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The Work of Many Joining Hands
Submitted by Kara Smith on Tue, 07/05/2011 - 1:34pm.
When Atema Eclai, UUSC's director of programs, advocacy, and action, shared the African proverb, "No one one is too poor to give or too rich to receive," I was struck by the statement's powerful simplicity. I thought about it many times in the days that followed, which is why I closed the workshop I facilitated at General Assembly, Eye-to-Eye Partnerships and Congregational Social-Justice Work, with those same words.
We all have something to give and we all have something to receive; this is the foundation for the eye-to-eye partnership model, the basis for UUSC's work with partners around the world. In the workshop that I facilitated, the panel — both virtual and in person — and I talked about how people can use the eye-to-eye model to support their congregation's social-justice work and make positive change in the world. By building partnerships based on trust, shared goals, and a win-win strategy, we empower those we are working on behalf of.
As the facilitator of the workshop I was extraordinarily thankful for the participation of the panelists:
- Lynn Roesch, UUSC local representative from East Shore Unitarian Church, Bellevue, Wash., taped a message for attendees about the Building Bridges event in Bellevue in May, an inspirational example of how UUs can work in partnership with Muslims to address civil liberties issues in their community.
- Gary D. Nissenbaum, Social Action Committee chair, Unitarian Church in Summit, N.J., shared the story of his congregation's unique and long-standing eye-to-eye partnership with HomeFirst, one of the preeminent charities helping to house and advocate for the homeless in northern New Jersey.
- Deborah Pembrook, Social Action Committee cochair, UU Fellowship of Santa Cruz County, Calif.; member of UU Legislative Ministry of California's Climate and Water Justice Steering Committee; and UUSC regional coordinator, taped a message for participants about the work of congregations in California to organize for policy change on the human right to water.
- Rev. Lindi Ramsden, executive director of UU Legislative Ministry of California, joined us to discuss the exciting coalition work with community groups in support of the human right to water as well as the partnership with UUSC.
As I prepared for the workshop, I knew that I wanted to highlight many different levels of partnerships. As it came together and people shared their stories — including workshop attendees — I was pleasantly surprised at the resources we have to build a movement that promotes human rights.
What I learned and what I hope the attendees learned is that our work for social justice requires us to be in partnership with other organizations, including those based in the UU tradition — other congregations, UU state networks, UUSC — and other social-justice organizations that are working with those who are most affected by repressive policies. We must approach these relationships with the principle of "justice, equity, and compassion in human relations," seeing others as equals in the fight for justice. We must look to each other to draw our strengths and when we add the passion, such as was displayed by the workshop participants, we can make real change in the world!