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The 2014 United Methodist Women/Iowa United Methodist Advocacy Day focused on the intersection of immigration issue, human trafficking, and Iowa Legislation. Presentations from keynote topical speakers and coaching for contacting legislators guided the nearly 50 persons present, at Wesley UMC, prior to the group moving to the Capitol building.
Consistent with the adopted priorities which call for “communities of faithful people…[to] live out the love of Jesus as instruments of God’s grace, peace, and justice,” the group gathered to live out the Social Creed, which calls United Methodists to “dedicate ourselves to peace throughout the world, to the rule of justice and law among nations, and ti individual freedom for all people of the world.”
Rita Carter, Social Action Mission Coordinator for the Iowa Conference UMW, coordinated the day and gathered the group for the opening devotions that were led by Pastor Mike Fillmore of Wesley UMC.
Immigration issues, both national and Iowa-centered, were discussed by Erica Johnson of the Iowa Office of the American Civil Liberties Union and Joy Moore,who is the U/VAWA attorney for Iowa Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON). Johnson reviewed some of the bills that have been introduced at the beginning of the 2014 legislative session. Moore drew the group’s attention to ways that immigrants who have endured abusive situations can find legal remedy including pathways to citizenship.
Human trafficking was second focus of the morning. Dr. Teresa Downing-Matibag, Executive Director of the Network Against Human Trafficking, described the insidious ways that entrap persons into economic and sexual slavery and suggested ways to become more observant and aware of even subtle signs that it’s taking place. From the internet to truck stops hundreds of thousands are victimized and coerced into the commercial sex trade. Downing-Matibag is also a member of the Human Trafficking Enforcement and Prosecution Initiative of the Iowa Office of the Attorney General. Deb Streff, East Central District UMW SA Coordinator/Eastern Iowa Human Trafficking work revealed a list of clothing stores that routinely operate with enslaved labor practices and even a well-known chocolate bar manufacturer that uses children to pick the cocoa beans that make up its foil wrapped candies.
The early afternoon was devoted to reviewing advocacy talking points and constructive ways of engaging Iowa legislators in meaningful conversation. Rev. Brian Carter spoke about the legislative witness that he and four others are doing, sharing United Methodist perspectives with Iowa’s House and Senate members.
At nearly 2:00 pm the group of Iowa Conference UMW leaders, and even the Conference Lay Leader, Dave Decker, headed to the Capitol to meet with elected representatives.