2017년 8월 17일 목요일

Schoolkids in India, Pak write letters for peace

The exchanges resulted in the arrival of 23 letters from the Mumbai school that were displayed during the exhibition.

 Representational image
Karachi: Of all the events organised earlier this week to focus on peace and cooperation between India and Pakistan, perhaps the most moving was an exhibition of letters exchanged between school students of the two countries; all of them offered glimpses of the artless, untutored and selfless love that binds one human being to another as nothing else can.  The event was organised by a little known initiative, Aaghaz-i-Dosti (beginning of friendship), launched by two outfits, Hum Sub Aik Hein of Pakistan and Mission Bhartiam of India. They have been organising exchanges of greetings and solidarity messages between Indian and Pakistani schoolchildren for several years. They also facilitate conversations between these students on special occasions, such as the independence days of Pakistan and India. This year, a dialogue via video link was arranged in addition to greeting Indian friends from the banks of the Ravi where lamps for peace were lit. This year the contents of letters exchanged between the two sides went beyond expressions of friendship and solidarity. Last year, a schoolchild, Sharoon Patras, was killed in the Easter Day blast in a Lahore park. He was studying at a school in the city’s Youhanabad locality. A report of this incident made a strong impact on the minds of students at one of Mumbai’s prestigious schools and they wrote letters of sympathy to students at the Youhanabad school. The exchanges resulted in the arrival of 23 letters from the Mumbai school that were displayed during the exhibition.
Possibly the most touching of these letters is the one from a 13-year-old. He said he used to consider a child fortunate if he had modern toys and facilities for recreation and entertainment. But after the loss of life in the Lahore blast he thought a child is fortunate if he goes to school in the morning and is back home safe and sound by the evening. When the writers of these letters were shown by their class teachers photographs of the great gurdwara in Nankana Sahib, they were thrilled at discovering a bond of friendship with the people of Pakistan.  A 13-year old girl, incidentally the daughter of actors Kajol and Devgan, wrote that when the class teacher “showed us an image of a temple swarmed by devotees, each one of us guessed that it had to be somewhere in India, the Golden Temple or the Tirupati temple or even the Siddhivinayak temple but when Ms T told us about how this image was, in fact, taken in Pakistan... then it hit us. We share much more than average neighbouring countries do, we share cultures, languages, festivals, but most of all we share history.”

Fortunately, these children have not lost their innocence and have not been diverted from pleasurable pursuits. Says one of them: “I turned 13 a few months ago and have a passion for dance, drama, music, art, football, among some other pastimes that I enjoy. My grandparents actually came from Sindh... I definitely believe in reaching a resolution through the means of peace.” These letters confirm what many persons of goodwill have always maintained, that children in India and Pakistan are by and large still free from hatred for each other and retain their ability to perceive in peaceful cooperation a better future for the subcontinent’s teeming millions. The young volunteers responsible for organising Aaghaz-i-Dosti are not the first to discover the children’s and youth’s potential for persuading the people of the subcontinent to abandon the mutually suicidal path of conflict and confrontation.  Possibly both governments are afraid of people-to-people contacts, especially between the youth and children. But these barriers can be retained only at the unbearable cost of total disaster. Let more children from India and Pakistan talk peace to one another.
By arrangement with Dawn

2017년 6월 28일 수요일

Women’s role in peace processes stressed

Female members of Argentina's human rights group, Madres de Plaza de Mayo, march during a rally in 2003
Female members of Argentina's human rights group, Madres de Plaza de Mayo, march during a rally in 2003

Switzerland is taking further steps to implement an international resolution that aims to increase the participation of women in the peace process.

A revised national action plan was discussed at a conference in Bern this week organised by the Swiss foreign ministry. The plan sets out how Switzerland can apply United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, unanimously adopted ten years ago.
It was on October 31, 2000 that for the first time, the international community explicitly recognised the impact of armed conflict on women and the importance of involving them in peace processes.

“To date there are 17 nations that have put together a national strategy with the aim of implementing the objectives outlined in Resolution 1325,” Swiss Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini told the conference. 

