IARF World Congress: Challenges for Religious Freedom in the Digital Age

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 12.06.06 PMRegistration is open for the IARF 34th WORLD CONGRESS which will be held from 24-27 August, 2014 at Birmingham University, Birmingham, UK .

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The keynote speaker is Karen Armstrong, leader in the creation of THE CHARTER FOR COMPASSION.  Small group sessions and outings will complement speakers such as His Grace, Bishop Angaelos, Coptic Church of the UK, Sheikh Maytham Al-Salman, IARF Bahrain, and Dr. Yehuda Stolov, Coordinator of 50 Interfaith Encounter Groups in the Holy Land:  www.interfaith-encounter.org.   See additional program details. (more…)

Sacred Roots: Indigenous Rights, Resistance, and Reclamation – Recap

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Since 1957 the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office has hosted an annual Spring Seminar. In 1998 the event became an intentionally inter-generational space that brought together youth, young adults, and adults in shared dialogue around issues that matter to our Unitarian Universalist tradition. Each Seminar calls participants to ask difficult questions about the reality of the world that we live in and the hope of the future world that we would like to create. Many participants say that the panels, creative programming, worship, and community building that make up the Seminar are transformative moments in their lives that allow them to reaffirm how their faith can be lived and embodied.

As the Seminar has transformed over the years, the UU-UNO team has similarly transformed each year. We begin to work on the next Seminar the moment the previous Seminar wraps up in order to provide the most amount of time and planning to ensure quality. Through this year long process of preparing the Seminar and implementing it, interns and staff are able to learn, reflect, and grow. However, this forward-looking lens and brisk pace sometimes leaves little time for reflecting on our past accomplishments.  As we look back on our recent Spring Seminar – Sacred Roots: Indigenous Rights, Resistance, and Reclamation (April 3rd to April 5th ) we wanted to publish this blog to reflect on some of the most memorable moments of this inter-generational and interfaith dialogue.

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The Tutu Global Forgiveness Challenge

 

 

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Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu, who became the icon of forgiveness as the Chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and his daughter, the Reverend Mpho Tutu, are issuing a Global Forgiveness Challenge to coincide with the release of their long-anticipated book, The Book of Forgiving.

The Tutus have spent their lives working with victims and perpetrators of wrongs, from the unspeakable to the everyday, and this deep experience has shown them that choosing the act of forgiveness can profoundly transform individuals and our world. They believe so strongly in the importance of forgiveness that they have developed this free, 30-Day online campaign based on the Fourfold Path of forgiving offered in their book.

The Challenge is designed for everyone, regardless of belief or background. Each day participants will receive an inspirational email from the Archbishop and Mpho with a link to log in to an online forgiveness community. There they will be guided through practical exercises on how to forgive, have opportunities to join discussions, share their own stories and view resources like interviews with forgiveness experts, heroes, celebrities, and leaders, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Sir Richard Branson, Stanford forgiveness researcher Fred Luskin, musician Alanis Morissette and media maven Arianna Huffington

Register anytime, and begin the Global Forgiveness Challenge with the online community on May 4, 2014.

In Remembrance of the Manya Krobo Paramount Queen Mother

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In Remembrance of Madam Mary Rose Quist

(Nana Manye Mamle Okleyo)

Manya Krobo Paramount Queen Mother

(1920-2013)

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During our February 7-14 visit to the Every Child is Our Child Project in Ghana, we were saddened to learn of the passing of the Paramount Queen Mother of the Manya Krobo People.  Over the years, many of us have met this beautiful woman who radiated love and kindness.  Everyone who met her remarked that they felt a sense of peace and tranquility while in her presence.  Our largest delegation met her in 2012 (See the photos below).  On the last day of our visit this year, we learned that the Paramount Queen Mother had passed away after a brief illness at the age of 93.  Her funeral Ceremony will take place in Odumase-Krobo, Ghana, West Africa and will commence Friday the 28th of March and will end with a church thanks giving service on Sunday the 30th.

Our program administrator, Joseph will attend the thanks giving service on Sunday and the UU-UNO has invited Marti Johnson Demos, a UU working at the American Embassy in Accra to represent us at the memorial services.

Our deepest condolences to her family, friends and community.

 

Paramunt queen mother with Peter Moralez

A traditional gift of Schnapps given to Bruce Knotts from the Queen Mothers.
A traditional gift of Schnapps given to Bruce Knotts from the Queen Mothers.

 

 

 

 

    

 

Healing Our World and Ourselves

con6Thanks to generous donations from members of the Climate Change Task Force and the fundraising efforts of Unitarian Universalist Justice Florida, the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office’s (UU-UNO) Climate Change program intern, Caroline Achstatter, was able to attend the second annual Healing our World and Ourselves conference in Vero Beach Florida. By connecting with other UUs involved in environmental justice, her participation strengthened the UU-UNO’s commitment to the fight against human-caused climate change. (more…)

CSW’s 58th Session and the UU-UNO’s Parallel Events

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Background of CSW

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is a functional commission of UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It was established on 21 June 1946. It is the principal global intergovernmental policy-making body that dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. Every year, representatives of member states gather at United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate policies to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide.

Over the two-week events, participants work to produce final agreed conclusions approved by all CSW Member States. For the first half of the CSW, participants make statements and deliberate on the priority and related themes, with regards to draft agreed conclusions that serve as a starting point. Formal negotiations on the draft begin in the second half of the CSW, resulting in several draft versions of agreed conclusions before a final one is voted upon by CSW Member States. Learn more about CSW(more…)

Spring Seminar in Retrograde: Top Five Countdown!

