The People’s Climate March

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UU-UN Office reflections from the historic People’s Climate March Sunday September 20, 2014.

 

 

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 “The People’s Climate March on September 21st, 2014 brought together people of all identities from around the world.  What struck me the most about this march was the boundless positive energy throughout the march.  We all saw the humanity in one another, we were connected spiritually and emotionally, and we moved as one strong body. The UU-UNO participated in the march held in New York City and thanks to screens set-up throughout the march we were able to see marches in other countries.  Many international participants in the NYC march wore the flag of their country proudly.  Humans working solidarity around the world as global citizens and participants of this movement.  What an energizing and inspirational time in history that will be talked about for years to come! We came together, calling attention climate change and climate justice – we need to take action now.  We sang, we danced, we chanted, we meditated, we lifted our voices and we were present in intentional international community for the good of the globe.”

- Kamila Jacob, Envoy Coordinator

 

“From the powerful signs like “I can’t walk on water!”, to the march and people on the sidewalk cheering, clapping and singing to each other, an incredible force of spiritual empowerment has risen along Central Park West on Sunday, September 21. This is a historic day to be remembered, where over 400,000 people joined the People’s Climate March in New York City.

 

rayInspired by each other, people picked up the yellow sign distributed on the street that writes: Another ___ for people’s climate. So, there we went, another “Buddhist”, another  “bike rider”, another “hot lesbian”…The collective empowerment doesn’t stop at people’s creativity in the various ways they identify themselves. The empowerment is tremendously diversified and widely disseminated through collaboration among different people and different groups.

 

There was one moment when the host asks us to connect our spirit with the ones standing next to us. Our office intern, Kira, reached out to the two people sitting on the ground in front of her, and connected with their hands against hers. Public voices take place in so many different forms that is built on one another’s ideas and power. By gaining affirmation and collaboration from hundreds of thousands of people, we will be able to heal the world like we never have before. After all, this world belongs to all of us!”

- Danning, Intern

 

“To me, being part of the march meant to explore what it means for me to be a woman. I joined 400,000 other individuals from every part of the world to march in solidarity with mother nature. I find it no coincidence that mother nature is being abused in exploited by what I deem our misogynistic global community.”

- Bri, Intern

 

“It was truly an amazing experience to be part of something so historic. The collective energy was so invigorating and powerful. I believe the best way to get someone to hear what you have to say is by showing up and saying it, and boy did we. Over 400,000 global citizens came together to get our message across and I don’t see how our world leaders and policy makers can ignore the message shared yesterday. Not only from the people in New York City but from marches all around the world. I felt truly spiritually connected to everyone there, just being people of the earth. One other thing that stuck out to me was the fact that not one arrest was made. I feel like this spoke to the overwhelming positive energy behind the commitment, focus, and message of the people.”

- Kira, Intern

 

“The empowering and inspiring march united 400,000 people with a message for world leaders on climate change. At the starting point near Columbus Circle, many marchers held signs with a variety of powerful words: “There Is No Planet B”, “Preserve Our Fossil Carbon”, “Solutions Exist”, “Respect for the interdependent Web of All Existence of Which We Are a Part” and “Jobs, Justice, Clean Energy”. Marchers expressed their thoughts and souls in order to let their voices be heard by all the people living on the motherland. Different appeals rising in the demonstrators include clean water and air, green forest, less carbon emission, global warming, new alternative energy instead of fossil fuels, etc, which inspired people on the street to join the march. People hold the same strong faith and beliefs that we need to save the earth and we can do it through the collaboration among diverse organizations, ethnic groups, races and ages. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to get involved in this historic and memorable event with other awesome marchers. I believe every major social movement can be achieved when people get together.”

- Meng, Intern             kira

 

“Marching in the People’s Climate March was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life.  I have never participated in an event of that magnitude.

I was not only impressed by the sheer volume of people, but our commitment to fighting for a more just and sustainable way of life. That commitment was evidenced in the hours and hours people waited to march. In the miles that people with disabilities covered, despite their physical limitations. In the countless signs people made. And in the myriad other ways we expressed our shared concern for the only place we call home.

