ICUU Conference and Council Meeting 2016

Dear Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist Friends Around the World:

The International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU) warmly invites you to attend the 2016 ICUU Council Meeting and Conference planned for July 2016 in the Netherlands.

Highlights of the event include the opportunity to help chart the future direction and programs of the ICUU during a participatory Council Meeting conducted in an exciting new way, a theme program focusing on our spiritual response to climate change and our environmental concerns, as well as leadership development workshops.

Event Summary

What

ICUU Conference and Council Meeting 2016 – Register Online Today!

When

Sunday, July 17, 2016 – 3:00pm to Saturday, July 23, 2016 – 3:00pm

Where

Be part of the 2016 ICUU Council Meeting and Conference from 17 to 22 July at the beautiful and socially responsible conference center – Mennorode – in Elspeet, the Netherlands, easily reachable from Amsterdam. Mennorode conference centre is focused around environmental sustainability featuring:

  • Use of energy from thermal power and solar panels
  • Collection of rainwater for flushing the toilets
  • Sustainable services and materials: FSC wood, environmentally friendly cleaning, fair-trade products
  • Meals include up to 65% organic products and offer a range of regional and seasonal products derived from
    local suppliers.

Mennorode Conference Hotel has a unique history as a centre for reflection and gathering. It was created in 1925 as a so-called “fraternity house” of the Mennonite community. This is a small, non-dogmatic and open group within the Christian tradition, with attention to meaning, personal growth and social commitment.

Single and double rooms will be available. The site is surrounded by nature and bicycles are available to explore the local countryside. Nunspeet railway station is a short distance by shuttle bus with easy access to most of the Netherlands by train. Accommodation is also available before or after the ICUU event at Mennorode. Bring the family and combine your participation at this important ICUU gathering with vacation time in Europe. Check out a bird’s eye video tour of Mennorode!

(more…)

A Monumental Achievement: Unitarian Universalists at COP21

COP21 panel on equity and INDCs
This UUA co-sponsored panel addressed How Nations Have and Should Consider Equity and Justice in Setting INDCs

Climate change has become a huge focus in the last couple years, politically and socially. Some of us have been working on it much longer, but it’s inspiring to see the commitment spread to more people and gather more support.

Even Beyoncé is involved, having starred in the Global Citizen’s Festival in New York City last summer, which highlighted the effect we all can have on the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

French President Francois Hollande addresses an assembly at COP21.
French President Francois Hollande addresses an assembly at COP21.

This momentum is not without cause, as this past December, the United Nations hosted the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in Paris, France.

Over 38,000 delegates from 196 nations convened in Paris to discuss our collective environmental future.

This gathering aimed to establish better accountability for the many different nations of the world who commit to the goals that they’ve signed on to. The document that concluded COP21, the Paris Agreement, was agreed upon by all 196 nations and is widely considered to be a huge milestone on the road to a sustainable, low-carbon future.

The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) was proud to send six credentialed observers to this year’s climate talks through the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO).

UUA representatives Rev. Peggy Clarke, Jan Dash, Lynn Dash, Doris Marlin, Bill McPherson, and David Tucker attended the conference to network, witness, and participate in the conference events. Here is their official statement: (more…)

Celebrating the Declaration of Religious Freedom and Tolerance

Untitled1

On January 13, 2016 the Hungarian Unitarian Church honours the 448th anniversary of the Declaration of Religious Freedom and Tolerance, an edict which might be considered as the first legal guarantee of religious freedom in the Christian Europe.

448 years ago, in 1568, on January the 13th, the Diet of Torda (Transylvania) proclaimed:

„His majesty, our Lord, in what manner he – together with his realm – legislated in the matter of religion at the previous Diets, in the same matter now, in this Diet, reaffirms that in every place the preachers shall preach and explain the Gospel each according to his understanding of it, and if the congregation like it, well. If not, no one shall compel them for their souls would not be satisfied, but they shall be permitted to keep a preacher whose teaching they approve. Therefore none of the superintendents or others shall abuse the preachers, no one shall be reviled for his religion by anyone, according to the previous statutes, and it is not permitted that anyone should threaten anyone else by imprisonment or by removal from his post for his teaching. For faith is the gift of God and this comes from hearing, which hearing is by the word of God.”

