Human Rights Roundtable: Civil Society Engages with Permanent Mission of China for the First Time

On Thursday, July 2nd, the Non-Governmental Organization’s (NGO) Committee on Human Rights hosted a roundtable discussion with the Permanent Mission of People’s Republic of China to the United Nations. With the help of keynote guest speaker Yao Shaojun, counsellor of the Chinese Permanent Mission, representatives from various NGOs engaged in constructive dialogue with the Chinese Mission, as a first step of many in a developing relationship between the Chinese mission and civil society.

 

Counsellor Shaojun has an extensive history of defending human rights at the UN.  In keeping with these values, Shaojun introduced himself at the roundtable by stating the importance China, as a nation, and its position on human rights. Shaojun also urged that NGOs play a key role in mobilizing human rights issues at the UN. We were excited by this opportunity to work with him because our Unitarian Universalist faith urges us to fight for universal human rights, in keeping with the view of Counsellor Shaojun.

 

Representatives of UN NGOs brought up queries ranging from the freedom to form social groups in China, and the hardships NGOs in many countries face in prioritizing human rights, without consultative status at the UN. Other topics discussed include Chinese NGO presence at the UN, and LGBT rights activism in China and at the UN.

 

Shaojun highlighted the pillars of development that China has undertaken over the past several decades. The Chinese Permanent Mission has created initiatives to develop its Economic, Social, Cultural, Environmental, and Political sectors. Through these actions, the People’s Republic of China hopes to embody civil society into its mission to the UN as well as inviting Chinese NGOs to be accredited at the UN.

 

Thank you to Counsellor Shaojun and the Chinese Permanent Mission for joining us in a conversation with civil society. We look forward to work with him and furthering our human rights activism at the UN.

 

To support our continued access to the highest levels of the United Nations and to the Canadian and American governments, please donate generously to the UU-UNO.

Emergency Burma Meeting – Raising Awareness About Violence Against Religious and Ethnic Burmese Minorities

Blog Photo FINALOn June 2nd, the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office co-sponsored the meeting, ‘Burma Refugee Emergency Roundtable: Democracy or Demonizations?’ with Burma Task Force USA and the Amnesty International United Nations Office.

Stakeholders such as Amnesty International, Open Society Foundation Burma Project, American Jewish World Service, the United States Permanent Mission to the United Nations, and Physicians for Human Rights attended the meeting, discussing the human rights violations of Non-Buddhist religious and ethnic minorities in Burma.

In particular, thousands of Rohingya, a Muslim group in Burma, are being exiled and forced to military patrolled displacement camps because they are not Buddhists. Philanthropist George Soros compared the plight of the Rohingya people in Burma to his experiences in the Nazi-created ghettos of Budapest, Hungary in a short film clip presented at the meeting.

In recognizing the inherent worth and dignity of every person, regardless of religious or ethnic background, we cannot stand idly by while the Rohingya face these injustices daily. (more…)

UU Puerto Rico Marches with Pride!

Rev. Mark Bowen, leader of Unitarios Universalistas de Puerto Rico, shares the following update:

UU Puerto Rico was proud to march in the 25th Annual San Juan Pride Parade on Sunday June 6th! Our small, but growing, congregation chose to replace the regular monthly worship with an Action of Social Witness here in the community to demonstrate our support for human and LGBTQ rights. Congregation members were pleased with the crowd’s reception. The consulting minister, the Rev. Mark Bowen, reports that many spectators came out into the parade and thanked UUPR for their support and many even requested photos with “the pastor!”

 

This event was important in many ways including demonstrating support for human rights, LGBTQ rights and the right to marry for all — Standing on the Side of Love! Additionally, Unitarian Universalism is not well known on the island, so the participation of UUPR helped raise the awareness that there is a church supportive and aligned with the goals of equal rights for all here in Puerto Rico. UUPR members passed out nearly 400 “elevator speech” cards with a summary of Unitarian Universalism and the details of the congregation (an idea brought back from last year’s GA!)

 

A congregational cook-out followed at the minister’s apartment in Old San Juan to reflect on the event, the year, and say farewell to some members moving away. While sad to see old friends leaving, everyone felt energized by their participation and the anticipation of great things to come for UUPR!

