Wednesday, 20 December 2006

Westminster MPs to focus on conflict

The ministry for peace group reports:

"After many months of quiet effort, ministry for peace has secured enough support in Parliament to set up an official All-Party Parliamentary Group on Conflict Issues. The purpose of the APPG, as formally stated in the Parliamentary Register, is 'To encourage dialogue, on the basis of expert information and opinion from across the political spectrum, on issues relating to conflict; especially on the practical means to prevent, transform and resolve violent conflict.'"

They obviously see this as a significant achievment and I hope indeed that it might be so. Read more at: http://www.ministryforpeace.org/content/view/90/20/, including the list of MPs on the group.

New age?

This week I am attending two funerals of Quakers who have died in their mid 80s and 90s respectively, and was at another one a fortnight ago.

From my perspective (mid 40s), it's unusual to go to one funeral a year, let alone three in a month. The three Friends (Bob Oliver - Eccles, Alun Williams - Bolton, and John Hamilton - Liverpool) had all been conscientious objectors in their time and all three had continued to support peace initiatives right to the end. What also inspired me about them all was the fact that they continued to challenge with their incisive and independent thinking. Thanks to all three for their persistence.

I was also inspired to read about the GOATs (Golden Oldies Against Trident) contribution to Faslane 365. The statistics....
39 Blockading Groups
55 days of presence
408 arrests
4 prosecutions
285 days left

Has anyone seen the debate about Trident that the government is supposed to be organising?

Rational fools?

A couple of nights ago Norman Kember and James Loney were interviewd by Jeremy Paxman on BBC's Newsnight programme. Norman talks about being 'rationally foolhardy' in going there in the first place, and they both talk about their wish to see restorative-style consequences, not only for their alledged kidnappers and for Saddam Hussein himself. At the moment the interview can be viewed online at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/help/3681938.stm

Friday, 24 November 2006

Who needs 'em!?

Rather like this Steve Bell cartoon in the Guardian today... Says it all really.

Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Time to call time on Trident

A new electronic petition set-up has appeared on the website for No 10 (home of UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, for those reading from another country) in the past week or so. There's one about not replacing Trident Nuclear weapons ('We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to champion the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, by not replacing the Trident nuclear weapons system.' - and it says more as well), which is still one of the most signed. There's been some scepticism about the value of such activities - he doesn't seem to be taking too much attention at the moment, for instance. But it's an indication of a body of concern at the very least. Have you signed it yet?

Timing is everything, and most timely today is a good day to see a substantial report on the matter - Worse than Irrelevant? British Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century - by Rebecca Johnson, Nicola Butler and Stephen Pullinger. (download the PDF file ) The document runs to 80+ pages, but it does contain a helpful Executive Summary (where would we be without them). Johnson says (in a press release) ... " It is wrong and dangerous for such an important decision to be rushed through because of superficial political rivalries. We call for the government to take the time to have a comprehensive security and defence review, involving civil society and combining the perspectives of foreign affairs, defence, non-proliferation and international law." And getting to the crux of the matter, the report concludes:
"If managed effectively, denuclearising our defence policy will make Britain more secure rather than less. [my emphasis] But the conditions for sustainable non-proliferation will not materialise by themselves, particularly if some states continue to advertise nuclear weapons as valuable assets. Instead of carrying on nuclear business as usual, Britain should seize the opportunity to show the way and help to create the conditions for the global elimination of nuclear weapons, thereby reducing nuclear dangers and influencing the future direction of the nuclear non-proliferation regime."

Poppies picked (or is that 'nicked'?)

The northern Quaker contribution to the Faslane 365 blockade was held over 12-13 November and decided to mark remembrance Sunday by disguising themselves as poppies - mostly white, but a few red ones amongst them as well. About 16 were arrested over the two days. Here's a photo: of arrests happening.

I notice the rota for groups joining in the blockade (at http://www.faslane365.org/en/rota) has a few gaps in it, but it's impressive how many people have committed themselves to standing, sitting, praying, singing, knitting etc outside the nuclear weapons base in some of the most unclement weather. Mind you, it hasn't got seriously cold yet, just wet and windy. Anyone for February!? Might there be some snowdrops passing through, perhaps?

Wednesday, 18 October 2006

Time for new approaches

A piece in the Independent highlights the dramatically changed tide of opinion that leaves Bush and Blair so isolated now.
"George Bush and Tony Blair were looking more isolated than ever last night as the ground shifted further under their strategy of remaining in Iraq "until the job is done".
The President and the Prime Minister were left clinging to the dream of establishing a lasting democracy in Iraq as their advisers urged them to look for a new, more realistic, exit strategy."

Even John Reid was yesterday quoted as recognising that UK and US foreign policy might in some way be contributing to unpeace in our land.

Jonathan Freedland, meanwhile, writing in The Guardian tries to understand what it must feel like to be a Muslim in Britain today, from his perspective as a Jew.
"Right now," he concludes "we're getting it badly wrong - bombarding Muslims with pressure and prejudice, laying one social problem after another at their door. I try to imagine how I would feel if this rainstorm of headlines substituted the word "Jew" for "Muslim": Jews creating apartheid, Jews whose strange customs and costume should be banned. I wouldn't just feel frightened. I would be looking for my passport."

