A small sea of orange washed over First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone, N.Y., this past weekend. The church, located in northeast Queens, held an “Orange Weekend” to raise awareness of violence against women and girls.
The “Orange Day” initiative is part of the “UNiTE to End Violence against Women” Campaign launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Church members in Whitestone learned about the campaign and decided to dedicate the entire weekend to bring the issue to the forefront. Mark Koenig and Ryan Smith with the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations took part in the event.
“As much as we believe our neighborhood is immune from forms of violence against women and girls, we know that it is likely happening closer than we think,” said the Rev. Andy James, pastor. “Our church is a place that will talk about it and do everything we can to ensure people know it is not acceptable in our neighborhood.”
There were three events including a spaghetti dinner with a conversation led by Smith, a dance presentation and a neighborhood walk on Sunday in place of the regular worship service.
“We had an ‘Orange Our Hood’ gathering in a nearby park and took part in a small walk rally, handing out flyers and encouraging residents to get involved,” said James. “Since the Mets are in the World Series and one of their colors is orange, some people thought it was a Mets rally. But we were quick to explain our presence and our message and they were very receptive.”
The UN Secretary-General’s campaign encourages governments, UN agencies, civil organizations and people across the globe to raise awareness on Orange Day, which is designated for the 25th of each month.
The campaign has included casting an orange glow on iconic buildings around the world such as the UN Headquarters and Empire State Building in New York, as well as the administration building of the Panama Canal and the Sphinx and Pyramids at Giza in Egypt.
“UNiTE says it chose the color orange to symbolize a brighter future and a world free of violence against women and girls,” said Koenig. “This campaign calls communities to create events and activities that encourage people to get involved in ways appropriate to their contexts. First Presbyterian Church in Whitestone offers a good example of how congregations can participate in the campaign.”
The “UNiTE to End Violence Against Women” campaign encourages participation in the “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence”, November 25 – December 10 (Human Rights Day.) This international observance, launched in 1991, also calls communities and individuals to work for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. James said his church will promote the 16 Days campaign in hopes of reaching more people.
“We are going to ‘orange our church’ with orange banners, bows and other decorations,” he said. “We hope this is something we can stay engaged with for years to come.”
Last year ‘orange’ activities were organized in 70 countries with more than 100 million people reached through social media and other public awareness activities.
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