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Watch the June 16 Special Program featured local students involved in the pro-Palestinian encampments.

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Conflict

Love Demands Permanent Ceasefire now!

BANNER IN SUPPORT OF CEASEFIRE NOW! ON OUR UUSF FACADE!

On Thursday, January 11, we celebrated the placing of the "Love Demands Ceasefire Now" banner on our church's outside walls! With a beautiful sunlit background, members of the Human Rights Working Group were joined by other speakers, including Art Persyko of the Gray Panthers, Kathryn Anderson of St. Mark's Lutheran Church, and Karen Melander Magoon of the Church of All Peoples, who sang a peace song. John Meliska hosted the event, and Don Shearer provided guitar accompaniment with outstanding original songs on peace and ceasefire motifs! Dolores Perez Heilbron gave Reverend Laura Shennum's message to us, and she then spoke about HRWG's dedicated work on the issue of a ceasefire and assistance for Gaza. and all the victims in this conflict. Bruce Neuburger spoke about the background and history of this horrendous situation. The main message was: Please speak out for basic morality and justice; speak out for Love!  Join us in this effort and let our leaders hear our voices and those voices around the world who want a CEASEFIRE NOW!

THE UUSF HRWG COMMITTEE

Purpose statement

“To identify and address current human rights violations locally, nationally and internationally in accordance with our Unitarian Universalist Principles and Values;   
To provide opportunities to engage in discussion to develop practical strategies to ameliorate unjust abuses and policies through education, advocacy and actions to protect the rights of all peoples; and 
To unite and collaborate with other organizations in support of these aims.”

June 16 Event
June 16 Special Program featured local students involved in the pro-Palestinian encampments.

Our Human Rights Working Group members include students from encampments at the University of San Francisco—Ivan Villegas, UC Berkeley—Larissa Cursaro, and one of the attorneys working on their behalf, Jeff Wozniak. This event was a fundraiser on behalf of the students and included the film Where Olive Trees Weep. They articulately and knowledgeably explained their reasons for standing for Palestinian justice, and the audience embraced them. Watch the Video.

DANGEROUS TRUTHS

New Perspectives on America’s History

The Human Rights Working Group and the Forum Committee of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco will present a series of programs on new perspectives about the history of the United States.

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FORUM

Watch past Forum presentations that center human rights discussions.

A light breakfast will be offered at 9am and the program will begin at 9:30am.

GLOBAL CONVERSATIONS AT UUSF

Global Conversations

UUSF Human Rights Working Group announces a new interactive discussion series!

The purpose of this new program series is to discuss cultural, economic, political, historical, and scientific issues that affect the whole international community. Attendees will participate with questions and their own ideas. UUSF members and the general public are encouraged to participate and a facilitator will guide the process.


The programs beginning this September will take place after the UUSF Sunday Worship Service, and will offer a light lunch. A brief background statement on each topic will be circulated in advance of the topics to be discussed. Each session will begin with a speaker explaining and enlarging on the topic, followed by a general discussion and possible follow-up actions.


We are pleased to announce that long-time UUSF member Horst Bansner will chair this new series, and HRWG members will assist in this endeavor. We expect that topics will dwell on humanity’s continuing quest for greater knowledge and insights that would benefit our increasingly complex and fragile global existence.

UPCOMING EVENTS!

  • Sept 10 Evolving Ireland, What is New? - Horst Bansner

  • Oct 29 U.S. Capitalism/Imperialism: Any Alternatives? - Bruce Neuburger

  • Nov 5 India’s Narendra Modi: Democrat or Autocrat? – Chandru Murthi

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Collaborative & Innovative

At First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco, our top priority is to achieve results, and we know that our success depends on the quality of our campaigns and partnerships. Our approach is to build strategic networks and promote programs that will help advance our work. Learn more about the causes we’re passionate about and get in touch with us to see how you can get involved.

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Statement

HUMAN RIGHTS WORKING GROUP NEW YEAR’S LETTER

January 1, 2024

The UUSF Human Rights Working Group looks forward to this year of 2024 with the hope that our activities will encourage new ideas and ways to achieve a more just and peaceful society. We are aware of many societal forces, such as governmental and institutional systems and fluctuations in economic stability that affect our chances of achieving these goals.  Currently, humanity is at a critical turning point concerning the welfare of all earthly creatures and of the earth itself.  Toward the end of 2023, we witnessed the beginning of a brutal military conflict in the Middle East afflicting large populations in that area, which could have broad and serious repercussions.   What steps can be taken to avert these ongoing international human rights violations?  We will continue to advocate for policy change as the root cause of these abuses as described in our Purpose statement.