Not sure whether our own government is remotely interested in the activities of Quaker peace organisations at the moment, but we do know that US Quakers are amongst those about whom data has been collected for their peace organising activities. The administration there won't be too impressed, I imagine, by the recent encounter by a representative of American Friends Service Committee with the Iranian president
Reflecting on the meeting, they write... "every dialogue is a chance to bear witness to what one believes and lives by as the truth, an opportunity to connect what we believe within our deepest selves with what we know experientially, and to risk hearing respectfully the deepest life-truths that animate others, even opponents and adversaries" .

Another US Quaker body, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, meanwhile urges diplomatic approaches to mend the non-proliferation regime rather than threatening and ratcheting up the confrontation.
Read, for instance: "Enforcement of UN Security Council Resolution1718 and the NPT, through punitive measures such as focused sanctions, is important, but only as a prelude to resuming multilateral talks and beginning direct bilateral talks between the U.S. and North Korea to achieve voluntary compliance. We do not know whether the talks will lead to a denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. However, talking offers the best hope for the people of the Korean peninsula and the region. The nuclear test explosion and possible future test explosions by North Korea constitutes a serious threat to peace, but it is not a crisis. Government leaders have ample time to talk, to negotiate, and to arrive at a deal. War is not the answer."

Monday, 25 September 2006

Something else ... after the demo and Peace One Day

Not able to join the “Time to go” demonstration or Quaker vigils in Manchester, I had a look forward reports after the event. On Indymedia, one writer writes:

"Overall, the demonstration was a fantastic reflection of true public opinion, organised and executed without a (noticeable) hitch. I came away feeling empowered, yet knowing I can do more, and inspired to become more active. I imagine the tens of thousands of people who took the time to stand up and be counted, from all walks of life, cultures, religions and backgrounds, also feel the same as me."
===

Urging people to become more active is also the flavour of a powerful short video of Gill Hicks, survivor of the July 2005 bomb attacks in London, produced for Peace Direct. In it she says: “Everyone can find that power in themselves. Harness it to do some really difficult things. Find someone whose view you oppose and listen until you understand them. It’s about listening, talking, discussing, understanding.”

Other interesting items from Peace Direct include information about the work they’re supporting in Sudan, a quest to find new images for peace (doves don’t do it anymore, apparently) and their own new blog “Life on the Line” at http://www.peacedirectblog.typepad.com/

And people doing peace work on behalf of British Quakers write about their work in journal letters. If you’ve not yet seen them, find a selection here.

Tuesday, 19 September 2006

Demonstrating on Saturday - doing it the Quaker way

Even our own Bolton News seems to have noticed the big Stop the War / CND / British Muslim Initiative demo that's to take place in Manchester this Saturday. One local activist is quoted as saying it'll be the biggest demonstration in Manchester in 160 years. In the middle of the planned march route is Manchester Quaker Meeting House and from 12.00-1.00pm there will be a silent vigil for peace for any who wish to join that before the demo itself at 1.00pm. Don't know how easy it will be to get to the Meeting House at that time, with police, crowds etc in the are, so if it's important for you to be there, plan to get there earlier rather than later.

Peace one Day

What's in a day? There are plenty of special days and weeks this autumn, as I've noticed whilst updating the calendar on the NFPB website . One of the more prominent ones from our perspective is Peace one Day on 21 September, and I was pleased to see their updated website. If you do nothing else for that day, why not have a look at the list of suggested actions for that day and think about the one or two peace peaces you might do over the coming months, or even plan ahead for Peace One Day on 21 September 2007.

Friday, 25 August 2006

From fear to hope…?

Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) is promoting a Call for Freedom from Fear around the 5th Anniversary of 9/11. “Every small step we take can make a big difference in reshaping the “war on terror” - leading this country beyond the debilitation of fear and toward building a true and lasting peace. Follow this link for more about the Call…

On Sojo.net, Mennonite peaceworker in the middle east , Timothy Seidel, writes : “The words of Jesus to ‘not be afraid’ are always challenging. Perhaps they seem most difficult because at their core, they form a call to repentance, a call to turn away from the illusions of self-sustainability and self-righteousness, the idolatry of war and violence, to hear the gospel’s call to conversion to a life modelled by the self-giving love of Jesus. It is a subject demand calling us, as Merton tells it, to a love and a humility that can ‘exorcise the fear which is at the root of all war.’ ”

Soft Power? An interesting peace from Indra Adnan on ‘Soft Power’ - as an alternative to the hard power of militarism, materialism etc. She writes “… ‘soft’ knowledge is crucial to the diplomatic and conflict resolution skills required in our fissile world. For this reason, as Scilla Ellworthy’s recent Demos report notes, tackling terrorism is women’s work.’ …discuss!

Meanwhile, back at FCNL, Joe Volk writes about the Middle East… “We have to roll up our sleeves and get to work opening the way to peace in our own communities and through our civil society organisations’ work abroad and through governments’ good offices in the Middle East. He identify three key themes and five steps that need to be taken… read it here: ***

Wimps for Peace? George Monbiot, writing in the Guardian, draws attention to the current priority issue for the Campaign Against Arms Trade, the desire to see the closure of the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO), which plays such a key role in promoting exports of British-made military hardware around the world. He asks: “why are government ministers, even Blair himself, prepared to reduce themselves to hawkers on behalf of arms merchants” and concludes “There appears to be a sense among some at the core of government that peace, human rights and democracy are for wimps, while the serious business, for real players, is war and the means by which it is enacted.”

