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September 2021 Newsbriefs


World Relief gears up to resettle Afghan refugees

Enroute to Ft. Lee in Virginia, Mark Finney, executive director of World Relief Spokane, saw the news that Afghanistan had fallen to the Taliban.

He was joining staff from refugee resettlement offices around the country in "Operation Allies Rescue" to welcome and complete the applications for thousands of Afghan interpreters and other allies trying to escape to freedom as their country crumbles.

"Every day I speak with Afghan friends who tell me of their family members fearing for their lives and desperate to escape," Mark said, anticipating that 18,000 people are in process to receive "Special Immigrant Visas" (SIV's), in addition to 50,000 of their dependent family members.

"It seems like a daunting task to evacuate and resettle that many people, but I'm convinced that we can do it," he affirmed.

In resettling more than 10,000 refugees, he said that Spokane has succeeded because "everyone has pitched in."

"World Relief will be welcoming Afghan allies to rebuild their lives in U.S. communities. Thousands of troops, nonprofit workers and volunteers across our nation are ready to spring into action, just as we did in the 1970's when the modern refugee program was birthed from the evacuation of Vietnam," he said.

"Over the next few months, we will be welcoming new neighbors from Afghanistan and other parts of the world to Spokane. We are asking the community to stand alongside these refugees and other immigrants in our community," Mark said.

He suggested three ways to help:

• A one-time or recurring gift will support refugee and immigrant families fleeing violence, providing food, housing, transportation and basic needs so they can rebuild their lives.

• Volunteers are needed to help with every step of resettlement, whether meeting families at the airport or moving furniture into apartments. For information, email Emily Hughes at

• While the evacuation efforts have been happening, there is need to email members of Congress to urge them to include all Afghans and their families threatened by the Taliban.

Because the situation in Afghanistan is complicated with new developments emerging every day, World Relief social media will keep people informed.

"Finally, for people of faith, I ask for prayer for me and others who are stretching our normal capacities to help with this crisis," he said. "Most importantly, pray for Afghans and others, including Haitians, who are facing desperate situations."

Spokane's World Relief office reopened to the public in July after being closed since the state entered lockdown in response to COVID-19 in March 2020.

While staff continued work in a limited capacity, there were logistical problems for staff and clients. Now they can meet in the office, which is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.

The Friendship Center opens in mid-September. Staff and visitors are required to wear masks.

For information, call 484-9829 or visit

Healing the Earth Vigil will be Oct. 3 at Cataldo

A Vigil for the Healing of the Earth will be held from 3 to 4:30 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 3, at the Old Mission Landing, down the road from Sacred Heart Mission at Cataldo, Idaho.

Faith Leaders and Leaders of Conscience of Eastern Washington and North Idaho (FLLC) have organized Healing of the Earth and Earth Day Vigils every six months since Earth Day 2019.

People attending the vigil will hear from individuals affected by living on the largest SuperFund site in the nation, which runs from the Montana border west into the center of Spokane.  A SuperFund site is an area so polluted that it will take large amounts of funding to clean and contain it.

"Our hope is that these vigils become opportunities to build friendships, strengthen our resolve, and put our thoughts and prayers into actions For the Healing of the Earth," said Gen Heywood, convenor of FLLC and pastor of Veradale United Church of Christ in Spokane.

Those who come will be able to read the signs at the boat launch which include warnings such as, "The soils and sediments in this area contain harmful levels of lead, arsenic and other heavy metals. Young children and pregnant women are at greatest risk from exposure."

People will have a chance to participate in a Grieving Circle to recognize and express their grief about the Earth's ecological devastation.

Those attending will learn about groups working to overcome the effects of pollution and climate change and be invited to join in becoming part of the solution.

"We hope that, by meeting every six months, different groups working on separate aspects to heal our Earth can gather, report to each other what they are doing and encourage others to join with them," Gen added.

To go to the Old Mission Landing, take Interstate 90 to Exit 39, go toward Cataldo's Old Mission State Park and follow The Dredge Road to the end.

Founded in 2018, the FLLC works to overcome racism, militarism, poverty and ecological devastation. Its goals are the principles set forth by the Poor Peoples Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival.  All four barriers affect ecological devastation.

"The care of our planet crosses all cultures, classes, religions and non-religions," said Gen.  "We are one people when we are united in healing our planet."

For information, call 408-593-9556 or email

GSSAC recruits speakers on DUI impact

Across the region, there have been many impaired driving-related crashes resulting in deaths, injuries and trauma for innocent victims.

In response, Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council (GSSAC) seeks victims, survivors and family members to join the Spokane County DUI (Driving Under the Influence) Victims Panel to "share their stories of the lifelong impact from drug/alcohol impaired related crashes."

