Tagged: “International”

UU Free Library | Philippines

We live in an era of incredible story-telling and the recentering of peoples and communities who have been historically exploited, marginalized, and invisibilized. Books are at the center of lifelong learning, building community, and making meaning.

As new literature and media expand, there remains however a deep inequality. Throughout much of Southeast Asia, books are a luxury and public libraries are rare. For millions here, a book costs a week’s salary. Many cities and barangays (neighborhoods) lack a public library. Few feminist, liberal religious, environmental justice, and human rights books are available.

CORAL is a Unitarian Universalist community ministry based in Southeast Asia. We are establishing a small free library in line with our liberal religious and social change mission. We seek to collect, steward, and lend progressive books that are more difficult for ordinary people to find. We are based in Antipolo City, just East of Metro Manila in the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountains as part of a larger cohousing community. Learn more about us at www.coralph.org.

As Unitarian Univeraliasts, we believe deeply in the ongoing search for truth and meaning. For many of us, this has meant a loving relationship with literature. Lending and gifting books are an incredible way to build connections between people, and introduce new ideas to keep our “mind on fire” as Emerson might say. We seek donations of books, and small financial contributions to help us ship and organize donated books.

Support COVID-Relief for Unitarians in North East India

DISASTER RELIEF CAMPAIGN: ALL donations will be processed immediately

(NO ALL-OR NOTHING GOAL FOR THIS CAMPAIGN)

Background. India currently has the largest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Asia, the 2nd highest in the world. The state of Meghalaya, home of some 10,000 Unitarians, has been experiencing record daily spikes since mid-August. Lack of medicines, improper treatment, and insufficient testing laboratories – on top of a poor public health system – are exacerbating the health crisis.

To make matters worse, many homes of Unitarian families were damaged by the monsoon rains. Seng Kynthei, the Women’s Wing of the Unitarian Union of North East India has taken up social projects to help in the fight against COVID-19, such as distribution of masks in rural areas (see project image), as well as provided limited financial aid for the rebuilding of damaged houses and emergency food supplies. However, more funds are needed to strengthen Seng Kynthei’s initiative to confront the COVID-crisis and help prevent further community spread. The project also intends to address teenage pregnancy and child marriage, which the prolonged government-imposed lockdown has aggravated all over India.

What are the goals of this project?  The project will provide COVID-19 awareness programs and care packages for families, stimulate behavioral change toward stigma and discrimination of infected individuals, and address mental health impacts of the pandemic. Awareness programs will also include community education and mobilization to prevent teenage pregnancies and early marriages during the health crisis.


Project Endorsements

Rev. Nangroi Suting, General Secretary, UUNEI
The Unitarian Union of North East India (UUNEI) is happy to learn of this project of Seng Kynthei, in collaboration with the International Women’s Convocation (IWC). Having witnessed the commitment and resourcefulness of the members, I have a strong conviction that Seng Kynthei will take up the challenge responsibly.

Elgiva Dora Shullai, Seng Kynthei Global Sisters Coordinator and IWC board member

Covid-19 throws a challenge to human sustenance. Seng Kynthei has been trying to reach out to the less privileged in the form of relief efforts and awareness programs, especially for rural women and young adults. I am positive that this project will benefit young women and girls in these difficult times.


This is a project of the International Convocation of Unitarian Universalist Women, dba International Women’s Convocation (IWC), in partnership with Seng Kynthei, the Women’s Wing of the Unitarian Union of North East India. The project benefits Unitarian communities in North East India, contributing to the overall well-being and health of individuals and the entire Khasi society. Through this project, we are living our U*U values, bringing positive change in the world by connection, care, compassion, social justice, and service. IWC and Seng Kynthei have a strong ongoing collaboration – please see more here. Thank you for your support!

Volunteers cancel, Guatemala town struggles

Named after the Brazilian environmental activist, Chico Mendes, who lost his life protecting the rainforests, the Chico Mendes Reforestation Project was started in 1998, when the loss of forests and its consequences were evident to those living in Pachaj, Guatemala. This community is located near Quetzaltenango, in the Northwest Highlands of Guatemala.  Jorge Armando Lopez Pocol, a respected forester, and his family established a nursery and organizes the village as well as international volunteers to plant seeds, grow seedlings, and protect trees. The average number of trees planted each year in the last five years is 15,000. Currently, Jorge Armando has 40,000 trees ready to be planted.

One of Jorge Armando’s main goals is to plant the pinabete tree on the mountainside near his community.  The pinabete is the one tree where the rare Quetzal, national bird of Guatemala, will nest.  Planting the pinabete thwarts mining companies from destroying the mountainsides and will ensure good water quality for the village.

See the Chico Mendes website:  https://www.chicomendesguatemala.org

Because of the pandemic, nine volunteer groups scheduled to plant trees in Guatemala for The Chico Mendes Reforestation Project have canceled. This is devastating for a community that is living on the edge.  The Project depends on volunteer groups to transfer seedlings and to plant young trees, which in turn helps support the reforesting of the mountainsides.  In addition, income for the community is generated when volunteers pay to stay with families and take Spanish language classes. Without this income, the families and Spanish teachers will lack funds to feed their families.

