Friday, 14 November 2008
"Churches can't be silent on D.R. Congo humanitarian catastrophe" is the headline of a report of a World Council of Churches Delegation, which goes on to say:
The ecumenical delegation congratulated President Kabila for "having chosen and privileged the path of dialogue in order to achieve peace". The group plans to meet Rwandan President Paul Kagame in the coming days or weeks, as well as "other actors able to contribute to the resolution of the current crisis," which includes the Congolese rebels leader Laurent Nkunda.
Reaffirming the commitment of the churches in Burundi, Rwanda and D.R. Congo "to work together for peace, healing and reconciliation in the region," the group made an "urgent appeal to the concerned governments and the international community to protect civilians, children, women, and the elderly by applying the agreements already achieved".
Leaders of an inter-faith agency, Inter-Faith Action for Peace in Africa (IFAPA) also "appealed to the continent’s religious leaders to urgently engage political leadership in the DRC and neighboring countries to end a crisis for which civilians continued to suffer the greatest atrocities." we read on Ekklesia"
And US Friends, through Friends Committee on National Legislation and American Friends Service Committee have written to Condoleeza Rice, saying:
Fighting and unspeakable atrocities have continued in the DRC for far too long. Promoting a sustainable peace, protecting civilians, and providing humanitarian relief can be achieved with these recommended steps. We appreciate your immediate attention and support your leadership role in addressing the urgent crisis in Congo.
Wednesday, 12 November 2008
"In every sphere, Obama marks a break from the recent past. He will not be perfect; the disappointments will be real and may come soon. But for now, at least, we are entitled to that sigh of relief - and even the odd yelp of joy."
Ira Chernus, writing ('Obama' for Lefties) on CommonDreams, suggests... "Barack Obama is the name of a person. "Obama" is also the name of a new mood -- a new tone and sensibility -- that has somehow risen up in every section of this country. It's a sense of open-ended possibility that hasn't been felt since the time of JFK" .... but also recognises the limitations of what we should expect.... "We don't have to appear as cautious and timid as Obama. We couldn't, even if we wanted to. But we can learn how to talk to people who don't share our values, how to take their needs and concerns into account, even how to work together with them, without sacrificing our principles. If we do that, we can use the new mood of change as a window of opportunity to persuade the whole nation to continue moving leftward. That possibility is what the name "Obama" symbolizes. But the new president certainly won't do it for us. We have to do it ourselves."
A particular challenge that he may face is that of US army reservists who are refusing to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, described here where two of them write: "By refusing activation we are refusing to participate in wars that serve the purposes of furthering the careers of politicians and high-ranking officers. We openly support other IRR [Individual Ready Reserves] members who follow in these footsteps. ... we turn to organizations like Courage to Resist, Iraq Veterans Against the War and many other large scale and grassroots organizations to solicit change in a largely unrepresentative democracy, and, to allow the voices of the people to ring through the halls of the Capital."
And finally, for now, an interesting and helpful analysis by Jim Lobe, Obama Foreign Policy May Not Require a Clean Break
We musn't undervalue the significance of the election – the Obama 'mood' and the momentum of the election are a positive in so many ways - but no-one, not even he, will be able to please all the activists all of the time.
Monday, 10 November 2008
First, their statement...
Opportunity Knocks--Are We Ready? from Joe Volk, Executive Secretary, detailing what they see as some specific opportunities for FCNL in the first months of 2009Source: Friends Committee on National Legislation, which concludes:
On Tuesday night, President-Elect Obama said, "This victory alone is not the change we seek - it is only the chance for us to make that change, and that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you. So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of service and responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other."
We at FCNL look forward to working with President Obama on these opportunities.
On the less formal level, staff members and programme assistants have taken a step back to contribute personal responses to the landmark election in a series of blog pieces. In one of these, Alex Martin writes of his sense of responsibility:
Millions of people who felt alienated by or just indifferent to politics, in the sense of our common civic project, have been connected to it by the two-year drama that has just concluded. Suddenly, they feel they have a stake. For a time, anyway, we feel like a people. How will we harness this energy? How will we keep people engaged in solving the tremendous problems we confront?
I also feel great privilege, because I work for an organization dedicated to precisely this purpose. FCNL has never been more relevant. Never has there been greater need for our work: to show people ways to remain involved with their government, and to continually remind our new leaders of the causes of peace, justice, and stewardship, so that together we may build the world we seek.
And those of us working in other parts of the world can share that sense of privilege and responsibility by holding our own leaders to account in pursuit of the same goals, and drawing inspiration from the possibilities of drawing communities together for a common cause.
Friday, 7 November 2008
On Remembrance Sunday, thousands of services will take place, commemorating - as the Church, state and the British Legion put it with one accord - “those who have given their lives for the peace and freedom we enjoy today”. But the political, and for that matter theological implications of such a perspective, will be quietly ignored. This should be, they say with equal agreement, an impartial event, devoid of political considerations.
But it isn’t. Because this is in reality Remember-In-A-Certain-Way Sunday ....
... if we accept the Remembrance Day rhetoric, that soldiers laid down their lives to give us the liberties we enjoy today, then surely that must include the freedom to choose how we remember the dead, and say what we believe?
