UCC commitment at racism conference steady despite U.S. government boycott

UCC commitment at racism conference steady despite U.S. government boycott

UCC commitment at racism conference steady despite U.S. government boycott

Written by Gregg Brekke–UCNews
April 20, 2009

While the international spotlight focuses on the United States’ decision to boycott the Durban Review Conference on racisim in Geneva, Switzerland, the UCC and other faith communities are committed to sending delegates to the April 20-24 event.

The Rev. Karen Georgia A. Thompson, the UCC’s Minister for Racial Justice, will represent the UCC in Switzerland. She said, “The United Church of Christ is committed to having Sacred Conversation on Race as a part of its witness to justice in the world. We approach and engage these conversations, which are not limited to racism in the United States, but as part of a broader dialog on racism in the world.”

Organized by the United Nations, the Conference will assess and accelerate progress towards implementing the goals set by the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa.

UCC representation, along with its ecumenical partners, affirms the participation of faith communities along with other non-governmental organizations in combating the sin of racism and intolerance globally.

“We know from the advocacy and context of our global partners in so many places that structural and individual discrimination is alive and well all around the world, as well as here at home,” said the Rev. Cally Rogers-Witte, Executive Minister of the UCC’s Wider Church Ministries. “We, with — and sometimes on behalf of — our partners, seek to offer voice for those who are victims and to advocate for justice and equality, and for a world free of bias and xenophobia.”

The UCC was present at the historic Durban Conference in 2001. The UCC contingent to the conference in 2001 included youth, lay persons as well as staff and clergy, many of whom were active participants in the work that produced the final Durban Declaration and Program of Action (DDPA.)

U.S. State Department officials cited a proposal document that it claims “singles out” Israel in its criticism and conflicts with the nation’s “commitment to unfettered free speech” as reasons to boycott the Conference “with regret.”

The Rev. James Vijayakumar, Wider Church Ministries’ Area Executive for Southern Asia, attended a March conference on the status of India’s Dalits – formerly regarded as “untouchables.” This conference made recommendations for discussion of caste and class discrimination in the larger context of global racism.  As such, the Durban proposal encompasses far-reaching measures to combat racism in all its manifestations, including strengthening education, fighting poverty, securing development, improving the remedies and resources available to victims of racism, and bolstering respect for the rule of law and for human rights.

UCC General Minister and President, the Rev. John H. Thomas, in a statement on the Durban Review Conference, expressed disappointment in the U.S. State Department boycott of the meeting saying, “It is deeply ironic and sad at this historic moment in our own nation’s political life for the United States to absent itself from the shared global responsibility to address enduring racism wherever and whenever it occurs.  Failure to participate in this Conference not only diminishes the global gathering; it will diminish our nation as well.”