From the three service-learning trips, many in our congregation have ties to the Chico Mendes Reforestation Project and have been supportive in past fundraisers.  Our UU accreditation as a Green Sanctuary congregation was due in part from this partnership.  In addition, we are knowledgeable about other groups who have traveled or were planning to travel there this spring and summer.  We are also well connected to various environmental groups and will communicate the needs of this project to them.

The funds raised will go for seeds, fertilizer, tools, supplies, and staff salaries to maintain the young trees and protect the forests.  Families who provide homestays and Spanish teachers will be compensated.

Contributions and support now will ensure the continuation and survival of the Chico Mendes Reforestation project.  The welfare of these community members and the protection of fragile ecosystems in the Guatemala Highlands also depend on contributions to weather the current crisis caused by the pandemic.  In the future groups will again take trips and plant trees with the villagers of Pachaj, hosted by Jorge Armando.

Testimonials:

“When I was in Guatemala, I observed the Chico Mendes group grow healthy seedlings and plant trees where they had been cut down.  Reforestation is an important job for humanity in terms of climate change.”  -Dr. John Hartman, Plant Pathologist Emeritus, University of Kentucky

“The Chico Mendes Reforestation Project not only provides clean air and water for the local people, but it also sends the message that sustainability is possible if everyone contributes.  By donating to this cause, you will be improving the local people’s quality of life and showing the world how vital sustainability is for our well being”.  -Justine Reschly, High School senior

“What most impressed me about the Chico Mendes Reforestation Project in Guatemala was the engagement and investment in youth.  They didn’t just work on reforestation, but they educated, hired, and mentored youth to participate in their work.  They understand the importance of youth education and involvement to bring change in future generations. “ -Meredith Gall, parent and participant

“The Chico Mendes Reforestation Project is as much a community and social justice effort as it is an environmental justice organization. Planting trees and protecting the environment is intimately related to protecting and providing for the local community. The connection with the local community both supports Chico Mendes and also provides a community stake in both the project and their environment. Our family’s connection with the community was good for us, them and, I firmly believe, the wider world.” -Dan Gall, parent and participant

Support Military Ministry

In World War II, the Church of the Larger Fellowship (CLF) was founded to reach out to those who were serving our country both at home and abroad. Today, our Military Ministry program is one of the CLF’s leading outreach programs.  There are over 25 Unitarian Universalist chaplains serving in all branches of the Military, located all over the United States and in Germany. The CLF supports UU military chaplaincy and active and returning military members.


Every dollar you donate will be tripled!

Can you give $50 to support the CLF Military Ministry today?

By contributing to the success of this Faithify Campaign,

you will be helping hundreds of service members across the globe.


Unitarian Universalists have served, and do serve, in the military (sometimes this feels like the best-kept secret in our denomination). In recognition of this, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has made strides towards welcoming military personnel and veterans into our congregations. In 2010, the UUA issued a Statement of Conscience entitled “Creating Peace” in which they declare:

“We bear witness to the right of individuals and nations to defend themselves, and acknowledge our responsibility to be in solidarity with others in countering aggression…We affirm a range of individual choices, including military service and conscientious objection…as fully compatible with Unitarian Universalism. For those among us who make a formal commitment to military service, we will honor their commitment, welcome them home, and offer pastoral support.”

Unitarian Universalist military members may have difficulty finding religious support that reflects their progressive values. These challenges often continue when UUs come home. Veterans may feel isolated and wonder how they will be welcomed back to their congregations.

That’s where the CLF Military Ministry comes in. We aim to provide spiritual support to service members and their families during active duty and when they come home. While educating and empowering the next generation of military chaplains to continue this crucial work.


“Marines would fall asleep in two minutes if I read a sermon to them. They expect 100% authenticity and 100% excellence, and if it’s not there, they don’t trust you. Preaching at the Church of the Larger Fellowship strengthened my instincts for creating sermons without writing a word. This has been an essential part of my success in chaplaincy.

—Susan Maginn, U.S. Navy Chaplain


Rev. Jake Morrill, former military chaplain, and current CLF Board Member, writes:

Whether in combat or not, a Service member’s duty involves ongoing decision-making, with high moral stakes. Promoting and supporting the capacity for ethical decision-making leads to an even more ethical, morally-grounded military culture. Military ministry is important because people in uniform, mostly young adults, are often encountering stressors different from stressors in civilian life…

In the military Unitarian Universalist ministry, in particular, plays an important role. As the military population, like the rest of the country, becomes steadily more secular and “un-churched,” a Unitarian Universalist military ministry can support meaning-making in the Humanist tradition. Unitarian Universalist ministry in the military celebrates GBLTQ Service members and their Families, and can provide vital programming, with an ethic of inclusion. When a Service member is Pagan or practices some other minority-status faith tradition or expression of spirituality, Unitarian Universalist ministry in the military doesn’t balk, but instead supports the free expression of that person’s faith, as upheld by the First Amendment.


