“We believe God calls us to be faithful stewards of our world and not to skim over the hard stuff,” said St. Mark Elder Deborah Mayhew. “Being good stewards requires us to be well informed about what is happening beyond our homes and church doors. You can’t have one without the other.”
“To that end, our Peace & Justice Commission at St. Mark is presenting its 24th Annual Great Decisions Foreign Policy Series for the community to help people gain deeper insight into timely foreign policy topics and develop more informed opinions,” she continued. “We typically get a lot of participation from our community and it’s been very well received, which is why we’ve continued to offer it for so many years.”
The series began January 26 and runs every Monday night from 7 to 8:30 p.m. through March 16.
People can attend any session that interests them; admission is free. Attendees have the option of purchasing a Great Decisions study guide for $22.
The 2015 Great Decisions Series covers the following topics: “Russia and the Near Abroad,” “Privacy in the Digital
age,” Sectarianism in the Middle East,” “India Changes Course,” “U.S. Policy Toward Africa,” “Syria’s Refugee Crisis,” “Human Trafficking in the 21st Century,” and “Brazil’s Metamorphosis.”
Mayhew explained that Great Decisions is a national, grassroots foreign policy discussion program put on by the Foreign Policy Association (FPA), which is based in New York City.
“The FPA is a non-partisan, non-profit, non-governmental organization established 96 years ago,” she said. “Its focus is to serve as a catalyst for developing awareness, understanding and informed opinion on US policy and global issues. They provide all the materials and guidelines for our discussions. Our role is to engage individuals who can facilitate discussions for each topic and help put them into context.”
“This year all the facilitators are from St. Mark and have experience with or a breadth of knowledge about their particular topics,” Deborah continued. “For example, our facilitator for the discussion about Africa was born and raised in Nigeria, where her father served as the Minister of Science and Technology. She can offer a perspective unlike anyone else does. Another one of our members lived in the Middle East for years and was involved with refugee issues, so she is leading the discussion on the refugee crisis in Syria. St. Mark is already involved in advocacy efforts regarding human trafficking and that session will be led by one of our members who is a respected attorney. He will help us understand the complexities of treaties and laws to prevent trafficking.”
According to Mayhew, the role of St. Mark’s Peace & Justice Commission is to identify important issues and social justice causes locally and around the world, and bring them to the attention of the congregation. The commission also urges St. Mark members to become involved in these causes through advocacy and hands-on participation wherever possible.
“We’re so grateful to our hardworking Great Decisions Committee members – Cheryl and Herb Fischer, and Beryl and Robert Smith – who all volunteer their time and respective talents to organize this stimulating program,” said Mayhew. “During the discussion portion of the sessions, some agree, some disagree, but I think everybody leaves feeling much more informed about the topic than when they arrived.”
For further information, including a detailed explanation of each topic and links to additional resources, visit stmarkpresbyterian.org.
Cindy can be reached at [email protected].