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In the US, slavery was officially abolished 140 years ago. “In reality, modern day slavery is not only alive and well, but growing in unprecedented dimensions”, Sheila Novak SDS says. in Human Trafficing: Modern Day Slavery, a resource packet for congregations, she informs that app. 27,000,000 men and women, girls and boys are enslaved in today’s world. Human Trafficing was created by the Sisters of the Divine Savior, in order to raise awareness and to equipp congregations to act against this modern scandal.

Grounded in the Christian faith, Human Trafficing includes practical background information, gives suggestions for bible readings, prayers, and sermons, helps with event planning from letterwriting campagns to FairTrade, and shows how a congregation can reach out to different age groups.

Download your own copy of Human Trafficing: Modern Day Slavery.

by Rev. Kathleen Stone

H.E. Miguel d’Escoto, the United Nations General Assembly President, recently said,  “The World cannot be much worse than it is right now”.   And of the economic meltdown:   “It is a political and moral failure”.

Is this expression merely an enunciation into the world of our failure, meant to make us feel guilt?  Or is the truth hidden in those words – a truth that will set us free into a renewed sense of hope?   It is my theoretical and theological understanding that until we speak the truth, no matter how hard that truth might be, we will not and cannot be fully free. 

It is a midwife truth. 

Unless a midwife acknowledges the reality of the pain of what is going on in the body, unless she understands that pain and from what process it emits, unless she allows the body to face that pain and go through it, the birth genuinely could be a disaster.   Can you imagine?    But, aware of the process of birth, though painful, there is an ushering forth of one of the most joyous and hopeful moments we ever will experience.

Over and over and over we are reminded of this powerful process.   The seed must be  broken open to grow,   the rainstorm must let loose before the rainbow,  the muscle must be stretched painfully to grow stronger,  the heart must burst open before it will find its compassion, the tears must flow before one will move towards a new life. 

I don’t understand it and don’t really like it but I know it’s the truth.  Wooed by the possibility of easily gained triumphs and a world that seems to capitalize on that possibility, I often fail to discipline myself to the long haul, through the grief and pain, to the experience of the real and substantive birth that will really be the joy I seek.  I’d rather deny, substitute, be wooed, or escape such pain. 

Having just arrived back from a powerful immersion journey into the most violent city in El Salvador, I don’t like the grief I feel upon reentry to the U.S.   I don’t like the fact that everywhere and anywhere there are places where I grieve – from international, national, community policy to the way I personally live my life and relationships.  Theoretically and theologically I know that that grief is the beginning of change, the beginning of revelation, the beginning of learning to Love more profoundly, the beginning of learning to manifest that Love through actions which insist that international, national and community policy is fair.  . . . . Theoretically and theologically I know that grief, resistance and determination accompany seeds and hearts cracking open.    I don’t understand it.   But I know it’s the truth.  It’s a midwife truth.

by Diana Sands.

To begin, I would like to borrow an exercise popularized by a very creative teacher and writer*. Below I have copied a quote from a human rights advocate. All clues to the identity of the writer, the writer’s religion, and the writer’s country of origin have been obscured. Please read the following three paragraphs and try to guess which religion is referenced, which country the writer is from, and if you’re really daring, who wrote it.

 “I have been a practicing [religious faith] all my life and a [lay leader and teacher] for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with [my religion], after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the [religion’s highest] leaders, quoting a few carefully selected [religious text] verses, … [declared] that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as [religious leaders].

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries…

The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of [prophets] and founders of [the] great religions – all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of [God]. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.”

Can you guess? I am sure that the media, which is truly a global influencer these days, must have had some sway over your guesses. Be honest with yourself. Did you guess the writer was a formerly Muslim woman from the Middle East or Central Asia who was fed-up with the politics of Islamic leadership in her community? Maybe you sensed a trick question and guessed a formerly Muslim woman from the West? Well, the writer is former United States President Jimmy Carter writing about why he is leaving Christianity. This exercise can show us lots of things about ourselves – I think primarily it shows that Islamophobia in the Western media is influencing us in very divisive ways. We have been distracted from the reality that women suffer subjugation and dehumanization at the hands of so many religious leaders across faith traditions. We have almost forgotten that opportunities for interfaith solidarity and cooperation around women’s rights are indeed possible through progressive and respectful dialogue.