When you donate $50, we receive $150.

Every single gift is being tripled.


The Church of the Larger Fellowship is crucial to the formation and support of military chaplains (MCs) around the world. We have built a sustainable pipeline to create and support the next generation of MCs. How do we do this?

  • We serve as the MCs home congregation 
  • We provide pastoral support to MCs
  • We host monthly meetings for MCs
  • We assess aspirant MCs
  • We provide MCs a congregation to which they can officially affiliate as community ministers and receive support

In short, we give military chaplains (who move around frequently) a place to call their own.


Your donation will help us provide resources to service members around the globe. 

With your funding we can provide our military personnel and their family with: 

Pastoral Care

Online Community Gathering Space

Written Resources and Materials

And More…


Read more about our Military Ministry program at www.clfuu.org/military.

*Due to generosity from the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock and a coalition of 12 individual donors, every dollar will be tripled.

Support Seminary Students...

This spring, Starr King School for the Ministry is running its first-ever pilgrimage in the Holy Land within its ECO model of educating to counter oppressions and build just and sustainable communities.

This semester long-course, entitled “Reviving Pilgrimage: Decolonizing Religious Travel to the Holy Land,” involves a 10-day pilgrimage mid-semester of Spring 2020 in order for students to both engage in historical forms of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish pilgrimage while also challenging the paradigm of pilgrimage and the religious pilgrim’s role in colonization.

Over the course of the semester, students will ask the questions: What does it mean, as a religious leader, to visit the Holy Land in these times? Is pilgrimage possible in the midst of occupation and colonization? How is bearing witness to injustice a political tool in liberation movements, and what more is required of us? How does travel to the Holy Land require of us responsivity to the moral and political crisis on the ground? How can we challenge the white/western saviour complex in the way we travel? How can we move from charity to solidarity? How can we move from religious tourism to pilgrimage? How do we, as people of faith, put faith into action?

In our times, we desperately need religious leaders with a critical awareness of and engagement with the political realities of the Holy Land today. Help Unitarian Universalism be a model for training its leaders for this crucial ministry. Your donation will go to off-set student travel costs, rendering this trip affordable for a socioeconomically and religiously diverse student body. Class registrants include students from Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Unitarian Universalist faith traditions.

We need an additional $6000 in the next 30 days to make the trip possible for this upcoming cohort of faith leaders. Can you support us?

Class Instructor and 2 students featured in video

Course instructor Faryn Borella and two of the registered students, Lisa Kynvi and Ariel Aaronson-Eves, recorded the segments in the video for this campaign explaining the concept of the trip and its importance to them.

This fundraiser is cosponsored by Starr King School for the Ministry, Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East, and Friends of Sabeel North America

Thank you for your support.

International Youth Pilgrimage

2016 pilgrimage village horse cart ride

The Unitarian Universalist Partner Church Council (UUPCC) and the Országos Dávid Ferenc Ifjúsági Egylet (ODFIE)—the youth wing of the Hungarian Unitarian Church in Transylvania and Hungary—are proud to collaborate on a pilgrimage and summer camp in Transylvania. The pilgrimage/camp will take place in July 2020. The UUPCC and ODFIE last collaborated on a highly successful summer camp in 2016. ODFIE runs the largest Unitarian or Unitarian Universalist youth camp operation in the world.

The UUPCC interviewed an impressive number of applicants before selecting fifteen North American youth who will go on the trip. The exceptional youth accepted on the trip come from coast to coast. ODFIE will choose a roughly equal number of Transylvanian youth to join in the experience.

During the pilgrimage and youth camp, we intend to foster community through encouraging personal connections between cultures and empowering youth through discussion groups, home visits with local families, camp games, etc. The group will also visit culturally and religiously significant sites in Unitarianism to help them grow in their own spirituality and knowledge of our faith. These sites will include Déva where Francis David died in prison, Torda where the Edict of Torda was debated and proclaimed, and Gyulafehérvár where early Unitarian leaders King John Sigismund and his mother Queen Isabella are buried. ODFIE will choose a service project for North American and Transylvanian youth to work on together. Before the pilgrimage and youth camp, we will work with youth and their advisors to ensure their cultural competency and preparedness for an intense and transformational journey. This will include Zoom sessions as well as a few days together in New York City before flying to Transylvania.

Planning the 2016 joint work project

Visiting Transylvania—in many ways the birthplace of Unitarianism—and getting to know kinfolk in faith from a different country will help North American youth participants grow deeper spiritually and become more skilled at intercultural engagement. They will experience firsthand some of our most important religious roots, as well as our faith’s rich past and deep, complicated present. Building cross-cultural community through shared activities, worship, common meals and visiting sacred sites will help participants sharpen their community building skills and create lifetime friendships. More than anything, they will learn about themselves and their spiritual journey through leaving their ordinary rhythm and living in a liminal space full of adventure and opportunity. Through this pilgrimage/camp, they each have the possibility to return home a changed person.

