Nonviolence Charter: Progress Report 12 (April 2018)

29.04.2018 - TRANSCEND Media Service

This post is also available in: Spanish

Nonviolence Charter: Progress Report 12 (April 2018)
Robert Burrowes, Anita McKone, Anahata Giri (Image by Trascend Mediq Service)

By Robert J. Burrowes, Anita McKone & Anahata Giri – TRANSCEND Media Service

Dear fellow signatories of the Nonviolence Charter,

How are you all? And welcome to our most recent signatories and organizations!

This is the latest six-monthly report on progress in relation to ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’ together with a sample of news about Charter signatories and organizations.

Our collective effort to build a worldwide consensus against the use of violence in all contexts continues to make progress, even against rather overwhelming odds!

Our last report on 5 October 2017 was kindly published by Antonio C. S. Rosa in the TRANSCEND Media Service Weekly Digest. At the time of today’s report, we have signatories in 104 countries with our first signatories in Bolivia, Rwanda and Slovakia since the last report. We also have 114 organizations/networks from 36 countries with our first organization in Rwanda. If you wish, you can see the list of organizational endorsements on the Charter website.

If you wish to see individual signatories, click on the ‘View signatures’ item in the sidebar. You can use the search facility if you want to look for a specific name.

The latest progress report article ‘Nonviolence or Nonexistence? The Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.’ was recently distributed to many progressive news websites: it was published by a number of outlets in 15 countries, thanks to very supportive editors (several of whom are Charter signatories: special thanks to Antonio Rosa, Gifty Ayim-Korankye, Korsi Senyo and Pía Figueroa). If you like, you can read the article (in English and Spanish), published on the anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. here: ‘Nonviolence or Nonexistence? The Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.’ and ‘¿No violencia o No existencia? El legado de Martin Luther King Jr.’

If you feel inclined to do so, you are welcome to help raise awareness of the Nonviolence Charter using whatever means are easiest for you. Given recent revelations of the corruption of Facebook, this Charter account has been closed.

And our usual invitation and reminder: You are most welcome to send us a report on your activities for inclusion in the next report. We would love to hear from you!

Anyway, here is another (inadequate) sample of reports of the activities of individuals and organizations who are your fellow Charter signatories.

Given that dysfunctional parenting is ultimately responsible for the behaviour of those individuals – including political, corporate, military and religious leaders – who generate and perpetuate violence, a number of Charter signatories are now making ‘My Promise to Children’ so that we start to produce a higher proportion of functional individuals who know how to powerfully resolve conflicts in their lives without resort to violence. Still other signatories are now prioritizing their own recovery from childhood violence by ‘Putting Feelings First’.

Some other signatories are developing more sophisticated nonviolent strategies to deal with peace, environment and social justice issues more effectively, or so they can be more strategic in their liberation struggle. If you are interested in nonviolent strategy for your campaign or liberation struggle, these websites (which include photos of several Charter signatories) will be helpful:

Nonviolent Campaign Strategy

Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy

If any of you have high quality photos of nonviolent actions that you are willing to have published on these sites, please send them to Robert <flametree@riseup.net> All photos will be acknowledged where published.

If you would like to see Venezuelan Antonio Gutiérrez Rodero’s Spanish translation of the Nonviolence Charter, it is available here.

Deciding to recognize some of the many fine peace and justice leaders around the world, Charter signatory Professor Kathleen Malley-Morrison and her colleague Professor Anthony J. Marsella researched the efforts of hundreds of fine activist leaders. They compiled these names into a succession of ‘lists of 100’ and had these lists published. You can see the names of the people they decided to recognize, including many Charter signatories, in the first three lists here:

  1. ‘In Pursuit of Peace and Justice: 100 Peace & Justice Leaders and Models’.
  2. ‘In Pursuit of Peace and Justice: 100 Peace & Justice Leaders and Models (List #2)’.
  3. ‘100 Living Peace and Justice Leaders and Models (List #3)’.

Thank you for all your work Kathie and Tony.

Daniel Dalai’s visionary initiative Earthgardens, originally based in Bolivia and now in Guatemala, provides opportunities for girls to realize and practice their inherent leadership potential, particularly as part of Eco Teams in preserving natural biodiversity. Their beautiful website has just been updated and the stunning photos alone will tell you much about what these remarkable girls are doing. See Earthgardens.

The Afghan Peace Volunteers, mentored by Hakim, continue their visionary work in ‘Pursuing Peace Despite Everything’ in war-torn Afghanistan. Recently, on 21 March – which was ‘Nao Roz’ or ‘New Day’, the Afghan New Year – a suicide bomb attack occurred near Kabul University, not very far from the Borderfree Nonviolence Community Centre of the Afghan Peace Volunteers; it killed 32 people. ‘Despite the complicated fears and emotions that arise with each security incident, Zekerullah, Bismillah, Nisar and others gathered at the Centre, built a peace sign and lifted it up into the air with multi-coloured balloons.’ You can see their beautiful achievement and beautiful faces in the photos at the link above.

Among her ‘endless’ activist commitments, including with the Afghan Peace Volunteers, Kathy Kelly still manages to write regularly to tell us what she is experiencing and, often enough, what others are experiencing as a result of being targeted by the US military. This thought-provoking article ‘From the Ground Up’ begins by describing the experience of Afghan mothers living in a perpetual war zone.

Pía Figueroa in Chile is Co-Director of ‘Pressenza International Press Agency’, ‘a site that feeds media every day for free with news, opinions, interviews and contributions regarding peace, nonviolence, disarmament, human rights, nondiscrimination and humanism in eight different languages, thanks to the volunteer work of more than 100 people based in 25 different countries.’ Pía is also a writer; her books have been published in several languages and presented in more than forty places. She specializes in Silo’s proposals on inner development and the creation of a Universal Human Nation, where all kinds of violence and discrimination will be surpassed. Pía presently lives in Santiago de Chile, where she is an active member of the Humanist Party and the Frente Amplio political coalition. Nevertheless, she travels a lot, participating in public events and journalistic forums as well as in nonviolent gatherings, since she considers herself a global activist for peace. In a recent insightful commentary on politics in Chile, Pía wrote ‘The era is decisive’.