Meanwhile, the Yorkshire Evening Post carried a number of letters on the theme, including the following from Martin Schweiger:
On Tuesday the YEP letters page carried three letters making the case for wearing poppies to remind us of the sacrifice made by so many servicemen and women and importantly supporting the Poppy Appeal. The red poppies are an echo of human bloodshed upon the battle fields of the First World War while flowers grew and bloomed nearby.
I suggest that today we should complement the red poppies with white poppies to mark a determination that we should not forget the past but learn from it and strive to build lasting peace between people and between nations.
Simply buying a red poppy and wearing it will not solve all the problems of those whose lives have been damaged by conflict. Simply buying and wearing a white poppy will not bring about an instant end to all conflict. However we have to start somewhere and the poppies, red and white give us a starting point.
Martin Schweiger, Member of Roundhay (Leeds) Quaker Meeting
Thursday, 6 November 2008
writes David Krieger in President-elect Obama and a World Free of Nuclear Weapons
For the first time since Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev met at the Reykjavik, Iceland Summit in 1986 and came close to reaching an agreement on abolishing nuclear weapons, the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons appears to be within the realm of possibility. This will require presidential leadership, and the President-elect will need support and encouragement from the American people and from people throughout the world.
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) meanwhile, with many other organisations, has issued a
"... call on the next U.S. President and administration to engage in a new foreign policy based on these five core principles. 1. Our nation should invest in peace. 2. Strengthen the civilian agencies that work on peace and development issues. 3. Give diplomacy a chance. 4. Be a part of global peacebuilding efforts. 5. Create justice through good development and trade policies."
in its Roadmap for Peace
Thursday, 9 October 2008
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
I'm not sure who it was on the radio this morning... but someone was making the very obvious point that the government's (ours and those of other countries) financial commitment to keeping the banking system afloat necessarily means that there's less money to go around on other things.
And this is really important, I feel. With such obvious constraints, can we hope for hope for a shifting of priorities towards building security along the lines of the sustainable security paradigm outlined in the Oxford Research Group's report? ( Global Responses to Global Threats:Sustainable Security for the 21st Century, Chris Abbott, Paul Rogers and John Sloboda, June 2006)
Mark Lynas, writing in The Guardian today argues that the need to move to a low-carbon energy system is a great business opportunity, as opposed to a distraction from getting the economy back on track. ..."we need to transform completely the energy basis of industrial civilisation", he states, "Anyone thinking of this as a terrible sacrifice is dead wrong; it is an unparallelled business opportunity, which canny companies will use to their great advantage". Both he and the paper's editorial are cautiously optimistic about the commitment of our government to tackling climate change, indicated by the setting up of the new department for energy and climate change.
The other side of the sustainable security coin though, which the ORG report urges we move away from, is what they describe as the 'control paradigm'. A move away from a commitment to renewing UK nuclear weapons would be a very welcome indication of a shift from the one paradigm to another and is essential if we're to make a meaningful and sustainable change towards a more peaceful and secure world.
I've noted that this blog doesn't often get a mention in list of Quaker blogs - mostly, I think, because it's more about what's going on the world rather than in my head and my Quaker Meeting. My work, and that of NFPB in general, is of course rooted in our Quakerism. Here's a bit from our Advices and Queries which seems very relevant to these times...
31. We are called to live 'in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars'. Do you faithfully maintain our testimony that war and the preparation for war are inconsistent with the spirit of Christ? Search out whatever in your own way of life may contain the seeds of war. Stand firm in our testimony, even when others commit or prepare to commit acts of violence, yet always remember that they too are children of God.
41. Try to live simply. A simple lifestyle freely chosen is a source of strength. Do not be persuaded into buying what you do not need or cannot afford. Do you keep yourself informed about the effects your style of living is having on the global economy and environment?
42. We do not own the world, and its riches are not ours to dispose of at will. Show a loving consideration for all creatures, and seek to maintain the beauty and variety of the world. Work to ensure that our increasing power over nature is used responsibly, with reverence for life. Rejoice in the splendour of God's continuing creation.
Tuesday, 23 September 2008
- Leap Confronting Conflict's work on gangs
- Peace Direct's support for the Nepal Rapid Response Fund
- CAAT's campaign for the UK to provide legal assistance to the US' BAE Systems investigation
- The forthcoming (27th October) big blockade taking place at Aldermsaton
- The work at St Ethelburga's centre for Reconciliation and Peace on exploring religious difference
Thursday, 14 August 2008
Tuesday, 29 July 2008
[from the CND press release] Ministry of Defence documents obtained by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament reveal the Government plans to replace Britain's nuclear warheads, despite Ministers repeatedly telling MPs that no decision would be taken until the next Parliament. The shocking revelation came to light in a speech to the arms industry executives by David Gould, then chief operating officer at the Defence Equipment and Support Organisation, now released under the Freedom of Information Act. [See note 3 and below for the documents] Whilst the Commons voted last year to replace the submarines that carry the UK's nuclear warheads on Trident missiles, the White Paper and repeated ministerial statements since then [see note 4] have claimed that no decision would be taken on replacing the explosive warheads themselves until the next Parliament, expected to be 2010 at the earliest. Today's revelation that a senior defence official has been privately telling industry the opposite, suggests that Parliament has been misled.
