The World Congress of Religions 2012 will explore the relevance of religion and spirituality in addressing the critical issues of poverty, the empowerment of women, human rights and peacemaking.
The gathering will bring together engaged leaders, scholars, activists and members from diverse religious and spiritual communities, engaged actors in the local and global interreligious movements, as well as influential policy makers and civil society actors from guiding institutions such as government, business, education, science, media, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The event is inspired and informed by the message of the religious and social visionary, Swami Vivekananda, on the 150th anniversary of his birth.
Save the Date: The World Congress of Religions 2012 November 30, 2012 – December 2, 2012 Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel 2660 Woodley Road NW, Washington, DC 20008, USA View the Conference Schedule |Register Online!
Vision: To use the interfaith search for shared values and mutual respect in promoting a more peaceful and sustainable world. To use religious beliefs and spiritual practices as the basis for efforts to eliminate poverty and support women’s rights. To hold up Swami Vivekananda’s embodiment of this work to the world and share the ongoing relevance of his message to the global interreligious movement.
Opportunity: The World Congress of Religions 2012 offers an opportunity to pave the path for a new era of cooperative action among the world’s religious and spiritual communities as well as civil and political societies. Such a gathering is urgently needed in the present context of the global interreligious movement and the striving for world peace.
Swami Vivekanand (1863-1902) is among the foremost makers of modern India. He revived Vedanta as the core of Indian philosophy, aroused unalloyed nationalism, and gave a clarion call to rescue millions of India from abject poverty by transforming social service into a spiritual sadhana. Read more about him here.
With its official launch at General Assembly 2012, the mission of the UU College of Social Justice (UUCSJ) is to increase the capacity of Unitarian Universalists to catalyze justice.
A formal collaboration of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC), the UUCSJ will assist UU congregations in discerning their focus for social-justice work, effectively harness collective UU power for change, and build capacity for moving justice forward through its domestic and international service learning programs.
This first service-learning trip to India will explore Unitarian Universalist Holdeen India Program (UUHIP) partner Vidhayak Sansad’s ongoing struggle for justice for impoverished people in the region surrounding Mumbai. The 10-day experience with Vidhayak Sansad will involve field-based activities that include shadowing local social activists and documenting the organization’s achievements in villages where it is active. Documentation support is a crucial contribution that visitors can make to Vidhayak Sansad.
This trip is a chance for donors to witness vital on-the-ground human-rights work and to meet African Unitarians. You will learn about the work of the Tanzania Gender Networking Program (TGNP), a UUSC environmental-justice partner, and be hosted by the Assemblée des Chrétiens Unitariens du Burundi/Assembly of Unitarian Christians of Burundi (ACUB), a UUA partner church.
Sexual violence poses more of a threat to women ages 15-44 than cancer, car accidents, and malaria. Even worse, this violence is most frequently inflicted by a woman’s partner. A third of women murdered inthe United States every year are killed by their partners. Sexual abuse is often used as a war tactic in areas of conflict and also increases the spread of HIV/AIDS. We need to work to end this injustice! Women’s rights are human rights.
In 2008, the United Nations started a campaign called UNiTE to End Violence against Women in an effort to stop violence against women and girls worldwide. This campaign’s ideals are in line with ours at the UU-UNO.
Ways you can take action:
Notify the police if you suspect a woman is being abused. Don’t keep it to yourself, as cases of violence against women greatly underreported.
Urge your legislators to ratify CEDAW (the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women), which the United States has still not ratified. The U.S. is the only industrializednation that hasn’t ratified it yet. In fact, only six other countries haven’tratified it, including Iran, Somalia, and Sudan. Learn more about it here.
Get involved with the Day of the Girl Campaign, which works to improve the lives of girls around the world. You can learn how to take action here!
Call members of Congress to increase America’s financial support of UN Women, an organization that advocates for gender equality and women’s empowerment. You can even try to arrange a meeting with your local legislator. Check this out for advice on how to make it happen.
Organize events at your congregation or in your community to educate others about this important issue.
The UU Service Committee was excited to partner with the Unitarian Universalist Association on a joint volunteer trip to Haiti, December 3–10. In the post below, written on December 9, participant George Wootton reflects on time spent working with the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP).
I came to Haiti with memories of seeing a devastated country two weeks after the January 2010 earthquake. Although our first night’s Port-au-Prince lodgings shielded us from the remnants of that natural disaster, the damage was obvious just by traveling in this city. On this trip, though, I’ve seen a very different Haiti.
On December 4, we packed into two SUVs and ascended into what Tracy Kidder referred to as mountains beyond mountains. From Port-au-Prince, we drove mostly uphill for less than three hours on a well-constructed road into the Central Plateau. (We were told that pre-earthquake, this same trip took eight hours. My compliments to post-earthquake construction.) We drove through the lower plains, wide fields of grass and scattered trees, rising into the foothills, passing small homes made of various materials, from tarps the cinder block. People were sitting by the road in the Haitian heat, watching us pass. We traveled through busy villages, active with markets, shops, and houses too close to the road for my comfort; pedestrians; animals; and smaller vehicles, from human power to donkey power to fossil-fuel-energized horsepower. We passed into a land of rolling hills, lakes, streams, and lush low vegetation.
