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In a broken and fearful world
the Spirit gives us courage
to pray without ceasing,
to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior,
to unmask idolatries in Church and culture,
to hear the voices of peoples long silenced,
and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.
- A Brief Statement of Faith, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Participants in March 3 Ecumenical Women’s orientation for the 57th Commission on the Status of Women remembered our sisters whose voices are and have been silenced.
In worship, we remembered.
In prayer, we remembered.
In art, we remembered.
As we marched in silence from The Salvation Army International Social Justice Commission to the Church Center for the United Nations, we remembered.
Remembering, may we act.
Photo by Andrew Nam Chul Osborne
[Athena Peralta, World Council of Churches Consultant on Poverty Wealth and Ecology, presented the below address during the United Nations’ General Assembly Hearing with Civil Society on the Millennium Development Goals, 14-15 June 2010, New York]
Tackling the roots of poverty
For Christian churches and the worldwide ecumenical movement, eradicating poverty is nothing less than a moral and ethical imperative. We believe that God’s will is for all humanity – regardless of gender, religious belief, race and ethnicity – to experience life in fullness and in dignity. Thus, together with many civil society organisations (CSOs), we at the World Council of Churches (WCC) applauded the United Nations (UN) in 2000 for taking leadership in the articulation and adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), foremost of which is the internationally agreed goal to halve the number of people “living” in poverty by 2015. Discussions on poverty eradication must continue to be a main concern of the UN, where broad participation of all nation-states and civil society could take place. As 2015 looms closer, there is an urgent need for the international community to revisit and deeply consider the structural, historical and interconnected roots of impoverishment and the required policy- and systemic transformations leading not just to the attainment of the MDGs but to the eventual eradication of poverty.
The WCC remains profoundly concerned that the global financial and economic crisis – which continues to wreak havoc on economies including in the Euro zone – has thrown tens of millions more people into poverty, swelling the ranks of the disempowered, hungry, thirsty, unemployed, sick and homeless, and further derailing the achievement of the MDGs. At this stage of the crisis, many countries are being forced to adopt stringent fiscal policies that imperil economic recovery as well as social and ecological protection – at a time when such protection is needed most.
If anything, the global economic turmoil has called into serious question the previously widely accepted role of deregulated and liberalised global financial and trade structures in reducing poverty: current evidence points to the opposite. Yet the international community appears not to have adequately absorbed these sobering lessons. Prevailing financial and trade paradigms are still driven, at core, by the pursuit of ever-higher growth rates and short-term returns at the expense of people’s economic, social and cultural rights and the health of our increasingly fragile ecosystems. Mere economic growth, however, has already been shown to be an unsustainable, inefficient – and in some cases, ineffective – way of addressing the global poverty crisis.
Against this light, the WCC reiterates its calls for governments and international institutions – with the democratic participation of all peoples – to pursue economic policies as well as build economic frameworks that move away from the current paradigm that is focused on unlimited growth and based on structural greed towards models founded on pro-poor, redistributive growth; universal provisioning of common social goods; sustainable consumption and production; and investments in small-holder agriculture (which continues to be the main source of livelihood for people and women in poverty), social reproduction and ecological protection.
Critical to lifting societies and people out of poverty is a much more equitable distribution of assets (capital, technology, land, education, health care, among others). A wealth of studies reveals that the lack of access by the poor (especially poor women) to assets necessary to achieve socio-economic security as well as higher productivity and income is a “fundamental constraint” on poverty eradication.
Emphasising the pivotal role of MDG 8 (global partnerships for development) in meeting the rest of the MDGs, governments and international institutions must seriously respond to widening inequalities among and within nations and the global financial and trade structures that propagate and deepen these inequalities. Much more attention ought to be placed on developing policies and structures that enable wealth-sharing among and within countries.
Poverty eradication is of course a critical goal in and by itself. At the same time, the WCC has long argued that many of the violent conflicts that continue to rage in different parts of our world stem in large part from the socio-economic deprivation experienced by communities. Thus, measures to eradicate poverty and close socio-economic gaps are important pathways to strengthening social cohesion and achieving lasting peace at local, national and global levels.
We believe that mobilising the financial resources needed for poverty eradication and the achievement of the MDGs – particularly through creative forms of taxation inasmuch as taxes are the only sustainable source of development finance – is a matter of political will, yes, and also of moral courage. At the onset of the global financial and economic crash, governments in rich countries were able to put together trillions of dollars in a matter of months to resuscitate ailing financial institutions; and global military spending continues to increase, amounting to US$ 1464 billion in 2008 alone (SIPRI 2010). We need to re-examine and dismantle such a perverse system of priorities that places more import on rescuing big banks and acquiring machines that kill people than on emancipating people from starvation and homelessness. Clearly, the often put forward excuse of a dearth of financial resources to overcome poverty is instead more indicative of a dearth of life-affirming values and morals – a dearth of justice, solidarity and care.
