“…within our lifetime.” I awoke from a trance. The absence of coffee, the dim lights, and the distance between me and the speaker had allowed my mind to wander from the cavernous auditorium, but those words snapped me back to the present. I had spent hours reading documents that spoke of post 2015 goals, MDGs, SDGs, and other acronyms that stood for progress but progress that would be slow to come and was wound up in the political webs of member states, excellencies, and plenary sessions. It seemed it would take forever. Here, however, in these words “within our lifetime” was a sense of urgency.
The rest of the week proved just how urgent improving the conditions of girls and women must be if we wish to move forward morally, economically, and civilly. I heard alarming statistics, deriding speeches about the place of faith in gender equity, and troubling discussions of reproductive rights and the sexualization of youth. As a young man of faith it would have been easy to see in these speeches an element of guilt and blame, but there was another side to what I was hearing. There was also a clear and loud call for immediate and decisive action from the faith community and from men and boys. In panel after panel I heard success stories of involving men in the improvement of their sister’s situations. Similarly I heard and felt a need for the voice and comfort of the church. In almost every discussion the church’s voice that was heard was an adversarial one, offering only criticism rather than support and a place of understanding.
The means to realizing gender justice in all its forms are within our grasp. However, the realization of this in our lifetime without the involvement of men and of our church is unlikely. We are called as a community of faith to respond the cries of those that are marginalized. They are crying. We are called to answer. We can no longer afford to be quiet or absent from these conversations. We must carry through this sense of urgency as individuals to develop a conviction to resolve this issue now.
As the week progressed the momentum building around me seemed to coalesce into a single quote from Martin Luther King Jr. that was drawing out from the back of my mind: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Across the road from the UN general assembly, in the shadows of countless flags this reminded me that the question is not if we will achieve gender equality but rather when. That the question we must face as individuals is not whether we wish to be a part of this struggle, but rather on what side of arc of moral history we wish to find ourselves.