Archives For NAIN

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note series, more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So lets get started!

Top Story: Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum has recently returned from the first International Conference on Transforming Conflict in Amman, Jordan. The event centered on dialogues with youth and adults from Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and other countries, for which McCollum served as a speaker and facilitator. “It is clear to me that the younger generation in particular, has a clearer vision of what it means to be a global citizen, and it is this shift, in my opinion, that gives us hope for a better future” said McCollum, praising the Arab and Israeli youth who attended the conference. During the conference McCollum also met and spoke with Sharif Zeid Bin Hussein, the cousin of King Hussein the II, and former Jordanian Prime Minster Taher Nashat al-Masri.

Patrick McCollum with Taher al-Masri

“His Excellency was very gracious in his invitation to me, and I thoroughly enjoyed our discussions. Over the course of the evening, we touched on US-Arab relations, the Palestinian–Israeli conflict, the part youth has played in the Arab Spring revolutions and beyond, and new ways to move forward toward peace.”

In addition to his work at the conference, McCollum also met with local Bedouins, and visited the famous sacred sites Petra, Mt. Nebo, and one of the possible sites of Jesus’s baptism by John. In summing up his trip and experiences, McCollum said that “it is clear to me that I will return once again to the Middle East, not only to Jordan, but also to visit Palestine and Israel. And I look forward to once again to be present in the company of the many new friends I’ve made in each of these countries. I firmly believe that drawing on the touchstone of our common humanity, rather than focusing on the age-old narrative of our geographical and cultural differences, is the key to world peace.” The Patrick McCollum Foundation blog is now posting his daily thoughts from the trip if you’d like to know more about his experiences in Jordan, and the work of the conference.

In Other News:

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

 

Top Story: A local Nevada television station is reporting that Roberta Stewart, widow of Sgt. Patrick Stewart, had her truck vandalized. The Stewart’s were at the heart of a campaign to grant Wiccan soldiers the right to have the pentacle engraved on their military tombstone or marker after ten years of stonewalling by the VA. While the act is attributed to local vandals, the report does explore the possibility that the brick thrown at her truck was connected to anti-Pagan sentiment.

But there’s another more remote, but more disturbing possibility: Roberta Stewart’s very public dispute with the Veteran’s Administration following her husband’s death. Although the Army recognized Patrick Stewart’s religion, it took a lawsuit against the V-A and government intervention to get the Wiccan faith’s symbol, a pentacle, placed on his marker at the veterans cemetery in Fernley. She won that fight, but the marker was vandalized shortly after it was installed. Roberta has continued to be a vocal advocate for religious tolerance and slain soldiers’ families. It’s a stance that still stirs strong emotions in some. She still gets angry emails. She doubts her truck was targeted for that reason, but can’t help but wonder. “We still get things where people don’t believe that we have the right to practice religious freedom, so it could have. I can’t be the one to answer that, but i would hope not.”

Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, who worked closely with Roberta Stewart during the Veteran Pentacle Campaign, issued the following statement on her official Facebook Pagan.

“Please send healing, strength, and protection to Roberta Stewart, the courageous Wiccan Afghanistan War Widow who was with me on the front-lines of the successful quest to the get US Department of Veterans Affairs to add the Pentacle to the list of emblems that can be included on the grave markers they issue to honor deceased veterans.”

While this vandalism is terrible, I do hope that it truly was random, as evidence suggests, and not motivated by religious hatred. My best wishes go out to Roberta Stewart, may she have all the strength and healing she needs, and may the perpetrators be caught.

In Other News:

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

The North American Interfaith Network (NAIN), one of North America’s oldest interfaith organizations, recently held their yearly gathering in Salt Lake City, Utah. At the meeting, Covenant of the Goddess member Rachael Watcher, a longtime interfaith activist, was elected to the Executive Board of NAIN. Watcher is the second Pagan to serve on the Board, she will be joining Grove Harris, a member of Reclaiming, who has served with the Pluralism Project and the Council For A Parliament of the World’s Religions. COG’s National Public Information Officer released this statement on the election.


Photo from Earth Spirit Voices

“Our CoG National Interfaith Representative – Rachael Watcher attended that meeting, and was elected to a four year term on the NAIN Board of Directors. This is important news for Wiccans and Pagans everywhere. Once again we are represented on the board of one of the oldest and most well respected interfaith organizations in North America. This election of Rachael demonstrates that CoG’s collective support for interfaith is reaping rewards of respect and inclusion for the entire Pagan community.”

This is yet another advance for Pagans within the interfaith movement. In addition to NAIN’s two Pagan board members, there are currently three Pagans, Andras Corban-Arthen, Phyllis Curott, and Angie Buchanan, serving on the Board of Trustees of the Council For A Parliament of the World’s Religions. Also, it should be noted that the United Religions Initiative has seen active Pagan participation for the entirety of its ten-year history.

These remarkable achievements, along with the “in the trenches” interfaith outreach and activism by individual modern Pagans, has ushered the modern Pagan movement to a place of global attention and influence that’s nearly unprecedented considering where we were a generation ago.  A lot has happened since Paganism “came out” to the global interfaith community in 1993, and we’ve since built bridges and new understandings at a remarkable pace. Whatever our future, these achievements ensure that the voices of modern Pagans continue to be heard by the world’s religions. Congratulations to Rachael Watcher on her election!