Sunday, 18 May 2014

In Conversation with Sally Armstrong

Filed under: Africa files,children and youth,gender,Human Rights,Media and Conflict,South Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 13:55 PDT

Canadian journalist and human rights activist Sally Armstrong often says that in her 25 years of reporting on women and girls in zones of conflict, she hasn’t had a good-news story to tell.

Indeed, the gender-based discrimination and violence she regularly reports on is horrifying. Girls being denied the right to go to school. Girls and women suffering acid attacks. Girls and women having their genitals mutilated. Girls and women being systematically raped as a weapon of war. Girls and women being murdered in so-called honour killings. Girls and women disappearing.

But Armstrong is telling more good-news stories these days. She says there’s reason to be optimistic: Girls and women all over the world are rallying. Her most recent book, 2013′s The Ascent of Women, tells the stories of the remarkable, courageous and tenacious women worldwide who are fighting for their rights — and emerging victorious.


Friday, 14 March 2014

Myanmar: The systematic repression of the Rohingya minority continues | by Maung Zarni

“What can we do, brother? There are too many. We can’t kill them all.”

He said it matter-of-factly—a former brigadier and diplomat from my native country, Myanmar, about Rohingya Muslims.

We were in the spacious ambassadorial office at Myanmar Embassy in an ASEAN country when this “brotherly” conversation took place. I am familiar with Myanmar’s racist nationalist narrative. I have also worked with the country’s military intelligence services in pushing for the gradual re-engagement between the West and our country, then an international pariah. Apparently, knowledge of my background made the soldier feel so at ease that he could make such a hateful call in a friendly conversation on official premises in total candor: Islamophobia normalized in the highest ranks of the bureaucracy and military in Myanmar.


Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Pakistan Muslims Protect Christians From Islamic Extremists, Form Human Chain Around Church

Filed under: Nonviolence,Religion and peacebuilding,South Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 07:57 PDT

Between 200-300 Pakistani Muslims and Christians united and gathered to make a human chain around a church in Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city on Sunday.

Held on Oct. 6, just two weeks after a church bombing killed more than 100 people in Peshawar, the human chain, organized by the citizen group “Pakistan for All,” is part of the movement’s goal to raise awareness about minority rights and concerns.

“Well, the terrorists showed us what they do on Sundays. Here we are showing them what we do on Sundays. We unite,” Pakistan for All organizer, Mohammad Jibran Nasir told The Express Tribune.

Mufti Mohammed Farooq opened the event by reading several passages from the Quran that called for tolerance of other beliefs, while Father Nasir Gulfam, who had just preached the church’s Sunday service, stood by his side before they took hold of each other’s hands, modeling their message.


Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Kashmir feels the pinch as dispute chokes trade

Filed under: South Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 12:10 PDT

Against the backdrop of rolling forested hills where thousands of Indian and Pakistan soldiers guard the Line of Control – the de facto and recently volatile border that cuts through disputed Kashmir – about a dozen Indian trucks have crossed into Pakistan-controlled territory on a muggy summer morning…

In an improbable trade between two nuclear-armed countries that routinely exchange deadly gunfire in this heavily militarized zone, an enterprising group of several hundred Kashmiri traders separated by the Line of Control are trying to send a powerful message: more trade – not militancy or conflict – is what Kashmir needs.

See infographic map


Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Defining Myanmar’s “Rohingya Problem” | Benjamin Zawacki

Filed under: Human Rights,International Law: War,Media and Conflict,Myanmar,South Asia,Southeast Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 07:00 PDT

Much has been written either empathetically or as a challenge of Myanmar’s “Rohingya problem.” Between June and November 2012, the Rohingya bore the brunt of communal violence, human rights violations, and an urgent humanitarian situation in Rakhine State, and still face an uncertain future.

A great deal of rhetoric has attended these accounts—by officials and citizens of Myanmar, Rohingya organizations, journalists, human rights groups, and others—essentially attaching labels to the situation. And while there have been a number of thoughtful attempts to define or even explain the Rohingya problem in historical or political terms, they have been largely drowned out by emotive outbursts and media-friendly sound bites.

This is not only unfortunate, it is also consequential, for as was seen in 2012, rhetoric can influence both the way in which a crisis plays out as well as in how it is responded to. In other words, how we talk about what it is we are talking about matters… full article (pdf)

Thursday, 2 May 2013

What Muslims Around the World Think About Women’s Rights, in Charts

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.


Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Mother Teresa’s tomb with my heathen children, atheist parter and pagan in-laws in tow

Filed under: Humanitarian work,Religion and peacebuilding,South Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 19:47 PDT

From across the courtyard, an old nun was beckoning. I checked right and left; she was definitely waving at us.

And so I took my children by the hand climbed the stairs into the Missionaries of Charity Motherhouse.

I was going through Calcutta with my family not long ago and decided we would all take a quick detour to the legendary mission established by Mother Teresa…


Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Laws Penalizing Blasphemy, Apostasy and Defamation of Religion are Widespread

Filed under: Africa files,Media and Conflict,Middle East,Religion and peacebuilding,South Asia,Southeast Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 05:59 PDT

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).


Friday, 19 October 2012

Solving the world’s woes

Filed under: Disarmament,South Asia,Southeast Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 07:51 PDT

The two great existential challenges of our time are climate change and nuclear weapons. Between them, Russia and the United States hold 90 to 95 per cent of the world’s stockpile of nuclear weapons. Their global inventories cast a dark shadow over the Asia-Pacific with respect to deployments, doctrines and targets. In addition, Asia-Pacific has three of the world’s four non-NPT nuclear-armed states (India, Pakistan and North Korea, with Israel being the fourth). The Indian and Pakistani stockpiles are growing and China is yet to join any regime or plan to cut back its nuclear arsenal, arguing the numerical difference of its arsenal from that of Russia and the US puts it in a qualitatively different category…

[A]round 30 former leaders last year established the Asia Pacific Leadership Network for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (APLN). The advocacy group brings together former senior political, diplomatic, military, and scientific leaders from 14 countries around the region, from South Asia to East Asia and Australasia.


Sunday, 14 October 2012

Daniel Pearl remembered : ‘Music has power to spread message of peace’

Filed under: Media and Conflict,South Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 15:59 PDT

KARACHI: Hundreds of Pakistani students and journalists remembered the US journalist, Daniel Pearl, at 11th Annual Daniel Pearl World Music Day observed in Karachi…

The musical tribute was paid under theme of ‘Harmony through humanity’. Over 350 Pakistani students and journalists celebrated the positive vision to stand up for tolerance through words and music.


Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Rohingya: Roots of violence, hatred run deep

Filed under: Human Rights,Myanmar,Religion and peacebuilding,South Asia,Southeast Asia,Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:01 PDT

Much has been written lately, either empathetically or as a challenge, of Myanmar’s “Rohingya problem”. Since early June, the Rohingya have borne the brunt of communal violence, human rights violations, and an urgent humanitarian situation in Rakhine State, and face an uncertain future. But when considered more closely, is that all? What really is the problem?

The events of this year, as well as the violent events of 1978, 1992, 2001, and 2009, are attributable to systemic discrimination against the Rohingya in Myanmar. That is, to a political, social, and economic system—manifested in law, policy, and practices—designed to discriminate against this ethnic and religious minority. This system makes such direct violence against the Rohingya far more possible and likely than it would otherwise be. Further, in the eyes of the Myanmar authorities at least—as evidenced by the lack of accountability for the civilians and officials alike—discrimination also makes the violence and violations somehow justifiable. That is the problem.


Saturday, 15 September 2012

The Rohingya crisis: ASEAN vs Red Cross

Filed under: Human Rights,Myanmar,South Asia,Southeast Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 18:06 PDT

The cloud of gross human rights violations against the Rohingya Muslims during the last few weeks that have darkened Myanmar’s sky will hinder the transformation of ASEAN into a single community of nations by 2015.

In its press release on Aug. 1, Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated that Myanmarese security forces had committed killings, rape and mass arrests against Rohingya Muslims after failing to protect both the Muslims and Arakan Buddhists during deadly sectarian violence in June.

Government restrictions on humanitarian access to the Rohingya community have left over 100,000 people displaced and in dire need of food, shelter and medical care.

However, ASEAN remains silent on this human rights violation in a part of ASEAN.


Friday, 10 August 2012

Violence Doesn’t Work (Most of the Time)

Filed under: Latin America & Caribbean,Middle East,Nonviolence,South Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:10 PDT

People have long assumed that violence is necessary for political change. Rulers never cede power voluntarily, the argument goes, so progressives have no choice but to contemplate the use of force to bring about a better world, mindful of the trade-off between a small amount of violence now and acceptance of an unjust status quo indefinitely. Terrorists invoke this trade-off to justify what would otherwise be wanton murder. Even their most vociferous condemners concede that terrorism, though highly immoral, is often efficacious.