The Hungarian Unitarians are celebrating this special day with events in Torda and Kolozsvár. The celebrations start in the morning in the Unitarian church of Torda with a worship service led by rev. Alpár Solymosi, minister of the Csíkszereda Unitarian congregation .The service will be followed by a visit to the Museum in Torda, which hosts the famous painting by Aladár Körösfői-Kriesch, commemorating the event.

The celebrations will continue with an evening worship service in the Unitarian church of Kolozsvár, with István Török, Unitarian minister of Olthévíz and dean of the Háromszék-Felsőfehér district as preacher, followed by greetings from representatives of other denominations and guests. A concert featuring the Pálffy Ákos Choir from Homoródszentpál and the Concordia quartet will enhance the festivities.

The day will be closed with a reception at the Unitarian headquarters.

In 2015, the General Assembly of the Hungarian Unitarian Church voted in unanimity to recommend to Unitarians and Unitarian Universalists around the world to join in the proclamation and celebration of January the 13th as Day of Religious Freedom.

Related

Odumase-Krobo, Where Every Child is Our Child

By Tatiana Reis (Women’s Rights Initiative) and Daniel Snyder (Climate Justice Initiative)

UU-UNO Program Interns

“I want to be a nurse,” says Grace, the first in her family to reach high school—a monumental task in regions such as Odumase-Krobo in Ghana—explaining the importance of education and the opportunities ahead. Due to high fees and lack of government subsidies, low-income children in Ghana have limited access to education and rely on private assistance.

The Every Child is Our Child (ECOC) program of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO) helps children like Grace pursue their aspirations to become nurses, pilots, engineers, doctors, soldiers, bank managers. ECOC provides school uniforms, books, school supplies, shoes and access to basic medical healthcare to children made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS.

On November 6, a delegation from the UU-UNO visited Ghana to assess the needs of the schools sponsored by ECOC. The week we spent taught us much about human creativity and finding happiness in harsh circumstances.

Since 2005, the UU-UNO has sponsored 130 children—orphans and children at risk of HIV/AIDS—working towards achieving the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals of universal primary education, fighting HIV/AIDS, reducing hunger and poverty, and promoting gender equality. Of the 130 children currently in the program, 124 attend three basic and middle schools, and six attend high schools.

blog1

With our trip’s packed itinerary ahead of us—places to see, people to meet, medications to take—the one visit that intimidated us most was meeting the Queen Mothers. Serving as unofficial counsel, mediators and facilitators between the community and the government on regarding health care and education, the name alone commands respect. We also wondered about the children—would they welcome us? Would we feel comfortable? Could we ask honest questions and get honest answers? Was a week enough time to start understanding their reality? We were all preparing for an emotional rollercoaster.

Arriving in Accra

The airport in Accra, Ghana, was busy the night we arrived. Nighttime felt ominous, as if the sky wanted to make us aware of its power. In profound contrast, the daytime exploded into vibrant color, making us aware of a complementary power. Ghana is a place of raw, intricate beauty. Dwellings pepper the dramatic, lush landscape; vivid geometric patterns speckle beads and clothing. Life is everywhere.
Our first stop was a meeting with Manye Esther, a Queen Mother who supervises the program. Queen Mothers, designated by appointment or blood, serve as diplomats to local and international leaders. As such, they receive foreign aid and manage the funds from faith-based organizations for the schools. The Queen Mothers Association, an NGO established to formalize their role in the community, receives international aid. Manye Esther works as a principal collaborator on expanding and improving the project.