We hope that the pilgrimage/camp will deepen youth participants’ sense of UU identity and strengthen their commitment to continue engaging with our faith as they bridge into adulthood. Young adults who have had deep experiences of our faith such as this will help our faith thrive for many decades to come. In their own unique way, each youth who goes on the pilgrimage/camp could make important and lasting contributions to U/U congregations in North America and internationally.

The North American youth will be accompanied by three adults over twenty-five years old. The advisors will include a minister and a religious educator. The process of selecting the advisors and every aspect of the trip will be guided by the UUA’s youth safety guidelines.

The cost for the North American youth and adult advisors to go on the trip is around $2,100 per youth. A grant from the UU Funding Program and (hopefully) a successful Faithify campaign will help make the trip affordable for every youth who has been accepted into the program. Reaching the Faithify campaign goal of $10,000 will pay for about 60% of the youth overseas airline tickets. Additional funding will come from the UU Partner Church Council, fundraisers at the youths’ congregations, and youth families.

2016 group at the airport before departure

Empower Marginalized Bolivian Women to Create Change!

Background. The project builds on a pilot leadership development program implemented with funds raised on Faithify in 2018.  It took place in District 7 of Viacha (near the Bolivian capital, La Paz), home to indigenous Aymara, where women are mostly street vendors (and thus part of the informal economy). The initiative consisted of bi-weekly training courses in sewing, hairdressing, and baking, over a three-month period (August-October 2018). The practical trainings were complemented with workshops addressing economic empowerment and entrepreneurship, leadership, gender and society (with a special topic on masculinity, machoism, and femicides), prevention of domestic violence, and spirituality and meditation. The training was an inspiring spark for the 45 participants to think about paths to better livelihoods and to confront their situation of gender marginality. Project leader Calixta Choque Churata, a Unitarian from Viacha, would now like “to move forward and reach more women and girls who feel the need to be trained and empowered.” Given the success of the pilot training, interest in the continuation of the program is high. Please read more information about the pilot program here.

How will the funds be used? Funds will be used to implement practical courses in cooking and developing healthy food habits, hairdressing, sewing and making eco products; as well as leadership training focusing on capacity building in areas such as self-esteem development, gender equality, economic empowerment and entrepreneurial skills, prevention of violence, environmental education, and women in environmental decision-making. The participants will be selected by the local organizing team. Training sessions will take place twice weekly, over three months. Funds will be used for educational materials, training supplies, logistics, and the cost of trainers. The participants will enhance their ability to better manage their finances, be confident of their rights, and have a marketable skill. These results will decrease their level of vulnerability and discrimination and increase their ability to be financially independent. Graduates of the program can become resource persons for future training sessions.

Project Endorsements

Calixta, in green, with graduates of the baking class

Calixta Choque Churata, project leader (text of the video above): Life for women in Bolivia is difficult. “Machismo” culture is deeply entrenched. Sexism, misogyny, and violence are everyday occurrences. Many women are economically inactive and have limited job opportunities. That is why I believe that this program is a great opportunity for economically disadvantaged and marginalized women in Viacha to acquire tools and skills, gain confidence, develop leadership competencies, and achieve greater economic independence. This program offers marketable job skills – such as sewing, cooking or hairdressing – as well as business and leadership training. When women and girls are provided with training and entrepreneurial opportunities, they can challenge patriarchal norms and stereotypes; they can enter the workforce, build better livelihoods, and take on leadership roles in their communities. They can become role models to others. They can even start their own income-generating businesses. Please consider pledging to this project to give these women a dream. A dream to improve her livelihood. A dream to reach her financial independence. A dream to become a leader in her community. A dream to create her own future. Thank you! Gracias!

Participants in the Pilot Program

Delia Alexandra Fernández Vargas: I am 18 years old. This is my last year of school. I want to go to the university. I am thinking of studying biochemistry. I took the hairdressing training course because I like to learn hairstyles, hair care, new looks. I learned many useful things: for example, skin lightening, facial cleaning, hair care, massages, hair and skin hydration, new looks, and types of hair dyes. The teacher was very good. She knows her profession. I see myself doing hairstyles, hair dyes, or facial cleaning. I can offer these new skills. This training will definitely help me in the future. I wish I could learn so much more. The training course lasted a short time. I am grateful for what I learned. My heartfelt thanks go to all the people who gave us the opportunity of taking these courses.

Katharin Maldonado Tarqui: I am 14 years old. I come from a family with very limited resources. I took part in the hairdressing courses, which helped me get a job as a hairdresser’s assistant, during weekends, to supplement our small family income. I would like to continue this practical workshop as well as learn as much as I can about leadership and entrepreneurship – which will help me in my future. Who knows, I may be able to put my training towards starting my own business!