Sovannarun Tay perseveres in his efforts to raise awareness of the political situation in Cambodia where the bulk of the population has been cowed by the long-standing dictatorship (masquerading as a two-party ‘democracy’). Sovannarun supported Robert Burrowes to write the article ‘To Liberate Cambodia’ to give wider recognition to their ongoing struggle. Sovannarun has also translated nonviolent strategy into Khmer in support of the liberation struggle.

Zakia Haddouch in Morocco has updated us on her previously reported and ongoing legal battle, for more than a year now, against those who unjustly fired her. You may recall that Zakia worked at the High Authority of Audiovisual Communication (HACA) – the TV and radio regulator in Morocco – where she was in charge of translation (Arabic, French, English, Spanish and Amazigh which is her mother tongue). However, she had been fired ‘because I said we are all sons and daughters of this country!’ Remarkably, her case in the Administrative Court resulted in a decision in her favour: ‘The Court decided I’m to reintegrate my job and keep my position.’ In a widely celebrated result, ‘The media here are jubilating because it’s a legal battle between a simple citizen (me) and the State. Besides there’s the son of a King’s councillor involved. Now I’m on the front of media, human rights NGOs, trade unions and the Parliament.’

However, as we all know, not all stories have happy endings (at least in the short term): The court outcome was appealed and all means were used to delay the outcome and influence the judges because the king’s councillor in question is a former minister of justice! At the same time, the consequent media reports on the HACA resulted in it being audited by the Account Court and a report on the financial and administrative infringements by HACA’s current management (including Zakia’s case) was written and is now under scrutiny by the king and parliament, in compliance with the law. Recently, Zakia had a confrontation with the appeal judge. ‘It was a relief to tell the court the real reasons behind the whole case: It’s just a power abuse because I dared to denounce some deviations in an authority named in the Kingdom’s Constitution a “governance institution”.’ As Zakia concludes: ‘So, you see it’s a long battle and it’s never won easily.’

Separately from this ongoing battle, however, Zakia is working on a project with the forest cooperatives in some isolated (and desolated) places in Morocco. She worked with Niras (from Finland) and SOCODEVI (Canada) in the field, traveling to many parts of the country. ‘During last spring, summer and fall it was good being there but the winter was tough and we had some difficulties due to snow storms and cold.’ Her mission in this work with women from olive cooperatives as well as those in rosemary, eucalyptus and cedar cooperatives, is to train them in how to negotiate a fair contract with the State (owner  of the forest here), to understand the new legal framework (following adoption of a 2016 law) and to enable them to compete with the private companies in the market of olive and essential oils, wood and other commodities.

West Papuan activist Amatus Douw and solidarity activist Dr Jason MacLeod continue their vital work in the nonviolent struggle to liberate West Papua from Indonesian occupation. Working in collaboration with the leadership of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), Jason continues to raise awareness of the nonviolent liberation struggle being conducted by West Papuans while gently guiding this struggle in a more strategic direction. Jason’s 2015 book ‘Merdeka and the Morning Star: civil resistance in West Papua’ carefully describes the evolution of the West Papuan resistance to three successive occupying countries (is that a world record?) over more than a century.

Juraj Michálek is our first signatory in Slovakia. We asked Juraj to tell us a little about himself: ‘I am an eco-designer in the broadest sense: from small objects [such as an innovative bicycle saddle] to the global environment for human beings’. Juraj has developed an ‘algorithm of social self-selection based on the qualification-through-doing principle and from its ensuing doing competence and its principles’. This is intended to resurrect principles of community involvement, based on recognition of the competence of performance and the integrative power of this, used in traditional human cultures. For more information, you can contact Juraj by email: “Juraj Michálek” <jm0908777822@gmail.com>

In Russia, Ella Polyakova is a key figure at the Soldiers’ Mothers of Saint-Petersburg. Ella and her colleagues work to defend the rights of servicemen and conscripts in the Russian military. Ella explains why: ‘When we were creating our organization, we understood that people knew little about their rights, enshrined in Russia’s Constitution, that the concept of “human dignity” had almost disappeared, that no one had been working with the problems of common people, let alone those of conscripts. We clearly understood what a soldier in the Russian army was a mere cog in the state machine, yet with an assault rifle. We felt how important hope, self-confidence and trust were for every person. At the beginning of our journey, we saw that people around us, as a rule, did not even know what it meant to feel free. It was obvious for us that the path towards freedom and the attainment of dignity was going through enlightenment. Therefore, our organization’s mission is to enlighten people around us. Social work is all about showing, explaining, proving things to people, it is about convincing them. Having equipped ourselves with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Russia’s Constitution, we started to demolish this dispossession belt between citizens and their rights. It was necessary to make sure that people clearly understood that, having a good knowledge of rights, laws, and situations at hand, they would be able to take responsibility and protect themselves from abuse.’

Author, actress and activist Rivera Sun continues to apply her enormous talent to exposing the violence and exploitation conducted by the elite. In a recent article she wrote: ‘Rich people rule, make no mistake. They have ruled for centuries, and the toll of their reign has been high. At their feet can be laid the bodies of every child starved in a world with surplus food; every person who freezes to death in the streets while there are six empty houses for every homeless person; every death from lack of affordable healthcare; and the incalculable casualties of the world’s wars – which have all had the wealthy at the helm. Colonization’s genocides, slavery’s murders, and the living death of mass incarceration can all be added to the oligarchy’s tally.’ You can read more of her evocative truth-telling on her website, including this article: ‘Make No Mistake: The Rule Of The Rich Has Been A Deadly Epoch For Humanity’.

Professor Chandra Muzaffar, President of JUST International based in Malaysia, among his many and diverse engagements, wrote a brilliant summary exposing the western elite agenda in his article ‘The Geopolitics of Targetting Russia’.

Robert Hunziker has an MA in economic history from DePaul University in the USA, was awarded membership in the Pi Gamma Mu International Academic Honor Society in Social Sciences and is a freelance writer and environmental journalist who has had over 200 articles published, several of which have been translated into foreign languages, and which have appeared in over 50 journals, magazines and sites worldwide. He has been interviewed on numerous radio programs, as well as on television. For just a taste of his insightful analysis of the precarious state of our world, these recent articles are very compelling: ‘There Is No Time Left’, ‘Insect Decimation Upstages Global Warming’ and ‘Fukushima Jitters’.

