Thursday, May 08, 2014

#Bringbackourgirls For Mother's Day

It’s been almost a month since more than 270 young women were kidnapped from their school in Nigeria, and only a week since the world’s news media, the United States, and the Nigerian President have starting speaking about this horrific assault.

I first learned about what was happening on May 1st on social media, and tweeted, “If 200+ white girls were kidnapped in London, it would 24/7 headline news with governments sending troops in to help.” I kept thinking about how the U.S. media had been obsessed with covering the stories of one missing white young woman: how Jon Benet, Elizabeth Smart, and Natalie Holloway are household words but that these brilliant school girls in Nigeria weren’t making headlines at all. 

I’m glad they are now.  But, I have to ask, “What took so long?” And “if thousands of social media activists hadn’t responded, would they be headlines now?” I want someone in the media to acknowledge that they were wrong in not covering this as soon as it was known.  I want there to be searing analysis about how we are not in a post-racial era at all.  I want there to be coverage of how it is that there are men willing to enslave young women because they wanted an education and that there is a market of men who will buy them.  I want world leaders and media leaders to acknowledge that sexism and racism still permeate the world. I want the world to redouble its commitments to women's education and women's safety. 

As a survivor of sexual assault, my heart aches for these young women and the terror they must be experiencing.  As a mother of a young woman, my heart hurts for their mothers who don’t know where their daughters are but do have an idea about what they are going through.   As a minister, I cry out for us to remember our call to take care of the most vulnerable and the most marginalized. 

I fear that just like some of the individual kidnappings, too much time has passed for these young women to be found.  But, I will keep praying that they will. And, I will do my part to raise my voice to make sure that the search goes on.  On Mother’s Day, I will light candles for them and for their mothers.  I hope you will join me.   

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Prayers for the Supreme Court

Yesterday, the Religious Institute staff co-led a faith rally before the Supreme Court hearings on contraceptive coverage in the Affordable Care Act.  I've written about that elsewhere but I wanted to share my comments from the worship service.  I'm delighted to tell you that as of yesterday nearly 10,000 people had signed our petition with the National Coalition of American Nuns. (If you haven't done so, please go to right away!)

Here are my opening words and prayer before the Supreme Court yesterday:

We are so pleased to welcome you to this faith rally, this worship service, and this important day.  I’m Rev. Debra Haffner, President and CEO of the Religious Institute, a multifaith organization committed to raising faithful voices for sexuality education, reproductive justice, and the full inclusion of women and LGBTQ people in faith communities and society.

I stand here today representing thousands of people of faith who have demonstrated their commitment to universal access to birth control.  I bring with me the names and hopes of more than 9800 people of faith who are standing with us and will have their names on a banner that will be at the Supreme Court later this morning.  I bring with me more than 45 leaders of national faith organizations that have endorsed a national statement on behalf of birth control coverage.  I bring with me the more than 6400 religious leaders who have signed our Religious Declaration calling for a faith based commitment to sexual and reproductive rights, including access to contraception and more than 1200 clergy persons who have endorsed the Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Family Planning. 

Please respond to my statements with:
       We are people of faith.

We believe that all persons should be free to make personal decisions about their reproductive lives, their health and the health of their families.

        We are people of faith.

We affirm that ensuring equal access to contraceptives through insurance coverage is a moral good.

         We are people of faith.

We know that the sin is not family planning; the sin is denying women coverage and access to services they want and they need.

         We are people of faith. 

It is because life is sacred, that we believe that every woman must be able to plan her pregnancies intentionally without governmental interference and without her employer in her bedroom.

          We are people of faith.   

We support religious freedom.  Religious freedom means that each individual has the right to exercise their own beliefs and the right not to have others’ beliefs forced upon them.  We know that individuals have religious freedom and that corporations do not. 

We are people of faith.

We gather today – as people from many traditions with many beliefs – surrounded by a cloud of witnesses here with us in spirit -- united by our hopes and our prayers for the wisdom and eloquence of the attorneys, the compassion and hearts of the justices, and the lives of the millions of women who are counting on us to assure their right to plan their families based on their own faith and conscience.

And so may we say together, so that all who listen will understand, that religious leaders and people of faith support women’s moral agency and universal access to contraception:

            We are people of faith. 

May it be so.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

We Are All Gay Ugandans Now

I can't sleep tonight because my heart is crying for the LGBT people in Uganda...and the other countries in Africa where homosexuality is illegal.

But tonight mostly for the people in Uganda, and their families, and the people and organizations who support them -- where the law says they are all criminals and can be put in jail or worse.

I am a white straight woman in the U.S. and I want the world to know that I care.

I care because the world watched when my family was rounded up and marched to the camps because people thought they were less than, inferior, not worthy of human rights.

I care because I am the mother of a gay man who I love with all my heart.

I care because I love so many lesbians, gay men, bisexual, transgender and queer people who enliven my life and heart.

I care because as a sexologist I know that sexual orientation is a core part of our humanity, and that who we fall in love with is not wrong.

I care because I know that the distance from the state of Arizona which is about to say that private store owners can choose not to serve gay people is not as far as we'd like to think from the legislators in Uganda...and the hate in the street in Nigeria also happens in Peoria and New York City.

I care because as a minister I know that God loves all of God's children and all of us have dignity and worth -- and that sexual diversity is a blessing from God. 

And I hurt because my little organization doesn't have the resources to do much about this...except to pray and to raise our voice.

But the White House does...and the State Department does, and they need to do more than condemn.  They need to embargo and halt funding and do whatever it is they do when a government starts to destroy its people based on who they are.  And the U.N. surely can stand up to this heinous legislation, and say, NO! Not on our watch.  And the big gay rights organizations and civil rights organizations, organize us.  Figure out where we need to march and where we need to stand and ask us to take action.

I can pray and I can write and I can tweet and Facebook.  But others of you have the resources to do more, and I implore you to stand up NOW.

Because we can't stand by and watch.  We are all gay Ugandans now.