For 2024, we will be focusing on two current issues of importance:​

·         War & Peace – We continue to focus on this subject because of the  armed conflicts in the Ukraine, and now in Gaza and elsewhere in Palestine—the latter having been recognized by 139 of the 193 UN members and since 2012 has had the status of a non-member observer state in the UN—with massive killings of innocent civilians, including women and children that—according to Human Rights Watch and the United Nations—are war crimes. These violations depend on the past and current support of the United States, and can only be resolved by U.S. policy change, diplomatic efforts, and a Ceasefire.

·         Climate Crisis & Sustainability – We will continue to focus on the many causes of our earth heating up, thus affecting the sustainability of nature, all creatures and humanity.  The current military conflicts as mentioned previously are adding to the destruction of the natural world.  Because humans have driven this breakdown since the 19th Century industrial revolution, we will search, educate the public and advocate for practical strategies to slow the production of greenhouse gases and speed the usage of eco-friendly power sources.

·          

​​​We continue to keep the interdependent issues of Immigrant Rights, Racial Justice, and Voting Rights on our agenda, and will be reacting to new and important policy changes as they occur.

​Dangerous Truths:  This year, we hope to continue to produce the real stories of specific chapters of the history of the United States ironically called “Dangerous Truths.” This series features academic scholars and historians, who are experts about our country’s history, whose perspectives may surprise many of us compared to what we were taught.  Last year’s 2023 series and prior years productions are available to view on this website under the title “Dangerous Truths” in YouTube format (here).

​Monthly Meetings: We hold monthly HRWG Committee planning meetings via Zoom, normally on the 2nd Wednesday of the month, or as notified.

Media Platforms consist of: (1) Speaker presentations at the UUSF FORUM to educate the public and provide exchanges of ideas, in-person and online through Zoom; and (2) Weekly Wednesday morning 8 to 9 AM Vigils held outside the church, with signs expressing ideas and support for specific policy changes regarding the issues addressed above. HRWG supports other international human rights organizations, often endorsing, participating, and hosting educational Zoom events with them.

We co-produce and work closely with the UUSF Sunday Forum, and other public discussion events. We appreciate the technical support from Forum Chair Jeff Pekrul in producing these events. We are thankful for the support of staff, especially Jonathan Silk, Director of Communications.  ​

We welcome newcomers to join us.


Please contact us about questions or new suggestions which we might address at humanrights@uusf.org

In hope and struggle,​

Dolores Perez Heilbron, Jeff Pekrul, and Melvin Starks, Co-chairs

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Focus

FOCUS FOR 2024

War & Peace – We continue to focus on this subject now because of the ongoing armed conflict in Gaza, where massive numbers of innocent civilians have been killed which according the United Nations are obvious war crimes. These human rights violations obvious in the Palestinian areas of Gaza and elsewhere include the questionable support of the U.S. currently and historically, which can only be resolved by diplomatic efforts and ceasefire negotiations.

Climate Crisis & Sustainability – We will continue to focus on the many causes of our earth heating up, thus affecting the sustainability of nature, all creatures and humanity.  The current military conflicts as mentioned previously are adding to the destruction of Nature.  Because humans have driven this breakdown since the 19th Century industrial revolution, we will search, educate the public and advocate for practical strategies to slow the production of greenhouse gases and speed the usage of eco-friendly power generation methods.

Statement from the UUSF/Human Rights Working Group

To the UUSF Board of Trustees and Congregation – Nov 5, 2023

We, the members of the UUSF Human Rights Working Group, in accordance with our committee’s Purpose, wish to verify to the UUSF Board of Trustees, and to our entire Congregation, that we, along with the world at large, grieve in sorrow and anguish as we witness the catastrophic ongoing war in Israel and Palestine, which cannot be ignored. 

We believe it is urgent now to call upon our Society’s congregational members, to act in accordance with what we as UUs have proclaimed as our values for many years in our Principles especially the 1st and 6th: The inherent worth and dignity of every person; and The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.  

Our UUSF HRWG Committee Purpose statement is:

“To identify and address current human rights violations locally, nationally and internationally in accordance with our Unitarian Universalist Principles and Values;    To provide opportunities to engage in discussion to develop practical strategies to ameliorate unjust abuses and policies through education, advocacy and actions to protect the rights of all peoples; and To unite and collaborate with other organizations in support of these aims.”

UUSF HRWG agrees with and adopts the UU Justice in the Middle East statement of 10/19/2023 (attached). We also agree with its outline of actions to stop the escalation of further violence in this region. We will present educational events on the history of this region with perspectives to better understand the roots of this conflict. And, as is stated in the UUJME statement, we “believe it is not antisemitic to criticize the oppressive acts of the Israeli government, military, and settlers. We oppose definitions of antisemitism used to stifle activism for Palestinian rights. We amplify calls to oppose antisemitism and Islamophobia.”