What the international community can and must do in 1660 days
Reshaping the unjust financial and trade structures that generate and reinforce poverty and inequality is a long-term undertaking requiring coordinated action and meaningful cooperation among and between governments and international developmental institutions, as recognised by MDG 8, beyond 2015. Yet this does not preclude the international community from taking immediate measures and initial steps towards deep-seated transformations. Therefore, the WCC calls on governments and international institutions to commit to the following actions at the MDG Summit in September 2010:
- Enact urgent financial reforms and support further high-level discussions with substantial civil society participation under the auspices of the Financing for Development process to build an international financial architecture that not only distributes socio-economic risks fairly but finances job-creating production, social reproduction and environmental sustainability; and in particular with a view to:
- Achieving stronger democratic oversight of international financial institutions, by making them subject to a UN Global Economic Council with the same status as the UN Security Council as proposed by the Stiglitz Commission;
- Creating and/or transforming financial regulatory institutions and mechanisms and implementing financial transaction taxes to deter speculation (whether on currency, food and other commodities) and capital flight;
- Supporting regional initiatives that decentralise finance and empower people in the global South to exercise control over their own development through bodies such as the Bank of the South, the Asian Monetary Fund and the Bank of the Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América;
- Strengthening tax systems by establishing an international accounting standard requiring country-by-country reporting of transnational companies’ economic activities and taxes paid and forging a multilateral agreement to set a mandatory requirement for the automatic exchange of tax information between all jurisdictions to prevent tax avoidance;
- Establishing a new global reserve system based on a supranational global reserve currency and regional and local currencies;
- Setting up a new international credit agency with greater democratic governance than currently exists under the Bretton Woods institutions;
- Setting up an international bankruptcy court with the authority to cancel odious and other kinds of illegitimate debts and to arbitrate other debt issues;
- Regulating and reforming the credit agency industry into proper independent supervision institution(s), based on more transparency about ratings and strict regulation on the management of conflict of interest; and
- Using innovative sources of finance, including carbon and financial transaction taxes, to pay for global public goods and poverty eradication.
- Resume the Doha Round of trade talks and review free trade agreements based on the objective of transforming multilateral and bilateral trade and investment rules and agreements in support of realising the enshrined rights to food, water, health, education, and gainful and decent employment; and in particular to:
- Implement workable common international regulations to end agricultural import dumping; and
- Establish international commodity agreements setting stable base prices for products.
- Channel resources away from military spending and odious and illegitimate debt payments to investment areas with potentially strong anti-poverty impacts, particularly small-holder agriculture, social development and ecological sustainability; as well as ensure that development assistance to poor countries is not diminished in light of current pressures to rein in fiscal deficits.
- Discuss and adopt new and more balanced indicators that factor in social and ecological costs and benefits, and therefore better measure and monitor global socio-ecological-economic progress.
The Civil Society Unit of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is moderating an on-line discussion on Women and Human Rights, focusing on issues of accountability and access to justice.
The discussion started on 1 February and will end on 28 February. Sub-themes are:
- National legal frameworks challenges, trends and best practices with respect to legal protection of women’s human rights (Week 1);
-Accountability challenges, trends and best practices with respect to ensuring accountability for violations of human rights of women, including violence against women (Week 2);
-Access to justice challenges, trends and best practices with respect to womens access to justice (Week 3);
-Summary, wrap-up and observations (Week 4).
Each week starts with a short introduction to the theme to trigger and encourage a constructive and fruitful on-line discussion, to be summarized and analyzed in order to contribute to the Beijing +15 review. The discussion is part of a series of United Nations online discussions dedicated to the fifteen-year review of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) and the outcomes of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (2000); and is coordinated by WomenWatch, an inter-agency project of the United Nations Inter-agency Network on Women and Gender Equality.
The Religions for Peace Global Women of Faith Network has recently launched the Restoring Dignity initiative, engaging senior religious leaders, women and men of all faiths, survivors of violence, and youth to End Violence Against Women. The response to the initiative, “so far has been inspiring”, says Jacqueline Ogega, Director of the Women’s Mobilization Program at Religions for Peace, a collaborator of Ecumenical Women. Faithful women and men are taking leadership and becoming active in the Restoring Dignity– End Violence Against Women campaign at http://religionsforpeace.org/initiatives/women/restoring-dignity.html.
Please join and take action today!
With the official launch of Phase II of the UN Secretary-General’s and UNIFEM’s Say NO—UNiTE initiative, the initiative will count actions by individuals, governments, civil society partners and faith-based partners. You can show your support by visiting the Say NO website and take action by:
- Adding your signature to the Letter to the UN Secretary-General to strengthen partnerships with faith-based organizations and increase commitments to end violence against women
- Sign the Interfaith Pledge on Restoring Dignity
- Join in Interfaith Prayer on Ending Violence Against Women
- Submit a Poster for the Interfaith Youth Poster Competition.
