|Praying for Peace in Warring
Impressions of Asilomar
by Marilyn Jackson
I arrived at the Healing the World Conference, An Interfaith Quest for Peace & Justice in Warring Times, in time for the opening ceremony. The beach at Asilomar was just a few minutes walk away so I couldn’t resist the opportunity to greet it. I crossed the sand dunes/nature sanctuary and put my fingers in the water. That was really all the opening ceremony I needed and I vowed to revisit the beach once each day.
I returned to the clearing in time to participate as people gathered in a circle. Andrew Galvin, a descendant of the Ohlone who have lived in the area for centuries, directed us to the east, south, west and north in prayer. Then we sang "We are Marching to the Light of God", an African folksong, while walking in a circle and to the dining hall.
During part of dinner we were led in a Kabbala Shabbat by Rabbi Jay Miller. There were several other shorter experiences of different religions throughout the weekend. Meditations I experienced were led by a Buddhist, a Muslim, and a "neopagan" (Covenant of the Goddess). More were available for earlier risers.
Friday evening and throughout the weekend we gathered in small groups to engage in inter-religious dialogue on social change. To create interfaith dialogue, at one point those from mainline Protestant backgrounds were sent to one side of the hall and all others to the other side. Then we walked toward the center of the room to find a partner. There were a few more in the mainline Protestant group, as the original organizers of this annual conference, Pacific Network for Mission Education, were comprised of various Protestant groups. The focus of inclusion has changed as the organizers realize that people of many faiths need to work together for peace. The small group sessions were helpful in getting to know people at the conference, and the dialogues continued at meal times and beyond.
Some of us felt we might have accomplished more work on peace and justice issues if we could have had the option of attending more workshops than the two allowed. There were so many excellent presenters. I attended one on interfaith worship by Jack Lundin who led us in singing throughout the weekend from an interfaith song book, One World, Many Voices. He stressed the importance of building understanding and community through nonlinear music and worship. I was challenged to put my own poems to music.
I brought up the subject of being sensitive when dipping into other people’s religions. I heard Swedish Lutheran theologian Krister Stendahl, at a similar conference earlier this year, whose advice was to cultivate "holy envy" and learn to see what is beautiful in the "other" while remembering that it’s not yours to take like cut flowers.
The other workshop I attended was by James Treat who shared his research on the Indian Ecumenical Conference. Begun in 1969, it was an experiment in grassroots organizing among native spiritual leaders. They hoped it would be a way for Native Americans to transcend many of the antagonisms between tribal and Christian traditions and to cultivate religious self-determination among native people. Mr. Treat has both Native American and European ancestry and his father was a Christian Missionary. He has published the book, Around the Sacred Fire, Native Religious Activism in the Red Power Era.
That evening, Masanko Banda, from Malawi, led us in acting out an African story about people from warring tribes who learned to get along. We were treated then by the Taneen, a Sufi Music Ensemble who chanted and played music that is influenced by Persian and Western influences, a "celebration of the heart’s longing to feel connection to the source of peace with us all-the Divine." At the end of the evening, they had everyone holding hands in a circle moving around the room, chanting "We are love, we are love, we are love, we are love."
I think there is great potential for this theme to continue in future
years. I felt privileged to be able to dialogue with people over peace
and justice issues in a pleasant setting. I hear there is talk of making
it more accessible by finding a lower cost place next time, though I hope
there will be a consciousness of the spirit present in nature which one
can’t ignore at Asilomar. On the other hand, we need to remember the concerns
for environmental justice in the inner cities. Anywhere the sun comes up
and goes down we must pray for peace, justice and the whole earth.
|The Attack on Civil Liberties
By Harry Scott
Harry Scott is the president of Demos Democratic Club in Hayward. He is active with the San Francisco chapter of The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and on the steering committee of East Bay Coalition to Support Self Rule for Iraqis (EB-COSSI).October 26, 2003 marked the second anniversary of enactment of the USA Patriot Act, which became the law of the land when President Bush signed the bill passed by the Congress only two days before. This legislation was quickly passed as a response to the horrible tragedy that occurred on September 11, 2001. Many of the members of Congress had not even read the 350 page bill. The Justice Department led by John Ashcroft had compiled a wish list of sections that were supposed to help the nation fight "terrorism". The patriotic sounding name of the law is actually an acronym for the real title "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism".
Some of the provisions were useful. However, too many sections impinge on Civil Liberties as guaranteed in the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th Amendments of the Constitution found in the Bill of Rights. Furthermore, this law set the stage for the Justice Department and the Bureau of Prisons to create executive orders that have added to the litany of abuses of our freedoms. These laws and regulations affect all U.S. residents. But they are especially being used against Arab, Muslim and South Asian immigrants. In addition, in 2003, immigration authorities initiated a special registration program targeting the above ethnic groups causing many hardships for minor visa violations, and which constitutes racial profiling. Re-registration will be required annually beginning in November of this year.
USA Patriot and Federal Executive orders that need to be rescinded are:
2) Searches of medical records and library and bookstore records without notification of patrons. Librarians and store owners can not reveal search was conducted. The library and bookstore section will "sunset" in 2005 but could be reinstated.
3) Authorizes FBI to monitor religious and political groups reinstating COINTELPRO regulations.
4) Violates Attorney-Client Confidentiality in Prisons.
5) Permits FBI to make secret searches of homes without probable cause of criminal evidence, may search with no one present, and may delay notification indefinitely. ("sneak and peek" searches)
6) Increases authority for secret wiretaps.
7) Increases powers of Justice department to detain persons indefinitely without judicial review thus depriving persons of liberty without due process of law, and uses reduced standards of probable cause of criminal behavior.
Civil rights organizations such as the ACLU, the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the National Lawyers Guild and the American Library Association have waged campaigns against the Patriot Act and executive orders.