I was especially pleased that the Climate March organizers purposely placed Indigenous communities in the front of the march, in order to highlight in the plight of these communities. These peoples are on front lines of climate change now, so it was appropriate for them to lead from the front of the march. They bear the brunt of climate change, as their way of life is threatened by increasing frequency of extreme weather events, rising sea levels, droughts, increasing water shortages, and the spread of tropical-born diseases. Out of all of us marching yesterday, it is these communities whose circumstances are the most dire, and I was grateful that they were front and center.

At the Climate March, I heard calls to action, languages I did not know, chanting, the drums of indigenous tribes, singing, and laughter. I felt proud to be unified with my brothers and sisters for a cause that is bigger than all of us. But I also felt the weight of the issue at hand. As Chris Hedges said recently: “It is both an obligation and a privilege to be around right now.” Indeed, I am inspired by the Climate March. But I also feel the immense obligation to do my part to secure this earth for us and for future generations.”

-Raymond, Intern

 

To learn more about our work to combat climate change, visit our UU-UNO webpage, the Climate Portal and the UUA Commit2Respond initiative. For more photos from the People’s Climate March, visit our Facebook page.

Interfaith Dialogue for Human Rights

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Abby McBride is a youth representative for the UU-UNO. She attends Lehigh University and is pursuing a a degree in International Relations.  She is a blogger and manager for The Assembly.

Religion tends to have a bad rap in the media. When people think of zealous religious figures, terms such as “bigot” or “xenophobe” often come to mind. A group of religious non-governmental organizations met at the United Nations on Friday, August 29th, 2014 to discuss putting an end to this trend. The Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO) sponsored the interfaith dialogue workshop, entitled “Interfaith Progressive Values Promote Universal Human Rights” as part of the 65th Annual UN DPI/NGO Conference. Co-sponsors included Muslims for Progressive Values, the NGO Committee on Human Rights, the NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace, and Security, the Tzu Chi Foundation, Soka Gakkai International, Won Buddhism, and Buddha’s Light International Association.

 

Kamila Jacob and Debra Boudreaux
Kamila Jacob and Debra Boudreaux

In the workshop, participants emphasized that, while faith is important, it should not stand in the way of basic human rights. Debra Boudreaux, Executive Vice President of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, spoke of her dedication to Buddhism, but said her foundation will help any kind of person, not only Buddhists. Kamila Jacob, representing the UU-UNO, told the workshop that her drive for social justice is put into action by her faith.

 

Hiro Sakuri of Soka Gakkai International voiced his regrets that there is no longer an interfaith conference at the United Nations. In 2005 he established an interfaith conference at the UN, with support from 75 member states, 15 UN agencies, and a set of religious non-governmental organizations. Following this development was the first ever General Assembly high-level dialogue on inter-religious communication for peace. However, the interfaith conference no longer occurs since members of certain agencies and organizations have left. Now, he struggles to find committed people to bring this conference back to life.

 

Bruce Knotts and Ani Zonneveld
Bruce Knotts and Ani Zonneveld

Ani Zonneveld, President of Muslims for Progressive Values, addressed the conflict that occurs between religion and human rights. She proposes that it is not religion itself that creates tension with human rights, but men’s interpretation of it. Of her own faith, Islam, she said “Sharia law is the interpretation of that divine inspiration [Sharia] by men of patriarchal society.” Zonneveld clarified that Sharia is the spiritual path of Islam. However, Sharia law has been warped by the values of the time (centuries ago) when it was enacted and the cultural issues it conflicts with today.

The UU-UNO affirms the Unitarian Universalist belief that there is inherent worth and dignity in every individual. Humanity is diverse in race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and religion, and the UU-UNO recognizes and embraces this fact. The UU-UNO wants to foster interfaith dialogue so that no religious groups stand in the way of the rights of individuals. We must be aligned in what is true, what is right, and what is good.

The UU-UNO recognizes that if religious groups are to succeed in protecting human rights, a greater degree of dialogue and cooperation in the future is essential. The workshop cast a look at what such a future might entail. Members attended from a plethora of religious groups – Jewish, Humanist, Catholic, Atheist, and a variety of others. The UU-UNO is hopeful that interfaith dialogue will continue as we need unity to secure fundamental rights around the world, rather than the division that has plagued religious dialogue in the past.Audience2 - nb

LOVE REACHED OUT: UU-UNO General Assembly Recap

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Thank you for joining the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office during our General Assembly 2014 Events!

