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In the 2021 Commission on the Status of Women conference held at the United Nations in New York City, the UN unveiled a renewed strategy for advancing “Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.”
In an event called, “Reclaiming Gender Justice: Countering National, Regional, and Global Backlashes,” Ib Peterson, deputy executive director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), explained that “partnership with faith-based organizations” will be “a key area of engagement for UNFPA throughout our new strategic plan.”
To be clear, the term Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) is widely interpreted to include access to sexual information, comprehensive sexuality education, and to sexual services—including abortion.
Speaking at the UN “Reclaiming Gender Justice” event, Reverend Dr. Antje Jackelen, archbishop of the Church of Sweden, noted the “global backlash” coming from religious organizations and elsewhere against SRHR.
She said, “Certain actors, let’s call them anti-rights actors, are mobilizing to stop progress” on women’s rights. She continued, “The sad thing is that religion is being used as an argument against gender justice and SRHR …. Religious and faith communities can be part of the problem, but even more so they hold the key to solutions … and they are part of the solution everywhere in the world.”
Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, co-chair of the UN Multi-faith Advisory Council, laid out a bold vision. He said, “I would like just to share that my dream as co-chair of the UN Multi-faith Advisory Council, I would like to have religious leaders and actors engaged in promoting this dimension of gender equality—Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.”
He continued, “From a faith perspective but also as a faith-based actor, I believe that we cannot do anything else than defending Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights as a human right but also … as a God-given right.”
Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng, a medical doctor, proclaimed Catholic, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, expressed similar sentiments: “It’s because of my faith, it’s because of my religion that I do this work …. Even my own parish celebrates the work I do. … There is no contradiction; there is no internal battle.”
On another occasion she said:
“Recently a friend was commenting on the work I do saying, ‘You do abortions, you support sex work decriminalization, adolescent health, sexual pleasure, and you are also a Catholic.’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s the truth as well. And that’s not in conflict. There’s no internal conflict with my work, my politics, and whatever my spiritual identity is.’”
This is the attitude the UN would like to see replicated by faith leaders across the globe.
Interestingly, the month following this UN meeting, Planned Parenthood—a regular partner of UN agencies including UNFPA, UNICEF, and UNESCO—announced that it was adding numerous members to its Clergy Advocacy Board. These clergy members were to partner with Planned Parenthood, leading efforts to persuade national and local faith leaders to advocate for “the full range of sexual and reproductive health care” services over the pulpit and in their communities. Planned Parenthood said they were looking to partner with religious leaders who view SRHR as “an ethical imperative” and “who proudly champion reproductive rights as a matter of faith.”
An Old Strategy in New Clothes
The strategy of harnessing the clergy to promote political causes is an old strategy wearing new robes. In his book, “Live Not By Lies,” Rod Dreher documented how a major strategy for political revolution in communist Russia was to “control the Church by subduing the clergy.” Clergy were invited, blackmailed, or beaten into cooperating with the state’s objectives. In most cases, priests and others resisted. This resulted in the imprisonment, torture, and deaths of hundreds of religious leaders (pdf). This greatly crippled congregations throughout the nation, though cells of religious resistance endured.
The UN’s attempt to control “backlash” from churches and faith leaders by ideologically “subduing the clergy” may have equally impactful—though less violent—outcomes. As Dreher explains, we are currently living through a social revolution as calamitous as previous revolutions, but it comes wearing more kindly trappings. The current social revolution employs slogans of “love,” “rights,” and “health,” and peddles them gently. Instead of slaying its opposers it says, “Join us in a glorious cause.” Instead of chopping off the heads of religious groups, it invites faith leaders to abandon their core doctrines and—in the name of human rights—mislead their congregations en masse. At the same time, the gentle revolution wields shame, public dishonor, and political exclusion as weapons against dissent.
The current attempt by the UN and other actors to “control the church by subduing the clergy” may look like simply the forging of friendly partnerships. However, when religious groups partner with those whose core objective could be described as uprooting social and religious norms (pdf) and creating a society without basic morals, it may end up looking more like a stranglehold than a friendly partnership. Such partnerships will ultimately suck the life out of any religion that succumbs to them by draining them of truth.
The deadly fruits of such partnerships will be proclamations from the corrupted pulpits of the world that the killing of God’s smallest children is a “God-given right.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.