Sunday, October 12, 2014

Kobani, the UN Refugee Agency, and Human Rights

(Registration for our UN Day Luncheon is now closed. If you have reserved a seat for the luncheon, we look forward to seeing you on Saturday, October 18th)

To receive information about future programs and activities of our Oklahoma City chapter of the United Nations Association, please be sure to sign up for our email list ... HERE. Thanks!

The current violent onslaught against the Syria town of Kobani is the latest dramatic example of why the life-saving work of the UN Refugee Agency is essential in today's world.

By the time our UN Day Luncheon program takes place next Saturday, it is possible that Kobani may have fallen to the ISIS militants. If that happens, then a new wave of refugees may begin in Iraq or elsewhere in Syria. There is speculation that Baghdad may be the next target of the ISIS jihadists. The prospect of a million people fleeing from the Iraqi capital is chillingly real.

The UN Refugee Agency has twice been the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace. It is a recognition that, year in and year out, the world needs the United Nations and its specialized agencies.

In 1981, the Nobel Prize Committee wrote about the UN Refugee Agency:

"...The problem of refugees is one we encounter in every part of the world. We are face to face with a veritable flood of human catastrophe and suffering, both physical and psychological.

"The Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees has, in the opinion of the Committee, carried out work of major importance to assist refugees, despite the many political difficulties with which it has had to contend. This work is supported and supplemented by the large-scale contributions made by other international organisations, state-sponsored as well as private....

"The establishment of the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees was based on respect for human rights. It is on this basis that we must seek to find the answers to the refugee problems of our age, both on the national and international plane."

Today, in 2014, the number of refugees in our world has expanded to numbers that haven't been seen since the end of World War Two. When Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke to the UN General Assembly last month, he noted that, "Never before has the United Nations been asked to reach so many people with emergency food assistance and other life-saving supplies...." 

When we meet on Saturday, we will reflect on the platform of human rights upon which the work of the UN Refugee Agency is built. We will consider America's response to the present crisis -- both as a national security concern and as a response of individuals acting in community.

We have assembled a panel of experts who can speak knowledgeably and passionately about The Refugee Crisis:

<> Joe Meinhart, a college professor who promotes social responsibility and international education;

<> Julie Lewis, whose every day job with Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City involves supporting the resettlement of refugees in Oklahoma; and

<> Imam Imad Enchassi -- the son of a refugee, a man who has lived in a refugee camp, and a man of faith who is celebrated as a defender of vulnerable populations.

Please join us in this timely discussion of one of the most profound issues facing our world today.
Tickets are on sale until Tuesday at Noon. After that, our online registration form will be closed.
Reserve your seat today ... We hope to see you on Saturday, October 18th.

Whirlwind of violence surprises some residents in northern Syria

8 October 2014
© UNHCR / I.Prickett

SURUC, Turkey, October 8 (UNHCR) – Faysal thought that the conflict plaguing Syria since March 2011 had bypassed his home in the north, so he was stunned when the whirlwind of violence came recently to Kobane (Ayn al-Arab).

Photo Credit: MSNBC
The 35-year-old civil servant had long seen TV news reports of Syrians fleeing into neighbouring countries from other parts of Syria. It filled him and his wife, a teacher, with a huge sadness. But somehow he believed that his family, including three children, was safe on the border with Turkey.

That all changed in mid-September, when ISIS fighters launched a major offensive to capture Kobane. The group had attacked the predominantly Kurdish area several months before, but this attack was different. Now, the militants were using tanks and artillery in addition to small arms, Faysal said.

Under cover of darkness, Faysal gathered his family and fled to the border, carrying his 90-year-old father, who was barely conscious, and skirting minefields along the way....

Continue reading at the UNHCR website,
http://www.unhcr.org/emergency/5051e8cd6-5435578cc.html

Watch "Faysal's Flight from Kobane, Syria"

-- a 4-minute video from the UN Refugee Agency.















http://youtu.be/IYaZ2CinRgo

Monday, September 29, 2014

Thought Leaders


(Registration for our UN Day Luncheon is now closed. If you have reserved a seat for the luncheon, we look forward to seeing you on Saturday, October 18th)
To receive information about future programs and activities of our Oklahoma City chapter of the United Nations Association, please be sure to sign up for our email list ... HERE. Thanks!


One of the great things about living in a world-class city like Oklahoma City is that we have terrific local resources who can help us to understand and interpret world events.