Of course, Mohandas Gandhi, and later Martin Luther King Jr., argued the opposite—that violence, in addition to being morally heinous, is tactically counterproductive. Violent movements attract thugs and firebrands who enjoy the mayhem. Violent tactics provide a pretext for retaliation by the enemy and alienate third parties who might otherwise support the movement.

So how effective is violence? Political scientists have recently tried tallying the successes and failures of violent and nonviolent movements. The evidence is piling up that Gandhi was right—at least on average. In separate analyses, Audrey Cronin and Max Abrahms have shown that terrorist movements almost always fizzle out without achieving any of their strategic aims. Just think of the failed independence movements in Puerto Rico, Ulster, Quebec, Basque Country, Kurdistan, and Tamil Eelam. The success rate of terrorist movements is, at best, in the single digits.


Thursday, 2 August 2012

Fallout of drone attacks

Filed under: International Law: War,South Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:28 PDT

US drones continue to target Fata’s North Waziristan agency. At least 13 people were killed in a recent attack; many were injured and houses were destroyed. Hundreds of such assaults have badly disturbed normal life in the tribal regions. The area is remote and locals have to carry out rescue work on their own. The injured are taken to local healthcare centres where the minimum facilities are available.

There are conflicting reports about those who fall prey to the attacks. According to local people the victims were residents of the area and had nothing to do with terrorism. But the foreign media claimed that they were Taliban commanders.

Conflicting news reports have created doubts…. The matter can only be analysed through an impartial probe. The residents have been appealing to the government and the international community to help them as the ultimate sufferers are innocent people, particularly women, children and senior citizens.

The drones are a direct attack on the sovereignty of Pakistan and not just the public but also the government has informed US authorities that the attacks have no positive results in the ongoing ‘war on terror’; rather, they complicate the issues and affect diplomatic ties….


Monday, 16 July 2012

ADR and accountability

Filed under: Dispute resolution and negotiation,South Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 07:57 PDT

With a population of about over seven people on earth, human beings come across each other every single second. This interaction results in millions of transaction each day and billions every month. After the world transformed into a global village, these interactions – whether social, cultural, or of any type – have increased manifold, both in quantity and complexity. This enormous and complex nature of transactions in a current multicultural, multiracial and multilingual world is resulting in numerous disputes. Most of them are undoubtedly the result of misperception and communication barriers. However, in some cases the deliberate acts of fraud, forgery, cheating and misrepresentation by some people are witnessed. Every nation, in this context, is faced with a challenge to reduce these faulty interactions at first stage and settle them with a minimum cost at the second stage of adjudication.

Against this backdrop, a corrupt person does not only deprive the nation of its hard-earned income made through taxes, but also cause an additional loss to government in prosecuting him. Despite the judiciary’s hard work, today it is not possible to provide an appropriate number of courts and judges to settle countless disputes, whether between individuals, groups or organisations without a waste of precious resources. Even in the best performing countries, the courts are burdened with a huge backlog of cases. Therefore, the world is moving towards alternative ways for the settlement.


Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Canada best G20 country to be a woman, India worst

Filed under: gender,South Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 17:25 PDT

LONDON – Policies that promote gender equality, safeguards against violence and exploitation and access to healthcare make Canada the best place to be a woman among the world’s biggest economies, a global poll of experts showed on Wednesday.

Infanticide, child marriage and slavery make India the worst, the same poll concluded.

Germany, Britain, Australia and France rounded out the top five countries out of the Group of 20 in a perceptions poll of 370 gender specialists conducted by TrustLaw, a legal news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation.


Thursday, 31 May 2012

Fr. Pierre Ceyrac, SJ: Friend of Cambodians

Filed under: Cambodia,Religion and peacebuilding,South Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 14:20 PDT

A Letter from Fr. Mark Raper, President of the Jesuit Conference of East Asia Pacific.

Dear Friends,

Peace. Today we received news that Fr Pierre Ceyrac died early this morning in Chennai at the age of 98. Born on 4 February 1914 in Limozane, France, Pierre had one sister and 5 brothers. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1931. Being destined for India, he studied Sanskrit at the University of Paris and departed for Chennai in 1937. There in addition to the normal studies for priesthood, he studied Tamil literature. He was ordained a priest in 1945. 16 years of his life was given to AICUF (All India Catholic University Federation), which brought him to many parts of India and to deep engagements with young people.

In 1980 Pierre went to Thailand with a Caritas India team to assist the Cambodian refugees who had come in great numbers across the border as the Vietnamese army did battle with the Khmer Rouge. Pierre and several Jesuit companions, notably John Bingham and Noel Oliver, stayed on to be the founding members of a Jesuit Refugee Service program for Asia Pacific. They accompanied the Cambodian refugees until their return in 1993.


Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Building Peace At The Local Level: A Comparative Study Of Local Peace Committees

Filed under: Africa files,Books, reports, sites, blogs,Dispute resolution and negotiation,gender,South Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 07:00 PDT

A man was shot dead because he got into a fight with a shopkeeper over change for a packet of cigarettes. This was a fairly un-noteworthy incident in South Africa in the summer of 1994, at a time when the country was in the throes of giving birth to a new constitution. Both the shopkeeper and his customer lived in one of the country’s many shantytowns, and both were well-connected to two opposing factions that had split the township in two. The two factions pledged allegiance to the same dominant liberation movement, but an intense leadership struggle for local control was underway. This meant that the killing assumed local political overtones. The township was tense, with everyone anticipating revenge at the funeral since violence often broke out at these times. The police were perceived as ‘the enemy’ for their role in enforcing apartheid, so local people did not trust they would successfully deal with the situation.

Instead, the local peace committee established under the country’s National Peace Accord (NPA), sprang into action. Meetings throughout the week involved political, religious and social
organizations. There was some tough and angry talk, but eventually all participants agreed on one goal – the funeral had to be peaceful, as indeed it was.1 The local peace committee had managed
to defuse a potentially violent incident. It might also claim credit for having prevented a vicious cycle of revenge attacks.

This study explores these local peace mechanisms and particularly focuses on structures established as part of a larger peace architecture. In 1997, Lederach noted two countries where regional and local peace commissions made effective contributions to peace: Nicaragua in the late 1980s, and South Africa in the early 1990s. Subsequently, similar local peace building mechanisms have been used in several situations as diverse as FYR Macedonia, Kenya, Nepal, Sierra Leone and Serbia, as well as in Northern Ireland. The UN system has been involved in various supportive
roles in some of these countries, and is considering involvement in others. It is too early to arrive at definitive international standards on implementing these structures, but there is a
sufficient body of experience to point to some tentative guidelines – the goal of this study… full paper (pdf)

Sunday, 1 April 2012

A reading series tries to heal the aftermath of war with words

Filed under: Art of Peacework,South Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 18:01 PDT

Looking for a Sri Lankan benefit reading series he was spearheading, Kumaran Nadesan remembered a phrase from Tamil-language news reports about the 25-year-long civil war that ravaged the island nation: Samadhana pechchu vaarthaigal, or peace talks. He wanted a word found in both Sinhalese and Tamil, the languages spoken by the two ethnic communities in conflict in Sri Lanka, and Samadhana seemed an innocuous choice.

However, the reaction from some of his Sri Lankan Tamil friends, “moderate people, who grew up in Colombo and come from privileged backgrounds,” was unexpected.

“It sounded very Sinhalese to them; they thought I was bending over backwards for the Sinhalese,” says Nadesan. “I explained to them that Samadhana is actually a Sanskrit word.”

It’s this type of mistrust that Nadesan hopes to address through the inaugural Samadhana Benefit Reading Series that kicks off in Toronto on Thursday with readings from Sri Lankan-Canadian novelists Shyam Selvadurai (Funny Boy) and Koom Kankesan (The Panic Button), and Sri Lankan-American writer Mary Anne Mohanraj (Bodies in Motion).


Monday, 12 March 2012

Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping: An Emerging Approach to Civilian Protection and Violence Prevention | USIP March 21, 2012

Filed under: Africa files,Conferences, Events,Disarmament,Latin America & Caribbean,Nonviolence,South Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 14:41 PDT
Wednesday, 21 March 2012

From South Sudan to Sri Lanka, Guatemala to Nepal, specially trained, unarmed civilians are protecting civilians under threat and preventing violence from escalating in areas of violent conflict. Working on the basis of strict nonpartisanship and at the invitation of local civil society, these peacekeepers apply field-tested strategies that create space for local actors to transform conflicts, protect human rights defenders and others made vulnerable by the conflict, as well as supporting local violence prevention mechanisms.

They bring on-the-ground realities of violent conflicts to national, regional and international attention. Their presence provides a bridge between peacekeeping and peacebuilding.

Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) and Peace Brigades International (PBI), two of the leaders in unarmed civilian protection, will present how peacekeeping works without guns, what lessons are being learned, and how this practice can now be brought to scale.
March 21, 2012 – 10:00 – 11:30am
U.S. Institute of Peace
2301 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20037

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