The former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Georgia spoke at the meeting where discussions focussed on Switzerland’s revised national action plan, which was first released in 2007.

“The aim is to increase the percentage of women in organisations that promote peace,” Tagliavini explained.
Victims of armed conflict
Despite the good intentions, there has been little change on the ground. Women are still in the minority in the police force and army, as well as in the political realm. For the most part, they are recognised as the victims of the consequences of armed conflict: poverty, abuse, disease and emigration.

“Ten years on, the results are generally positive but at the same time alarming,” Tagliavini said. “Resolution 1325 is without a doubt one of the principle instruments defending the rights of women in war zones, but it’s still not enough.

“According to a study by the UN Development Fund for Women (Unifem), there have been 24 important peace processes since 1992 but only 3.2 per cent of the mediators and 5.5 per cent of the observers were women. How is it possible to achieve long lasting and durable peace if half of the population is excluded even before the start [of negotiations].”

The participation of women in peace processes is even more important in a context in which traditional patterns appear to have been altered.
Old illusion
“We must overcome the old illusion that women are only victims of conflicts,” said Elisabeth Decrey-Warner, president and co-founder of the non-government organisation, Geneva Call. “Like men, women can be responsible for war and therefore part of this hell.”

There is a widespread sentiment that to guarantee security in the 21st century, women’s involvement could be more important than throwing up a missile shield over Europe. 

The fact is that the issue of women suicide bombers in Afghanistan or women rebels in Africa or Latin America cannot be addressed just from a man’s perspective.

On the one hand, Resolution 1325 wants to see women sitting at the negotiating table, and on the other promote their direct involvement in the field. At times, a female presence in a conflict zone can be indispensible in overcoming cultural and religious barriers. Women soldiers can more easily inspect - and show respect - for Muslim women at checkpoints, can win the trust of victims of sexual abuse and according to some, have a positive impact on predominantly male troops.

Despite the rhetoric, it is not always easy to assume the role of peacemaker in a predominantly male conflict. Tagliavini has first-hand experience. “For a woman, integrity and credibility are fundamental to survival in patriarchal countries like those in the Caucasus. It’s not easy to initiate a dialogue. We have to give men more time to get used to the idea of sitting across the table from a woman…”
Nepal efforts
Education and information are crucial for laying the groundwork for equal representation. In Nepal, for example, Switzerland organised different conferences and meetings for women and political parties to raise awareness of the issue. 

Nepalese women have played a particularly active role in the national conflict as either leaders and fighters for the Maoist cause, army members or supporters of the peace movement. Despite their contributions, they have been largely excluded from their country’s democratisation process.

The Swiss presence in Nepal is only one example of Swiss government actions taken as part of Resolution 1325. The revisions introduced to the Swiss National Action Plan were done in collaboration with various NGOs.

“For the first time, the plan sets specific objectives for different departments and involved parties,” explained Ursula Keller, responsible for the contributions of the foundation, swisspeace. “In this way, it will be much easier to evaluate results and make the necessary adjustments in 2012.”
Female quota
Among the objectives are the promotion of women candidates in regional and international organisations and an increase of the female quota in Switzerland’s expert pool to 40 per cent.

The government is also making efforts to strengthen the prevention of sexual abuse and favours sending special observers to high-risk countries.

“I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the Swiss strategy will change the lives of women in Afghanistan or Congo,” admitted Keller. “But it’s a strong commitment on the part of Switzerland and should be welcomed.”

There is still a lot to do ten years after the adoption of Resolution 1325. One thing though is certain: “Peace building is a task for all humanity,” concluded Decrey-Warner. To achieve this “women must start fighting for everyone and not just other women”.

Women in armed conflict

According to the UN Development Fund for Women (Unifem), as much as 90 per cent of casualties are among civilians, most of whom are women and children. Women in war-torn societies can face specific and devastating forms of sexual violence, which are sometimes deployed systematically to achieve military or political objectives. 

Women are the first to be affected by infrastructure breakdown, as they struggle to keep families together and care for the wounded. And women may also agree to sexual exploitation to survive and support their families.