For our UN Day program on "The Refugee Crisis," you have the chance to hear a top-notch panel of knowledgeable presenters.

Enjoy our 2014 UN Day Program:
Saturday, October 18th -- 12 Noon
The Center
4325 NW 50th Street
Oklahoma City, OK   73112

Tickets are on sale now. Regular tickets are reasonably priced
at $25; student tickets are offered at a special discounted
price of only $10. Use the Online Order Form ... HERE.
They are prepared to address your questions about this multi-faceted subject.

Our panelists will be:

Dr. Imad Enchassi, president and founder of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City (ISGOC).

Joe Meinhart, Ph.D., director of the Oikos Scholars program at Oklahoma City University.

Julie Lewis, director of Refugee Resettlement for Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City.

Our moderator will be Dr. Marie Hooper, professor of history at Oklahoma City University.

Here is a little more about each of our presenters:

Dr. Enchassi is well-known in Oklahoma City. He is the recipient of the 2014 Humanitarian Award of the Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice, the "Dialogue Award" of the Dialogue Institute of the Southwest, the Community Service Award of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, and in 2011 he was recognized by The Oklahoman newspaper as a Visionary in Religious and Education Outreach. He is widely recognized as a voice for peace, interfaith understanding, and religious tolerance in Oklahoma and beyond.

Many of our friends enjoyed Dr. Enchassi's appearance at our 2014 program on the International Day of Peace. He has a warm place in his heart for refugees, having grown up in a refugee camp in Lebanon. He came to the United States after surviving the 1982 massacres in the Sabra and Shatila camps.

Joe Meinhart teaches in the Petree College of Arts & Sciences at Oklahoma City University. He is an assistant professor of Sociology and Justice Studies. Additionally, he directs the Oikos Scholars program and co-directs OCU's Social & Ecological Responsibility Initiative.

The Oikos Scholars program is a liberal arts program that helps prepare students to engage in lives of social and ecological responsibility. The program features an inter-disciplinary curriculum -- including courses in sociology, environmental science, religion and philosophy. All Oikos scholars participate in service learning projects, and they are required to complete at least one approved international education experience while at OCU.

Julie Lewis is the director of Refugee Resettlement for Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City. She has a background working in refugee foster care in the United States as well as an experience implementing an English as a Second Language (ESL) after-school program in the Dominican Republic. A graduate of Grand Valley State University (Michigan), Ms. Lewis holds a degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice.

Catholic Charities' Refugee Resettlement program assists hundreds of new refugees annually. The newly arrived refugees receive help in finding safety, stability, self-sufficiency, and integration into their new community. According to the Refugee Council USA, the largest refugee populations in Oklahoma are from Burma, Iraq, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Eritrea, Malaysia, and Cuba.

Dr. Marie Hooper
For any panel discussion, a good moderator should be smart, articulate, knowledgeable, and able to think on her feet. We're fortunate that Dr. Marie Hooper has agreed to ride herd on our high-powered panel. We think she will be just right for the job. Her academic interests include international relations, terrorism, identity formation and mobilization, and teaching and learning.

In her 15th year of teaching at OCU, Dr. Hooper routinely teaches World History, Methods, and various seminars under the heading of Ancient Cultures (Greece, Egypt, Mesopotamia). She is an enthusiastic supporter and promoter of international education.

In addition to the informative panel discussion, our UN Day Program will feature a delicious meal prepared by our friends at The Center. And, we are looking forward to remarks by State Senator (elect) Kay Floyd as well as a special presentation by State Representative Richard Morrissette.

Not least of all, you'll get to enjoy the company of some of the best folks in all of Oklahoma -- that is, the members and friends of the Oklahoma City chapter of the United Nations Association. You won't find a nicer bunch of folks on any continent.

To reserve your place at our UN Day event, please buy your ticket(s) in advance. Find details at our "Tickets on Sale Now" page.

To purchase tickets online, use this link and follow the easy steps:

http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07e9shbqhehzncst3b/start

We hope to see you on October 18th!

Ban Ki-moon speaks to the United Nations General Assembly

The Seeds of Hope


“This year, the horizon of hope is darkened. Our hearts are made heavy by unspeakable acts and the deaths of innocents. Not since the end of the Second World War have there been so many refugees, displaced people and asylum seekers. Never before has the United Nations been asked to reach so many people with emergency food assistance and other life-saving supplies.... 

“It may seem as if the world is falling apart, as crises pile up and disease spreads. But leadership is precisely about finding the seeds of hope and nurturing them into something bigger. That is our duty. That is my call to you today.”

