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


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


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

Read More…


International Presence at GA 2013

GA Welcomes International Guests

At last week’s 52nd annual General Assembly the UUA International Office was honored to welcome over one dozen international partners from all over the world as they joined us for the week of workshops, worship, and events in Louisville, KY.

Cross-posted from uuworld.org:

A number of foreign dignitaries were welcomed to General Assembly Friday morning. The Rev. Eric Cherry, director of the UUA’s International Office, introduced the Rev. Kotaro Suzuki of the Hiroshima Dharma Center of Rissho Kosei-kai, one of the UUA’s longtime interfaith partners in Japan. Also on stage were Naoki Taketani, director of Rissho Kosei-kai’s International Group, and Rika Okayasu from the same organization; Dr. Thomas Matthew from the South Asia Chapter of the International Association of Religious Freedom in India; the Rev. Steve Dick, executive director of the International Council of Unitarian Universalists, headquartered in the United Kingdom; the Rev. Petr Samojsky from the Religious Society of Czech Unitarians; Vyda Ng, executive director of the Canadian Unitarian Council; the Rev. Arpad Csete, president of the Transylvania Unitarian Ministers Association; the Rev. Adel Nagy, minister of the Recsenyed Unitarian Church; and the Rev. Bela Jakabhazi, minister of the Nyomat Unitarian Church.


Others were Logan Deimler and Lara Fuchs from the European Unitarian Universalists, representing UU Fellowships in Frankfurt, Germany, and Basel, Switzerland; and Cassius Shirambere, president of the Assembly of Unitarian Christians of Burundi.

The Rev. Rebecca Sienes, president of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Philippines, said the church is grateful for the help it has received over the years from UU groups in the U.S. She shared that the church is embarking on its biggest social justice project—building a two-story dormitory at a university so that female students will have safe housing. “I am sending warmest greetings from your brothers and sisters in faith to this General Assembly,” she said.

View photos from this year’s General Assembly!

In Global Covenant: International Worship

Leaders of Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist (UU) communities from around the world led an international worship service on Saturday June 22nd, calling on all who attended to remember the interdependent web of faithful international relationships that shape us.

View video and a transcript of the service:

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Our Faith and Interfaith

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Unitarian Universalists have been blessed by rich and productive interfaith relationships for more than a century. Through this work we grow in faith and in effectiveness. Bringing together several interfaith partners and presented by the Coalition of International UU Organizations, the workshop explored where we have been, how we have matured, and how we are called to new interfaith opportunities today.

Participants of the workshop included: Cassius Shirambere of the Unitarian Church of Burundi, Dr. Thomas Matthew of the International Association for Religious Freedom, Rev. Rebecca Sienes of the UU Church of the Philippines, and Rev. Kotaro Suzuki of Rissho Kosei-kai.

Pictures From a Hiroshima Schoolyard

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In collaboration with All Souls Church, Unitarian, Washington, DC, the UUA International Office was pleased to co-present a special film screening of “Pictures From a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” Rev. Rob Hardies of All Souls was on hand to introduce the film and its director/producer team, Bryan Reichhardt and Shizumi Shigeto Manale. Also in attendance were UUA President Rev. Peter Morales, UUA International Office Director Rev. Eric Cherry, and Rev. Kotaro Suzuki, Director of the Chugoku Division of Rissho Kosei-kai and minister of the Dharma Center of Hiroshima.

During this one-hour documentary journey, current parishioners of All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington tell the story of A. Powell Davies, the minister in 1946 who, infuriated by the picture of an A-bomb commemoration he saw in a newspaper, inspired his congregation to reach out to children of the decimated city of Hiroshima after the bombing. An incredibly moving story, one congregation’s response to the inhumanity of weapons of mass destruction ends up sowing seeds of reconciliation which reverberate today through the beauty of children’s artwork.

No Longer in My Name: A Faith-Based Response to Faith-Based Intolerance



In over 76 countries, religion is used as a rationale to oppress people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Now is the time for people of faith to respond to faith-based intolerance and, on June 12, the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office and other organizations joined together to do just that. Over 100 people gathered in the United Nations Church Center for a screening of the film God Loves Uganda, a new documentary by filmmaker Roger Ross Williams about the importation of Western evangelical values into Uganda.  Following the film, attendees listened to

The Esteemed Interfaith Panel
The Esteemed Interfaith Panel

testimony from a Ugandan refugee and engaged in a discussion about the film with five interfaith clergy members. The evening concluded with a message from Ugandan UU Minister Mark Kiyimba, urging everyone to support Ugandan faith leaders in their work for LGBTI equality. Click here to watch the video. The evening was greatly informative for all, and left everyone inspired to support Ugandan work for equality and to strive for change in their own countries.

