Advocating a Culture of Rights in the Middle East The Justice, Peace and Human Rights (JPHR) Program
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Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), an umbrella organization of Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches headquartered in Beirut, is a long-time partner of Global Ministries. Through its Justice, Peace and Human Rights (JPHR) program MECC has worked over the past decade to raise awareness, reflect and produce documentation on the spiritual foundations of human rights and the means of enabling an overall culture of rights in the Middle East. This initiative of JPHR equips young activists from local churches in each country in the Middle East and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Egypt and Lebanon with specific advocacy techniques to handle issues in the region. Drawing upon its experience in regional training and awareness activities over the past decade, JPHR focuses on local settings and priorities in order to encourage churches and their related organizations to become active advocates at the grassroots level.
Some themes and objectives addressed by JPHR in its workshops include:
Advocating a local culture of human rights as a means of strengthening civil society in the region.
Highlighting the involvement of Middle Eastern churches in civil society issues.
Reflecting on ways to strengthen cooperation between churches and human rights organizations on mutually advocated issues.
Supplementing the churchesõ discourse on human rights and human dignity with strategies for action drawn from local activists in Egypt and Lebanon.
Establishing local networks of churches, church-related organizations, and NGOs on human rights advocacy issues and exchanging information and experiences.
Creating a mobile group of young activists on human rights issues to work collectively for the respect and implementation of human rights and human dignity.
With financial support, the JPHR organizes training workshops with approximately 30 participants each. Each workshop is interactive and based on case studies and practical experience. An outcome-oriented session allows the participants to draft an advocacy plan informed by the training, and to identify the issues for advocacy as well as institutions and individuals with which/whom to work. This work plan is an integral part of each workshopõs outcome and includes a schedule for periodic evaluation and progress tracking for the local network of activists. Ultimately there will be two networks of trained activists in Lebanon and Egypt who will go on to act as catalysts for more advocacy activities in the region.
In a volatile region like the Middle East, it is extremely important that the churches collectively maintain their ability to speak out against human rights abuses and, more importantly, to strengthen local Christians and human rights activists to strengthen the voices of those who are usually ignored.