Peacemakers Trust posts news, reports or announcements of interest to people studying or working in the field of dispute resolution, conflict transformation and peacebuilding. Inclusion of an item on the media watch blog does not imply endorsement or agreement of Peacemakers Trust with views expressed by authors of posted items.
'Come 2014 when the government marks the beginning of the first world war I will declare myself a conscientious objector.'
By Harry Leslie Smith
I will remember friends and comrades in private next year, as the solemnity of remembrance has been twisted into a justification for conflict.
Over the last 10 years the sepia tone of November has become blood-soaked with paper poppies festooning the lapels of our politicians, newsreaders and business leaders. The most fortunate in our society have turned the solemnity of remembrance for fallen soldiers in ancient wars into a justification for our most recent armed conflicts. The American civil war’s General Sherman once said that “war is hell”, but unfortunately today’s politicians in Britain use past wars to bolster our flagging belief in national austerity or to compel us to surrender our rights as citizens, in the name of the public good.
He has stared into the gun muzzle and carried death in his hands. But Coptic Bishop Thomas claims he is not afraid, nor angry about the last month’s bloodshed in Egypt.
“We learned that extremists were going to attack us with machine guns, but we did not prepare ourselves for the attack with weapons. We did something simple,” says Bishop Thomas, about that day he received a message that armed hardliners were on their way to his episcopal residence in the Al Quosia-region of Lower Egypt.
Determined to defend themselves without violent means, the church fathers applied soap and water on the rocky path leading to Bishop Thomas’ residence.
“I saw them coming with their machine guns far down the road. They tried to get to the house, but they slipped and fell. They tried over and over again, without succeeding,” says the Bishop, smiling with grief as he talks about the episode.
Hind Aboud Kabawat is a Syrian lawyer and founder of the Syrian Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation.
By Hind Aboud Kabawat
“Osama bin Laden is my leader!”
When Kamal, a young man from Aleppo in Syria, uttered these words on my first day there, I almost fainted. Feelings of humiliation and disbelief choked me. As a Christian Arab who considers Islam to be part of my culture and who has been enriched by the beautiful Islamic heritage of my city Damascus, it was distressing to hear a Muslim straying so far from the wisdom of the Prophet Muhammad, who taught that killing another human is equivalent to killing all of humanity.
I suddenly doubted myself, my revolution, my struggle, and my mission to Aleppo. Kamal was one of 40 participants in a conflict-resolution workshop in Aleppo I organized for my NGO, the Toronto-based Syrian Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation. We aim to reach every Syrian and empower them to work together toward building a new liberal and democratic Syria.
Fifty years ago today, on the morning of August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King looked out from his suite at the Willard Hotel as crowds began mulling around the Washington monument. He had stayed up until four in the morning drafting and redrafting his speech. As King looked on, his aides were furiously typing the finished draft for distribution to the press. King’s greatest fear was that the march would turn violent. “If that happens,” King told Ralph Abernathy, “everything we have done in Birmingham will be wiped out in a single day.” Turn-out was a close second on King’s list of concerns. He had hoped for 100,000 marchers, but at the scheduled start date of 9:30 a.m., less than 25,000 had gathered at the Washington monument.
Within an hour the numbers surged to 90,000 with many more on the way. By the time entertainers had finished their warm-up act and the formal speeches began, the crowd exceeded 200,000. The following day the New York Times described it as “the greatest assembly for a redress of grievances that this capital has ever seen.”
August 19 is the tenth anniversary of the death of Sergio Vieira de Mello, High Commissioner for Human Rights and Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Iraq. De Mello, considered by many as the most suitable successor to Kofi Annan, was a victim of the terrorist attack on our political mission in Baghdad in the first — and so far, the most serious — attack on the UN since it was founded in 1945. There were twenty-one other victims, and more than 200 injured. As a survivor of the attack and partner of Sergio Vieira de Mello, I can say that to this day none of us understands why an attack of such magnitude did not warrant a rigorous investigation. Instead, the circumstances of the incident were buried under statues and memorial speeches.