Paul Rogers reflects on the 5th anniversary of the War on Terror with a longer-than-usual analysis on the OpenDemocracy website, commenting on the real practical and political challenges, but urging once again for a rethinking of the security paradigm that is shaping Britain and America’s approach to these concerns. “A fundamentally changed security paradigm is an urgent necessity”, he writes in conclusion and that “unless there is such a change, the world may well … be just five years in [a] thirty-year war.

It’s a long haul. One person who recognises the long-term and global aspects of peace building is Jean Beliveau, a French Canadian who is part way his walk around the countries of the world to promote peace and the Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World. He travelled through Britain most recently, and said in an interview for the Scotsman newspaper “I’m not trying to change the world…. I just want to touch the minds of people, and if people take just one moment of reflection, I’m satisfied”. Read about his World Wide Walk here

Another simple effort to keep hope burning is that started by two Friends in North Lancashire, asking people to light candles between 9 and 10 each evening as a sign of hope that there will be peace in the Middle East. Read about it and get posters here.

Thursday, 10 August 2006

Seeking hope amidst the rubble

These are dark times in terms of international peace and conflict. There is much reporting of the violence, its causes and consequences (actual and anticipated). The death in Basra of the son (in the British army) of a peace-activist friend recently was a reminder of the desperate hurt being caused to and by so many. This blog entry is an attempt to pick out some of the small glimmers of hope

- The Quaker journal, The Friend this week carries a news story about the Peace Cycle ride which set off at the weekend, riding from London to Jerusalem as a witness against the cycle of violence. Find out about the progress and background to this project at http://www.peacecycle.org

- On OpenDemocracy, an article about the view of the current violence around Lebanon and Israel ends with the views of a citizen of Iranian Kurdistan … “This is just politics, with both sides using their different ideologies to push their own political agenda. Dialogue is the only way forward …. Enough people have already been killed”

- On the Ekklesia website it is reported that an international ecumenical delegation is on its way by boat to Beirut and thence to Jerusalem “with the mission of expressing ecumenical solidarity with churches and people affected by the current conflict”

- The Balkans regional network “Objection for Peace” conclude their statement about the current Middle East violence with the words “We survived a war. We Don’t Wish It Happens to Other People!”

- On 31 July an ad appeared in the New York Times (and in the Los Angeles Times on 6 August), sponsored by Tikkun (bimonthly Jewish critique of Politics, Culture and Society), the Network of Spiritual Progressives and The Shalom Centre calling for an end to the violence in Lebanon, Israel and the Occupied Territories. It’s a fascinating and challenging piece of writing …here’s just an excerpt:

“Our well being depends on the well being of everyone else on the planet. We need to strengthen international institutions that can foster this sense of solidarity, but we also need to support political and spiritual movements that encourage a transformation of the heart away from the excessive focus on our own individual egos, paths to success and “making it” in terms of fame, glory, sexual attractiveness, accumulation of “things” and money, so that we and all the peoples of the world can put our joint attention to building global peace, social and economic justice, ecological sanity, and a new spirit of mutual caring, genuine and lasting love and generosity. It’s too self-indulgent to let depression about the state of the world render you powerless—your participation is indispensable for changing the world. [emphasis added]
Read the full piece here.

- In South Cumbria (Northern England), some Quakers are promoting the idea of lighting a candle between 9-10pm every evening, under the heading “Let us Encircle the World with Light … as a witness to our common humanity” for “as long as violence rules in the Middle East.”

Monday, 24 July 2006

Wider implications

Paul Rogers, writing again for OpenDemocracy, in his latest analysis (Hit Beirut, target Tehran) suggests that the current US support for Israel's bombardment of Lebanon is at least in part a preparation for wider action against Iran. He raises the possibility that by attacking Hizbollah (OK, I know they're doing much more than that in their destruction of the country's infrastructure and taking of innocent lives) they are weakening their ability to retaliate if one or both countries decide to attack Iran later in the year.

With this in mind, encouraging our own decision-makers to push for diplomatic approaches to both conflicts would still seem worth doing. Whether or not we describe what is happening as a 'proportionate' or 'disproportionate', it is certainly profoundly damaging, both in the immediate region and more widely.

Wednesday, 19 July 2006

Mindsets

Paul Rogers seems to be writing a daily column for Open Democracy at the moment, focussing on the Israel / Palestin / Lebanon conflicts. In his most recent piece he describes the underground barrier being proposed (and in some places being tried out), to prevent Palestinians tunnelling underneath the dividing wall. He concludes:

"Such plans, coupled with the extensive IDF raids into Lebanon that have widespread support within Israel, all point to a national mindset of protection that is currently unable to even comprehend that the entire process is ultimately self-defeating. Israel cannot achieve physical security without political security, and that cannot be achieved except by negotiating with its adversaries and recognising the predicament of the Palestinians. In the final analysis there is no alternative to a peace settlement encompassing the creation of a viable Palestinian state."

To get beneath the headlines and gain an insight in the range of perceptions involved, the Bitter Lemons website provides a useful resource for reading a range of Israeli and Palestinian opinions and observations. They produce an emailed compilation of these pieces on a weekly basis.