Local Peace and Justice Organizations have been active since the beginning of 2002 to educate the public and call for repeal of the legislation and executive orders. On February 20, 2002 a nationwide Day of Solidarity Campaign was launched to bring public awareness to the effects of the Patriot Act and Federal programs on Arab, Muslim, and South Asian Immigrants. Blue triangles were used to symbolize the plight of incarcerated persons. Some 1500 persons were imprisoned for various periods of time away from family resulting in many deportations.
The Blue Triangle Network (www.bluetriangle.org )was formed later in 2002 as an outgrowth from the Day of Solidarity Actions
In 2002, the South Alameda County Peace and Justice Coalition (www.justicetoolbox.org) initiated a plan to go to local city and county jurisdictions to pass resolutions calling for the repeal of the Patriot Act. Since that time more grassroots groups nationwide such as the Bill of Rights Defense Committee of Northampton, Massachusetts began pushing for such resolutions.
The Resolutions Movement has grown so that three state legislatures and 202 local city and county bodies in a total of 34 states covering 26.1 million people have passed anti-Patriot Act Resolutions and ordinances.
In Alameda County, anti-Patriot Act resolutions of varying strength have been passed by Alameda County Board of Supervisors, city councils of Berkeley, Oakland, Union City, Livermore and Pleasanton. The latter two city resolutions were the result of the efforts of the Save Our Rights Coalition (SAVOR) of Dublin-Pleasanton area. Contra Costa County also passed a resolution.
Congressional Actions- In 2003, lobbying by activist groups finally got response from some U.S. Congressional leaders to introduce legislation that would repeal unconstitutional provisions of the Patriot Act. To date only one bill reached the House Floor, the Otters Bill, which outlaws "sneak and peak searches" and was passed by the House, but has not been acted on by the Senate. The Sanders Bill, which would exclude libraries and bookstores from secret searches still is in Committee. Many cities and counties passed resolution supporting this bill. Two recent bills, HR 3171, "The Benjamin Franklin True Patriot Act" introduced by Congressman Dennis Kucinich on September 24, 2003 now with 25 co-sponsors, is the most comprehensive, but it is buried in committee along with the latest bill, HR 3352, the "Security and Freedom Ensured Act (SAFE)", introduced October 21 by Congressman Otter.
The Bush Administration Efforts and the future- John Ashcroft continues his relentless push for more legislation. Patriot Act II adding more stringent measures may be introduced soon. The Attorney General recently completed a tour to bolster up local law enforcement to cooperate with federal authorities.
We must continue work to repeal the unconstitutional provisions of the
Patriot Act and urge Congress not to pass any new legislation such as Patriot
|Israel and Palestine:
the Truth Obscured by Major Media Reports
by Esther Ho
Though I confess to spending little time watching television and reading major US newspapers, it is abundantly clear to me that the US public is receiving a very skewed picture of what is occurring in Israel/Palestine. For that reason I have selected a few excerpts of reports mostly from friends of mine who have first-hand knowledge of what is really happening.
Mahsa Peace Camp and Jayyous"The Mahsa Peace Camp is the site of the intersection of what Israel terms the ‘Security Fence or the Separation Wall.’ It is known to Palestinians and international activists as the ‘Apartheid Wall’ mostly because it literally is separating the Palestinian cities and villages from other cities and from Israel, going over 6 kilometers into the Green Line (over the 1967 borders, the disputed areas). We arrived at a place where the wall was being graded at the edge of the Palestinian village of Mahsa. One house owned by Nasir Hani-Amer, and inhabited by his family and another family, had been separated from the rest of the village by the creation of the wall and Israeli contractors were busily building the fence that would cut the two families that resided in the house off from their friends, relatives, and livelihoods in the village. Next to the house was an illegal Israeli settlement already armed with a high barbed wire fence. Last week 47 international activists with the International Solidarity Movement and the International Women’s Peace Service and 25 Israeli activists were arrested here in an attempt to stop this family’s isolation from their village by the progression of the wall. The house will be separated and forced in between the settlement and the wall, cutting it off from the entire community.
"Mahsa is well inside the West Bank and does not border the state of Israel, yet construction of the wall cuts into Palestinian Territory and through the village. We were met by several international volunteers and Raziq Abu Nasser of the Palestinian Environmental NGO Network (PENGON). While we sat on mattresses under the tent of the Mahsa Peace Camp, the families brought us hot mint tea and Abu Nasser gave a presentation. He explained that there are 7 components of the wall: 1) mounds of dirt and tangled coils of razor-wire cut off any pre-existing roads or paths around a 150 meter ‘buffer zone’ on either side of the wall; 2) A canal runs along the side of the wall; 3) a smaller electrified fence with razor wire; 4) A road with sound and motion sensors; 5) An open area; 6) The 8 meter wall or concrete-based electrified fence with razor wire; 7) A paved road for Israeli army patrols; in the middle of the fence series is a paved road. Overall, the entire project cuts a swath nearly 300 meters thick through Palestinian land.
"This massive expropriation of land meant to control Palestinian movement is largely built east of the Green Line or inside Palestinian territory, and often rips huge segments of additional Palestinian land (other than that taken to build the Fence/Wall itself) to surround illegal Israeli settlements. Oftentimes this Security Fence/Wall separates Palestinian families from their fields and/or olive groves, forcing them to travel as much as six hours (and travel through multiple checkpoints with no guarantee of access) to work their land. This week Israel began construction in the Jordan valley –– on the Eastern side of the West Bank! Israel’s plan for the wall separates the West Bank into 2 ‘bantustans,’ 2 clumps of territory that have no territorial contiguity, completely surrounded by the 8 foot wall. The wall will leave 85% of the West Bank inside its confines but 80% of Palestinian water resources will be outside the wall and controlled by Israel. In Mahsa, 95% of the village’s agricultural land will be cut off by the wall. Remember that the economic livelihood of the Palestinians often depends on agriculture, leaving a desperate situation for many families. And water –– along with settlements and final borders, water rights were to be negotiated in final status talks.