IMG_3071

 

Manye Esther’s acumen, authority, and warm, inclusive approach taught us more about diplomacy and leadership than any scholarly text ever could. She exudes soft-spoken power and candor. We discussed abortion, contraceptives, and sex education. She explained the importance of values that express solidarity and compassion.

“I’m here on this Earth to help girls in need,” she said. “It’s my call to life, it’s why I live, to improve their lives.”

Although she went blind from an infection years ago, her vision of a better future for the girls she nurtures compels her ever forward. She expresses gratitude for collaboration and partnership, making everyone involved feel important.

Her accomplishments do not manifest as plaques of recognition on the walls of her meeting room; they are seen in the respectful eyes and admiring gestures of those around her.

We held hands for a long time: a spiritual experience that will stay with us forever.

blog3

The Schools and Students

Visiting several schools over the following two days shifted our notions about an effective schools’ facilities and organization. Potent learning can take many forms, even in precarious settings. We met students and teachers, powerful beyond measure, who viewed education as a mission and a privilege, an opportunity not taken for granted.

The sweltering heat unsettled and surprised us, but the children’s cascade of smiles bathed our souls and restored our energy.

The teenage girls were polite, welcoming and shy. We had an all too brief 15 minutes to meet each pair of students; although our interviews were fluid, time constraints impeded conversational elaboration, with some answers limited to “yes, please” and others difficult to summarize. Our paper and pens also seemed to lend an unwanted air of gravity.

Every student expressed gratitude for ECOC’s support, sharing how the program has impacted their lives. Some revealed anxiety about an uncertain future, seeking assurance that the program will continue for years to come.

blog4

We had the students share their stories through short essays. A girl named Mary wrote about a fear of harassment during her long daily walk to school, wishing for a safer learning environment.

Then we met Grace, a high school senior who wants to travel the world and study nursing. College fees in Ghana are steep and the UU-UNO hopes to sponsor her too.

When we asked her what made her strive for an education in a country where education for young women isn’t often supported, she said something incredible:

“I want to finish school because in my family, there are only two girls,” she said. “My older sister put other things first and then it was my turn to choose. But I didn’t want those things. I wanted to show my family and friends that education is just as valuable as anything else. I want to change things. So that’s why I’m here.”

Photo taken by Allison Hess

Like Manye Esther, Grace knows she has a purpose and is pursuing her dreams. She believes nothing can stop her from achieving what she wants.

Our week in Ghana was unforgettable. Although the community we visited endures food insecurity, crime, and unemployment, poverty-alleviation programs that provide access to education and health care greatly improve the chances for youth to build bright futures.

Above all, it was invaluable soul education. There is no stronger testament to the power of the interconnected web of existence than to live in community with partners, to hear their hopes and fears, and to see firsthand the impact of programs like ECOC. We saw it for ourselves.

Your gifts put our faith into action. Please consider making a generous donation to the Every Child is Our Child Program. With your support, we can help more children in Ghana receive the education and medical attention they need to fulfill their true potential.

Giving Tuesday #BecauseofUU

Web-Banner5

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 1st, 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 #becauseofUU.

Whether you can give $7, $70, or $700, your gift between now and midnight tomorrow makes a difference and will go even further by helping us to earn a special #GivingTuesday match. Frank Basile, president of All Souls Unitarian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, encourages all of us to give to the UUA in honor of our seven principles. Frank has offered a generous matching gift if at least 77 people contribute to the UUA for #GivingTuesday.

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!

Updates from Burundi Unitarians

Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana

UPDATE 12/19 From the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists: Update on Burundi Situation

Violence in Burundi has escalated with government forces killing civilians, leaving the bodies in the streets to further terrorise their people. The still active charges against the leader of the Burundi Unitarians are now being used to seek to arrest and intimidate the lawyers and those of others faiths who were of assistance.

