WASHINGTON—People of faith from throughout the U.S. and around the world will gather in Washington, D.C. to focus on peace-building at Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2014. The theme for the March 21-24 assembly is “Jesus Weeps: Resisting Violence, Building Peace.” The annual event, now in its 12th year, is co-sponsored by global humanitarian agency CWS, with broad ecumenical support.
Against a backdrop of statistics citing nearly 3,000 children in the U.S. killed by gun violence each year and some 45 million people around the world uprooted from their homelands by persecution and armed conflict, advocates will participate in a weekend of workshops examining the ways in which policies that promote violence can be transformed into policies that enable peace.
"Different types of violence impact our lives in direct and indirect ways,” said the Rev. John McCullough, CEO and executive director of CWS, who will welcome an expected 1,000 participants at the gathering’s opening session. “For example, in areas with a scarcity of water conflict often arises as people compete for the limited supplies available. Ecumenical Advocacy Days is an opportunity for people to become engaged around a broad range of issues that contribute to violence and to explore ideas about building peace.”
CWS has successfully addressed conflict in drought-prone areas of East Africa through its Water for Peace program, which has helped people in dry, rural communities in the West Pokot region of Kenya and Uganda develop new, clean water resources for human consumption and for livestock. That, in turn, has served to ease fighting between people from the two communities, who cross borders to poach water from each other.
Throughout the conference, the relationship between justice and peace will be explored. Workshops will address the causes of and hoped for solutions to the many types of violence—from guns to domestic abuse to military violence, and economic violence against workers and wages—in the U.S. and around the world.
With immigration near the top of the national agenda, conference participants will have an opportunity to discuss violence against undocumented immigrants, who often are targeted for crime because their fear of deportation sometimes prevents them from going to the police.
Jen Smyers, CWS associate director for immigration and refugee policy will address the problem in the workshop, “Community Safety, Racial Profiling and Immigrants’ Rights.” Jasmine Huggins, CWS senior advocacy officer, will present a workshop on “Exploitation and Migration in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.”
The conference, which aims to mobilize people of faith to make the case for peacebuilding to lawmakers with the power to enact policies and legislation on this and other domestic and international policy issues, will conclude with a day of lobbying on Capitol Hill. Participants will meet with lawmakers and staff from their congressional districts to advocate in favor of policies that promote justice and peace.
Confirmed speakers and preachers for Ecumenical Advocacy Days include the Rev. John Dear, an internationally known peace activist, author and Nobel Peace Prize nominee; Dr. Maryann Cusimano Love, professor of international relations at The Catholic University of America, a member of the Department of State’s Working Group on Religion and Foreign Policy, and an expert on security and peacebuilding; Sister Dianna M. Ortiz, OSU, associate director for education for Justice Project, Center of Concern; the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, director of public witness, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and James E. Winkler, general secretary and president of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.