 

UU-UNO Director Bruce Knotts speaking at the LGBTQ and Immigration panel
UU-UNO Director Bruce Knotts speaking at the LGBTQ and Immigration panel

UU-UNO Director, Bruce Knotts, spoke at LGBTQ and Immigration – An Intersection of Human Rights, hosted by UURISE, 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.

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“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).

This year’s Dana Greeley Award winners with UU-UNO Director Bruce Knotts

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.
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See our Facebook page for more photos from the Blue Ribbon Ceremony!

 

The Envoy Breakfast took place on Saturday, June 28th.

At the breakfast, we discussed the successes and challenges experienced by congregational envoys, and we helped brainstorm ideas and techniques to enhance our future envoy endeavors.

 

 Watch Bruce talk about our influence at the United Nations during General Session V at 13:26!

 

Youth Envoys loved GA!

“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.”

-       Ben Gaffigan, 18, Frederick, Maryland

 

A Lost Soul

UU-UNO LogoOn Sunday, July 6th, Ebenezer, an active HIV patient, AIDS orphan, and one of the students in the Mayne Krobo Region of Ghana whom the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office assists through the Every Child is Our Child program, passed away. He was admitted to the local hospital at around 6:20 pm and died soon after. While active and happy as usual at school on Friday and playing football, one of his favorite pastimes, on Sunday morning with friends, he complained of severe headaches and was quickly rushed to the hospital on Sunday afternoon. We have been informed that no autopsy will be administered, but that the cause of death has been officially declared as AIDS.

UU-UNO Director Bruce Knotts and Ebenezer
UU-UNO Director Bruce Knotts and Ebenezer

This news comes as a shock to us all, as Ebenezer had been very healthy in the past, had supportive foster parents, and was successfully taking anti-retroviral medication for several years. Ebenezer is the second child of the Every Child is Our Child program to pass on, both of whom tested positive for HIV.

The UU-UNO wishes to convey its deepest sympathies for all of Ebenezer family and friends, many of whom have shown deep admiration and love for him. The Director of the UU-UNO, Bruce Knotts, expressed that during his trips to the ECOC schools, the Queen Mothers of Ghana always put Ebenezer on the itinerary of house visits, and as a result, Mr. Knotts got to know Ebenezer and made sure to visit him. This fact makes his passing all the more painful for all of us at the UU-UNO as we mourn this dear child.

To learn more about the ECOC program and how you can donate, please visit our website here.

News from the UU-UNO Director, Bruce Knotts

Bringing UU Values to the UN and to the U.S. and Canadian Governments

 

logoI have previously shared with you the fine work done by Frances Cosstick of the small Unitarian Fellowship of Ottawa, Canada’s capital.  She and her colleagues organized a series of meetings at the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs on January 20, 2014, which included call ins from Canada’s missions abroad and officials from the Prime Minister’s office.  We ended with a conversation with a special assistant to the Foreign Minister.

Bruce Knotts at the White House LGBT Forum
Bruce Knotts at the White House LGBT Forum

In March, we learned that our Unitarian Universalist minister, Rev. Mark Kiyimba, was questioned for over two hours as to why he and his UU congregation were promoting homosexuality in violation of the newly enacted Ugandan anti-homosexuality law.  I called for a meeting with Ambassador Donald G. Teitelbaum, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.  He invited his colleagues from the bureaus of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor and Population, Refugees and Migration.  I was joined by colleagues from the Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ, and Methodist Church with input from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society at a meeting on April 11th.  We spoke about the Ugandan violation of religious and other basic freedoms against the LGBT community and also against adherents to all liberal faiths in nations such as Uganda, Nigeria and Russia.  We also talked about the resulting massive influx of refugees and asylum seekers fleeing oppression in these nations which refuse to honor their treaty obligations to protect the human rights within their borders.

This meeting was followed by an invitation to the Department of State to consult on global LGBT human rights, on May 15th.  I was part of a group of about 20 faith and secular LGBT leaders, many of whom the UU-UNO had introduced to global LGBT advocacy at our 2009 and 2010 global LGBT meetings at the Church Center of the United Nations and at Union Theological Seminary.  We were told that the Department of State had organized a faith-based consultative committee to advise the Department on Peace, Conflict Resolution and Development.  Later it was decided to form a fourth subcommittee on Social Justice, focused on global LGBT human rights.  All these meetings are off the record, so I can only give you the broadest outlines of what was discussed.

