Jane writes: my last stop at the American Academy of Religion was to hear President Jimmy Carter speak on the subject of women, religion, violence and power. Commending his book, Call to Action, he spoke of his realisation through his work with the Carter Foundation of the way in which poverty and violence affect women and of the way in which religious justifications are often given for treating women as inferior to men. A committed Baptist, now in his 90s, he spoke about how the essentials of Christian faith, summed up in love of God and love of neighbour, need to be put into practice in complex political climates and illustrated this with some startling illustrations from his own life – choosing not to go to war whilst he was in office despite extreme provocation during the Iranian hostage crisis (his term of office being the only four years in the last half century during which America has not fired a missile); leaving the Southern Baptist Convention after 70 years of membership after they decided no longer to allow women to be pastors or teach if men are in the room; installing solar panels on the White House (though these were subsequently taken down by his successor); speaking out against FGM though most people do not want to think about it.
Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, it was startling to hear the statistics he quoted and his call to the audience of theological educators to raise awareness of climate change; to alert students’ attention to the readiness of nations to resort to violence in foreign and penal policy despite the reverence in which peace makers are held; and to challenge governments for their failures to adhere to the UN Declaration on Human Rights (http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/), pointing out that America is currently in contravention of 10/30 of these.
Asked how he remains optimistic he quoted ArchbishopTutu’s response to the same question, ‘I am not an optimist, I am a prisoner of hope.’