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.
This amazing portrait of Naomi, Ruth and Orpah, painted by William Blake in 1795, captures perhaps the most dramatic women’s story in the entire Hebrew Bible. It is a story that is associated with the holiday of Shavuot because of the mention of the importance of the harvest for the story and for this ancient holiday. This is a book I urge everyone to read, and read about http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Ruth
This is a tale the tragedy of drought, loss, death and homelessness, in other words the most common tale of forced emigration. But the story is unique in its description of undying devotion and selflessness and the unforgettable bond between two women suffering, and the heroic determination of Ruth to rebuild their lives.
What strikes me as important about their behavior and their relationship is how completely bereft it is of anger and violence toward others.
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.
We often talk about “the Islamic world,” or the “Muslim community,” but sometimes it takes being smacked with an enormous, amazing data dump to remind us that Muslims are actually an incredibly diverse group — if you can call them a group — who adhere to views that are informed by their cultural and political context as much as their religion.
For their mammoth new study about the world’s Muslims, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life interviewed more than 38,000 Muslims in 39 countries on topics ranging from morality, to politics and justice, and the relationships between the sexes.
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.
PATTANI – A new sign appeared throughout the insurgency-torn provinces of Thailand’s ethnic Malay-Muslim minority region in December. The three heads of the Provincial Islamic Committees from the southern provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat are pictured with the message: “We ask for the support [of insurgents] to come out and talk [with authorities] for peace.”
Dressed in black, they stand in silence — straight-backed, dignified and opposed to violence in its many brutish forms.
And after 60 minutes of quiet reflection, they hold hands, voice their first names, say “peace,” and walk away.
Drive down Fourth Avenue in downtown Olympia between 5 and 6 p.m. Fridays and you will see them lined up facing north toward Budd Inlet from near the Heritage Park fountain. There were more than 70 women there on the eve of the war in Iraq in March 2003, far fewer after Barack Obama was elected president in 2008.
They are the Women in Black, Olympia’s contribution to a world-wide network of women committed to peace in a world wracked by violence.
February 1, 1968. Echol Cole and Robert Walker, two black sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn. were collecting garbage in the midst of a pounding Southern monsoon. As their crew chief ferried them from house to house, they took shelter from the downpour in the trash compactor of their truck, a decrepit city vehicle. At some point that afternoon, the compactor malfunctioned, and Cole and Walker were chewed up by its rusted machinery. The Memphis government paid Cole and Walker’s families a small bereavement fee—not even enough to cover the cost of the funerals.
The Memphis sanitation workers went on strike, demanding union recognition against impossible odds. And a month and a half later, Dr. King came to town.
Nearly every product of the American education system knows about Selma, Alabama and the Birmingham campaign. But the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers strike plays, at best, a tertiary role in the popular narrative of King’s legacy—this despite the fact that it was his last campaign, the battle which cost him his life. When Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, he was staying in a Memphis motel. The last speech of his life, the famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, had been delivered the night before to an audience of striking workers and their supporters.
As 2012 came to a close, massive nonviolent demonstrations took place in Iraq, with thousands of Sunni demonstrators in Anbar province marching in protest of the allegedly sectarian policies of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Al Jazeera English (AJE) has carried live reports this past week showing tens of thousands of Iraqis, mostly self-declared Sunnis, as they demonstrated along a main highway leading to Syria and Jordan. Local councils called for civil disobedience because, they said, Sunnis are being sidelined in Iraqi politics, and pronouncements asserted that sit-ins would not end until protesters’ demands were met. AJE’s reporter commented that the challengers had a stated commitment to nonviolent action, and that local clergy had joined in the call to such action.
A week after the horrific killings of the schoolchildren of Sandy Hook in Connecticut, most of us are still struggling to get our minds around such a nightmare. And how do we say and sing the words of this joyful season while we think of lives cut so brutally short and of the unimaginable loss and trauma suffered by parents?
Nearly 6,000 children and teenagers were killed by firearms in the USA in just two years. And we’d better not be complacent about the issues of gun and knife crime affecting young people in our own cities here. In the UK, the question is how we push back against gang culture by giving young people the acceptance and respect they deserve, so that they don’t look for it in destructive places. In the US, the question is, of course, about gun laws, one of the most polarising issues in American politics.
And there is one thing often said by defenders of the American gun laws that ought to make us think about wider questions. ‘It’s not guns that kill, it’s people.’ Well, yes, in a sense. But it makes a difference to people what weapons are at hand for them to use – and, even more, what happens to people in a climate where fear is rampant and the default response to frightening or unsettling situations or personal tensions is violence and the threat of violence. If all you have is a hammer, it’s sometimes said, everything looks like a nail. If all you have is a gun, everything looks like a target.
People use guns. But in a sense guns use people, too…
The Supreme Court of Canada has crafted a classic Canadian compromise to one of the most divisive cases on religious freedom it has heard – a sexual-assault complainant who insists on wearing her niqab to testify.
Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin said that trial judges can permit a witness to wear the niqab when her evidence is uncontroversial or her credibility is not in dispute…
The upshot is that trial judges are being left to decide the niqab issue on a case-by-case basis.
What must we as a nation learn from this? What must we change, both personally and in our decisions about the public arenas of our society where this terrible tragedy occurred? How can we make our children safer?
By Jim Wallis
Our deepest question now is whether what happed on Friday — and what has focused the attention of the entire nation — will touch the nation’s soul or just make headlines for a few days.
