Armed group attacks Burundi Unitarian Church

The International Council of Unitarians and Universalists shared very disturbing news from the Unitarian Church in Bujumbura, Burundi earlier today.  Please see the message from their minister, Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana below.  Rev. Fulgence has said that financial support is not needed at this time.  If that changes, or other tangible ways to provide support become evident, we will share that as well.

This morning at 2h30, a heavily armed group (approximately 10 people) attacked the Unitarian church of Bujumbura. It is not yet determined whether it is an attack on our faith or a robbery; 2 grenades were detonated in our garden and many bullets were shot in different directions.

To get inside the property, they climbed the gate as the rest of the wall is covered with wires. Our neighbors were as frightened as well as the 2 young men who were on the premises at the time. Luckily, no life was lost.

In terms of property, one of the offices was savaged, papers were scattered including check books and a sizeable amount of money was stolen. The minister’s office received one bullet without much damage.

This morning I filed a report to the local police and an investigation will be started. It is good to have some expectations from those investigations but not too high.

It looks like, according to the first elements we are gathering, it is mostly a robbery, and the office that was broken into was the accountant’s office. Other doors were shot at but not as bad.

Nepo and Jean who live who live at the church are shaken up by these events.

We are glad no one was injured but we realize once more that we live in a violent world. It doesn’t matter whether you are asleep at 2h30, a bullet can get you there!

With thanks for your prayers and loving kindness.

Rev. Fulgence Ndagijamana, Minister

Unitarian Church of Burundi
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Faithful International Partnering – Proceeding Carefully and Intentionally

Here’s an important reminder as the new ‘church year’ begins for many of our congregations.

International engagement is important ministry, and more transformative when its collaborative.  Our organizations look forward to supporting your hopes and dreams.  And, we urge you to be thoughtful and careful even in the midst of exciting opportunities.

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.

BE VERY CAREFUL when making connections via Facebook and other social media. Before you respond to a Facebook request from someone claiming to be a UU, or a UU minister, contact one of the offices or organizations listed below which specializes in international UU connections, to get more information! Social media enables one to present information in ways that may not be false but also may not be a complete description of reality. (Anyone can take a picture of themselves with a stole on, or lighting a chalice.) Be careful not to assume that you’ve been contacted because you are special, or especially knowledgeable or gifted or whatever. In general, this kind of “Facebooking” is a process of “blanketing” a target audience, or of fishing, hoping to get someone to bite. Do not consider the list of other colleagues who may be listed as friends as references for or as an endorsement of the person. Many of us respond casually to friend requests without verifying or confirming information about a prospective friend.

FIRST, FIND OUT MORE before you proceed. Definitely consult with one of the following:
The International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU)
The UUA International Resources Office
The UU Partner Church Council

BE ESPECIALLY CAREFUL ABOUT MONEY Don’t send money unless you have some history of relationship and interactions. We suggest not sending money to any individual, group or organization that is not part of some kind of judicatory or governance structure. You can find this out from one of the organizations listed above. Unless you are working with a group or organization in which there is some kind of shared leadership and decision-making, your support and gifts are almost certainly going to lead to triangulating folks in these countries, and may even stimulate real conflict. (This has happened more than once.) It may be possible to send funds through one of the UU international organizations or to help support existing or new projects sponsored by these organizations. Contact us for information about such possibilities.

LEARN MORE! International relations among U-U’s around the world are more than 100 years old. The UUA, ICUU, and UUPCC have been specifically working in this area together for more than 20 years, and many lessons have been learned along the way. We are only just beginning to understand how much cultural differences affect all of us, and truly, we have done our share of “connecting” which has not only been problematic, but which has been both damaging and destructive. We have also established and been part of many beautiful new relationships which are beneficial all around. It takes time and experience to know the difference.

THERE ARE GREAT OPPORTUNITIES We have much to learn, and it is very exciting. You and your congregation can be enlightened and invigorated through international connections. There are significant differences among Unitarians and UU’s around the world – everyone is not in the UUA, nor is Unitarianism the same as our UUA traditions, all around the world. Many newly emerging U-U groups have very different religious histories and very different social and cultural realities. For some of them, daily survival is a huge challenge.

THERE ARE VIABLE AND SUSTAINABLE WAYS TO CONNECT Some of the groups most in need of support and cooperation may not be reaching out via Facebook – you may never hear about some of these places where you can make the most difference if you don’t ask. There are opportunities to meet international UU’s at conferences and events – this is a great first step. You can be work with and help support emerging UU groups around the world as part of a team or coalition, without needing to manage a relationship wholly on your own.

DO SOME HOMEWORK FIRST The Joint Working Group of the UUA International Office, the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists, and the UU Partner Church Council can help you learn about good ways to connect. Together, we are aiming toward global connections which achieve and model the ideals of our faith community. Please join us in aiming for these ideals and practices, by contacting us before you go forward with new international connections. Begin by reading the aims we have agreed to, listed below.

“Five Guiding Principles of UU International Engagement”

I. Our international engagement must emerge from a place of deep humility and intentionally seek relationships based on equality and mutuality.

