During the past year the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO) has been making tremendous strides representing our religious movement at the UN. People who know the executive director of the UU-UNO, Bruce Knotts, aren't surprised. And those that have been getting to know him since he was hired in January '08 are thrilled to have such an effective partner at the UU-UNO. There are many recent accomplishments that the UU-UNO can be very proud of. Many people are especially grateful to the UU-UNO for the important work it has been doing to raise the issue of human rights for LGBT people at the United Nations. In many ways the United Nations has sought to avoid this discussion, but the UU-UNO was not willing to let it do so. In fact, in Septemeber 2008, during the UN's Human Rights Conference in Paris (organized by UNESCO and the UNHCHR) the UU-UNO is sponsoring a panel discussion on the subject of LGBT human rights that will include representatives from Dutch and Burkina Faso LGBT NGOs. Bruce Knotts describes the UU-UNO's advocacy position this way:
We never disrespect a culture, but... If a culture beats, tortures, rapes, and kills people who happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, that culture needs to change. I made it clear at the UN, that I would set aside the issue of same-sex marriage. I felt it important to face the life-and-death issues that face LGBTs around the world first. LGBTs must first have the right to live in safety, free from arrest, torture, beatings and other abuse. LGBTs around the world need access to health care, jobs, housing and education. Once these basic survival needs are met, we can move on the quality of life issues, such as marriage. This position has been respected at the UN. It is solely due to the efforts of the UU UNO that LGBT rights are now firmly on the agenda for the Paris Conference.Thank you, Bruce - and every one at the UU-UNO - for bringing this important justice work to the United Nations. Congregations can celebrate the United Nations and the UU-UNO's work by joining with UU congregations throughout North America and hosting a UN Sunday service on October 26, 2008. The theme for UN Sunday '08 is "Human Rights: Dignity and Justice for Us All". Materials for planning a UN Sunday service are available online from the UU-UNO. An additional resource is available from the UUA's Office of International Resources especially for congregations participating in the Faith Without Borders program. During UN Sunday services congregations can proudly tell inspiring stories about the UU-UNO's work with HIV/AIDS orphans in Ghana, its faithful advocacy for effective intervention in Darfur, the incredible intergenerational gathering at its Spring Seminar on Peacemaking last April, as well as how its taking a stand on behalf of LGBT people throughout the world. If you haven't scheduled a UN Sunday yet, be sure to do so. And, please consider requesting a special offering during UN Sunday to support the work of the UU-UNO. The representation of our religious movement at the United Nations is certainly worth it.