Educators to explore human-rights network

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Human-rights educators at United Methodist institutions from five continents will gather this week to discuss forming a network on human rights to take advantage of teaching, research and community engagement programs already underway at their universities.

Together, we can do more at the global level.

The meeting, organized by the General Board of Higher Education & Ministry (GBHEM), is May 8-9 at American University here. Representatives from 13 universities in Africa, Asia, South America, Europe and North America are attending.

“Each of these institutions already plays an important role educating students, researching new trends, promoting concrete actions in their communities, and influencing public policies, church decisions and social trends,” said Dr. Amos Nascimento, special assistant to the GBHEM General Secretary for Global Education & New Initiatives. “Together, we can do more at the global level.”

The International Assn. of Methodist-related Schools, Colleges & Universities (IAMSCU) was created in 1991 to bring together more than 800 institutions in 80 countries. Each institution was founded by persons who shared John Wesley’s vision for education.

Human-rights network

The idea to organize a human-rights network among worldwide Methodist-related universities originated last year at the IAMSCU Conference in Hiroshima, Japan, following a suggestion by Dr. Gerald Lord, associate general secretary for Higher Education at GBHEM.

Goal of the Washington meeting is to specify activities for the network.

“Based on our visits and conversations with many of the faculty and students engaged in human rights, we then realized that many institutions represented in IAMSCU offer outstanding teaching, research and community engagement programs in this field,” Nascimento said.

The goal of the Washington meeting is to specify activities for the network, propose forms of exchange and interaction among researchers, and prepare a follow-up event bringing all partners together.

A document distributed to those participating in this event stated:

This network would be an example of dialogue with the Global South, a vehicle for exchange on educational practices, an experiment in intercultural dialogue and a way of having a stronger voice — a choir with diverse voices from around the world — that can speak to truth and dialogue with educational institutions, churches, governments and groups in global civil society.

Specific, concrete objectives

The group of educators will work together to develop specific and concrete objectives, taking into consideration the regional contexts related to the societal, cultural and political traditions of each country.

Representatives from these Methodist-related universities are expected to attend the session:

  • From Africa — Africa University in Zimbabwe and Kenya Methodist University in Kenya
  • From Asia — Soochow University in Taiwan, Ewha Woman’s University in South Korea and Kwansei Gakuin University in Japan
  • From Latin America — Methodist University of São Paulo in Brazil
  • From Europe — Roehampton University in England and Stockholm School of Theology in Sweden
  • From North America — American University (AU), Clark-Atlanta University, Emory University, University of Denver and Drew University, all in the United States.

Others invited

Bishop Marcus Matthews, Washington Episcopal Area; the Rev. Dr. Kim Cape, general secretary of GBHEM; and the Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, general secretary of the General Board of Church & Society (GBCS), were also invited to attend the meeting.

Participants will be welcomed to American University by Vice-President Fanta Aw, Dr. Joseph Eldridge of AU’s Kay Spiritual Center, and Dr. Hadar Harris, executive director of AU’s Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law at the Washington College of Law.

The group will start planning its contribution to the next IAMSCU Conference in 2017, meeting location to be announced in June.

Editor's note: Tom Gillem is a writer and photographer in Brentwood, Tenn.

The General Board of Higher Education & Ministry is The United Methodist Church’s advocate for educational, institutional, and ministerial leadership. It operates on behalf of the denomination to prepare and assist those whose ministry in Christ is exercised through ordination, certification, or licensed ministry. The Board also provides general oversight and care for United Methodist institutions of higher education.

The International Assn. of Methodist-related Schools, Colleges & Universities was established at the 16th World Methodist Conference in Singapore in 1991. Its vision of is to develop a dynamic, worldwide network of member institutions, resulting in effective inter-institutional cooperation and collaboration to prepare a new generation of Christian leaders.

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