God Loves UgandaThe documentary God Loves Uganda premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 2013, and has won numerous awards at film festivals. It tells the story of the International House of Prayer (IHOP), an evangelical Christian organization that sends missionaries around the world to spread the word of God. IHOP’s leaders have focused many of

their missionary efforts on Uganda, a place they believe is ripe with the possibility for spiritual renewal—in part because half of the population is under 15. IHOP sends young Americans to communities throughout Uganda, to build churches and minister to people and even provide social services, but the IHOP missionaries rsz_img_4073also spread their evangelical values, including homophobia.  Widespread persecution of LGBTI people has forced many to flee the country and led to the murder of others, including gay activist David Kato, and has culminated in an American-influenced Anti-Homosexuality bill being introduced into the Ugandan parliament. The bill, often referred to as the “Kill the Gays” bill, would make homosexual behavior punishable by life imprisonment or even death. God Loves Uganda seeks to raise
awareness of what is happening not just in Uganda, but around the world, and is a powerful call for international support for LGBTI rights.

rsz_img_4098 The evening opened with an introduction by Bruce Knotts, Director of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office, who spoke about the importance of the film and of faith support for LGBTI rights. After the screening of God Loves Uganda, a refugee from Uganda gave a powerful testimony affirming the accuracy of the film and spoke about his experiences and the importance of international advocacy. A panel of clergy members—Rev. Eric Cherry from the Unitarian Universalist Association, Imam Daaiyee Abdullah from Muslims for Progressive Values, Pastor Joseph Tolton from Rehoboth Church, Rabbi Deborah Hirsch from Congregation Shaaray Tefila, and Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer from United Church of Christ—then answered questions posed by Mordechai Levovitz, event organizer and Co-Director of Jewish Orthodox Queer Youth, about the film and faith-based advocacy. Although the clergy members came from different religious traditions, their values and beliefs in equality were remarkably similar, and they all expressed the importance of supporting and getting involved in work for LGBTI equality.

rsz_img_4092After the event, many attendees expressed how much they appreciated the speakers’ testimonies, and how powerful they found the film. The evening truly brought together a community of faith and faith allies to support equality and interfaith activism, and showed that, if we join together, we can change the world. No Longer in My Name was cosponsored by the United Nations NGO Committee for Human Rights, the Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, Muslims for Progressive Values, American Jewish World Service, Union of Reform Judaism, Jewish Orthodox Queer Youth, GLAAD, Bronx LGBTQ Center, and Love Beyond Borders.


Inspired by Indonesian Unitarians


The Unitarians of Indonesia are an inspiring part of our global faith with tremendous commitment, good organization, an evangelical attitude, and a strong focus on ministry with youth and young adults. It was a pleasure to visit with them for 4 days in April 2013.


Gereja Jemaat Allah Global Indonesia (JAGI) - the Unitarian Christian Church of Indonesia, was founded in the mid-1990’s by Rev. Aryanto Nugroho and currently has around 500 members.  Rev. Nugroho has published highly regarded theological books, and is very well connected in interfaith circles and with national leaders.


JAGI is headquartered in Semarang, where the church owns and operates a large building that houses the sanctuary, classrooms, offices, a library, and space for a future NGO. A maternity clinic – Bhaki Ibu – operated by the wife of the founder of the church sits across the street from the church building; Mrs. Nugroho estimates that she has been a midwife at more than 200,000 births.

JAGI is administered by a National Leaders Board that includes a Council which supervises a Board of Elders and an Executive Board (responsible for daily operations).  JAGI has 8 ordained ministers and an executive director. It consists of 4 Churches (Semarang, Jakarta, Solo and Sukorejo-Pasuruan) and 3 Mission Areas/Fellowships (Yogyakarta, Surabaya and Klaten). Semarang is the most established congregation and at the center of JAGI. (more…)

New Khasi Unitarian Hymnal Published

Great news from Rev. Khlur Mukhim!  May the music be a blessing.

