Friday, 14 November 2008


A few resources relating to efforts to promote peace in the midst of the conflict:

"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

A week on from Barack Obama's election...

Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian writes: "The president-elect is not a dove - he is just a much smarter hawk". and goes onto detail some of the ways in which he perceives the Obama's approach to be more nuanced and sharply focused on current peace and war issues, concluding:
"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

Opportunities and responsibilities

There are some interesting personal and official response from Friends Committee on National Legislation.

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


An interesting piece from Ekklesia's Jonathan Bartley today .... The default politics of Remembrance

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

Hope from across the pond?

The election of Barack Obama as President of the United States is a great moment for America and the world – a time of celebration and tears. .... We have restored hope and made possible the restoration of America’s credibility in the world.
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