Monbiot writes: According to a leaked briefing by the US Defence Intelligence Agency, Israel possesses between 60 and 80 nuclear bombs. But none of the countries demanding that Iran scraps the weapons it doesn't yet possess are demanding that Israel destroys the weapons it does possess. and continues further on in his piece: The permanent members of the UN security council draw a distinction between their "responsible" ownership of nuclear weapons and that of the aspirant powers. But over the past six years, the UK, US, France and Russia have all announced that they are prepared to use their nukes pre-emptively against a presumed threat, even from states that do not possess nuclear weapons. In some ways the current nuclear stand-off is more dangerous than the tetchy detente of the cold war.
Those involved in planning the next major action at Britain’s nuclear weapons factory are keen that people make the connections and attend the next Aldermaston Big Blockade on 27th October 2008.
Thursday, 24 July 2008
Jan Oberg, of the Transnational Foundation wrote earlier this year:
"Did the international community make mistakes? Or did it have a deliberate plan to destroy Yugoslavia? Or was it a mix of this spiced with general conflict illiteracy? The answer is as hugely complex as it is important.
"One mechanism is obvious, however: Having started out with the outdated, two-party conflict paradigm – one all right, the other all wrong - borrowed from the just dissolved Cold War structure, nothing could go right. And since this community by constitution cannot admit that it makes mistakes, it has had to build on blunders, covering them up by continuing its irrational, counter-productive policies. The sum total is a boomeranging make-believe such as independent Kosovo. "
In the year of the bombing itself, Philip Hammond concludes:, in Reporting Kosovo: Journalism vs. Propaganda,
"As the bombs and missiles rained down we were informed by Nato leaders that this was 'not a war', and when it ended every newspaper found the same word to describe the occupation of part of a sovereign country by foreign troops: 'liberation'. This was a fitting climax to a media crusade which had frequently turned reality on its head in an utter dereliction of what journalism is supposed to be. It would seem that one casualty of the Kosovo war was British journalism, although some sources maintain it was already long dead. In its place we have propaganda."
The further away you get from an event, historically, it is harder but still more important to question the history with which we are presented as fact, just as it was and remains important to look beneath the current headlines. The danger in doing so is that the very process of questioning can easily be turned around and used as propaganda by one party or another. But keep questioning we must, and keep looking for nonviolent alternatives to the desperation and destructiveness of military responses.
In 2000, between the Nato action in the Balkans and the beginning of the 'war on terror', Judith Large wrote: "Let us never lose our compassion for suffering and willingness to respond. But let us also cultivate an awareness and sensitivity to signs and signals, and take imaginative and strategica actions to pre-empt collective violence, to protect the vulnerable, to build different futures. It is a longer, slower path than the use of only force, but it will lead to hope and renewal rather than destruction and retribution."
(in 'No Alternative? Nonviolent Responses to Repressive Regimes', edited by John Lampen and published by Sessions of York).
Friday, 11 July 2008
Tuesday, 1 July 2008
"There is a powerful case for a dramatic reduction in the stockpile of nuclear weapons. A new historic initiative is needed but it will only succeed by working collectively and through multilateral institutions. ..... Substantial progress towards a dramatic reduction in the world's nuclear weapons is possible. The ultimate aspiration should be to have a world free of nuclear weapons. [my emphasis] It will take time, but with political will and improvements in monitoring, the goal is achievable. We must act before it is too late, and we can begin by supporting the campaign in America for a non-nuclear weapons world. "
The writers of this forcefully argued piece are George Robertson, Douglas Hurd, Malcolm Rifkind and David Owen (I hope they will excuse my Quakerly non-use of their titles). A statement from BASIC sees this as a real breakthrough, building as it does on a similar call from former members of US governments last year. I've not spotted much response or comment on this from other parts of the press so far. It does seem to provide a very useful tool for engaging again with our elected representatives and current government ministers on this issue, however. It is very welcome that this article has appeared - I look forward to seeing a similar comment from members of a current government before too long.
Thursday, 26 June 2008
WITHDRAWAL OF US NUKES WELCOMED; BUT CND WARNS AGAINST US MISSILE DEFENCE DEVELOPMENTS
CND today welcomed the news that 110 US tactical nuclear weapons had been withdrawn from Lakenheath airbase in Suffolk . The report by Hans Kristensen, one of the foremost nuclear researchers with the Federation of American Scientists, concludes that there are now no US nuclear weapons in Britain – for the first time since 1954.
However, CND cautioned against the installation at Lakenheath of interceptor missiles as part of the US Missile Defence system, which could potentially replace one historical arms race with another, with Europe again at the centre. Tony Blair asked the US to consider Britain as a possible launching pad for US missile interceptors in February 2007.
This looks like good news: but where are they now keeping the weapons withdrawn from Lakenheath?
