From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
PRESBYTERIANS TO ATTEND NON-GOVERNMENTAL
05 May 1996 08:38:15
95305 PRESBYTERIANS TO ATTEND NON-GOVERNMENTAL
ORGANIZATION FORUM IN CHINA
By Julian Shipp
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--Sponsored by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program and
Women's Ministries Program Area, 36 participants in the Presbyterian Church
(U.S.A.) travel study seminar to China will depart the United States Aug.
28 and attend the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Forum, an event being
held parallel to the United Nations' conference on women in Beijing.
According to Debra Jones of the Presbyterian United Nations Office in
New York, the group will also travel to the cities of Zian, Nanjing, and
Hangzhou to explore the life of the church in China and the accomplishments
and challenges particularly of women as they work in the Chinese Christian
The NGO Forum itself is not a policy-making body. NGOs provide
technical expertise and grassroots perspectives to the U.N. and
governments. At the United Nations-sponsored Fourth World Conference on
Women Sept. 4-15, governmental representatives will examine the continuing
obstacles facing women globally. Part of the NGO's work will be to help
shape the conference's Platform for Action for the advancement of women.
This document will contain strategies to be carried out nationally,
internationally, and regionally to the year 2000 and beyond.
Issues to be considered at the conference include ways women can
obtain sufficient resources for personal and family survival; how women can
raise healthy, educated children; and how women can be safe from violence,
war and environmental degeneration.
From the onset, the women's conference has been marked with
controversy. Several conservative religious groups, concerned over what
they see as a liberal agenda at the U.N. conference, have criticized the
conference's Platform for Action draft documents.
For example, talk radio personality James Dobson, president of "Focus
on the Family," called the conference "the most radical, atheist and
anti-family crusade in the history of the world."
In June, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls publicly criticized
the draft document for its "ideological unbalance," complaining that it
gives short shrift to family and motherhood.
Contrary to these claims, the Beijing Platform for Action identifies
economic and political factors, not the institution of marriage, as the key
cause of women's problems. Moreover, while the draft does not criticize the
family, it does criticize authoritarian family structures, which prevent
women from making decisions about issues that effect them and their
The Rev. Susan H. Craig, associate director for Women's Ministries in
the National Ministries Division, said the majority of criticism of the
conference has come from U.S. Christian groups that she believes are
assuming the event is a Christian conference, which it is not.
"I also think that the most important thing for us to remember is that
this is not a conference about China, it's a conference about women, and
that it's a U.N. conference, not a U.N./China conference," Craig said. She
emphasized the fact that the Presbyterian group will attend the NGO Forum
and not the women's conference.
"We don't try to critique the conference or the NGO Forum from the
standpoint of Reformed faith," Craig said. "We'll be meeting Jewish people
and Muslim people and Hindu people and followers of Confucius."
Even so, Jones said, nearly 10,000 people have been denied visas and
hotel accommodations to the Beijing conference by the Chinese government
for unknown or unclear reasons.
The Presbyterian Church, through its programs, General Assembly
actions and ongoing involvement in the "Ecumenical Decade: Churches in
Solidarity with Women," has been actively involved in overcoming
discrimination and seeking justice and equality for women worldwide. This
concern for global women's issues is in part exhibited in the church's
ongoing involvement at the U.N. as a NGO.
The General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church have commended the
U.N. for its past women's conferences and affirmed the goals of those
consultations. Additionally, the church, through General Assembly
statements and in other ways, has addressed nearly all areas of concern to
be discussed at the Fourth World Conference on Women.
Upon returning home, participants will share their experiences in
China within their congregations, presbyteries and synods. The travel study
seminar is part of the denomination's ongoing Peacemaking Program travel
seminar series established in 1983.
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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