THE E-NEWSLETTER OF THE UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST SERVICE COMMITTEE
Since its inception, UUSC, along with our members and partners, has sought to combat the effects of poverty, large-scale natural disasters, inequitable development, environmental degradation, human rights abuses, and other forms of injustice across the globe. I invite you to learn more about how we do this by reading about our recent work to address violence against ethnic minorities in Burma, the impact UUSC partners have had in the Philippines after Super Typhoon Yolanda, and ways to get involved with the UU College of Social Justice below.
Today, we celebrate the life of labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez. Chavez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association with Dolores Huerta, and over multiple decades drew attention for his causes via nonviolent means including boycotts, marches, and hunger strikes. His efforts ultimately led to raises and improved working conditions for farm workers in California, Texas, Arizona, and Florida.
As we honor his memory and work, one thing that re-inspires me is the realization that no matter how dark it seems, this political moment is not the be-all end-all moment for human rights. We must remember that governments have never been the main driver for human rights. Instead, it has been our communities and activists themselves, at multiple levels, which reinvent and replenish social justice as they continue to fight for their rights and human dignity in the face of constant and true oppression from autocratic regimes and social systems of oppression. This is the strength of our community. This is the power that people have when they come together to effect change. This is the lesson that activists like Chavez can teach us.
NEWS & UPDATES
U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL TO FORMALLY INVESTIGATE VIOLENCE IN BURMA
UUSC is excited to report that the U.N. Human Rights Council has authorized an independent fact-finding investigation into the extreme violence and ethnic cleansing in Burma (Myanmar).
Earlier this month, UUSC, together with our partner Fortify Rights, mobilized nearly 3,000 individuals to take action in support of this measure, signing a petition urging Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to support a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to formally investigate ongoing violence against ethnic minorities in Burma. On March 17, UUSC President, Tom Andrews joined a panel including Mohamed Naeem an ethnic Rohingya and human rights leader; Matthew Smith Co-Founder and CEO, Fortify Rights; and Andrea Gittleman, Program Manager, Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide in submitting testimony to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. The full hearing can be viewedhere.
Ultimately, the United States not only supported, but also co-sponsored a resolution, which will send a panel of independent experts to Burma to investigate alleged killings, torture, and rape by Burmese security forces against Rohingya Muslims and other ethnic minorities. While different than a COI in its scope, this investigation is still a critical first step to ending the violence and holding the perpetrators accountable.
UUSC will continue to work closely with Rohingya leaders and civil society organizations in Burma, as well as other international human rights advocates to advance the rights, dignity, and safety of religious and ethnic minorities in the country.
UUSC IMPACT IN THE PHILIPPINES
On November 8, 2013, Super Typhoon Yolanda struck the Philippines, taking the lives of an estimated 6,300 individuals, destroying nearly 1.1 million houses, and displacing 4.4 million people. Within one week after the storm, UUSC responded with a needs assessment, followed shortly by our first grants.
Employing an eye-to-eye partnership model, we funded a range of grassroots, community-based organizations to develop innovative and sustainable solutions for relief, recovery, and reconstruction efforts. We targeted those marginalized from traditional relief efforts, focusing particularly on women, LGBTQI communities, farmers and fishers, and indigenous people. In total, UUSC provided more than $750,000 over four years to 17 partners who provided immediate relief and supported longer-term recovery efforts that aimed to build community resiliency from trauma and rebuild sustainable livelihoods in the aftermath of the typhoon.
Michael Kourabas, Associate Director for Program and Partner Support, recently traveled to the Philippines for a series of impact-assessment meetings and site visits with our local partners. He learned how UUSC’s historic philosophy – our rights-based focus, eye-to-eye partnership model, and flexibility of funding – was a key asset to marginalized communities in the wake of a disaster. Read more about Michael’s visit in his recent posts: An Update from the Philippines and Inspiration in the Face of Adversity: Partners In The Philippines.
RAISE YOUR VOICE
CALLING ALL MINISTERS, SEMINARIANS, AND RELIGIOUS EDUCATORS: UUCSJ HAS TWO JOURNEYS FOR YOU!
The UU College of Social Justice (UUCSJ)’s Border Witness for Religious Leaders “Solidarity Through Sanctuary” will offer a transformative experience at the U.S.-Mexico border, October 30 – November 4, 2017. If you are wondering how your congregation can address the impact of the Trump administration’s harmful policies against immigrants and work to create safer, more just, and welcoming communities, this trip is for you. Click here to learn more and register.
You can also join UUCSJ from November 25 – December 2, 2017, in Nicaragua and visit a grassroots community resisting the construction of a gold mine that will destroy their sacred river. Learn, pray, and be inspired to lead your congregation and community toward climate justice on our Guardians of the River: Climate Justice for Theologians journey. Learn more and register here.
ITEMS OF NOTE AND SHAREGRAPHIC
Here are a few of our favorite blogs from the past month and some inspiration. Click to read and make sure to share online!