On this anniversary we should take a moment to reflect on the life of a UN official who was truly committed to the ideals and principles of peace. However, we must also demand an independent investigation, doing justice to the memory of the people who lost their lives in Baghdad on August 19, 2003.
He worked to bring faiths together in a land where that can be fatal.
By STEPHANIE SALDANA
On Wednesday, Pope Francis celebrated a Mass for the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order to which he belongs. The pope paused to remember those Jesuit priests who had given their lives in service of their faith. “I’m thinking of Padre Paolo,” he said.
At the moment, no one in the room knew if Father Paolo Dall’Oglio was still alive.
Two days before the pope’s prayer, Father Paolo, an Italian Jesuit priest associated with the Syrian opposition, had been seen walking the streets of Raqqa, a rebel-controlled area in northern Syria. Then he disappeared. Activists reported that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a militant group affiliated with al Qaeda, had kidnapped him. Contradicting reports soon emerged. Had Father Paolo been kidnapped, or had he purposefully met with the group to negotiate the release of hostages and to broker a truce between Kurds and Islamic extremists fighting in the north?
Sunday, 15 September 2013 to Sunday, 22 September 2013
Join Simon Fraser University and the Centre for Dialogue for the Walk for Reconciliation on Sunday, September 22 to express support for reconciliation with Canada’s aboriginal peoples. This 4km walk is hosted by Reconciliation Canada and will bring 50,000 Vancouver residents from diverse backgrounds to mark the end of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Vancouver summit. We expect hundreds of students, fellows, associates and staff from the Centre for Dialogue and the Semester in Dialogue to join us. Reconciliation will be the theme of a major upcoming programming initiative at the Centre for Dialogue, and we look forward to working with the dialogue community on this important issue.
She smuggled out the children in suitcases, ambulances, coffins, sewer pipes, rucksacks and, on one occasion, even a tool box.
Those old enough to ask knew their saviour only by her codename “Jolanta”.
But she kept hidden a meticulous record of all their real names and new identities – created to protect the Jewish youngsters from the pursuing Nazis – so they might later be re-united with their families.
By any measure, Irena Sendler was one of the most remarkable and noble figures to have emerged from the horrors of World War II. But, until recently, her extraordinary compassion and heroism went largely unrecorded.
Organizations that foster and promote peace in Ireland have received substantial funding from international groups, it has been announced this week.
According to UTV the latest funding includes over $1,000,000 to be distributed among well known community groups based in Belfast, Derry, Coleraine and Dundalk that promote cross border and cross community reconciliation.
I cross Geneva on a hot day. I bump into a friend who asks where I am going. I tell him I am heading for Place des Nations to take photos of Broken Chair. “There’s some guy camping underneath it!” says my friend as if to discourage me.
I find that someone has indeed set up camp under Broken Chair. Eric Grassien sits outside his tent in a wheel chair; the extent of his disability is obvious. A young lady is helping him to shave. We chat for a while. He gives me a business card and tells me he is protesting about the lack of suitable lodging for disabled people in Geneva. Around us, children lithe-of-limb scamper and scream amongst the cooling fountains that spurt out of the paving stones of this focal point of diplomatic Geneva.
Broken Chair is a powerful, unique, ambitious and intimidating work. It towers over the Place des Nations challenging the institution of the United Nations. Its installation by Handicap International in August 1997 aimed to encourage States represented at the UN Conference on Disarmament to sign the Canadian-proposed ban on antipersonnel mines…
Grassy Narrows’ Judy Da Silva has been honoured with a German peace prize for her grassroots activism…
The German Mennonite Peace Committee presented Da Silva with the Michael Sattler Peace Prize for her leadership on Grassy Narrows’ decade-long blockade against unwanted logging during a May 20 ceremony at the Benedictine monastery of St. Peter’s in the Black Forest near Freiburg, Germany.