If you want to see a photo of Tess Burrows, who (occasionally!) lives in the UK, doing 108 prostrations in ‘Honouring the Tibetan Way’ to wish us Happy Tibetan New Year – ‘a time to purify and renew’, you can do so here. On the advice of her 10 year-old granddaughter Elsie, ‘who made me an advent calendar containing advice for Grannies!’ in which day 5 was ‘Believe in Yourself’, Tess advises ‘I’ve had to believe in myself whilst skiing across the Antarctic or pulling a tyre up Kilimanjaro, now I’m trying to believe in myself as I settle into writing the new book about my journey walking across the Himalayas, tessburrows.org/blog/to-the-heart-of-the-world doing prostrations, in the autumn of 2017. Once I start writing I know all will be well. Its important to share this story as a thousand individuals sent Peace Messages to speak out from the north face of Mt Kailas in Tibet where it is said any prayer from the heart is bound to come true.’ If you want to see the spectacular view of Mt Kailas from her tent door, you can do so here!

Aisokhina Irabornose Silver is a criminologist in Nigeria, with a specialty in peace making. He recently completed a Master’s degree in Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). This kindled his interest in peace and nonviolence doctrine and advocacy. Together with some intellectuals in Nigeria, he has put together the Center for Non Violence Education Nigeria, (CENVEN) which is an evolving body of likeminded nonviolence advocates who are campaigning in Nigeria.

Gifty Ayim-Korankye is editor of two news websites ‘Ghana Web Online’ and ‘Daughters of Africa’ which showcase news from and about Africa and, in the case of the second, focuses on the women of Africa. Gifty is extremely committed to parenting her three children without violence and her commitment to end violence in our world resulted in her launching the Twitter feed ‘End it Now’ which has already gathered an interesting and diverse range of participants.

Sami Rasouli is the inspirational Director of the Muslim Peacemakers Team, which works for peace and human rights in Iraq. Sami originally left Iraq when he was 24 years old to teach in the United Arab Emirates for several years and then to Germany to teach for 4 more years. After arriving in Minnesota, USA ‘he drove a cab until he had enough money to buy a cafe and market he named Sinbad’s. In 2001, Sami became a U.S. citizen. After his mother died in September of 2003, he went back to Iraq for the first time in 27 years to visit and to console his sisters. He was stunned by the destruction he witnessed in his homeland. Sami returned after a month, but the images he had seen continued to haunt him. His sleep was fitful and he was often weeping. It became clear to him that he needed to return to help rebuild Iraq. In 2004, he sold his business of 14 years and left his three sons and returned to Iraq to offer his help.’ Working to help Iraqis restore some normality to their lives after decades of war which has left Iraq’s civil society shattered by a ruined economy, Sami and his team conduct a variety of projects to rebuild Iraq. These include the Water for Peace projectand the recently established ‘English for Reconciliation’ project. Voices for Creative Nonviolence reports that the latter project is designed ‘to help young Iraqi adults improve their conversational English and to foster reconciliation between Americans and Iraqis by learning more about one another through sharing stories of life style, culture, and our mutual desire for peace.’ Sami hopes that his ‘English for Reconciliation’ project will grow and extends an invitation to visit Najaf in southern Iraq to converse in English and build relationships of love and trust. You can read more about Sami here and contact him by email: Sami <sami.rasouli@gmail.com>

Professor Kathie Malley-Morrison, co-organizer of the ‘100 lists’ mentioned above, maintains the website ‘Engaging Peace’. However, the real highlight of her year has to be the publication of the book ‘The Path: Tears and Laughter through the Generations’ which she co-authored with her mother. ‘The Path is a journey through the creative careers of three women writers from one family. Widowed at age 44 in the middle of the Great Depression, with three kids to raise, Ernestine Cobern Beyer’s goal of enhancing her meager income by selling her poems led to her career as one of the most popular children’s poets of the 20th century. Her daughter Barbara caught the writing bug and created rollicking stories of family foibles, personal misadventures, and boating and flying mishaps – which have entertained thousands of readers of her magazine articles, memoir (“Take my ex, please – but not too far”) and her blog, “Tears and Laughter at Age 90”. Granddaughter Kathie has written largely on more serious issues – war and peace – but has also published stories on her blog. Their memoir is amply illustrated with photos, sketches, and paintings to add color to their poetry and prose.’ But as an example of Kathie’s political engagement, you will appreciate this article designed to focus attention not just on the successes so far, but the ongoing struggle of women to press for progress. See ‘Speaking truth to power on IWRD’.

Mathematician Professor Tarcisio Praciano-Pereira continues his role resisting the coupmakers, led by Michel Temer, who overthrew the elected government of Dilma Rousseff in Brazil in 2016. Regrettably, Tarcisio reports that little has been achieved so far; in fact, to the contrary ‘fascism is growing fast’ as (former, very popular president) Lula has been shot at with the police confirming the attempt to kill someone in Lula’s party as they traveled south recently.

So far, Tarcisio reports, ‘the dictatorship has not been able to stop our struggle’ (or even courageous enough to arrest Lula) because of agitation by members of the left, both inside the country and internationally, including through the support of signatories of the Nonviolence Charter as well as many other nonviolent groups around the world. ‘This is the main reason we are able to sustain our fight despite the lack of progress. But, either we follow the path to recover our democracy or we will be forced to accept what the dictatorship will impose. There is no third escape path.’

In the meantime, Lula has been nominated for the Nobel Peace prize by previous winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel. ‘Lula is an icon who can unite the whole left. His personal achievements are impressive: as a child up to 10 years, he was transporting water in a bucket on his head in Pernambuco but he eventually reached the position of president at 55 years of age and he is known worldwide for having received several prizes for his fight against poverty. His vita is impressive. Even the New York Times has given him the title of best president of Brazil.’

Tarcisio also reports that the former dominance of the conservative ‘Globo’ in the media market, giving it considerable control over public opinion in Brazil, has been broken with alternative journals and blogs now having ‘more than 50% of the influence over the opinion of Brazilian people’.