Less cheerful news came in an article in The Sunday Times this week, reporting that the UK military is currently using Hellfire missiles in Afghanistan, fired by RAF Reaper unmanned drones, remotely controlled from a US base in Nevada. The missiles have been described as being armed with 'thermobaric' warheads, though the article tells us that the MoD prefers to call them 'enhanced blast weapons'. The Times article describes the effects thus: "[the weapons] create a pressure wave which sucks the air out of victims, shreds their internal organs and crushes their bodies". Concerns have been raised by Human Rights Watch, Nick Harvey of the Lib Dems and others, particularly highlighting the consequences for civilians who happen to be in the vicinity of one of these missile explosions. Anyone remember that old-fashioned idea of an ethical foreign policy?
Monday, 9 June 2008
The printed newsletter quotes parts of the Executive Summary, which advocates deep cuts in defence procurement and cancellation of Trident, amongst other things. And along with this, a 'multi-billion pound investment in renewable energy.... [that would] also generate more jobs than those lost from the restructuring of the arms industry. This way the UK would take a leading role in establishing a new form of international security framework based on disarmament and sustainable economic development.'
Meanwhile, the successor body to at least part of the Defence Diversification Agency, is Ploughshare Innovations which 'manages technology transfer on behalf of Dstl, the Ministry of Defence's Defence Science & Technology Laboratory; an organisation of some 3,500 plus staff devoted to providing the UK Government with independent expertise on defence and security-related issues.'
It's worth remembering at this point another group which incorporates the imagery of swords into plougshares in its name, Trident Ploughshares whose activists have pledged to disarm the UK Trident nuclear weapons system in a non-violent, open, peaceful, safe and fully accountable manner. Their next major initiative to this end is Aldermaston Big Blockade on 27th October. Perhaps Ploughshare Innovations hope to disarm the potency of ploughshare actions of this nature by adopting the name.... Now, how about a joint project in which the disarmers do their bit and the technological innovators do theirs, as Steve Schofield has suggested. That would be some interesting joined-up ploughshare thinking, even though there may be a bit of culture clash to work through in the first instance....
Wednesday, 4 June 2008
Dominique Strauss-Kahn said last Saturday that if the spike in food prices continued, “thousands, hundreds of thousands of people will be starving. Children will be suffering from malnutrition, with consequences for all their lives. As we know, learning from the past, those kinds of questions sometimes end in war.”
Meanwhile, the wider context is addressed in an interesting blog 'New Security Beat'
One of their recent pieces... U.S. Army War College Report Says We Ignore Climate Change Security Risks “At Our Peril”
The article concludes: '[Carolyn] Pumphrey - [editor of the War College report] calls for a three-pronged strategy that includes “better intelligence, better science, and better understanding of the relationships between such things as violence, society, and climate change.” She maintains that we must slow the rate of climate change and prepare for unavoidable changes, take action to alleviate international social distress, and prepare to address potential conflicts. And, she notes, this is “a job for everyone,” not just the military.'
From the article: 'Craig Barnett, the voluntary organisation's national coordinator, says the project aims to dispel misconceptions and build a culture of hospitality. "It is about offering a positive vision of our city as a place of sanctuary," he says.
I look forward to hearing from Bolton Friends who are attending the conference.
Thursday, 29 May 2008
"This is the clearest indication yet that nuclear disarmament has now achieved the mainstream - and it is now out of touch to oppose it. This is a speech that represents a clear departure not only from the current Administration..."
And the big surprise is that he's writing about the Republican Candidate for the US Presidency, John McCain. He is qu0ted as saying in said speech:
"The truth is we will only address the terrible prospect of the worldwide spread of nuclear arms if we transcend our partisan differences, combine our energies, learn from our past mistakes, and seek practical and effective solutions."
Coverage of the other candidates views on nuclear weapons and other foreign policy issues can be found on the Council for a Livable World's website.
And the recent 'Prep Comm', preparing for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in 2010 is reported on in depth by Rebecca Johnson on the Acronym website and by Reaching Critical Will. The latter reported that:
"Over the course of this PrepCom session, several delegations made substantial, concrete proposals on specific issues related to strengthening and implementing the Treaty. Some of these proposals have generated broad interest, momentum, and/ or convergence, suggesting they are or could be ripe for action by the 2010 Review Conference."
Reasons to be cheerful? Certainly a little less despondent, perhaps...
Meanwhile, coming soon to a nuclear submarine base near you (if you live in the west of Scotland), and to remind our own politicians of the public's continuing unhappiness at UK nuclear weapons policy...
Peace Chain Around Faslane Saturday 14th June 2008
The Peace Chain date marks several important anniversaries:
* One year ago, 14 June 2007, the Scottish Parliament voted against the UK Government’s plan for a new nuclear weapon system.
* The day of the Peace Chain also sees the celebration of the 26th birthday of Faslane Peace Camp.
* 40 years ago, 14 June 1968, the first British nuclear patrol – HMS Resolution – sailed from Faslane.
* This year is also the 50th birthday of CND and its struggle against nuclear weapons.
In SCND’s history never before has there been such concerted and widespread opinion against nuclear weapons in Scotland – both amongst elected officials and the general public – and so with this Peace Chain we intend to mark not only anniversaries of past events but a real hope for the future.
Wednesday, 28 May 2008
I enjoyed the company of Robin, of the Peace Tax Seven, at Britain Yearly Meeting (Quaker annual conference in Britain) last weekend, as we shared a display table in the small groups' area. They're joining with conscience: the peace tax campaign in hosting the 12th International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns, from Friday 5th to Sunday 7th September in Manchester this year.
