The Remonstrant church in the Netherlands – a century-long liberal religious partner of the UUA – is embarking on an innovative ministry called ‘Goddeeltjes’ (God particles). They will be publishing 6 small spiritual booklets by church leaders about finding parts of God through Giving, Receiving and Sharing. After approaching Dutch Television producers about this idea, they produced a short movie (7 minutes, includes English subtitles) to introduce the idea. Isn’t it beautiful?
The Heiwa Peace Pilgrimage—a multigenerational, multicultural, interfaith peace exchange program coordinated by All Souls Church Unitarian (Washington D.C.)—traveled to Hiroshima, Japan, for ten days to visit with interfaith partners at the Buddhist organization Rissho Kosei-kai.
Excerpted from the most recent All Souls newsletter, minister Rev. Dr. Rob Hardies reflects on the group’s powerful experience of interfaith connection with its hosts and shares observations on the anniversary of Hiroshima Day.
I am writing you this letter from the train station in Osaka, Japan, where thirty-seven All Souls pilgrims—ages 12 to 82—are waiting for a train to Kyoto.
This morning as we departed Hiroshima Station, our host families from the Rissho Kosei Kai Dharma Center waved goodbye to us from the platform.
For three days our Buddhist hosts welcomed us into their homes and hearts, engaging us in interfaith dialogue and peace study. We are so grateful for the generosity they showed us, and look forward to reciprocating their hospitality when they visit All Souls in 2015.
In Hiroshima we visited the museum that chronicles the atomic bomb’s devastation, listened to the testimony of survivors, and on the 69th anniversary of the bombing participated in several memorial ceremonies for victims.
One experience stands out for me. At Honkawa School—where All Souls has had a relationship for over 65 years—we offered flowers and 1000 origami cranes at an altar for the 400 children who were incinerated in their classrooms at 8:15 am on August 6, 1945. As we remembered the dead and listened to a chorus of current Honkawa students singing songs of peace, I couldn’t help but think of other children. Children huddled in shelters in Gaza, waiting for the bombs to stop falling. Children languishing in limbo on the US-Mexico border.
When will we learn that all the peoples of the earth are one?
We and our friends from Hiroshima agreed that the shared history of violence and reconciliation between our two peoples places on our shoulders a responsibility to build peace—not only for ourselves, but for all the peoples of the world.
I can tell you this: those of us who witnessed Hiroshima will return to the States ever-more committed to this great cause.
The Heiwa Peace Pilgrimage delegation began its journey on August 1st and will be visiting with their interfaith partners in Japan for ten days. This guest blog post was composed jointly by three youth pilgrims from All Souls Church Unitarian (Washington, D.C.): Vicky Nier, Aheri Stanford-Asiyo, and James Ploeser.
“Obama will say, ‘I’m sorry.’ This I hope. I hope…”
These were the words of a Hiroshima resident who approached a member of our group last night. On the eve of the 69th anniversary, his greatest wish was for the US government to finally issue an apology for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. His English was better than our Japanese, so with the assistance of a smartphone — but without any hint of animosity towards us as Americans — he expressed his opinion with the same warmth and kindness that has repeatedly humbled our group of pilgrims. Motivated by love for humanity rather than a desire for vengeance, all he wanted was an apology.
Sadly, at the top levels of our government no such words have been spoken, no such forgiveness asked. Even so, the people of Hiroshima and of Japan have greeted us with a nearly inexplicable hospitality. Our RKK hosts have outdone themselves at every opportunity to extend offers of friendship and love, demonstrating to us in a most powerful way the capacity — and the responsibility — of everyday people to sow and nurture the seeds of reconciliation.
Our day began fittingly, under a steady downpour making our way to join over 45,000 others in Hiroshima Peace Park for the annual commemoration. Grade school children offered wishes for peace. The Japanese prime minister offered condolences and renewed calls for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Gray and black birds flew overhead, disappearing into the trees that surrounded the rows of endless white folding chairs.
Afterwards, we returned to the Hiroshima Dharma Center of the RKK.
