UCC among 24 interfaith leaders bringing role of religion in diplomacy to Congress
Written by Jeff Woodard March 1, 2012
The UCC's minister
for ecumenical and interfaith relations was among 24 Christian, Jewish and
Muslim faith leaders who met Feb. 29 with members of the U.S. Congress,
culminating a 12-day international journey exploring the role of religion in
advancing peace and understanding in the world.
not only diverse religiously, but represent the diversity that is present
within each of these religions," said the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson. "Our
delegation of 12 from the United States included five Christian representatives
from denominations across the Christian spectrum. We are Roman Catholic,
Episcopalian, Evangelical, Baptist –– and the United Church of Christ itself
reflects four denominational strands. This same diversity is present among our
Jewish and Muslim counterparts."
religious leaders and a dozen from Indonesia traveled to Washington, D.C., after
meetings in Jakarta, Amman, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Tel Aviv with senior
government officials, NGOs and other leaders from the three Abrahamic faith
their journey together, the group celebrated commonality –– in heritage, in
desire for peace, and in understanding of God's love for all humanity.
identified these places of commonality inherent in our religious traditions, we
also identified the need for peace in the place that gave birth to the three
Abrahamic religions," said Thompson.
also experienced challenges together, said Thompson, when some members of the
delegation were denied entrance or the right to cross borders because they were
moments, though painful, were an affirmation that the goals and commitments of
our delegation had deep relevance and meaning for the region," said Thompson. "It
is time for us to move beyond the artificial separations caused by boundaries,
borders and barriers that are based on hatred and stereotypes."
McDermott (D-Wash.) and Dan Burton (R-Ind.), co-chairs of the Indonesia Caucus,
along with Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) hosted the gathering on Capitol
Hill, during which participants shared experiences from the previous two weeks.
The delegation met
with senior officials from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy,
Human Rights and Labor; Office of International Religious Freedom; Bureau of
East Asian and Pacific Affairs; and the White House National Security Council.
In addition to
Thompson, senior officials participating were: Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.);
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.); Dino Patti Djalal, Indonesian ambassador to the
United States; Nasaruddin Umar, deputy minister of religious affairs, Republic
of Indonesia; H. Slamet Effendy Yusuf, M. Si., Nahdlatul Ulama, chairman, Indonesia
Delegation; Sayyid M. Syeed, National Director, Islamic Society of North
America; Rabbi Sid Schwarz, Mission Director, Interfaith Mission for Peace and
is unity, not uniformity," said Thompson. "Our goal is peace that recognizes
and embraces the gifts of difference that is pluralism. We learned this week
that we can acquire new understanding from the experiences of others. Learning
requires that we listen and hear what others are saying."