NEWS

May. 28, 2020

Mayor Turner and Sen. John Whitmire issue joint statement following the tragic death of former Houston resident George Floyd while in Minneapolis Police custody.
HOUSTON - The following is a joint statement from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Senator John Whitmire, Dean of the Texas Senate and Chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

"As public servants, we have a responsibility to interact and engage the general public in a manner that is consistent with our oath of office. It is important for us as public servants to maintain the trust and support of the community we serve.

"The actions of the police officer placing his knee on the neck of George Floyd, keeping it there and applying pressure for nearly nine minutes while other police officers failed to intervene, but rather stood by as enablers, cannot be excused.

"Regardless of what Mr. Floyd may or may not have done leading up to the time he was forced to the ground cannot justify the subsequent actions of the police officers whether the incident occurred in Minneapolis or Houston or any other city. From all indications, his death was clearly avoidable.

"What happened in Minneapolis amplifies the events surrounding any loss of life of a person involving police officers anywhere in the country and further damages the relationship between the police and the community, and specifically communities of color.

"That is why we must uniformly speak out against what occurred in Minneapolis as totally unjust and unacceptable.

"We must constantly work to train our officers, utilize best practices, review our procedures and actions, and hold everyone accountable. Only then can we gain and maintain the trust and confidence of the public we serve.

"It is in the best interest of everyone, from law enforcement and the community, to work together for the good of all."

May. 28, 2020

UNAIDS celebrates the life of pioneer AIDS activist Larry Kramer
Founder of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, ACT UP and award-winning playwright sadly dies aged 84

GENEVA, 28 May 2020—The AIDS movement has lost one of its earliest and leading activists, Larry Kramer, who passed away on 27 May 2020 in New York City. Mr Kramer was one of the first to raise the alarm in the United States of America about the spread of the AIDS epidemic and throughout his life he actively rallied support to accelerate research into treatment and support for people living with HIV.

“Larry Kramer was a remarkable leader and activist whose actions helped to save the lives of millions of people living with HIV around the world,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “He was a passionate and committed disrupter who made change happen. He wasn’t afraid to provoke and shock leaders and officials to react, which is what was needed, and often still is needed to bring the reality of what was happening on the ground to the centre of media attention and political action.”

In 1982, enraged by seeing friends die from the disease, Mr Kramer co-founded Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) to accelerate action from the scientific community and government. GMHC was the first organization to offer support to people living with and affected by HIV and on its first day of operation its AIDS-hotline received more than 100 calls asking for advice and help. Based in New York City, GMHC continues to fight to end the AIDS epidemic and uplift the lives of all affected.

In 1987, Mr Kramer helped to found ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. ACT UP took a radical approach to AIDS activism, staging demonstrations, protests and die-ins at pharmaceutical companies, in churches, on Wall Street and Broadway and at government institutions. ACT UP’s campaigning helped to spur progress in research for experimental medicines for HIV treatment and make them available more quickly and more equitably, and at an affordable price. Today, ACT UP is an international, grassroots political group working to end AIDS and improve the lives of people living with and affected by HIV through direct action, medical research, treatment and advocacy, and is working to change legislation and public policies.

Mr Kramer was also a celebrated playwright and novelist, and a leading gay rights activist. He won a series of awards for his screenplays and plays, including a Tony award for his autobiographical play, “The Normal Heart," which tells the story of the AIDS crisis in New York City in the early 1980s.

UNAIDS shares its deep sadness and offers condolences to his husband and all who knew and loved him. He will be sadly missed.

UNAIDS
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) leads and inspires the world to achieve its shared vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. UNAIDS unites the efforts of 11 UN organizations—UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, UN Women, ILO, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank—and works closely with global and national partners towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. Learn more at unaids.org and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

May. 28, 2020

Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC

28 May 2020

The World Council of Churches (WCC) Executive Committee will meet virtually on 1-3 June, offering solidarity to a world in which many find themselves in critical situations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Executive Committee plans to share information, make decisions by consensus, and assess the impact of COVID-19 on the life of the fellowship and the work of the WCC.

The committee will also review the impact of COVID-19 on the WCC’s 2020 plans and budget, establish how the Executive Committee will continue consultation and decision-making; and adopt the 2019 WCC financial report. Planning for the upcoming WCC 11th Assembly, to be held in Karlsruhe, Germany, is also on the agenda of the Executive Committee

In a message to Executive Committee members, WCC moderator Dr Agnes Abuom said these times are challenging to all of us.

“Please remember that this is not a meeting where we will be conducting ‘business as usual,’ ” said Abuom. “We have neither the luxury of time, nor the precious moments outside of the meeting for exchanges and being together.”

