Saturday, March 18, 2006

A Dark Anniversary

As we continue the death march of the Iraq war into a fourth year this week, let us mourn for over 33,000 innocent civilian lives along with over 2,300 US service men and women...all someone's loved one...all lost.

Please visit Baghdad Burning, a blog that I read regularly from one young Iraqi woman's perspective living in the midst of the horrors of war.

Let us pray for peace on this dark anniversary.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Speaking Truth to Power

I just returned from four days in Washington DC attending the Ecumenical Days of Advocacy For Global Peace With Justice as social justice coordinator for Queen Anne United Methodist Church. It was an amazing experience and I’m all fired up! This year’s conference theme was “Challenging Disparity: The Promise of God – The Power of Solidarity.” The conference, including over 1,000 participants from various denominations around the country, offered a series of workshops and lectures on issues of US foreign and domestic policies ranging from the environment, security, economics, and health. We also received training on how to influence legislators most effectively.

I chose the Africa issues track as that is a big passion of mine. Our keynote speaker was Stephen Lewis, United Nations Secretary General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. What an amazing man (and Canadian, too!). If you ever have the chance to hear him speak I highly recommend it. He is poignant, witty, intelligent, and a wonderful story-teller. His talk was powerfully motivating to build political will to fund the fight against HIV-AIDS in Africa. During this talk I sat next to and had a chance to speak with Wahu Kaara, an intense and riveting woman who was nominated for a Nobel Peace prize last year and is currently running for the presidency of Kenya!

In between workshops my friend Lisa Shannon and I networked with a handful of wonderful organizations that were represented at this event, including Marie Clark Brill, Director of Public Education and Mobilization for Africa Action, who graciously offered her time and advice. We have asked her to continue mentoring us as we begin to establish the foundations of a campaign for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Several other individuals and organizations have expressed interest in forming a coalition with us to build awareness and work for peace and justice in the DRC. In fact, one of the presenters was a Congolese man, who holds a graduate degree in conflict resolution. He will be helping us make contact with local peace activists and organizations in the DRC. We are definitely on a roll!!! Lisa and I anticipate heading to the Congo ourselves relatively soon for a fact-finding and coalition-building mission. We want to see for ourselves the situation there and ask the Congolese what they think about how we can most effectively help shape US policy towards their country (which, incidentally, is about to have their first democratic elections in 40 years!).

Yesterday we spent the entire day on Capitol Hill lobbying for the particular issues we had just spent the weekend being educated about. It was exhilarating and nerve-wracking. I met with the legislative aids of Congressman McDermott and Senators Murray and Cantwell. As the Senate is voting on the 2007 budget this week, it is a highly important time to make sure strategic HIV/AIDS funding is not cut any further. I presented several specific points relating to the needs represented and reminded them of the US pledge during the G8 summit to commit 1/3 of the necessary assistance towards the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. I also asked for further appropriations to fund the training and support of healthcare workers in impoverished countries, where even if funding for medication gets through, there is no one available to implement the program and get the medicine to the people.

I think it went really well, of course my reps are pretty much on the same page so it didn’t take a lot of convincing. But there was a lot of talk about the deficit and where is the money going to come from. My answer is simple: our country needs a budget that represents the sanctity of life. If we cut back on funding for programs that represent death and destruction, we would have more than enough for programs that value life… and still plenty left to go towards our deficit! For example, while the Senate votes this week to decide if the 2007 budget will include $4 billion towards fighting AIDS, they will also vote on an appropriations bill for almost $70 billion more for the Iraq war (with $200 billion already spent!). One choice could save millions of lives, while the other will continue to take thousands of lives and greatly increase our deficit. Click HERE and HERE if you are US citizen and want to take action on these issues today.

Between appointments with my state reps I attended an interfaith prayer vigil for peace in Iraq on the Capitol lawn. Here I met Mike Ferner, a Vietnam veteran, peace activist, and writer. Since February 15th Mike and four others from Voices for Creative Nonviolence have been on a fast entitled “The Winter of our Discontent” to commemorate the third anniversary of worldwide protest against the Iraq invasion. The fast will end on March 20th, the date on which the US invaded Iraq three years and thousands of lives ago. Check out this interview with Mike.

Before heading home I also met with Women for Women International, an amazing organization that I promote as often as possible and who will be working with us on our campaign for peace in the DRC.

Exhausted, yet… invigorated. There is a lot of work to be done. Hope you will join in solidarity to challenge disparity and speak Truth to power!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Grid Blog for International Women's Day: Being Human

Several years ago I read the following passage and a grieving welled up from a place so deep within me I had not previously been aware of its existence. The weeping that erupted and lasted for hours shocked me. My visceral reaction to these words betrayed a profound spiritual wound that had been ignored and even shamed throughout my many years in the church. I realized that my trust in the Christ figure I professed to serve was severely marred by my equation with Him to patriarchal figures and attitudes within the Christian faith. It was a moment of empowering Truth, the beginning of healing. It was the first time as a woman that I could recall feeling a sense of solidarity with Christ…and it made me love Him with more abandon than ever.

Here is that passage from Dorothy Sayers’ “The Human-Not-Quite-Human” essay:

“Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man—there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as “The women, God help us!” or “The ladies, God bless them!”; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unselfconscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything “funny” about woman’s nature.
But we might easily deduce it from His contemporaries, and from His prophets before Him, and from His Church to this day. Women are not human; nobody shall persuade that they are human; let them say what they like, we will not believe it, though One rose from the dead.”

On this, International Women’s Day, let us celebrate our Humanness! Let us dismantle the edifice in the church that keeps women relegated to non-human roles. Let us smash Patriarchy, but also grieve for the brokenness of mankind. Let us remember women in the Congo, Darfur, Afghanistan, India, and so many other places where the perverse rule of Patriarchy is stealing dignity and destroying lives. Let us lift our voices and join Christ's song of Emancipation!

Please visit Grid Blog for International Women's Day to read more thoughts.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Pangea Cinema Day

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a talk by documentary film-maker Jehane Noujaim. Her recent Control Room, a controversial look behind the scenes of the news coverage of the Iraq war including stunning interviews with Al Jazeera journalists and the US military press secretary, is a must see—go rent it now!

Just one week ago she won the prestigious TEDprize. Last year’s recipient, Bono, founded ONE as a result of this prize. The prize includes funding for the recipients “wish” to change the world and must be accomplished in one year’s time.

Noujaim’s wish stems from her own experiences seeing how images can be transformational, how it can take a viewer across borders into another persons reality. Her hope is that by showing the stories of people from different religious, cultural, racial, and economic backgrounds, a bridge of understanding and peace will be built:

"Imagine a day when you have everyone coming together from around the world and sharing a communal experience of watching a film all together, all at the same time, from Times Square to Ramallah to the side of the Great Wall of China. If we can create this global day of film, it can create momentum and provide a platform for independent voices and independent filmmakers to get out there".

This wish, known as “Pangea Cinema Day” (referring to when the earth’s continents were one landmass), is in the very beginning stages of development, but I for one am on board. What an exciting opportunity to be a part of. A single day when human beings around the planet come together to be transformed through the experience of another's story. There is talk of a global discussion period to take place after the film viewing, organized by Google. So keep your finger on the pulse of this one, it’s got serious potential.