From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 09:02:12


                         By Julian Shipp  
HONG KONG--Preparing for the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Forum to 
be held near Beijing, 35 participants in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 
travel/study seminar to China gathered at Mandarin Church of Christ Aug. 30 
to worship, build community, strategize and discuss administrative matters 
related to the United Nations' Fourth World Conference on Women.  
     At the NGO Forum, nearly 40,000 women and men from around the world 
have gathered to discuss their ongoing work related to global women's 
concerns, celebrate women's achievements and examine strategies for working 
together to realize the goals of equality, development and peace.   
     Although the NGO Forum is not a policy-making body, and the PC(USA) 
group's visit to China is an educational seminar, not an official 
delegation to the U.N. women's conference, Forum participants will examine 
how to work with world governments to shape and implement policies 
regarding women.  
     A member of the Church of Christ in China Hong Kong Council, which is 
a partner church of the PC(USA), the Mandarin Church had its origin in 
China as a Presbyterian church. With refugees from Hunan as charter 
members, the congregation meets in a refurbished storefront apartment above 
a clamorous street.  
     Leading worship, Hazel Fuhrmeister, moderator of Presbyterian Women 
and a seminar participant from Southern New England Presbytery, reminded 
the predominantly female audience that the upcoming weeks will be 
challenging, but God and God's people will be there too.  
     "The next two weeks are going to bring some difficulties,  but there 
is no doubt that it will be worth it," Fuhrmeister said, encouraging the 
group to keep love, patience, generosity and prayer in abundance during 
their time together.  
     According to Melissa Gillis of the Presbyterian U.N. Office in New 
York, the U.S. has supported language in the conference's Platform for 
Action draft that invites governments to come to Beijing ready to state 
specific national commitments for priority action. She said this was done 
in order to help ensure that the words agreed upon come to life.       
     This, Gillis said, despite the fact there has been a lot of 
controversy since early April over the word "gender" in the Platform for 
Action by a handful of countries. She said this action took most countries 
by surprise since the word has been used extensively throughout the U.N. 
system for the past 20 years.  
     Interested nations met in May in order to resolve the issue.  Rather 
than attempt to define the word, they agreed to a chairperson's statement 
reflecting their general understanding of the word, acknowledged that there 
are no new meanings attached to the word, and agreed that "gender" would 
continue to be understood as before in the U.N. system.  
     "The term  gender' has been used at the U.N. since the early 1980s," 
Gillis said. "But there has been an evolution in that term over recent 
years. As it stands now, the term  gender' is still in the document, but it 
does cause a distraction. It does keep other [conference issues] from 
moving forward."  
     The Presbyterian group departed for Beijing on Aug. 31 and met with 
women in the Chinese church prior to attending the NGO Forum. 

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   Web page: 


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