At midday, we entered the MPP complex in Papaye, Haiti, a series of buildings that support organic farming, classes, and housing for a few residents and the many people who come here to learn. At MPP, we are surrounded by trees — palm, Haitian oak, locust, and many others I can’t identify with hanging pods and ripe, round, luscious-looking fruit. The deforestation of this country is hard to imagine here. This place is alive with growth — physical, educational, emotional. Sounds of people living, roosters crowing, dogs fighting, insects, Haitian music, and construction can all be heard at various times during the day and night.
Our days have been busy. Mornings have been spent at the eco-village, a group of 10 recently constructed 3-room homes that house families who have left the difficult life they experienced in Port-au-Prince. Although not without its challenges, their new lives in this UUSC-sponsored village have brought opportunities for earthquake survivors to learn many aspects of organic farming, construction, and community living. I respect, though, the trauma that necessitated this transition. (One resident of the eco-village said that although he was willing to talk to us about the earthquake, he did not want to revisit those difficult memories.)
Our work has involved helping build a community center in the middle of the circle of homes. We have carried rock and cement by hand and, if we are lucky, by one of the two wheelbarrows in this community, although this was rare. We have poured cement, built a door, planted trees, and cleared vegetation. One of our members, Sally Beth, called on her experiences in Mali and Uganda, to teach village residents and volunteers alike how to construct and use a wood-burning stove far more efficient than the cooking facilities currently being used in the village. This will have a huge impact on the lives of these people.
In the afternoons, we have visited with representatives of MPP groups — men, women, and youth — all who explain the empowerment gained through the vision and energy of Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, a charismatic man in his mid 60s who has fought for the rights of peasants throughout his life. We have toured the health clinic and canning factory, and we’ve visited the home of a local resident and talked about the changes in his life since MPP was founded. We have seen waterfalls, lakes built for aquaculture, farming cooperatives, techniques in organic farming that anyone in the United States would be proud to show off, played soccer with a local youth team, and danced to a Kompa band during the festival of the Immaculate Conception in Hinche.
I’ve made friends with people from all over the United States who share my need to understand how healthy Haiti can be and who want to participate in this healing. We have learned, in conjunction with our Unitarian Universalist values, new ways of understanding how we can respect the inherent worth of all people, respect the interdependent web of all existence, and explore our search for justice, equity, and compassion in our human relations.
Tomorrow we head back to Port-au-Prince. We will get on airplanes that will carry us to Alabama, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Utah, and Idaho. We leave, still searching, but with an experience that has been life changing. I am inspired by what I have seen, both in my fellow volunteers and in the Haitians who are building new lives. I look forward to carrying these sights, sounds, and lessons to my Utah UU congregation and to my next trip to this changing country.
UUSC is excited to be partnering with the Unitarian Universalist Association on a joint volunteer trip to Haiti, December 3–10. In the post below, participant Bradley Korb describes the trip from Port-au-Prince to the training center of the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP) and the transition from despair to hope.
We’re in Haiti and making excellent progress with our work at MPP’s eco-village near Papaye in the Central Plateau! Today is our second day working at MPP, and it has been an experience that I will never forget. I have experienced a range of emotions during these first few days, from sadness to hopefulness.
We spent the first night in Port-au-Prince on Sunday before driving up to the MPP training compound in Papaye. In Port-au-Prince, we saw the impoverished conditions in which the Haitian people live and also the vast destruction that occurred from last year’s earthquake. I don’t know what Port-au-Prince was like before the earthquake, but the city looks like a war zone now in some areas, and many people are struggling to meet their basic human needs of safe food and water that we Americans take for granted. But at the same time, we saw many people attempting to resume a normal lifestyle by buying essential items from street vendors, which helped others in their attempts to make a living.
While driving the 2.5 hours from Port-au-Prince to Papaye, we continued to see impoverished people going on with their daily activities along the highway while people zoomed by on their way to other destinations. While it was clear that the people we passed were very disadvantaged, I did see a few signs of hope along the way. One image that stuck with me was of a man walking home from church wearing a suit and carrying a trumpet. I imagined that this man had played his trumpet at his church service and that many people enjoyed his music. This gave me hope that the human spirit is resilient and continues to insist that life be enjoyed even if you live in the nation with the fewest resources in the Western Hemisphere. Even with this sign of hope, I arrived in Papaye feeling a sense of despair for the abject poverty that I saw on our drive.
