#IPM45

The following are the welcome comments from Dr. James P. Keane, IPM International Executive Board Chair, at IPM’s 45th Anniversary Celebration in Saint Louis, MO, USA, May 10, 2019. 

IPM 45thAnniversary Luncheon

Welcome by Dr. James Keane, International Executive Board Chair

May 10, 2019

Good afternoon everyone! I am Dr. James Keane, Chair of the IPM International Executive Board and I am thrilled to be here in St. Louis with all of you to celebrate the 45thanniversary of IPM!

I’m a graduate of Yale Divinity School and hold a doctorate from Marquette University in systematic theology.

My academic work—surprise, surprise!–has focused on the writings of Gustavo Gutiérrez, the founder of Latin American liberation theology.

And I mention this because the central insight of Gustavo Gutiérrez is that “solidarity” and “partnership” that bridges religious, cultural, economic and geographic divides is what forms authentic human beings and vibrant, vital communities.

And this insight is at the heart of IPM.

IPM connects North and South, East and West, the haves and the have nots, the Christians and those of other faiths. Sure, IPM is about micro-loans and innovative partner projects and programs for women and children in some of the poorest corners of the world…but its essence is relationality and our common humanity.

Its message is that we are stronger together than apart.

Today we want to pause and remember the valuable contributions of the Lutheran Missionaries, the Reverend Jim Mayer and the Reverend Paul Strege, upon whose shoulders IPM is built. And we also want to graciously applaud their families for helping us to keep alive the empowering vision of IPM, the vision of a future steeped in hope and rooted in love.

And we need that vision now more than ever.

 

Our world is brailing its way through darkness, looking for a beacon to remind itself of humanity’s higher purpose and I firmly believe that IPM is one of those beacons.

It points the way.

IPM reminds us that when we step outside of our “selves,” towards the other, when we embrace the sufferings of our neighbors in need and make their suffering our suffering, when thathappens—we each grow in empathy and become the people we were made to be.

This week, our world lost an extraordinary example of this same principle. Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche communities in Canada died from cancer at the age of 90.

In his mid-30s, Jeane Vanier began visiting French asylums. He found scenes typical of mental institutions of his time: a “chaotic atmosphere of violence and uproar.” Patients restrained in shackles, some just walked in circles. The screams of the patients were deafening and filled Vanier with revulsion.

However, Vanier overcame his horror and revulsion and discovered, instead, a profound affinity for people with intellectual challenges and came to see them as a “source of life and truth, if we welcome them… and put ourselves at their service.”

His idea was one of inclusion, to treat the intellectually challenged not as the objects of charity, but rather as friends and even teachers. He founded communities in which people with disabilities lived alongside people those without in a spirit of mutual respect and care.

Doesn’t this sound familiar?

Doesn’t it sound like one of Joe Cistone’s letters? Or something Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King would have said? Doesn’t this sound like accompaniment? Like solidarity?

Like…brotherhood and sisterhood?

And does it not sound like something that each of us in this room knows to be true? Community helps build authentic human beings, people who know who they are and where they stand. Community generates love, understanding, support….and hope.

So, again, welcome everyone to this wonderful community born some 45 years ago!

Let’s use this time to celebrate our past, honor the memories of our founders, cherish the efforts of their families and begin to imagine, with resolve –and the same kind of audacity and courage used by Jim and Paul—the next forty-five years of IPM.

Thank you!

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Living Into the Shared Promise of a Passover & Easter Weekend.

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Dear Friends,

Thursday night I had the privilege to celebrate again this year a Jewish Seder Meal and the Christian Holy/Maundy Thursday with a small group of committed friends.

As we read our way through the Passover liturgy, we were reminded of the bitterness of the Israelites captivity in Egypt and of the way that Jesus of Nazareth, like the Prophets before him, sought to bring liberty to those “captured” in a system of imperial injustice that most profoundly harmed the imprisoned, orphaned, widowed, and stranger.

