By Carol Fouke-Mpoyo, Church World Service
WASHINGTON, D.C. — “To connect organizations and issues is the only way I see to break global systems of oppression. No one can do it alone. We have to see this as one movement.”
That’s how David Schilling describes the task facing the more than 1,000 Christian advocates who are expected to attend the 13th Annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice, set for April 17-20, 2015, in Washington, D.C.
The focus of this year’s EAD is “Breaking the Chains: Mass Incarceration and Systems of Exploitation.” Ecumenical Advocacy Days will include prayer, worship, advocacy training, networking and mobilization. The event will culminate in a Congressional Lobby Day.
Church World Service is a major Ecumenical Advocacy Days sponsor. EAD’s Director Douglas Grace is on the CWS staff. Grace said the event’s goal is “to build the movement to shake the foundations of human exploitation, including a prison-industrial system that incarcerates millions of people in the United States and abroad.”
Schilling, who works as Senior Program Director for Human Rights and Resources at the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility in New York City, will moderate and take part in the event’s Sunday plenary “Breaking the Chains: Mass Incarceration and Systems of Exploitation.”
His panelists are “very courageous people,” Schilling said, all working on the frontlines for change in the United States, Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East.
In addition to Schilling, they include:
Raed Jarrar, Policy Impact Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee in Washington, D.C., working to end “epidemic level” political imprisonment in the Middle East. He said he plans to share updates about recent developments in Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Bahrain and other countries, and “touch on the U.S. role in creating and sustaining many of these systems of oppression around the Middle East.” And he will challenge U.S. activists to work for U.S. policies that will “not only help improve conditions on the ground but also help start the process of healing, fixing our image and changing our legacy.”
Emira Woods, Global Client Principal for Social Impact at ThoughtWorks, a technology firm committed to social and economic justice. The New York City-based Woods is expert on issues of debt, trade, development and U.S. military policy. She will speak about several issues facing Africa, including prisons, land grabs and mining exploitation.
Father Shay Cullen, founder of People’s Recovery Empowerment and Development Assistance Foundation in the Philippines, working to protect women, children and human rights. He will challenge his audience to work to end human trafficking and sex slavery. “After 40 years of rescuing children from bars, brothels and the clutches of pedophiles and of campaigning to end sex slavery in the Philippines,” he said, “it is clear that the challenge is greater than ever. It is a worldwide evil and we have to rise up together to meet this challenge.”
Joanne Blaney, a Maryknoll lay missioner working in Brazil for violence prevention and restorative justice for both offenders and victims. “Research into restorative justice indicates that it consistently outperforms other approaches in reducing reoffending,” she said. “I hope our plenary will be an opportunity for debate on these important issues, with proposals for how we can come together in a global movement to denounce attitudes and systems of exploitation and work to bring about the good news of a ‘Just Justice’ for all of God’s people.”
Of his panelists, Schilling emphasized, “A lot goes into getting these folks to EAD. We want to learn as much as we can from them, and build a commitment among all in attendance to find their ways to support the systems change we need. Otherwise they’ll just be ‘talking heads’ and that’s not what we want.”
Awareness of the linkages between what sometimes may be seen as different issues is really important for action,” Schilling added. He said he will be asking panelists to clearly describe the work they are doing and to name one or two specific things they would like EAD participants to do to change systems of oppression.
Read more about this plenary on the event page.
Various pre-events hosted by EAD sponsor organizations and an orientation for first-time participants will be held April 15-17. Conference venue is the Doubletree Hotel, Crystal City, Arlington, Va. Visit the 2015 event home page for more information and to register.