Even after conflict has ended, the impacts of sexual violence persist, including unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and stigmatisation. Widespread sexual violence itself may continue or even increase in the aftermath of conflict, as a consequence of insecurity and impunity.

Swiss policy


Christians and Muslims

pray for peace

Two nuns and two Muslim women warmly exchange smiles and pleasantries during an interfaith gathering at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño on Tuesday to pray for peace in Mindanao as the war in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, continues.
THEY may differ in religion.
But Christians and Muslims in Cebu set aside religious differences and came together for one purpose — peace.
About 200 persons from different religions gathered at the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño’s open-air Pilgrim Center at past 4 p.m. on Tuesday to pray for peace in the country, particularly in Mindanao.
They uttered prayers, sang chants and rang the bells to extol peace and unity among all Filipinos regardless of culture, race and religion.
“In the midst of war and distress, our ultimate refuge is prayer. We succumb to unity rather than diversity. No religion wants war, terrorism and violence. What we want is peace,” said Fr. Pacifico “Jun” Nohara, OSA, rector of the centuries-old basilica.
“And if there is one more gift we ask from God, that would be peace. It is time for humanity to live in peace, harmony and love,” he added.
Ustadz Rasul Najib, president of the Voice of Islam Foundation in Cebu and chairman of the Council of Elders in the Visayas, said Muslims also long for peace.
Terrorists who sow terror in the name of Islam, Najib said, are misguided extremists who need to revisit their beliefs.
“Islam is a religion of peace. It is not a religion of violence as some people think. It teaches us that all human beings are brothers. We need to respect each other. We need to protect each other. We need to love each other. We need to build tranquility and peace among us,” said Najib.
Violence today, he stressed, is perpetrated by a few radicals who he said deviated from the teachings of Islam.
“They contextualize Islam in their own understanding. They have deviated from the right path. These extremists are condemned by Muslims in general.”
Of about two billion Muslims around the world, Najib said about 50,000 are involved in terror groups.
“What they are doing is not only against Christianity and other religions. It is against the law of God and humanity. We abhor what they do. They do not belong to our community. They are not part of us, and we are not part of them. They are misguided individuals,” he stressed.
Najib expressed hopes that Muslims who take part in terrorism will be enlightened and will return to the right path.
“We ask God to unite our hearts with the rest of humanity. May the Lord open our hearts so we may share among ourselves as one people — Muslims and Christians — and as Filipinos in this country. Give us the chance to work for peace in our country,” Najib said.
The “Interfaith Prayer for Peace” was organized by the Commission on Social Advocacies of the Archdiocese of Cebu.
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, who was in Manila on Tuesday, was represented by Msgr. Daniel Sanico, the vicar general of the archdiocese.

2017년 5월 31일 수요일

United youth voice demands for peace in South Korea

28.05.2016 - Tony Henderson
United youth voice demands for peace in South Korea
South Korea May 25, 2016 (Image by HWPL)
In many cities besides Seoul, including Sydney, New York City, Manila, Shanghai, Cape Town and Oakland; youth, women, and citizens generally marched for peace on May 25, 2016, with the behest to replace the current culture of war with a culture of peace.
The World Peace Gate in Seoul’s Olympic Park was filled with vibrant young people from all across Korea and from overseas for the upcoming 3rd Annual Commemoration of the Declaration of World Peace and Peace Walk on the day.
Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL), a UN department of information registered non-governmental organization, hosted the event in Seoul together with the International Women’s Peace Group (IWPG) and International Peace Youth Group (IPYG). Ecuador Earthquake Relief Donation Booths were set up to call for united actions among youth to care for people of Ecuador in their time of need.
Just last year, over 200,000 people showed their commitment for peace by participating in HWPL peace walks in 50 cities held in 30 countries simultaneously, igniting the flame of peace in the hearts of many.
This year’s commemorative event will highlight the global peace advocacy movement, and the Legislate Peace Campaign, recently launched to bring all wars to an end by establishing an enforceable law compatible with the Declaration of Peace and Cessation of War (DPCW).
Drafted by the HWPL International Law Peace Committee and proclaimed on March 14th this year the DPCW has steadily received public attention. It represents the voices of all those yearning for peace and urges states wherever to protect their citizen’s rights to enjoy peaceful lives.
The Legislate Peace Campaign calls on global citizens to unite as one to voice their positive demands for peace by adding their signatures to its list. World leaders and governments are also being called on to make and enforce a national law based on the principles of the DPCW. Many heads of state have written letters of support for the DPCW and over 190,000 signatures from 152 countries have been collected through on and offline platforms worldwide in less than two months.
Marking this the 3rd anniversary of its proclamation, the Declaration of World Peace has borne fruit through the DPCW as the document states: “Of what use is a young life, born in our day and age, if it is thrown away in this manner – thrown away without having had a chance to bloom? What price can compensate for the loss of a life? … In whatever way you can, we ask that you work to further the cause of world peace and restoration, making it a reality in your direct environments.”
The Legislate Peace Campaign is promoting an online gathering for peace through its Facebook page: www.facebook.com/legislatepeace that started May 24, this year.

