Women's Division wants action in Jena crisis


By United Methodist News Service
United Methodist Women have called for renewed action on racial justice and reconciliation in Jena, La.

“The Women’s Division adds its voice to a nationwide call for equal justice in Jena, La., where six black teenagers face criminal charges in the wake of a series of racial incidents in the town’s high school,” the division said in a resolution approved during its Oct. 5-8 annual meeting. The annual meeting was the first for Harriett Olson, the division’s new chief executive, who was elected by directors last August.

Following up on a Sept. 20 statement about the tension in Jena, the division said it would “explore opportunities to support mutual understanding and bridge-building within the high school, churches and the community” and, while continuing to denounce acts of hate, use such incidents as “teachable moments.”

On Sept. 27 – a week after an estimated 15,000-plus demonstrators marched through the small town to protest the handling of the case against the black teenagers – Mychal Bell, the last of the Jena 6 defendants still in jail, was released on bail. The Women’s Division pledged to continue “to call on state and federal officials as needed to investigate and monitor the criminal cases against the youth known as the Jena 6.”

UMW members are asked to pray for justice, healing and reconciliation in Jena and Louisiana, send similar letters to officials and “deepen work for racial justice in their own communities.”