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National human rights organization brings anti-war campaign to Fort Lauderdale religious convention

24 Jun

For Immediate Release

A faith-based nonprofit organization hopes to inspire attendees at the annual convention of a major religious denomination to make ending the war in Iraq their major focus for the rest of the 2008 political year. The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC), an international human rights organization based in Cambridge, Mass., will be hosting a series of training sessions and workshops at the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association to be held from Wednesday, June 24 to Sunday, June 29, at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"In this vitally important election year, we are using this opportunity in Fort Lauderdale to educate and train activists," said UUSC President Charlie Clements. "We are asking the question, The Cost of Iraq: Who pays the price? While the burdens may be uneven, we are all bearing the burdens of this war - the military, their families, their communities.

"The war is being financed at the cost of adequate health care for all, crumbling infrastructure of public works, underfunded public schools, and the total failure the federal government to meet even the most basic needs of hundreds of thousands of survivors of the devastating Gulf Coast hurricanes of August 2005.

"This November will be a referendum on the war in Iraq."

Activist training sessions

  • The first activist training seeks to educate and mobilize activism around voter registration, get-out-the-vote, and other electoral issues during the upcoming presidential and congressional campaigns. It will be held on Wednesday, June 25, near the Convention Center in the Panorama Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Pier 66, 2301 S.E. 17th St., Fort Lauderdale, from noon to 4 p.m.

A featured speaker will be Camilo Mejía, of Miami, the first combat veteran to publicly refuse to return to Iraq and who now heads the Iraq Veterans Against the War. He was court martialed, spent nine months in a military prison, and discharged. Other speakers include UUSC President Charlie Clements, UUA President Rev. William Sinkford, and Tom Andrews, former congressman from Maine and now national director of the Win Without War Coalition, based in Washington, D.C.

  • The second activist training, which is intended primarily for youth and young adults but is open to all ages, will bring together national activists and local groups to train participants in "counter-recruitment" events in schools and community centers. It will be held Saturday, June 28, 2008, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Convention Center Rooms 113-114. Camilo Mejía will be a featured speaker at this training session, as well as David Meieran of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a long-time social activist on AIDS, anti-war, and police violence issues.

(Note to editors: The main speakers at all of our activities at General Assembly are available for interviews before and after the convention. For assistance in arranging interviews or photos, contact Dick Campbell in Cambridge at 617-301-4370,, or Eric Grignol in Fort Lauderdale after June 24, 2008, at 617-990-7867, )

Other workshops related to ending the Iraq war include:

-- "Who pays the Price for the Iraq War," Friday, June 27, 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m., Convention Center, Grand Floridian B, moderated by Tom Andrews, former congressman from Maine. Other speakers include Dr. Dahlia Wasfi, of Denver, Colorado, an Iraqi native and a leading anti-war activist; Nancy Lessin of Boston, a founder of Military Families Speak Out; and Linsay Burnett, of Nashville, Tennessee.

-- "Collateral Damage: Families Devastated by the Iraq War," Friday, June 27, 3:15 p.m.-4:30 p.m., Convention Center, Grand Floridian A, moderated by William Schulz, former UUA president and executive director of Amnesty International U.S. Other speakers include Iraqi native Dr. Dahlia Wasfi, and Andy Shallal, an Iraqi-American artist, peace activist, and restaurateur in Washington, D.C.

-- "Join Patriots and Veterans Saying "No to War!", Saturday, June 28, 5 p.m.-6:15 p.m., Convention Center, Grand Floridian G. Speakers include Camilo Mejía, Linsay Burnett, and Wayne Smith, manager of UUSC's Civil Liberties Program and a former combat medic during the Vietnam War.

For more information about UUSC and its position on the war in Iraq, please visit . For more information about UUSC's General Assembly events, visit

Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
689 Massachusetts Avenue • Cambridge, MA 02139 • 617-868-6600 •

June 24, 2008

CONTACT: Dick Campbell, 617-301-4370
Eric Grignol, 617-990-7867


The organizations and/or individuals who submit materials for distribution by Religion News Service are solely responsible for the facts in and accuracy of their materials. Religion News Service will correct any errors brought to its attention.

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