2017년 4월 30일 일요일

The US, not North Korea, is the biggest threat to peace

Sunday, April 30, 2017
Less than three months into President Donald Trump’s reign we can already say that there is a non-trivial chance that the United States will soon be engaged in a nuclear war.
The threat is still remote, but the pieces are in place. An aircraft carrier group is en route to the Korean peninsula and anonymous sources have threatened a pre-emptive strike against North Korea.
Any misjudgments or mistakes could easily spark a shooting war in which the North Koreans will face an existential threat they can only resist with their nuclear weapons. The United States would likely respond in kind.
The main thing standing between us and this scenario? The cooler heads and good judgement of Trump and Kim Jong-Un.
Racist rhetoric
This is deeply concerning. But to hear the US media tell it, all of the irrationality and risk is on the North Korean side. NBC News, in an article announcing the US threat of unauthorised aggression against North Korea, called it “volatile and unpredictable”.
Australia’s defense industry minister called North Korea “the world’s greatest threat” less than a week after the US escalated the major power conflict in Syria with little warning. The New York Times spoke of China’s need to “rein in” the childish North Koreans, even though it is the US that has killed at least 1000 civilians in combat so far this year.
Western propaganda draws from a deep well of racist “yellow peril” prejudice to stoke irrational fears against this tiny, poor, isolated country. It amplifies this paranoia with long-standing stereotypes of East Asian “oddity” to dehumanise North Koreans.
In the hands of a war-horny bigot like Trump, this well-established, bipartisan narrative poses the fearsome threat of nuclear war.
There are three basic pieces to the West’s slander of North Korea  —  that the whole country is “crazy”, dangerous, and untrustworthy. They cannot be reasoned with, they won’t honour diplomatic agreements, and at any moment they could fly off the handle and kill millions of people for no reason.
This demands extraordinary military pressure from the US and allies and may, alas, require us to destroy them.
Each of these is a perverse misrepresentation. The claim that they are insane is a clear example of “gaslighting” —  an abusive tactic where the perpetrator drives their victim crazy and then uses such a response as proof of the victim’s irrationality, justifying further abuse.
North Korea is bordered on the south by South Korea and on the north by China. South Korea hosts 28,500 US military personnel, many of them literally amassed at the North’s border. To its east is Japan, a nation that brutally occupied Korea for decades and is home to tens of thousands more US soldiers.
North Korea is surrounded on all sides by countries that have invaded or occupied them in living memory. On top of this, the country remains technically at war with the world’s most powerful military, with no peace treaty even being signed to end the 1950-53 Korean War. This military is poised to invade at a moment’s notice.
This is the sort of scenario that would make any country not just paranoid, but legitimately insecure. In light of US military aggression against other countries deemed “rogue states”, it is no surprise North Korea works to build up its defensive capabilities.
The Korean War is within living memory. During that conflict, the US killed a quarter of the North Korean population and leveled its urban centres, leaving almost no structures standing in Pyongyang.
The US media, however, never provide this context. Instead North Korean military propaganda is presented as aggressively unhinged. But if North Korea is “crazy” for its militarism, then the US is downright certifiable.
US propaganda can dismiss North Korea’s legitimate concerns so easily because of the underlying racist assumption that these are a bizarre and simple-minded people who believe in unicorns. This feeds off orientalist logic that sees East Asians as a nearly subhuman “other” that cannot be reasoned with and so must be handled with force.
As for claims about North Korea’s unique danger to the world, this too is divorced from reality. The country has no meaningful power projection capability . Its naval surface vessels cannot operate more than about 50 kilometres off the coast  and the US military has them contained to the south.
China is still North Korea’s ally and does not view it as a significant military threat. North Korea is contained.
But what about those missiles and nukes? North Korea could maybe lob a missile at Japan  —  or maybe not, a missile test on April 15 failed  —  and they could level Seoul with artillery alone. But why would it do this? It would prompt either the US or China to respond and destroy it.
The only way to explain such a unilateral assault is to go back to that same baseless “crazy” claim. They could miscalculate of course, but claims that North Koreans are especially dangerous almost always relies on the assumption that they might just wig out and bomb everybody for no reason at all at any moment.
Again, this is rooted in an infantilising, dehumanising, racist logic.
And any claims of a direct North Korean threat to the US is ludicrous. It has no weapons capable of reaching within thousands of miles of the US, and are years away from developing any. Even if it reached that goal  —  which its very uneven history of missile tests indicates will be very difficult  —  it would still have thousands of fewer weapons than the US.
Cable news is a much bigger threat to US security than North Korea ever will be.