 

Peace and Planet Mobilization and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Conference

The 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference (NPT Rev Con) took place at the UN from April 27th to May 22nd. Though the NPT is a legally binding treaty that calls on nations that possess nuclear weapons to negotiate “in good faith” toward the goal of total disarmament, the officially recognized nuclear weapons states, also known as the P5, have shown little inclination to move in that direction. Worryingly, the recent crisis in Ukraine has both led to increased nuclear saber rattling and also stymied what was already halting Russian-American co-operation on disarmament issues.

On the eve of the Review Conference, I attended the Peace and Planet Conference and Rally. The Peace and Planet movement is a collection of organizations that stand for causes including disarmament, peace, and sustainable growth all gathered under an anti-nuclear umbrella.

Daniel Ellsberg, best known for leaking the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War told of how the nuclear warfare contingency plans drawn up by the US military during the Cold War called for the deaths of 275 million people, from the nuclear explosions alone, with radioactive fallout killing tens of millions more. He reminded the audience that nuclear weapons today have far more destructive power than those that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Hibakusha Sumiteru Taniguchi told of the unimaginable suffering he experienced during after the bombing of Nagasaki. Setsuko Thurlow, a Hibakusha who lived through the bombing of Hiroshima previewed the remarks she gave at the NPT Conference itself. She criticized the nuclear powers for their continued stalling and prevaricating on the issue of making good faith efforts for disarmament. (more…)

From the Director: Women’s Rights and Human Rights: The Path to Full Participation, April 28th Breakfast

Chelsea ClintonOver the past twelve months, I’ve found myself a regular invitee at the Council on Foreign Relations here in New York City. Richard Haass is the Director. I met him from time to time when I was an American Diplomat in Kenya and Sudan.

On April 28th I was invited to a breakfast with Chelsea Clinton, Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation, Geeta Rao Gupta, Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF and Juju Gupta, Co-anchor, ABC News “Nightline.”

While in the West, we have become accustomed to seeing women attain ever greater roles of responsibility, the fact remains in the United States, women earn $0.77 for every $1 earned by a man and in much of the rest of the world women’s health and education are neglected.

(more…)

A Unitarian Pilgrimage to Transylvania

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Participants on a UUPCC pilgrimage to Transylvania. (Photo courtesy Rev. Saleska)

Reverend Kent Saleska, minister of the UU congregation in Wayzata, MN has provided terrific blogposts and photos from the UU Partner Church Council’s most recent pilgrimage to Transylvania.

…this religious pilgrimage moved and changed me.  First, I saw history come alive: I touched the rock that Francis David had stood upon and preached from in 1568; I stood in the ruined citadel where Francis David was imprisoned and died.  Secondly, not only did history come alive, but I no longer saw Transylvanian Unitarianism in a historic context where it was relegated to scholarly history texts, but alive in the people of the region today. So as we traveled east from Segesvár (Sighișoara) I felt as though we were moving into the living heart of Hungarian Unitarianism.

Visit Rev. Saleska’s blog: Tensile Strands and enjoy!

Appeal from Burundi Unitarians for Emergency Support

P1010585Since Sunday April 27th, the capital city of Burundi has been living in a difficult situation. Many areas of the city have seen people on the streets demonstrating against the third term of the current president.

Communes like Kanyosha, Musaga, Nyakabiga, Ngagara, Cibitoke and now Kinindo have joined the demonstrations by burning tires and pieces of wood blocking the streets to prevent people from moving from place to place and to prevent the police from coming to destabilize the demonstrators.

The behavior of the police was criticized by many because they acted against the demonstrators by using real bullets and excessive force, killing 5 people to date, arresting more than 400 people and leaving dozens wounded.

In Kanyosha, some people had to flee their homes out of fear that they will be attacked by the police or the ruling party militia. Some of our church members fled their homes, others decided to send children and women in places believed to be safer.

The church is seeking to arrange a temporarily shelter in a place where it is relatively safer for people to stay. The church will provide food, water, medicines for members in the shelter and those in other places.

 

The church is appealing for funds to cover these needs and the needs that will come up in the next few days and weeks.

We know we are not alone and thank you very much for your support.

(Note – Please see updates below)

Thank you.

Rev. Ndagijimana Fulgence

Minister of the Unitarian Church of Burundi

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To donate online, please use the link below to give using your credit card or PayPal account.

If you wish to donate by check, bank transfer or other means, please email development@icuu.net for more information.

It is expected all donations will be needed for this emergency effort, but any funds not needed for this purpose will be applied to the ICUU Global Fund for Unitarian Universalism for ICUU work in Africa.