In a commentary on the latest development in Brazil, Jonathan Power’s decades of writing and journalism at the highest level are again on display in this straightforward analysis of the corrupt political maneouvering by the coupmakers in Brazil which has led to the former visionary President, and most popular politician in the country, Luiz Inacio ‘Lula’ da Silva, whom Jonathan originally interviewed 40 years ago, being jailed for 12 years. You can read his account in ‘Sending Brazil’s Lula to prison is nonsense’. On a more personal note, you might be wise to angle for an invitation to Jonathan’s Christmas party in Sweden this year (or next). Offering coffee and home-made mince pies which he makes personally at 6am on Christmas Day, based on an 800 year-old recipe, it is undoubtedly one of the social events of the European year! (Sorry for giving away your ‘secret’ Jonathan!)

Since the beginning of the Great March of Return protests – drawing attention to the right of return of Palestinian refugees denied by Israel – began on 30 March 2018 in Gaza, at least 34 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli military forces and more than 2,000 injured. In an evocative commentary, Marthie Momberg in South Africa explains how ‘Thousands of unarmed Gaza protestors are exposing Israel’s fear of peace to the whole world.’ You can read her account in ‘Gaza Peace Protests: Moment of Truth’ on her website.

Judy Bello in the USA writes: ‘I have spent the last 7 years supporting the majority of the citizens of Syria and their government in the face of a horrific war brought to it by the United States through actions of their greedy neighbors, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.’ Judy is a founding member of Upstate Drone Action (New York) which conducts nonviolent civil resistance at Hancock Air National Guard base, the domestic Reaper drone center for training pilots and technicians, and from which they fly deadly Reaper drones at least over Afghanistan and Pakistan. ‘I know they kill people because I met a drone pilot at one of our events who was very traumatized when he realized that some of the people he killed were children.’

Dr Marty Branagan is Convenor of Peace Studies at the University of New England (UNE) in Australia. Marty notes that ‘In these times of ongoing conflict, such as in Syria and Myanmar, with rising tensions involving North Korea, China, the USA and Russia, and widespread concern about the increasing impact of global warming, it is encouraging to see students engaging with important global issues in erudite and practical ways. Peace Studies has an outstanding rate of successful completions, including from some of the poorest communities on Earth. It has a growing international reputation for excellence in areas such as peacebuilding in Africa and environmental peace. The niche field of Peace Studies creates graduates and research outputs of global relevance and significant social, environmental and economic benefits to society.’ Peace Studies at UNE has an outstanding record for PhD conferrals in the faculty, with two of them last year receiving the Chancellor’s Doctoral Research Medal. Theses examined vital contemporary issues such as the International Criminal Court’s impact on peace processes in Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya and Uganda; organic agriculture and environmental peacebuilding in Myanmar; peacebuilding and recovery in post-war Nepal; peace infrastructure and state-building in the Philippines; and radicalized Islamic groups in Syria. Remarkably impressive program Marty!

In yet another thoughtfully considered article on a long-standing vital issue that gets less attention than it needs, Rene Wadlow, President of the Association of World Citizens and based in France, wrote this thoughtful analysis: ‘Lowering the Practice of Female Sexual Mutilation’.

Female Genital Mutilation is also a central concern of Professor Ayo Ayoola-Amale and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) in Ghana but they work on many aspects of violence against women. Ayo reports as follows: ‘Ghana has resolutely embarked on the path of democracy and the rule of law. This political regime is enshrined in the constitution of Ghana. One of the specificities of democracy lies in the importance accorded to the question of human rights; human dignity and respect for individual freedoms are also the foundation of any democracy. But unfortunately, Africa’s beacon of hope for democracy has more to be done in spite of her impressive democratic records. We must note the persistence of: female circumcision (female genital mutilation) and the practice of forced marriage and early marriages, witches camp, rape, domestic violence, low girl child education and leadership, harassment and forced displacement, and discrimination against women. Despite the ratification of international conventions and Ghana’s commitment to guaranteeing women’s rights through the protection and enjoyment of their rights, the national context is still marked by violations of these rights. Violence against women is the action of the physical and psychological abuse of a person on the basis of her belonging to the female gender. Though Ghana has reformed its legislation extensively to cover areas that relate to violence – the Domestic Violence Act, 2007 (Act 732) – WILPF Ghana is actively involved in advocacy as a women’s human rights non-governmental organization, to achieve a coordinated policy framework for addressing violence against women in Ghana, and is working hard to lobby for the adoption of a National Policy and Plan for the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act (Act 732 of 2007), and to ensure that the Policy addresses sexual and gender-based violence issues broadly in institutional arrangements. WILPF Ghana End Violence against Women Campaign is aimed at creating awareness and contributing to the eradication of violence against women and girls.’ In addition, WILPF Ghana recently held a three day Training and Workshop for WILPF Ghana activists, coordinators, volunteers and the media to boost its End Violence against Women Campaign, to help in prevention and in the identification of those at risk, and to act as advocates for organizational, policy and legislative change. WILPF Ghana also conducted a training and workshop on Social and Behavior Change Communication Strategy. We appreciate your phenomenal efforts Ayo and WILFP Ghana!

Pakistani Dr Mahboob Khawaja, now living in Canada, is a scholar of global affairs. Further to his report last time, he advised that the ordeal of his son, Momin Khawaja, who was wrongfully convicted of terrorism in Canada, continues. Momin was a community volunteer and young entrepreneur in computer science with no previous criminal record. There was no evidence to indicate that he was involved in any acts of violence. Mahboob’s own latest article was titled ‘Arab Exodus Again and the Global Wickedness’. Please convey our love and solidarity to Momin and your family in this ongoing difficult time, Mahboob.

In a frank discussion of life in Ethiopia, Graham Peebles of the UK describes the plight of Tadesse, a 28-year-old Ethiopian from the capital, Addis Ababa. ‘Like thousands of others he took part in demonstrations over the last three years, and together with family members, refused to pledge support for the Ethiopian government. Such displays of political dissent led to him being repeatedly imprisoned, tortured and cruelly mistreated. Now safe in Europe, he is in physical pain and psychological anguish as a result of the barbaric way he was treated in prison.’ Tragically, Graham adds: ‘His experience is typical of contemporary Ethiopia where state violence and human rights abuses are commonplace.’ For the full horror, read Graham’s article ‘Time for Political Change and Unity in Ethiopia’.