--Ban Ki-moon
Secretary-General of the United Nations
From his address to the opening session of the 2014 United Nations General Assembly
September 24, 2014

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dr. Imad Enchassi

“Sometimes I think God exposed me
to so much hatred and violence.
so that I can be a voice for love and peace.”


We are extremely pleased to announce that Dr. Imad Enchassi, the senior Imam for the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, will be a featured speaker at our Peace Day event at Oklahoma City University on Sunday, September 21st:

Sunday, September 21st -- 6:30pm
The Great Hall of the University Center
Oklahoma City University
2501 N. Blackwelder, OKC


You are invited to join us as we celebrate the International Day of Peace.

Dr. Enchassi is a renowned voice for peace, interfaith understanding, and religious tolerance in Oklahoma and beyond. He is the recipient of the 2014 Humanitarian Award of the Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice, the "Dialogue Award" of the Dialogue Institute of the Southwest, the Community Service Award of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, and in 2011 he was recognized by The Oklahoman newspaper as a Visionary in Religious and Education Outreach.

Beyond these many accolades, Dr. Enchassi is a gracious man of gentle humor. He inspires confidence with his knowledge and ability to communicate. He is a highly sought-after speaker.

The son of a Palestinian father and a Syrian mother, Dr. Enchassi grew up in the Palestinian refugee camps of Beirut, Lebanon.

“I am a third generation refugee," Enchassi recently told The Red Dirt Report. His father was Palestinian, his mother from Syria.

As a teenager, Enchassi and his six siblings were in the Sabra and Shatila camps when they came under attack from the fighters of a Christian militia group. It was September, 1982.

It wasn't just an attack. It was a massacre. More than 30 years later, the world can't forget the deaths of so many unarmed civilians. Estimates of the death toll range from 762 to 3,500. The UN General Assembly condemned the slaughter, which stretched over the course of 3 days.

As related by The Oklahoman newspaper: "Enchassi said surviving the massacre made him think long and hard about the power and destructiveness of hatred."

“I knew that hatred had to stop,” he said.

After surviving the massacre, at the age of seventeen, Enchassi moved to America, beginning a long journey of education. He studied business management at South Plains College in Texas as well as at Southern Nazarene University in Bethany. Eventually, he earned a masters in management from the University of Phoenix.

“Making it to the U.S. was a dream,” Enchassi told the Red Dirt Report. For nearly two decades, he excelled in the restaurant industry as a regional manager and consultant.

For the last ten years, Dr. Enchassi has focused his life on building up the Islamic community in Greater Oklahoma City. He succeeded in creating the first accredited Islamic school in Oklahoma City. During that time he also became the founder, Imam and President of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma ‘City (ISGOC).

ISGOC has grown to become the largest Islamic Center in the state of Oklahoma.

Dr. Enchassi and his wife, Judith, are the proud parents of five children.

Appearing along with Dr. Enchassi at our Peace Day program will be a group of students from Mercy School. They are preparing a musical performance that we're sure you will enjoy.

The theme will be peace -- our common aspirations for peace, our right to live in peace.

You are invited to join us. 

"History has shown that, no matter how fierce, conflict can end, peace can prevail and reconciliation can triumph. On 21 September, at concerts around the world -- in major cities and small towns, in conflict zones and peaceful communities –- people will broadcast this essential message. They will celebrate the value of human diversity and the strength of our unity.  
"...I urge every peace-loving person to engage with their friends and neighbors, their community organizations and governments. Together, let us demand the right of peoples to peace."

 --Ban Ki-moon
UN Secretary-General

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Kristen Swartley and El Sistema

Our Observance of Peace Day in Oklahoma City
will Feature Music by the El Sistema Jazz Combo


Do you know about "El Sistema?"

It is an international movement for music education -- "The System," in English.

It came to Oklahoma about a year ago, the result of a commitment by Phil and Cathy Busey, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, and the Wanda L. Bass School of Music at Oklahoma City University.

Kristen Swartley, a teaching
artist for El Sistema Oklahoma,
will introduce the orchestra's
jazz combo at our Peace Day
celebration on Sept. 21.
The first concert of the El Sistema Oklahoma youth orchestra was last October. One hundred children in grades 3 through 6 delivered a rousing performance in downtown Oklahoma City. It included young people from several Oklahoma City elementary schools, including Sequoyah, Putnam Heights, Cleveland, Linwood, Gatewood and Kaiser.

