From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
PRESBYTERIAN WOMEN ARRIVE AT NGO FORUM IN CHINA
05 May 1996 09:00:12
95311 PRESBYTERIAN WOMEN ARRIVE AT NGO FORUM IN CHINA
by Julian Shipp
BEIJING--Members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) travel/study seminar
to China arrived at the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Forum on Sept.
1 -- just in time to be greeted by a deluge of rain that added to the
logistical complications and frustrations experienced by nearly 40,000
Although the NGO Forum (a parallel event to the United Nations' Fourth
World Conference on Women) officially opened Aug. 30, the 35-member PC(USA)
group will have the opportunity to pick and choose among hundreds of
workshops, panels, congresses, tribunals, training seminars, interactive
projects, and exhibits.
During the 10-day event, NGOs will go through a strategic planning
process with the goal of strengthening the international women's movement.
Beginning with an analysis of global forces shaping women's lives, the
conference will shift to highlighting innovative NGO strategies and end
with a discussion of future action agendas.
But the action of the day Sept. 1 was to attempt to stay warm and dry
as Forum participants struggled to find their way around Huairou scenic
tourist area, a site about 60 kilometers from Beijing's center, in the
midst of a downpour.
Some Presbyterians were obviously better prepared than others as
indicated by their ponchos, rain shoes and umbrellas. Others coped with the
showers as best they could by standing under tents and trees, flocking into
buildings, or simply resigning themselves to make the most of their
Even so, no one could have foreseen the collapse of a low brick wall
near an outdoor exhibit area following a mudslide. No injuries were
reported, but the incident snarled traffic around the area for several
In addition to inclement weather, there were numerous delays and
last-minute cancellations by Forum speakers and moderators, maps that were
difficult to interpret, building numbers that did not coincide with the map
locations and a language barrier comparable to the Tower of Babel.
"It doesn't seem like the people who planned this event had any idea
of what 40,000 people means," said Letitia Campbell, of Mobile, Ala., in
South Alabama Presbytery. "We were going through metal detectors first,
but then they later turned them off due to the overflowing crowds."
"The first thing that we saw when we came here were [Forum security
officers and volunteers] closing a gate and people trying to force their
way through," said Christina Linhoff of St. Paul, Minn., in Twin Cities
Presbytery. "They finally gave in to the crowd. I asked three volunteers
for directions and they weren't able to help me. It's very frustrating."
Unfortunately, the rain lingered throughout the day. But frustration
levels lowered as participants became oriented to Huairou and located their
Evelyn Gehres of Detroit Presbytery attended a workshop chaired by an
American theologian that she said attracted participants from Hong Kong,
Sri Lanka and other countries. Gehres said the program focused on women in
grassroots religious movements and the obstacles they encounter.
"I think the thing that I will always remember about the workshop is
the gender and ethnicity issues and the importance of connecting
spiritually," Gehres said.
Yvonne Mathews, of Omaha, Neb., in Missouri River Valley Presbytery,
said she attended a workshop that focused on the struggles of women from
all over the world. Mathews said the experience was heartfelt and she was
astounded by the similarity of the women's lives despite cultural, societal
and economic differences.
"It was amazing," Mathews said. "I expect some truly great things to
come out of this forum."
"I attended two excellent workshops," said Ann Hale Johnson, of
Washington, D.C., in National Capital Presbytery, "one on women in
spirituality and the other on violence against women. We heard from several
international women, and it's just mind-blowing where all these people are
The Forum concludes Sept. 8. During their stay in Beijing, members of
the Presbyterian group are expected to meet with members of the Commission
of Women's Work and China Christian Council and are tentatively scheduled
to tour the Great Wall of China, the Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square and
the Forbidden City.
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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