|Women’s Division wants more action on Jena crisis
Incoming top executive Harriett Olson (from left),
President Kyung Za Yim and outgoing interim chief executive Lois Dauway
share a light moment at the annual meeting of the Women's Division, the
policymaking body of United Methodist Women. A UMNS photo by Cassandra
By Linda Bloom*
Oct. 9, 2007 | STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS)
United Methodist Women have called for renewed action on racial
justice and reconciliation in Jena, La., and respect for human rights in
"The Women's Division adds its voice to a nationwide call for equal
justice in Jena, Louisiana, where six black teenagers face criminal
charges in the wake of a series of racial incidents in the town's high
school," the division said in a resolution approved during its Oct. 5-8
The division is the administrative arm of UMW, a denominational
organization of approximately 800,000 members in the United States. The
annual meeting was the first for Harriett Olson, the division's new
chief executive, who was elected by directors last August.
The Women's Division is joining the call for equal
justice for six black teenagers in Jena, La. A UMNS file photo by John
Following up on a Sept. 20 statement about the tension in Jena, the
division said it would "explore opportunities to support mutual
understanding and bridge-building within the high school, churches and
the community" and, while continuing to denounce acts of hate, use such
incidents as "teachable moments."
On Sept. 27 — a week after an estimated 15,000-plus
demonstrators marched through the small town to protest the handling of
the case against the black teenagers — Mychal Bell, the last of the
Jena 6 defendants still in jail, was released on bail.
The Women's Division pledged to continue "to call on state and
federal officials as needed to investigate and monitor the criminal
cases against the youth known as the Jena 6." UMW members are asked to
pray for justice, healing and reconciliation in Jena and Louisiana, send
similar letters to officials and "deepen work for racial justice in
their own communities."
Speaking on Myanmar
Directors noted the "deteriorating conditions in Myanmar, extreme
violations of the human rights of its citizens and danger to the safety
and security of its women and children" and condemned the latest
repression by the military government in that Asian nation.
They joined with the United Nations and human rights organizations in
calling on the government of Myanmar to halt immediately all violent
attacks on peaceful demonstrations; respect the right of peaceful
assembly; release all peaceful demonstrators being held; and stop
blocking Internet communications in and out of the country.
“We need the support of United Methodist
Women in local units to stay on task … to help keep us focused on what
makes a difference in their communities.”–Harriett Olson
The division urged companies doing business with Myanmar to protest
recent government actions and at least temporarily suspend any further
business. It urged China, India and other trade partners to use those
relationships as leverage "to encourage peaceful reform and full respect
for human rights in Myanmar."
A focus on immigration issues was expanded as the directors agreed
that the Women's Division should become a founding endorser of "Campaign
for a United America." The goal of the campaign, led by the faith-based
Center for New Community, is to promote a balanced national dialogue on
"The Women's Division will publicly be associated with the campaign's
efforts to uncover the racist underpinnings of many anti-immigrant
organizations that help to shape media messages and current debates,"
the adopted resolution said.
In her speech to directors, Olson spoke of both the "storied past" of
United Methodist Women and the need to position the organization for
the future. "We need the support of United Methodist Women in local
units to stay on task … to help keep us focused on what makes a
difference in their communities," she said.
In other business, the Women's Division directors:
Approved a budget of $19,342,043 for 2008;
Learned Andrea Hatcher, treasurer, had resigned, effective Oct. 10, and that the search for a new treasurer is under way;
Agreed to participate in a one-day monitoring of news coverage
of peace issues in the media on March 4, organized by the North American
Regional Association of the World Association of Christian
Decided to send a director and one staff member to attend the
World Conference of Peace, also sponsored by the World Association of
Christian Communication, Oct. 5-10, 2008, in Cape Town, South Africa.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
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