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DISCUSSION OF CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES IMPORTANT, SAYS NCC/CWS TEAM TO UNITED NATIONS WORLD CONFERENCE AGAINST RACISM

See related story: NCC/CWS Names Team for U.N. World Conference Against Racism

            August 23, 2001, NEW YORK CITY – Free and fair discussion of issues, including reparations, Palestinian rights, the plight of Dalits and other issues “deemed controversial by some,” is essential to the integrity of the upcoming United Nations World Conference Against Racism, said members of the National Council of Churches/Church World Service team going to the conference.

            Taking reparations as a case in point, Sammy Toineeta, the NCC’s Racial Justice Director, noted that “some states don’t want to talk about reparations, but this is an issue of importance to a lot of people, including many church people.

“The definition of reparations is being debated, but fundamentally, this is about setting things right,” she said.  “It’s about justice, human rights and the restoration of lost human dignity for Africans, people of African descent, Indigenous Peoples and other vulnerable groups.”

Several religious groups are engaged in the debate.  For example, this summer,  the United Church of Christ General Synod and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) General Assembly, in a joint resolution, asked for “active study and education on issues dealing with reparations for slavery” and asked their leaders to raise the issue with “leaders of other Christian denominations, other faith groups, and leaders and activists in the secular community.”

Members of the NCC/CWS team to the U.N. World Conference Against Racism affirmed their “commitment to studying reparations for persons of African descent, indigenous persons and other vulnerable groups, for past misconduct and for contemporary effects of continuing harm.”

            The World Council of Churches, in a formal comment to the United Nations, advocated for “effective remedies, recourse, redress, (compensatory) and other measures at the national, regional and international levels” for victims of massive crimes against populations based on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and against impunity for those responsible for those crimes.

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