Although the meeting will focus on a smaller number of decisions than usual, a discussion forum is being provided so that the Executive Committee can post comments or questions.

“As we prepare for this meeting, we ask God to guide us through the constant presence of the Holy Spirit,” Abuom said. “We know our people and churches are suffering in many areas of the world.”

During 2021, the Central Committee meeting will be held 22-30 June, with the Executive Committee holding its meeting on 21-22 June.

WCC acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca has been sending monthly accountability reports to the WCC Central and Executive Committees to share information on the WCC’s focus and adjustment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

May. 26, 2020

support those at risk from domestic violence

Joint News Release -- FIFA, WHO, and the European Commission have joined forces, to launch the #SafeHome campaign to support women and children at risk of domestic violence. The campaign is a joint response from the three institutions to the recent spikes in reports of domestic violence as stay-at-home measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have put women and children experiencing abuse at greater risk. 

Almost one in three women worldwide experience physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence by someone else in their lifetime. In a majority of cases, that violence is committed by a partner in their home - indeed, up to 38% of all murders of women are committed by an intimate partner. It is also estimated that one billion children aged between two and seventeen years (or half the world’s children) have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence or neglect in the past year.   

There are many reasons why people perpetrate domestic violence, including gender inequality and social norms that condone violence, childhood experiences of abuse or exposure to violence and coercive control growing up. Harmful use of alcohol can also trigger violence. Stressful situations, such as those being experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic and economic instability, exacerbate the risk. Moreover, the current distancing measures in place in many countries make it harder for women and children to reach out to family, friends and health workers who could otherwise provide support and protection.

“Just as physical, sexual or psychological violence has no place in football, it has no place in the home.” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. “We are so pleased that our partners today are joining us to draw attention to this critical issue. As people are isolated at home because of COVID-19, the risks of domestic violence have tragically been exacerbated.”.

“Together with the World Health Organization and the European Commission, we are asking the football community to raise awareness to this intolerable situation that threatens particularly women and children in their own home, a place where they should feel happy, safe and secure,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino. “We cannot stay silent on this issue that negatively affects so many people. Violence has no place in homes, just as it has no place in sports. Football has the power to relay important social messages, and through the #SafeHome campaign, we want to ensure that those people experiencing violence have access to the necessary support services they need.”

“Violence has no place in our societies,” said Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth. “Women’s rights are human rights and should be protected. Often abused women and children are afraid to talk because of fear or shame. This ‘window’ to speak-up and seek help is, during confinement, even more restricted. As a matter of fact , in some countries, we have seen an increase in reports of domestic violence since the outbreak of COVID-19. It is our responsibility as a society, as institutions to speak up for these women. To give them trust and support them. This is the purpose of this joint campaign which I am honoured to be part of.”

“We call upon our member associations to actively publish details of national or local helplines and support services that can help victims and anyone feeling threatened by violence in their locality,” added the FIFA President. “We also call upon our members to review their own safeguarding measures using the FIFA Guardians toolkit to ensure that football is fun and safe for everyone in our game, especially the youngest members of the football family.” 

The five-part video awareness campaign features 15 past and present footballers - Álvaro Arbeloa, Rosana Augusto, Vítor Baía, Khalilou Fadiga, Matthias Ginter, David James, Annike Krahn, Marco Materazzi, Milagros Menéndez, Noemi Pascotto, Graham Potter, Mikaël Silvestre, Kelly Smith, Óliver Torres and Clementine Touré - who have stressed their support to addressing this critical issue. The campaign is being published on various FIFA digital channels, with #SafeHome also being supported with multimedia toolkits for the 211 FIFA member associations and for various media agencies to help facilitate additional localisation and to further amplify the message worldwide.

Video 1: Survivor advice 1

Video 2: Survivor advice 2 

Video 3: Survivor support

Video 4: Perpetrator advice 

Video 5: Government advice 

WHO, the United Nations’ specialised health agency, and FIFA, football’s world governing body, collaborate closely to promote healthy lifestyles, which includes being free of violence, through football globally. The two organisations jointly launched the “Pass the message to kick out coronavirus” campaign in March 2020 to share advice on effective measures to protect people from COVID-19. This was followed by the #BeActive campaign in April 2020 to encourage people to stay healthy at home during the pandemic. 

Factsheet

According to WHO, violence is a pervasive public health and human rights problem around the world. It affects women, men, boys and girls in all countries and cuts across boundaries of age, race, religion, ethnicity, disability, culture and wealth. Statistically, women and children (both boys and girls) are most affected by violence in the home and it is often perpetrated by men they know and trust.