The panel facilitates opportunities for people to speak to people ordered by courts to learn about the impact and increase understanding of "how the choice to drive impaired affects others."

"We are not here to point fingers or place blame," said Amanda Dugger, GSSAC's community outreach coordinator, a panelist who shares how her life was impacted three times by impaired driving crashes. "It is about making a different choice next time—designating a driver, staying rather than driving, and making a plan before going out."

GSSAC helped start the Spokane County DUI Victims Panel in the fall of 1992, working with leaders in traffic safety.

Since then, many speakers have shared about losing a career, losing a spouse and raising children on their own, finding a brother's smashed-up truck knowing he could not have survived, or watching a child's friend be hit while crossing the street.

Stories make a difference through stirring compassion.

During COVID with protocols in place, GSSAC is gathering small group DUI Victims Panels in their office in the Spokane Valley three times a week.

The need for speakers is critical, because the times and days  for supporting participants in their compliance vary.

Attendees have responded: 

• "Thank you for not making me feel worse—for encouraging me to forgive myself."

• "Yes, I will help spread the word about making better choices—no one has to die."

• "You have saved my life. You will never see me again."

Linda Thompson, GSSAC's executive director, lost her three-year-old son in an alcohol involved crash by a many-time repeat impaired driver in August 1986.

"No matter what the circumstance, hearts are broken and lives are shattered by the tragedy of a loved one's life lost," she said. "Sharing our stories ensures our loved one's lives make a difference. The Spokane County DUI Victims Panel saves lives."

For information, call 922-8383 or email

Fig Tree offers directories, plans events

The Fig Tree summer news includes publication and distribution of the 2021-22 Resource Directory.

Many volunteers, including several with Second Harvest of the Inland Northwest, made deliveries of the bulk of the 16,000 copies possible. There are still copies available to be ordered.

The Fig Tree added to the responsibilities of Marijke Fakasiieiki, whose new role is as three-quarter time development and editorial associate. She is assisting with ad sales, sponsors, grants, funding, circulation, writing, editing and community outreach.

"She is helping increase income so we can expand our work. The staff and board of directors will be engaging in strategic planning this fall," said editor Mary Stamp.

The Fig Tree is also gearing up for the Fall Festival of Giving from Oct. 21 through Giving Tuesday in December, as a time to increase support from ongoing and new sponsors. Last year, the Fall Festival of Giving raised nearly $7,000 from sponsors.

The Fig Tree planning is underway for the 2022 Eastern Washington Legislative Conference, which will be held on Saturday, Jan. 22, and for the Benefit Lunch, Friday, March 4, and Benefit Breakfast, Friday, March 9. Organizers of both events are considering options of having the events be online, hybrid and/or in person.

For information, call 535-4112, 535-1813 or email or

FAN names new director, sets clusters

As the Faith Action Network (FAN) celebrates its 10th year, current co-director Elise DeGooyer will become the new FAN executive director, beginning Jan. 1, 2022, following the retirement of FAN's founding co-director, Paul Benz at the end of 2021.

Rooted in Catholic and interfaith justice traditions, Elise has been FAN co-director for more than seven years. She has given strategic, administrative and programmatic leadership to FAN and helped its network and budget grow. She knows the organization well and has the skills and vision to help move FAN forward.

Elise, a long-time Seattle resident, grew up in Yakima where her family live. She understands and is committed to FAN's statewide and multifaith identity.

FAN's public policy work, led by Paul for 10 years, will continue under a policy engagement director. A search process is underway.

Since June 11, 2011, FAN has grown into a multifaith body of communities and individuals—Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, Quaker and Unitarian—across Washington.

It advocates for public policy to uphold justice and compassion, stands in public witness with those whose rights and safety are under assault and is a partnership for the common good.

FAN plans and has held several Cluster Meetings with its Network of Advocating Faith communities. Clusters build relationships, decide on advocacy plans and share advocacy updates. The Pullman Cluster met Aug. 29.

The Spokane Cluster meets Saturday, Oct. 23, at Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ, 411 S. Washington.

For information, visit

Groups seek nominees for human rights award

The City of Spokane's Human Rights Commission (SHRC), the Spokane County Human Rights Task Force (SCHRTF) and Gonzaga's Institute for Hate Studies (GIHS) invite people to submit nominees for the 2021 Spokane Human Rights Award Champions by Sept. 8.

They are planning a gala Human Rights Awards Event Saturday, Nov. 6, if conditions allow, when the Institute for Hate Studies will also honor this year's winners of the "Eva Lassman Take Action Against Hate Award."