The empire of Jesus’ day—one that forced his family to become refugees and eventually nailed him to a cross—echoes in many of the populist policies of today while the Project Partners around the world that IPM accompanies continue the millennial struggle to be recognized for their inherent human dignity and equality in God’s eyes.

IPM’s deep, long-term relationship with the peoples of Central America–El Salvador & Nicaragua in particular–causes us to challenge the rationale and efficacy of recent US government policies that destabilize nations on one hand while preventing the freedom of movement of the most vulnerable with the other. Such policies only lead to further emigration–the very reality that our current administration seeks to stem. Similar policies toward people of Muslim descent, belie the oft-repeated claim that the USA is a “Christian” nation. Failure to confront the authoritarian dictatorships of our day, which punish the very people for whom both Moses and Jesus sought liberation, is perhaps the greatest heresy of our time.

This Passover and Easter weekend it’s vital that we remind ourselves of what the shared Abrahamic faith of so many of us commands: that we act justly, love mercifully, and walk humbly with our God. We join our voices with the IPM’s multi-faith Partners to insist that another world is indeed possible AND that it starts with each of us.

A good friend recently reminded me that Mahatma Gandhi shared similar sentiments in the midst of his own struggle with empire. Gandhi said this: “nonviolence does not mean meek submission to the will of the evildoer, but it means the pitting of one’s whole soul against the will of the tyrant. Working under this law of our being, it is possible for a single being to defy the whole might of an unjust empire to save (one’s) honor, (one’s) religion, (one’s) soul, and lay the foundation for that empire’s fall or regeneration.”

This holiday weekend is a time to remind ourselves of the power that each of us has within our hearts & hands to be a seed of liberation & love… a promise of both regeneration & resurrection.

I pray that you find such inspiration as you commemorate Passover & Easter. And, may the peace that passes all understanding continue to guide us all in our common effort to make this world a more just, peace-filled, and hopeful place.

Faithfully Yours,

Joe

April 20, 2019

A New Year’s Remembrance

(Paula Perez, 3rd from right bottom row w/ 2015 Yale Immersion Experience Delegation)

Dear Friends,

I had planned to write you today with New Year’s Greetings while reminding you of our year-end match campaign. And, in fact, you may donate to IPM through this evening (and via check’s dated December 31st) to support the remarkable work of our Project Partners and Regional Offices around the world.

But early this morning while accompanying an IPM Immersion Experience delegation in Rome, I learned of the passing of longtime IPM’s Project Partner Paula (Paulita) Perez. Paulita had been battling a terminal illness for some time and while her passing was not unexpected, it is no less heartbreaking. A peer of mine in age and socio-political orientation, Paulita and I shared a myriad of remarkable experiences over the years. I—and countless IPM colleague and friends in El Salvador—will miss her deeply.

Paulita was born to parents who were actively engaged in the social ferment of El Salvador in the second half of the last century. Active participants in their faith community and the political process, they were targeted for unspeakable horrors and ultimately forced to flee from their home to the outskirts of Zaragoza. Their faith and family held strong. They raised their children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and countless friends to believe that change was indeed possible and that it was everyone’s responsibility to actively work toward a world more equitable and just for all, but especially, the poorest of the poor.

I first met Paulita as one of the co-founders of the Muyer y Communidad (now ACOMUJERZA) Women’s Sewing Cooperative. This was one of the first new Project Partners of my then still new tenure with IPM and modeled on the work of a similar women’s cooperative in Nicaragua. Paulita was short in stature but strong in spirit and will. She was a fighter, an embroider, and an inspiration. She taught countless IPM Immersion Experience participants over the years how to embroider—a talent I never fully acquired—and what it means to be a Christian who prays with ones actions in the world. In conversations at the Cooperative, long walks around her community, and overnight stays in her family home, I got to know her like few other Salvadoran women of my generation.

