Alum Fights for Justice in Bay Area

July 4, 2014
Rev. Dr. Israel I. Alvaran, 2010 

When Israel Alvaran (DMin ’10) says he’s exiled from his homeland, he speaks of both the physical and metaphysical separation from his beloved Philippines. 

“Knowing that I will be away from home indefinitely, I continually seek to contribute to the struggle for justice in the Philippines by being in solidarity with progressive Filipino organizations in the Bay Area,” he said of his work as an activist.

Alvaran moved to Berkeley for grad school in 2003. His bishop's initial plan was for Alvaran to finish school and return home to teach in their United Methodist Church (UMC) seminary in Manila. When the political situation in the Philippines changed with many progressive grassroots community activists and leaders being murdered and abducted by the Philippine military, Alvaran applied for, and was granted, political asylum in the United States.

Alvaran now works with two organizations that represent the social justice concerns that he is passionate about: Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN), which advocates for full inclusion of LGBTQI persons in the life and ministry of the UMC; and Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice of California (CLUE-CA), a statewide alliance of religious leaders committed to advocating for worker justice and immigrant rights.

“These organizations' ministries embody what I love to do because I occupy intersections of these concerns as a queer immigrant of color from the Philippines, ordained as a minister in the UMC,” Alvaran said.

He discovered that doing this work requires great relationship-building skills. PSR, with its openness to new ideas, and embrace of people that society has branded as "other" cultivated those skills in a manner that was professional and personal, as well as prophetic and pastoral. 

“PSR strengthened my resolve to take my pulpit to the streets where people struggle for justice,” he said. “In the words of John Wesley, I can also say that ‘the world is my parish’ - literally.”

It was at PSR where Alvaran worked alongside allies at the intersections of sexual orientation, gender identity, and racial and economic justice, and found opportunities for learning and advocacy through CLGS & PANA, and scholars like Karen Lebacqz, Michael Mendiola, Karen Oliveto, Jeffrey Kuan, and Bill McKinney 

“The culture of social justice engagement encouraged me to live out my belief that faith should have a constructive prophetic voice in the public square that does not shy from the use of religious language, music, and images in creative and persuasive ways,” Alvaran said.

When Alvaran left Manila, his friends told him that no matter where he was in the world, his ministry with those in need is always linked with the fight for justice and peace in the Philippines. 

“To honor my comrades who do the same work as I, but at the risk of their own lives,” he said,  “I dedicate my life and ministry to them, and the thousands who have laid their lives so that others may live in an abundant and just society.”