"In the middle of Abu Nasser’s presentation several private security guards (employees of the contractors manufacturing the wall) with automatic rifles approached us and told all of those present that this was a closed military zone and that we needed a special permit in order to be there (‘there’, which was supposedly a ‘military zone’ was actually in the yard, under a tent, next to the Palestinian home about to be isolated from its village). Abu Nasser continued his presentation telling us that part of the plan was to have ‘industrial areas’ along the wall which would provide Palestinians with jobs and Israeli industries with incredibly cheap labor. ‘Politically and socially this will change us into slaves,’ he said. The security guard said that the army will be bringing a statement about the military zone in 15 minutes. We waited for a while before we left. It was only two days later that this notice actually came and that the Mahsa tent was destroyed and the family threatened with home demolition. The family still continues to live there and internationals are still showing their solidarity.
"We continued our trip to Jayyous to meet up with members of PENGON, Stop the Wall Campaign and the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) for lunch. After a short reunion with old friends and a tasty falafel lunch at the home of Mahmoud we walked through the village to the Municipality building erected by the UN Development Program. From the roof of the municipality we surveyed the snaking progress of the wall. Due to a bizarre mix of topography, strategic location, and intimidation the wall wound across hilltops and swooped into valleys, leaving an obvious scar on the ancient landscape and pressing on Jayyous from 2 sides. Mahmoud explained that 67% of the village’s lands had been cut-off by the wall. Many olive trees had been demolished and a local Bedouin clan (a group of nomadic herders) was split in half and their access to Jayyous became nearly impossible. To make matters worse, Israeli soldiers often terrorized the village with midnight raids. For no apparent reason, soldiers would shoot water tanks sitting on top of homes, lights, and cars in the village. It is worth mentioning that there have been no violent acts perpetrated by the residents of Jayyous. The village has peacefully suffered the persecution preparing only peaceful demonstrations and prayer vigils where the wall was being constructed. Downstairs we met with Mr. Abdul Lateef of the Palestinian Hydrology Group (a member of PENGON). Abdul Lateef gave us some factual background to the sight we just witnessed. He explained that the wall impacted 55 communities and 2 major cities directly, and promised to reach many more as construction continues in the West Bank. As the wall cuts off fields from villages it effectively turns agricultural communities into dependent communities. For instance, of the 3,200 people living in Jayyous 180 families are already on humanitarian aid. Because of the wall, another 300 families have been cut-off from their land and may soon also depend on hand-outs. The wall also annexes 60 wells to Israeli control. Water services from Israel cost 200 shekels a month and most families in Jayyous make only 1,000 shekels per month. The combined effect has been a soaring rate of poverty in the village –– reaching 90% poverty in one month. Abdul Lateef could only comment that the situation was like ‘an earthquake of poverty.’ Later we walked to the wall to press our noses to the razor wire and see the horror up close. We highly encourage people to visit the following websites to find additional information on this giant issue: Stop the Wall Campaign at: www.stopthewall.org; PENGON (The Palestinian Environmental NGO Network) at: www.pengon.org; and, The International Solidarity Movement: www.palsolidarity.org.
"We continued on our way, leaving the West Bank and stopping only one more time to see the wall where it surrounds the city of Qalqilya. The wall encircles the city by 360 degrees leaving only a high security checkpoint for use by Palestinians. We were told that the checkpoint is almost always closed and it is nearly impossible for anyone to get into Qalqilya or for the city’s residents to get out. This week, however, ISM activists snuck into the town and held a demonstration against the wall, hanging banners and spraying graffiti. Despite their efforts, the residents of the city remain under siege by the Israeli military (for more information see the websites above). "
Summary of the Wall’s Consequences
The UN International Conference of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People, held September 4-5, 2003, about half of whose speakers were Jewish members of peace movements, had general consensus on the following information:
The wall, which is 8 meters high, often is as wide as an 8-lane highway, and is complete with guard towers and razor wire, has been responsible for the destruction of 920 Palestinian buildings, has displaced 11,500 people, has uprooted 102,339 trees of which 5,000 were citrus, has isolated villages from their groundwater, has made people homeless, has destroyed markets, and has demoralized a people. There was agreement that the Wall and the settlements are a most serious obstacle to peace. There was also general condemnation of the suicide bombings as a response.
Delegation Visits Hebron
The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) Interfaith Delegation also visited the city of Hebron on the West Bank and met with members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). They summarized life for the average Palestinian in Hebron as follows:
"Curfew defines life here, as our delegation witnessed firsthand, being unable to reach the Old City or area H2, which has been sealed off by the Israeli military. Since October 2000, H2 has been under curfew for a total number of days equivalent to two years. Whether Palestinians will be able to leave their homes to go to work, school, visit their families or run errands depends entirely on the orders of the Israeli military."
September 9, from CPT report by Chris Brown
"Today the army surrounded an 8-story apartment complex in Hebron. It was rumored that Hamas militants were holed up inside. Throughout the day two tanks along with a US made Black Hawk helicopter, shelled the structure. CPTer Kathy Kamphoefner and Klaus Engle from The Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine/Israel (EAPPI) went up to investigate earlier in the day. They were no more than 100 meters away while the shelling was going on. They came back after two hours and told us what was going on. I thought that would be the end of it.
"I was wrong. After dinner I heard a loud explosion and went up to the roof. I saw a huge cloud of white smoke billowing from over a hill. Jerry Levin, Diane Janzen, Benno Barg, and I went out to see where the explosion came from. We caught public transportation up to the Wadi Ana’ neighborhood of Al Khalil. Soldiers and border police were everywhere. As we approached the road to where the building was being shelled, ....a tremendous explosion went off. It was so close that I could feel the concussion push my body forward. Before I could recover, another one followed, then another, and another. They kept coming one at a time. Each one seemed stronger than the last. We stayed there and watched as at least ten shells from the tanks pounded away at that building. Also throughout the time of the shelling, there was a crossfire gun battle going on between the army and the men who were hiding in the building.
"....When it was all over, three men, who were believed to be Hamas members, were dead. A 10-year old boy who resided next door also died. In addition, 28 families lost their homes because of the "operation" carried out by the military."