“We want to award the prize to Judy Da Silva in order to honour the nonviolent resistance of the Grassy Narrows First Nation against the destruction of nature and for the preservation of their Indigenous culture,” said Lorens Theissen van Esch, a member of the German Mennonite Peace Committee.
Turkey’s “standing man” protester, created by performance artist Erdem Gunduz, is a brilliant addition to the iconography of non-violence. It’s not a long list. The image catalogue of aggressive resistance is much longer. It includes the knight errant on his horse, with a lance; the lone rider in the old west; the private eye pacing the mean streets, taking down crime and corruption; the guerrilla fighter in the hills. They all pack weapons. Gunduz had only a backpack and when the cops checked inside, whatever they found was harmless.
Last Friday marked the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project in which the Court held the sweeping view that “material support” to terrorist organizations included even support aimed at promoting peace. That means the U.S. government can criminally prosecute groups or individuals for facilitating peace talks, offering training in conflict resolution, or teaching a course on humanitarian law, simply because these activities involve members of a group on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. That undercuts America’s security – and the Obama administration can and must fix it.
As world leaders gather in Belfast for the G8 summit, what are the challenges facing young people in Northern Ireland today?
The Elders met with a group of young people from Northern Ireland during their visit to Dublin last month, to hear about the legacy of sectarian conflict for them and their communities, from youth unemployment to the lack of political representation.
Westboro Baptist Church may have found a formidable foe in a five-year-old girl, Jayden Sink, who has taken on the notorious group by setting up a lemonade peace stand in front of a house across the street from the Westboro Church in Topeka, Kansas.
Christopher Keith Hall, who has died aged 66 after suffering from cancer, was a leading light in the formation of the international criminal court (ICC). As senior legal adviser of Amnesty International, he headed its international justice project and was a co-founder of the coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) behind the ICC.
The idea of such a court had lingered since the precedent of the international military tribunal in Nuremberg after the second world war. Then, in the 1990s, when the UN security council was unwilling to take strong action to prevent atrocities it set up two ad hoc courts – the international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda – to at least warn the perpetrators of war crimes that they could not count on impunity. This reinforced the idea of a standing criminal tribunal to deliver international justice.
Amnesty International, led by Christopher, immediately became involved in the diplomatic negotiations culminating in the 1998 Rome Conference that adopted the ICC statute. He worked to ensure that the court would not only materialise, but would have the powers needed for maximum possible effect.
In just ten months, the United States managed to transform an 82 year-old Catholic nun and two pacifists from non-violent anti-nuclear peace protestors accused of misdemeanor trespassing into federal felons convicted of violent crimes of terrorism. Now in jail awaiting sentencing for their acts at an Oak Ridge, TN nuclear weapons production facility, their story should chill every person concerned about dissent in the US.
Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness have set a target of 2023 to bring down all of Northern Ireland’s 60 so-called peace walls.
At Stormont yesterday the First Minister and Deputy First Minister outlined a range of measures to tackle sectarianism and division including toppling the North’s interface structures within 10 years.
Some peace walls of brick and steel stand up to 18ft high and may be miles long through housing areas. They were intended to protect people from violence during the troubles but remain in place 15 years after the Belfast Agreement. They were built in areas of sectarian tension in Belfast, Derry and Portadown, as well as through the playground of one primary school in north Belfast.
Four stone benches quietly pay tribute to the service of conscientious objectors in the second world war
By Martin Wainwright
In the first year of the second world war a tribunal heard evidence about a “fine young man”, a Methodist Sunday school teacher and Cambridge graduate, whose conscience forbade him to take up arms.
He was my father, Richard Wainwright, and the hearing’s ruling in his favour led to six years’ work with the Quaker-run Friends’ Ambulance Unit (FAU), from cleaning hospital bedpans in Gloucester to saving German families and refugees from reprisals after the allied victory.
His pacifist war service will be recognised this weekend with that of more than 1,300 colleagues in the FAU, 17 of them killed in action, and their counterparts in the Friends Relief Service (FRS) which helped civilian victims of war, first in the 1940-41 blitz and then overseas in the wake of the fighting.