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NCC women's Mideast delegation focus is women and children

New York City, May 7, 2007 The plight of women and children suffering through hostilities in the Middle East will be the focus of a delegation of women church leaders from several denominations of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC).  The delegation hopes to see firsthand the human toll of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as the effects of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Iraq now living in Jordan.
The group of more than a dozen women, headed by the Rev. Dr. Thelma Chambers-Young, leaves Wednesday (May 9) for nearly a two week visit.  Rev. Chambers-Young is an at-large vice president of the NCC and vice president of the North American Baptist Women's Union.
"Women look at issues of children and what's going to happen to the family.  We thought that, from the perspective of women as peacemakers, this would be an interesting way to look at this," said Rev. Chambers-Young, a member of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., from Oklahoma City.  "I hope we will hear the concerns of women in the region and stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers who are caught in the middle of the conflict."
The group will visit Jordan and Israel/Palestine.  The delegation will arrive as domestic political issues continue to broil within Israeli and Palestinian societies.  The turmoil within Israel centers around its war in Lebanon with Hezbollah, the immediate after-effects were witnessed by a previous NCC delegation of church leaders.

The delegation also travels as U.S. government leaders debate the funding of the Iraq war.  While in Jordan, the delegation will meet with Christian refugees from Iraq.  United Nations officials now estimate the Iraq war has created the largest migration of refugees in the Mideast since the 1948 establishment of the modern nation Israel.  The UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) estimates 750,000 Iraqi refugees are in Jordan while Jordan says it may be half that number.  The UNHCR puts the number in Syria between 600,000 and one million.
The Middle East Council of Churches is helping to coordinate the visit.  Two senior NCC staff members will accompany the delegation:  Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, associate general secretary for justice and advocacy, who will represent the NCC's Justice for Women Working Group; and Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, associate general secretary for international affairs and peace, who directs the NCC's efforts on Middle East peace and other international issues. 
"We will listen and learn from the various parties there," said Dr. Chambers-Young.  "We can come back and be more effective peace witnesses for our churches and our government."

The NCC, one of the largest faith-based organizations involved in advocacy, promotes a viable two-state solution to the Israeli - Palestinian conflict, an end to the Iraq war, and diplomatic negotiations with Syria and Iran as a means to lowering regional tensions.

The delegation members are:  Dr. Chambers-Young, Mrs. Sandra Ann Pyke Anthony, African Methodist Episcopal Church; Ms. Linda Ann Bales, director of the Population Project of the General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church; Rev. Dr. Rhashell Debra Hunter, director of the Racial, Ethnic and Women's Ministries Program, Presbyterian Church (USA); and Rev. Elenora Giddings Ivory, director of the Washington Office, Presbyterian Church (USA).

Also, Ms. Shirley Ann Nichols, member of the Coordinating Cabinet of the Presbyterian Women, Presbyterian Church (USA); Rev. Lois Martha Powell, team leader of Justice and Witness Ministries for Human Rights, United Church of Christ; Rev. Susan Gwen Turley, Swedenborgian Church; Ms. Arlene Connie Tyler, president of the Women’s Department, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.; and Dr. Iva Elaine Carruthers, Proctor Conference, United Church of Christ.

Also, Rev. Andrea Lucille Clark, assistant pastor, Antioch Baptist Church, Tulsa, Okla., (National Baptist Convention);  Ms. Angelita Clifton, student, Drew Theological Seminary, American Baptist Churches USA; Rev. NaShieka Dawn Knight, associate minister, Greater St. John (Baptist) Church, Upper Marlboro, Md.; Rev. Jacqueline Y. Lynch, associate minister, Saint Matthew's Community AME Church, African Methodist Episcopal Church; and Ms. Deborah Leah Stapleton, lay minister, Fountain Baptist Church (Summit, N.J.) and a student at Drew Seminary.

NCC News contact:  Dan Webster, 212.870.2252,


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