Hebron –– from September 23 CPT report by Maia Williams
"Because of the September 9 demolition, twelve Red Cross tents now shelter some of the families made homeless by that demolition. In the attack an 11-year-old boy was killed, a 13-year-old girl was injured by shrapnel, and a young father was wounded by bullets to the neck and head. A 50-year-old Palestinian woman who lost her home and now lives in a Red Cross tent with her sick husband and children told us: ‘We spent all of our savings on these homes. We don’t have our money, our gold.’ Then pointing to the black dress she was wearing, ‘This is all I have.’ She added that her children were so traumatized by the attack that they are afraid to go to school."
September 14, Beqa’a Valley, from CPT report by Chris Brown
"After visiting the remains of a home and animal pen which had just been razed by the military we went to another home a mile down the road. The Israeli army was demolishing two stores and a water cistern. We encountered about 30 border police and soldiers, two bangers, a d-9 bulldozer, and about 35 Palestinian on-lookers.
"From this home we went to another a mile down the road. The army was demolishing two stores and a water cistern. We hurried as best we could to where it was happening. When we got there, we encountered about 30 border police and soldiers, the same two bangers, a d-9 bulldozer and about 35 Palestinians looking on. We stood there in the hot sun and watched as another part of Palestinian livelihood was killed off. I saw soldiers standing around laughing, smiling at what was going on. By the time we got back home, we found out that 6 single dwellings, l0 unit houses, 4 animal pens, and 5 cisterns were demolished there that day."
Did you see it on TV?
Did you get similar reports to those contained in this article from the major media? I think not. Consider this note from a friend of mine who has spent the past three years in Armenia as a high-level banking consultant and has traveled extensively:
"The world is still a mess. I know I said that a few months ago, but now it is even worse. The Middle East, Afghanistan, Iraq, Africa, all have deteriorated significantly since I last wrote. I have colleagues with whom I have talked serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, and my company has a project on the West Bank for which my project manager here also holds the same position there. So I have a lot of inside knowledge, at least from the perspective of a contractor firm operating in those places under US government contracts. Without going into details I will generalize by saying that the US is in for a long and costly future. The party line of the administration does not coincide with reality. I would only caution you to take what you hear and see in the US news that comes from the administration with the realization that it comes with a spin....The truth has been lost in plausible deniability, photo ops, and incredible spin machines. The latter is now an art in the Office of the Presidency, and that is a sad commentary on the .... democracy that once prided itself on transparency and the people’s right to know.
"One other observation –– the regard for the US around the world is the lowest in my lifetime. A recent scientific poll taken across all of Europe with an error margin of plus or minus 3 points showed that nearly 60% of Europeans felt the greatest threat to world peace was the United States. A sobering finding."
If you still feel confusion about what is going on in Israel/Palestine (and who doesn’t?), I urge you for starters to consult the websites recommended by Ilise and Emily as well as the Christian Peacemaker Teams website at http://www.cpt.org.
Should you arrive at the conclusion that the Israel
government is carrying out policies that are contrary to international
law and a danger not only to Palestinians but also to all Jewish people,
I urge you at a minimum to make your voice heard to the leaders of our
government. After all, it is our tax dollars which are making possible
the settlements, the wall, the home demolitions — the occupation as a whole.
|Solidarity With the Poor in
By Kevin Pina
I have been living and working in Haiti the past three years. Before doing so, I had some knowledge of the country from having produced a documentary film some years back entitled "Haiti: Harvest of Hope." That experience helped me to fall in love with the courage and strength of the Haitian people who, despite their extreme material poverty, are undeniably spiritually and artistically rich. Although a good number of Haitians may be illiterate in the sense that they are unable to read and write, they are very literate in terms of their ability to survive spiritually intact under the most difficult of circumstances.
When I went to live in Haiti I made a conscious decision that I wanted to understand the poor, particularly the small peasants who toil in the fields of the countryside to eke out a living day in and day out. That decision was borne of the friendship I had developed with a Catholic priest and former head of CARITAS, Father Jan-Marie Vincent, who was brutally murdered by henchmen of the Cedras dictatorship in August 1994. Father Vincent always had a deep commitment to Haiti’s poor and taught me much in the time I spent with him before his assassination. The lessons and experiences he shared with me opened my eyes to my own prejudices and preconceptions about Haiti’s poor majority and allowed me for the first time to begin to see reality from their perspective. I shall always be indebted to Father Vincent for this and his personal example of accompaniment, compassion and sacrifice for the poor. He truly believed that to walk in the footsteps of Jesus meant to walk with the poor in their struggle for a better life and social justice.
Today it is just as dangerous to work honestly with the poor in Haiti. There are powerful forces at work that do not want the outside world to hear the truth just as they did not want the truth told during Father Vincent’s day. They are adept in the use of the media and have shown that when character assassination does not fulfill their objectives they have no hesitation to rely upon the time-honored tactics of violence and murder. I can give numerous examples that I have personally experienced to back up this point. What you must know is that Haiti’s poor majority is not stupid, they may not be book learned but they remain intelligent and aware of who truly represents their interests and has made the sacrifices to prove it. If only half of what you hear about Haiti in the press were true the government of President Aristide would have fallen long ago. The poor may be lacking materially but they are not lacking in good common sense.
I would be lying if I told you it has not been difficult to watch reality turned on its head in what I read about Haiti these days. I would be lying if I told you it has not been difficult to watch this campaign by powerful interests in Haiti, in bed with their friends in Washington, and their attempts to transform a beautiful movement of the poor into a dark and ugly creature now shunned by even the so-called progressive intellectuals. But the real truth is that the whole story is not getting out to the world. It is being constantly filtered through the lenses of those who control the media and those who have but one common purpose and theme, that the movement of the poor in Haiti should be broken along with their President. A president who had the audacity to abolish his own military and include the poor as major players in Haitian political life for the first time in history. It is no accident that the Washington-backed opposition has called for a return of the Haitian military. As one Haitian recently told me, "In their mad rush for power they have become so hateful they would have the same military that has been responsible for so much death and suffering in Haiti, return to power as long as it serves the purpose of destroying President Aristide’s legacy. And what of the poor who suffered so much at the hands of the military? Can you not understand how frightened they must be that the same military who raped their mothers, sisters and daughters is being asked to return to power by the opposition in Haiti? Can we not understand how the brutal murder of 7000 of their own people at the hands of the same military, after the coup against Aristide in 1991, frightens them to their core making them increasingly angry and defiant? Is this really so difficult to understand as events unfold in Haiti today?"
