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‘Being Matthew 25’ gives Presbyterians a view from inside the 67th Commission on the Status of Women, which concludes Friday

The PC(USA) has a seat at the United Nations table. Learn what that means from #CSW67 participants and organizers

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — Reporting from the United Nations and the nearby Church Center for the United Nations during the 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, the people behind Being Matthew 25 brought the monthly series to its conclusion Thursday with a wide-ranging report featuring both #CSW67 organizers and Presbyterian participants. Click on the link above to watch the 31-minute broadcast hosted by the Rev. DeEtte Decker, Director of Communications for the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

Decker opened the broadcast with a conversation with Sue Rheem, the Presbyterian Representative to the United Nations.

The UN is “not just about the Security Council and dealing with conflict,” Rheem said, “but really looking at ways people can flourish.”

The Presbyterian Church has been active at the UN since the organization was founded in 1945.

“We are able to speak, to represent the policies of the PC(USA) and have a place at the table to talk” and submit written statements about matters that UN member nations are considering, Rheem said. “We think of it as a privilege that we are able to be here at UN headquarters … We can attend meetings and briefings, ask questions of ambassadors and UN staff and really engage with the UN.” With the PC(USA)’s Matthew 25 invitation, “we have the gospel to guide us,” Rheem said.

Rheem pointed out “a real parallel” between the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals and Jesus’ teaching in  Matthew 25:31-46. “The real goal of the Sustainable Development Goals is to make sure no one is left behind,” Rheem said. “With Matthew 25, we make sure we are serving the least of these.”

Rheem also pointed out two helpful Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations resources available for download: a Young Adult Advocacy Guide and a Study & Devotional Guide on the Sustainable Development Goals.

#CSW67 is focused on innovation and technological change and education in the digital age. “We don’t have a global framework on technology, and we don’t have governance for it,” Rheem explained. “This is a forum for those discussions to happen.” Delegates are focused on three goals: access to technology; innovation and reimagining education, especially STEM education; and rights and safety, especially in digital spaces.

“It is the start of the conversation,” Rheem said of #CSW67, adding that a larger conversation on what’s hoped will result in a global digital compact will occur this fall.

The Stated Clerk and the Co-Moderators

For the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the PC(USA), the capabilities of the strong women in his life “have been life-saving.” During CSW he witnessed “the vigilance and steadiness of young women who are saying, ‘We are going to press this until things change.’”

“I hope more men will get involved in movements such as this and begin to see the value of what it means” to help end “the marginalization of women in the United States of America,” Nelson said. That was a challenge for Jesus “and to everyone who understands what it means to love.”

The Co-Moderators of the 225th General Assembly (2022), the Rev. Ruth Faith Santana-Grace and the Rev. Shavon Starling-Louis, lead ecumenical worship during the 67th Commission on the Status of Women (Photo by Rich Copley/Presbyterian News Service)

The Rev. Shavon Starling-Louis, who together with the Rev. Ruth Faith Santana-Grace serve as Moderators of the 225th General Assembly (2022), had this rejoinder to those who insist that the voices of young women don’t matter: “It’s a lie!”

“God has made you in God’s very image, and the divine is in you,” Starling-Louis said, advising young women to “be your authentic self, whatever that looks like. It’s the gift God sent to the world for this day.”

“What an encouraging space,” Santana-Grace said of CSW, “being among people rising together.”

A roving microphone gives voice to many

Susan Jackson Dowd, executive director of Presbyterian Women, said the kind of advocacy going on at CSW “is critical not only to create space for opportunity for people now, but to maintain equity that has been gained and restore equity that has been lost. We watch those rights, particularly those in the United States, being backtracked by policy. Women’s health is a concern in current times when that seemed unthinkable.”

Equity issues “are exacerbated in the digital world,” Jackson Dowd said. Because there’s no governing framework to manage what’s happening among those who provide digital content, “that’s why it’s critical this CSW is dealing with creating a global framework, particularly for women and girls and those who are marginalized.”

The staff at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, from left, are Sue Rheem, Ivy Lopedito, Emma Johnston and Victoria Alexander. (Photo by Rich Copley/Presbyterian Mission Agency)

“Seeing women from all over the world does give me hope,” said Deidre Allen, associate for administration with Young Adult Volunteers. “I was excited not only to represent the YAVs but also as a young adult who is African American.”

“It can feel overwhelming, all of the injustice in the world,” said Victoria Alexander, a YAV working PMUN. “But you look around and realize, I’m not carrying this burden alone.”

“Young people are doing advocacy work because they have no other option,” Alexander said, adding that the oppression they face is “infringing on their lives.”

“I feel it’s been life-changing so far,” said Bex Law, a student at Marshall University sent to CSW to start a local chapter at Marshall, “and I hope to continue that path.”

Bex Law, a student at Marshall University, speaks during the 67th Commission on the Status of Women. (Photo by Rich Copley/Presbyterian Mission Agency)

“Being a young woman of color … [CSW is] something unlike any other experience,” said Naomi McQuiller, a YAV and a delegate. “Black and brown people are not typically represented in spaces like this. They’re not specifically advocated for.”

“I’m hopeful we can connect and grow in community as young people to make sure we get the work done,” said Ivy Lopedito, a mission specialist at PMUN. “We are here to do that, and we’re ready. I’m excited for the young people of the church.”

A young woman originally from India, Priyanka Gupta, joined CSW for the second week of the gathering, which included 8,000 people participating in person or online. Gupta, who was not interviewed as part of “Being Matthew 25,” is working as an intern for the World Communion of Reformed Churches in Hanover, Germany.

“The dialogue with youth representatives on the priority theme [of CSW] facilitated some pertinent discussions, bringing to light the harsh realities of the struggle of women across the globe,” Gupta said. “The engaging and enriching session concluded with a strong affirmation: ‘We can, we must, and we will’ continue striving to achieve gender equality and empowering all identifying as women and girls.”

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