On this webpage, you are invited to create your own resources and actions, update photos from your interfaith event, and even link videos to youtube! And the best part, it’s very easy to use! But if you have any snags, send an email to GlobalWomenofFaith@religionsforpeace.org for technical support.
TAKE YOUR FIRST ACTION TODAY! Sign the Call to Action to the UN Secretary-General by 23 November 2009.
Hello! I’ve been deeply moved by this gathering. This is amazing! My name is Lisa Sharon Harper. I am the executive director of NY Faith & Justice and the author of Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican … or Democrat, and I am here today to say “Enough is enough!” Say it with me, “Enough is enough! Enough is enough! Enough is enough! Enough is enough!”
The whole world saw the elections in Iran and the crush of the Iranian government when they stole the election from the people! We saw it via social networking sources like Twitter and Facebook. Well I’m a twitterer! So, everyone say “Hi!” and I’m gonna take a picture of you because this is amazing!
[The empty space is the space directly in front of the stage. You can’t see it from here, but the crowd reached back to 3rd Avenue from 1st Ave!]
Democracy is not enough!
Democracy is nothing unless that government protects the rights of “the least of these” in society!
Democracy is nothing unless that government protects the rights of the ones who live with their backs against the walls!
And that kind of democracy is achieved by protecting the basic human rights of all people within a society.
We watched Iran’s election and it is unconscionable that 322 people have been executed just this year. It is unconscionable that every day citizens of your country were thrown in jail just because they wanted to have their vote count!
Enough is enough!
by Onleilove Alston
Note: Though DWU works on issues affecting domestic workers in the U.S. the issues faced by its membership are shared by women worldwide. The exploitation of women workers is an international human rights issue. According to Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted by the U.N. :
- (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
- (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
- (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
- (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. THEY will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. THEY will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; THEY will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. -Isaiah 61:1-4
“I want to be in tune with my maker.”
“I pray for the organization to get the (the Domestic Worker) Bill of Rights passed”.
“Without God we can’t do anything”.
“I put fliers in the churches, I speak to the pastors”.
–Marilyn Marshall and Joyce Gill-Campbell Leaders in Domestic Workers United (DWU)
“We have a dream that one day, all work
will be valued equally”.-Mission of Domestic Workers United
During the spring of 2006 I started to closely read Isaiah 61 and began to gain spiritual encouragement from meditating on God’s care for the poor and oppressed. I began to study this scripture whenever I had the chance. In 2007 I started to work with New York Faith & Justice after meeting founders: Lisa Sharon Harper, Anna Lee and Peter Heltzel at Pentecost 2007. In the Fall of 2007 New York Faith & Justice did an in-depth Bible Study on Isaiah 61 and from this study I learned that this passage declares the poor “the oaks of righteousness”, and “that THEY will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated”. This new insight revolutionized my approach to the ministry of ending poverty. Instead of just preaching the gospel to the poor, the poor are called to rebuild and restore their communities! If you are a person of privilege instead of working for the poor you are called to work alongside the poor. And if like me you come from the ranks of the poor you are called to rebuild and restore your community. This re-reading of Isaiah 61 is further supported by my work with the Poverty Initiative’s Poverty Scholars Program. The Poverty Scholars program brings poor activist from across America to Union Theological Seminary to take part in an educational program of conferences, theological reflection and action planning centered on re-igniting Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign.
The Poverty Initiative, based at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, has a mission “to raise up generations of religious and community leaders dedicated to building a social movement to end poverty, led by the poor.” Recently, at Camp Virgil Tate outside Charleston, West Virginia, they presented a week-long Leadership School with leaders from more than 20 organizations, including NY Faith & Justice, Domestic Workers United, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Jesus People Against Pollution, as well as international participants such as the Shackdwellers Movement from South Africa, the Church of Scotland, and Justicia Global from the Dominican Republic.
Here, Union alumna and Poverty Initiative member Kym McNair interviews Donna Barrowcliffe, the development manager from the Community Church of Ruchazie in Glasglow, where she works with the Church of Scotland Priority Areas Project (a project focusing on the poorest areas of Scotland). Donna was born and raised in a priority area.
by Sonali Salgado, Inter Press Service (IPS)
The United Nations has realised that if it wants to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, it will have to partner with like-minded faith-based organisations (FBOs).
“It is important to invite religious leaders and faith-based organisations and other secular organisations and work together. It’s the only way,” Gladys Melo-Pinzon of the FBO Catholics for Choice told IPS. “The U.N. and the other international agencies understand that it’s true,” Melo-Pinzon said. In recent years, the United Nations has tried to work more closely with faith-based organisations (FBOs). “We’ve been working with the U.N. and hope to continue working with them,” Yousseff Abdullah told IPS on behalf of the FBO Islamic Relief. For the past few years, Islamic Relief has worked with UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP). A joint Islamic Relief-UNFPA effort has led to the establishment of women’s centres in Sudan.