Do: Risk for the sake of shared goals that have been established carefully.
Don’t: Assume that you or your partner have all the answers or can predict the future.

II. Our international engagement is most effective when it comprehends the abundance and variety of resources our congregations and international partners already have.

Do: Look within and without your congregation and its partners for resources that are present but perhaps not obvious.
Don’t: Establish a relationship that relies on or creates unhealthy dependency for yourself or your partner.

III. Our international engagement is most transformative when it is grounded in faithful reflection, including understanding the history of our international engagement.

Do: Explore the theological grounding of international relationship and engagement.
Don’t: Repeat common mistakes.

IV. Our international engagement is truest to our highest values when it responds with wisdom and passion to institutional oppression and injustice.

Do: Support partners as they seek to find fish for a day, fishing poles for tomorrow, and establish access to the pond for a lifetime.
Don’t: Ignore long-term justice strategies because they seem harder to achieve than short-term charitable ideas.

V. The Unitarian Universalist universe of international programs is incredibly diverse and highly decentralized. Our international engagement is most comprehensive when we understand and utilize partner organizations well.

Do: Contact an institutional UU partner organization for consultation before agreeing to a project with an international partner, especially if the international partner is UU.
Don’t: Assume a request you receive from an international partner is endorsed by the UUA, ICUU, UUPCC or other UU organization.

We look forward to working with you.
Jill, Cathy, Steve and Eric

International Council of Unitarians and Universalists:
Rev. Jill McAllister, Program Coordinator –;
Rev. Steve Dick, Executive Secretary –

UU Partner Church Council:
Cathy Cordes, Executive Director –

UUA International Office:
Rev. Eric Cherry, Director –

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








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 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.




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


Religious Property Ownership Threatened in Transylvania

 by Rimager, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   Image by  Rimager 


For the last 25 years, the Historic Hungarian-speaking Churches of Transylvania have expected the government of Romania to return their illegally confiscated properties. In a process that has been fraught with complication and delays, victories in favor of progress have been slowly underway. Until now.

Religious repression and the practice of nationalizing what was once considered private property was the policy under Communist rule, broadly and especially in Romania from 1947-1989.

During those decades of Communist rule in Romania, church real estate was wrested from all denominations, including the four traditional Hungarian-speaking churches in the country: Roman Catholic, Reformed, Lutheran, and Unitarian. From these denominations, 2,140 properties were taken and nationalized by force.

In 1989, as Communist rule came to an end, democratization and the restoration of forcibly confiscated property began at a glacial pace. As of December 2012, half of those confiscated properties had been restored to their rightful owners; of that half, only a third have been granted usage rights.

In other words, over 1,700 properties across the denominations that comprise the Historic Hungarian-speaking Churches of Transylvania have still not been fully restored, despite government ordinances, two laws, international outcry, and countless ignored deadlines by the Romanian government.

Those few and far between success stories in all of this could at least be held up as signs of progress and signals to all that there is still hope to exercise their constitutional right to “sanctity of private and community property.” However, in November 2014, a profoundly concerning legal precedent was set when one of these restored properties was suddenly re-nationalized.

On November 26th, a Romanian appellate court ruled to renationalize the Székely Mikó Reformed High School, a property that was confiscated under Communist rule and restituted to its legal owner, the Reformed Church, over a decade ago.

The illegal verdict sent shockwaves throughout the religious community, conveying a troubling message that threatens the future of all of the already restituted properties – not to mention those that still hang in limbo. In a region that is less than 20% Hungarian, this move boldly signifies discrimination against minorities in Romania.

The Hungarian Unitarian Church shared the following statement in response to the ruling:

Kolozsvár, 27 November 2014
STATEMENT on the recent developments regarding the Székely Mikó Reformed High School


The Executive Committee of the Consistory of the Hungarian Unitarian Church noted with profound indignation the court decision on the restitution of the Székely Mikó Reformed High School in Sfântu Gheorghe (Hungarian: Sepsiszentgyörgy), Romania.


The legally binding verdict of the Court in Ploiesti de facto re-nationalized the Székely Mikó Reformed High School, which was confiscated (nationalized) by the Communist dictatorship in 1948, and restituted to its legal owner, the Reformed Church, in 2002.


This verdict is illegal, and it sends a humiliating and outrageous message not only towards the members of the Reformed Church, but also to the entire Hungarian minority in Romania, irrespective of religious denomination.


Since the 1989 fall of Communist dictatorship in Romania, the Hungarian-speaking minority churches in Romania have relentlessly struggled to obtain the restitution of their confiscated church properties (or compensation in justified cases).


For these 25 years, the restitution process has been controversial and painfully slow; until this moment however, our churches could have hoped for our constitutional right – i.e., “sanctity of private and community property” – for legal remedy, but this alarming court decision is a direct threat against our already restituted properties, which might be similarly re-nationalized at any moment.


Besides expressing hereby our solidarity with the Reformed Church in Romania, we are devoted to continue protesting in front of lay political forums and commence international lobbying, as well as to join forces with our Transylvanian Hungarian sister churches until justice prevails, and our confiscated properties are returned.