Project Partners. The Bolivian organizing team is made up of Unitarians from La Paz and surroundings. The project leaders, Calixta Choque Churata and Xiomara Salinas, attended IWC’s 2015 Gathering in Bolivia; Xiomara also attended IWC’s Third Women’s Convocation in California (February 2017). Our project partner is also the Unitarian Universalist community of La Paz, Bolivia (Comunidad Unitaria Universalista Boliviana).

Help Cassie attend GA 2019 in Spokane!

What I am doing in this role:

This will be my 4th General Assembly, and second year as volunteer staff for Young Adults at General Assembly (YA@GA). My first year as Co-Facilitator was in Kansas City in 2018 and we had a great GA, and I learned a lot. As the second year Co-Facilitator I will be supporting some of our brilliant young adult leaders, and passing on what I’ve learned in this position. My role involves working with the Youth and Young Adult staff at the UUA in creating the job descriptions, applications, and the selection of our yearly volunteer YA@GA staff. I also do ongoing work supporting leadership development, creation of workshops and social events for General Assembly, and ensuring everything runs smoothly at GA itself.

I have put a bit about who I am, outside this position. Watch this space for updates on what kind of content we are creating for young adults and the larger UU community at GA 2019!

Who I am:

As a life-long UU and expatriate of the US, I am personally and spiritually delighted to be able to return to the US to participate in GA again this year. I grew up in what is now the Southern District, at the Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Texas. I attended UU summer camps in Oklahoma (SWUUSI) most of my childhood and into young adulthood and even Maine (Ferry Beach) a few summers as a preteen. Before I emigrated out of the north Texas area, I spent my Sundays at Horizon Unitarian Universalist Church, organizing workshops for the young adults, facilitating Coming of Age, and teaching Adult/Young Adult OWL.

I am dedicated to doing anti-racism work, such as the White Supremacy Teach-In at Auckland Unitarian and Undoing Racism with the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond at GA in 2017. I am a member of Allies For Racial Equity leadership collective, and worked on the application for the Fund for Unitarian Universalism grant (which we were awarded!) to increase the organization’s ability to do anti-racism coaching, education, and activism work in our UU faith spaces.

Here in Aotearoa New Zealand I am a student researcher, pursuing a master’s of public health at the University of Otago on the South Island. I am exploring the positive experiences of transgender and gender diverse people with their doctors and hope to complete early in 2020. I also volunteer locally for teaching on LGBT+ issues for university faculty and student leadership, as well as organizing local transgender and gender expansive social meetups. There is not a U/U church in my area, but I have served as a delegate to Auckland Unitarian Church before and hope to again. Representing a congregation so far from the US, I present our community with a unique and rare opportunity to participate and engage with UUA politics and goings-on.

The nitty gritty:

Flights are about $1660.00 in total, my required international travel insurance will be around $125 USD this year. With the UUA travel stipend of $600.00 USD, it will require about $1300 to cover travel, travel insurance, and Faithify processing fees. Any money raised over that will go toward any unforeseen travel add ons!

Invest in Educational...

Project Beneficiaries:

Community Empowerment Network-Haiti (CEN Haiti) has been providing support to the Petion-Ville community in Haiti for the past four years.  The only community school in the area, l’Ecole Communautaire de Phillippeau particularly targets restaveks, who are children who left their rural home where there are no schools available to stay with family members in the city in hope of being able to attend school and pay for their room and board by doing housework. The school was founded in 2002 specifically to provide an educational opportunity for this at-risk youth population.

Project Description and Rationale:

The school is located in a low-income area that has seen an influx of residents with each natural disaster over the past decade. Since its partnership with CEN-Haiti began in 2016, the school has made significant progress in revitalizing and reconstructing a strong educational program for approximately 400 students per year. To accommodate the maximum number of students, the school offers a morning program from 7:00 am – 12:00 pm and another program from 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm.

Because the school particularly focuses on providing educational services to restaveks, the half-day program gives the students time to come to school without neglecting their house chores. Making the program half-day and free, except for a small administrative fee, removes any excuse for families not sending a child to school. In order to ensure the integrity of the program, the local Committee for the Protection of Children will visit the home of any child who has missed school to caution the family that they will be reported to the local authority if their child does not attend school regularly. The committee is composed of local leaders who are very good at following up to ensure that the host families treat the restavek children and youth well, including giving them sufficient time to focus on their studies and complete homework.

L’Ecole Communautaire de Philippeau provides at-risk youth with a comprehensive primary- to-secondary education program, thus addressing a critical need for the surrounding communities. The program expects to also offer young people an opportunity to continue their education, learn English, and build technical skills necessary to attain a job in one of the local industries.

Professional education continues to be a key factor in Haiti’s economic development. The accumulated deficits from natural disaster and economic downfall have created a situation that requires an immediate effort on the part of the Haitian government and local organizations to support underprivileged children who are marginalized due to issues of economic class. It is imperative to support these youth by providing technical assistance and training that could enable them to benefit from a good education that meets their needs.