We exchanged gifts. We bonded. We made memories. We opened our hearts to one another in friendship. Although at our luncheon tables we spoke little of politics or of the deplorable events of 69 years ago, every word, every bow, every smile, was an offering of peace.
Later in the night the Pilgrims not staying with host families returned to Ground Zero to participate in the floating of lanterns down the river in downtown Hiroshima. The prayers of the Heiwa Peace delegates included:
“May every flower touched by tragedy grow back as beautifully as Hiroshima.”
“May no child, no family, ever face such horror again.”
“May we all live together in peace one day.”
“May all those who suffered here find comfort; may we the living work for an enduring peace”
It’s been moving and powerful and exciting and exhausting and wonderful. Though we cannot pretend to apologize for an entire nation, our work here is sprouting new opportunities for reconciliation and friendship. We are humbled, and grateful to have shared this momentous, beautiful and tragic day with the wonderful people of Hiroshima.
The Heiwa Peace Pilgrimage delegation began its journey on August 1st and will be visiting with their interfaith partners in Japan for ten days. This guest blog post was composed by the All Souls Church Unitarian (Washington, D.C.) Pilgrimage Organizing Team.
In collaboration with Japanese partners, we at All Souls Church, Unitarian in DC have undertaken an exciting project—Heiwa Peace Pilgrimage—a multigenerational, multicultural, interfaith peace exchange program.
Our congregation has a long history of working for social justice and fighting against oppression. The ties between All Souls and Japan began in 1947 following the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when the children of All Souls and the students of Honkawa Elementary School (in Hiroshima) responded to the inhumanity of weapons of mass destruction through the beauty of children’s artistic expression. These works reverberate still as evidence of an often-hidden but timeless truth — that hope can triumph over despair.
Stewards of the historic artwork exchanged over 60 years ago, the Hiroshima Children’s Drawings Committee formed at All Souls in 2005. Its mission was to restore and preserve the original portfolio of drawings, as well as to use the drawings, and the story behind them, as a powerful example of peace and reconciliation. In recent years we’ve received visits from Japanese survivors of the bombings (hibakusha), sent a delegation to Honkawa Elementary School to mount an exhibition of the drawings, and assisted in the release of an independent documentary film, Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.
Though housed at All Souls in DC, this project belongs to our whole faith tradition. The UUA International Office sponsored a screening of the film at General Assembly in 2013, and generous support from the UUA Funding Panel was instrumental in making the 2010 Exhibition in Hiroshima a reality. (more…)
Thank you for joining the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office during our General Assembly 2014 Events!
UU-UNO Director, Bruce Knotts, spoke at LGBTQ and Immigration – An Intersection of Human Rights, hosted byUURISE, on Thursday, June 26th. Bruce discussed the plight of LGBTQ immigrants who seek refuge from persecution, only to find limited or no protection under US immigration law. He explained the current limitations of immigration laws, and how UUs can combine their LGBTQ and immigration reform advocacy efforts.
Beyond Borders: Implementing Intercultural Conversations, hosted by the UU-UNO occurred on Friday, June 27th.
“Think globally, act locally.” Panelists addressed ways to promote cultural and spiritual inclusion and the importance and value of global understanding. We invited participants to look at their strengths in human rights and climate justice to encourage them to strengthen their efforts by extending their passions to a global stage. Teresa Cooley, Bruce Knotts and Kamila Jacob spoke on these issues. Alley Wolff also spoke briefly about the Envoy Program.
The Dana Greeley and Blue Ribbon Awards Reception took place on Saturday, June 28th.
The Dana Greeley Sermon Award winners were announced and honored. This year’s winning submission came from the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship in New Jersey. The intergenerational team (Gabor Kiss, Shari Loe, George Hays, James McMormick, and Sarah Matsushima) put together a United Nations Sunday service that addressed the theme of the 2013 Spring Seminar (LGBTQ Human Rights).
The Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office extended our gratitude to the Blue Ribbon Congregations for their hard work in achieving this status. They have successfully held a UN Sunday service or event, made a congregational donation or committed to an annual “UU UNO” budget line, had 15 members or 5% of their members donate as individuals to the office, and have an envoy or envoy team.