Read the rest of this entry »

by Sarah Armitage. Cross-posted from inspiremagazine.org

The Burmese military is using rape and sexual violence against ethnic women and girls as part of a deliberate strategy to attain and strengthen control.  Charity worker Sarah Armitage reports
 
Rape. It may be a small word, but it has a meaning that carries the power to destroy individuals, families and entire communities. All around the world, rape is used against women as a show of power and control. In Burma, it is also used as a weapon of war.
 
A couple of weeks ago the Burma Army, the military force of the SPDC (State Peace and Development Council), began a new offensive along the border in Karen State. Almost 4,000 civilians fled for their lives across the Moei River into Thailand creating an extensive emergency crisis. In the days leading up to the attacks, the Burma Army entered villages in the area forcibly recruiting soldiers and porters.
 
On 12 June, Naw Pay and Naw Wah Lah chose to stay in their homes rather than try to outrun the Burma Army soldiers heading towards their village, a few hours’ walk from the border.

Naw Pay, aged 18, was eight months pregnant and Naw Wah Lah, aged 17, had a six-month old baby to care for.  It was a decision with dire consequences. When found by the soldiers they were taken out of their homes and gang raped. Afterwards, both young women and the unborn child were brutally murdered. Karen-Women
 
Tragically, this is not an isolated case. Over the past few years, a number of women’s groups based in Burma have produced reports documenting the systematic use of rape and sexual violence by the Burma Army against ethnic women and girls.

The number of known rape victims, some going back as far as 1995, is just under 1,900.  However, this is only a fraction of the true number as so many women are afraid or unable to speak out about what has happened to them.

Sometimes rape is carried out with such extreme brutality that for the victim, death can be the only possible outcome.
  Read the rest of this entry »

By Meagan Manas
Cross-posted from NCC Women’s Ministries

As we lead up to Climate Negotiations in Copenhagen in December, we are thinking about the theme of  Women’s History Month’s 2009, Women: Taking the Lead to Save our Planet. There is a great list of women from around the world working in eco-justice is available from Women’s History Project.

Among those taking the lead in the ecumenical movement are Cassandra Carmichael, who serves as Eco-Justice Program Director for the National Council of Churches, and Rev. Amanda Hendler-Voss, the founder and Faith Communities Educator of the Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) Women of Faith in Action program.  (See below for excellent resources from both organizations.)

Often, the problem of environmental degradation and its solutions can seem too large, abstract, and overwhelming to do anything. To avoid this kind of paralysis, Cassandra Carmichael and NCC Eco-Justice have a strategy. “The way we see it at Eco-Justice,” Carmichael says, “is an education for advocacy model.  You can’t ask people to take action in their homes, congregations, and civic communities unless they know and care about the issues.”  Some Earth Day ideas and resources for your congregation to use in the education to advocacy model are available on the Eco-Justice website.

Another excellent tool in the education to advocacy model for environmental education in your congregation and community is the “Faith Seeking Peace” curriculum from WAND. Available online, this resource examines several often overlooked aspects of war including its environmental impact.  Rev. Hendler-Voss wrote this curriculum and reflected in a recent conversation that “The violation of land, women, and the spirit of a people are all integral to the objectives of war.  Eco-feminist theology names the stubborn link between the violation of women’s bodies and the violation of God’s bodies (the Earth and the beloved community), while also claiming them as a locus for healing and change.”

As we recognize the ecological efforts of women across the globe, we should not be surprised to see so many women working on these issues.  Read the rest of this entry »

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  • Giving hope to victims of human trafficking
    Ahead of the first ever World Day against Trafficking in Persons (30 July), we hear the harrowing experiences of human trafficking survivors, as well as their stories of hope thanks to the work of grassroots organizations helping the victims of this despicable trade. Managed by UNODC, the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking s […]
    UNODC
  • Women shepherds in Somaliland determined to change their odds
    Water is a central concern year round in Somaliland, a self-declared autonomous state in northern Somalia. Over a third of households in Somaliland's urban areas do not have access to clean drinking water and the proportion is far higher in rural areas, the UN says.
    UN Radio

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