A Guardian editorial today sets the Lebanese experiences alongside those suffered by Iraq on an almost daily basis, stating: " Any crude calculus of suffering risks cheapening the memory of the victims, but it is probable that many more Iraqis than Lebanese have been killed on average every day since Israel lashed out after Hizbullah's border attack."

The common factor in all this is the stoking up of the cycle of hatred from each act of violence.
"The Middle East is a tough neighbourhood. Iraq's sectarian war and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have their own roots and dynamics. Both need resolving, urgently. Bleeding constantly, they sustain bitter hatreds and, as the Lebanese are learning to their cost, risk dragging others into an abyss."

Friday, 14 July 2006

Israel, Palestine, Lebanon

In a statement issued yesterday, Samuel Kobia, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches is reported as saying:

"We insist fully and firmly on the need for all parties to protect civilians -- Lebanese, Israeli and Palestinian -- in accordance with international law. We call for an end to violent actions, condemning these actions including the destruction of roads, bridges and airport runways and the blockade by sea of Lebanon as is already the case in Gaza.

Implementation of international law including international humanitarian law and of UN resolutions concerning Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories and Lebanon, is the essential alternative to the cycle of incursions, occupations, violent counter-attacks and international inaction that now looms over the Middle East again.

The WCC called two weeks ago for the international community to take new action to uphold law and end violence over Gaza, releasing those detained by both sides, and two months ago for Israel to base its security on equitable negotiations with neighbouring peoples within the framework of international laws and related guarantees. Events in Lebanon show the high costs of inaction by the international community.

This new word of warning comes with our urgent prayers for action by all parties committed to achieving peace with justice."

Links to other sources of information and comment from the region can be found on the NFPB website here and here. See also news and comment from Inter Press Service here
and many many more sources on Norbert's Bookmarks a Better World ... here

Friday, 7 July 2006

Perspectives

Paul Rogers, writing on Open Democracy (The threads of war ), makes some valuable points on this day when people are reflecting on the significance of the anniversary of the July 2005 suicide bombings in London. I don't imagine his sentiments would go down well in establishment circles, but he makes some valuable points. "Each month", he writes "the death toll in Iraq is equivalent to twenty London attacks." Any death through violent attack is horrific, and I cannot begin to imagine the emotional legacy for those immediately affected. But magnify that for vast swathes of society, as we might do for Iraq, Afghanistan etc. and the mind boggles to contemplate the hurt and its consequences.

Paul Rogers concludes: "The first anniversary of the London attacks is rightly a time for reflection and sympathy, but the memories of those killed might be much better served if there was at least some awareness at the top of the British government of the connection between its policies and the costs to its own citizens."

Meanwhile, writing in The Guardian, Sadiq Khan writes: "What matters above all is to ensure that Muslim voices and inputs are part of a mainstream and majority debate. ... We need a much deeper engagement between us all if we are to come up with a common analysis and solutions."

Friday, 30 June 2006

CPT in Iraq

A couple of news pieces on the Ekklesia website giving some insight into the experiences of Norman Kember
and the future plans of the Christian Peacemaker Teams regarding their Iraq presence ...

'Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), which has been actively promoting non-violence in some of the world’s hotspots for some 18 years, has confirmed that it remains committed to working in Iraq – having reflected on the lessons of the high-profile kidnapping of four of its members from November 2005 to March 2006.

Speaking to the BBC last week, CPT co-director Doug Pritchard said that a “number of people” are lined up to engage in work inside Iraq. He could not reveal details for security reasons, but said that Christian Peacemaker Teams felt that it was appropriate to respond to continuing requests from Iraqi partners.'

...'he said that they were able to contribute to “a different kind of relationship between the West and Iraq”, by representing an alternative to occupation, sanctions and coercion – which has often been backed by the Christian rhetoric of President Bush and his supporters on the US religious right.

As for the efficaciousness of CPT’s work, Pritchard stressed that “any kind of construction of civil society is very slow after 30 years of repressive dictatorship under Saddam Hussein and now three years of war and uncertainty.'

In-ter-dependence day is tommorrow - and then what?

Tomorrow, a few days in advance of Independence Day in the US, an event is being held in London to mark 'Interdependence Day', complete with their own Declaration of Interpendence. In an article about this project, an initiative of the Open University and the New Economics Foundation, Joe Smith writes
'Both globalisation and global environmental change invite us to extent greatly our notion of who counts in politics. For the drafters of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 the drastic revision of political sovereignty they proposed seemed natural: the time had come for change wherein governments would be "deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed". In our own era, we have arrived at a time that demands change on a similar scale.' ... 'we can dare to rethink the way the world works, but that this will require sustained effort in both intellectual and cultural spheres. .... None of us, and no one alive, can afford to be too shy in asserting that another world is necessary as well as possible. '

All power to the elbows of this initiative. More information about the Interdependence day initiative... here.

