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, 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

- 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.”