I attended my first meeting of the full committee at the Department of State on June 6th.  There were many friends at this meeting as well.  Some from the global LGBT movement, but also those dedicated to the other issues to be discussed, including Religions for Peace, which I remind our readers, was co-founded by UU minister Rev. Homer Jack.  After a general session, we retired to our four subcommittees.  In our Social Justice subcommittee, we all said that we wanted to have input into the other areas: Peace, Conflict Resolution and Development, as well.  We were assured that we would have that opportunity.  Not all the members of the Social Justice subcommittee were religious liberals.  Some participants from less liberal faiths wanted to divert the subcommittee’s focus away from LGBT human rights.  It was clear that the representatives from the Department of State and the White House wanted to keep the focus on LGBT human rights.  The representative of one of the larger, less liberal faith traditions, said that he could support declarations against violence and extreme discrimination, but not for equality.  I said that I would take what was offered for now, but that our ultimate goal was full and complete equality for everyone everywhere regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.  By equality, I mean spiritual, moral, political, social and economic equality—full and complete equality.  Two more meetings of this group are scheduled this year in September and December, with more planned next year, which will likely conclude in June.

On June 20th, I was the third to the last speaker at the end of a week-long opportunity for civil society to provide input to the United Nations as it formulates its Sustainable Development Goals, which will guide global development efforts from 2015-2030.  We were one of 90 groups which support an independent goal #10 dedicated to human rights.  However, we were the only group which called for explicit mention of LGBTQ human rights.  Our intervention was the only to receive applause that day.  The co-chairs said they supported our initiative, but they doubted it would be accepted by the consensus of the member states of the U.N.  We have an uphill fight ahead of us.  Our intervention was included in the written outcome document.  We will have another opportunity to provide our ideas on implementation later this month. Read more here. Watch the video here. My speech begins at 38:15.

The White House.  Photo taken by the author.
The White House. Photo taken by the author.

A week or so later, I got the very surprising invitation from the White House to attend a forum on global LGBT human rights on June 24th. Read the press release from the White House here. I was also alerted that I would receive another invitation to dinner at the Vice President’s residence.   The meeting included about 75 people, leaders in religion, non-profits, business, media and LGBT activism.  Ambassador Susan Rice, National Security Advisor to the President and other White House officials gave heartfelt speeches about how important they consider global LGBT human rights.  There was a panel discussion.  Again, I met friends from previous UU-UNO events.  I keep telling people that the speakers we get at UU-UNO events are the makers of history.  Many were at the White House that day.  We broke up into smaller groups to discuss religion, finance, business, and social media.  In my group I brought up religious freedom, the necessity of shortening the lengthy refugee and asylum process and making sure that U.S. Government money goes to faith-based organizations which reflect the inclusive and affirming values of the Obama administration.  I got some push-back on this last point.  I was told that the administration could not play politics with U.S. Government assistance.  I retorted that I was not asking for a political litmus test, but a values test.  The previous administration, I pointed out, made sure that U.S. Government funds went to faith-based organizations which reflected their conservative and intolerant values.  I passed out talking points and background notes regarding our efforts to include explicit reference to LGBTQ human rights into the 2015-2030 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

Vice President and Dr. Biden at a reception they hosted for participants of the LGBT Forum
Vice President and Dr. Biden at a reception they hosted for participants of the LGBT Forum

We ended by each group reporting out to the entire group and our nearly 6 hours at the White House came to an end.  We then made our way up to the Vice President’s residence for dinner with Joe and Jill Biden.  Both spoke from their heart about their dedication to LGBT human rights.  Just as the Vice President invited us into his house to get to know us better, I had to rush off to catch the last train from Washington, D.C. to New York City which arrived early the next morning.  Within a few hours I was on another train to Providence, RI for a fantastic GA.

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.

 

Yours Sincerely,

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Bruce Knotts

Director

Bknotts@uua.org

bruce

Love Reaches Out Globally at UUA General Assembly!

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 10.21.47 AMFind yourself in the Global U/U Story at UUA General Assembly in Providence where we’ll be blessed by the presence of more than 30 honored guests from a dozen countries.  Each of our international partners brings inspiring news to share about how the Global U/U Story is changing lives around the world.

