UU-UNO Spring Seminars: International Human Rights


As part of the human rights advocacy work of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office, we host an annual Intergenerational Spring Seminar, where youth and adults from around North America come together to spend three days in New York City learning about an issue of global concern.

The seminar works to help our participants find themselves in the global U/U story with regards to international human rights. Each year focuses on a different human rights theme. Past themes have included women’s rights, poverty, HIV, human trafficking, peacekeeping, climate change, and race and immigration.

The annual spring seminar is a major program of the office that brings together all UN-office interns, staff, and an inter-generational planning committee across and outside UU congregations to collaborate on the planning of the amazing program. (more…)

UU-UNO Women’s Initiative in Light of International Human Rights Day

CSW59 Image Retrieved from UN Women

My name is Nazli, and I am the Women’s Initiative intern here at the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO). As part of our series of posts on International Human Rights Day, I will uncover the works and efforts of the UU-UNO on or referring to international women’s rights issues.

Here, at the UU-UNO, our focus is to incorporate Unitarian Universalist (UU) principles along with the values of the United Nations (UN) into our efforts advocating collective fair treatment and global civil liberties. Guided by UU principles, the mission of the organization is to recognize and encourage the inherent worth and dignity of all living things.

The Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office staff and interns work hard on a number of varying programs that encompass universal unalienable rights and social justice violations, one of them being the Women’s Initiative.

The Women’s Initiative program, concentrates on various aspects of human rights violations against women and girls. As an Intern of UU-UNO, I have been privileged to have the opportunity not only to work on a project where I can offer my own unique ideas and perspectives, but also design and propose panel discussions for events pertaining to UU-UNO and the UN. (more…)

International Human Rights Day at the UU-UNO

130408 Ban Ki-moon bij Timmermans 1990 by Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   Adapted from original image by Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken 

Every year on December 10th, the world observes International Human Rights Day. Since 1950, this has been an occasion for people around the world to acknowledge and celebrate the fundamental rights that we all share as human beings. This year’s International Human Rights Day is focused around the idea that every day is Human Rights Day – and at the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO), this is certainly the case.

United Nations Headquarters in New York City
United Nations Headquarters in New York City

Unitarian Universalists are proud to be leaders in action for social justice around the country and around the world. As in our daily lives we strive to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person, each day at the United Nations the UU-UNO strives to affirm and promote every person’s human rights on the international stage.

The UU-UNO participates in meetings, conferences, and committees at the United Nations with key UN bodies such as Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Department of Public Information (DPI), the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the World Bank to discuss with them how they can act in the interest of creating a world community that is accepting, just, and compassionate.

Keynote panel with at the UN Trusteeship Council Chamber
Seminar keynote panel in the UN Trusteeship Council Chamber

As a leader in the NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) Committee on Disarmament, Peace, and Security, the UU office works with other NGOs and UN member nations to create policies for a peaceful, free, and just world. The UU-UNO also takes a leading role in the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development, the NGO Committee on Human Rights, the NGO Security Council Working Group, the Faith and Ethics Network for the International Criminal Court, and the NGO/DPI Executive Committee.

Today on International Human Rights Day, we should all take the time to reflect on how we as individuals can advocate for our own rights and the rights of others. Over the course of the next week, the UU-UNO will be sharing more about how the work that it does at the UN is important for upholding international human rights and Unitarian Universalist values. Stay tuned!

To support our continued access to the highest levels of the United Nations and to the Canadian and American governments, please donate generously to the UU-UNO.


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…)

The God Wound

The Philippines: Typhoon Hagupit barrels by EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection 

tetRev. Tet Gallardo, minister of the Bicutan UU Church in Manila (Philippines), reflects on the challenging process of healing, grappling with doubt, the relativity of certainty, and resiliency in the face of natural disaster.

The following is excerpted from Rev. Gallardo’s blog, The Spiritual Theorist.

Today, the sound of howling winds too often heard in these parts tear through the glass windows sealed for comfort. Incorrigible. The deaths of 10,000 or so in one island during the last supertyphoon of this magnitude is still fresh in the collective memory of those in the 7,000 islands of this country that were spared. The winds don’t lash or buffet, they crush any sliver of faith that God will spare us from danger. At least for me.


How does one heal from a God wound?


Barely a year has passed after Typhoon Haiyan, today we get Typhoon Ruby. At this time, although it has made landfall, the news we get is that our luck can be summed in the few lives snuffed this time. Barely a handful this time.


But I sorely remember how 2 days after Haiyan hit, after we all prayed in our heart of hearts and our deepest faiths to our God, that damage caused by the typhoon was zero. Somehow, it magically disappeared. And this to my mind was how the nuns in my Catholic high school described one typhoon that magically split into weaker forces getting lost in a mountain range. How it was a miracle, nothing is impossible with God.

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Social Entrepreneurs Challenge: International Bridges to Justice

laraThis guest blog post comes from Lara Fuchs, an MDiv student at Meadville Lombard Theological School working towards becoming a UU minister. She is also President of the UU’s of Basel (Switzerland), Secretary of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists’ Executive Committee, and current intern with International Bridges to Justice.