If you haven’t yet considered reading Professor Noam Chomsky’s latest book ‘Global Discontents: Conversations on the Rising Threats to Democracy (The American Empire Project)’ perhaps this recent review describing it as ‘a book we can’t live without’ will change your mind. ‘Noam Chomsky asks us to consider “the world we are leaving to our grandchildren”: one imperiled by climate change and the growing potential for nuclear war. If the current system is incapable of dealing with these threats, he argues, it’s up to us to radically change it.’ As with his other books, ‘Chomsky displays his mastery for explaining foreign and domestic policy’. In deep appreciation of your lifetime of truth-telling Noam.

Kristin Christman spent considerable time crafting a thoughtful article designed to draw the attention of US citizens to the difference between flawed and creative conflict processes in dealing with North Korea. See her insightful article ‘It Wasn’t the Threat That Worked, It Was Reduction of Fear’. Apart from also working on converting her remarkable Paradigm for Peace website into a book, she is also very caring and thoughtful about parenting her two sons, whom she has spent much time homeschooling.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has experienced the loss of six million lives and the displacement of eight million people due to the long war driven by Western corporations keen to exploit the country’s wealth of strategic minerals. Despite the extraordinarily difficult circumstances and enormous suffering this has caused, some visionary Congolese continue trying to build a society where ordinary Congolese people have the chance to create a meaningful life for themselves. Two of these individuals are Charter signatories based in Goma. The Association de Jeunes Visionnaires pour le Développement du Congo headed by Leon Simweragi is a youth peace group that works to rehabilitate child soldiers as well as offer meaningful opportunities for the sustainable involvement of young people in matters that affect their lives and those of their community. And Christophe Nyambatsi Mutaka is the key figure at the Groupe Martin Luther King that promotes active nonviolence, human rights and peace. Christophe’s group particularly works on reducing sexual and other violence against women.

Professor Richard Jackson is Director of the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. Last 22-24 November the Centre conducted a conference on the subject ‘Rethinking Pacifism for Revolution, Security and Politics’ attended by scholars and interested people from around the world. The conference explored ‘what a new engagement with pacifism can offer to theories of revolution, practices of resistance, security policy and civilian protection, counterterrorism policy, political philosophy and democratic theory, state-building, peacebuilding, social justice movements, and other aspects of politics.’ Specifically, it asked the question: ‘To what extent, and under what conditions and circumstances, can pacifism offer theoretical and practical guidance in helping us to face the global challenges of war and militarism, terrorism and insurgency, rising wealth inequality, dispossession and colonialism, social injustice and oppression, political institutional unresponsiveness, and looming environmental catastrophe, among others?’ An important theme of the conference explored what indigenous pacifist traditions have to teach Western political philosophy and international relations theory. You can access the full program, list of speakers, videos of presentations and copies of the papers presented at the conference from this website.

Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire continues her relentless engagement in the struggle for world peace, including by supporting the struggle of the Rohingya in Myanmar. But instead of reporting her latest activities you might be interested to read a little about this icon on the Nobel’s Women Initiative, which she cofounded.

Dr Maung Zarni of Burma/Myanmar continues his relentless efforts to draw attention to the plight of the Rohingya in Burma as they suffer the genocidal assault of the Tatmadaw, the Burmese military, with the active support of prominent Buddhist monks and the silent complicity of the local Catholic clergy, among others. You can read plenty more on Zarni’s Blog.

And an initiative to mobilize a grassroots response to the genocide was explained in the article ‘A Nonviolent Strategy to Defeat Genocide’.

If you would like to read news articles each day that are positive, then check out the remarkable website of editor Ilonka Wloch at ‘Positive News’. Reporting exclusively positive news in various categories –  Planet, Peace, Youth, Arts, People Power, Justice, Happiness, New Economy and Generosity – this news website is a wonderful reminder that, despite the horrible news that many of us are used to reading every day, there are still some remarkable ‘ordinary’ people out there (like us!) doing what they can to improve our world. No doubt if you have a positive story of your own, Ilonka would be delighted to consider publishing it. One of the projects of ‘Positive News’ is their Reddit site, where they aim to post 100 positive stories every day. It is called ‘Positive News for Change’. If you want an utterly evocative sample, try this recent article and video: ‘Mother Offers to Help Teen Involved in Her Son’s Killing’. Wonderful news website Ilonka!

Dr Sohan Lal Gandhi, International President of the Anuvrat Global Organization (ANUVIBHA) reports that the 9th International Conference on Peace and Nonviolent Action (9th ICPNA) was held at Jaipur, India from 17-21 December 2017. The conference theme was ‘Science, Spirituality and Universal Harmony’. You can check out their wonderful efforts here.

Commenting that ‘I love the moments when society’s deficit language is challenged, often heard when describing disability’, Australian John McKenna recently noted that ‘It was an absolute blast spending some time with Rachel Callander who is an author/photographer & has featured photographs of children with chromosomal and genetic conditions. Not only does her book Super Power Baby Project have a collection of exquisite photographs, but they are also complemented with powerful messages.’ John interviewed Rachel about her book in this lovely video: ‘Seeing the Beauty in “Imperfection”‘.

In this thoughtful article, New Zealander Professor Kevin Clements asks ‘Will Japan still give peace a chance?’

Professor John Scales Avery is a theoretical chemist at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. ‘He is noted for his books and research publications in quantum chemistry, thermodynamics, evolution, and history of science. His 2003 book Information Theory and Evolution set forth the view that the phenomenon of life, including its origin, evolution, as well as human cultural evolution, has its background situated in the fields of thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and information theory. Since 1990 he has been the Chairman of the Danish National Group of Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. Between 2004 and 2015 he also served as Chairman of the Danish Peace Academy.’ Most importantly, John has devoted years of his life to understanding the nature of our current multifaceted crisis and designing ways to work our way out of it. You can access all of John’s fine books, including his latest The Devil’s Dynamo, and articles from this website. Most recently, John demonstrated his superb grasp of science, politics and reason with this editorial for the TRANSCEND Media Service Weekly Digest: ‘The U.S. and Europe Must Step Back from the Brink: We Have Been Driven to the Brink of Nuclear War’. In deep appreciation of your scholarship and commitment John.

