At least 45 members of the United Church of Christ, including a delegation of 35 persons from the national covenanted ministries of the UCC, will be in Durban, South Africa, in early September to attend a major United Nations conference on racism and xenophobia.
The World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) will be held from Aug. 31 to Sept. 7.
Hosted by the United Nations and organized by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, the global gathering offers a unique opportunity for participants to take a comprehensive look at how racism has adversely and unjustly affected people of color around the world, says Carmen Alicia Nebot, the UCC's liaison to the United Nations.
Representatives from the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries, Office of General Ministries and Wider Church Ministries, including Global Ministries, a common witness of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the UCC—as well as other settings of the church—will participate in discussions geared toward finding concrete ways that governments and non-governmental organizations can develop a plan of action to address racism and related intolerance, Nebot said. In addition, 16 young people, plus four chaperones, will attend Youth Summit, a global forum that will convene two days prior to the beginning of the conference.
Representing the UCC, Nebot will be featured on two panels discussing economic globalization, sponsored separately by the U.N. Development Fund and the World Council of Churches.
Throughout the past year, UCC representatives also have attended regional planning meetings held in Santiago, Chile; Quito, Ecuador; Geneva, Switzerland; and Atlanta to help shape the agenda for the upcoming world conference, according to Juanita Helphrey, Justice and Witness Ministries' team leader for racial justice.
"The UCC has been essential in pushing for discussions on environmental justice, environmental racism, indigenous people's issues, youth issues, globalization, and concerns over the technological/digital divide," says Helphrey.
"It has been important that the UCC has been at these tables," adds Helphrey.
"It is very significant as we enter a new millennium that the United Nations is trying to turn the world's attention to racism and xenophobia," says Bernice Powell Jackson, Executive Minister of Justice and Witness Ministries. "In the UCC, we've been involved in these issues since the beginning of our denomination, and even much earlier in our predecessor churches. It's important that our voices be heard."
The Rev. J. Bennett Guess is Minister for Communication and Media Education in the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries.