This session is the soul of the conference, and I will cover as closely as possible.
Gloria White Hammond from My Sister’s Keeper spoke first.
One of the reason Sudan is getting attention is that key evangelical Christians had the ear of President Bush, so Bush took up the issue of Sudan.
In Sudan she took testimony of the enslaved. “Tell American people thank you for freeing me.” She has now co-founded My Sister’s Keeper, which is primarily Christian women. They support women and girls in southern Sudan and Darfur. They began a school with 100 girls, now there are 1000. This organization is a model for how smaller groups can come together, leverage resources.
On the effort to stop the genocide in Sudan, she is confident that history will show that a grassroots movement partnered with human rights organizations stopped a genocide. She has faith this will happen.
She says she can’t promise that things will be better if more women are involved in leading the human rights effort and we start to take a more feminine approach but she is confident it could not be worse.
Ingrid Mattson, President, Islamic Society of North America
Fait plays a positive and negative role in human rights.
Many came to America to escape religious persecution and were shocked to find that now there are restrictions on civil liberties and civil rights here. Including special identity cards for Muslims. The response from brothers and sisters in other faith communities – said that is not what America is about, and this has helped mature their community and the struggle for human rights in the United States. This makes it possible for them to advocate with a straight face for human rights internationally.
They can demonstrate the value of human rights because they are not limited in their practice of their religion in the US.
But the restrictions that have been placed on Muslims in the US – special registrations, infringements on their movement within the US, other violations, treatment of prisoners – has brought skepticism from the international Muslim community, they can use it as an excuse saying how can they criticize US when they do this to you. But they have been able to respond and say yes it is a difficult period, the US has erred on the side of being overcautious to protect people, but there are these people who have stood up for us including Jewish and Christian groups. This shows the US is committed to a democratic approach.
She believes that it is through interfaith coalitions that worldwide human rights can best be advanced.
Jimmy Allen, New Baptist Covenant
Globalization shift happening in the world, new strategies involving everything, dramatic way for religion. So what they do about human rights has moved from central building to local church/mosque/synagogue. In the process the marriage of power and right-wing fundamentalism has taken over and kept them from promoting human rights in a better way. You can’t convince a fundamentalist, you have to just move on. With Baptists there has been a split from the fundamentalists and they are coming to a new day in their movement, which was born in this room by Jimmy Carter. Of the 21 million non-fundamentalist Baptists they are trying to give this new voice an opportunity to be born. The right-wingers have the microphones, we’re trying to get the microphone back.
New strategy is instead of sending representatives to tell them what they should do, to come from congregations and say to people, “how can we help you?” Gloria from My Sister’s Keeper went and saw for herself. We are visitors trying to help you with your world, how can we help.
This is the new Baptists Covenant that you will be hearing more about. It has to be done. And it is happening not only among Baptists, it is happening with other congregations, a movement of caring that is coming, like a sea change. The human rights movement needs to be in touch with that new faith movement. Out of this meeting and other meetings we can find ways to get into every major denomination. All we’re doing is cooperating with God. He’s trying to get humanity together.
Marc Ellis, Center for Jewish Studies, Baylor University
The Jewish community response to human rights violations has been a complex one.
Without justice human rights cannot be achieved over the long term. As Jews we know this. We experience the cycle of violence and atrocity when justice is denied to us, then in time it is denied to others. Choosing injustice is a violation of the covenant, akin to idolatry and separation from God.
The prophets wanted to create a society different from the one they experienced in Egypt. Today the prophets see failure occurring again. The human right abuses against Palestinians have mounted to a level that few know about. The US is an enabler of these violations.
Some Jews see the need to gain and hold power to help protect Israel. So they silence other Jews and voices who want a better way. Progressive Jews struggle against the Jewish establishment mostly rhetorically not substantively. Jews of conscience are in exile from the Jewish community.
We need a new paradigm of life together. Revolutionary forgiveness. Pursuit of justice makes possible breaking the cycle that engulfs both societies.
A movement towards the Other is at the same time a movement toward God.