As a mission project of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in partnership with the Wanda L Bass School of Music at Oklahoma City University, El Sistema Oklahoma benefits from a variety of community partners for their success.  In addition to St. Luke’s and OCU, Trinity International Baptist Church provides classrooms for after-school practice sessions.

“We are honored to serve our community by providing a place where children and their families can feel an abundance of grace, hope and joy on a daily basis.  When children see that they can be good at something and be part of something great, it has the power to change the trajectory of their lives,” says Robyn Hilger, Executive Director of El Sistema Oklahoma.

We're happy to report that a group of young musicians from El Sistema Oklahoma's new jazz combo will perform at our Peace Day event on Sunday, September 21st:

For your viewing pleasure: Here's a 30-second clip
of El Sistema Oklahoma's full orchestra performing
Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" on YouTube.


Sunday, September 21st -- 6:30pm
The Great Hall of the University Center
Oklahoma City University
2501 N. Blackwelder, OKC


The program is free. We hope you'll join us.

Introducing the jazz combo will be Kristen Swartley, a teaching artist for El Sistema Oklahoma.

Ms. Swartley will talk briefly about her experience living and working in Bolivia in 2009 and 2010. It was there that she heard about El Sistema and realized its potential for youth development and social engagement.

Appearing with Ms. Swartley will be Robyn Hilger, the executive director of El Sistema Oklahoma.

Children who study music don't just get better at playing
the trombone or violin. They also gain a better ability to
process language. That's according to a new study published
in The Journal of Neuroscience. Learn more from NPR:
"This Is Your Brain. This Is Your Brain On Music"
El Sistema started in 1975, inspired by a Venezuelan economist and musician, José Antonio Abreu.

Abreu believes that an orchestra represents the ideal society, and the sooner a child is nurtured in that environment, the better for all.

We are fortunate that we have visionary leaders in our community who are willing to invest in the education of our young people in this way.

And, we are proud to showcase the El Sistema Oklahoma Jazz Combo as part of our celebration of the International Day of Peace.

"Music has to be recognized as an agent of social development, in the highest sense because it transmits the highest values - solidarity, harmony, mutual compassion. And it has the ability to unite an entire community, and to express sublime feelings"
--José Antonio Abreu

Find out more about El Sistema:

"El Sistema"
CBS News, 60 Minutes

(12 minute video report)

"Venezuela's El Sistema"
The New York Times

(3 minute video)

"Fighting Poverty, Armed with Violins"
The New York Times

(online article)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Albert Gray Eagle

You're Going to Like our Peace Day
Program on Sunday, September 21st


One of the featured presenters at our annual celebration of the International Day of Peace this year will be Albert Gray Eagle, a noted flute artist, story teller, and creative writer.

Mr. Gray Eagle is a teaching artist for the Oklahoma Arts Council. If you have children in an Oklahoma school, they may have participated in a workshop with him. He is frequently invited to enrich the classroom experience of children in Oklahoma City and beyond. 

As described on the Arts Council's website:

"Residencies with Gray Eagle may include the art of flute making and playing of the instrument while building on an understanding of history relevant to the Native American. He may provide storytelling for both children and adults that offer a perspective and philosophy of Native American culture of the past and present. Through his artistic talents and gentle nature for teaching, participants will be guided to develop their creative and artistic selves. As a U.S. Army veteran, Gray Eagle performs frequently for veterans events." 
Read more about Gray Eagle
at the NewsOK.com website:
"Tuneful tradition: Albert Gray Eagle's
flute music entertains, teaches"
by Brandy McDonnell

Mr. Gray Eagle hasn't always been a teaching artist. In 1973, at the age of 17, he joined the U.S. Army. After completing his military service, he worked for a dozen years as an office manager. Then another 12 years as a truck driver.

But the flute has been his passion for many years.

Born in Colorado, Mr. Gray Eagle grew up in a Native American family. He is of Oglala, Cheyenne and Apache descent.

As a teen, Gray Eagle's great-uncle John Eagle showed him how to make and play flutes.

"He told me God gives you all kinds of gifts inside your soul, and you'll learn to respect them when you unwrap them. And you won't know what they are until you unwrap them," he said.

Beyond his workshops in Oklahoma schools, Gray Eagle has been a popular entertainer at the Red Earth Festival, at the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, and at other public and private performances.

