Bedford Youth Attend United Nations Conference on Worldwide Migration and the Refugee Crisis

Representing First Parish in Bedford at the recent Intergenerational Spring Seminar Conference at the United Nations (l-r) Sylvia Cowan, Jerry Ross, Paris Stone, Lisa Rubin, Abi Van Praagh, Amelia Leida, and Nate Linden – Courtesy image (c) 2018 all rights reserved – click to view larger image

Submitted by First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Bedford

Members of Bedford’s First Parish Unitarian Universalist church attended the aannual “Intergenerational Spring Seminar,” a conference at the United Nations last week (April 4-7) where they learned about worldwide migration and the refugee crisis.  The four teens and three adults heard first-hand from speakers who had escaped violence or persecution in their native lands.

The group will discuss some of what they learned at a Lyceum to be held at at 9:00 am on Sunday, April 15, 2018. First Parish is located on Bedford Common, at 75 The Great Road; using the Elm Street entrance, the building is fully accessible. The Lyceum is open to the public.

The trip was organized by Lisa Rubin, the Director of Religious Education at First Parish, Jerry Ross, the congregation’s UN Envoy, and Sylvia Cowan, a member of the First Parish Sanctuary Committee.  The youth included Bedford students Amelia Leida, Nate Linden, Paris Stone and Abi Van Praagh. While at the conference, participants traveled by subway to event venues around Manhattan.  The conference included jam-packed days of presentations and workshops, a chance to meet people from around the country, and a “Friday Night on the Town” for the youth (under adult supervision of course!)

About the Intergenerational Spring Seminar and its Purpose

The First Parish attendees traveling to NYC were among 160 youth and adults at the conference from across the country and Canada. The annual Intergenerational Spring Seminar is conducted by the Unitarian Universalist Office at the United Nations (UU-UNO).  The office works to promote UU values at a global level, a role dating back to the early 1960’s. The office has official status at the UN as a non-governmental organization (NGO). Each year the conference focuses on a different set of global issues.

Experts explained that of 65.5 million displaced persons today – that’s 1 in every 113 worldwide — nearly 2/3rds are refugees in their own country. These figures do not include the estimated 25 million more individuals who have been displaced due to climate change.

Migration and the problem of caring for or resettling refugees poses one of the greatest challenges to the world community.  Conference participants learned that most displaced persons live in wretched conditions, many for long periods of time, even years.  Refugees are often misunderstood and portrayed as a threat.  In fact, refugees are people just like us forced to flee for their lives, or families desperately seeking a future for their children where no hope exists. And migrants, once resettled, contribute in many positive ways to a country’s economy and development. The conference concluded with a proclamation specifying a moral framework for action to improve the lives of refugees and ultimately resolve this humanitarian crisis.

The Unitarian Universalist Office at the United Nations relies on direct support from UU congregations in the United States and Canada for much of its budget. First Parish Bedford is one of only a handful designated a “Blue Ribbon Congregation” for its overall level of support and UNO-related activity.

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