So how do we tell the truth about what is going on in Haiti? I would
like to tell you a story. One day I was sitting with a Haitian friend watching
a soccer game in one of the poorer neighborhoods of Port au Prince. Since
it was a game between street kids no one wore any uniforms and I couldn’t
tell who was on which team. I turned to my friend and asked him how could
he tell whom to root for since I couldn’t tell one team from another. His
response has provided me with a lesson that has served me to this day.
He responded: "It’s quite simple and not unlike Haitian politics or world
politics for that matter, the only way you know who is on your team is
by which direction they are kicking the ball!" I ask you, on behalf of
the poor men, women and children I know and love in Haiti, watch which
way people are kicking the ball when they talk or write about Haiti. If
they do not speak against the return of the military, if they do not include
the voices of the poor in what they say and write, if they do not address
the legitimate hopes and fears of the poor, the chances are they are not,
whether intentionally or unwittingly, on the same team as the poor majority
of Haiti’s people.
|The U.S. War Against Haiti
Hidden From the Headlines
EPI would like to recommend this excellent 12-page booklet produced locally by the Haiti Action Committee (including EPI Board member Pierre Labossiere).
Among the topics covered are:
• The current U.S. actions against Haiti of economic embargo and financing internal opposition groups, whose disruptive activities the U.S. helps to organize.
• The Contra war against Haiti.
• The good record of human rights in Haiti under the Lavalas government.
• What really happened in Haiti's elections.
• Haiti's progressive social and economic agenda.
• Calls for restitution –– in 1825 France required Haiti to pay "compensation" in exchange for its freedom. The world supported this demand by refusing to trade with Haiti until it agreed to pay ransom. This would come today to US$21.7 billion.
Haiti Action Committee
by Carolyn S. Scarr
During the years EPI worked to end the sanctions on Iraq, it seemed that one goal of the sanctions was to turn Iraq into a Third World Country. Plans for post-invasion Iraq support that hypothesis. Under the "Coalition Provisional Authority" (CPA) plans are underway to turn Iraq’s economy over to foreign interests and their local collaborators. Foreign military personnel, primarily from the U.S., are in place throughout the country. If and when Iraqi police and other foreign troops replace them, U.S. troops will be relocated to permanent bases in the hinterlands, from which they can rapidly move back into the cities. These bases will also serve to dominate the resource-rich Gulf and Caspian Sea regions.
The long road to occupation
After World War I and the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, Iraq was placed under British control by the League of Nations. In 1932 Iraq became formally independent but British influence continued until the nationalist revolution of 1958. In 1963 the CIA-supported Ba’ath Party, including Saddam Hussein, staged a coup.
Saddam Hussein consolidated his power and rose to the presidency. In the decades between the ouster of the monarchy and the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq turned its resources in considerable part to support systems of education, health care and other civilian infrastructure which in many ways rivaled those of Europe. Education was universal and free through the university level. The literacy rate exceeded 90%. Health care was free and available to the vast majority. Clean water was provided to almost 100% of the population, according to a U.S. Defense Information Agency report as well as UN evaluations.
The down side was very down. The political system was repressive. Saddam Hussein ruled with an iron hand and wiped out his opponents ruthlessly. The military was heavily supported. The Iran/Iraq war cost both countries heavily in lives and in wealth.
The U.S.-led attack on Iraq in 1991, after Iraq invaded Kuwait, inflicted heavy damage on the civilian infrastructure. Thereafter thirteen years of sanctions prevented its restoration. UN agencies estimate that 1.5 million Iraqis, half of them young children, died as the result of sanctions. Hans Von Sponeck, the second UN Oil For Food director to resign in protest, was also very concerned that the level of available education was declining sharply.
Statements by U.S. administration leaders beginning in mid-1991 made it clear that U.S. policy was to use the UN sanctions to promote a palace coup. Several such attempts failed. The 911 attacks in 2001, which were not planned or executed by Iraq, provided the opportunity to spread lies used to justify the invasion of Iraq. Iraq’s agreement to the return of UN inspections did not slow the invasion, but probably gave additional intelligence support to the attacking U.S. forces. Certainly the rapid takeover of Iraq by foreign forces was facilitated by a decade of forced disarmament and several years of U.S./British bombing of Iraq’s anti-aircraft sites (sites which were permitted under UN Resolutions).
The Current Situation
Occupation and "Rebuilding"
An American soldier threw a grenade through the window of her apartment. Her death, early last Monday, was slow and agonising. Her legs had been shredded, her hands burnt and punctured by splinters of metal, suggesting that the bright high-school student had covered her face to shield it from the explosion. She had been walking to the window to try to calm an escalating situation; to use her smattering of English to plead with the soldiers who were spraying her apartment building with bullets. Sunday September 7, 2003 The Observer [London]
U.S. soldiers driving bulldozers, with jazz blaring from loudspeakers, have uprooted ancient groves of date palms as well as orange and lemon trees in central Iraq as part of a new policy of collective punishment of farmers who do not give information about guerrillas attacking U.S. troops. Patrick Cockburn in Dhuluaya, Iraq, The Independent (UK), Oct. 12, 2003
"In an abrupt reversal, the United States and Britain have indefinitely put off their plan to allow Iraqi opposition forces to form a national assembly and an interim government by the end of the month....Instead, top American and British diplomats leading reconstruction efforts here told exile leaders in a meeting tonight that allied officials would remain in charge of Iraq for an indefinite period....One Iraqi who attended the meeting said Iraqi opposition leaders expressed strong disappointment over the reversal." Patrick E. Tyler, NY Times, May 17, 2003
Health care and education, particularly higher education, are also likely to be privatized if the Coalition Provisional Authority gets its way. This will not sit well with Iraqis, who consider education to be a basic human right. When the Oil for Food contracts expire in mid-November, Kimadia, Iraq’s formerly state-run pharmaceutical industry is likely to be turned over to a private bidder. This will result in 15 brands of cough syrup being on the shelves, and a considerable rise in prices for patients who hitherto paid the equivalent of US$1 for prescriptions. This may spell disaster for patients dependent on various drugs, the head of the Doctors Without Borders NGO mission in Iraq stated in September.