Based on the premise that ‘world events ensure major transformations are on the horizon’ and that this movement ‘must ensure that economic, racial and environmental justice and peace are realized in the transformational era’, Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers of ‘Popular Resistance’ fame have outlined their program to mobilize for system change in this fine newsletter: ‘Ensuring Justice In The Era Of Transformation’. Margaret and Kevin also coauthored these two fine articles, among many others: ‘No Foreign Bases: Challenging the Footprint of US Empire’ and ‘US Doubles Down As Empire Declines’.

You might also appreciate hearing Phillip Farruggio interview Kevin as part of his ‘It’s the Empire, Stupid’ radio program.

Phillip has interviewed some other fine activists for his program, which you can listen to here. In addition, he continues to write articles that ‘don’t pull any punches’. Here is a recent example: ‘”Gun Control” and “War Control”. Two Related Objectives. Let’s March Together for “Empire Control”‘.

Kathlyn Brown was a member of the Melbourne Rainforest Action Group (MRAG) in 1989-1991 which, in conjunction with other Rainforest Action Groups around Australia, conducted a successful nonviolent campaign to halt the import of rainforest timber into Australia. Kathlyn went on to study Asian Politics and Philosophy and then transferred to a Bachelor of Nursing; she currently works at Western Hospital Melbourne as a Credentialed Diabetes Nurse Educator following an appointment as an Operating Room Nurse at the Children’s Hospital. As an activist Kathlyn was also involved in the anti-uranium campaign of Melbourne JAG (in reference to the Jabaluka uranium mine in the Northern Territory) for a year and then the Nuclear Waste Repository in South Australia, doing finance for both campaigns. By this time in the late 1990s, she was pretty burnt out and jaded after a few other campaigns like the one to resist logging of East Gippsland forests ‘which was to me extremely depressing’. Kathlyn later joined a community up at Nimbin (a progressive community) and had two acres of land on which to practice conservation for 13 years but is selling it in consideration of the number of families with children waiting to live in the area. As a woman ‘I decided not to reproduce – this was the one thing I could sacrifice, so as to help save the planet, in some small way.’

Leonard Eiger is ‘a student and practitioner of nonviolence’, working for the abolition of ALL nuclear weapons. He coordinates media and outreach for Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action and also coordinates the Puget Sound Nuclear Weapon Free Zone and the NO To NEW TRIDENT Campaign. Just twenty miles west of Seattle, Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor and the Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific (SWFPAC) is home to ‘the largest concentration of deployed nuclear weapons in the U.S.’ In order to maintain his sanity in the face of this nuclear madness, Leonard also entertains readers with his ‘The Loose Nukes’ blog. Leonard is an articulate exponent of why nuclear weapons should be abolished, whether speaking in court, writing or advising the media.

We asked Leonard to write a brief tribute to his friend and a longstanding stalwart of the peace and justice movement, Tom Shea. Here is a summary of what Leonard wrote: Originally a Jesuit and high school teacher, Tom had started an alternative high school and Jesuit Volunteer Corp while also being involved in social justice issues with the Jesuits at national level. He left Cleveland at 47 and arrived in Traverse City, Michigan in 1977. In Michigan, Tom met his current partner Darylene. Together, they participated in the Nuclear Freeze movement and traveled to New York for the second Conference on Disarmament in 1982. They protested both the first Gulf War and the current war in Iraq from the beginning. They also engaged in war tax resistance. At Darylene’s suggestion, the two attended a course in conflict mediation in the early 1980s at a time when there was little written on the subject. That experience led them to further learning and mediation within the local community and even teaching mediation themselves. In 2007 Tom and Darylene moved to Snoqualmie, Washington to be closer to Darylene’s children. Tom got involved in community issues and continued his war tax resistance work. He also became involved with Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, which has worked to abolish nuclear weapons, with a focus on the Trident nuclear weapons system, for over forty years. In addition to working on media and communications, and planning vigils and nonviolent actions at the Bangor Trident nuclear submarine base, Tom has put himself on the line many times. During vigils at the submarine base, Tom has entered the roadway and blocked traffic, both on the County and Federal sides, symbolically closing the base and risking arrest. Tom has also created some brilliant street theatre that has been used for a number of vigils at the submarine base to entertain and educate people. In deep appreciation of your many, many decades of commitment Tom!

Vijay Mehta advises that the Uniting for Peace Annual Conference on ‘World Religions for Peace’ was held on 25 November 2017 at Wesley’s Chapel in London. The conference examined the relationship between world religions and world peace. Contrary to secular expectations, recent decades have seen worldwide resurgence of faith – from Africa and Latin America to China and Russia. Western Europe is the sole exception. Because the role of religion within societies and globally is now very significant, the conference addressed the question: Can religion be a major force for human well-being, cooperation and compassion – above all, for peace? While all the major faiths proclaim the ideal of harmony – with all humanity, with nature, with the Divine – sadly, the great potential of religion to create community harmony and world peace is today weakened by negative forces. Misuse of faith for violent political ends, rising intolerance, sectarian conflict, extremism, terrorism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and persecution of Christians and minorities, are endemic. Yet the inter-faith movement has never been stronger. Can religious leaders and believers, with inter-faith cooperation, show the way for respectful co-existence, heal the wounds of mistrust, overcome divisions with the dynamic of reconciliation, and help create world peace? Distinguished speakers, including Vijay himself, representing a range of faiths analysed these critical issues, proposed answers to the misuse of faith, and advocated ways forward for the positive role of religions in building a more peaceful and sustainable world. You can read a report of this conference here, see photos taken at the conference here and access other links here.

You can also watch Vijay’s wide-ranging (three-part, one hour) interview on various aspects of peace and how to achieve it (conducted by NTV Europe’s Syed Neaz Ahmed on 1 December 2017) by clicking on the three links here: Vijay NTV interview part 1, Vijay NTV interview part 2 and Vijay NTV interview part 3. In sincere appreciation of your ongoing commitment and phenomenal contribution Vijay.

