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Editor inspired by stories from around the world and right here

Why would The Fig Tree editor go to the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Oct. 26 to Nov. 9 in Busan, South Korea?  In attending the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th assemblies in Vancouver, B.C., Canberra in Australia, Harare in Zimbabwe and Porto Alegre in Brazil, I have found I heard stories, learned about people’s struggles and risk-taking for justice, peace and sustainable living, stories I did not encounter in U.S. media.

I met Darlene Keiju, a Marshallese woman who had tumors and wondered if she should have a baby because of U.S. testing of nuclear bombs in the islands that once were her home increased birth defects.

I met world leaders like retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu who worked with many others to speak out against and eventually end apartheid in South Africa.

I met Pauline Webb, British Broadcasting Corporation journalist, who said,“every encounter with another human being is an encounter with the Source of all being.”

I met again a friend I knew before from a semester study with the WCC Ecumenical Institute at Bossey near Switzerland.  In Vancouver, she told me how she had edited a human rights newspaper, been put on a death list and spent years in exile.

I met a Filipino woman who led chi bashi exercises for the gathering of women before the Assembly, exercises I still use.

I go to meet people, to intersect with their lives, to learn who they are through their stories, to see how their lives intersect with the issues being discussed.  I go to listen,  as I do here.  Then I pass on their stories in hope that understanding how policies and practices of governments, businesses and people affect the lives of people will lead people to think.

I believe that as we are informed, we can be inspired to be involved, caring about our neighbors and acting in solidarity with neighbors here and far away.

As I came away from Gonzaga University’s Take Action Against Hate Banquet, I realized as I looked around the room of about 200 people, how many people right here work for justice, peace, equality and human rights.

Again we were reminded of the life of Eva Lassman, who out of her loss of all her family members, loss of all family photos and loss of freedom during the Holocaust, rose above the suffering to have children and to teach others never again to engage in genocide.

We learned the story of human rights activist and community leader Linda Pall leaving a mark on art, libraries, parks, recreation, farmers markets, land use and media.   Despite a pulmonary illness, she’s introducing junior and senior high school students of color, disabilities and low income to the possibility of a career in law.

We learned from Carl Wilkens of the World Outside My Shoes return trips to Rwanda, now working with young adults who were among orphans he helped feed and care for during and after the 1994 genocide.  They are planning a 20-year memorial, sharing how they now live with people who took their family, teachers and friends from them, not looking at what was taken from them or what evil was done to them, but defining themselves by what they do with what they have.

Last week, I went to a memorial service for one of Spokane’s great community activists and civil rights leaders who died Sept. 30.  V. Anne Smith, who was president of the Spokane Chapter of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), promoted racial equality, economic parity and quality of life for all.  She was involved in Girl Scouts, United Way, The Links, Inc., and Calvary Baptist Church.  She prayed every day for people she took spiritual responsibility for.  As she advocated for civil rights, police accountability, women’s rights and community improvements, she did not let the struggles diminish her cheerfulness.

Having learned through World Council of Churches gatherings to listen to and hear stories behind stories, stories missed by most media, stories articulating faith, stories of hope, I now regularly find I’m in the midst of empowering stories here.

I will share some of those stories at the assembly—in one-to-one encounters, small groups and among the other accredited press—as a witness to the power of media.  I will share insights, news and stories through Facebook—“like” The Fig Tree Page to follow reports—upcoming issues of The Fig Tree and a special feature in The Spokesman-Review.

I’ll be glad to speak at congregations and groups, and will share at 30th anniversary Fig Tree events—the Benefit Breakfast on March 12, Benefit Lunch, March 14 and Anniversary Dinner, April 30.

Mary Stamp - Editor

Copyright © November 2013 - The Fig Tree