Later in our relationship as I recovered from the lingering effects of Hepatitis E and her health deteriorated more rapidly due to her own liver disease we would talk increasingly of mortality, the health of her elderly mother, and of the remarkable impact she had had on so many in her own small way. I would stay awake at night tormented by how her illness would have likely been curable in the States, as mine was, and yet her path ahead would be undeniably hard. She was not one to mince words, and she struggled with how the political situation in El Salvador stagnated just as the Beatification of Oscar Romero brought some hope. In the past year, I saw her much less frequently as IPM’s Immersion Experience numbers in El Salvador declined and her own health kept her more often at home than at work in the cooperative.

But I, like many, thought often of Paulita: of the powerful influence she had on the Cooperative’s founding; of the way her embroidery skills were a hallmark of their work and would carry on in the next generation; of the powerful witness of her extended family; over questions of why she, of all people so strong and so dedicated, was struck with such a debilitating illness; and, of her hopes for the future of her beloved El Salvador.

2018 has been a tough year for so many. Replete with challenges for our Partners and friends living through civil unrest in Nicaragua, the growing autocracy in Brasil, India, & Kenya, and fear-mongering & xenophobia in the USA. It has also been a year where many of us celebrated the almost impossible dream of Oscar Romero’s portrait hanging from Saint Peter’s facade and with the faith that the pendulum would swing back again—bringing a new generation of social, political and religious leaders more focused on justice, peace, and hope.

2019 promises to be a different year as they all are. A year in which I trust IPM and the world will continue to counter hate with hope, and fear with love. As I dream of what might be possible in the year (and years) ahead I will remain inspired but the example of so many of you and, particularly, of the witness of one tiny but powerful women who I had the honor to call a friend.

Paulita is just one shining example of the kind of person IPM believes in and the kind of Partner that thrives at our core. Her life and her commitment will continue to inspire me as I know it will so many of you. And I pray that her spirit—like that of so many who have given their lives in the service of others and of this movement—will continue to animate all we do.

Please join me in praying for the Perez Family at this time of mourning. Please consider making a gift in Paulita’s honor to support ACOMUJERZA & IPM’s Partners in El Salvador. And please be assured of our best wishes for a more joyful and peace-filled New Year.

Faithfully yours – Joe

 

December 31, 2018, Rome

Thanksgiving–It’s Each of You I Am Thankful For!

It probably won’t surprise you to know that Thanksgiving remains a holiday of mixed blessings for me. Created as a myth that denies the reality of genocide perpetrated against Native communities and now largely morphed into a shopping holiday, I continue to wrestle with exactly what we are claiming to be thankful for.

For the five years in Italy when I served as an IPM Project Coordinator at the Joined Hands Refugee Centre, I juggled wanting to share “the best” of the U.S. Holiday Season with my foreign-born daughter and what such a holiday might mean for the Refugee members of the JHRC. We’d travel the countryside to find the “right” bird and host hundreds for a special feast. Those shared meals in the heart of Rome reaffirmed my sense of the Holiday’s value and taught me much about what it means to live a life full of gratitude in a world where so many are left longing.

When I returned to the States in 1997, Thanksgiving was not only a welcome break from the workweek, but an opportunity to continue a tradition of service and shared sustenance. In fact, helping to prepare a meal for the less fortunate or running in a Turkey Day 5K to bring early Christmas joy to hospitalized children, was rewarding to me in a way that a meal replete with political and religious discord simply never could be.

During the past seventeen+ years with IPM I’ve found a new appreciation for the Holiday just as I have bristled at its false pretense. Thanksgiving has become for me—as I know it is for so many of you—an unique, annual opportunity to step back, count our blessings, and redouble our efforts to make a difference in a world that is hurting.

We all have much to be thankful for. And those of us in these United States have a daily abundance that remains the envy of many and yet we bristle when they show up at our door seeking refuge. We fear the other and remain deeply divided by class, ethnicity, gender, race, and religion. Hate seems to be on the rise and fear mongering remains the expedient form of political discourse.