Ram Puniyani is ‘a former professor of biomedical engineering and former senior medical officer affiliated with the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay. He began his medical career in 1973 and served IIT in various capacities for 27 years, beginning 1977. In December 2004, he took voluntary retirement to work full-time for communal harmony in India. He is involved with human rights activities, communal harmony and initiatives to oppose the rising tide of fundamentalism in India. He is associated with the organisations All-India Secular Forum, Center for Study of Society and Secularism and Act Now for Harmony and Democracy. In 2006, he was awarded the Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration.’

Eddy Kalisa Nyarwaya Jr. is Executive Secretary of the Institute for Conflict Transformation and Peace Building in Rwanda and also President of the Alternatives to Violence Program. For the past 18 years, he has been active in the fields of ‘peace, reconciliation, nonviolence, healing of societies, building harmonious communities’ in many countries including Burundi, Chad, eastern Congo, Darfur (western Sudan), Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan and northern Uganda. Late last year he was in New Zealand to deliver a paper on the Great Lakes conflict. In Rwanda, the Institute for Conflict Transformation particularly works on nonviolence education in schools, universities and refugee camps. Another initiative is the conduct of workshops on nonviolence and peace through sports for head teachers in the country but it also has programs to fight early marriages and pregnancies, as well as offering trauma counseling to refugees. You can read more about their inspirational efforts on their website: Rwanda Institute for Conflict Transformation and Peace Building. In deep appreciation of your phenomenal efforts Eddy.

In the USA, noting that ‘More than a hundred mothers have contacted me over the years, alarmed at the relationships their teenaged children were developing with military recruiters at school. They wanted to know what they could do about it. They were angry, and they were worried. The fact these women reached out to me and other counter-recruitment activists demonstrates the degree of alarm they experienced. They feared their vulnerable children would enlist against their wishes. They were terrified their child would be killed while they stood by. This was the driving force of their resistance.’ You can read Pat Elder’s article ‘Mothers I’ve Met’ and find out more from the wonderful National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy.

Gary Corseri continues to use his writing to try to encourage a sensible approach to reality. In this satirical response to recent events, he writes ‘Space Alien Reveals Trump Romp!’

From satire to poetry: If you would like to read some of Greg Garbulinski’s evocative poetry, designed to engender a deeper sense of our self, try starting with the short gem ‘A Curious ODE to Nature’ on the homepage of his website.

We asked Jo Sippie-Gora in the USA for a report on her activities and, classically illustrating the wonderful modesty of many Charter signatories, she responded as follows: ‘Thanks for asking, but I don’t have anything of significance to report. Our committee, Seeds of Peace, has been phased out by my UU church. Also, I’m 77, and feeling a need to refrain from significant leadership roles (letting the younger ones take the reins). However, I spend time nearly every day advocating for social justice (and that includes advocating for the environment). I’m also trying to have some influence on bringing disparate sides together to find common ground. I have become keenly aware of the dearth of communication skills we suffer as a species, and how our use of language often divides us. World Peace is possible, and I know it will probably be decades or even centuries before it is achieved. But I also know that each of our steps moves us closer to the goal. So be it. Jo’. Thanks a lot Jo for your wonderful, long-standing work to make our world a better place and for your gentle humility.

Another signatory who claims that ‘I don’t have much to offer, I’m afraid.’ is Timothy Braatz. Admittedly ‘dealing with some serious health issues that keep me from being the social activist I would like to be – even as I watch the USA continue its slow disintegration. It’s an exquisite exercise in letting go of things I can’t control.’ Nevertheless, he had been working on a public lecture on ‘Compulsory Patriotism’ for his college, working on a program called ‘US Racism: Then and Now’ for the Boundary County Human Rights Task Force to make available to local public schools for MLK Day (in January), a novel that ‘will somehow include nonviolence as a theme’ and an online ‘book’ on nonviolence: ‘Nonviolence for Geniuses (like you)’. On a lighter note, Timothy reports that it had been ‘a great summer for apples in this area’ so, ‘in moments of good health, I’ve been gleaning fruit, and today took a truckload to the cider press, and came home with 50 gallons of juice to drink and give away.’ On behalf of your fellow signatories Timothy, we hope that you make the time to look after yourself, as best you can. And your not ‘much to offer’ contribution is vital. (Isn’t it a pity that everyone doesn’t have ‘so little’ to offer? This struggle would be over!)

We asked Jade Beaty to tell us something about herself and her work and she kindly shared this: ‘Born in Amarillo, Texas to a typical 1950s family, Jade Beaty has always asked the questions that make others uncomfortable. Her search for inner peace led her to meditation, which she practices daily. Ending war has been a theme in her life and she has worked as a social justice activist since her teens. In 2000, Jade opened her healing arts practice, Sensual Wisdom. Focused on intimacy, communication and relationship skills, Jade believes that empowered interpersonal interactions bring peace to our families, communities, social systems and to the world.’

Sami Awad, Director of the Holy Land Trust in Palestine, heads a dynamic team helping to create a new Palestine. With visionary programs such as ‘Young Girls Empowerment: If you want a better future, let the women flourish’ and the ‘Tawasulna Youth Program’, attention is focused on ’empowering communities for the future’. You can read more about their great work on their website.

Paul Buchheit continues to pull no punches in his ongoing exposure of the disastrous repercussions of wealth inequality. In a recent article titled ‘How Inequality Is Killing Off Humanity’ he concludes with these chilling words: ‘Even if the super-rich survive for a while in their bunkers, they may walk out into a world that can no longer keep them alive.’ But it is not just people in Africa, Asia and Central and South America who are living (and dying) in poverty. In his article ‘Yes, Deniers, Millions of Americans are Among the Poorest People in the World’ he concludes that ‘It’s hard for people with wealth and power to admit all this. Because then they might feel obligated to do something about it.’

In Bolivia, Nora Cabero works with the Movimient Humanista. The Movement has many programs including the Convergence of Cultures which aims to facilitate and stimulate true dialogue – oriented towards the search for common points present in the hearts of different peoples and individuals – to promote the relationship between different cultures and to resist discrimination and violence. Another program, World Without Wars and Violence emerged in 1994 and was presented for the first time internationally in 1995 at the Open Meeting of Humanism held in Chile at the University of Santiago. It is active in about 40 countries. It carries out activities in the social base and also promotes international campaigns such as 2000 without wars, Education for Nonviolence, the World March for Peace and Nonviolence and the Forum for Peace and Nonviolence. You can read more about their remarkable work in so many countries on their website: Movimient Humanista.