British nuclear weapon replacement

A report from House of Commons Defence Committee was launched today, asking a lot of hard questions about the continued relevance of nuclear weapons as a tool for building global security. One piece in the Guardian describe the report as 'hard hitting' (Richard Norton Taylor) and Kate Hudson , Chair of CND says the report 'bristles with rage at the government. It inveighs against the Ministry of Defence's refusal to give evidence'. Kate Hudson concludes: 'It can only be hoped that this report, added to widespread public and parliamentary pressure, will enable an outbreak of democracy to take place. In a recent ICM poll commissioned by CND, 81% said that they thought the decision should be made by parliament.'

In a longer informative and analytical piece on Open Democracy, Paul Rogers writes: 'In the coming weeks and months there may well be a debate on plans to replace Trident - Britain's submarine-carrying ballistic nuclear-weapons system - and it is probable that Labour will, in due course, make its decision. There could be some discussion in parliament and there might even be a vote, though few doubt the outcome. "Middle England" will no doubt remain comforted by Britain preserving its civilised, semi-great-power status by retaining the capacity to kill tens of millions of people'. - now that's getting to the nub of the matter.

Paul Rogers concludes his piece thus: ' Although the publicly acknowledged "declaratory" policy remains one of "last resort" use of nuclear weapons, the "deployment" policy involves the idea of nuclear war-fighting that fall far short of responding to nuclear attach on Britain. This is the long-standing reality. It could certainly liven up the forthcoming debate on replacing Trident if this enduring feature of Britain's nculear-weapons policy got a really thorough airing.'

Wednesday, 14 June 2006

Change in the air? New thinking for a better world

Well, of course things are always changing. But might a change of mindset be possible in addressing some of the big security concerns of today?

Yesterday, the Oxford Research Group published a briefing paper on 'Global Responses to Global Threats: Sustainable Security for the 21st Century'. They identify the threats to global security as, in this order: 1) Climate Change, 2} Competition over resources, 3) Marginalisation of the Majority World and 4) Global Militarisation - and see 'sustainable security as the alternative to the prevailing 'control paradigm.'

From an Executive summary of the paper:
"Governments will be unwilling to embrace these ideas without pressure from below. The authors argue that NGOs and the wider civil society have a unique chance to coordinate their efforts to convince government that this new approach is practical and effective. This will mean a closer linking of peace, development and environmental issues than has so far been attempted. New political leadership in the USA and UK in the coming years may well present the ideal opportunity for progress, but unless urgent action is taken in the next five to ten years, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to avoid a highly unstable global system by the middle years of the century."

Find out more here
----
Meanwhile, IPS News reports:
"a McMaster University professor now working in Afghanistan was in Ottawa to tell Canadian officials that their war against the Taliban is ill-advised....
Dr. Seddiq Weera, an adviser to the Kabul-based National Commission on Strengthening Peace in Afghanistan, is in a position to know. After visiting senior members of the Taliban, he concluded that the insurgents are ready to negotiate and that persisting in efforts to keep the losing sides in the civil war from participating fully in Afghan life will only intensify the violence."

".... At the core of Weera's proposal is a new commission with a broader mandate than the one he works for. 'Why not invest in a national peace initiative that can be a preventive measure? It will reduce the hostilities, isolate the terrorists and reduce the number of troops needed,' he told IPS.
----
And focussing on Africa, an article from a conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, headed "Peace education missing in Africa`s conflict management" reads ....

'Though a vital element in peace promotion, peace education has always missed out in Africa`s approaches to build a peace architecture, African Union (AU) Commission's Deputy Chairperson, Patrick Mazimhaka, said here Monday.'

'"It is important that we find a place for education for peace in our syllabi at all levels of education... as we strive to build lasting peace and sustainable development in Africa," Mazimhaka remarked at the opening of a three-day international conference on Strategies for Peace with Development in Africa.'

Tuesday, 13 June 2006

Not swooping but watching – towards abolition of WMD

Yesterday I was part of a group of Scottish Church and political figures, along with a number of British nuclear researchers and campaigners visiting Aldermaston - Atomic Weapons Establishment site in Berkshire. The Morning Star carries a photo and article about this on their front page saying that we ‘swooped on Britain’s nuclear bomb factory’. It was actually a bit too hot to do any swooping and most of us were instructed by the police to wait a in fenced-off area of the main-gate car park.

Eventually, three were escorted through the gate to present a letter of protest about the activities going on therein and about proposed new developments towards replacing the current Trident nuclear weapons system. We then inspected different parts of the site, from the other side of the security fence, including the area where building is now under way for the new laser testing facility. A Greenpeace press release gives more information about the visit and the participants.

Later in the day we attended, in central London, a launch meeting of the report of the WMD Commission, chaired by Hans Blix, former UN weapons inspector. Hans Blix greeted us all and highlighted some of the key points from the Commission’s 60 recommendations. The full report (Weapons of Terror: Freeing the World of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Arms) can be downloaded as a PDF file and a summary and commentary is available from the US-based ‘Civil Society Review of the WMD Commission’

If the energy and commitment, to prevent a replacement of Trident, from the Scottish Churches and political parties can be spread to other parts of the UK, the government will have to take a bit more notice.

Friday, 9 June 2006

Building peace, from city to village

An article about the new mayor of the city of Leeds...