Director-and-teachers

How Much Money the School Needs for its Yearly Operations:

Recognizing the critical importance of education to community empowerment and economic development, CEN-Haiti has invested heavily in the revitalization of the school.   This campaign will support the school to raise $15,000, which is needed to meet its yearly operating budget and sustain the school for the remainder of the 2019 school year. One generous donor has already pledged $10,000.  Please join us and helping raise an additional $5,000 in funds through Faithify.

MID-YEAR QUANTITATIVE RESULTS (2018-2019 SCHOOL YEAR)

Number of Registered Students 400 (5 classes with 40 students each/morning and afternoon groups)
Number that will complete the academic year 390
Number of Teachers 13 (6 for Primary School; 7 for Secondary)
Average Number of Teacher Hours Per Week 44

Muslim-Jewish Dialogue: Jerusalem-Hebron Religious Leaders Forum

The organizers

The project is co-coordinated and co-sponsored by the International Association for Religious Freedom and the Interfaith Encounter Association, one of its Middle Eastern member groups. The IARF, established at the beginning of the 20th century by Unitarians and European Free Christians, has since developed into a truly interfaith platform of exchange and collaboration between religious liberals of different faiths, represented at the UN and involved in a variety of projects in such diverse regions as Japan, Pakistan, India, Kenya, the Middle East, Europe and North America. These projects focus on interfaith dialogue and peace building initiatives, both local and intercontinental (such as our quadrennial Congresses), as well as human rights education and advocacy at national and international levels.

We are particularly proud of and excited about this cooperation with the Interfaith Encounter Association, our long-standing member in the Middle East. We have been greatly impressed by the passion and dedication of the local volunteers and have been supporting them as best we could since 2011. Still, their dreams and the needs in the region are far greater than our means, especially now that they lost an important funding source from the US when the Trump Administration terminated support of any such groups, which they previously enjoyed through a number of programmes.

Please consider supporting us in our strife to counter hostility and ignorance. You may read about the project below, at our website (iarf.net/projects/israel) and at the website of the IEA (interfaith-encounter.org).

The project

The purpose of the Jerusalem-Hebron Religious Leaders Forum is to create a uniquely effective path toward harmonious co-existence. The main Forum continuously recruits leading community religious leaders (Rabbis of synagogues and villages, heads and teachers in Yeshivot, Imams in mosques, community Sheikhs and others).

Currently the Forum consists of several Heads and teachers of Yeshivot, Chief Rabbi of the town of Efrat and several Salafi Sheikhs from Hebron and Yata. They are consistently exposed to each other’s teachings and practices through regular encounters of joint study and open conversation, while emphasizing mutual respect and sincere desire for understanding. The process leads them to get to know each other better and better, gain more knowledge about the religion of the other, and through that – become more respectful of the other and develop strong bonds of friendship and cooperation. Moreover, the process leads them to share their experience with their students, who are the future religious and social leaders of the Holy Land, and encourage them to form their own groups.

Out of the groups already formed, these are currently active: two groups with students of Otniel Yeshiva and young adults from Yata, students of Otniel Yeshiva and young adults from Hussan, and young adults from Jenin and Gilboa. In addition – a group was formed in Hebron and another group of families from Jericho and Jerusalem. Three branches of the Forum are now in the process of formation: a group of religious leaders in the Tel Aviv area, a group of Ultra-Orthodox Jews and religious Muslims and a group of religious leaders in the Galilee. With time, the Forum and students’ groups will develop into a regional forum whose voice is heard by the people who live in the region between Jerusalem and Hebron, and hopefully other parts of the Holy Land. In parallel the forum will work to recruit support from top leaders, who will also visit occasionally the encounters, even if their time will not permit regular participation.

Due to their position as community religious leaders, the ripple effect will be especially significant. They will convey the message of harmonious coexistence in two ways by incorporating it into their regular teachings, and in responding publicly and jointly to occurrences of xenophobia or prejudices.

Working in a region that is no stranger to conflict, we strive to use a grass-roots approach to facilitate lasting social change. The Forum incorporates the knowledge and experience of regional leaders who have lived their lives within the conflict. Participation alone is a powerful signal of the willingness of people of the region to move towards peace. It is also important to note that Jerusalem and Hebron themselves hold deep religious significance for Islam and Judaism. It has been the setting of ancient and recent conflict. It is essential to the future of both communities to work together to create peace since the Israeli-Palestinian conflict not only affects the citizens in the region, but is also used as a rallying point for tensions and even hatred all over the world. The Jerusalem Hebron Religious Leader’s Forum is coordinated by an energetic and resourceful pair, a Rabbi and a Sheikh. Each of the student groups is coordinated by a Jewish-Muslim team. The Forum meets on a consistent basis every 5-10 weeks, totalling 5-10 encounters during the year. The encounters includes 10-20 influential religious leaders of both the Jewish and Islamic faith who reside in the region around Jerusalem and Hebron.

