|Religious activists attend advocacy ‘boot camp’|
The Rev. Clayton Childers processes with photos of Iraqi
children during a worship service at the Ecumenical Advocacy Days in
UMNS photos by Kathy L. Gilbert.
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
March 13, 2008 | WASHINGTON (UMNS)
More than 700 people participated in a four-day "boot camp" for
religious activism culminating with a day on Capitol Hill to advocate
for "true security" around the world.
The sixth annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days, held March 7-10, provided
hands-on training for speaking with U.S. lawmakers on justice issues
ranging from the war in Iraq to rebuilding the Gulf Coast in the United
A movement of the ecumenical Christian community, Ecumenical Advocacy
Days is designed to mobilize and strengthen Christian voices to advocate
on U.S. domestic and international policy issues.
The Rev. Mark Lomax challenges participants to stand up and put
their faith on the line.
The Rev. Mark Lomax, pastor at First Presbyterian Church, Atlanta,
opened the event by challenging participants to stand up and put their
faith on the line.
Reading from the Book of Daniel, Lomax retold the story of the "three
Hebrew boys" who stood up to King Nebuchadnezzar and refused to worship
his golden statue. They were thrown into the "fiery furnace" for their
"Where has that kind of faith gone?" Lomax asked. "In 2 Timothy 1:7, God
gives us a spirit of power. We have the power to make a choice in
someone else's favor––to get in the way of a bullet."
In the first plenary session, Lisa Schirch gave a lesson on using
"Aikido," a Japanese martial art, on members of Congress. Schirch,
professor of peace building at Eastern Mennonite University, explained
that Aikido focuses on using the opponent's energy instead of kicking
and punching to gain control.
"Using military power is like taking a hammer to a beehive," she said.
"It is a fantasy that you can get security through firepower."
Schirch told participants about the 3D Security Initiative that promotes
conflict prevention and peace building in U.S. security policymaking.
She urged activists to support the $249 million Civilian Stabilization
Initiative, including funding of civilian experts who specialize in
training police, running hospitals and schools, improving farm
production and other civic and humanitarian services.
"It is a fantasy that you can get security through firepower," says speaker
More than 70 United Methodists attended the gathering which allowed
participants to choose tracks that focus on conflict prevention and
increased diplomacy and development assistance in the United States,
Middle East, Asia-Pacific, Africa and Latin America.
Crickett Nicovich, a mission intern with the United Methodist Board of
Global Ministries, was especially interested in issues concerning
Africa. She said the people she met were "spirited, passionate and
"These are people who work on missions, work on policies in their own
communities; and this is a chance to come every year to work with a
whole group of faith-based people," she said.
Nicovich planned to meet with members of Congress from her home state of
Mississippi to address security, Africa and domestic issues that affect
The St. Camillus Multicultural Choir
sings during worship.
Chad Boling, a United Methodist student in New Jersey, said he was
leaving the event with a lot of stories and resources to take back to
"I have always thought you could look at a church or a nation's budget
and see what their priorities are," said Boling, who attended a workshop
on the U.S. budget. "We are spending so much on military. Only about 4
percent is going to nonviolent ways of communicating with other people."
Elizabeth Katn-Narbell, a member of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., said
a highlight of the conference was meeting 86-year-old Lois Baker who is
still out there "fighting the good fight."
"She told us about her run-in with the law last Friday when she was
protesting the war in Iraq," Katn-Narbell said of a March 7 protest
rally in Washington. "It is really exciting to see a woman who you would
see on the street and just think she is an innocent grandmother, but
she's got a lot going on."
Suanne Ware-Diaz leads participants in a Native American prayer.
Do your homework
During the final plenary session, experienced activists offered practical tips and tools for lobbying causes on "the Hill."
Jean Sammon and Jos Lin, two social justice lobbyists, led the gathering
through a role-playing exercise to give participants an idea of what to
expect in their meetings with members of Congress. Organizers made more
than 200 appointments for conference activists to visit lawmakers.
"Practice, practice, practice," said Linn. "Know what you are talking about and know who you are talking to."
Participants were anointed with oil at the closing worship service.
"We pray that by this anointing, our hands and hearts may be
strengthened for the work that lies ahead, that we may be compassionate
to human need, courageous in the face of injustice and faithful to our
commitment to peace," the participants prayed as they anointed each
Anne Murphy anoints Janet Ott with oil
at the closing worship service.
Virginia Farrell, a young Presbyterian from Princeton, N.J., was moved to see many denominations represented at the event.
"The preacher this morning was Greek Orthodox, and I'm not used to
seeing that," Farrell said. "Presbyterians usually don’t interact with
Greek Orthodox or Catholics, but seeing everyone coming together for
this common goal gives you hope for the future."
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
Crickett Nicovich: "This is a chance to really make a difference."
Elizabeth Katn-Narbell: "There is slavery still going on in the world."
John Gaus: "We are working on what is going on in jails."
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