In a compelling account of the horror of the plutonium bombing of Nagasaki – ‘instantly vaporizing, incinerating, irradiating and/or otherwise annihilating tens of thousands of innocent civilians, mostly women and children’ which ‘also mortally wounded uncounted tens of thousands of other victims who suffered the blast, the intense heat and/or the radiation sickness that killed and maimed so many’ – and Christian complicity in this atrocity, Dr Gary G. Kohls describes some of the background and impact of this crime and its implications for genuine Christians, in his article (with some useful additional information in two following comments) ‘August 9th, the 72nd Anniversary of the Bombing of Nagasaki: Unwelcome Truths for Church and State’.

In response to our request for her to tell us something about herself, Cheryl Anne advised the following: ‘I was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA, in 1957 to a young couple escaping the communism of East Germany to the land of the free, land of liberty and justice for all. I value autonomy, well-being, integrity, prudence, creativity. My heroine growing up was Mary Tyler Moore; my greatest success was Balanced Innovations – specialty pet products for special pets (betrayed by government), and the bane of my life has been the pervasive consumer mentality that perversely rewards avarice, deceit, and exploitation at the expense of the well-being of the resource. A personal betrayal two years ago left me homeless and led to research that, instead of revealing a new niche, only forced me to conclude the planet is beyond redemption and there is no future. I leave online comments where I can, and I may write a book, a useless endeavor. People have been writing about the consequences now unfolding many decades ago, and before that, our Native Indians warned us with their dying breath as we savaged the land they’d cared for. In full knowledge, our global leaders chose the path of easy profit, the path the Devil offered, and while Americans aspire to be the best Amazon Prime Consumers they can be, we finally stand before the gate to hell, Fukushima, and God is crying.’ No doubt you voice a despair that many of us feel at times too, Cheryl. Thank you for voicing it so honestly and eloquently.

Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, was one of the participants in the sixth Maine Peace Walk for Conversion, Community and Climate held last October. The walk focused attention on the serious need to convert Bath Iron Works (BIW) to peaceful and sustainable production. ‘Economic conversion, defense conversion, or arms conversion, is a technical, economic and political process for moving from military to civilian production.’ A UMASS Amherst Economics Department study shows that there would be more jobs for people if budget money was spent on domestic spending priorities, in particular investments in clean energy, health care and education, rather than on the military. See ‘The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending priorities: 2011 Update’. You can read more about the Maine Peace Walk here but this video is utterly evocative: ‘Holding Out a Vision for Solutions Not Endless War’.

Robert Koehler continues to write ‘common wonders’, masquerading as articles, with evocative commentary on life in the 21st Century. In one recent article, he reminded us about ‘The Man Who Stood Up to Armageddon’. In another article, Bob inspired with the reassurance that, despite everything that is wrong in our world, ‘Change is Coming’, thanks partly to young people.

Equally inspired by the wonderful young people he joined in the ‘March For Our Lives’ (against gun violence) in Arcata, USA recently, Peter Childs wrote an article titled ‘To the young people from an elder who never gave up’. ‘Work with love as the most important standard by which to judge our actions. Love is invisible but very real, just like electricity…. We must do everything we can think of within the basic parameters of non-violence and love, and we must pour it on. We must not stop until we have actually drained the swamp, because if and when we do that, we will find that we have opened the door to a whole new and wonderful world. Dear young people, I pray that when you reach my age you and your then-young people will look out upon that world.’

With his usual penetrating and thorough style, David Swanson carefully exposes why we have suffered ’76 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies’ in this superb article published on the anniversary of the event last 7 December.

Eminent rainforest activist, John Seed of the Rainforest Information Centre, continues his lifelong work to save the world’s rainforests. A recent article drew attention to the work of John and his colleagues in supporting indigenous efforts to defend forests in Ecuador after the government granted mining concessions to transnational corporations covering over 1.7 million hectares (4.25 million acres) of forest reserves and indigenous territories. These closed-door deals without public knowledge or consent were in direct violation of Ecuadorean law and international treaties, and will decimate headwater ecosystems and biodiversity hotspots of global significance. You can read John’s article ‘Ecuador Endangered’ here.

As part of his efforts, Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh in Palestine continues both his academic work and political activism. Primarily responsible for the establishment of The Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability (PIBS) and the Palestine Museum of Natural History (PMNH) – to research, educate about, and conserve our natural world, culture and heritage and use the knowledge we have gained to promote responsible human interactions with our environment – these initiatives continue to thrive. But Mazin also routinely travels, lecturing about the political reality in Palestine as well as the initiatives above.

Elijah Osborne believes that ‘the solution to all the world’s suffering is to create a mental unity among humans: a conglomeration of all our perspectives into a single, all-encompassing awareness in which we telepathically share each other’s experiences as well as the emotional positivity or negativity behind each experience – as if all such emotions were each our very own, so that we fully empathize with the effects of our actions upon everybody else and thus never cause each other to suffer.’ Elijah explains mental unity as well as some scientific leads for how it can be created on his website: ‘One Consciousness and Mental Unity: The Truth of Our World and How to Save It.’

Lastly, if you haven’t checked out ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’ in which you are welcome to participate in response to the accelerating environmental crises, you can do so here. Anita’s ‘The Flame Tree Song’ can be heard here. Her other ‘Songs of Nonviolence’ are on her website too.

Well, as indicated above, an inadequate summary but it gives you some idea of our shared efforts.

Finally, if you or someone you know has the means and inclination to do so, any financial support for Anita and Robert to help us do this work will be much appreciated. You can see how here.

In appreciation of all of your efforts (including all of those not mentioned above)…

And don’t forget to write to us with a report on what you do!

For a world without violence,

Robert, Anita and Anahata – Australia – Email: flametree@riseup.net

P.S. This Charter progress report is being emailed, in a sequence of emails, to all signatories of the Nonviolence Charter for whom we have a current email address. It will also be published on TRANSCEND Media Service Weekly Digest.

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