Thus, as time is of the essence, we hope that you will join us to truly live our values with a commitment to work for justice for all inhabitants of the Israeli and Palestinian lands. We endorse the following requests to our government representatives and parties in conflict to:

  • Demand an immediate ceasefire!

  • Ensure humanitarian aid and assistance be made available immediately to Gaza.

  • Abide by the United Nations Geneva Conventions.

  • Stop the ongoing ethnic cleansing in Gaza and the West Bank.

Respectfully yours, 

Signed:   HRWG co-chairs and UU members

s/ Jeff Pekrul                                  s/ Robin Larsen

s/ Rev. Millie Phillips                     s/ John Meliska

s/ Dolores Perez Heilbron           s/ Veronica Masterson

s/ Melvin Starks                             s/ Larry Danos

s/ Bruce Neuburger                      s/ Rev. Meg Whitaker-Greene

s/ David Heilbron                           s/ Dennis Adams

HRWG STATEMENT
Prior Works

PRIOR ACHIEVEMENTS FOR 2019-2022

US Immigration Policy:  HRWG held live (before COVID) and later Zoom presentations (called “Close the Camps”) about the destructive policies such as the forced detention of asylum seekers, separation of families, and the mistreatment of children at our southern border.  We began and continue to demonstrate on the steps of the church every Wednesday mornings to draw public attention to these issues.


Voting Rights:  During the Presidential campaign in October 2019, HRWG organized a March for Democracy to demand a fair election where constitutional rights to vote would be protected across the country.  Many other civic, social justice and labor organizations joined this march from the Mission to downtown San Francisco.


International Human Rights:  HRWG joined with other faith and justice groups to draw attention and protest actions and policies of the United States as a contributor to violations of human rights across the world.


Ending Racism:   HRWG conducted a variety of events explaining the roots of American racism and White Supremacy.  With the UUSF BIPOC committee, we produced and presented a video workshop entitled We Built People of Color Visibility at the UU General Assembly in 2019.  Our video was called the “Beloved Stories UUSF”, and we started with the Story Corps Toolkit. Also, included below are the questions we used in our interviews, the release form for the participants, and a flyer.

2022

Racial Justice

We will continue to support the Black Lives Matter movement and other related groups, along with other UUSF racial justice efforts, as we did in the past during the 2020 George Floyd demonstrations against police brutality throughout the country towards Black, Brown, Asian and Indigenous sisters and brothers. We will continue special projects about our unique American history of slavery such as the “1619 Project” readings.  We continue to work closely with our UUSF BIPOC group. (See videos below produced under the auspices of the HRWG.)


Immigrant Rights

We will continue to press for a sound immigration policy for asylum seekers and special DACA children of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and deserve full citizenship. New immigrant groups are expected to be fleeing their homes due not only to on-going conflicts, at times perpetrated by our foreign and military policies, but also by the climate crisis.  Many HRWG UUs visited and worked at the southern border in El Paso, helping the asylum seekers there, and returned to report on that situation.


Voting Rights

We will work to promote the Constitutional right of all Americans to vote in a safe manner, without danger as happened in our prior history after the Civil War.  All acts to suppress the vote by any organizations will be exposed and special educational projects will be undertaken to advise all citizens of their rights to vote.


Climate Crisis

We will focus on how ordinary citizens can work in ways to stem the oncoming crisis, for example, by advocating that the City of San Francisco and state governments buy only electric vehicles (EV), and offer financial incentives to residents for the purchase of EV and the installation of solar panels on their homes.  We continue to work directly with environmental groups on special educational and advocacy projects.

Women's Rights

Women’s Rights, was voted upon by our members in September 2021, after the state of Texas severely limited abortion rights, and the Supreme Court refused to interfere, thus denigrating the rights of women to control their bodily health.  As a result, the Women’s Group was organized, with Reproductive Rights its priority.  They have been very active in demonstrations and continue to work on new issues.  Lori Lai is the Coordinator.  See more on their latest activities (click here)

Beloved Stories

BELOVED STORIES (2019)

The video produced in 2019 features members of our HRWG. Special thanks to Shulee Ong and Lori Lai for their contributions in the production of this special project.

Watch Beloved Stories (click here)

Mary Jane Mikuriya - interviewed by Anna Mikuriya Jungherr (click here)

Dolores Perez Heilbron - interviewed by David Heilbron (click here)

HRWG IN ACTION!

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