"Over the past year Leeds has spawned London's suicide bombers and a resurgence of support for the BNP – so is electing the city's first Asian Lord Mayor a futile gesture or a real chance for reconciliation? Rod McPhee asked Coun Mohammed Iqbal. Scrawled inside the Lord Mayor's visitors book in Leeds civic hall are a few simple words: 'Let's all be friends again.' "

and he goes onto say in an interview :

"If there's myths, ignorance and misunderstanding, whether it is among Muslims or the BNP, there's no room for that. This is a multicultural city and multi-cultural world."
But couldn't his election be viewed as cynical token gesture, an appointment born of positive public relations rather than merit? "My election is a positive step without a doubt," he said. "Yes, you could interpret it as a gesture, but it's a strong message that this city belongs to everybody.
"Someone living in one part of Leeds is no different to anybody else, we are all equal and we're all part of this city.

===

Meanwhile, in Portugal ...

"On May first, the Tamera University “Monte Cerro” was launched. For the next three years up to 200 participants from different parts of the world will study the development of peace villages and the social and spiritual foundations for a non-violent culture of peace. ",

we read on Peace Journalism

"During the Summer University from July 31st to August 10th interested individuals are very welcome and are invited to visit Tamera for a short period to participate in the various seminars that will be offered for study. For more information consult the website www.tamera.org or call +351- 283 635 306."

Thursday, 8 June 2006

Getting hotter

From this distance, it seems unlikely that the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi will make any great difference to the situation in Iraq. One violent act seems to beget another and another; the conflict seems far too hot for this latest US military action to make any major difference. The IPS news service, for instance, carries an article headed "US Military hides many more Hadithas", in which the training and tactics of US troops on the ground is revealed as being inadequate at their best and brutal and insensitive at their worst.

Max Hastings in The Guardian, meanwhile, commenting on the acquital of three British soldiers for the drowning of an Iraqi teenager concludes:

"It would have been monstrous to convict three guardsmen for actions that are overwhelmingly attributable to the circumstances into which they were thrust. By contrast, if George Bush, Tony Blair, Donald Rumsfel and Lord Goldsmith had been in the dock, a guilty verdict would have been the only proper one."

Here at home, actions by police in Tower Hamlets, apparently to locate some terrorist weapons (and in doing so, shooting one young man) are seen stoking up tensions. Faisal Bodi, writing in The Guardian, suggests that
"... this type of policing comes at a high price: the alienation it engenders not only acts as a recruiting sargeant for anti-state violence, it also lays the foundation of internal civil unrest"

And in the same paper, Timothy Garton Ash reflects that in Frances alienated young ethnic-minorities are still angry.
" 'It's too late,' several people told me in the batter housing estates. A generation has been lost. Despair has turned to fury. Every little spark will produce another explosion. A community activist who has worked on one of the worst estates for 14 years told me that, if something radical is not done to improve the life-chances of the youn, 'C'est la
guerre ... c'est la guerre avec madame la France.' "

The London police's apology today to the people of Tower Hamlets - and an indication of a willingness to build bridges - offers a glimmer of hope that there is a wider understanding that a more collaborative and respectful approach is needed. And on a very different issue, perhaps we can gain some small hope from the government's appointment of a special representative on climate change, charged with building new international partnerships to tackle this burning issue.

Same blog, different template

I've decided to go for this different format and style for the blog, as I think it's clearer and easier than the previous one. Other than that, nothing else has changed. No comments received yet - it would be good to know whether this is proving useful to anyone.

Wednesday, 7 June 2006

UN Peacekeepers remembered and Non-violence to be promoted

One of the earlier entries on this blog was about the Conscientious Objectors day events around the world. Last week, I notice, was the fourth year that the UN has marked "UN Peacekeepers’ Day". It reports that:

"More peacekeepers died in the service of the UN in 2005 than in any other year in the last decade. While performing their official duties in difficult and dangerous circumstances, 124 peacekeepers from 46 countries lost their lives to violence, disease and accidents. A
further 32 have fallen in the line of duty so far in 2006."

and
"There are currently more than 72,000 “blue helmets” and 15,000 civilians serving around the world in the Organization’s ever more multidimensional and complex peacekeeping operations."

Quakers will vary in levels of support for military action. Nearly all will have opposed the Iraq invasion and occupation, but many will also be sympathetic to the military playing a peace-keeping role.

Meanwhile, notice has come through of the second Forum for Non-Violence , to be held in London over 21-23 July, with QPSW's Turning the Tide as one of the promoting organisations. The aims of the forum as long and wordy, but in brief:
1) To promote the ethic and practise of active non-violence as the only valid methodology of social and political action for the present time
2) To promote the relationship between individuals and groups working in the field of non-violence and
3) Establish permanent contact with those groups and individuals with the interest of jointly developing and organising activities of the forum.

This year's forum - entitled "UK Forum for non-violence - Dialogue for Action" and is advertised as ...
"A weekend of presentations, workshops, film showings, interchange among groups and individuals, etc., all related to the theme of non-violence: an opportunity for people working in the field of non-violence to hear each other's aims and activities and to create closer ties for the future. Cost £25/£20."

Tuesday, 30 May 2006

Alternatives to nuclear proliferation

'Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned that the former US president John F Kennedy's prediction of a world with 20 or 30 countries with nuclear weapons could become a reality.'

... reads the report on The Guardian's website last Friday.

Further on in the article, we read:

'He said: "Nukes breed nukes. As long as some nations continue to insist that nuclear weapons are essential to their security, other nations will want them. There is no way around this simple truth.