After mutual greetings, each encounter will start with presenting the theme chosen for it from the Jewish and Muslim perspectives. In the second part, participants study the theme in depth for about an hour – in light of the presentations and the religious texts of both religions. The last part, of around 30 minutes (more/less as needed) is dedicated to identifying public issues that need to be jointly addressed and working to address them, and planning the next encounter. A few specific examples of possible joint projects to combat xenophobia are: making public statements, writing joint editorials, newspaper columns, etc. In parallel: the coordinators of the Forum work to invite more community religious leaders to join the Forum and to recruit the support of top religious leaders (such as the Chief Rabbis of Israel, heads of Islamic courts, heads of religious academies, heads of leading families in the region etc.)

Testimonials

You can find more stories and extensive reporting at the website of the IEA. 

Abdallah Abu Ghanem
I grew up in a single-parent family after my dad had left us and my mother, who is illiterate, raised us by herself.I was born in 1967 in Jerusalem, which means that I grew up after the Six-Day-War and I was taught to hate the Jews (due to the consequences of that war). In elementary school I started learning Hebrew and our Jewish teachers were very kind to us. This caused an internal conflict in me because on one hand I was taught to hate the Jews but here I witnessed how nice and kind the Jewish teachers were behaving towards us. After I graduated from High school I applied to the university but the first Intifada broke out in 1987 and the universities were shut down. As a result I started working and developed relationships with Israeli Jews. I discovered wonderful people (just like those Jewish teachers) – unlike what I had been taught about the Jews till then. This revelation motivated me to start reading about “the other” and engage in conversations with “the other” in order to get to know Jews by talking TO them and not ABOUT them. Then I discovered the Interfaith Encounter Association, started attending encounters and found the place I had been looking for. I believe that G’d created nations and tribes so that we would strive to reach out and get to know each other, as it is mentioned in the Quran. Otherwise, He would have made us all one nation.

Nurit Shoshani-Hechel
Two years ago I joined encounters between Jews and Muslims through the Interfaith Encounter Association. I am currently a part of a group of Jews from Jerusalem and Muslim-Arabs from the Hebron area and we get together once every three or four weeks. During the encounters wonderful friendships were formed between the participants. I discovered over time that even though we had and still have disagreements about politics, we have plenty of similarities as well. Close ties and fondness were forged between the participants from both sides and I have to admit that on a personal level I became more tolerant and understanding towards the Palestinians and the difficulties they were facing and I think the same process took place on the other side as well. Nowadays we are all looking forward to the encounters and upon one of the participants’ suggestion we started teaching each other Hebrew and Arabic. I find myself trying hard to learn new words in Arabic and the motivation to get to know each other grew tremendously. We sometimes had difficult conversations that challenged us to think deeply but then more peaceful conversations followed that allowed us to feel connected and develop our friendship. I would like to express my deep respect and appreciation towards the Interfaith Encounter Association, in which no matter who you are, whether you are religious or secular, left-wing or right-wing, a settler or a staunch opposer of settlements, a supporter of normalizating relations with Israel or opposes normalization – the door is open to all. I believe that the Interfaith Encounter Association is truly unique in its openness and tolerance. It does not require any prerequisites from any of its participants but rather provides a platform for people who are willing to listen and express their views and find the similarities. I hope that the association’s activities will continue and the organization itself will grow and expand because I have no doubt it is of high value and importance.

Endorsements from Unitarians

Elizabeth Darr

Since 1975 I have been a member of the First UU Society of San Francisco, with whose support I became a Credentialed Religious Educator, Master Level (now retired). I have been a member of the IARF since about 1988, when our congregation was tapped for volunteers to work at the IARF World Congress held on the Stanford campus. Having served as Treasurer on the IARF international council for the immediate past term, and currently serving as co-chair of the US Chapter, I feel deeply connected to the projects that our modest organization is able to support.  Among them, the IEA may be the one I feel is most directly contributing to peace, to a diminishing of violence. When I think of world community, with peace and justice, I think that supporting this project is just about the most direct way I live that principle.

Robert Ince

As President of the International Association for Religious Freedom and as former Convenor of the General Assembly of Unitarians in the UK, I very much endorse the work of Interfaith Encounter Association. For me their work is entirely within the spirit of the 6th Principle of the UUA: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all. The IARF and many Unitarian and Universalist communities throughout the world have supported this work over a number of years and, given the demonstrable success and growth that the IEA has shown, it seems to me to be essential that we encourage and publicise their work as a shining example of how to combat fundamentalism and bring peace in the Middle East closer to becoming a reality.