I think that will be up to us as parents to respond as parents. The brutal shooting of 20 six- and seven-year-old school children in their own classrooms touches all of us, and as the father of two young boys I’m especially struck by how it touches parents. From the heartbreak of the parents in Newtown to the tears in the eyes of Barack Obama as he responded — not just as the president, but also as the father of two daughters — to the faces of the first responders and reporters who are parents. I have felt the pain and seen the look on the face of every parent I have talked with since this horrendous event occurred. Virtually every mother and father in America this weekend has turned their grieving gaze on their own children, realizing how easily this could have happened to them. The emotions we’ve seen from the Newtown parents whose children survived and the feelings of utter grief for those parents whose children didn’t, have reached directly to me.
Saturday, the day after the Connecticut massacre, Joy and I went to our son Jack’s basketball game. The kids on the court were all the same ages as the children who were killed on Friday. I kept looking at them one by one, feeling how fragile their lives are.
Our first response to what happened in Newtown must be toward our own children. To be so thankful for the gift and grace they are to us. To be ever more conscious of them and what they need from us. To just enjoy them and be reminded to slowly and attentively take the time and the space to just be with them. To honor the grief of those mothers and fathers in Connecticut who have so painfully just lost their children, we must love and attend to ours in an even deeper way.
It began as a joke. Mohamed Tolba, an IT executive, had time to kill between meetings and told the receptionist in his Cairo office that he would be at the Costa Coffee around the corner if anyone needed him. “You go to Costa?” she asked, startled.
“Yes,” he replied patiently. “Even me. I drink coffee and eat cheesecake.”
His colleague couldn’t quite fathom the idea that someone like Mr. Tolba – who sports a bushy beard and prays fives times a day without fail – might hang out in an outlet of the British coffee chain that is a haunt of secular Egyptian urbanites. For Mr. Tolba, it was just one more incident of the misconceptions that dog Salafism, the stream of Islam he practises.
“I realized,” he recalled later, “we have issues.”
The interaction, though, spurred him finally to take them on. He resolved to try to address the image problem of his ultra-conservative Islam using, what else, Facebook. He started a forum for debate and outreach, and he named it Salafyo Costa – the Salafis at Costa – after his favourite latte joint. Within months, thousands of Egyptians, and Muslims in other countries, were participating in the online debates, and soon the group was meeting in real life. Over, of course, coffee.
Last week B’nai Jeshurun (a.k.a. BJ), an independent progressive synagogue in Manhattan, made the front page of the New York Times after its leadership sent a membership-wide email applauding the UN vote granting Palestinians non-member “state” status. While it predictably met with mixed reactions, it became the most visible American synagogue to break ranks with the pro-Israel lobby protesting the UN vote.
A few days later the Reform Movement issued a statement criticizing the Israeli government’s decision to revive settlement construction in the E1 area of the West Bank. This has long been considered a “red line” by the U.S. and other states friendly to Israel in that it would geographically make a two-state solution (with East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital) impossible.
Back in November, in a Times of Israel blog post, Rabbi Dr. Daniel Gordis, Senior Vice-president of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and self-appointed “defender of Israel,” penned a scathing critique of a letter written by Rabbi Sharon Brous to her congregation IKAR in Los Angeles. Brous, Gordis’ former student, had “dared” to express sympathy and concern for Gazan civilian casualties of Israeli air strikes as she had for Israeli victims of Palestinian rocket fire. “At the same time, supporting Israel’s right to protect and defend itself does not diminish the reality that the Palestinian people are also children of God, whose suffering is real and undeniable,” she wrote in a rather temperate acknowledgment of human suffering that apparently crossed a “red line” resulting in Gordis’ accusation that Brous has somehow “abandoned” her people.
These three communiques arguably mark a significant fissure in American Jewish institutional support of Israeli polices and has ignited robust debate among American Jews as to their responsibility and allegiance to Israel as Americans and as Jews.
For a man used to spending time in solitary confinement, Terry Waite could be forgiven for feeling very alone as he was shuttled to a secret location in Beirut for talks with the group thought to be responsible for his kidnapping 25 years ago.
When the author and humanitarian last visited the city’s southern suburbs he was forced to spend 1,760 days locked in a cramped cell, being subjected to mock executions and beatings while chained to a radiator.
But under the cover of darkness on Monday last week, he returned to Lebanon offering forgiveness and reconciliation to his captors, a quarter of a century after he was kidnapped and tortured by associates of the militant group Hezbollah.
Several recent incidents have drawn international attention to laws and policies prohibiting blasphemy – remarks or actions considered to be contemptuous of God or the divine. In a highly publicized case last summer, for example, a 14-year-old Christian girl in Pakistan was arrested and detained for several weeks after she was accused of burning pages from the Quran. In neighboring India, a man reputed to be a religious skeptic is facing blasphemy charges because he claimed a statue of Jesus venerated by Mumbai’s Catholic community for its miraculous qualities is a fake. The man reportedly is staying in Europe to avoid prosecution. In Greece, a man was arrested and charged with blasphemy after he posted satirical references to an Orthodox Christian monk on Facebook.
Pakistan, India and Greece are not alone in actively pursuing blasphemy prosecutions. A new analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life finds that as of 2011 nearly half of the countries and territories in the world (47%) have laws or policies that penalize blasphemy, apostasy (abandoning one’s faith) or defamation (disparagement or criticism of particular religions or religion in general).
The resolution of the crisis in the Casamance, Senegal, that has been on hold since the ceasefire of 2005, has taken a new turn. Salif Sadio, leader of the northern faction of the armed branch of the Movement des forces démocratiques de la Casamance (Movement of the Democratic Forces of Casamance, MFDC), had appealed for dialogue on 1 June 2012. In an answer to that appeal, President Macky Sall, in a statement at the decentralised Council of Ministers meeting held in Ziguinchor on 27 June, pledged to begin talks with Sadio and the other warlords of the MFDC.