Ending Torture as an Investigative Tool

My first year of seminary Community Studies field placement is an internship at the offices of International Bridges to Justices (IBJ), in Geneva.

Karen Tse founded IBJ and was also the speaker for the Service of Living Tradition at the UUA’s 2012 Justice General Assembly in Atlanta. She received her MDiv from Harvard University along with a legal degree and founded this organization as a human rights lawyer to fight against investigative torture and extensive pre-trial detention happening in disadvantaged places around the world.

IBJ has instituted many programs directed at training lawyers and police in human rights law and lawful, effective investigative techniques, as well as raising awareness in communities so citizens know more about what their legal rights for due process are, and how to report incidents of torture.

Additionally, IBJ has a number of programs focused on women and youth, as well as interfaith coalitions; it has had incredible success in reducing violence in the areas it operates and also in decreasing the length of time people are held for pre-trial detainment.

During my internship, I’ve been working on grant proposals for ongoing programs in India, Cambodia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, China, Burundi, and Singapore; it’s been a deeply meaningful learning experience, affording me the opportunity to witness the global impact of this powerful work.

IBJ Needs Your Support

Last night I attended an International event in Basel, Switzerland, on torture. Panelists were from Amnesty International, OSZE, a torture survivor from Uzbekistan, and Karen Tse. There are 140 countries in the world who have agreed to not torture, and about 90 of them still do! IBJ’s mission is to give them ways to stop, and the programs it implements have been proven to work. Help IBJ make a difference, and make the world a safer place for everyone.

There is currently a Crowdrise campaign to raise money in support of IBJ’s programs, as part of the Skoll Foundation’s annual Social Entrepreneurs Challenge (#SEChallenge). This Challenge helps some of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs raise funds to support their work and it ends on December 5 at 1:59pm EST.

I’m writing to raise awareness in the U/U global community around IBJ’s participation and to ask for your generous support as I raise funds, alongside my IBJ colleagues, for this life-changing work!

The ten teams that raise the most during this Challenge period can earn additional bonus prizes; so far, IBJ has received over $10,000 in bonuses from weekly bonus #SEChallenges with the support of passionate donors committed to protecting the basic legal rights of ordinary citizens in the developing world.

Please visit my Crowdrise campaign page and make a gift with a global impact (more…)

Shape the Global U/U Story: Participate in #GivingtUUsday



In the United States, we have one day for giving thanks, two days for getting deals; now, globally, we have a day for giving back: #GivingTuesday.

On Tuesday, December 2nd, families, students, community centers, businesses, and charities around the world come together for the common purpose of celebrating generosity, and to give.

Please join the Unitarian Universalist Association in this celebration of giving by sharing posts of generosity. You might share a description, image, or video on social media of what you are doing to celebrate Giving Tuesday, or, tell us why you give, with the hashtags #GivingTuesday and #GivingtUUsday.

Need a few ideas? How about exploring the work of the Coalition of International Organizations for inspiration! Here are a few sample tweets of UU values in action, globally:

As you consider which organizations to support on Giving Tuesday, please consider making a contribution towards international Unitarian Universalism!

Want to learn how giving can become part of your spiritual practice? Check out the video below!

UU-UNO Fall Fundraiser 2014


Terry Sweetser

The Unitarian Universalists United Nations Office  held its third Annual Fall Fundraiser on November 5th, 2014, at the Fourth Unitarian Universalist Society. An enchanting architectural structure located in the Upper West Side of NYC, with a Central Park view and a rustic feeling. Upon entering the beautifully lit 4th U in the heart of New York City, guests were greeted with subtle hues of orange and green, candle-lit tables, the soft melody of a grand piano, and high-rising, angular arches coalescing into the lofty ceiling looming above. The event honored Reverend Terry Sweetser for his efforts and accomplishments within UU communities, along with his support of the varying human rights issues targeted by UU-UNO. He highlighted the importance of supporting our young people and congratulated them on their lifelong UU (or “cradle UU”) status. The applause was strong and supportive for the two young ladies he invited to stand – “this is why we do this” – he said, the important work of supporting our young UU’s and their passion for putting their faith in action. (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!

UU Basel Joins Hands with OnePeople

Lorraine Rytz-Thériault, of the Unitarian Universalists of Basel, Switzerland, shares the following update from the fellowship’s social action program.

UU Basel’s Social Action program is still young in the making, yet strong in its conviction in supporting causes that align with our UU Principles. OnePeople, a new Swiss Verein (Association) with a global reach, is proving to be a good fit. Their global initiative of making our connection as One Human Race a tangible, lived experience – by creating human-chains spanning the world – is a celebration of a one world community that’s dear to our beliefs.

UU Basel members, aged from 7 to 70+ turned out on 20th September to participate in OnePeople-Day 2014. We joined hands & hearts, together with hundreds of people encircling the beautiful Schützenmatt park proclaiming OnePeople’s message, ‘We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin – and we all belong to ONE human race.’

It was a grand opportunity to debut our Standing on the Side of Love yellow t-shirts, and to share UU publications while speaking to people about our UU Basel fellowship as an open, inclusive and welcoming faith community. We invite you to save the date 20th September 2015, as this annual event definitely deserves a growing global following. UU Basel plans to be there!