CLICK THIS LINK TO DONATE ONLINE

 

BURUNDI UNREST UPDATE – May 30, 2015

The situation in Burundi is far from being over. Demonstrations are still going on after over a month, people on the streets are clearly tired and the problems not solved.

There is another heads of states summit tomorrow, Sunday in Dare salaam, Tanzania and people have high expectations of the decisions? Looking at what the government and what the president has announced this last week, it is likely that not much will come from Tanzania and the question is whether the demonstrations will go on or whether new strategies will be explored to confront the government.

Local and parliamentary Elections are planned next Friday and the major opposition parties have decided to boycott the process and only the ruling party will go to elections with only some satellite parties, rather very close to the party.

The government is now isolated with all the major funders gone and obliged to fund its elections. One way was to create even more deficit and take all the money designed for other ministries including funds to fight Malaria, funds for fertilizers subsidies, funds for education,… these are difficult times!
The independent electoral commission comprised by 5 members may have lost 2 of them. If this information is confirmed, things will be even harder.
We are all in the waiting mood. We need all the prayers and thoughts that we can get.

Rev. Ndagijimana Fulgence
Minister of the Unitarian Church of Burundi

(more…)

Warning of ’empathy gap,’ Ban urges faith leaders to speak up against injustice and brutality

UN Secretary General with Faith Leaders at the April 22, 2015 Session of the UN General Assembly

A recent UN press release informed us that United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged faith leaders gathered in the General Assembly on April 22, 2015 to stand up for the collective good and amplify their voices in support of moderation and mutual understanding. He warned against an “empathy gap” that causes people to turn their eyes from injustice and numbing them to atrocities.

“At a time when we are seeing so much division and hatred, I wanted to bring people together under the banner of the United Nations to explore how best to respond,” the Secretary-General said on the second day of a gathering at Headquarters in New York of leaders representing diverse faiths, including Islam, Judaism, Christianity, as well as ministers, academics, and spiritual teachers.

Mr. Ban said that he was deeply concerned as today communities rushed to point out an affront against themselves, but ignored or dismissed the legitimate grievances of others. “I am worried that a certain numbness and helplessness may be setting in as people witness atrocity after atrocity,” he said.

“Religion does not cause violence, people do,” the Secretary-General continued. “Today we turn to what you as men and women can and must do in this vital endeavour,” he told the High-Level Assembly meeting on Promoting Tolerance and Reconciliation, Fostering Peaceful, Inclusive Societies and Countering Violent Extremism.

“The dignity and worth of the human person, the equal rights of men and women, tolerance and living together in harmony…these principles are our bedrock and they are what this organization defends,” he emphasized. (more…)

2015 Spring Seminar Recap

For the last 48 years, the Unitarian-Universalist United Nations Office has hosted annual Spring Seminars on pressing social, economic, and political issues. Participants in these seminars learn about a topic and are also asked to consider their own connections to the issue and develop the capacity to take action on behalf of meaningful change. This year’s seminar, “International Criminal Justice: From Punitive to Restorative,” detailed the myriad flaws of the punitive model of criminal justice and called on all attendees to work for a more just system. In this post we hope to share some of what we learned and experienced during the seminar.

UU-UNO Director Bruce Knotts opened the seminar with a stirring invocation of the memory of Unitarian-Universalist civil rights martyr Viola Liuzzo, who was killed while fighting for equal voting rights by members of the Klu Klux Klan. America no longer has laws that take away rights on an explicitly racial basis, but it does have a criminal justice system that in more ways than one emulates the infamous Jim Crow system of oppression. By remembering the strength and courage of those who have fought for civil rights, while drawing upon our own conviction and determination we can help make the “New Jim Crow” history.


UU-UNO Director Bruce Knotts kicks off the seminar

(more…)

Breakthrough in Nuclear Diplomacy – Time to Mobilize!

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The news about the breakthrough in nuclear diplomacy with Iran is immensely important, and the work that lies ahead to avoid an expanding nuclear arms race, or violent confrontation, is more important still.

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Join with UUs from around the US in the Peace & Planet mobilization that will take place in New York City from April 24-26 culminating in a Rally and Festival.  The mobilization will take place just prior to the beginning of the UN’s 2015 Review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  It will be a great opportunity to join with a broad coalition of people declaring their commitment to a Nuclear-Free, Peaceful, Just and Sustainable World.

Unitarian Universalists planning to attend can network ahead of time using the “UUs Attending the P&P Mobilization” Facebook group.  And, look for the UU banner at the Rally to join together as a faith community on Sunday, April 26.

See you in New York City!

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