Manchester was also the location for a ceremony on 18th May, marking the Right to Refuse to Kill. These ceremonies started off in London and are now spreading across the country. Here's a photo from the Manchester event.
"The government is preparing to scrap Britain's entire arsenal of cluster bombs in the face of a growing clamour against weapons that have killed and maimed hundreds of innocent civilians.
Officials are paving the way for the unexpected and radical step at talks in Dublin on an international treaty aimed at a worldwide ban on the bombs.
Well-placed sources made clear yesterday that despite opposition from the military, the government is prepared to get rid of the cluster munitions in Britain's armoury."
Another report comes from Ekklesia
We produced a leaflet about this problem some years ago but have not been actively working on it since then. The national and international campaigns that have been working strenuously over recent years have almost certainly contributed to this change in government policy. Find out more about them and the process (known as the Oslo Process) that has led to this point:
Now, if governments can be persuaded that landmines and cluster bombs are wrong for the indiscriminate harm they cause civilian, could they be helped to see that the same logic and compassion should be applied to nuclear weapons? Thankfully, they have not yet been used in anger, but are continually deployed around the world. The International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons - ICAN - aims to abolish all nuclear weapons via education, empowerment and via a Nuclear Weapons Convention.
Friday, 25 April 2008
High Court re-opens Saudi arms corruption investigation
By agency reporter
24 Apr 2008
The High Court today formally quashed the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) decision to drop its corruption investigation into arms deals between BAE Systems and Saudi Arabia. The decision is a huge success for the campaign groups that brought the case.
The decision follows the Court's ruling on 10 April 2008 that the SFO, acting on government advice, acted unlawfully in stopping its investigation in December 2006 following a threat from Saudi Arabia.
[and it continues with additional background and information]
Thursday, 17 April 2008
Whilst some sort of progress has been made recently in relations between Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, it is in that part of the world when Conscientious Objection is still a big issue. A group of human rights and CO groups was in Athens last week and issued a .... Call for Greece, Cyprus and Turkey to recognise international standards on the right to conscientious objection
Greek Section of Amnesty International
Association of Greek Conscientious Objectors
Initiative for Conscientious Objection in Cyprus (north)
European Bureau for Conscientious Objection
War Resisters' International
Embassy of Turkish Republic, Athens
Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus, Athens
Prime Minister of Greece, Athens
Athens, 11 April 2008
Greece, Cyprus and Turkey to recognise international standards on the right to conscientious objection
Representatives of conscientious objection and human rights organisations from several European countries, meeting in Athens over the weekend, call for Greece, Cyprus and Turkey to recognise the right to conscientious objection according to European and international standards.
The representatives remind the governments of Greece, Cyprus and Turkey that the right to conscientious objection has been recognised by several international institutions, among others the United Nations and the Council of Europe. More specifically, in a decision on two individual complaints from South Korea, the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled in 2007 that not to provide for the right to conscientious objection is a violation of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
(More information about the situation in these countries on the page link here)
"... it will be important for any new [US] administration to take more account of Allied opinion, giving Europeans a way to avoid a potential new confrontation with Russia and reason not to rush agreement on deploying an unproven system. Canada, for example, has negotiated a way through its similar dilemma by allowing the US to use NORAD facilities for BMD purposes, while refusing to participate themselves - both on cost grounds but also because Ottawa fears an arms race in space. The UK and Czech Republic may come to regret having dashed to support Bush administration policies, while Polish leaders may well look the shrewder for having waited."
The same issue of the journal contains an equally detailed analysis of the future of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Editor Rebecca Johnson looks beyond non-proliferation towards making the use of nuclear weapons illegal as a starting point for a real turning away from the development and deployment of these dangerous tools of insecurity:
"A more effective deterrent against the use of nuclear weapons is to make it a crime against humanity. Even despots fear being held personally accountable and subjected to public trial and punishment.
Many have already achieved the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. To move towards accomplishing the reality of that world, we now need to outlaw the use of nuclear weapons for all."
To acknowledge and respect these dual histories is not, by itself, sufficient, but does offer a paradigm for building a peaceful future. Many lives have been lost, and there has been much suffering. The weak are exploited by the strong, while fear and bitterness stunt the imagination and cripple the capacity for forgiveness.
We therefore urge all those working for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine to consider that any lasting solution must be built on the foundation of justice, which is rooted in the very character of God. After all, it is justice that “will produce lasting peace and security” (Isaiah 32:17). Let us commit ourselves in prophetic word and practical deed to a courageous settlement whose details will honour both peoples’ shared love for the land, and protect the individual and collective rights of Jews and Palestinians in the Holy Land.
“Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid” (Micah 4:4)
Thursday, 10 April 2008
by Heidi Fritschel - in Open Democracy today, concludes thus:
"A new agriculture, food, and nutrition governance architecture is needed. With so much at stake - the world's food supply, environmental threats to agriculture, and unacceptably high rates of hunger and poverty - a fresh response is needed. We cannot afford to be complacent."
Court rules Government's termination of BAE investigation unlawful
The High Court this morning ruled that the Director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) acted unlawfully when he stopped a corruption investigation into BAE Systems' arms deals with Saudi Arabia.
