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Agnes and GaramAnita Coleman, a member of the Presbyterian delegation, writes about an ecumenical witness involving Presbyterians, United Methodists, and Lutherans that took place during one of the parallel events held during the NGO Committee on the Status of Women Forum.

Here are some excerpts:

‘Comfort women.’ I didn’t know anything about them until I heard the announcement at our orientation.  It appeared that there was to be an event where the sexual slavery of the South Korean women by the Japanese military was going to be denied and those interested were invited to gather for a conversation. I found myself doing so.

I had done my own research before coming to this meeting and found it eye-opening. ‘Comfort women’ refers to women, young girls (and some boys too), who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War 2. The victims came from Asia and the Pacific, primarily Korea, Taiwan, China, Indonesia, and Philippines but also from elsewhere such as Burma. I even found one reference to the ‘Nederlands” (as Netherlands was called then).

For now, I invite you, to get informed about the ‘comfort women’ issue. My second invite is to my faith family in California. If you have any south-east Asian, Korean or Japanese American ancestry/interest, or have friends of these ethnicities, I ask you to share this post with them. Also, I urge you to pray about becoming a ‘comfort women’ witness.  This issue highlights all sorts of injustices such as how patriarchy and colonialism are embedded invisibly in systems of defense (including our defense budgets), the insidious relationship between domestic violence and violence against women in conflict and war situations, and last, but not least, issues of human identity and use of women’s bodies.

Check out Anita’s whole post for more about the witness and a list of resources.

Anita Coleman is an independent scholar and researcher who lives in Southern California with her husband, son, and their pet cat Smokie. This is her first visit to New York, the United Nations, and the Commission on the Status of Women!Anita’s books are on Amazon and you can connect with her on Facebook, Instagram,Tumblr and Twitter @chariscol.

The photo shows Agnes Jallah and Garam Han during the planning session for the witness.

By Addie Domske

Today I participated in worship for the Commission on the Status of Women, along with other women here with the Presbyterian Church (USA).

I was fortunate enough to write part of the liturgy for our short worship time, found below. (It is partially inspired by a Presbyterian women’s history month liturgy.) May we all name what needs to be named in the world!

CALL TO WORSHIP
Leader: O God, for your Church universal, which throughout the ages has called women to serve in this world that you love,
People: we thank you.
Leader: For Mary of Bethany, who used her alabaster jar to teach us how to praise,
People: we thank you.
Leader: For Martha, who served others to model for us true hospitality,
People: we thank you.
Leader: For Priscilla and Lydia who showed us church leadership in the creation of the early Christian church,
People: we give you praise.
Leader: For the widow with oil, who taught us about renewal in the pouring out of our gifts,
People: we thank you.
Leader: For Rahab, who sheltered and facilitated her brothers toward safety.
People: we thank you.
Leader: For Hagar, who out of trauma created new life,
People: we thank you.
Leader: For the ministry of women in the Church universal today. who joyfully accepted their new responsibilities with diligence,
People: we thank you and we celebrate their lives and their commitment to the ministry of the whole Church.
All: Together, may we move forward with women and men as fully equal partners in the ministry of Christ to which you call us all. Amen.

SCRIPTURE (Genesis 16:7-15)
7 The Lord’s messenger found Hagar at a spring in the desert, the spring on the road to Shur, 8 and said, “Hagar! Sarai’s servant! Where did you come from and where are you going?”
She said, “From Sarai my mistress. I’m running away.”
9 The Lord’s messenger said to her, “Go back to your mistress. Put up with her harsh treatment of you.” 10 The Lord’s messenger also said to her,
“I will give you many children,
so many they can’t be counted!”
11 The Lord’s messenger said to her,
“You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son.
You will name him Ishmael [which means, “God hears”]
because the Lord has heard about your harsh treatment.
12 He will be a wild mule of a man;
he will fight everyone, and they will fight him.
He will live at odds with all his relatives.”
13 Hagar named the Lord who spoke to her, “You are El Roi” [which means “God who sees” or “God whom I’ve seen”] because she said, “Can I still see after he saw me?” 14 Therefore, that well is called Beer-lahai-roi; [which means the Well of the Living One who sees me or whom I’ve seen] it’s the well between Kadesh and Bered. 15 Hagar gave birth to a son for Abram, and Abram named him Ishmael.

PRAYER
Holy God, as women we are called to name. Like Hagar gives God a name, so too are we called to name things in the world. Whether we step back to amplify the voices of others or step forward to sing our own song, we are call to name. Hagar’s son, Ishmael, birthed out of trauma, “God hears” is a reflection that God is on our side. From trauma comes the birthed resistance of knowing that the one who hears is our God.