Who’s in charge here? It can be no coincidence that the head of a major U.S. pharmaceutical company has been chosen to head Iraq’s health care program. Dan Amstutz, a former executive of Cargill has been selected to head up the reconstruction of Iraq’s agriculture. The commercial interests of U.S grain companies will be well represented. The irrigation system was hard-hit by the sanctions which forbade import of pipes, pumps and water treatment materials. We shall see how they fare. The World Bank Assessment calls for "well-placed economic liberalization and open markets" and considers it a good sign that "the current minister has taken the first steps by pricing fertilizer for the winter crops of wheat and barley at higher values than last year … recommending that crop prices be closer to the border prices, signaling that the market will, over time, be the main driver in agriculture." (p. 36)
The drive toward "free" trade is also seen in the decision to eliminate tariffs on imports, which will leave local manufacturers and growers vulnerable to lower-priced imports from countries which are not having to rebuild themselves from the ground up. Americans may remember that after the American Revolution, our own newly-independent colonies imposed tariffs to protect emerging industries from being undercut by cheaper imports.
Recent reports reveal that major Republican donors predominate in "rebuilding" contracts made by the CPA. Furthermore, a major contributor has also founded a company whose purpose is to help U.S. businesses find good investment opportunities as Iraq’s businesses go on the auction block.
The economic power the UN Security Council gave to the U.S. occupation to manage Iraq’s resources gives the U.S. considerable power to influence decisions in the international community. For example, France undoubtedly hopes to see honored the oil contracts negotiated with the Hussein government. This fact may have been a factor in France’s actions on the UN Security Council where many hoped for a French veto. Similarly, Russia is probably hoping to see Iraq’s massive debt to them paid off. U.S. control over Iraqi oil constitutes major clout, over and above the economic power the U.S. has wielded for years.
The Wider War
As the U.S. presses for wider military international participation in the occupation, the local resistance grows.
What is to be done?
In his recent Berkeley appearance Robert Fisk said that the solution to this problem must be to turn the governance of Iraq temporarily over to the United Nations who will assist the people of Iraq in forming their own government.
We note that the call for UN involvement must include a drive to achieve the independence of the UN from US domination. The momentary encouragement felt when the UN refused to authorize the US invasion of Iraq has been largely dissipated by subsequent resolutions authorizing the US-run "Coalition" Provisional Authority to rule Iraq and sell Iraq’s oil, notwithstanding the fact that the invasion was a blatant violation of the UN Charter. The attack on UN headquarters undoubtedly grew out of Iraqis’ anger over the role of the UN in establishing and maintaining the sanctions which killed over a million Iraqi people and in disarming Iraq, leaving it completely open to an invasion which the UN has not condemned.
Rather than legitimizing the appropriation of Iraq’s resources and the domination of Iraq’s people, the United Nations must prevent all attempts of the World Bank and others to sell Iraq’s "State Owned Enterprises". These are the property of the Iraqi people and must continue to be publicly owned until such point as a truly democratic government decides what the form of the Iraqi economy will be.
Ecumenical Peace Institute is one of the members of the East Bay Coalition to Support Self Rule for Iraqis. The mission statement of EB-COSSI, included in this issue, lays out a viable plan to work for. Please make use of it in contacting members of congress.
Ecumenical Peace Institute was founded during
the Vietnam War to help the religious community learn more about what was
happening in that conflict and to find ways to end that war. EPI is ready
to come to any congregation or other community group to speak, share educational
materials and lead discussions about how to work to end the disaster of
what the U.S. is doing to Iraq. We have spoken in Riverside, in Martinez,
in Walnut Creek. . . . Please call us.
We, the East Bay Coalition to Support Self-Rule for Iraqis (EBCOSSI), are individuals and organizations dedicated to active non-violence to assist the people of Iraq in achieving self-rule.
To accomplish this end, we will work through lobbying, education and other means to
2. Turn the interim administration of Iraq over to the United Nations, who will be charged with the responsibility of promptly facilitating the establishment of a government in Iraq of self-rule and self-determination, including the supervision of government elections;
3. Promote adherence to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Iraq;
4. Restore the infrastructure of Iraq damaged during the Gulf Wars and during the time of the debilitating sanctions, giving priority to humanitarian needs such as clean drinking water, sewage treatment, medical care, electrical power, and educational and other ministerial offices;
5. Reconstruction efforts should be organized and implemented by the Iraqi people and Iraqi companies; and, in accordance with international law, payment of reconstruction efforts is by the occupying power – the United States – to the Iraqis and Iraqi companies;
6. Restore a clean environment to the Iraqi people by the rapid and safe removal of unexploded arsenal, depleted uranium, cluster bombs, and other weapons of mass destruction left by the US and others;
7. Restore to the people of Iraq their resources, including cultural, natural, and domestic property and resources, and oppose all efforts to privatize them or to illegally use them to pay for reconstruction or humanitarian activities or to pay for reparations or compensation for damage due to the Gulf Wars or to the US-driven sanctions;
8. Support efforts of the people of Iraq to obtain from the US reparations and compensation for war damage, including damages related to the Gulf Wars and to the US-driven sanctions imposed on Iraq since then;
9. Release the people of Iraq from all international debts incurred by their previous government;
10.Support the use of the International Criminal Court for investigating and prosecuting war crimes perpetrated in Iraq by Iraqis and any others;
11.Urge the world community, through the UN, to condemn the US-led invasion of Iraq;
12.Oppose a US foreign policy of threats, especially threats of military actions, including but not limited to a ‘pre-emptive strike’ or the use of nuclear arms of any kind, as not in keeping with UN and other international efforts toward a global and enduring peace.