The judgment was handed down by Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Sullivan in response to a judicial review brought by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and The Corner House.
In the light of this judgment, the Serious Fraud Office must reopen the BAE-Saudi corruption investigation immediately. Both groups are calling upon the SFO to work jointly with US and Swiss investigators in doing so. [and there's a lot more background information in the press release]
On the last point they make, there seems to be some ambiguity, however, with the BBC saying "The judges in London did not rule that the case would be reopened, but have said they would listen to further arguments. "
No doubt this will be clarified soon. Congratulations of CAAT and Cornerhouse and to all their supporters for peristing with this.
It is also important to note at this point the following, released by CAAT and The Conerhouse just last week:
"As The Corner House and Campaign Against Arms Trade await judgment on their landmark judicial review of the decision by the Serious Fraud Office to halt its BAE-Saudi Arabia corruption investigation, the Government has introduced draft legislation that would prevent such a judicial review in future.
Clauses 12-14 of the draft Constitutional Renewal Bill  propose to create a new power for the Attorney General – a political appointee and member of the Government – to stop a criminal investigation or prosecution on the grounds of 'national security'. This new power allows for extremely limited oversight by
Parliament and prevents and future review by the judiciary of such a decision. "
.... and, again, it continues with a lot of additional background to this.
Monday, 31 March 2008
Secondly, news from Peace Direct of Gill Hicks' planned walk (or WALKTALK as it is to be known) from Leeds to London. This is to take place during July and Augst this year. Gill, a survivor of the London bombings lost her legs that day. Now Gill and a core group including her husband Joe, will be walking from Leeds to London during July and August. ... It's a nationwide initiative to bring together people who may otherwise never meet, never talk and, almost certainly never walk side-by-side. It will focus on humanity - on all that we have in common - and aim to create a new 'path' of understanding and reconciliation.
My inactivity on this blog is largely due to the amount of work involved in the preparation and follow-up of our conference on 'Building Peace- Tackling Racism' on 15th March. This seems to have gone well, due in no small part to the additional help on the day from Quakers in Huddersfield. Powerful themes of the day included dialogue and listening - so you don't need to work too hard to sense where my sympathies lie in comparing the contrasting actions outlined above.
And this gives me an excuse to plug the 5th Annual Peace Lecture being organised by Huddersfield Quakers....
15 May 2008 at 7.00pm
'Can Hope and History Rhyme?
The Role of the Arts in Overcoming Violence in Northern Ireland'
The central theme of this lecture aims to illustrate the dynamics of violence and peace through the eyes of poets and musicians from Northern Ireland, and how this played a role in reflecting and overcoming divisions in the context of the Northern Ireland conflict. The purpose here is to illustrate the visceral and emotional aspects of political violence and the ways in which poetry and music can both reflect destructive emotions and help to mediate or transform such feelings into more constructive engagements.
Feargal Cochrane is Director of the Richardson Institute for Peace Research at Lancaster University.
He has written widely on conflict related issues and his latest book, 'Ending Wars', will be published by Polity Press in October 2008.
Huddersfield Quaker Meeting House, Church Street, Paddock, Huddersfield HD1 4TR
This event is organized by Huddersfield Quakers
For more information Tel 07792309897 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, 28 February 2008
Longtime Albuquerque nuclear protester has heard curses, seen successes
It's obviously made an impression on those who have read it, and Chuck Hosking, the American Quaker involved, has obviously done likewise on those who have come across him, including one of our own NFPB members, it transpires.
I was reminded yesterday of the words of Margaret Mead ... "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." ...which seems very apt to this story of committed activism and sheer persistence.
On checking the web reference for this piece, I notice that the Albuquerque Tribune ceased publication last Saturday - so here's a 'thank you!' for publishing such an inspiring story in your last days!
Tuesday, 26 February 2008
'February 23, 2008
The three trillion dollar war
by Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes
The cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts have grown to staggering proportions
'The Bush Administration was wrong about the benefits of the war and it was wrong about the costs of the war. The president and his advisers expected a quick, inexpensive conflict. Instead, we have a war that is costing more than anyone could have imagined.
'The cost of direct US military operations - not even including long-term costs such as taking care of wounded veterans - already exceeds the cost of the 12-year war in Vietnam and is more than double the cost of the Korean War.'
"That's really upsetting", said the young person sitting next to me as we listened to the radio interview. Even more so, when it's put in perspective. Joseph Stiglitz reckoned (if I remember rightly) that the entire US aid budget for Africa for one year is the equivalent of around 8 days spending on the US army's operations in Iraq. And in relation to the UK, the Times article concludes:
'Based on assumptions set out in our book, the budgetary cost to the UK of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through 2010 will total more than £18 billion. If we include the social costs, the total impact on the UK will exceed £20 billion.'
Read more about it here and here
On a related theme, on Ekklesia we read, in Healing the psychological wounds of war By Andrew J. Weaver:
'The saying, "war is hell," only begins to describe how horrible it has been for tens of thousands in the military. War is a life-threatening experience that involves witnessing and sometimes engaging in terrifying and gruesome acts of violence. It also is, for most service personnel, a patriotic response to protect and defend their country, loved ones, values, and way of life. War is a shocking confrontation with death, devastation, and violence. It is normal for human beings to react to war's psychic trauma with profound feelings of fear, anger, grief, repulsion, helplessness, and horror, as well as with emotional numbness and disbelief.'
