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Swords into plowshares

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Swords into Plowshares is the blog of the Peacemaking Program and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations of the Presbyterian Mission Agency of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Seeking peace. Striving for justice. Together.

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July 30, 2015

Happy Birthday, Nelson Mandela

by Willa Van Camp

Pledge card for action on Nelson Mandela DayNelson Mandela Day is celebrated every year on July 18, Nelson Mandela’s birthday. Today, July 24, there was celebration of the day which included the awarding of the inaugural Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize. The prize was awarded to two laureates who have each embodied the values of Mandela in their life and work.

The first recipient was Dr. Helena Ndume, an inspirational woman from Namibia. Ndume was forced to flee to Angola as a 15 year-old due to violence in Namibia. Though forced from her home she did not abandon her education and was able to continue studying in Zambia. When she was young she had wanted to be a fashion designer. She was however, talked out of this by a mentor who told her that independent Namibia wouldn’t need fashion designers. She heeded the advice of her mentor and instead went to Germany to study medicine. She now works as an ophthalmologist having dedicated her life to the treatment of blindness. Through her work she has been credited with helping 30,000 people get no-cost eye surgery that address blindness, cataracts, and myopia. She talked today at the celebration about the fact that 1 million people go blind every year and that most cases of blindness could be either prevented or cured with access to vision care. She then ended her statement by urging the member states to recommit to the goal to end preventable blindness by 2020.

The second recipient was H.E. Mr. Jorge Fernando Branco Sampaio, former President of the Republic of Portugal. Sampaio worked tirelessly for the restoration of democracy in Portugal, taking many cases to the courts of the dictatorship included several that he defended pro-bono. He went on to work his way through the political leadership holding several ministerial level positions before serving as President from 1996-2006. He then served as the UN Secretary-General’s first Special Envoy to Stop Tuberculosis from 2006-2012. Sampaio spent the majority of his statement at today’s celebration not talking about himself but talking instead about the work still to be done. He started his statement acknowledging and paying tribute to the millions of people who have persevered towards the ideals that Nelson Mandela held without recognition, especially noting the many health care workers who have devoted their lives to providing health services to those who would not otherwise have access to basic medical care from impoverished urban areas to refugee camps. He continued by saying that unfortunately we as an international community and our governments in many ways have truly failed those who most needed our help but that it does not have to be this way. He concluded his statement with a quote from Nelson Mandela, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

The celebration continued with speakers congratulating the two Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize recipients and reflecting on Nelson Mandela, his life, and his impact on the world. The speakers included; the Prime Minister of Uganda, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Senegal (Speaking on behalf of African states), Bangladesh (Speaking on behalf of Asian states), Romania (Speaking on behalf ofEastern European states), Paraguay (Speaking on behalf of Latin American and Caribbean states), Spain (Speaking on behalf of Western European states and others), United States, and South Africa. There was a generally reflective mood throughout the celebration with an unspoken question seeming to float through the room. What would Nelson Mandela do?

Categories: Human Rights, Justice, South Africa, United Nations

Tags: interns, nelson mandela, nelson mandela day, willa van camp


July 30, 2015

HIV/AIDS MDGs achieved ahead of schedule

by Sarah Hoyle

As the focus in the UN changes from the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals, it is important to celebrate the Goals that have been achieved,

When the MDGs were established, the world was gripped in a swiftly spreading AIDS pandemic that was spiraling out of control. MDG6 was established not to eliminate AIDS, but to halt and reverse its spread. An announcement was released yesterday by UNAIDS that “new HIV infections have fallen by 35% and AIDS-related deaths by 41%. The global response to HIV has averted 30 million new HIV infections and nearly ...

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July 30, 2015

Remembering Srebrenica

by Nathan Jumper

Twenty years ago in July 1995, more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were slaughtered, an act that has come to be known as the Srebrenica genocide. These mass killings were perpetrated primarily by units of the Army of Republika Srpska, and the Scorpions, a paramilitary unit from Serbia.

In 2004, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia unanimously ruled that these killings constituted genocide. One year later Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made an official statement that, while the blame lies first with those who planned and carried out the massacre, the UN shares ...

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July 30, 2015

Youth Civic Engagement

by Willa Van Camp

International Youth Day is celebrated every year on August 12th. This day was designated in 1999 with the adoption of resolution 54/120 with the goal to highlight issues that young people are facing around the world. Every year as part of the International Youth Day there is a theme on which special focus is placed. The theme for this year’s International Youth Day is “Youth Civic Engagement”. This year’s campaign hopes to encourage youth to engage and participate in political and public life. The choice of the theme, “Youth Civic Engagement,” acknowledges ...

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July 30, 2015

On empathy - Sarah Hoyle

Sarah Hoyle, summer 2015 intern, reflects on the role of empathy in ministry and mission on her blog. Here's a sample:

There I was, sitting on the cold linoleum floor of a church on Staten Island, crying until my eyes ached. I was 14 years old, on a mission trip to NYC with my church youth group. While I tend to be very critical of mission trips (a story for another post), this week serving in the city drastically changed my young perception of the world around me. That day, realized for the first time the extent to which ...

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