But there is also a spirit at work in communities across this nation and around the world that speaks to another way. A vision of human thriving that is grounded in what we have in common, not that which divides us. A faith in the power of love to make change and a growing commitment to the hard work that real, sustainable change entails.

IPM’s II International General Assembly in Cleveland last month was a reminder of just how much is possible when we are able to spend time together, face to face and hand in hand. Whether we hailed from South Asia or Sub Saharan Africa, the Americas or Europe, we knew (and know!) that the world needs just the sort of person-to-person connection that IPM has been nurturing for forty-four years.

So as you sit down for a meal this Thursday, I’d ask that you keep IPM in your prayers and meditations. That you would join us in redoubling our efforts to honor the indigenous communities around the world whose stories of joy and thanks giving often remain unknown to us. And that you will take the time to slow down and remind yourself what a difference your time, talent, and treasure can make in the life of the IPM Family.

For it is your commitment to this International Partnership Movement for which I am most grateful this week and that continues to help us make all the difference in the world.

Best wishes for a joyful and peace-filled Thanksgiving Holiday!


Joseph F. Cistone, IPM CEO

#KeepFamiliesTogether

On Sunday June 17 as I gathered with the members of my faith community to celebrate Father’s Day our commemorations of the vital role fathers and father-figures play in the lives of children were sidetracked by the heart-wrenching scenes of children being forcibly separated from their parents at our nation’s southern border.

The statements emanating from the current administration that Christian scripture somehow places law over the love of neighbor are patently false. Quoting from Paul can never supersede the words of Jesus—a childhood refugee himself—who emphasized in action and word the longstanding commitment of his Jewish faith that we were called to welcome the stranger, (Matthew 25:35). As the Hebrew Book of Leviticus proclaims: When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”

This tradition of hospitality is not only a fundamental tenant of the Abrahamic Faiths—it pervades Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism as well. “Let a person never turn away a stranger from their house, that is the rule, for good people say to the stranger there is enough food for you,” (Taitiriya Upanishad 1.11.2).

Within the IPM Family I know that we share many diverse faiths and some of you who will read this who are not motivated by a particular religious tradition. And as a follower of Jesus, I must confess that at times throughout history, leaders of the Christian faith have used the Bible to justify the unconscionable separation of children from their families. The Document of Discovery that provided a faith-based rationale for the genocide of the America’s native peoples, the twisted use of Hebrew & Christian Scripture to justify the enslavement and death of tens of millions of our African brothers and sisters, the trial and murder of women who did not conform to the “norms” of Puritan New England, the systematic separation of children from their families during the Holocaust, and the forced internment of Japanese citizens during the second world war, provide ample testimony to the myriad ways Christianity has been used by those in power to wreak havoc on our world’s materially poor and socially marginalized.

I also know, however, that my faith and the espoused traditions of this nation, call each of us, and especially our elected leaders, to a higher purpose. From the great 5thCentury African Theologian, Augustine of Hippo, who proclaimed that an unjust law is no law at all, to the Salvadoran Bishop Oscar Romero who argued on the eve of his assassination in 1980 that even soldiers were compelled to resist a law that ran counter to the will of God: our Christian faith tradition is replete with reminders that political leaders who govern counter to the will of a loving and merciful God merit both our condemnation and resistance.

But it’s not just my faith that compels me to speak out against the heinous treatment of the refugee and immigrant families seeking our nation’s protection. The United States of America remains bound by the 1967 Protocol Relation to the Status of Refugees and other international agreements created specifically in response to how our nation and others closed their borders to those seeking asylum as millions of innocent civilians were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators.

The USA’s own political traditions from the Declaration of Independence, which decried King George’s maltreatment of those seeking to emigrate to the then colonies, to the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty—”Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”—emphasize the very best of this nation’s immigrant past.

As I have written before but never tire of quoting, ironically perhaps Ronald Reagan said it best in his 1989 Shining City Upon a Hill farewell address,when he envisioned a USA in which “if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still… a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.”