Regrettably, it is now necessary for Burundi Unitarians to join the multitudes fleeing the country for personal safety. Assistance is being offered to all our congregants who need to leave and several large homes in another country are being rented to provide shelter.

So far everyone has been able to leave safely, although some Unitarians remain in country. It is likely we will need to house and feed people away from home for a number of months.

Provisions have been made for the Unitarian Church Building in Bujumbura to be secured and guarded. When possible, worship and prayer continues there.

The Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana is living in one of the rented shelters, organizing relief efforts and looking after the spiritual needs of both Unitarians and non-Unitarians.

A significant grant from the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) combined with the generous donations from Unitarians and Unitarian Universalists around the world is making all this possible. Any funds the Burundi Unitarians had have been frozen by the Burundi government.

The International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU) is working closely with the Unitarian Church of Burundi to support these efforts. Partners are assisting through a special multi-organizational working group coordinated by the ICUU and also including representatives of the Canadian Unitarian Council, International Bridges for Justice, UUA International Office, UUSC and the ICUU Francophone Mentoring Coalition.

If you are contacted by individual Burundian Unitarians seeking support or assistance, please refer them to this joined-up support effort rather than offering direct assistance. Please send any questions to Rev. Steve Dick at execsec@icuu.net.

Further donations will be need to the meet the ongoing needs of Burundians in exile. Please continue to support the ICUU Burundi Appeal. You can donate online via credit card or PayPal.

Checks in $ can be sent to Burundi Appeal, ICUU, PO Box 2575, Corvallis. OR 97339, USA

Cheques in £ can be sent to Burundi Appeal, ICUU, 345 Addiscombe Road, Croydon, Surrey, CR0 7LG, UK

Donations from US taxpayers only are tax deductible.

(more…)

Tell Congress: Don’t Discriminate Against Muslim Refugees

A family sits outside their tent at the refugee camp in Atmeh (Qatma), Syria. They fled violence in their home town in Idlib province and are part of the mammoth humanitarian disaster facing Syria and surrounding countries today.
A family sits outside their tent at the refugee camp in Atmeh (Qatma), Syria. They fled violence in their home town in Idlib province and are part of the mammoth humanitarian disaster facing Syria and surrounding countries today. Image courtesy UUSC.

As people across the United States are donating to help Syrian refugees abroad and volunteering to welcome refugees in their communities, a number of Governors recently announced that they want to stop their states from resettling Syrian refugees.

This is morally reprehensible.

Some Members of Congress have even introduced the Refugee Resettlement Oversight and Security Act (H.R. 3573), legislation that would stop refugee resettlement altogether. It is critical that public officials hear from their constituents NOW as decisions are being made that will drastically impact the lives of Syrian refugees and refugee resettlement in the United States.

Take Action Today

  • Send a message to your congressional representative through the UUSC
  • Call your Representative and Senators : 1-866-961-4293
  • If you live in one of the following states, call your Governor!
    • Alabama: (334) 242-7100
    • Arizona: (520) 628-6580 / (602) 542-4331
    • Arkansas: (501) 682-2345
    • Florida: (850) 488-7146
    • Georgia: (404) 656-1776
    • Idaho: (208) 334-2100
    • Illinois: (217) 782-0244 / (312) 814-2121
    • Indiana: (317) 569-0709
    • Iowa: (515) 281-5211
    • Kansas: (785) 296-3232
    • Louisiana: (225) 342-7015
    • Maine: (207) 287-3531 / 1-855-721-5203
    • Massachusetts: (617) 725-4005 / (413) 784-1200 / (202) 624-7713
    • Michigan: (517) 373-3400
    • New Hampshire: (603) 271-2121
    • New Jersey: (609) 292-6000
    • North Carolina: (919) 814-2000
    • Ohio: (614) 466-3555
    • Oklahoma: (405) 521-2342
    • South Carolina: (803) 734-2100
    • Texas: 800-843-5789 / (512) 463-1782
    • Wisconsin: (608) 266-1212

When you call, tell the receptionist that as a constituent, you want to help WELCOME Syrian refugees and that you’re against the calls of some governors to reject Syrian refugees.