If North Korea’s military threat is totally derived from its desire to prevent a US attack, why not negotiate a peace between North Korea and the US? A negotiated settlement could move both back from the brink and perhaps even provide space for an opening in North Korean society.
Conventional wisdom says the North Koreans have reneged on every agreement ever made with them. But if the “crazy” claims are an example of gaslighting, this answer is a textbook case of projection.
It is not North Korea that has betrayed past agreements, but the US.
The main incident here has to do with the “Agreed Framework between the United States of America and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” signed between the two countries in 1994. The Agreed Framework basically traded the end of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program for normalised economic and diplomatic relations with the US.
As a good faith step to spur the negotiations, North Korea submitted to limited weapons inspections while the US cancelled military exercises with South Korea. North Korea also used its plutonium production plants for energy, so the US agreed to help provide them with fuel oil until two light water nuclear reactors  —  which cannot be weaponised  —  could be built.
The US failed to uphold its end of the agreement almost immediately. Two weeks after it was signed, Republicans won control of Congress and labelled the agreement “appeasement”. Congress never provided sufficient funds for the fuel oil and the US never met the obligations set in the Agreed Framework.
The US also failed to take even the first preliminary steps in building the light water reactors for more than four years. It then moved at such a slow pace that there was no chance of meeting the framework’s timelines.
Most significantly, Congress blocked any attempts to begin normalising relations between North Korea and then-president Bill Clinton never pressed it to do so.
North Korea played along for at least four years and even warned that it would restart its nuclear program a year before it actually began a pilot program. North Korea did not shift from this pilot effort to a full-scale weapons program until then-president George W Bush refused new negotiations in 2001.
North Korea’s record is one of cooperating whenever Washington cooperated, and retaliating whenever it reneged. This extended to the later Six Party Talks begun in 2003 between North and South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia that almost brought North Korea back into the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Talks broke down when the US refused to release US$24 million frozen in a Macau bank account, and North Korea tested its first nuclear weapon six months later. But for that $24 million there might be no nuclear threat from North Korea today.


Yes, North Korea is governing by a repressive regime. But this is beside the point. The US does not pick its enemies for their moral qualities.
The US’s long history of supporting, and often imposing, brutal dictatorships shows it does not care about human rights or freedom when deciding which nations to support or oppose.
Notice how much less hand-wringing you hear about Pakistan, even though it does have a nuclear arsenal probably 15 times the size of North Korea’s, while also actively collaborating with jihadists.
The difference is that, unlike North Korean, Pakistan is subject to the US empire — and it buys it weapons from the US military-industrial complex.
North Korea dares to not only maintain its independence, but to seek to defend it. Therefore, it cannot be rewarded with negotiation.
It is our responsibility to push back against our governments lying their way into nuclear war.
[Abridged from Defiant. Andrew Dobbs is an activist, organiser, and writer based in Austin, Texas.]

