwan. While there, he observed that the English language schools preferred to hire Germans and Swedes rather than African Americans who were native English speakers because they assumed that "real" English could only be spoken folks who were white or, in other words, fit their preconceived notion of what Americans and Brits are supposed to look like. Likewise, Minnis points out how linking blackness with Bahamian national identity has had the reverse effect in the Bahamas.

As it stands the Bahamian identity is constructed as black, ghetto and male. This construction ignores, deliberately I believe, the 20 percent or so of the country that happen to be white. I have inadvertently asked a few white Bahamians “so, where are you from?” It’s polite conversation with a tourist but it’s the surest, most direct way to insult a native . . . To be called white in the Bahamas is another way to say that you do not belong.
You can read the rest of Minnis' post here.

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