Ex: “I’m a constituent from [City] and I support the resettlement of Syrian refugees. I urge the Senator / Representative / Governor to represent me and other constituents who seek to welcome Syrian refugees.”

Here are some helpful points that you may want to mention, but the most important point is your story and why your community wants to welcome Syrian refugees!

  • The U.S. government handpicks the refugees who resettle here, and refugees are the most thoroughly vetted people to come to the United States.
  • All refugees resettled in the United States undergo rigorous security screenings by the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, Department of Defense and multiple intelligence agencies, including biometric checks, forensic testing, medical screenings and in-person interviews.
  • This is not an either/or situation. The United States can continue to welcome refugees while also continuing to ensure national security. We must do both.

You can also tweet your Members of Congress and your network:

“.@REPRESENTATIVE, Our community is ready to welcome #Syrian #refugees. #RefugeesWelcome #AmericaWelcomes!”

Uniting to end violence and discrimination against LGBTQI people around the world

By Justin Hashimoto
UU-United Nations Office LGBTQ Human Rights Program Intern

Kevin-Jennings-One-Teacher-in-10-in-the-New-Millennium1-440x294

“My only sin against God is not accepting the person he made me to be for so long”

Garth Zimmerman, a retired teacher from Appleton, Wisconsin, shares his moving account of “coming out at fifty” in the third anthology of Kevin Jennings illuminating book “One Teacher in Ten in the New Millennium,” published by Beacon Press.

Mr. Jennings, founder of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), compiled a series of essays shared by LGBTQI educators from across the United States and around the world. The contributors to this anthology speak on their unique experiences as LGBTQI educators, the progress that’s been made, and the challenges that remain.

We recently had the opportunity to interview Mr. Jennings on the development of this book: (more…)

At the Parliament of the World’s Religions 2015

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 4.00.20 PM

Nearly 10,000 people from 50 faith traditions and 80 countries convened last week for the world’s largest interfaith gathering, the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City, Utah, to commune in harmony and to grapple with and explore solutions to global issues like climate change, war, the widening wealth gap, etc.

Founded in 1893, the first World’s Parliament of Religions, as it was then known, spanned 17 days and was held in Chicago. No event of its kind, bringing together thousands of representatives of the great historic religions of the world, had ever been attempted up to that point. Read more about Unitarian involvement in the first Parliament on this informative Tapestry of Faith leader resource sheet.

Rev. Eric Cherry, Director of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s International Office, was one of the UUA staffers at this year’s first US-based Parliament since 1993, connecting with hundreds of attending UUs and interfaith partners.

It was an amazing gathering that included presentations from a long list of powerful global leaders:

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 3.58.32 PM

Unitarian Universalists were deeply engaged in the event and present in large numbers – perhaps as many as 500 in attendance! – and were heavily involved in more than 15 workshops and presentations during the Parliament.

The Rev. Patty Willis of South Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Cottonwood Heights, Utah, wrote and performed a special hymn for the gathering and led the crowd in song. (Salt Lake Tribune – 10.16.15)

“There are people of deep faith here,” said Christine Ashworth, an attendee who represented the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City and a volunteer who helped at the convention.

 

“How can you not be inspired by the idea of all faiths getting together to be a solution?” (International Business Times – 10.15.15)

Exploring Faith

At the Unitarian Universalist exhibit booth we invited visitors to participate in a video project exploring three questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What is your religious tradition?
  3. Is there another religious tradition, beyond your own, that impacts your religious or spiritual life?

Here’s what they said!

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
Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 5.04.23 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 5.04.29 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 5.04.36 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 5.04.45 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 5.04.50 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 5.04.57 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 5.05.02 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 5.05.07 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 5.05.14 PM