Gray Eagle has won praise from educators across the state. Mike Woods, superintendent of Fargo Public Schools, has said:

"He exemplifies the good of Oklahoma, the heritage we have here, the quality of the people we have here."
Enjoy a 2-minute YouTube video featuring
Albert Gray Eagle's voice and flute.
"The Lord's Prayer in Cheyenne"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5byHU3FC4nM

Gray Eagle often performs with his friend and collaborator, Matheson Hamilton, a story teller and creative writer.

We expect that Mr. Hamilton will join Gray Eagle at our Peace Day event on September 21st. They will perform together, with Hamilton offering a poem or other reading while Gray Eagle plays the flute.

At his website, Gray Eagle explains his motivation for teaching:

"With the air we breathe we choose whether to say something nice to someone or to be mean and create hate. We would rather have the people we teach create an instrument and use the air they breath to create music; allowing them to express who they are as individuals through their artwork, and hopefully through this introduction, give them the opportunity to express themselves through a universal language."

Through his workshops, Gray Eagle inspires his students -- young and old, alike -- to:

• Develop imagination and craftsmanship
• Explore cultural heritage
• Learn patience and respect for others
• Learn to work together as a team

We hope you will join us at our celebration of the International Day of Peace:

Sunday, September 21st -- 6:30pm
The Great Hall of the University Center
Oklahoma City University
2501 N. Blackwelder, OKC


This free program is co-sponsored by Joy Mennonite Church, the Oikos Scholars program of Oklahoma City University, the Center for Conscience in Action, the Peace House, the Oklahoma City group of Pax Christi USA, the Respect Diversity Foundation, and by your Oklahoma City chapter of the United Nations Association of the USA.

Watch this blog for future articles about the other featured speakers at our Peace Day event.






"Together, let us demand the right of peoples to peace."
 --Ban Ki-moon

UN Secretary-General

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Tickets on Sale Now!

Reserve Your Seat for Our UN Day Luncheon
Sign Up Online & Pay Online, too ... It's Easy!


(Registration for our UN Day Luncheon is now closed. If you have reserved a seat for the luncheon, we look forward to seeing you on Saturday, October 18th)
To receive information about future programs and activities of our Oklahoma City chapter of the United Nations Association, please be sure to sign up for our email list ... HERE. Thanks!

Many other members and friends of the UN Association will be there. We will enjoy an informative discussion of The Refugee Crisis -- with an All-Star Panel.

Regular price tickets are on sale now for $25. If you're a student, you can get a ticket for just $10 -- what a bargain!

Here's how to reserve your seat at the Luncheon.

First, complete your ticket reservation form. Here's the Link to our "Constant Contact" webpage ...

http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07e9shbqhehzncst3b/start

Advance registration is required. So, don't wait to reserve your ticket. There is limited seating, and we want to get a count of how many members, friends, and guests to expect.

Second, make your payment. There are two ways to pay --


You can send a check (made payable to "UNA-USA") to:

United Nations Association of the USA
Greater Oklahoma City Chapter
P.O. Box 60856
Oklahoma City, OK   73146-0856


(Please make sure your check arrives before the day of our luncheon).

Or, you can pay online by going to our "Payment Button" page ... HERE.


Many of our members enjoy the convenience of registering and paying online.

It's so easy, even your cat can do it ...


This dog is making reservations right now ...


Thanks for supporting your Oklahoma City chapter of the United Nations Association!

We hope to see you on Saturday, October 18th!


The Payment Button


Look at these happy people ordering tickets for our UN Day Luncheon on Saturday, October 18th, in Oklahoma City.

They started by reserving their seats online ... HERE ... at our "Constant Contact" survey form.

Then, they came to this page to complete the payment process.

Here's the button to make a payment:

Ticket Type
  

Select "Regular" or "Student" ticket; then click "Add to Cart." You'll be directed to a secure payment site managed by PayPal.

If you need to purchase additional tickets, you can do so by choosing the "Continue Shopping" option on the PayPal site. (You'll be directed back here to choose the ticket type and add your second ticket to the cart).

Here's another happy person using her credit card to make a payment online:















She's buying a Student Ticket at a special reduced price of only $10 ... What a bargain!











A simpler way to pay.

With PayPal, you have the freedom and flexibility to pay the way you want -- using your credit card, debit card, or bank account -- all while keeping your financial information secure.

Click the button above to make the payment on your luncheon ticket(s).

Thanks for supporting your Oklahoma City chapter of the United Nations Association ... We'll see you on October 18th!