Rev. Dr. Richard Boeke

I add my name to those w ho support the petition to “Faithify” for support of Interfaith Encounters Association.
The IARF has given birth to both the Partner Church Council and the ICUU. To my mind it still deserves the support of UUs and other Faith Communities. If Faithify takes up the cause, I will contribute to support IARF Colleagues leading the Interfaith Encounters Association. Unitarians of Horsham gave £1,000 after Dr. Yehuda Stolov spoke at our Sussex Church. Shalom, Salaam Alaykum

What your donation can do

30$ – covers printing and communications costs for one encounter session.
60$ – buys food for one encounter session.
100$ – enables a Palestinian youth to come to Israel for an encounter session.
250$ – allows us to retain trained coordinators of one encounter session.
500$ – covers all the costs for one Palestinian and Israeli Encounter.
1,500$ – pays for one retreat.
‍5,000$ – can sustain one ongoing dialogue group for one year.

Help Fund a...

Located in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia, the Unitarian Church of South Australia maintains a gorgeous plot of native bush land which is home to the historic Shady Grove chapel, cemetery, and hut. Unitarian services have been delivered from the chapel from as early as 1856 and continue to this day. A later addition was the hut, which is regularly used for shared lunches, children’s camps, and retreats for adults and families.

But – a new heater is needed for the hut at Shady Grove to keep the chill away in the colder months and to allow the site to be used to its full potential as a special place for our Unitarian Universalist community. Please help us buy a good quality secondhand heater for the space. Any leftover funds will be used to improve the hut at Shady Grove, which could use some additional improvements.

In love and service,

Your friends from the Unitarian Church of South Australia

Destination Dignity! Partnering with Refugees in Greece to Build a Vocational School and Worker’s Cooperative.

This a wonderful opportunity for UUs to partner with refugee communities in Greece as they seek to re-establish lives of worth and dignity. Over 65,000 refugees have been trapped in Greece for more than 2 years.  Many are beginning to lose hope and to despair of ever being acknowledged as anything other than a “refugee.”  This Worker’s Cooperative in Athens will be the first of its kind in Greece: designed, managed, and staffed by refugees….and supported by UUs!  

Our purpose:  to prepare people with vocational skills suitable for employment while also producing products and services for sale in Europe and the United States. Our on-site partners have skills in engineering, computer software, construction management, and numerous indigenous crafts.  The engineer who will manage the workshop has two years of experience making furniture for refugee camps and cafes from recycled wood and metal scavenged from the streets of Athens.

Our goal is to provide enough financial stability to support at least one year of operation. Your Faithify contribution in support of our $10,000 goal will be matched dollar for dollar by an anonymous private foundationTwenty thousand dollars will be sufficient to rent a workshop and to support vocational classes for 12 months.

Once established, we will seek sustainable support from individual donors, governmental agencies and foundations.  With skill, determination and some luck, the cooperative will generate supplemental revenue to support its workers and its vocational programs. Our local partners currently plan to offer training in welding, jewelry making, woodworking, embroidery, and computer software.  The board of the cooperative will make the final decision as to what skills offer their clientele the greatest possibility of employment and design their programs to accommodate those needs.  The board will then select skilled trainers who are best qualified to deliver its vocational training programs.

Shared Humanity plans to establish an on-going supportive relationship with individual UUs and UU congregations and invite donors to come to Greece to work in our cooperative community. We UUs are called upon to be supportive of people who have lost their livelihoods, their homes, their communities, and most tragically, their loved ones.  Our actions, and in-actions, will have a lasting impact on ourselves and those we hope to serve.  Now is the time to move towards rather than away from the refugee crisis.  Join us in supporting people who have as their ultimate destination……. Dignity.

Thank you!

For more information about Shared Humanity USA watch our in-depth video, Delivering Hope and Dignity in Greece

Endorsements:

“As Unitarian Universalists, we are called to live out our values of social justice in the world. Shared Humanity USA,  founded by  UU couple, Latifa and Colin Woodhouse, is an example of putting our faith into action. This program will give refugees the tools and skills that will affirm their inherent worth and dignity. They will work  collaboratively with each other to create a sustainable way forward for displaced people. I hope you will support this Faithify campaign in the way you are able.” Aisha Hauser, Director of Lifelong Learning at East Shore Unitarian Church, Bellevue, WA.

“Tragically, our world is experiencing the greatest refugee crisis since World War II.  Martha and Waitstill Sharp, my grandparents and founders of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, risked their lives to save innocent people violently uprooted by war- and in doing so- left us a legacy that we Unitarian Universalists  honor by our steadfast commitment to justice, equity and compassion.  I am proud to be an enthusiastic supporter of Shared Humanity and invite you to join me in supporting this wonderfully innovative project that will be the first workers cooperative established in Greece by and for refugees.” Artemis Joukowsky III, PBS Producer and Co-director with Ken Burns of Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War

“We support the Worker’s Cooperative in Athens as a way to give refugees a chance for a purposeful life.  This is a very innovative and well thought out approach to giving refugees the skills they will need to rebuild their lives.  The facts that this operation is fully staffed by refugees and the raw materials used are recycled show that not only do we care for people was also care for our mother earth.” Susan Goekler, Chair, Commission on Social Witness and Mac Goekler, Chair UU Peace Ministry Network