Tag Archives: Three Cups of Tea

A note from someone who knows …

Please visit http://www.gilgitbaltistan.us to learn more about the region where Greg Mortenson started his school projects.

We, the natives of Gilgit-Baltistan, a region of former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, do have lots of respect for Mortenson for providing education to girls in that area. The region has one of the lowest per capita incomes and one of the lowest literacy rates. Without support of NGOs like CAI and AKDN, education would be a dream for the majority, as more than half of the locals live below the poverty line.

Since the Pakistan government has failed to provide for the educational needs of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, it is people like Mortenson who became the hope for us.

– Senge H. Sering

Good news for girls in Afghanistan!

The Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ (MACUCC), whose May 3 engagement featuring embattled author and social activist Greg Mortenson was cancelled at Mechanics Hall due to Mortenson’s ill health, has offered suggestions to its churches regarding education and social action options involving Mortenson’s “Pennies for Peace” program.

As part of a package of educational materials prepared prior to the Mortenson appearance to engage children, youth, and families in Mortenson’s work in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the MACUCC offered curriculum for all ages around the story, writings, and mission of Mortenson and his Central Asia Institute. They included a Lenten Calendar to collect “Pennies for Peace” in order to help build and fund schools and educational programs in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the wake of the stories that have emerged since CBS’s 60 Minutes program on Mortenson aired, the MACUCC re-examined their education program and the fundraising options presented.

Susan Dickerman, associate conference minister for Leadership Development for the MACUCC, said, “Many people asked about our support of the Pennies for Peace program. We have been troubled by the questions raised in the 60 Minutes broadcast. At the same time, the “Pennies for Peace” program was initiated to help fund education for children — particularly girls — in remote parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Our belief is that such efforts and initiatives not only help reduce poverty, but also offer empowerment and hope, and this program continues to receive affirmation and appreciation in the region.”

In a response to MACUCC inquiries about its use of donated funds, the “Pennies for Peace” organization said:

Donations made specifically to support Pennies for Peace result in a restricted donation, where 100% of funds raised will be used for overseas program support and administration, such as school building, school supplies, education scholarships, and more.

Based on this response, the MACUCC elected to continue its promotion of “Pennies for Peace,” but decided to also recommend two other funding options to its members.

Church World Service also carries out educational work within the Afghanistan and Pakistan region and is a long-standing and highly regarded international program. The MACUCC Lenten giving program also focused on raising funds for the Worcester Area Mission Society’s after school programs. A portion of the proceeds from the Mortenson speaking engagement were to be directed toward this effort. The Mission Society’s work offers an excellent locally-based education option for those interested in lending support.

Dickerman said, “We appreciate the efforts of the churches and educators who have worked with children and youth to raise awareness of the power of education to improve lives, particularly among struggling and vulnerable people around the globe, which our denomination, and the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ, have a long history of supporting.”

Author Greg Mortenson cancels May 3 speaking engagement in Worcester

By Rosalie Tirella

In this issue of InCity Times, we ran a promotion, re: Greg Mortenson’s May 3 speaking enagement at Mechanics Hall. After we went to press – and could not make any changes to the paper – we got this note from the UCC (see below). We did not see the Sixty Minutes piece on Mortenson.

In our humble opinion, if the author has accomplished only half of what he claims to have achieved, he is still a great man. I saw a TV news report a few years ago – I think it was a 60 Minutes piece – on Mortenson and all the great schools he was allegedly building in Afghanistan, etc. I was impressed! I still am. Maybe he hasn’t built as many schools as he claimed, but the guy HAS built lots of schools in the Mid East, poor girls there are being educated in his schools and he has shone a bright light on this important issue – educating girls in developing countries is the key to their human rights – for all the world to see.

As far as I can see, the world still needs people who will sit down and have three cups of teas – that is, build friendships gradually and respectfully – with people in Afghanistan and Pakistan, etc – not go in, as we and NATO have done, half-cocked blowing everybody’s brains out. The Mid East needs folks who will support girls and education for girls. They need more activists like Mortenson – not fewer.

As far as the way the guy has handled money – not so good. But he did tell NPR he was saving millions of dollars to provide a huge nest egg for his charity so that when he dies the important work of educating poor girls in the Mid East – the only way their society will begin to see them as full human beings and not chatel  – will continue.


Press release received by ICT:

The United Church of Christ – Massachusetts Conference (MACUCC), sponsor of an upcoming appearance by author Greg Mortenson in Worcester on May 3, announced today that Mortenson has withdrawn from his planned engagement due to health concerns.

Mortenson, who was the subject of a highly critical segment aired on April 17th’s “Sixty Minutes” program, announced recently that he is suffering from a hole in his heart which is reportedly due to be surgically repaired in Bozeman, MT, this week. Given the surgery and recuperation time, Mortenson’s agent said it was impossible for him to fulfill his engagement at Worcester’s Mechanics Hall on May 3.

Susan Dickerman, Associate Conference Minister for Leadership Development for the MACUCC, said, “The Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ is deeply concerned about the allegations made by CBS during its “Sixty Minutes” broadcast. Our decision to sponsor Greg Mortenson’s appearance in Worcester focused on providing an opportunity for laity and clergy to be inspired and challenged by Mortenson’s work in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to share with him their questions and concerns. We regret Mr. Mortenson’s illness and inability to fulfill his contract, and will offer full refunds of ticket purchases to all ticket holders.” Those holding tickets should contact the Mechanics Hall Box Office for a refund at 508-752-0888, no later than May 5th.

The Massachusetts Conference of the UCC includes 386 churches with over 73,000 members, and is one of 39 regional bodies of the UCC, which has 5,300 churches and 1.1 million members. The United Church of Christ traces its roots to the Pilgrims and Puritans who founded this country, and founded the nation’s first public schools and universities. The UCC remains a strong advocate for equality in public schools today.