"No one has seriously taken up the challenge of developing an alternative approach to security that eliminates the need for nuclear deterrence. But only when such an alternative system is created will nuclear weapon states begin moving toward nuclear disarmament. And only when nuclear-weapon states move away from depending on these weapons for their security will the threat of nuclear proliferation by other countries by meaningfully reduced."

Mr ElBaradei said diverting some of the billions of dollars spent on weapons towards improving health and education in undeveloped countries would help to reduce international tensions.'

Thursday, 25 May 2006

A few bits of positive peace news today...

Firstly, from the UN news centre:

Sri Lankan judge wins 2006 UNESCO Prize for Peace Education
A 79-year-old Sri Lankan judge, who was Vice President of the United Nations International Court of Justice, has won the 2006 UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Prize for Peace Education.
Judge Christopher Gregory Weeramantry received the $40,000 award in recognition of what UNESCO Director-General Ko├»chiro Matsuura today called “his ongoing commitment and concrete undertakings in support of the concept and culture of peace through his long and fruitful career."


Secondly, a press release from CND

CND Celebrates Victory, Calls for an End to Missile Defence Plans in Europe
For immediate release: 24 May 2006
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament today welcomed the announcement by a Pentagon official that interceptor missiles for the US ‘Son of Star Wars’ missile defence system will not be sited in the UK, according to the Scottish Herald newspaper. The official cited the strong domestic opposition to the ongoing occupation of Iraq as a primary reason for this decision.
Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said, “This is a strong indication of the growing power of peace campaigning in the UK, especially as it comes together with the news that RAF Fairford is ruled out of a role in any possible attack on Iran for the same reason. This is a victory for peace and democracy. The majority of the British people want no part in these preparations for further militarisation and war.”


===
And finally information about a new Leeds-based initiative

Peace School
Have you ever wondered what peace really looks like? Is peace more than simply the absence of violence? What does it mean to be a genuine peacemaker?... These are some of the questions that the community of participants grapple with on the Peace School programme.

If you are someone who cares about peace and justice; wants to journey with others to a richer understanding of peace; enjoys questioning assumptions and engaging in lively discussion; values taking time out to reflect and learn; likes to hear new perspectives, and share your own; wants to explore how to be a peacemaker in every area life; then Peace School could be for you.

Tuesday, 23 May 2006

Mixed messages on arms control...

Back in September 2001 there was an international embargo against arms exports to Afghanistan. A few months later, this was lifted, although it was clear that the US / UK etc military action had not quite brought peace and democracy to the country. An article reproduced on the website "Common Dreams" reports that the US is now planning to fund - to something in the region of $400 million - the export of massive quantities of arms from Russia to Afghanistan. The article states:

"If fully trained it will provide a formidable force against insurgents and potential foreign aggressors, including Pakistan where tensions are high on the southern border.
'This is completely refitting the Afghan army for the long term and it should stop a resurgence of the Taliban in its tracks,' a British arms expert said. 'The order will take a year to make and deliver but the Russians are used to large quantities.'
A senior British officer said: 'The point of getting Afghanistan up and running is so they can take on their own operations.
'This deal makes sense if we are going to hand over military control to them.'
Some observers pointed to the irony of the deal, because when the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan the Americans sold Stinger surface-to- air missiles to the Mujahideen to enable them to shoot down Moscow's aircraft."

Meanwhile, Oxfam is one of agencies behind the Control Arms campaign, whose week of action is now underway ... from the Oxfam website:

" From May 22 – 28, over 900,000 signatories of the Million Faces petition will be presented to key decision makers in many countries around the world by Control Arms activists.
This is all part of the drive to keep up the pressure for an international arms trade treaty as the crucial United Nations Small Arms Review Conference draws ever closer. We will be posting reports of events around the world on this page as they come in.
Meanwhile, there is still time for you to add your support by supporting the petition or passing it on to friends and family.
Join the Million Faces Petition at http://www.controlarms.org/"

And read their material on the human cost of armed violence here.

Friday, 19 May 2006

Peace people in Iran

The US branch of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FoR) currently has a delegation visiting Iran. Why? This is how they explain it:
As a pacifist organization committed to nonviolent social change, the Fellowship of Reconciliation is constantly working for global peace with justice, and for reconciliation. One way to accomplish this goal is by facilitating direct dialogue and promoting people-to-people diplomacy among citizens of countries whose governments are in conflict.
Read more about the delegation here.

Individual comment from Emily Johns, a British person with the delegation can be found on the Justice not Vengeance website. She writes...

Near Isfahan there is an underground storage facility for the nuclear programme. If this is bombed by the USA, then Physicians for Social Responsibility have estimated that the singer, the rollerskater, the lovers and grandmothers and three million other people will be killed within 48 hours.

We in Britain must make sure that this armageddon never happens.

We must immediately make our government commit to us that USAF Fairford and Diego Garcia will not be used by United States bombers, and insist that our governement lifts the fear of death from the Iranian people and enters into face to face negotiations with their government now.

