Sunday, 21 June 2009

New Swedish Unitarian Bishop

Good news from Sweden. The Norwegian Unitarian leader Knut Heidelberg is confirming in his blog that Owe Örneståhl is the new Bishop of the Unitarian Church of Sweden. He is a former ordained deacon of the Swedish Old Catholic church and succeeds Unitarian bishop Ragnar Emilsen, who died last year.

The Swedish Unitarians had remained inactive during the vacancy, therefore this appointment is expected to give new life and projects to this branch of Unitarianism. The Swedish Unitarian Church is not a member of the ICUU and keeps friendly relations with the Norwegian and Transylvanian Unitarians.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Tragedy in Nataban, Philippines

News has just been received of the attempted rape and brutal murder of a young mother, Arlyn Barotag, in the isolated mountain village of Nataban.  Her family and the UU community there are in shock but are planning practical steps to deal with this tragedy with the help of the UU Church of the Philippines leader, Nihal Atanayake.

Beyond the immediate physical and psychological needs of the family (including two very young children), serious attention is being given to what enabled a young women to be killed brutally by a young man in a situation where it is not even certain that the known culprit will be brought to justice.  

The poverty of the region means that some fathers have to work on another island, only coming home a couple times each year -- and women are left to raise their children without "normal" family support.  The lack of resources in the area means that electricity for recharging mobile phones is some distance away.  The mountainous nature of the terrain means that there is limited effectiveness for these modern communications devices in any case.  The isolation means that provision of social services from the central urban community is way down the priority list.

This community is aware that justice is much more than catching and punishing a murderer; it is also tackling the conditions that provided the background to it and strengthening the ability of the community to protect its people.  And is it not really the case that we all have to admit in our hearts that the scourge of brutality against women is too far down our priority lists, in high-economic areas and in low-economic areas?

Further information will be on ICUU's website as it becomes available.  The community will need some outside resources to work effectively to bring a measure of justice to their lives.

With a heavy heart,

John Clifford

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Latest from Olga Flores (11 June)

We have now had an email direct from Olga, which she has requested that we put into proper English:

Dear all “solidarians” hearts:

After three days recovering in the hospital and now at home,  we are ready to restart our action.

Many, many thanks to all of you around the world, for your help and your faith.  Even without a positive agreement with the government we can say that our common effort was useful for building peace in a country that is noted for the confrontation and the impunity of killers. Every single effort against injustice is necessary.  Justice is not a result of a big governmental measure, it is our daily action.  In this dimension your solidarity has importance.

All that you did encouraged me: I could feel not only that I am not alone, but a part of a human circle that is protecting our human family. You were able to feel the necessity of Bolivia, a country that is very far from you. All that you did was not only for me, but for the Bolivian people who are living in a process of changing but who can not overcome the old structure of dictatorship.  Nothing will change if the old structure of impunity remains.

We have to be aware that together we have power, so we can think that with our collective action we can do many other things to have a better world.

Thanks for your solidarity.  During the hunger strike I felt your prays, your thoughts that were guiding me to be honest, humble, but wise and with open mind. We decided to finish our strike at the limit of our heath but with the promise that we will continue fighting, with other measures more creative and effective. We think that our lives are instruments for justice.

Our common action generated here a movement for justice, it is a red light for the government: to act according to ethical principles and to remove the double moral standards. It is necessary to return to an idealistic politic. Unexpectedly we reached more that we wanted.  Now let's see what our next activity will be.

In my mind I have many reflections about the meaning of life.  The principal is that to live gives us the possibility to express love, on one hand, and in the other hand, is a kind of a natural “duty”, our happy duty.

Let's continue our walk with enthusiasm and integrity each one in their own duty-Dharma and in union in our common existence.

Gracias la lucha continua!!



Thursday, 4 June 2009

Message from the President

June 4, 2009

Dear Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist Friends around the globe,

How many of us are willing to put our health and our lives on the line for what we believe?  This past month I have grown ever more admiring of our friend and colleague Olga Flores as her friends in Bolivia.  Their hunger strike has entered its fifth week and they face the daunting decision to continue until death or not.  (Details elsewhere in this blog) I can only stand back in wonder at their persistence, their faithfulness and their courage.

Whatever their choice, I offer my complete support for them and pray for a good outcome.  I hope they survive this ordeal.  My belief in their struggle and my respect for them as women and activists will not diminish in any way should they choose to live and continue to fight for human rights in some other manner.

On this 20th anniversary of the massacre in Tiananmen Square, I am reminded that the struggle for human worth and dignity is an ongoing global concern.  May Olga Flores, her colleagues and all rights activists in this world remind us to live our faith and our principles as best we can every day.  They are beacons for us all.

Rev. Brian Kiely
International Council of Unitarians and Universalists

Latest from Olga Flores

We have just had the following report from Olga (4 June):

Please do as she asks and send email support to the addresses in the previous blog entry.  The Bolivian government is apparently blocking some of these but not all of them.

Dear friends with good hearts:

Thanks for your solidarity and all the time that you have dedicated to help me. All of your efforts contributed to generate a spirit of justice.

After 29 days of hunger strike, the Bolivian government is insensible to our demands for truth and justice. We understand Truth as our right to know what happened with all the missing people and the duty of the state to investigate where they are and turn back to us their mortal bodies. And we ask for JUSTICE as the right to live in a society with no murders,and torturadores, those who practice torture with impunity. 

We are asking the President Evo Morales the most basic thing: to fulfill his first duty, to apply the law, specifically the Inter-American Convention Forced Disappearance of Persons Act, that became national law in 1996 and the Law No. 2640 which requires them to compensate the victims of the political violence during the military regimes.

At the present I am in a hard dilemma, to continue the strike till the end, which means until death or to change the measure. From the beginning we were aware of this risk and we mentioned to President Morales that it is a paradox—that we must use this measure against our health to defend life. 

At this point we have to reflect upon the moral implications of this decision. Bolivia does not need more martyrs, but at the same time, everything will continue the same if we do not make this sacrifice. As a Unitarian my principle of reverence for life, is basic, but it has the same weight as my commitment to justice. When we were in dictatorship, I did not hesitate to put my life at risk, there was not any other option. At the moment it seems that the government just listens to the voices of violence and to those who can exert pressure. We have a slogan "without justice there is no change."

So my dear ones, you can see how much I appreciate your support. Let us hope that the government will change their masculine mind of confrontation and see life through the eyes of our indigenous vision of complementarity. Thank you for your help to us to build a country with peace and justice. 

Each day I feel weaker and weaker in my body, but stronger and stronger in my soul. 

Many thanks again to all my sisters and brothers of the path.