Monday, August 27, 2012

Why we as Pagans should send Patrick McCollum to Awakened World 2012

The umbrella term Pagan encompasses thousands of individuals around the world who are united through their diverse beliefs and their lack of conformity with mainstream religions. Many Pagans are solitaries, while many others will periodically join one or more working groups of like-minded individuals. Many Pagans are private about their practices, fearing discrimination from the mainstream. This is changing, as Paganism is the fastest growing religion and is edging closer to having the recognition and rights of mainstream religions. For Paganism to continue its growth, leadership and world representation are essential. There is a small group of leaders who have been serving their fellow Pagans very effectively, but an incredible opportunity has presented itself to Reverend Patrick McCollum – that of representing Paganism and Earth Based Spiritual Traditions at “Awakened World 2012: Engaged Spirituality of the 21st Century” in Rome and Florence from October 13-21, 2012. This event will bring together spiritual and religious leaders from around the world to discuss concerns for human rights and the environment, and help facilitate the religious and spiritual healing of the world.
Patrick McCollum, Jo-Ann and Tony Mierzwicki 2006

The catch is that each of these leaders, of whom Patrick is one, are required to be supported by their communities to attend and facilitate the gathering. While many mainstream religions enjoy the benefits of money to draw on by having their members tithe or pay some other contributions, this has never been instituted within Paganism as a whole due to its diverse and disparate nature.
The reason why it is so important for a Pagan representative to attend this event is that it will allow Paganism to move to the next level, by being seen on an equal footing with other world religions, rather than marginalized and in the shadows. Even if certain non-Pagan individuals are not happy with our presence, it is my hope that all future religious events feel obliged to invite at least a token Pagan. This would definitely be a step in the right direction.
In short, this event represents one of those rare occasions where we have to look at the bigger picture and realize representation could benefit all Pagans. Jason Pitzl-Waters has uploaded a funding campaign which outlines the importance of the event as well as Patrick’s accomplishments for Paganism.
Digressing briefly, I would like to point out that while not all who fall under the Pagan umbrella like the term, I think it’s important for all of us to identify with it, just so that we can have strength in numbers. While there have been past efforts to introduce homogenization, these have been largely resisted in favour of maintaining our diversity. I personally identify as a Pagan first, and then if the person is interested, I outline my particular beliefs and practices, while stressing that most other Pagans will differ. I think we’ve all faced questions along the lines of what Pagans believe and do, and the correct answer is that it varies from Pagan to Pagan!
Patrick is uniquely qualified to represent us as he has been active in our community for over 40 years, and over the last 20 years has been an activist for Pagan rights and has successfully resolved over a thousand discrimination cases. After becoming the first official government Wiccan chaplain in the United States in 1998, he was selected to advise the United States Commission on Civil Rights as a Pagan in 2008. In 2009, Patrick was selected to address leaders and representatives from over 70 countries in Astana, Kazakhstan for the development of a Global Constitution, and in 2010 received the Mahatma Gandhi Award as a Pagan at the Capitol in Washington DC. Also in 2010, he was honored to be invited as a World Inner Peace Ambassador at a gathering of 150,000 Buddhists in Bangkok, Thailand. He was also given the title, Sheda Garpo, King of Peace, by Lama Gangchen Rinpoche of the World Peace Foundation.
Patrick has been involved in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, trained teachers in the Himalayas, and presented at two consecutive Parliaments of the World’s Religions, all openly as a Pagan. Also as a Pagan, he is on the Board of Directors of Children of the Earth, a United Nations NGO, where he serves as Development Director for 20,000 youth involved in international Peace programs. He serves as both an Executive Council Member and as the Chair of their Minority Faith Issues Committee for the American Correctional Chaplains Association. He is the Chaplaincy Liaison for the American Academy of Religion and serves on the National Advisory Council for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.
Paganism has much to offer to the world with its yearning for world peace, tolerance for diversity and pluralism, empowerment of women, and treatment of the earth and all life as sacred. Patrick is in a unique position to make this contribution on behalf of us all. We should support him as he has supported us. It is time for Paganism to move to the next level – on an equal footing with other world religions.

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