The Executive Committee of the Consistory
of the Hungarian Unitarian Church

At the request of the Hungarian Unitarian Church, we are sharing this news.  And, as further opportunities to support the public witness and protest arise, we’ll share them here.

During the winter holidays, let us keep our Unitarian brothers and sisters in Transylvania in our hearts during a challenging time in their country’s history, where democracy is fragile and the future of all Hungarian-speaking churches and other religious minorities of Romania hangs in uncertainty.

“Our lamps may be different, but light is the same”

robmacphersonIn the wake of the horrific school shooting in Pakistan earlier this week, community leaders in Adelaide, Australia, organized a peace vigil to honor the innocent lives lost. Drawing a multicultural, interfaith crowd of over 300, all who attended came together to mourn and to heal. Minister of the Unitarian Church of South Australia, Rev. Rob MacPherson, offered the following words at the vigil, printed here with permission.


Good evening. I want to offer a thought that might kindle some light for us in this dark time.

Just last Sunday, a beautiful thing happened at our church—I wish you all could have seen it. We held a service in which Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Ba’hai, Unitarians, and Muslims came together to worship as one body–an interfaith service. This service was followed by a shared meal, during which people of these different faiths broke bread together and shared fellowship.

Guess what happened? No one died. No one made threats or was threatened. No one feared for their safety. No voices were raised, except in laughter. The peaceful fellowship we enjoyed that day was more than cordiality, more than the politeness that goes with the religious practice of welcoming the stranger at your table. It had more to do with really seeing that, as the poet Rumi said, ‘our lamps may be different, but light is the same’. And so we could let the diversity of our faiths just be, together knowing that abundant plurality is how God actually expresses itself in this infinite, expanding, and varied creation. And for a brief time, we looked at the light, and we saw that it was good. (more…)

2014: A Big Year for UU-UNO’s Work on LGBT Human Rights

lbbt UNMy name is Raymond Firmalino and I am one of the UU-UNO‘s LGBT Program interns. As part of our blog series on International Human Rights Day, I on behalf of the  UU-UNO will highlight our work this year on one of the most pressing issues of our time: the plight of lesbian, gay, lesbian, and transgender (LGBT) people.

The current situation is dire. Many LGBT people around the world endure brutal acts of violence; are denied opportunities to work, learn and receive healthcare; and must flee their countries–all because of who they are. In some 80 countries it is illegal to be gay or to be suspected of it. Consequently, many LGBT people are excluded from the full measure of human rights.

We raised this issue repeatedly at the United Nations. This past summer, the UU-UNO participated in the UN Post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals Agenda, a policy process in which member states, major groups and civil society developed international development goals for 2015 and beyond. The UU-UNO proposed policies that promote and protect LGBT human rights, and was the only NGO at the UN’s proceedings to do so. (more…)

A Recap of the International Human Rights Work at the UU-UNO in 2014


December 10th is International Human Rights Day. Guided by our principles, Unitarian Universalists are called to advocate for international human rights; to be a voice for the voiceless by promoting the inherent worth and dignity of all living things. Our Unitarian Universalists United Nations Office is the UU voice to the United Nations. I would like to share with you all of the important accomplishments of our office in 2014.

High Level Consultations

The UU-UNO’s reputation has grown over the past few years, to the point where we are consulted and asked to speak at very influential forums. Over the course of 2014, we have been invited to speak and consult with the: Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development on human rights including religious freedom, women’s rights and sexual orientation and gender identity human rights. These consultations included staff from the Office of the Prime Minister. We enjoy a close working relationship with Amnesty International’s UN Office, and their offices in Canada and the United Kingdom.    1

We have been asked to join a consultative group at the United States Department of State that pulls together faith-based leaders to advise the State Department on the areas of Social Justice, Development, Peace and Conflict Resolution. We have played an important role on the Social Justice subcommittee which has focused on sexual orientation and gender identity human rights. (more…)

UU United Nations Office: Join Us for Our Fall Fundraiser!

This November, the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office invites you to be part of its fall fundraiser: “Celebrating the Inter-Connected Web of Life.”

Featuring a silent auction, food, music, and more, the event will honor Rev. Terry Sweetser for his instrumental role in uniting the UUA and UU-UNO; all are welcome!

If you’re not close in proximity to the NYC area but are close to this invaluable work in spirit, please consider donating an item to the silent auction! Each item donated goes a long way in support and celebration of Unitarian Universalist values represented at the United Nations and in engaging congregations in the world-shaping work of the UN.


The event will take place Wednesday, November 5th from 6:00PM – 9:00PM at Fourth Universalist Society located at 160 Central Park West, New York, NY 10023.

Get Involved

  • Tickets –  Each ticket is $50.00 and can be purchased online
  • Donate – Have an item or service that you’d like to donate, for use in our live and/or silent auctions?
  • Sponsor – Sponsor a prospective Fall Fundraiser attendee!
  • Volunteer – Interested in volunteering your time? We are always looking for extra help to make this evening a great success!
  • Share – Share the Fall Fundraiser invite with your friends, family and local congregation. RSVP via Facebook and invite your friends!

If you are interested in donating, sponsoring or volunteering, please get in touch!

The People’s Climate March

 UU-UNO Logo



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




 “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


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