From August 3-4, the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) gathered representatives of 41 FBOs -including Islamic Relief and Catholics for Choice - and numerous international agencies ranging from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to the WFP for a meeting in New York. Since Dec. 2007, UNFPA has asked FBOs working in Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean: “What should we do better? What should we do more? What projects should we work on, and in what particular ways?” At the New York meeting, Azza Karam of UNFPA told IPS, FBOs were presented the “shopping list of recommendations.” According to Karam, they were told to select the areas that FBOs and international agencies would “work on together for the next three years.” “UNFPA is hosting this meeting because it is part of the culmination of the vision of its Executive Director, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid,” Abubakar Dungus of UNFPA told IPS. Since she became director of the UNFPA in 2000, Obaid has been leading the drive to collaborate with FBOs. “She has said that development work would be more strategic and sustainable when such actors – already among the world’s largest basic health-care providers – were engaged in common efforts on the MDGs,” according to Dungus. Obaid stresses that FBOs are key players in health care services. “In most developing countries, anywhere between 30 to 60 percent of basic health is being served through faith-based organisations,” Karam told IPS. “In Latin Ameica, 70 percent of hospitals are still run through or by the Catholic Church.” Moreover, the World Bank has noted that, in some countries, health services offered by FBOs are better than those of the government.
At the two-day conference here, FBOs and international agencies identified reaching gender equality and improving reproductive health as the goals on which they would collaborate. “Partnerships between faith-based organisations and UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, are critical to enhancing efforts to reduce maternal deaths and end violence against women,” UNFPA said in a press release. Maternal health and female empowerment are two of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in September 2000. The MDGs also include eradicating hunger and poverty; achieving universal primary education; reducing child mortality; combating HIV/AIDS malaria, and other diseases; ensuring environmental stability; and developing a global partnership for development.
The maternal health goal is “at the heart of the MDGs but lags behind the most,” Dungus said. “This is the 21st century and yet women are dying because they’re giving birth or trying to give birth,” Melo-Pinzon stressed. According to the UNFPA, FBOs can assist in reproductive health not only because of their significant role in the health care industry, but also because of their position in individual communities themselves. There is “a critical personal and community-based connection between the people and the faith-based organization centres providing services,” Obaid said. Melo-Pinzon concurred. “The main actors who can approach grassroots and communities in general are people who are related to faith,” she told IPS. “When you’re in conflict,” she continued, “faith gives comfort.” Obaid noted, “the profound moral authority that religious leaders have” and “the fact that religious organisations are the oldest social service providers humankind has known.”
But, quite ironically, as some FBOs strive to improve reproductive health and gender equality, they are betraying the edicts of their church. In their efforts to develop reproductive health, Catholics for Choice, for instance, promotes access to contraception despite the Vatican’s strong opposition to contraceptives. “We are challenging the wrong policies of the Catholic Church, which is misunderstanding the principles of compassion,” Melo-Pinzon said. “We’re saying ‘you’re wrong! You’re wrong!'”
A former professor of mine, a cultural critic and a lecturer on the history of photography, loves to tell a story about an experience she had walking home one day with her stepson. It was a humid day in August in New York City and she and her stepson saw an older neighbor struggling with a heavy bag of groceries. My professor and her stepson took the groceries and helped the neighbor up the stairs of her building and made sure she recovered from the heat. As they were leaving the little boy turned to his mother and said, “Is this going to be on the news tonight?” “No,” the professor replied. Her stepson smiled and said, “I suppose if we’d hit her and stole her groceries it would be.”
In the past week we have talked a lot about how we can work together to eliminate gender stereotypes. Employing new media can be an important way to continue this work after we leave CSW and return to our communities. How can we make sure that good, decent work is portrayed in the media? How can we use social networking technologies to change attitudes around caregiving thereby helping to eliminate its stigma?
The Women, Faith, and Development Alliance is launching their Breakthrough Summit this Sunday, April 13, in a move to end global poverty. EW applauds many things about this historic alliance, such as a large networking event for faith-based women’s groups, the summit being open to the public, and free registration. Obviously, getting lots of people together to make a gender-based statement against poverty from a(n inter)faith-based perspective is something EW can get behind!
We do, however, wonder what purpose this summit will achieve. The most we can find is that different organizations will be announcing their committments to support women and girls in the fight against poverty–and that’s great–but where are our Christian denominations in this picture? Why isn’t the summit being broadcast over the internet? EW is eager to learn where this alliance will go, and what documents will be put forth in response to the summit.