P.O. Box 6574 • Albany, CA 94706
American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee •
American Friends Service Committee • East Bay Peace Action • Ecumenical
Peace Institute/CALC • Women for Peace • SF Area Pax Christi
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|Reflections on the "Healing
the World..." conference
by Esther Ho
The "Healing the World: an Interfaith Quest for Peace and Justice in Warring Times" conference held July 25-27 at Asilomar was in my estimation a ground-breaking event. I speak from the vantage point of having participated heavily in the planning committee, particularly in the group arranging for the myriad of workshops, and of having access to the evaluations completed by conferees and workshop leaders.
Many attendees expressed great appreciation for the mood of acceptance prevailing at the conference which provided an opportunity to interact with people from eight or nine different faiths and an opportunity to participate in or observe a worship event from each of these groups. Some who attended spoke of "having their boundaries stretched" and of having their faith nourished by the faith of others. There was very strong approval of the worship and celebration leadership of Masankho Banda and of the Taneen musical group (http://www.taneen.org).
A few people were very appreciative of the deep analysis of the keynote presentation by Richard Madsen, co-author of "Habits of the Heart" and co-editor of "The One and Many," a book about dialogue across different world views in our pluralistic society. Many others found his presentation too scholarly to follow adequately. I personally would have wished for a presentation of his ideas which could be accessed by the majority of the attendees, followed by an opportunity for true dialogue with persons who were critical of his analysis. (You can find the text of his talk at http://www.pnme.info.)
Many stated appreciation for the concluding keynote address by long-time Jewish interfaith leader Rita Semel, which summed up many of the multitudinous ideas expressed at the conference. (Rita can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
I was thrilled by the outstanding leadership which we were able to secure for the workshops. However, I was disappointed that because of the large number of workshops and the possibility for each person to attend only two, the expertise of most of these leaders was "squandered" on a small number of people. I volunteered to write this article in the hope that I could extend their influence a bit by telling in a nutshell some of their findings and suggesting resources or contact information for those who would like to dip further into their wisdom.
The workshops fell roughly into three categories: those majoring on meditation and spirituality, those exploring ways of organizing interfaith groups, and those focusing on action.
Category one –– Meditation and Spirituality:
Building Internal Peace, led by Sr. Mary Friedland of the Brahma Kumaris Meditation Center. Members of this workshop shared their personal experiences with meditation and experienced a meditation period during the workshop. Many expressed appreciation for this concrete first step toward developing a personal meditation practice. For further information contact the Meditation Center at BKSFO@aol.com.
Making Peace Through Music and Worship, led by Rev. Dr. Jack Lundin, of United Religions Initiative (see report in Marilyn’s article.) More information at URI website, http://www.uri.org/.
The Healing Art of Poetry, led by Zaheda Baruti and Marilyn Kolakowshi, of the International Association of Sufism. This workshop presented ways to use poem-making as a shared activity. It was designed to help participants acquire skills for deepening the healing process in their own lives. Those who attended were highly enthusiatic about the experience. (email@example.com)
Dancing into Peace with African Music, led by Masankho Banda. This was one workshop leader whom all of the persons at the conference were able to experience — and with great delight! Learn more from his websites at http://www.ucandanc.org, and http://www.tellingtales.com/*/Masankho_Banda-Sankho.htm.
Expressing our Deepest Caring with a Balanced Heart, led by James and Jane Barez of Spirit Rock Meditation Center. This workshop focused on how basic Buddhist principles of intention, compassion and equanimity are developed and how they can be practically applied in our work of healing the world. http://www.spiritrock.org/.
Mother Earth Spirituality, led by Andrew Galvan, Ohlone Indian Tribe. An overview of local Ohlone Indian history was included. The conference as a whole was able to experience Andrew’s leadership in the opening ceremony. (The Ohlone Indian Tribe, 510-656-0787, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Category two - Organizing Interfaith Groups:
Improbable Pairs and Unlikely Coalitions, led by Rabbi Jay Miller of Peninsula Clergy Network. Participants sensed a depth of inter-religious work and experience by this leader including in high conflict arenas. We were left with a new understanding of the importance of telling our stories to one another and actually listening to where the other person is coming from. (http://www.pcrcweb.org/civicengagement/.)
An Inter-religious Encounter: Doing the Inner Work Together, led by Rev. Susan Strouse, doctoral candidate at Pacific School of Religion. The theme of this workshop was played out in real life as one of the Christian participants boldly told a pagan participant that he liked him as a person but believed that he was without salvation. The shock of this statement caused others to consider similar ideas hidden more deeply in their own thinking. The importance of sustained "inner work" done in community with other persons of faith was emphasized. (email@example.com.)
Local-Global Connections: Nuts and Bolts of Interfaith Partnering, led by Paul Chaffee, of Interfaith Center at the Presidio. This leader brought a long and extensive history of interfaith work to the workshop. His ideas were also available to other conferees by way of his strong leadership throughout the conference. Website at http://www.interfaith-presidio.org/.
An Interfaith Invitation - Help Shape a Proposed Ecumenical Council, led by Gustav A. Nystom and Faye Butler, of Bay Area Pax Christi. In response to the possibility of the Catholic Church convening an ecumenical council which would focus on Christian unity and interfaith relations, this workshop set out to imagine ways in which the Church might move. Although there was not as much non-Catholic participation as had been hoped for, numerous persons were happy to be able to add their concerns and dreams to this discussion. Contact Nystrom at GANystrom@sigmaxi.org. Website for the Bay Area Pax Christi is at http://bapaxchristi.freeservers.com/.
Pathways to Peace, led by Helen Spector, Parliament of the World’s Religions. Included were background information on the Parliament movement, an introduction to the Parliament of World Religions to be held in Barcaelona, Spain, July 7-13, 2004, and a time of imagining programs at the Parliament that might come from organizations or individuals in California. Information on the Parliament is at http://www.muc.edu/re/WorldReligions/.