2017년 4월 11일 화요일

Malala Yousafzai made youngest UN Messenger of Peace

Malala Yousafzai

                               Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai has been made the youngest ever UN Messenger of Peace

The 19-year-old, who is doing her A-levels and has an offer from a top UK university, will take the role with a special focus on girls' education.
In 2012 Ms Yousafzai was nearly killed by the Taliban for campaigning for girls' rights to education.
Accepting the accolade in New York, she said: "(Bringing change) starts with us and it should start now."
"If you want to see your future bright, you have to start working now (and) not wait for anyone else," he said.
United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres described her as a "symbol of perhaps the most important thing in the world - education for all".

Malala Yousafzai being selected as UN Messenger of Peace

Last month, Ms Yousafzai said she had received an offer to study politics, politics, philosophy and economics at a UK university, on condition of achieving three As in her A-levels. Ms Yousafzai, who narrowly escaped death after being attacked on her way home from school in Pakistan, did not confirm which university had made the offer. But previously she revealed she had interviewed for a degree place at an Oxford college. UN Messengers of Peace are selected from the fields of art, literature, science, entertainment, sports or other fields of public life. Other messengers have included Muhammad Ali, George Clooney, Michael Douglas, Leonardo DiCaprio, Stevie Wonder and Charlize Theron.


2017년 4월 6일 목요일

Peace Forum for the 1st Annual Commemoration of the Declaration of Peace and Cessation of War (DPCW) Was Held in Korea

Seoul, 16 Jumadil Akhir 1438/15 March 2017 (MINA) – Faced with the reality of uncertainty in global cooperation triggered by a chain of political upheavals from the Brexit to elections in the United States and European states, a new approach to pursue an international peaceful order is discussed.
On March 14, with 1800 stakeholders in governance, Peace Forum for the 1st Annual Commemoration of the Declaration of Peace and Cessation of War (DPCW) was held in Seoul, South Korea by Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL), an international peace organization under the UN Department of Public Information (DPI).
In commemoration of the DPCW proclaimed on the same date in 2016, the forum reaffirmed the importance of global peace movement currently on progress under the Legislate Peace Campaign to establish the principle of international law for peace through the introduction of a UN resolution based on the DPCW.
Chairman Man Hee Lee of HWPL emphasized that peacebuilding “is not an individual task”, but “is relevant to everyone” as a common purpose of the global community. He offered the role of religion as a bridgebuilder of peace rather than the core of conflict and violence by adding “our orientations must be one for peace. Whether religious secular world it is, there is no exception.”
In the progress report, Dong Min Im, the secretary general of HWPL, explained the significance of peace projects in HWPL by saying, “The work is to put an end to war in our globe and make a foundation of a world of everlasting peace, which is unprecedented in history.” He continued, “The solution to peace is all of us becoming messengers of peace.”
Bup Hye Kim, chairman of Buddhist Central Council for National Unification, offered a picture of concrete action plans of HWPL in achieving peace. “Youth and women are the main scapegoats in war, but even in this reality we must face the fact that youth and women are voluntarily standing at the forefront to build the foundation of peace with HWPL”, he said.
The DPCW with its 10 articles and 38 clauses was drafted by HWPL and legal experts in international law. Based on the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations and Declaration of Human Rights, the DPCW advocates peace as a global order through respect on international law, ethnic/religious freedom, and spreading a culture of peace.
Efforts of promoting peaceful coexistence with initiatives of HWPL contribute to conflict resolution to raise mutual understanding that can restrain hostility. Seminars and culture events at both local and national levels have been hosted by HWPL with the local community to overcome religious or ethnic boundaries. Areas of conflict where threats of life are persistent including Syria, Israel and Palestine are included to raise awareness for peacebuilding. (L/R01/RS5)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)