I could go on and on writing about what the Christian Scriptures REALLY tells us about welcoming immigrants and refugees, of how this nation was built largely on the backs of enslaved and forced migrants, or of the entrepreneurial vitality immigrants and refugees continue to carry with them to our borders; but my purpose in writing to you as the Chief Executive of IPM is to remind each of us of how we are called to be our better selves.

In my personal and professional life I, like so many of you, have experienced both the horrors from which our Central American brothers and sisters run to this nation and the remarkable gifts people from around the world continue to bring to my life and the life of the IPM Family.

Look around you. See the hard work of the men and women and even children who staff our restaurants, clean our homes, pick our produce, and mow our lawns. Know that each of them has a family that they love and for whom they have come to this country seeking a better life. And know as well that they, like us, are children of God.

No child should have to grow up without a parent. No child should ever be ripped from a loving mother or father’s arms. And, for those of us fortunate enough to live in these United States, each of us is called to care for the parents and children who have been compelled to seek sanctuary at our door.

Peace, Joe

 

Cleveland, OH, USA

Friday, June 22, 2018

 

Please note that this statement was revised by Joe, in consultation with two UCC Pastor Colleagues, for publication in the Mount Desert Islander on June 28, 2018.

It’s time to care! Here is some of what you can once again do to personally help ensure that the separation of children from their parents stops:

  • Write &/or call the White House and your Senators & Congressional Representatives to insist that families seeking asylum at our borders are not separated and that those children already taken from their parents be immediately returned to them.
  • Open your home to provide immediate hospitality for immigrant and refugee families seeking shelter and comfort at this time.
  • Encourage your faith community to declare Sanctuary for those who may be forcibly repatriated without a place to live freely in the USA, https://action.groundswell-mvmt.org.
  • Donate to IPM by calling us at 1.216.932.4082 or toll free in Canada and the United States at 1.866.932.4082 as we support the good work of Nicaraguans and Salvadorans within their own countries so their need to emigrate is lessened.
  • Keep all those individuals and families potentially impacted by these policy changes at the center of your prayer life and/or meditation practice.

Tel: +1.216.932.4082 / www.ipmconnect.org

A Cry of the Nicaraguan People

May 17, 2018

I’m sorry José, I can only share this sad thing we’re living! Still we are very encouraged in our work and looking for how to help women planning self-help workshops to manage stress and anxiety in this social conflict. We know that with your prayers and our faith everything will improve, (IPM Project Partner).

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IPM has a long, loving, history with Nicaragua and the Nicaraguan people. Augsburg College’s Casa Jaime Mayer (named for our co-founder, Jim Mayer) is just one living example of IPM’s legacy there—a rich legacy that we continue to live out in this our 44thyear, through our local Partners, colleagues, and friends as the quote above illustrates quite personally.

As you may know, over the past few months, Nicaragua has been back in the news again in a manner that is eerily resonate for those of us whose history with that beautiful country and its resilient people goes back to the Iran-Contra affair and the proxy wars that tormented Central America in the 1980’s.

On one hand, in November the US Government sought to eliminate the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation that has allowed more than 2,500 Nicaraguans to remain in the USA for nearly two decades and replace it with provisional residency for 14 months before being forcibly repatriated. IPM stands with all those seeking to protect TPS and provide sanctuary for those whose protected status may soon be overturned, forcing them to abandon their US citizen children and livelihoods.

On the other, after his re-election to a third consecutive presidential term in November of last year, Daniel Ortega and his spouse, Rosario Murillo—the new vice-president and heir apparent—proposed in April to significantly alter the nation’s social security program. The immediate reaction from pensioners, veterans, and students was to take to the streets. The protests were brutally put down and more than sixty Nicaraguans were killed. The Nicaraguan government has subsequently withdrawn the proposed changes but the negotiation process for these and other necessary changes remains tense with a change in Nicaragua’s political leadership long overdue.