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By Dylan Debelis

Since 1957 the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office has hosted an annual Spring Seminar. In 1998 the event evolved into an intentionally intergenerational space that brought together youth, young adults, and adults in shared dialogue around issues that matter to our Unitarian Universalist tradition.

Each Seminar calls participants to ask difficult questions about the reality of the world that we live in and the hope of the future world that we would like to create. Many participants say that the panels, creative programming, worship and community building that make up the Seminar are transformative moments in their lives that allow them to reaffirm how their faith can be lived and embodied.

Us here at the UU-UNO are similarly transformed each year. We begin to work on the next Seminar the second the previous Seminar wraps up in order to provide the most amount of time and planning to insure quality. Through this year long process of preparing the Seminar and implementing it, both interns and staff alike are able to learn, reflect, and grow. However, this forward-looking lens and brisk pace sometimes leaves little time for reflecting on our past accomplishments.

As we look forward to our upcoming Spring Seminar Sacred Roots: Indigenous Rights, Resistance, and Reclamation (happening April 3rd to April 5th) we wanted to publish this blog to reflecting at what we here in the Office think of as the top 5 Spring Seminars held within the past twenty years. Remember, this is a completely subjective list. If your list would differ from ours, that’s great! Send us an email and let us know! If we get enough input we may publish a follow-up blog with thoughts from our readers! (more…)

An Open Letter to World Leaders

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Calling to end pushing LGBTIs into double victimization!

  • First, donors do not fund LGBTI support programs (except few exceptions over the recent years and its too little).
  • Second, donors continue funding governments ignoring their human rights violations against LGBTIs.

As an example following are the areas that USAID and Department of State budget provide foreign aid to other countries:

Peace and Security, Counter-Terrorism, Combating WMD, Stabilization/Security Sector Reform,  Counter-narcotics,  Transnational Crime,  Conflict Mitigation, Investing in People,  Health,  Education,  Social Services/Protection of Vulnerable,

Governing Justly & Democratically,  Rule of Law & Human Rights, Good Governance,

Political Competition,  Civil Society,  Economic Growth,  Macroeconomic Growth,  Trade & Investment,  Financial Sector,  Infrastructure,  Agriculture, Private Sector Competitiveness,  Economic Opportunity, Environment,  Humanitarian Assistance,

Protection, Assistance & Solutions, Disaster Readiness,  Migration Management .

These are similar areas by other governments, UK, EU, Canada, Australia, UN, World Bank and other international institutions provide foreign Aid or loan for ‘good’ cause.

What should the donors do? (more…)

Basic Freedoms in a Homophobic World

photo (3)On February 27th, 2014 the NGO Committee on Human Rights and Unitarian Univeralist United Nations Office held a panel discussion on Homophobia around the world.The panel centered on actions taken by the Russian, Ugandan, Nigerian, and Indian governments against the LGBTQIA community.  In India, a high court ruling made in 2009 that decriminalized same sex marriage was reversed by the nation’s Supreme Court.  In Uganda, Nigeria, and Russia any actions that are perceived as “gay” or the discussion of LGBTQIA issues are reason enough for imprisonment.

During the discussion the violence that accompanies these laws was reiterated by many of our esteemed panelists.  Ms. Roberta Sklar of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission noted that violence is green-lighted when pieces of legislation such as these are enacted.  Anti-LGBTQIA individuals feel justified in harming people that are or even suspected of being homosexual.  Many times, transgender individuals are enveloped in these acts as well.  Police officers tend to be unwilling to help in cases of violence, and in many instances the victims are too scared of what actions will be taken if the police believe that they are homosexual. Bruce Knotts of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office and co-Chair of the NGO Committee on Human Rights discussed the parallels of these current events and instances seen in history.  Governments often test how much oppression the public is willing to tolerate.  The homosexuals, he mentions, in Nazi Germany were the first to be imprisoned.  Allowing oppression of the LGBTQIA community in these nations can allow the oppression of other groups as well. (more…)

2014 Every Child is Our Child Site Visit

CaptureIn early February, Bruce Knotts, UU-UNO Director, and Maria Militano, Every Child is Our Child (ECOC) intern, traveled to Odumase Krobo, Ghana for our yearly monitoring visit.  The purpose of this visit was to maintain our relationship with the ECOC leaders, build new connections, explore new opportunities with our partners, assure that our program is meeting its goals and objectives, and to see what else we can do to help our children achieve their goals.

We were not disappointed!  It was a very busy and productive week filled with meetings, lots of questions about the program, and listening to our kids’ stories and their dreams for the future.   We met with the Ghana AIDS commission, Peace Corps, the Manya Krobo board of education, the ECOC selection committee, and the Queen Mothers, as well as visited the schools and some of our students’ homes.

Maria, Bruce, Joseph and Children holding up postcards

We were joined by two wonderful women on the trip, one from Canada, and the other from the United States.  Both were impressed with the program, the work that is carried out by our partnership with the Queen Mothers, and, our amazing, smart, skillful, and talented scholars – the children of the ECOC program.   One of them said that this had been the best trip she had ever been on!

Many of our students expressed gratitude for our program as well as voiced their interest in attending Senior High School.  Currently, we have four students attending Senior High School and according to their headmasters, doing very well.

We are happy and proud to report that our program is doing well, and that our students are thriving!

You can help our students achieve their education goals by making a generous donation. Please contact the UU-UNO office if you and/or your congregation has interest in further engaging with this program!