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Apr 01, 2013

The Elders, Equality and Human Rights

The news has been filled with stories this week of equality and human rights regarding the right to choose whom to marry. There have been many personal stories shared on the nightly news of disenfranchisement, discrimination and unfairness by those brave enough willing to risk their privacy and their financial security to advocate for their rights. It has been empowering to witness.

I’ve recently become aware of a group of “Elders” - an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by former South African president Nelson Mandela in 2007. According to their website,, their mission is to offer their experience and influence to help address major causes such as human suffering and support peace building. They have decided to bring particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights. To that effect, the Elders have recently published the following statement:

 “The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable.”

An article published by the Women’s Press, focuses on former President Jimmy Carter - one of the elders and devout Christian – whom has taken a bold and brave public stance to sever his ties with his practiced religion of 60 years due to their views that women must be subservient to their husbands and are prohibited from serving as chaplains, pastors or deacons in the military service.  President Carter acknowledged in the interview,  it was a painful and difficult decision to make, and like Counselors, felt a moral obligation to advocate for the rights of Women whom are unfairly discriminated against in many ways. Further, he describes the distorted belief that women must be subservient to men as repugnant and directly excuses forced prostitution and child marriage, human trafficking, and slavery and at its worst, national laws that omit rape as a crime.

The elders are working to effect change through calling on leaders to not only challenge but change the limiting teaching and practices deeply ingrained in many cultures which defend discrimination against women.  They challenge in particular, “…leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasize the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world’s major faiths share.”

I applaud President Carter’s courage, character, wisdom and willingness to discard worries of controversy. He embodies advocacy and equality at its finest.   

He has issued a challenge to us - I am willing to accept this challenge, personally and professionally.

Are you?

To read President Carter’s article in its entirety,

Deb Del Vecchio-Scully is a counselor and writer who focuses on healing the mind, body and spirit. She specializes in PTSD, Chronic pain and mood disorders. For more information:

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