TRANSITION to EMBODIED PRAYER
We will now enter into a time of embodied prayer. As women, our bodies have often been used as commodities, but we reject that notion in our worship. Today our group will use our bodies to name the realities of women in the world who have a lack access surrounding the goal of education. As we use our body to illustration truth, we remember the legacy of naming that we women must live into.

EMBODIED PRAYER
[compiled by fellow PC(USA) seminarian, Jess Rigel of Princeton Theological Seminary]

About the author: Addie Domske is a member of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) delegation and a student at McCormick Theological Seminary.

An emphasis on education, and on free public education, has been a hallmark of churches that stand in the Reformed tradition since the days of John Calvin.

The Presbyterian parallel event at the 60th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women focused on the role of education in breaking cycles of poverty, particularly for women.

A panel presentation lifted up ways Presbyterians support education in Kenya, Aotearoa New Zealand, the United States and around the world.

Beth Olker, Field Staff for Presbyterian College Women & Young Women’s Ministries, Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries, Presbyterian Mission Agency, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) moderated the panel.

Panel members were:

Wanda Beauman, Vice Moderator for Justice and Peace Concerns, Churchwide Coordinating Team, Presbyterian Women Inc., in the Presbyterian Church USA

Carol Grant, United Nations Convenor, Presbyterian Women Aotearoa New Zealand

Veronica Muchiri, National Women’s Guild Organizer/Secretary, Presbyterian Church of East Africa

Frank Dimmock, Catalyst Addressing the Root Causes of Global Poverty, Presbyterian World Mission, Presbyterian Mission Agency, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)

A discussion followed with attendees sharing additional ways to educate girls and women.

The Presbyterian parallel event at the 60th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women focused on education as a key to breaking cycles of poverty and empowering women. Education, free, public education, is a central value within the Reformed tradition as affirmed in the introduction to the parallel event:

In different places we are known as members of Reformed, Evangelical, United or Uniting Churches. Depending on the state we are in, we may be called Congregationalists, Waldensians or Presbyterians.

We are some 80 million Christians in more than 225 member churches present in over 100 countries who trace our roots to the French Reformer John Calvin, who was active in Geneva from 1541-1564.

Calvin sought to reform the church’s theology of the day, placing a renewed emphasis on the sovereignty and grace of God.

Affirming that God is God of all of life and that all people are made in God’s image, Calvin also worked to reform the day-to-day existence of the community of Geneva.

Calvin broke with medieval theology and he broke with medieval pedagogy that limited education primarily to an aristocratic elite. He established a system of broad-based education for Geneva.

Calvin’s academy, founded in 1559, featured two levels of curricula: one for the public education of Geneva’s youth and the other a seminary to train ministers. Both schools, as historians have observed, were tuition-free and forerunners of modern public education. In a day when education was normally reserved for aristocratic scions or members of Catholic societies, the public education of young people was transformative.

An emphasis on advocacy for, and the provision of, quality education has remained a hallmark of the witness of the Reformed tradition since that time. In many communities around the world, members of the Reformed tradition were the first to provide girls with opportunities for formal education.

We welcome the inclusion of education in the Sustainable Development Goals and recommend that the 60th Commission on the Status of Women also identify the importance of education and its links to sustainable development as a key component to empowering women around the world.

by The Rev. Anna George Traynham

This morning, UN Under-Secretary General and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka addressed the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). One line has been ringing around the assembly halls since it left her lips: “There can be no business as usual.”

She was speaking in reference to the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015. “Excellencies,” she said in her striking South African accent, “the Agenda you adopted is bold, ambitious and transformational. Now we gather to seek implementation modalities that match this bold agenda, where there can be no business as usual.

The down-to-earth phrase stood out in her elegantly crafted speech, hitting the ears of the room with a thud. Her point was bold, concise, and clear: If we are going to end discrimination in any or all forms, we need more than advocacy and charity. We need transformation.

Around the world, women are raped, beaten, and murdered by intimate partners.

No more business as usual.

There are 4 UN member states with no women in Parliament, and there are 8 with no women in the cabinet.

No more business as usual.

Perpetrators of human trafficking roam free, while child victims are criminalized.

No more business as usual.

Girl children are sold as child brides.

No more business as usual.

The UN has been meeting about gender equality for 60 years.

No more business as usual.

We serve the God who spoke fire through the prophets. We follow the Christ who turned over tables. We are lead by the Spirit who breathes peace into chaos. Hear this good news of the gospel: There can be no business as usual.

Read Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka’s full address.

About the Author: Rev. Anna George Traynham serves as Pastor in Residence at Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Georgia. 

