Visit to New York City and the UN

Tuesday, July 11

By David Bassett

Rising early, from our final night at Catholic University, some twenty Conference attendees took the Metro to Union Station in Washington, and boarded a 7:30 AMTRAK train for the 3.5-hour ride to Pennsylvania Station in New York City. A brief taxi ride brought us to Quaker House, located a few blocks from the UN building. (Quaker House is the residence of the directors of the Quaker UN program, who had kindly allowed Rosa Packard to host a noontime gathering, even though they were away.)

This Conscience and Peace Tax International consultation at Quaker House, in addition to providing a delicious lunch, gave an opportunity for us to meet with six persons from the New York area who held important roles in organizations whose interests were close to those of CPTI. We heard from Marcia Joondeph, Board Member of Promoting Enduring Peace; John Rempel, of the Mennonite Central Committee Office at the UN;. Barbara Overby, Executive Director of the Lifebridge Foundation (which had provided a generous grant to help the 8th International Conference); Lucy Guillet and Vicki Rovere, members of War Resisters League; and Marjorie Maher, a member of the New York Yearly Meeting Peace Concerns Committee. Lively and informal discussions were possible, looking to ways in which CPTI might establish a more visible and permanent presence as a non-governmental organization in the UN arena, having future interactions with the persons (and their organizations) present at Tuesday's consultation.

Following the Quaker House gathering, we made the short walk to the UN building, obtained visitors' passes, and soon joined our excellent guide (a UN staff member from Ghana), for a one-hour tour of some of the major areas of the UN, this visit having been arranged by John Randall.

This was a very informative and inspiring tour. Though the UN was not in session at the time, we saw many of the assembly rooms and conference rooms where historic deliberations take place (and where, only six weeks earlier, three of us had participated actively in the Millennium Forum, representing CPTI and the Peace Tax Foundation, and lobbying vigorously to have included in the Millennium Forum Declaration language urging legal recognition of the rights of conscientious objectors.) Brief as it was, the visit gave us a feeling of having closer ties to an organization with which we will work more closely, as we and the UN continue the essential work for peace and justice.

Following the UN visit, some participants stayed overnight with families in the area, while others made the two hour train trip south to Philadelphia, in preparation for the next day's activities in that location.