Data (Source: WHO and others)

  • Almost one in three women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence, not including sexual harassment, by any perpetrator
  • Globally, 30% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime
  • Globally up to 38% of murders of women are committed by intimate partners
  • Adolescent girls, young women, women belonging to ethnic and other minorities, transwomen, and women with disabilities face a higher risk of different forms of violence
  • The majority (55% to 95%) of women survivors of intimate partner violence or sexual violence do not disclose or seek any type of help or services
  • Being abused as a child or exposed to violence in the family when growing up, attitudes accepting of violence and gender inequality including gender norms increase the risk of perpetrating violence against a partner; in some settings violence is associated with excessive use of alcohol 
  • Globally, over one billion children – over half of all boys and girls aged 2–17 years – experience some form of emotional, physical or sexual violence every year
  • The lifetime prevalence of childhood sexual abuse is 18% for girls and 8% for boys
  • Homicide is among the top five causes of death in adolescents, with boys comprising over 80% of victims and perpetrators
  • Regional statistics also exist. For example in Europe, it is estimated that one in five (20%) children have experienced sexual abuse, and in the WHO European region, a quarter of women (15-49 years) have experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetime. In Latin America and the Caribbean, it is estimated that 58% of children experience sexual, physical or emotional violence each year, and 30% of women have experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetime. 

Resources

COVID-19 and violence against women: What can the health sector/system do?

WHO, LSHTM, SAMRC. Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence

WHO: Respect women: Preventing violence against women

Seven strategies to prevent violence against women - infographics

WHO: Inspire: Seven strategies for ending violence against children

End Violence Against Children: Global partnership

Note:

The World Health Organization and FIFA signed in 2019 a four-year collaboration to promote healthy lifestyles through football globally. More information on the WHO-FIFA memorandum of understanding can be found here:  https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/04-10-2019-who-and-fifa-team-up-for-health

 

May. 26, 2020

Women bishops offer a candid look at what drives their leadership
Women bishops offer a candid look at what drives their leadership
Photo: California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB)

25 May 2020

Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, a retired United Methodist bishop from the USA, has spent her career voicing the need for a church that includes all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity. And, throughout her career, she’s never been afraid to say that out loud.

“I of course received a lot of hate mail,” said Swenson, who currently serves as the vice moderator of the World Council of Churches Central Committee.

But—and it’s a very important ‘but’—there was also a view of gratitude, she added. And that’s what kept her vision of leadership alive. “My stand has always been one of including all people,” she said. “That means all, because God’s love is truly for all of us, everywhere.”

Swenson joined four of her peers—all-female United Methodist bishops in the USA—for a panel discussion, “Female Leadership in the Religious Realm,” on 22 May, as part of a women’s leadership conference hosted at California State University.

Women bishops are often on the frontlines of having their leadership questioned, sometimes in harsh ways. Bishop Minerva Carcaño (California-Nevada Conference) recalled preaching one Sunday at a large church close to the U.S.-Mexico border. “In my sermon I happened to mention how important it is to serve in the context in which we find ourselves,” she said. “I mentioned ever so briefly the importance of serving everyone—including undocumented immigrants.”

When she then offered communion, one man refused to take it. “He pushed it back from me, even,” she said. It was a heartbreaking amount, and I’d never experienced anything like that.”

After the service, the man told the pastor of the church that Carcaño should be removed from the pulpit. The pastor replied: “I can’t take her out of the pulpit—it’s her pulpit.”

That moment gave Carcaño a different perspective on herself as a leader—and she continues to be a leader who’s known for fiercely defending human rights. “If it’s the bishop’s pulpit, I also hope to hold it gently and humbly,” she added.

Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi (Western Pennsylvania Conference) recalled when, on her very first day on the job, there was a flood disaster in the area. “Instead of putting my books on a shelf, I needed to see the folks who got beaten up ad left alongside the road by this flood,” she said. “They were astonished that I had come on my first day of work.”

Koikoi thought: “Where else would I be?” She offered a word of prayer, and realized that it was a defining moment for her: “That’s what leadership is all about.”

Another aspect of being an effective leader involves “deep listening,” said Bishop Tracy S. Malone (East Ohio United Methodist Conference). Malone said, as a new bishop, she journeyed through her conference, which has nearly 700 churches. “Having done the deep listening that was necessary, we developed a vision for the entire conference: to increase the capacity for every layperson and clergy person to be disciples, and to make new disciples.”

The women also talked about who has inspired them along the way. Retired Bishop Linda Lee remembered her mother, who worked as a seamstress in a factory all her life. “She ended up being the one who would go talk with the boss,” said Lee. “She was a leader in the factory.”

Lee’s mother also sewed garments for women who couldn’t afford to buy clothes. “She would counsel them and pray with them when they came. She was the mother of everybody.”