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Thanks to Virginia Wanjiru Njenga of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) delegation for the photo.

On 11 March 2016, I spoke about the work of advocacy at the orientation for the Presbyterians attending the 60th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. I was asked to post a portion of my remarks and did so on the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations blog. I reprint the words here with the permission of the blog editor (who happens to be me).

All people have voices.
The task of advocacy has nothing to do with giving voice to the voiceless, because
all people have voices.
Some people have voices we choose not to hear.
Some people have voices we ignore.
Some people have voices we force to the margins.
Some people have voices we oppress, repress, suppress.
Some people have voices we have silenced, sometimes for a long time, but
all people have voices.

The work of advocacy leads us
to uncover the voices of our sisters and brothers whose voices we ignore, drive to the margins, suppress, or silence
to hear the voices of our sisters and brothers
to listen, truly listen, passionately listen to the voices of our sisters and brothers
to heed the voices of our sisters and brothers
and then to work with our sisters and brothers whose voices we ignore, drive to the margins, suppress, or silence
to amplify the voices of our sisters and brothers
to bring the voices of our sisters and brothers to the halls of privilege and the tables of power
to invite and call and challenge all people, particularly privileged, powerful people, to hear the voices of our sisters and brothers
to demand that all people, particularly privileged, powerful people, listen, truly listen, passionately listen to our sisters and brothers whose voices we ignore, drive to the margins, suppress, or silence because
all people have voices.

The Rev. W. Mark Koenig
director, Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

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As one of the mission visits, Ecumenical Women met with Ambassador Deng, Permanent Representative of the Republic of South Sudan to the United Nations on the occasion of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

Beth Olker, member of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) delegation writes:

UN Women has recently begun #heforshe, a “Solidarity Movement in Gender Equality“.  This movement is being heralded as a transition and solidification of the feminism movement as one whose supporters and benefactors are not only women. The effort affirms that “gender equality is not just a women’s issue” but call it a human right’s issue which demands support from all people.

Originally posted by the World Communion of Reformed Churches by Anna Krueger

Dora Arce Valentín, the World Communion of Reformed Churches’ executive secretary for justice and partnership, will join a delegation from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) that will advocate for gender equity with the 58th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. This Commission is a functional commission of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations and is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women.

Read the whole story

Arce Valentín will serve on a panel for the side event Millennium Development Goals: Reflections from Reformed Churches on Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 10:30 AM  at the Salvation Army Auditorium, 221 East 52nd Street. The side event is organized in partnership with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Presbyterian Women.

by Rochelle Rawls-Shaw

Presbyterians from the United States and Aotearoa New Zealand prepared to lead this morning’s Ecumenical Women (EW)’s worship service at the 57th Session of the Commission for the Status of Women (CSW) for over a month.

As we met and got to know each other on conference calls, we shared our nicknames and their origins; we identified our special talents (or talents we wished we had). We shared what friends or family would say to describe us to a complete stranger. Our conversations were a great beginning for a group of women who were blessed and being used to bless others who would gather together for worship.

IMG_0255The EW worship committee who assigned each organization a scripture passage associated with women in the bible and guidelines for worship services during CSW. We received the story of the woman caught in adultery – John 8:2-11. This story became the focus of our liturgy. Exploring the story, we  began to experience the Divine Momentum leading us.

The momentum built when we were introduced to Pamela Tankersley from Presbyterian Women of Aotearoa New Zealand. She had prepared a liturgy for International Women’s Day (March 8) based on our scripture and in remembrance of the brutal gang rape that occurred in India on December 16, 2012. She entitled the liturgy, “Laying down the Stones.”

The momentum continued to build as planning members suggestions to the liturgy. A prayer of invocation was added to the call to worship and assignments made to the various parts. Our team included talented singers who would lead congregational songs and a soloist who would sing “Safe Within Your Arms.” Carolyn Winfrey Gillette wrote a new hymn for the service: “Christ Would Not Cast the Judgment Stone.”

We planned that the worship service would involve people who were not even present at the Church Center for the United Nations. Planning team members were invited to bring at least 15-20 stones with them to New York. A planning team member from Puerto Rico had members of her congregation bring stones to church that she brought to CSW.

This morning dawned and we made our final plans. We placed larger stones around the communion table and gathered the stones brought by the planning team members into baskets. As worshippers entered the chapel, each received a stone.

There was something about the stones.

A single red candle was lit. The service began. I strongly felt the Divine Presence.

