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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – On Oct 14, Rev. Patrick McCollum was elected as the new Vice President of Children of the Earth (COE), a United Nations Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). Rev. McCollum, mainly known in the Pagan community for his work championing prisoners’ rights, spoke to The Wild Hunt about what this opportunity means for him and for the greater Pagan community.
COE, was created in 2001 and is a non-denominational educational non-profit organization that provides hands-on learning activities through the ancient art and science of tracking, awareness, and wilderness living skills. COE says its mission is to “ensure the survival of future generations by guiding youth and community to a pure connection with the Earth.”
Rev. McCollum has been on the Board of Directors of Children of the Earth for approximately ten years. The position, like all positions at COE, is completely volunteer.
The Wild Hunt: You had your first meeting at Parliament, correct? What can you tell me about that?
Rev. Patrick McCollum: I first met Nina Meyerhof, the COE president at the Parliament in Barcelona in 2004. [On Monday,] our youth leadership team made a presentation and were warmly and passionately greeted. They did a dynamite presentation and laid out our plan to change the direction of youth engagement worldwide. I am so proud of them, and have every confidence that they will succeed. We have already successfully executed numerous world projects and changed and saved many lives.
Our primary goal is not project oriented, but rather it is directed toward developing the inner skills necessary to perform the outer duties of projects. We teach our youth how to Reflect, Connect, and Act. Then they go to town and do the work.
We have already successfully executed projects in 16 plus countries from building schools, to empowering women, to providing disaster relief, to helping with hunger and clean water. I could list hundreds of projects, but instead, I would press those who want to know more, to go online and see our web pages and media. One of our current big projects is One Peaceful Africa, a youth movement to take back the African continent from terrorists and roving bands of violent gangs.
TWH: What do you hope to accomplish?
PM: It is my hope that through my mentorship and that of the youth leaders that already have been trained by COE, we will create a better, safer, and more sustainable world that we can all live in with diversity being seen as sacred and equality being seen as our highest ideal.
TWH: Do you feel having a Pagan heading a United Nations NGO helps Paganism become more mainstream or accepted?
PM: Yes I do! It is specifically the Pagan values from my tradition that have gained me the respect internationally that has led to my being asked to be VP of COE. Everyone in COE knows that I am a Pagan and all of the people and officials connected to projects that I have helped with across the world know that I am Pagan.
Many people know this, but for those who don’t, I specifically put myself out on the world stage openly as a Pagan to give credit to our community as I move forward. When my projects are successful, I always share with media and all involved that while I can’t speak for our community, my work and the successes connected to it are are representative of what our community has to offer!TWH: Did any of the kids you met with have any questions or concerns about your religion?
PM: Early on, some of the youth wondered and asked questions about my faith and spirituality and had some concerns, especially those of Christian and Muslim origins. But now, I am universally accepted as the spiritual mentor of COE, and am often called upon in that capacity. I often offer prayers to open our meetings or as a part of launching our international projects in other countries. I try very hard to walk in the role as a broad spiritual mentor and leader rather that just as a Pagan mentor or leader.
Sometimes being a Pagan in areas I work in can be dangerous. Not in the context of COE, but rather in the context that those connected to Paganism, Witchcraft and the like, are often killed routinely in some countries we work in. It is a delicate balance for me, trusting in my connection to divinity to protect me, while at the same time being as practical about safety as possible. I have to be willing to die for what I believe in, and willing to set aside my fears in this regard. In some places I go, this work is not for for the weak-hearted or for those who do not fully believe in their own spirituality. This can sometimes be tough dangerous work.
I can’t speak for others, but for me, I consider this work sacred, and I have made the same commitments that many other spiritual leaders and peace activists from other faiths have made before me. I am quite sure that the majority of those we look up to like Gandhi or Martin Luther King had exactly the same challenges in their work, and yet they still moved forward. I believe I can make a difference and it is only that singular purpose that I focus on, not all of the dangers that might go along with that.
TWH: Is there anything you’d like to add?
PM: Yes! I firmly believe that our youth are the future of our planet, and if we don’t step up and both share our expertise with them and also empower them to operate independent of us, they will have to reinvent the wheel in order to resolve the problems that face them and our planet. I want to be a responsible citizen, mentor, and spiritual leader. And in order to accomplish that, I have to do more than just talk, I have to show up.
And so here I am. I am showing up for our youth and for the future of our planet, and will continue to do so to the best of my ability for as long as I possibly can.
COE is a leader in this area worldwide, and if I am going to help steer that ship, I have to do everything I can to steer it to its destination as safely as possible, with all of its cargo intact. It’s a big job, but I am both honored and privileged to do it.
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The Wild Hunt congratulates Rev. McCollum on his new role within an UN NGO and it sounds as if his first meeting as Vice President of Children of the Earth at the Parliament of the World’s Religions was successful. We’ll have additional news from the Parliament of the World’s Religions this week.