Interfaith Peacemaking by Native People: The Indian Ecumenical Conference, led by James Treat, University of Oklahoma. Treat is author of Around the Sacred Fire: Native Religious Activism in the Red Power Era (Palgrave, 2003), from which study he presented his workshop. He is also editor of For This Land: Writings on Religion in America by Vine Deloria, Jr. (Routledge, 1999) and Native and Christian: Indigenous Voices on Religious Identity in the United States and Canada (Routledge, 1996).
Visions for Peace Among Religions, led by Nancy Nielsen, United Religions Initiative. Participants experienced "Appreciative Inquiry," a tool for guided conversation about peace designed to gather experiences, hopes and dreams for waging peace, seeking justice and healing conflicts among the world’s religions. The workbook for this program is available from http://www.uri.org.
Category 3 - Workshops Related to Action:
Reconciliation in Times of Terror, led by Dr. Geiko Mueller-Fahrenholz, theologian and professor who resides in Bremen, Germany. Stories, poems and events which exemplified a response to terrorism of reconciliation and forgiveness were shared. Dr. Fahrenholz, currently a visiting professor at Dominican University, has written numerous articles and books, including a highly recommended study of reconciliation in South Africa and Central America, "The Art of Forgiveness."
The U.S. as Empire: Addressing Post-War Foreign Policy, led by Dr. Stephen Zunes, chair of the Peace and Justice Studies program at the University of San Francisco. This workshop explored the current U.S. role in the world and how people of faith can become empowered to help build a more ethical foreign policy. Dr. Zunes is Middle East editor for the Foreign Policy in Focus Project (http://www.fpif.org) and author of "Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism " (Common Courage Press). Contact Zunes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Bush Doctrine and American Civil Religion in the Context of Religious Pluralism, led by Dr. Harlan Stelmach, chair of the Humanities Department at Dominican University. The "civil religious" language of the current administration was examined as a way to understand its approach to its new doctrine in foreign affairs. Attention was given to identifying the values that build on the current Jewish/Christian tradition that has shaped Amaerican culture in order to create a more diverse American religious identity. Contact email@example.com.
Religiously, when can war be justified? led by Shafi Refai, president of United Muslims of America. The concept of a just war in the Islamic tradition was presented. Participants were asked to do the same in accordance with their faith traditions. It was found that the views of the various traditions represented were remarkably similar to those of the Islamic tradition. It was concluded that the fact that there were no weapons of mass destruction (WMD’s) at the time of the founding of the major religions, combined with the fact that the use of WMD’s is clearly in opposition to the principles of these religions, forces recognition that all modern wars are unjust. Shafi recommends "The Heart of Islam" by Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Refai can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why Israelis and Palestinians Think They Can’t Get Along with Each Other, led by Allan Solomonow, director of the Middle East Peace Program of American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Western Region. The workshop presented the view that peace, justice and a secure future for Israelis and Palestinians can take shape only when the legitimate needs of both people are dealt with fully and fairly. The opinion was given that recapitulating the horrors of history and trying to allot blame only serve to postpone peacemaking. Attention was called to progress that has been made in recent years in reconciling Israeli and Palestinian concerns and to the abundance of peace work in both Palestinian and Israeli communities. Allen recommends "Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict" by Phyllis Bennis ($5 from AFSC, 65 N. Ninth St., SF 94103 or order from http://www.tari.org) and a question and answer piece from Jewish Voices for Peace (510-465-1777). AFSC website: http://www.afsc.org/pacificmtn/sanfrancisco.htm.
Visioning an Alternative World Order and Building It, led by Marie Clarke, national coordinator of Jubilee USA Network. The Judeo-Christian Jubilee scriptures laying a framework for a just world order were presented, along with the recognition that many of these Jubilee themes resonate with teachings in every major world religion. Practical steps were given for envisioning and working toward a world order where preserving life, valuing the earth, and peaceful and just relationships are more important than preserving profit. Contact Marie at Jubilee offices, 1-202-546-4468, or check the website: http://www.jubileeusa.org. Local action on debt cancellation is facilitated through Bay Area Debt Cancellation Coalition with meetings in East Bay and San Francisco, website: http://www.economicjustice.org/.
Pitfalls of Immigrant Life: Loss of Civil Rights and Liberties, led by Helal Omeira, Council on American-Islamic Relations, and AiMara Lin of Not In My Name. Helal detailed many instances of blatant discrimination by our government since 9-11, especially against Muslim, Arab, and South Asian residents in this country. Also many threats to and deaths of Sihk persons because of mistaken identity were presented. AiMara told of how similar actions against Japanese Americans during WWII had impacted her family. Participants expressed the opinion that while restrictions to rights and liberties are falling most heavily on Muslims, Arabs and South Asians at the present time, in the long run no one who dissents from what the government wants us to believe is immune. Examples of communities who are working hard to repeal the Patriot Act and other repressive government measures were shared. Contact Omeira for speaking dates at 408-986-9874, email: email@example.com. Website for C.A.I.R.is http://www.cair-net.org, contact Lin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now you have your homework — chose your topics, inform yourself and become a vital link in the process of healing the world!
PS Contact information for other groups that co-sponsored the conference include:
Council of Churches of Santa Clara County, tel: 408-297-2660
Southern California Ecumenical Council, contact Al Cohen,
and of course, Ecumenical Peace Institute, office phone: (510) 548-4141,
contact Esther Ho.
|Tuesday Noon Vigil
still being held
to oppose the continued war of occupation upon the people of Iraq. Oakland Federal Building, 1301 Clay Street, two blocks from the 12th Street BART Station.
Did you know, they are using napalm in Iraq. "It has a big psychological effect."
–Colonel James Alles
|Regarding that Envelope included in each issue of Planted
by the Waters. If each person who received Planted By the Waters
put a check into the envelope and mailed it to EPI/CALC, it would greatly
improve our ability to do the work for justice and peace which we are called
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