by Linnea Nelson, Director of Religious Exploration.
The Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO) intergenerational spring seminar is held annually in New York City, and each year focuses on a key global issue. The last time UUCF attended as a youth group we learned about LGBTQ issues around the world. Last month’s seminar, attended by seven high school youth and three chaperones, including me, featured four distinguished panels of four experts each (yes, 16 learned and passionate experts!) focusing on the costs of inequality. The panels drew from Ph.D. researchers and professors, social activists, UU-UNO staff, a Peace Corps volunteer and social justice poets and dramatists. Every speaker or panelist shared a passion for making this world a better place for everyone. Some of the key topics included:
- How climate change adversely affects the poor.
- Educational inequity around the world, including in the U.S.
- The importance of involving survivors or victims of economic injustice in finding solutions.
- How increases in violence are often related to issues of economic inequality.
- How underlying poverty magnifies the effects of disasters like Hurricane Katrina.
- How drug policies and privatization of our prison system have increased the numbers of young, black children and youth who are not only incarcerated, but held in solitary confinement.
- How dark money affects the poor.
- Gender economic disparities.
- How equity is different from equality.
In their own words, here’s how some of our youth responded to this intense experience:
- “Going on the UU-UNO trip allowed me to learn about the different types of inequality in our world, especially in the American prison system. Income inequality affects everyone, not just those who are poor.” SKR
- “Thanks to a series of amazing panelists I was able to learn so much about topics I had never really considered as major problems for our nation. The panelists were inspiring and encouraged me to find more information about major issues for the United States, and eventually take action in the future.” HF
- “I learned about the problems that humanity faces and how to combat them. More importantly, I was inspired by the speakers to take measures against the plagues and troubles of mankind.” TJP
And from our chaperones:
- “It filled me with hope to see our young adults so interested in such serious issues and enthusiastically engaging in discussions about how to address them. The workshop empowered them to take immediate action by developing a statement to submit to the U.N.” AP
- “I learned that we must pursue social activism, advocacy and acts of love and justice from a position of humility. We must not presume to know what a community may need. We should work with marginalized communities to empower them to effect the change they wish to see (and need) in their communities. Despite a plethora of experts detailing all manner of devastating global inequities, I came home from the seminar with hope because of the vibrant, creative and passionate youth I was able to spend time with this weekend.” CF