Positive news about explosive remnants of war

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) welcomes the 20th ratification on May 12 of the 2003 Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War. This ratification ensures the entry into force of the Protocol, which is the first multilateral treaty of international humanitarian law requiring parties to an armed conflict to clear all unexploded and abandoned ordnance that threatens civilians, peacekeepers and aid workers after the fighting is over. (From a press-release )

Thursday, 18 May 2006

Briefings for disarmament

Two useful briefings for those wanting to take action on the arms trade and nuclear weapons ... Firstly, Quaker Peace and Social Witness's Peace and Disarmament programme have put together an excellent pack on Trident, about which they say:

"Would you like to know more about the UK's nuclear weapons and help to make sure that they are not replaced? You can: Quaker Peace & Social Witness has produced a new campaign pack a vailable free (although donations are welcomed). For your pack, please email Kat Barton and David Gee at disarm@quaker.org.uk giving your name and postal address. We will send you one copy unless you state otherwise.

The pack includes a briefing about nuclear weapons in the UK, an action ideas sheet, a list of key arguments against replacement and postcards and petitions to use in your Meeting or peace group and local community. Thanks to research by the Oxford Research Group, the pack includes a 'decision-makers' list - key officials and Parliamentarians with a bearing on the Government's decision. There are also instructions for making paper cranes, which we are suggesting are enclosed with letters to decision-makers. Folding paper cranes is also an ideal activity for children over 9 and young people's groups."


Meanwhile, with Stop the Arms Trade Week coming up - 3-11 June - CAAT's briefing on the Defence Export Sales Organisation (which they would like to see shut down) is very informative. The briefing concludes:
"Despite the very different circumstances that pertain today [than from when DESO was set up] - the supposed separation of the arms industry from government via privatisation, the internationalisation of the arms industry, and the complete change in the role of surplus UK equipment - 40 years on, DESO still exists. There have always been strong ethical reasons for shutting DESO, but now it is difficult to see ANY public interest in retaining it. DESO remains open not because of the national interest, but as a result of inertia and arms company influence."

Read the briefing to find out more.

Monday, 15 May 2006

More on CO day

Further to my posting on 12 May, I see The Independent newspaper has quite a good overview about conscientious objection and about the focus of the day this year in particular. It's at: http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/this_britain/article484148.ece

Jam tommorrow?

Interesting item in the Bradford University Peace Studies News about the PeaceJam event that they hosted in March. PeaceJam, started in Colorado, desribes its work... " PeaceJam is an international education program built around leading Nobel Peace Laureates who work personally with youth to pass on the spirit, skills, and wisdom they embody. The goal of PeaceJam is to inspire a new generation of peacemakers who will transform their local communities, themselves and the world. "

Joseph Rotblat, the Nobel Peace Laureate who died last year, was keen to see a UK branch of PeaceJam set up. Following a public lecture on Friday 24th March, Mairead Corrigan Maguire (the Nobel Peace Laureate for this event) spent the following two days contributing to the conference with young people. In the Peace Studies newsletter we read: "Young people came from schools in Bradford, Pontefract, Coventry and London and spent two days in discussion with Mairead, talking with their peers in 'family groups' led by student mentors, and learning practical peacebuilding skils. They will come back in November to attend the PeaceJamSlam, a one-day conference where they will report back about how they put their PeacePlan into action and receive more training...."

The article concludes: "If you know of a school or youth group that would be interested in participating in next year's PeaceJam, contact Fioan Macaulay at f.macaulay@bradford.ac.uk."

Friday, 12 May 2006

The right to refuse to kill

This weekend will see a number of events marking International Conscientious Objectors Day, although the actual day is Monday 15th May. Read more about it at War Restisters International .

There's lots going on in the US over this period under the heading of "Operation Refuse War", WRI writing about their focus on... "the situation of and support to US war resisters: GIs applying for conscientious objector status, going AWOL, or finding other ways to get discharged from the military. War Resisters' International has joined with many US peace organisations to organise International Conscientious Objectors' Day in the USA - a series of international events under the title Operation Refuse War, culminating in an International Conference of Resisters to Global War in Washington DC from 13th-14th May 2006."

In the UK, I know there are ceremonies in Birmingham and Manchester - and presumably also in London's Tavistock Square, but details seem in short supply. The Manchester event is in the Peace Garden, St Peter's Square, from 1-2pm.

Alternative approaches to the Iran crisis

In an article on Open Democracy, Scilla Ellworthy addresses the question "How can the crisis over Iran be resolved without resort to violence?" Rather than talking in general terms, she is as usual specific, advocating citizen's diplomacy (especially by women), supporting young Iranians in finding creative responses and challenging the hypocrisy of the UK and US in keeping and developing nuclear weapons whilst denying them to others. She concludes: "In this situation, political maturity is essential to avoid an escalating disaster. Every grain of foresight has to be employed by those in Tehran, Washington, London and Brussels. But it is not only a matter for diplomats. " Read the full piece here:

Thursday, 11 May 2006

Starting off

Not quite sure how useful this tool will be, but there doesn't seem to be a blog linked to any of the peace organisations in Britain at the moment and we get so much information coming our way that it seems a pity not to share it. We're hoping this will be of interest to Quakers and others, in Britain and further afield. It's not about campaigning, but encouraging a wider awareness of peace initiatives, so that it can't be said that taking up weapons or fists is the only realistic response to conflict. Let's see if this little online journal can be a simple contribution to increasing the peace.... If you have been, thanks for reading!