UNION News

Interfaith Appeal for Justice at Standing Rock

Categories: In the News

President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

November 11, 2016

Dear Mr. President,

As faith leaders from across the nation, we write to you with a sense of urgency regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and the opposition to it led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. We believe that you are aware that many of our denominations have made strong public statements of support of the Tribe and are actively encouraging solidarity among our members.

We view with great alarm the increased militarization and disproportionately violent response to peaceful protesters, the mislabeling of prayerful gatherings as “riots,” the illegal use of attack dogs and chemical sprays, and militaristic aggression on October 27 with armored tanks and heavily armed police that is more commonly associated with wars. So egregious was this recent police attack, that Amnesty International has sent human rights observers to monitor the response of law enforcement to the protests, and the international watchdog group will be asking the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate police actions.

Given the numerous irregularities and violations of procedures and laws that have marked the stages of approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline, we call on you to rectify these steps. The Army Corps of Engineers sidestepped procedures under Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12) to grant approval for a project (DAPL) that did not meet the necessary standards. This process also breached the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act which require environmental impact statements and opportunities for the public to be fully informed through hearings. Further, the National Historic Preservation Act requires tribal consultation, which was narrow and entirely inadequate.  In addition, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which you gave your solemn word that the United States would support, enshrines free, prior and informed consent on issues affecting their nations.

The scandalous action by the pipeline company to destroy sacred burial grounds is not only a moral outrage but a violation of the National Historic Preservation Act. As leaders from a broad range of religious traditions, we recognize that the religious freedom of Indigenous Peoples involves the safeguarding of the traditional lands that are the wellsprings of their cultures and spiritual ways of life. We see the protection of sacred lands and the resources located on these parcels of our common planet as one of the most important steps in honoring native peoples and their respective religions. We unite to proclaim today that Indigenous spiritual paths are valid, sacred and utterly indispensable strands within the overall tapestry of human heritage, deserving of the world’s respect and protection.

Utter disrespect was also evident when the location of the proposed pipeline was moved to within one-half mile of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation after the citizens of Bismark, ND rejected its construction due to fears of contamination of the city’s water supply.  The Standing Rock Sioux and their allies appropriately consider themselves “Water Protectors” rather than “protestors.” Members of the Standing Rock Sioux maintain that the path for DAPL lies on “unceded territory affirmed in the 1851 Treaty of Ft. Laramie.” This raises a most serious matter of treaty obligation compliance, which is paramount to this case. Not only has the pipeline company ignored the Department of Justice request to halt construction, but it has taken advantage of the police repelling barricades to work feverishly towards its completion.

The Standing Rock Sioux, along with some 200 Native American tribes and a growing number of individuals and organizations, are acting not only in their own interest but also in the interest of the 18 million regional residents who would see their water supply compromised by an oil spill in the Missouri River. And beyond this very legitimate local concern, all those involved also point to the larger environmental imperatives. A recent study has indicated that total emissions from the DAPL pipeline would be the equivalent of some 30 coal plants.  Total pledges at the Paris climate summit fall well short of the mark for holding global warming to less than 2ºC; emissions from a pipeline of this nature would assure that the United States would not even be able to attain its initial goal. At this critical time when the world must be turning away from fossil fuel use, in the small window remaining, this pipeline instead expands it, risking the irreversible warming that the scientific community warns would lead to catastrophic climate change.

The inherently spiritual actions of resistance of our Indigenous brothers and sisters has come as a response to the imminent danger not only to themselves but to the larger community and indeed, the entire world, posed by the devastating impact of the fossil fuels emissions that would enter the environment. It is no wonder that such a strong stance is being taken by so many.  As persons of faith, we cannot align ourselves with the pursuit of profit at the expense of life itself.  Nor can we turn a blind eye to the destruction of Creation, a gift we are entrusted to preserve.

The power lies in your hands to achieve an immediate halt to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, assure compliance with established law, suspend current and any future permits, and guarantee full respect for the sovereign nations within our borders.  This is our urging, in the name of Life itself.

Prayerfully yours,

Aisha al-Adawiya
Founder, Women in Islam, Inc
Auburn Seminary

Naeem Baig
President, Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)

Rev. Dr. William Barber II
Pastor, Greenleaf Christian Church
President, North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP

Rabbi Ellen Bernstein
Founder, Shomrei Adamah

Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon
Senior Pastor and Teacher
Christ the King United Church of Christ

Patrick Carolan
Executive Director, Franciscan Action Network

Rev. Tom Carr
Chair, Interreligious Eco-Justice Network, CT (IREJN)

Dr. Cláudio Carvalhaes
Associate Professor of Worship
Union Theological Seminary

Colin Christopher
Green Muslims

Rev. Dr. James H. Cone
Briggs Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology
Union Theological Seminary

Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ

Bishop Steven Duncan   
Orthodox-Catholic Church of America

Rev. Dr. Gerald L. Durley
Pastor Emeritus
Providence Baptist Church-Atlanta

Fellowship of Reconciliation

Sheikha Tamara Gray
Founding Director
Rabata Inc.

Imam Khalid Fattah Griggs
Chairman
Council for Social Justice, Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)

Rev. Anthony Grimes
Director of Campaigns & Strategy
Fellowship of Reconciliation

Rev. Dr. Katharine Rhodes Henderson
President
Auburn Seminary

Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe
General Secretary
General Board of Church and Society

United Methodist Church

Rev. Stephen C. Holton     
St. James Episcopal Church
North Salem, New York

Rev. Dr. Serene Jones
President
Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York

Interfaith Center of New York (ICNY)

Dr. Jerusha T. Lamptey  
Assistant Professor of Islam and Ministry
Director of the Islam, Social Justice, and Interreligious Engagement Program (ISJIE)
Union Theological Seminary

Rabbi Mordechai Liebling
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

Rev. Dr. James Moos
Executive Minister
Wider Church Ministries

United Church of Christ

Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid
Sound Vision Foundation

Bishop Bruce R. Ough
Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area
President, United Methodist Council of Bishops

Harriet Jane Olson
General Secretary/CEO
United Methodist Women

Rev. Irvin Porter
Associate for Native American Intercultural Congregational Support
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Linda Sarsour
Co-founder
Mpower Change

Rev. Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries, Denver, CO

Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith
Senior Organizer and Trainer
Fellowship of Reconciliation

Rev. Kristin Gill Stoneking
Executive Director
Fellowship of Reconciliation

Shelley Tanenbaum
General Secretary
Quaker Earthcare Witness

Unitarian Universalist Association

Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock
Senior Pastor
Ebenezer Baptist Church
Atlanta, Georgia

Rabbi Arthur Waskow
Director
The Shalom Center

Dr. Cornel West

Jim Winkler
President
National Council of Churches
Young Evangelicals for Climate Action

 

 

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