Dear friends,

Being a member of the standing Hymnal Revision Committee (HRC), I feel lucky I could attend yesterday the special meeting of UUNEI officials and some other church members at Jowai.  Graced by the President and the General Secretary of the Union, the occasion was led by Mr R Pariat and Mr L.Laloo (the Chairman & the Secretary of the HRC respectively) in which Rev Carleywell Lyngdoh, Seniormost Minister of the Union released the newly edited Khasi Unitarian Hymnal.  I cannot think of any better time to have this much awaited edition completed and released now before we wind up our Quasquicentennial celebrations next month during our Annual General Conference.  This edition has come after a long time and only few old copies are available in most churches.  Our organizers should take note and be careful to avoid stampede in our hymnal counters when all our churches and fellowships meet at Jowai next month! (more…)

Typhoon Pablo impacts UU Church of the Philippines

Yesterday evening the UUA received news that Typhoon Pablo had impacted the UU Church of the Philippines headquarters in Dumaguette City.  News from the UU congregations throughout Negros Island is still coming in, but so far most of the damage reported by them is to agricultural projects such as rice, corn and banana trees.  In Siapo and Upper Nato some houses lost their roofs, and at least one UU family’s house, in Dumaguete, was wrecked.

Describing the situation, UUCP President Rev. Rebecca Sienes wrote: “There is so much damage in the city of Dumaguete.  The pier was greatly damaged; storm surged occurred in the pier area; some of the pine trees by the boulevard were uprooted, the roof of some of the shops by the boulevard were blown away by the wind; the boulevard was filled by ocean water up to knee high. The wind was very strong.”

UUCP headquarters staff have already been hard at work clearing damaged trees, and they are making plans for necessary repairs.

UUA President Peter Morales offered words of support: “My caring thoughts and prayers are with everyone who has been impacted by Typhoon Pablo, especially the leaders and members of our UU congregations in the Philippines. The UUA will partner with the UUCP in all recovery efforts.”

Further news will be posted as it arrives.  Please hold our UU brothers and sisters, and everyone effected by Typhoon Pablo, in your thoughts and prayers.

The International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU) is currently collecting donations to support recovery efforts:

  • Online donations can be made by credit card/bank account via PayPal by sending to treasurer [at] icuu [dot] net
  • Checks may be sent to the ICUU Finance Office, attn: Susan Greenberg, P.O. Box 300, Hastings on Hudson, NY 10706 USA
  • Be sure to indicate that your donation is for UUCP Pablo Relief

Update: The following UU congregations have reported that they were gladly not impacted by the typhoon:  Doldol, Malingin, Calapayan, Aquino, Caican, Samaka, and Bicutan.  News is still awaited from approximately 12 congregations.

Update 2:  The UUA and the UU Partner Church Council have agreed to cover the costs of repair to the UUCP headquarters.

Update 3:  Congregational impact -

  • Kalomoyan congregation – All’s well
  • Cansauro congregation – Some damage to member’s houses and agriculture
  • Nagbinlod congregation – Lost electricity, but UU families are fine and no building damage.  The UU Mango farm has suffered.
  • Culipapa congregation: All’s well.
  • Samoyao congregation: Some damage to member’s houses, and agriculture damage.
  • Nataban, Bagong Silan, and Ulay congregations are doing fine.

Update 4: Banaybanay congregation - The congregation was hit severely. Seven (7) UU families evacuated to UU church to seek refuge. Their fruit trees were uprooted, banana plants were down, roofs & walls of several houses were blown away and GI sheets could not be retrieved.  One house is no longer habitable. The Barangay/Village gave financial assistance at 500.00 ($12.50) to each family affected. About 20 UU families were affected by Pablo  It was the strongest typhoon that they had experienced.

Photos from Dumaguete City and the UUCP headquarters:

Faithful International Partnering – Proceeding Carefully and Intentionally


A Memo: Connecting with Unitarians and UU’s Around the World, CAREFULLY

To: UUA Ministers and Religious Leaders

From:  Eric Cherry, UUA International Office
Cathy Cordes, UU Partner Church Council
Jill McAllister and Steve Dick, International Council of Unitarians and Universalists

Date: September 14, 2012

Dear Friends,

It is so exciting to see the many ways that our UU faith is connecting around the world – so many congregations and ministers are now making a variety of international connections! We are thrilled that UUA churches and individuals are looking beyond their own doors and even beyond their own geographic communities and connecting. The UUA, ICUU, the UUPCC and other organizations stand ready to support your outreach in a variety of ways. We invite you to contact us at any point where we can be helpful. We are writing today to offer some advice based on our joint experience working with UUs here and in other countries.

Much of this new activity is aided with new communication tools that make contact easier and keeping in touch possible. Social media programs such as Skype and Facebook make it easy to learn of possibilities and to meet people over the internet.

Our UU global community is growing both bigger and smaller! Bigger in the sense that people around the world continue to discover our liberal tradition and establish it in their own countries and regions, and smaller in the sense that it is so easy to connect with each other around the world. This gives us reason to both celebrate and pay close attention, for there are good ways to connect, not-so-good ways to connect, and ways to connect which can cause huge problems. (more…)