“I only attended two days of the UUA’s 2014 General Assembly, but while I was there was I able to participate in UU-UNO related events. At their Beyond Borders workshop, Kamila and Bruce brought speakers who talked to us about what the UU-UNO does and their various programs, including their efforts to combat LGBTQ inequality; they placed an emphasis on helping those whose voices are not often heard. In the morning I attended the envoy breakfast where current envoys and envoys-to-be met and discussed our past successes and failures when trying to spread the word about the UU-UNO at our respective congregations. It was nice to meet other UUs from all around the country who care and know about what’s going on at the UU-UNO, especially because our ages and backgrounds were all varied.”
- Sarah Matsushima, 17, Morristown, New Jersey
“I’ve been going to GA every year since my freshman year in high school, so I was very excited that this year I wouldn’t have to travel far because it is in my region. General Assembly is always a fun experience; it is great to meet UUs from all over the country, and when you sit in a huge conference center with all the people you realize just how many of us there are. GA is especially fun for the youth because of the Youth Caucus, which provides great programming for youth to get to know each other and do fun things like trivia night and the dance they have every year. The UU-UNO has a presence at GA, they have a booth in the exhibit hall and do workshops throughout the week. There is also the Envoy breakfast, and the reception for the Dana Greeley award and the Blue Ribbon award winners.”
- Corry Sullivan, 17, State College, Pennsylvania
“The UU-UNO reception provided a perfect setting to honor certain congregations for their exceptional collaboration with the UU-UNO. We were treated to an excerpt from the exceptional service that earned the Dana Greeley award, and 33 congregations were honored with the blue ribbon award. Overall this event graced its attendees with food, knowledge, and goodwill towards the incredible action the UU-UNO is working towards.”
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.
“This development has been deeply disturbing and was largely unexpected. The ruling party in India has taken the position that this decision should be overturned, either legislatively or through executive action. The LGBT activist organizations that brought the initial case to court have said they will file an appeal so it can be heard by a larger bench of judges.”
The UU United Nations Office is also consulting with interfaith partners about a collective response. The UU-UNO has monitored press accounts in India which indicate widespread criticism of the Supreme Court striking down of the 2009 High Court ruling which struck down the British colonial era law which criminalized same-gender love. Many prominent political leaders want to see this criminal ban removed, so there is hope that the Indian Parliament will do what the Supreme Court failed to do and end the criminalization of same-gender love.
Updates will be posted here in the days ahead.
UNAIDS calls on India and all countries to repeal laws that criminalize adult consensual same sex sexual conduct
GENEVA/NEW DELHI, 12 December 2013—UNAIDS expresses its deep concern that, through its recent decision on the constitutionality of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, the Supreme Court of India has re-criminalized adult consensual same sex sexual conduct. In 2009, the Delhi High Court had found unconstitutional the application of the 150-year-old law criminalizing “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” between consenting adults. Now, again in India, gay and other men who have sex with men, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people face the possibility of criminal prosecution.
“The Delhi High Court decision in 2009 had restored dignity for millions of people in India, and was an example of the type of reform we need for supportive legal environments that are necessary for effective national AIDS responses,” said the Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé. “We want government and civil society to be able to provide HIV information and services to all people, including gay and other men who have sex with men, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, and for them to be able to access the services without fear of criminalization.”
The 2009 decision by the Delhi High Court to annul the law was widely considered a milestone against homophobia and towards zero HIV-related discrimination. In the past four years since the law was annulled, there has been a more than 50% increase in the number of sites providing HIV services for gay and other men who have sex with men, as well as transgender people in India.
For the protection of public health and human rights, UNAIDS calls on India and all countries to repeal laws that criminalize adult consensual same sex sexual conduct. Such criminalization hampers HIV responses across the world. These laws not only violate human rights but also make it more difficult to deliver HIV prevention and treatment services to a population which is particularly affected by HIV. On average globally, gay and other men who have sex with men are 13 times more likely than the rest of the population to be living with HIV.
UNAIDS urges all governments to protect the human rights of gay and other men who have sex with men, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, through repealing criminal laws against adult consensual same sex sexual conduct; implementing laws to protect them from violence and discrimination; promoting campaigns that address homophobia and transphobia; and ensuring that adequate health services are provided to address their needs.
