UU-UNO Director invited to the White House to discuss Global LGBT Human Rights

white house


I received the following invitation last week:

You are invited to a White House Forum on Global LGBT Human Rights, to be held on Tuesday, June 24th, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. EST.

We are pleased to announce that Ambassador Susan Rice, National Security Advisor, will deliver keynote remarks. Participants will engage with senior Obama Administration officials on the Administration’s ongoing efforts to protect and promote the human rights of LGBT individuals internationally.  The forum will also provide an opportunity to discuss how the faith community, private sector, philanthropic organizations, HIV and health advocates, and the broader human rights community can partner with the Administration in this important work. (more…)

Respect, Protection, and Sustainability: UN Indigenous Forum 2014

logoStarting May 12th, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues convened for the thirteenth time at United Nations Headquarters in New York City. The ten day forum focuses on a spectrum of indigenous issues including economic, social development, environment, culture, health, education, and human rights. The first six sessions of the Indigenous Issue’s Forum had an overarching theme. After the sixth session, the forum decided to alternate sessions focusing on policy discussion one year, and the next, implementation. Only the sessions, every other year, which focus on policy discussion, have a theme. This year’s theme was, “Principles of good governance consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: articles 3 to 6 and 46″. 

While the United Nations meets to discuss the issues this year, many side events are open to nongovernmental organizations and visiting groups. The UU United Nations Office had the opportunity to attend many of the side events on topics ranging from sustainable development of indigenous people’s land, to indigenous women’s role in conservation, to Russian indigenous education, and even indigenous peoples’ opinion on the progression of indigenous rights in Latin America. (more…)

“Veil of Silence” Film Screening and Panel Discussion on LGBTQI Rights in Nigeria

logo The Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office Invites YOU to a film screening of “Veil of Silence“.

Veil of Silence

             Film screening at 1:15pm followed by panel discussion at 2:30pm


Habeeb Lawal—Filmmaker, Veil of Silence

Bruce Knotts—Director of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office

Selly Thiam—Founder of None on Record


Let us come together and break the veil of silence surrounding the LGBTQI community in Nigeria

Thursday, June 5, 2014

1:00pm to 4:00pm

United Nations Church Center

777 UN Plaza, New York, NY 10017

10th floor

RSVP: unintern@uua.org

Free and open to all!

 Visit the event page on Facebook!

   Co-Sponsored by


NGO Committee on Human Rights










Join the UU-UNO at General Assembly!

2014 GA logo

Please join the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office during our General Assembly 2014 Events!


UU-UNO Director, Bruce Knotts, will be speaking at LGBTQ and Immigration – An Intersection of Human Rights, hosted by UURISE, on Thursday, June 26th, from 12:30pm-1:45pm (Program #2), at RICC-Hall D.

While the DOMA ruling is welcome, we can’t let it overshadow discrimination of LGBTQ immigrants in detention and the community. LGBTQ immigrants seeking refuge from persecution find limited protection in US immigration law.  We consider current limitations of immigration laws, and how UUs can blend LGBTQ and immigration reform advocacy.


Beyond Borders: Implementing Intercultural Conversations, hosted by the UU-UNO will be held on Friday, June 27th, from 5:00pm-6:15pm (Program #7), at RICC-Ballroom BC.


“Think globally, act locally”. Panelists will address promoting cultural and spiritual inclusion and the importance and value of understanding.  We invite participants to look at their strengths in human rights and climate justice and encourage them to further strengthen their efforts by extending their passions to a global stage. Teresa Cooley, Bruce Knotts and Kamila Jacob will be speaking.


The Dana Greeley and Blue Ribbon Awards Reception will take place on Saturday, June 28th, from 6:00pm to 7:30pm, at Providence Biltmore L’Apogee 17.

2013 Dana Greeley Sermon Award winner, Dylan Debelis
2013 Dana Greeley Sermon Award winner, Dylan Debelis

The Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office will extend 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 congregation donation or committed to an annual budget line, and had 15 or 5% of their members donate as individuals to the office, and have an envoy or envoy team.

The Dana Greeley Sermon Award winner will be announced and refreshments will be served.


The Envoy Breakfast will be on Saturday, June 28th, from 7:00am to 8:30am, at the Providence Biltmore Salon 6.

This is a unique opportunity to meet UN Office staff as well as envoys.  Come with your whole envoy team if possible. This is an opportunity to share your work with others and exchange ideas to enhance your Envoy toolbox! Aspiring Envoys are also welcome. RSVP Required (below).



Meet Isaac: An Every Child is Our Child Volunteer in Ghana


I had the privilege of meeting Nanleeb Ishmael Isaac during our annual site visit to Ghana in February.  He is our newest volunteer for our Every Child is Our Child program and works closely with our program monitor.  Isaac is 26 years old and comes from a family of 9.  He is from Nakpanduri, in the Northern Region of Ghana.  Both his parents are peasant farmers and he describes them as “wonderful parents who would do everything they can to get all of us to school!”  He studied business and accounting before going to University for development studies, where he pursued a B.A in integrated community development, graduating in 2013.

Isaak, Bruce, one of our ECOC children and his caretaker
Isaak, Bruce, one of our ECOC children and his caretaker

When I asked Isaac about ECOC it was evident that he is very passionate about the program, women’s education, and the wellbeing of orphaned and vulnerable children.  Isaac described ECOC as the “most interesting community based program” he has come across since completing his education.  “I want to volunteer for this program because it is my goal and objective to help empower women and promote girl child education and the alleviation of extreme poverty among women in the rural poor. There is a saying that ‘when you educate a man you educate an individual but when you educate a woman you educate a whole nation’.  Women empowerment should be seen as a global issue because when women are empowered through education they will be able to change the world for the better.”