'The word "trauma" is derived from the Greek word meaning "wound." Just as a physical wound from combat can cause suffering in the body, a psychological trauma can cause suffering in the mind and soul. The church is in a critical position to help heal these wounds of war.'
Wednesday, 20 February 2008
One article (on the International Middle East Media Centre website) has as its start headline:
"98 Palestinian patients, including 17 Children, die due to the Gaza siege"
On Saturday there will be protests in London and around the world, and there are Petitions to sign online for the attention of Gordon Brown and for the United Nations.
Meanwhile on The Guardian's comment pages, Jonathan Freedland explores the possibility of active non-violence as a strategy for the Palestinians and gets a fascinating range of responses - some more predictable than others.
Monday, 18 February 2008
In deeply pessimistic mood, editor Jan Oberg concludes:
It is the EU, the US and the UN that has failed since 1990. At least as much as the Serbs. The formula of archtype human folly and conflict illiteracy applies: “The winners take it all - the loser shall be humiliated. To hell with mutual understanding, reconciliation and fairness. We’ve done it to foes around the world for cventuries, to the Russians since 1989 with such excellent results - and now we do it with the Serbs.”
The unavoidable result of Sunday February 17, 2008, then? The beginning of a new round of conflict and violence for future generations to suffer from.
When will they ever learn?
Arms giant BAE lobbied Fraud Office to stop investigation
Documents released in the High Court yesterday show that Britain’s biggest arms company, BAE Systems, wrote to the Attorney General on a "strictly private and confidential" basis urging him to halt the Serious Fraud Office investigation into allegations that BAE had bribed Saudi officials to secure the Al Yamamah arms deal.
Kobia pinpoints ethnic and political rifts hampering Kenya's churches
Ethnic and political divisions have prevented church leaders in Kenya from responding to the political crisis in their country, the main governing body of the World Council of Churches has been told by its general secretary, the Rev Samuel Kobia.
Kingston Jamaica to host global churches' peace conference
Kingston, Jamaica, will be the host city for the World Council of Churches' International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in 2011, it has been announced - marking a decade of activity promoting practical responses to violence.
Church and aid groups say Gaza situation is worsening
Church and aid workers are warning that the situation in Gaza is deteriorating as Israelis and Palestinians continue to face off, more than two weeks after Israel cut the electric power supply to Gaza in response to Palestinian missile launchings into Israel
Friday, 1 February 2008
Read their document here (and key points summarised below)
and view Hans von Sponeck, former UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, presenting the proposals at the World Against War conference in London in December here:
TOWARDS PEACE IN AND WITH IRAQ
1. The End of Occupation: Withdrawal of Foreign Troops, Mercenaries and Military Bases
2. Return of Iraq’s Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity
3. A UN-Led International Peace-Building Mission for Iraq
4. Debt Cancellation
5. International Compensation for Sanctions, Invasion and Occupation
6. Sovereignty Over Oil Resources
7. The Middle East – A Zone Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction
8. A Truth and Reconciliation Process
9. People-to-People Cooperation
10. A Comprehensive Settlement for the Entire Region
The present situation in Iraq, Palestine and other parts of the Middle East is simply undeserving for the people in the area. It is also unworthy of a democracy-minded global community.
This peace proposal should be seen as an encouragement, indeed a moral appeal, to think about and constructively debate ways to end the tragic policy of confrontation and to find new ways of creating peace in and with Iraq and the wider Middle East. Peace is possible. However, it can be achieved only when all actors, governments, civil society and international organizations are willing to leave old and self-serving approaches behind and have the courage and commitment to proceed in new ways.
Thursday, 31 January 2008
January 2008 and issued an OPEN LETTER To the Leaders and Citizens of Kenya...
Which includes the following appeal:
# We appeal to you engage in reconciliation among and rehabilitation of displaced people, integrating them back into the places from which they were displaced, not sending them to other parts of the country.
# We remind you that this country and its land belongs to all of us. Let us not destroy it for by doing so, we put our own future generations in jeopardy. We need a negotiated social contract to live together as Kenyans.
# We urge you to resolve problems in a peaceful way, because we know that there is hope for peace in this country.
# We warn you to desist from rumour-mongering which increases hostility and uncertainty, and urge you to use modern means of communication for positive ends.
# We know that those most affected by this conflict and violence are women, children, disabled and the aged. We must address their suffering, and protect and care for them.
# We encourage every Kenyan to look for “that of God” in every person and to treat life as sacred.
# As Kenyans, we urge you to uphold our core national values, practice forgiveness and embrace reconciliation.
To our fellow Christians and other Religious groups:
* As people of faith, we must not engage in violence and revenge because if we do so we betray our faith in God.
* We invite you to join us in praying for deliverance from evil spirits which are at work in our country, and continue to intercede for Kenya.
As a peace church, we are involved in humanitarian, spiritual and social/economic empowerment of our people. We urge everyone to take time to assist his/her neighbour in order to bring normalcy to the affected people, affirming truth, justice, peace and reconciliation in our nation.