IMG_0403After scripture had been read, songs had been sung, and words had been said, the worshipping community was invited to bring forth their stones and put them down around the table as symbols to remember the violence that our sisters have endured, to express our intention to put aside our complicity in that violence and to renew

Reflecting on the service, Laetitia Wells observed, “As the women brought their various stones to the table, I was moved during worship when I heard the loud sound of the stones hitting the table. Symbolically I felt that WE were taking a definitive STAND against violence against women and girls. Hearing the loud sound of the stones allowed me to think that we were eradicating the horrors that come with violence against women.” Jill Bolander Cohen commented, “This was a deeply spiritual and moving experience. It was really something watching women and men lay down stones which seemed to release something–something that weighed them down.” Jaime Staehle said, “Working together with women from all generations, walks of life, and places in the world was quite meaningful and really helped the theme of the service blossom.”

There was something about the stones–something special about being able to release some things that have burdened us all our lives. The Divine Momentum presented the opportunity for us to release them during our worship here today. Thanks be to God!

Photos by Andrew Nam Chul Osborne

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.)

March

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

Peng Leong, volunteer at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, met Theresa Symons during the International Women’s Day March. She interviewed Theresa about her ministry. Here’s how Theresa responded:

I am working as the Executive Director of Pusat Kebajikan Good Shepherd (Good Shepherd Welfare Centre) in Malaysia.

The primary focus of our work is with women and children experiencing crisis situations such as domestic violence, pregnancy crisis, abuse and other forms of crisis.  We also work with women who come from impoverished backgrounds especially those living in rural areas  with minimal access to basic services such as education, healthcare, water, sanitation and decent wages. I oversee 5 residential services and 6 preventive programs in different parts of Malaysia.

This is my first CSW and it was an awesome experience for me.  It was so good to with many women from different parts of the world, sharing the same joy, challenges and passion in advancing the status of women and girls; especially in the areas of human rights and basic necessities such as education, water and sanitation, health and decent wages. It was good to hear stories, to exchange best practices, to network with like minded women and to know that there is a wealth of information and resources available in different parts of the world.

I leave the CSW a different person from when I first came – equipped with more information, made some new friends and learned how to use human rights documents for advocacy and systemic change. I praise God for this opportunity and privilege to be here.

The picture shows Theresa (r) and Peng (l) at the International Women’s Day March.

Peng Leong wrote this article.

Presbyterian Side Event at the 56th Commission on the Status of Women

During this side event women from rural contexts share their stories connecting experience to issues, Global North to Global South, and the Bible to advocacy, with small group opportunities to learn more and determine actions we can take during the Commission on the Status of Women and at home to address poverty and hunger and work for just development. The side event was organized by Presbyterian Women, Young Women’s Leadership Development, Women’s Leadership Development, and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations in the PC(USA), and the Poverty Initiative at Union Theological Seminary in the city of New York.

The event began with a Bible study led by the members of the Poverty Initiative.

Stories from East Jerusalem, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and the United States (North Carolina, Illinois, and Oregon) were shared. The stories focused on issues around employment, hunger and nutrition, infrastructure, human trafficking, and domestic violence.

After the presentations, participants gathered in small groups to discuss intersections between the Bible stories, the stories shared by the presenters, and their personal stories. Each group was asked to identify key insights and action plans and to share one of those ideas.

With thanks for all who shared their stories and with prayers for God’s continued guidance and strength, the participants went forth to work to overcome poverty and hunger and to work for just development in the context of the Commission and in their homes – Global South and Global North.

Photos by Andrew Nam Chul Osborne

The Ecumenical Women’s worship service at the Commission on the Status of Women on Friday, March 2 focused on the World Day of Prayer. This year’s worship materials were written by women from Malaysia.

Theresa Symons, Executive Director of the Good Shepherd Welfare Centre in Malaysia, provided a Reflection on Malaysia during the Ecumenical Women’s worship that took place in the chapel at the Church Center for the United Nations. She noted the changes and the progress that Malaysia has seen over the past two decades.

She also reflected on the challenges face by the 4 million migrants who have come to Malaysia.

These women migrants do not have a voice, poverty has silenced their right to be heard. My heart aches.

But, she affirms that there is a ray of hope:

I see people braving prison sentences in order that the voices of the helpless are heard. I see people of different races, religions, culture and economic status walk the streets, demanding for fair general elections. I hear people affirming that human rights are women’s rights. I see people helping each other.

She concludes with a vision and a prayer:

May Malaysia be a land where truth, justice, and compassion prevail for all who come to my shores.

Amen!

[youtube http://youtu.be/ruD660UePGk]

 

Watch more videos from the World Day of Prayer Ecumenical Women worship service:

Call to Worship

Prayer of Intercession

Gospel Reading

 

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