However, our first day of work at MPP’s eco-village turned my sense of despair into hope. During our first day, we worked alongside residents of the 10-home village, helping them build the foundation for their community building. It was gratifying to experience the community that these former residents of Port-au-Prince have developed and the ownership that they have taken in their new village and their new neighbors. We experienced a sense of community that we don’t typically have in the United States. Even though these people have next to nothing, they have each other and are dedicated to helping each other make the best of their lives. That experience was both gratifying and reassuring.
It is with hope for this impoverished community in Haiti and hope in the future of humanity that I look forward to my remaining experiences of our visit to Haiti.
Beginning August 5, 2011, Erik Mohn, UUA Young Adult Spirituality & Service Consultant, began a 24-day journey to Ghana where he volunteered in a health clinic, a school, and an orphanage through Amizade, a global service learning organization. Here he reflects on the experience.
So, I’m back from my trip to Ghana, and, understandably so, people want to know about my experience. When people ask me, “So, how was your trip?” I usually start by saying, “Well… It was amazing!” while secretly wishing I could teleport them to Africa for a month or give them a pill that would instantly transfer my experience into their soul. Sounds extreme, right? Yeah, I know, but at this point, it’s a pretty difficult question to answer in a few minutes.
Honestly, my trip to Ghana feels like a dream. It feels so real, and then so unreal at the same time. Even when I look at the pictures from my trip, I can’t believe I was actually there. From bartering in the market place, to roaming the jungle on a canopy walk, to weighing babies in the health clinic, to being chilled by the feeling of death in a slave dungeon, to eating fufu and banku on a bench in a back alley, to washing my own clothes, to debating gay marriage with the village chief, to taking river showers, the list of wild and life changing experiences is endless and my feelings and thoughts about them keep expanding daily. (more…)
UUSC was excited to partner with the Unitarian Universalist Association on a joint volunteer trip to Haiti for youth and young adults, August 20-27. In the post below, participant Rebecca Burns reflects on her time in Haiti – why she didn’t want to leave and what she is taking home with her.
Saturday morning we left Haiti to return to home. It was an emotionally charged day, mainly because I really did not want to leave. I feel an incredibly strong connection to the country and to the people I met. The landscapes we saw were gorgeous — green fields lined by a continuous chain of mountains in the distance, posing a contrast to the bright blue sky that would quickly turn to gray and fill with clouds as a rainstorm approached. On the morning of our departure, I saw the most beautiful sunrise over the mountains — the first sunrise I had seen while there. The nights were no less spectacular as the sky filled with stars — more than I’ve ever seen before — as though someone literally threw glitter into the air, and it stuck. I loved the morning drives to the eco-village site, as we bumped along the deeply rutted and washed-out roads to a soundtrack of compasmusic that fit the scenes perfectly. (more…)
UUSC is excited to be partnering with the Unitarian Universalist Association on a joint volunteer trip to Haiti for youth and young adults, August 20–27. In the post below, participant Sydney Weddleton reflects on the power of common goals.
Throughout my time thus far in Haiti, I’ve been struck by the extreme differences from back home. Everything from the landscape to the language to the living conditions I find myself comparing to what I see every day. When we traveled to our work site for the week — an eco-village being built for Haitian families — I continued to focus and process these differences.
We went out and began an assembly line to move rocks around the house-to-be to build the foundation. As we worked, some of the children began to come near to where we were working and watched us. After an invitation from one of our translators, one little boy joined in the line next to me. As time went on, the little boy kept working. My mind began to think again of how different the motivation this young child had than what I usually see.
I was pondering this as I realized what I was missing — the similarities of everything new I was seeing. Yes, there were many differences around me, but across all our divisions — age, race, country, language, history — we were in that moment simply human. Common goals and strength overcome any differences and divisions, and we are whole and one — together.
UUSC is excited to be partnering with the Unitarian Universalist Association on a joint volunteer trip to Haiti for youth and young adults, August 20-27. In the posts below, two participants share their first impressions.
The following post was written by youth participant Courtney Dufford about her experience.
The delicate patter of rain on the leaves across from the terrace where I write in my journal — Uncontrollable giggling as we play Frisbee with several Haitian children out on the goat field — the gentle nudge of a mosquito trying to attack me through my glorious mosquito net — a tiny mosquito, tinier than the ones at home, whispering in my ear as I sit stargazing on the steps of the guesthouse — crickets — dogs fighting, howling, barking at 11 PM, just as I’m getting ready to fall asleep — the excited clink of dominoes across the way, conversation and laughter — roosters at 4 AM — cows — Bonjou! Bonswa! Mesi! Mesi an pil! — the grate of metal folding charis just the like the ones at church potlucks, pulled against the floor as we bring ourselves physically and mentally closer to one another to discuss and learn from our work with each other — voices: so many beautiful voices united in songs telling of hope, solidarity, love, strength. So beautiful it brings tears to my eyes. These voices. Haitian Kreyol. English. Raised together to learn and support and embrace one another. To continue to fight for a more just Haiti and a more just world. “Makone faso, makone faso. Continye lite pou Ayiti!”