In addition to our longstanding accompaniment of IPM’s remarkable Nicaraguan Partners, we continue to offer Nicaraguan Immersion Experience Programs specifically because the type of work we claim as our purpose is not always easy or without risk. IPM’s Immersions generate income for our Partners and Regional Staff, just as they are a vital and concrete expression of our solidarity with the Nicaraguan people and the deep historical connection we share.  My colleagues, Fatima and Adela, from El Salvador will travel to Nicaragua in June to build upon their April visit there with former IPM International Board Member, Mark Falbo—who is helping us secure quantitative and qualitative background for our II International General Assembly in Cleveland (OH, USA)—and publically demonstrate IPM’s concrete commitment to accompanying our Nicaraguan colleagues and Partners.

Today, I would like to share with you some of the other moving quotes we have received from our Nicaraguan Partners, colleagues, and friends beginning on April 25 and through this morning:

We spent a difficult week, the government remains very calm, despite the big pressure the people are creating in the streets. At the end of the day, the government accepted a dialogue. We are hoping for the best to come out of this conversation. My family is well, thanks for asking.

Good morning dear Fatima, we deeply appreciate your solidarity and support for our people. From the beginning of the social conflict in Nicaragua until today, we have felt warmly embraced by the sincere affection of IPM family that have joined our sadness and prayers. Thank you !!


Our country has a lot of mourning and pain!! It is unfortunate this struggle between brothers that is endless with so much hatred and resentment on both sides.

The events of violence have brought mourning, pain and death to our people. The principles of our organization are ideological freedom, power freedom and religion freedom…We follow up the idea of creating an integral organization (all-inclusive) and keep perusing our dreams of creating an integral country (all-inclusive) as well; in which we are not a divided country but an inclusive country. We keep struggling to build a democratic, tolerant and fair society for everyone.

This past Monday, the dialogue proposed between the government and the Catholic Bishops proved inconclusive at best. The situation remains tense and reminds all of us just how fragile democracy and peace can be.

As members of the IPM Family we ask that you consider your response at this time:

  • Write your Senators and Congressional Representatives to insist that the US Government refrain from making inflammatory statements about Nicaragua or covertly taking sides in this matter, since our intervention will only lessen the possibility for peaceful resolution at this time.
  • Keep IPM’s Project Partners, colleagues, friends, and the Nicaraguan people at the center of your prayer life and/or meditation practice.
  • Continue to support to IPM as we nurture the good work our Nicaraguan Partners are doing to promote justice and hope in their communities by donating at: https://www.ipmconnect.org/donations-2?viewmode=listor calling 1.866.932.4082.

Thank you for reading this and your continued willingness to stand alongside IPM as we seek to embody Jim Mayer’s prophetic vision of “exposing North Americans to the global realities of poverty and injustice, and challenging them with a new vision of society grounded in justice and love.” In Jim’s memory and in solidarity with the Nicaraguan people, we remain, faithfully yours.

Paz, Joe

Joseph F. Cistone, CEO

May 17, 2018

Be Not Afraid

Friday, March 30, 2018

What a week it’s been! It seems like I’ve been saying that a lot this past year but this time there was as much sadness as joy, fear-mongering as hope for the future.

The #MarchForOurLives last Saturday was inspiring and a welcome reminder for me that the Christian holiday of Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ own march into Jerusalem as a direct confrontation of Roman rule where the lives of Jewish children clearly didn’t matter.

While some took to social media to challenge who was “really” behind the prophetic response of Parkland’s students, many of us asked where the similar outrage is when black lives are taken? Today’s release of an independent autopsy of Stephon Clark confirms what the #BlacksLivesMatter movement has been reminding us for almost four years: the way our society still views black lives and black bodies is infused with the bias of centuries of white privilege in a nation where we still falsely claim equality for all. It took a remarkable 11-year old girl, Naomi Wadler, to remind us once again that we are still so far from what we claim to be, (https://www.nbcnews.com/video/naomi-wadler-gives-speech-at-march-for-our-lives-rally-bringing-attention-to-african-americans-left-out-of-the-gun-violence-discussion-1194281539844).

