The oldest international women's organization and the youngest agree.
Their principles are solidly in accord, and their members work hard,
dedicated to their faiths and to their actions.
Johanna Boeke writes eloquently as past president of one of the oldest women's international religious organizations, the International Association of Liberal Religious Women (IALRW). I carry the memory of the honor they bestowed on me, to be their keynote speaker for the one hundredth anniversary celebration in Kochi, Kerala, India in 2010. They welcomed me. By contrast, I represent one of the youngest international organizations for women, the International Convocation of Unitarian Universalist Women (ICUUW), formed in 2009 in Houston, Texas.
At the ICUUW founding meeting in Houston, more than six hundred women from thirty-seven U.S. states and seventeen countries joined together to deliberate and name the priorities that all of us agreed would enhance the lives of women throughout the world. While I do not wish to sound frivolous, I must ask you the question I ask myself: Can you imagine 623 women agreeing so completely on anything?
We did, and the IALRW's president, Kathy Matsui, and Johanna Boeke were there to confirm that I speak the truth.
What we agreed to is a vision - to achieve tangible advances in the lives of women worldwide through concerted action and international partnerships. We agreed to a mission - to enable women to achieve their human rights, including access to economic opportunities, health care and security, education, and political expression. We agreed that our goal is to work together with groups such as IALRW and others who share common values.
Perhaps it is not surprising that the oldest international women's organization and the youngest agree. Our principles are solidly in accord, and our members work hard, dedicated to our faiths and to our actions.
Perhaps most important, we open ourselves to be transformed by this collaborative work, sharing our goals and our stories to stimulate entrepreneurial leadership and to understand what works best.
We are part of a new movement of religious organizations for women. We are communities of faith who speak together and who do the hard work that needs to be done.
ICUUW, for example, is working with women's groups in North East India, the Philippines, and Transylvania (Romania). They have embraced the goals we agreed upon in Houston and are empowering their own grassroots networks, developing additional projects, and becoming sustainable. Convocations are being planned in Transylvania and the Philippines. One recently took place in North East India. We invite others to join a virtual community for women of faith and action on the ICUUW Web site (http://www.icuuw.com/).
In Kochi, I had a special joy. In the heat of the afternoon, IALRW board members and I sat down together. We agreed to work together. We also agreed that it would be good for women in faith communities around the world to support each other and to celebrate each other's successes.
I pray that this will come to pass. Pray with me. Let this joining together of women of purpose, faith, and power come to pass. May it be so. Amen.
Barbara Kres Beach is executive director of Strategic Relations for Management Concepts, one of the leading training and professional development companies in the United States. She is past president of the Partner Church Council and current president of the International Convocation of Unitarian Universalist Women. She became committed to international work and interfaith dialogue at her first congress of the International Association for Religious Freedom in Japan in 1984. She and her husband, the Reverend Dr. George K. Beach, live in Virginia.