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[PCUSANEWS] United we stand

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Date Thu, 1 Feb 2007 08:56:09 -0500

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07065 February 1, 2007

United we stand

Social witness policy committee gets immersion in the United Nations

by Toya Richards Hill

NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. - The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) committee that develops social witness policies got a one-day immersion in how faith-based organizations relate to the United Nations, and what the PC(USA) and its cohorts can do to help tackle world issues.

The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) spent Thursday, Jan. 25 visiting the denomination's United Nations Office and meeting with various officials working in and around the structure of the UN.

Information was shared by a broad range of entities working at the UN, including the World Council of Churches, the American NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court and Caritas Internationalis.

The UN Office gathering was part of a larger ACSWP meeting held Jan. 24-28 at the PC(USA)'s Stony Point Conference Center, located just outside New York City.

"What happens here is done in community," Joel Hanisek, the Presbyterian representative to the UN, told ACSWP. Hanisek, hired in September 2006 to lead the UN office, works closely with various ecumenical partners and like-minded non-governmental organizations (NGO) to address human rights, justice and peacemaking issues.

"It's our job to really press the agenda so that things don't fall off the map," said Joseph Donnelly, International Delegate to the United Nations for Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development and social service organizations. "We have a prophetic voice and are called to do something."

Donnelly shared with ACSWP details on the formation of the NGO Committee on Africa at the UN, an effort spearheaded largely by church-related organizations with a presence on the ground in New York City.

"Being that persistent presence" is what it has taken, he said. "By being steadfast, doors * continue to open."

He encouraged ACSWP to address issues related to health, education, women and business, and hunger in Africa, and also suggested the committee write to new UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Tapping the new UN leadership also was a recommendation of Emily Bruno, an adviser with the United States Mission to the United Nations.

"It's a good time to get in with the secretariat," she told ACSWP. Also, "the more voices that can say the same thing, the better."

Hanisek, a graduate of Yale Divinity School and a former young adult intern for educational and advocacy initiatives at the PC(USA) UN Office, said coalition building is "essential," and particularly in terms of lifting up the church voice within the larger UN NGO community.

"We're all seen with the same face," he said. "Yet we don't always operate as such."

"There hasn't been that intentional, 'Here's our political agenda for the year,'" Hanisek said.

In other news from the ACSWP meeting:

The group's visit to Manhattan also included a stop at the office of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC). There, NCC General Secretary Robert Edgar outlined NCC goals and initiatives, including its work with the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign to raise the minimum wage. The PC(USA), through its Washington Office, also is part of the campaign.

ACSWP passed a motion to hold a two-day consultation in spring in the Chicago area to discuss globalization issues. The meeting will involve speakers with diverse perspectives on globalization and people from various denominations and grassroots social justice organizations in order to generate ideas for a study guide to the paper "Just Globalization: Justice, Ownership and Accountability," approved by the 2006 General Assembly (GA). Suggestions from the consultation also will be used in the development of a new "social creed," a revision of the original "Social Creed of the Churches of 1908," which addressed economic and social justice. A draft of the new social creed, being developed ecumenically and touching on broader social issues, is now with the NCC communions for study and discussion. The spring consultation will be financed from money designated by the General Assembly for both projects.

The Task Force on Serious Mental Illness, which is developing a policy on the subject for the denomination, will meet in late February, and the group is expected to have a final document to read and discuss by ACSWP's next meeting, scheduled for June 21-24 in Louisville. Once ACSWP receives the document, a consultation will be held with representatives from each of the synods in order to get feedback. Meanwhile, ACSWP also is seeking feedback on a mental illness study guide that's been distributed through the presbyteries to all PC(USA) congregations. ACSWP will use information from the synod consultation and what comes in related to the study guide in order to finalize what it finally presents to the 2008 GA.


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