We are delighted to have someone as passionate, intelligent and hardworking as Isaac on our team and we wish him the best of luck as a volunteer and as he begins his career as community developer!

You can help our students achieve their education goals by making a generous donation. Please contact the UU-UNO office if you and/or your congregation has interest in further engaging with this program!

By Maria Militano, Every Child is Our Child intern September 2013- May 2014.  Maria visited the ECOC project in summer 2013, February 2014, and will return in summer 2014.

UU-UNO April 2014 Director’s Letter

logoReligious Freedom

Most of the time, we see religious freedom invoked to protect conservative religious views.  However, Unitarians and Universalists have a long and pioneering history of supporting religious freedom, because our progressive views have never been shared by the majority.

Lately, I have been advocating religious freedom which is violated by the anti-LGBTI laws passed by Uganda and Nigeria.  Even before the Ugandan law had been officially put in force, the Ugandan police questioned our Unitarian Universalist minister in Uganda, Rev. Mark Kiyimba, for over two hours.  He was asked why he and his UU congregation were supporting homosexuality.  Before this incident and immediately after it, I had extensive conversations with the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and the United States Department of State about the need to enforce religious freedom for progressive religious practices which are under threat by the newly enacted laws in Nigeria and Uganda.  I made the point that our faith does not promote any particular sexuality, but rather is welcoming and affirming to all regardless of sexuality. (more…)

Californians are Thirsty But the State’s Fracking Wells Aren’t

As many of you may know, the UU United Nations Office is dedicated to combating climate change and environmental degradation. Staying abreast of both domestic and international issues, we are very concerned about the water crisis in California. In the midst of one of the worst droughts in the past century, this is a dire issue for agricultural, wildlife, livestock, and residents.

Orange and red are areas of “high water stress” and “extremely high water stress.”
Orange and red are areas of “high water stress” and “extremely high water stress.”

Scientists are saying, if we continue to spew green house gases into the air at our current rate, water crisis’  around the world will only worsen. In addition to addressing our green house gas emissions, we must also take a good look at how and where we are using our water. In California, you might be surprised to hear where this precious resource is going.

Environmentalists’ concerned about fracking is nothing new.  But now, some in California have put an added twist on the argument: Drought .  While California is in a state of emergency due to the water crisis, oil companies are using large amounts of fresh water. (more…)

IARF World Congress: Challenges for Religious Freedom in the Digital Age

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 12.06.06 PMRegistration is open for the IARF 34th WORLD CONGRESS which will be held from 24-27 August, 2014 at Birmingham University, Birmingham, UK .IARF ad

The keynote speaker is Karen Armstrong, leader in the creation of THE CHARTER FOR COMPASSION.  Small group sessions and outings will complement speakers such as His Grace, Bishop Angaelos, Coptic Church of the UK, Sheikh Maytham Al-Salman, IARF Bahrain, and Dr. Yehuda Stolov, Coordinator of 50 Interfaith Encounter Groups in the Holy Land:  www.interfaith-encounter.org.   See additional program details. (more…)

Sacred Roots: Indigenous Rights, Resistance, and Reclamation – Recap


Since 1957 the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office has hosted an annual Spring Seminar. In 1998 the event became an intentionally inter-generational space that brought together youth, young adults, and adults in shared dialogue around issues that matter to our Unitarian Universalist tradition. Each Seminar calls participants to ask difficult questions about the reality of the world that we live in and the hope of the future world that we would like to create. Many participants say that the panels, creative programming, worship, and community building that make up the Seminar are transformative moments in their lives that allow them to reaffirm how their faith can be lived and embodied.

As the Seminar has transformed over the years, the UU-UNO team has similarly transformed each year. We begin to work on the next Seminar the moment the previous Seminar wraps up in order to provide the most amount of time and planning to ensure quality. Through this year long process of preparing the Seminar and implementing it, interns and staff are able to learn, reflect, and grow. However, this forward-looking lens and brisk pace sometimes leaves little time for reflecting on our past accomplishments.  As we look back on our recent Spring Seminar – Sacred Roots: Indigenous Rights, Resistance, and Reclamation (April 3rd to April 5th ) we wanted to publish this blog to reflect on some of the most memorable moments of this inter-generational and interfaith dialogue.

SR types edit


In Remembrance of the Manya Krobo Paramount Queen Mother

Paramount queen mother

In Remembrance of Madam Mary Rose Quist

(Nana Manye Mamle Okleyo)

Manya Krobo Paramount Queen Mother



During our February 7-14 visit to the Every Child is Our Child Project in Ghana, we were saddened to learn of the passing of the Paramount Queen Mother of the Manya Krobo People.  Over the years, many of us have met this beautiful woman who radiated love and kindness.  Everyone who met her remarked that they felt a sense of peace and tranquility while in her presence.  Our largest delegation met her in 2012 (See the photos below).  On the last day of our visit this year, we learned that the Paramount Queen Mother had passed away after a brief illness at the age of 93.  Her funeral Ceremony will take place in Odumase-Krobo, Ghana, West Africa and will commence Friday the 28th of March and will end with a church thanks giving service on Sunday the 30th.

Our program administrator, Joseph will attend the thanks giving service on Sunday and the UU-UNO has invited Marti Johnson Demos, a UU working at the American Embassy in Accra to represent us at the memorial services.

Our deepest condolences to her family, friends and community.


Paramunt queen mother with Peter Moralez

A traditional gift of Schnapps given to Bruce Knotts from the Queen Mothers.
A traditional gift of Schnapps given to Bruce Knotts from the Queen Mothers.