Some will continue to attack Emma Gonzalez and the Parkland survivors as opportunists or point to Stephon Clark’s past as some sort of twisted excuse for being murdered in his grandmother’s back yard, but what I see in these events, and so many others like them, are signs of a nation that is lost and afraid.

Most of us in the U.S. claim Christianity as our religion, but over this weekend, how many of us are truly willing to head the words spoken to the first apostle, Mary Magdalene—Be Not Afraid.

It must be fear that divides us. I can’t, I won’t believe it is simply that we don’t care.

  • Why else would we stand by when a loving father, the Guatemalan born Felix Garcia, who has been living and working peacefully in the US for 23 years, is detained just as his US citizen daughter is completing her third year of medical school at IPM’s frequent Immersion Partner, Loyola Chicago, (to take action click here: https://ignatiansolidarity.net/blog/2018/03/21/take-action-stop-deportation-of-felix-garcia-father-of-loyola-chicago-medical-student/)?
  • How could we even imagine forcibly repatriating more than 200,000 Salvadoran nationals with protected status to a country they barely know, while leaving a like number of their US citizen children behind at a time when our State Department claims it’s unsafe for US citizens to travel there?
  • How can we continue to ignore what our own policies have done to further civil war from the Congo to Syria and then refuse to accept those who come to our borders seeking asylum?

The older I get, my best guess is that it is because we don’t see—let alone feel—how our lives are connected to theirs. Perhaps we feel there is just too much evil in the world to respond. Maybe, most simply, we are afraid?

Last night I gathered with friends and colleagues from across our community to celebrate a Jewish Seder Meal and Christian Communion Service. In re-reading the Passover texts from Exodus and other sources, I’m reminded that the best of our religious holidays—Holy Thursday & Passover, Ifthar & Diwali—are not just about what we may or may not believe; but of the importance of gathering together and getting to know one another over a meal.

Clearly we can’t find a way to eat with everyone. But that doesn’t mean that at table with family, friends, and even those we barely know, we can’t come to understand what is the most essential message of IPM: that the vast majority of the world’s citizens desire the same things for their children and families that we do for ours—plentiful food, ready access to potable water, a quality education, affordable healthcare, & the right to love whom we choose.

You can travel with me on an IPM Immersion for a myriad of such meals. You can support a local food co-op or help your faith community provide more community meals for those you barely know. But do something. We all need to do something if we want to live free of fear.

When I looked at the faces of those who gathered with my children and I at the march last Saturday, when I look across the room at those commemorating Passover, when I recall breaking a fast or breaking bread on a floor India: I see eyes that gaze back deeply at mine, eyes that won’t let me go, eyes that keep me awake at night and challenge all of us to do more.

As you gather with friends and family this Holy weekend, I hope you’ll acknowledge that so few people in our world have the opportunities we do. I pray you’ll recall with Martin Luther King, that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” And perhaps most importantly, I plead with you not to see difference in a young black man murdered in Sacramento, a young woman’s pride in their Cuban heritage standing silently in front of thousands in DC, or a father detained in Georgia, but to see yourself and all you love in them.

For as we do onto them, we do to ourselves. And until we come to respect and love one another despite our difference, we will always be afraid.

Peace, Joe

#LetTeachersTeach

My parents are retired teachers—public and parochial schools respectively. My cousin teaches in one of the most challenged districts in our nation. My daughter and her partner are in their third years with City Year and Teach for America. I’ve taught/teach at a secondary school in Rome, two denominational seminaries, and at one of the best (the best IMO!) universities in the world.

So why does that matter? Because in no case did I feel I should be packing a gun to “protect” my students. That’s what my friends in law enforcement and the military are for! I can shoot. I grew up around guns and hunters. I live in a state where deer and moose season is an annual festival. We can protect a right to bear arms while ensuring our basic human right to life.