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 10.17.14 AMA great place to begin is at Booth #304 in the exhibit hall at the Convention Center: that’s where you’ll find the he International U/U Village in Providence!  Meet and talk with leaders from all of the organizations that participate in the Coalition of U/U International Organizations and many of our international partners.

And, please join us for public events organized by the Coalition organizations:

Tuesday June 24

2:45p–4:15p
Event: Collegial Conversation at UUMA Ministry Days: The Global U/U Story and Your Ministry  |  RICC Ballroom E

Wednesday June 25

7:30p–9:00p
Event: GA Opening Celebration & Introduction of International Guests  |  RICC Plenary Hall

Thursday June 26

10:15a–11:45a
Workshop: Reaching Out in Love Through Intercultural Competency  |  RICC 557

12:30p-1:45p
Worship: Love Reaches Out Around the World |  RICC 555-556

9:30p-11:00p
Event: Unitarian Universalist Service Committee Gala |  RICC Hall C  |  RSVP Required

Friday June 27

12:00p-1:30p
Event: UU Partner Church Council (UUPCC) Annual Meeting & Luncheon  |  Biltmore Hotel Garden Room  |   Purchase Tickets

3:00p-4:30p
Event: International Association for Religious Freedom Reception |  Biltmore State Suite B

5:00p–6:15p
Workshop: Beyond Borders – Implementing Intercultural Conversations |  RICC Ballroom BC

Saturday June 28

7:00a–8:30a
Event: UU-United Nations Envoy Breakfast | Providence Biltmore Salon 6

7:00a–8:30a
Event: International Women’s Convocation Annual Breakfast & Meeting | Biltmore Hotel Renaissance Salon | Purchase Tickets

8:00a–9:45a
Event: Introduction of International Guests, Presentation by Coalition of UU Organizations & 30th Anniversary of UU Holdeen India Program Speech | RICC Plenary Hall

1:30p-3:00p
Event: UU Holdeen India Program 30th Anniversary Celebration | Biltmore Grand Ballroom

6:00p–7:30p
Event: UU-United Nations Office Greeley Sermon Award Ceremony | Biltmore L’apogee 17

Dark Day for Gay rights in India

Last week’s report that India’s Supreme Court had issued a ruling upholding the criminalization of gay sex was shocking.  And, LGBT activists in India have organized and responded quickly.

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Derek Mitchell, the Director of the UUA’s Holdeen India Program writes from New Delhi that,

“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. 

Please sign-on to AllOut’s online petition

 

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New UU Leadership in the Philippines

On Sunday, October 20, 2013 the Bicutan UU Church in Metro-Manila installed its first minister, Rev. Ma. Theresa (Tet) Gallardo.  The church’s new chapel, which was dedicated one year ago, was filled to overflowing with people.  And, the spirit of the gathering was both inspiring and exciting.

Special guest participants in the installation service included representatives of Hindu, Muslim, and Buddhist groups in Manila as well as a group of musicians specializing in the indigenous music of the Philippines.  Rev. Gallardo joined the children of the church in a beautiful covenanting ritual that reflected the multigenerational commitment of the Bicutan church.  Messages of solidarity were read from Rev. Peter Morales (President, UUA), Rev. Brian Kiely (President, International Council of UUs), Rev. Fred Muir (UUA Ambassador to the UUCP), Rev. Carol Huston (President, International Convocation of UU Women) and Rev. Diane Rollert (Minister, UU Church of Montreal).

The theme of the service was ‘Asserting UUism in the Phlippines.”  In the installation sermon, Rev. Eric Cherry recalled a message from Matthew 7:16 that good plants are recognized by their fruits:

…to ‘assert’ UUism in the Philippines, you’re going to have to provide some really good fruit.  And, when you do, people are going to know that its source is also very good.  And, how wonderful it will be when they discover that the source is you.  This very church.  This very minister.  This very congregation – bearing good fruit.  And, by it, they will know you.

Rev. Gallardo was ordained by the UU Church of the Philippines in April, 2013.  She brings decades of professional leadership experience to this new responsibility, as well as deep connections within the LGBT community in Manila.  She accepted the installation with humility and grace, and looks forward to the shared ministry that she and this church are poised to pursue.