In the 2011 United Nations Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, all UN Member States committed to removing legal barriers and passing laws to protect vulnerable populations.
As I attend the Religions for Peace World Assembly in Vienna, I can’t help but feel deep pride as a Unitarian Universalist. There are more than six hundred religious leaders here from all over the world—Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs. There are even smaller groups like Zoroastrians and Jains (at only four million).
We UU’s are probably the smallest group here—and yet we are in no small part responsible for the existence of this body. The first president of the UUA, Dana Greeley, played a critical role in the founding of this organization. Our Japanese partners, the Rissho Kosei-kai, were also part of founding Religions for Peace. It was a joy to see these good Japanese colleagues again and share a meal with them..
What is perhaps most striking at this conference is how easily and naturally all these people—from every part of the world and from virtually every religious group—can work together. These are leaders committed to making their religious traditions agents of peace and harmony in the world. They unanimously reject hatred and violence.
Once more I am impressed by how the great struggles in the world today are not really between different religions and cultures. The conflicts are among the reactionary elements of the world’s religions and cultures. Progressive Jews, Muslims, Christians and others have learned how to draw upon their deep traditions and yet to also appreciate other traditions as well.
During the conference I served on a panel at a workshop dealing with education for peace. In my brief remarks I drew upon our own UU tradition, going back to Sophia Fahs and before, of pioneering the teaching about other religious traditions in a respectful way. I went on to add my own conviction that we need to move beyond the cognitive teaching about other faiths to an interpersonal and experiential encounter with other faiths in their cultural contexts. Our fledgling learning service efforts in the College of Social Justice is a fine example of this.
Religion, alas, is still used to justify unspeakable violence. Such violence makes news. Here in Vienna, a vital global effort that we UU’s helped to create uses religion as a means to spread understanding, compassion and peace. Cooperation is quiet. Appreciative understanding is silent. They do not make big news. However, when we finally get to the point where the world has learned to live in harmony and peace, enlightened religious leaders like these good people here in Vienna will have done much to make such a world possible.
What a humbling privilege it is to be here as a representative of our faith.
Unitarian Universalist Association
Every 5-6 years the worlds largest and most representative interfaith organization focused on Peace, Religions for Peace (RFP) convenes a World Assembly of senior-most religious leaders for the purpose of forging a deep moral consensus on contemporary challenges, eliciting a new World Council, and advancing multi-religious action across and beyond the Religions for Peace network.
RFP’s 9th World Assembly will begin on Wednesday, November 20th in Vienna, Austria. It will be global in scale, multi-stakeholder in composition and action-oriented. The Assembly will convene over 600 senior religious leaders from around the world who are strategically positioned to advance multi-religious action for the common good. It will also include representatives of governments, intergovernmental organizations, charitable foundations, and other civil society sectors and provide concrete opportunities to forge multi-stakeholder partnerships for the common good. Major successes in the advancement of peace, development, and shared security will be responsibly shared and further honored.
UUA President, Rev. Peter Morales, will speak to the World Assembly on Thursday afternoon as a member of a panel addressing RFP’s commission: “Welcoming the Other through Religious and Interreligious Education.”
The UUA is a founding member of Religions for Peace – previously known as the World Conference of Religions for Peace. The UUA’s first President, Rev. Dana Greeley joined with the Founder of Rissho Kosei-kai(RKK), Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, and other global interfaith leaders in providing the leadership necessary to establish the organization in 1970. UUA Minister, Rev. Homer Jack, was the first Secretary General of the organization, serving until he retired in 1983.
In 1996, a box was uncovered at the home of a parishioner of All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington D.C. In that box were nearly 50 colorful drawings made by children as thanks for gifts received from the church fifty years earlier.
Not many people in the church knew the story behind these pictures, they only knew they were made by school children in Japan after World War II.
The story behind the film ‘Pictures from a Hiroshima School Yard’ is inspiring – it reminds us that hope and peace are within reach. And, that a deep and heartfelt response by one church to a suffering community can lead to amazing things. Come and see the film on Friday, November 15, 2013 at All Souls Church.