The Baptist World Alliance and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship have formed a partnership to identify and respond to the needs of people and congregations worldwide through joint participation in work with the United Nations.
The collaborative effort seeks to increase the Baptist presence at the UN, maximizing the potential of the BWA’s extensive UN credentials to increase and strengthen relationships and partnerships in and around the UN. The groups will seek to promote as spokespersons in official capacity, activists, pastors and scholars that can speak for the groups’ concerns. The parties will also create publications focusing on both the theological and public policy concerns that surround issues important to both the BWA and CBF.
Raimundo Barreto, the director of the BWA Division of Freedom and Justice, said the face of international relations has dramatically changed in the past decades, and public diplomacy now includes not only governments, but the economic agents and so-called global civil society with a number of new actors – multinational corporations, the press, NGOs and religious organizations.
He said the partnership is an important collaboration on critical issues.
“This collaboration with CBF will certainly make a positive impact on our capacity to occupy new spaces and extend the reach of our work at the United Nations,” he said. “We look forward to all the new possibilities that this collaborative work will enable us to pursue.”
In the early 1970s, Barreto said, “the visionary leaders of the BWA already understood the need for Baptists to advocate for freedom, justice and peace at these levels, and this vision led the BWA to pursue consultative status as an international NGO at the United Nations.
He said the BWA Division of Freedom and Justice consistently worked to increase the Baptist presence in that setting using all the instruments available to make its voice meaningfully heard. One of the strategies is to work together with BWA member bodies who also see the need to play a role in that setting.
CBF has personnel and partners worldwide and will expand its global impact through this effort. CBF participation in the UN will be prioritized in accordance with the principles of its eight mission communities, which include Education, Economic Development, Healthcare, Justice and Peacemaking, Church Starts and Faith Sharing, Internationals, Disaster Response, and Poverty and Transformation.
CBF field personnel and partners can also mobilize, along with other local Baptist leaders in different countries, for advocacy on issues of common concern at the national level, strengthening the advocacy work done at the UN.
Stephen Reeves, CBF’s associate coordinator for partnerships and advocacy, said the partnership with the BWA is an important step in the Fellowship’s work to speak out for others and to be the presence of Christ in the world.
“The Baptist World Alliance is a great partner and has years of experience at the United Nations,” Reeves said. “Working together, we will live out our call to love our neighbors and show compassionate concern for the least of these in a forum focused on international cooperation.”
Currently, the BWA representation at the UN is done mainly through the use of volunteers. As of 2013, there were two volunteers representing the BWA at the UN in New York and one in Geneva.
Some initial work on the part of CBF has already begun. Phyllis Boozer, the coordinator of CBF’s Northeast region, has participated in meetings of the Committee on Concerns of the Status of Women. Additionally, CBF field personnel Shane McNary has attended two meetings in Geneva regarding the protection of the rights of religious minorities.
Since 1974, the BWA has held special consultative status with the UN through the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The Council provides a setting in which nongovernmental organizations address the world’s economic, social and environmental challenges and make policy recommendations. The BWA is also accredited as an NGO through the Department of Public Information, which acts as the public voice of the UN.
The BWA is a member of CoNGO, or the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations. This group facilitates NGO participation in UN decision-making and programs, particularly in the fields of economic and social justice. In addition, the BWA is a member of the Committee of Religious NGOs, has participated in the Ecumenical Working Group and has interacted with the Office of the High Commission on Human Rights (OHCHR).
The Baptist World Alliance is a fellowship of 228 conventions and unions in 121 countries and territories comprising 42 million members in 177,000 churches. Its priorities are nurturing the passion for mission and evangelism, promoting worship, fellowship and unity, responding to people in need, defending human rights and justice and advancing relevant theological reflection.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is a fellowship of Baptist Christians and churches who share a passion for the Great Commission and a commitment to Baptist principles of faith and practice. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.