More news of Quakers' current experiences in Kenya can be found at:
Wednesday, 30 January 2008
"The giant arms company BAE Systems is so far over budget with two of its latest projects that they will cost UK taxpayers £2.2 billion more than expected, a government report acknowledges. Peace campaigners say it is a scandal.
"The figure is revealed in a report by the House of Commons Defence Select Committee, which looks at BAE's contracts with the Ministry of Defence. The Committee found that the budget for BAE's Astute Submarines has increased by 47% and the budget for BAE's Type 45 Destroyer ships by 18 per cent."
and on a similar theme, Jeni Russell in the Guardian ... "We rage at Hain and Conway but miss the real profligacy: MPs' much-publicised transgressions are as nothing against the gross waste of public money on PFIs and consultancy" ... in which she illustrates her argument thus:
"... misjudgments, like many of the PFI contracts, or Brown's decision in 2003 to sell a stake in the MoD's research arm, QinetiQ, demonstrate the government's continued tendency to be shockingly naive when it negotiates with the private sector. Within three years, that company had been floated for £1.3bn, giving its directors a return of 20,000% on their investment. The government got an annual return of 14% on its stake, while the private company got 112%."
Monday, 28 January 2008
Building Peace - Tackling Racism is taking place in Huddersfield on 15th March.
There's still quite a bit of work to do and lots more bookings (we hope and expect) still to arrive, but we're very excited about the range and quality of speakers and issue-group leaders we've got to help with the day.
We're exploring the possibility of having some sort of video record made of the day, so that we can share the feel of the event with a wider audience.
And I hope to be able to post more details in advance on this blog.
Thursday, 24 January 2008
... and on the same theme as my previous entry, International Peace Bureau's latest publication "Whose Priorities" highlights the work of a range of campaigning groups in promoting human security through non-military means:
Here's the blurb from their website
A guide for campaigners on military and social spending
by Colin Archer IPB Secretary-General
This book is a follow-up to IPB's earlier volume Warfare or Welfare? Disarmament for Development in the 21st Century.While that work attempted to describe the nature of the problems facing us, the new publication sketches out some approaches to campaigning in opposition to militarism, and offers summary accounts of 18 projects undertaken by civil society groups around the world.
Full text available here. Published 2007, 76pp, A4
Firstly, a new briefing from the Oxford Research Group (ORG), written by Chris Abbott: An Uncertain Future: Law Enforcement, National Security and Climate Change
I've not read it yet, but the blurb on their website says:
"Climate change will have serious environmental, socio-economic and security consequences for both developed and developing nations alike. This report explores these consequences and demonstrates that they will present new challenges to governments trying to maintain domestic stability. [and that these] ... risks of climate change demand a rethink of current approaches to security and the development of sustainable ways of achieving that security, with an emphasis on preventative rather than reactive strategies."
Some of the alternative approaches are doubtless part of the agendas of the range of campaigning groups putting on an interestin event on 2nd February in Newcastle: " Change in Progress is an exciting [so they say!] initiative by some of Britain's leading campaigning organisations. We are collaborating to offer a unique day of training, designed to help you:
* develop new skills and hone existing ones
* meet like-minded activists from other networks and campaigns
* share experiences, inspiration and enthusiasm for taking action on the issues you care about"
Pooling ideas and resources in this way seems a really good (even exciting) practical step forward in tackling the range of diverse but connected issues that Chris Abbott, Paul Rogers and co have been raising in the publications of the ORG. And how good to have it happening in the north. I hope it goes well.
Monday, 21 January 2008
CND is marking its fiftieth anniversary with two events this spring. The first being a conference and the second a major action at Aldermaston.
Global Summit for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World 16-17th February: Laying the practical, technical and political groundwork for a nuclear weapons-free worldThe bomb stops here: Surround the base at Aldermaston Easter Monday, 24th March, at 12 noon. ...
It's likely there will be a co-ordinated Quaker presence at Aldermaston - watch this space ... or this one
"The Government is facing a judicial review of its deicision to cut short a corruption inquiry into BAE's Saudi arms deals. From 14th-15th February, the High Court will consider if the decision was illegal. The case has been brought by CAAT and The Corner House."
and with some crucial background material in Bribing for Britain:
"Written by author and trade unionist Tim Webb, Bribing for Britain pulls together the major events and players in the SFO-BAE-Saudi Arabia story, provides the necessary context and analysis, and presents it in one accessible, highly readable account."
The key challenge now is to sustain the focus on the four key areas that the book highlights ...
# Climate change
# Competition over resources
# Marginalisation of the majority world
# Global militarisation
... and to be constantly looking for imaginative ways of tackling these and of raising awareness and discussion of them amongst decision-makers /shapers and general public alike. That's up to all of us and there's bound to be something we can each do.
Tuesday, 8 January 2008
The main website for the report seems to have struggled with the demand placed on it over the past 24 hours and as I write, I've still not been able to look at it. But a copy of the Exec summary of the report is also available here.
This has certainly opened up the debate, (see the article and comments on the BBC news site) and the thoroughness of the report will make it difficult for the military establishment to dismiss too readily.
Also, not forgetting the complementary materials at Before You Sign Up - now with lots of useful information for all concerned.