Congratulations and godspeed to the Bicutan church and Rev. Gallardo. May your ministry together be a blessing.

International Bridges to Justice: Vishna’s story

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Visit Communities of Conscience website

Vishna is a four year old boy who is like any other you will meet at that age. He is from Cambodia, and has bright brown eyes and pinchable cheeks. His circumstance is a little different; he was born in prison. His mother is held there because they cannot find her husband, his father, and so they hold her and Vishna in prison instead.

karen-tseWhat can be done about a child born in prison? Rev. Karen Tse, a Unitarian Universalist Minister living in Geneva, Switzerland, tells us that we have a way to prevent this from happening.

To understand how one must first understand two things that cause stories like Vishna’s: one, that 95% of injustice and torture happens to the common person who has no voice (as opposed to political prisoners or famous activists), and two, that there are already laws that Cambodia and other countries have passed that say such behavior is illegal. Such laws exist in 93 countries, as a matter of fact. Yet millions of people are tortured every year.

People have been guaranteed their rights. There are laws forbidding this behavior. Political leaders around the world do not want to torture their own people. The problem is implementing these laws.  Rev. Karen Tse has pinpointed the issue: torture is cheapest investigative tool. While people should have lawyers, it’s expensive for developing legal systems to provide people with lawyers on a timely basis. And this is why Vishna has lived his entire life in prison.

His life is not hopeless. He is actually the delight of the prison. Every day he does his best to visit every prisoner, and the guards let him! This boy is the embodiment of hope.

Rev. Karen Tse took this hope and formed International Bridges to Justice in 2000. Since then, this organization has created country centers in the most populous nations to train lawyers and provide as many people as possible with legal access. It has sponsored JusticeMaker competitions which implements a brilliant legal plan that has had astounding successes.

This process is not just about justice. It is about peace. Too often we find ourselves too late. Protesting a war already underway. Helping countries after war has ravaged it for years. By helping projects like Rev. Tse’s, by helping JusticeMakers, we prevent conflict. When people have a just legal system there is no need for violence. We don’t just wish for world peace. We make it happen.

This is your invitation to be part of Vishna’s hope. For the first time, we are connecting individuals and congregations with these JusticeMakers. We call this program Communities of Conscience. As Unitarian Universalists, we are about making the world a better place instead of thinking about it. By building a relationship with a JusticeMaker (like people do at KIVA.org or Women for Women International) you become part of a worldwide mission of justice and peace. Your congregation can become a Community of Conscience, or you can join one that helps a specific JusticeMaker. Together, we can set people like Vishna and his mother free.

Join us. For more information, contact Shawna Foster, Intern for the International Office: or visit IBJ’s website.

United Nations Sustainable Development Working Group

Capture

Members of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office Climate Change Initiative engaged with member states and many other UN entities at the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which completed its fourth of eight planned sessions last month, June 17th-19th, at the UN headquarters in NYC. Called for by the Rio+20 conference, the OWG learned about specific issues of concern through presentations and side events and had open statements and discussions about these issues. The member states were entrusted to make these goals clear, aspirational as well as limited in number, which proved challenging as many important issues and concerns were raised throughout the OWG.

Discussion topics of this Fourth Session were “Employment and decent work for all, social protection, youth, education and culture” and “Health and population dynamics”. These sessions are facilitating the development of a proposal to the General Assembly for a set of sustainable development goals for post 2015, this date marking the end of the Millennium Development Goals. We are in excited anticipation for the final report of the OWG, scheduled to be completed in the next year and hope that the social, economic and environmental dimensions are effectively addressed and integrated to minimize trade-offs between them.

Click here more info on the UU-UNO’s Climate Change Initiative

Click here for more info about the Open Working Group and schedule

Click here for additional statements and event resources

Open Working Group in Trusteeship Council Chamber

Click events to read the UU-UNO summary

1)    Main EventEmployment and decent work for all, social protection, youth, education and culture
Panel and discussion: Dr. Haroon Bhorat, Dr. Karen Mundy and Mr. Fernando Filgueira

Side Events Attended

2)   Main EventHealth, Population dynamics
Keynote address: Dr. Hans Rosling, Panel and discussion: Dr. Janette Vega, Dr. Saroj Jayasinghe and Dr. Paulina Makinwa-Adebusoye

Side Event Attended

  Conclusions and Thoughts

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