But kids shouldn’t be allowed to carry guns to school. Those with mental illness and histories of domestic violence shouldn’t be allowed to have guns at all. And most of all, it ought to be a lot harder to buy a gun than it is to vote, drink a beer, and drive a car.

#GunsInTheWrongHandsKillPeople just as people do. But I’ll take my chances with a knife any time.

So politicians, stop prostituing yourselves to the NRA. Preachers, stop making excuses for incredibly bad behavior. Principals resist any decision to arm your teachers. Police do your job and keep guns out of the hands of those who have no reasonable right to have one. And all of us—parents, friends, people of faith—let’s be honest about what the 2nd Ammendmanet was really meant for and come together around sensible gun legislation to keep us all safe.

We owe it to the kids killed in Parkland, those massacres from a Church in Charleston to a concert in Cegas, and to all those whose whose lives have been taken by guns in the wrong hands.

#SensibleGunControlNow

 

 

Happy New Year from IPM!

Dear Friends,

This New Year’s Eve will find me in Assisi with an IPM delegation focused upon the Hebrew & Christian Scriptures from the Perspective of Art, Faith, and Service. While back in a country that was my home for seven years—and where I first served as an IPM Project Partner in the early 90’s—I am reminded of Francis of Assisi’s famous dictum: Preach the Gospel Always, Only When Necessary Use Words.

Our work within the IPM Family remains fundamentally about just that: “preaching” through our actions in the world. The notion of lived rather than just spoken faith has been at the heart of IPM since our founding by former Lutheran Missionaries, Rev. Jim Mayer & Rev. Paul Strege and their families in 1974.

In the past year that faith has been lived out in countless, pragmatic and inspirational ways, directly impacting the lives of more than 60,000 people worldwide. Just some examples:

  • In 2017 alone, IPM provided funding, technical support, and training to Project Partners from more than 12 countries with a particular focus on our “hubs” in El Salvador, India, and Kenya;
  • During the past year IPM expanded our still new Fellows Program from India to Nepal whereby outstanding Project Coordinators are guaranteed a just annual income and consistent mentoring from IPM’s International Staff as they learn and mature as community leaders with the personal resiliency required to make change for the long-term;
  • IPM’s International Staff and long-term Consultants continued to provide essential training in their home & neighboring countries, expanded their personal expertise through further academic/professional training, and facilitated Regional Conferences and regional participation in IPM’s international forums with an eye our 2nd International General Assembly to be held in Cleveland in late 2018 (more exciting details to come soon!);
  •  In the USA, IPM took a more active role, consistent with our founding principles, to advocate on behalf of the inherent human dignity and often denied human rights of immigrants, indigenous peoples, persons of color, people from minority ethnicities & religions, refugees, and women & girl children;
  •  IPM continues to partner with Eden Theological Seminary (St. Louis), Yale Divinity School (New Haven, CT), Holy Cross (Worcester, MA), Saint Joseph Academy (Cleveland), and other faith-based and secular Program Partners who view our Immersion Experience Program as the perfect avenue for the transformational learning their institutions and students desire.

In the USA, IPM took a more active role, consistent with our founding principles, to advocate on behalf of the inherent human dignity and often denied human rights of immigrants, indigenous peoples, persons of color, people from minority ethnicities & religions, refugees, and women & girl children.

I could go on and on but my point is quite simple—IPM continues to transform lives in a manner that is making a tangible and sustainable difference in our world!

Please know that as a 100% privately funded organization IPM is completely dependent upon the generosity of people like you to ensure we continue making a difference in the world. You can support IPM directly right now by clicking here: DONATION LINK All donations made or dated prior to December 31st will count toward our special year-end Challenge Match made possible by the Singing for Change Foundation.

Thank you for all you do to make the work of the IPM Board, Staff, and Partners possible! We couldn’t accomplish any of what I’ve listed above without people like you.

On behalf of the entire IPM Family, please accept our best wishes to you for a joyful and peace-filled New Year!

Peace,


Joseph F. Cistone, CEO
December 29, 2017