"We work, live and play with enlightened friends, neighbors and co-workers who, alone or with others, find ways day in and day out to help others in need," said Lance Kissler of the SHRC, Dean Lynch of the SCHRTF and Kristine Hoover of GIHS. "This is how we can thank and honor them, promoting who and what they are and what they do."

During September, the partners will select recipients and take videos of nominees, which they will show at the gala and share on YouTube following the event.

For information, email

Unity in North Idaho hosts Spirit Groups

On Sunday, Oct. 10, the Unity Spiritual Center of North Idaho begins a seven-week series called "Spirit Groups," based on Fr. Richard Rohr's book, Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the 12 Steps."

"During these stressful times, people cope in various ways," said Susie Leonard Weller, who has a master's degree in pastoral ministry. "Some modes are healthy. Others are not. We live in a culture that seems to be drowning in addictions without knowing it. The first step is to break through our denial and to recognize we are all 'underwater,' unaware that how we think, feel and behave can negatively impact ourselves and others."

Susie said some addictions, such as substance abuse, are obvious, while others are more hidden, disguised and subtle.

"We cannot heal what we do not acknowledge and accept our addictions. By learning to identify them, embrace our brokenness and surrender to a power greater than ourselves, we bring healing to ourselves and our world," Susie said.

"The genius of the 12 Step Program is the integration of spiritual principles with practical steps to transform our lives," she said.

With Stephen Towles, the Unity minister, Susie is offering the group in person or on Zoom, at various times and days.

For information, call 208-664-1125 or email

GU Hate Studies Conference set for Nov. 4 to 6

A virtual International Conference on Hate Studies is Thursday to Saturday, Nov. 4 to 6, on the theme "Justice and Equity: Challenging Hate and Inspiring Hope." The sixth such conference, it is one of the leading interdisciplinary academic forums on hate, related social problems and ways to create socially just and inclusive communities, said Kristine Hoover, director of the Gonzaga University Institute for Hate Studies (GIHS).

From the lessons learned, plans will emerge to help educators, researchers, advocates and others better analyze and combat hatred in its various manifestations to lead to communities being committed to peace, human rights, and justice, she said.

The event also presentation of Eva Lassman Take Action Against Hate Awards— in honor of the life of Holocaust survivor and educator Eva Lassman—and 2021 Spokane Human Rights Award Champions at a Saturday in-person dinner.

For information, call 313-3665 or visit

Whitworth Forum features Madeleine Albright

Madeleine Albright, secretary of state under President Bill Clinton, will be the Whitworth University President's Leadership Forum speaker from 7:30 to 9 a.m., Wednesday, Sept. 29, at the Spokane Convention Center.

In 2012, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work reinforcing America's Alliances, advocating for democracy and human rights, and promoting American trade, business, labor and environmental standards abroad.

Her recent memoir is Hell and Other Destinations.

For information, visit

WSU has new cooperative campus ministry

The Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist (ELM) Campus Ministry, a new cooperative ministry to students, staff and faculty, is beginning this fall at Washington State University in Pullman. 

The program will offer dinner and discussions on Wednesday nights at Simpson United Methodist Church.

Linda Young, rector at St. James Episcopal Church in Pullman, is coordinating the program.

Organizers ask congregations in the region to send names of any students who are coming to Pullman to study at WSU.

For information, email

PJALS holds annual conference Sept. 16 to 18

Ian Haney López, a founder of the Race-Class Academy, is the keynote speaker for the annual Peace and Justice Action Conference, "No Turning Back: Radical Progress and Collective Liberation" on Sept. 16 to 18 with panels, virtual workshops and in in-person celebration.

Ian teaches and writes about race and law at the University of California, Berkeley, focusing on the use of racism as a class weapon in electoral politics. Through a decade of research, he has found what racial messages divide voters and what messages unify across those divisions. 

The Virtual Conference will be from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday. There is a panel at 7 p.m., Thursday, and Live Music at 7 p.m., Friday.
For information, visit

Valleyfest 2021 is postponed . . . . .

After consulting with the Spokane Regional Health District and adapting to assure the health of participants, the 32nd annual Valleyfest was to have been held Friday to Sunday, Sept. 24 to 26 at Mirabeau Point Park and Centerplace, but on Sept. 1, the Board of Directors voted to postpone the event for the second year.

Activities had been modified, making provision for sanitation, spacing and requiring masks regardless of vaccination status because children under 12 are not vaccinated.

There were 84 booths, compared with 240 in 2019, said organizer Peggy Doering.

"This was not an easy decision to make, because we know it has impact on organizations and businesses, but our goal is to keep the community safe in a time with an increase in cases and hospitalizations," she said.

For information, call 922-3299 or email

Copyright@ The Fig Tree, September, 2021