From Beijing to Now

The Reverend Dr. Bebb Stone reflects on her time as a Presbyterian participant in the Beijing Conference and as a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) delegate to this year’s Commission on the Status of Women:

Bebb Stone speaking to a groupAs a Presbyterian woman who went with our church to Beijing in 1995, I have been deeply touched to be with the Presbyterian delegation for this 20-year review at The UN CSW59.  There are 8,500 women here from most if not all of the countries of the world, and the breadth and depth of their work for gender equality (“women’s rights are human rights”, and vice versa) is humbling and astonishing.  We hear from diplomats and grassroots women, celebrities and the anonymous, secularists and persons of faith–all working toward “Planet 50-50 by 2030.”  Today I sat with a Maryknoll Sister who is here with Christian Peacekeepers. Last week I spent time with a Presbyterian woman from Scotland who was here with Soroptimists International.  

The one side event that has touched me most deeply I want to mention:  “Finding Common Ground: Islam and Women’s Equal Rights.”  The audience applauded vehemently with the repudiation of “political Islam” and the “despotism” masked as religion.  To the contrary the panel supported CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, and insisted that at the heart of Islam is justice.  In several contexts I have heard women pressing for an investigation of “the narrative:” who gets to control the interpretation of the text?  Now there is a question that the religious descendants of Luther and Calvin completely understand!!  

The Presbyterian Church is wise to maintain its UN office and invest in our NGO relationships with the peoples of the world.  It’s critically important to remain in the conversation the world is having with itself in order to “seek peace and pursue it.” Worship at the Church Center each morning has kept us all grounded as we listen to the God-awful and God-wonderful stories being shared.

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