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Archive for December, 2011

2011 – Spreading Nonviolence

From Nation of Change
by Jake Olzen
29 December 2011

2012: The Year of Nonviolence?

If 2011 was the year of the protester, 2012 may prove to be the year of nonviolence. What’s the difference? It’s as great as between yes and no. A crucial awakening that envelopes humanity’s collective struggle for justice, peace and democracy is happening; it is an awakening that clarifies the circumstances we embrace with a yes and those by which we respond with a vehement no. Like many I know, I often teeter between despair and hope–stuck in a kind of uncomfortable tension resembling Wendell Berry’s poetic instruction to “be joyful though you have considered all the facts” –grasping for some measure of sanity to make sense of all that is happening.

It is tempting to succumb to despair, what with the onslaught of major media coverage telling us all the bad news, dismissing the promising news, and ignoring the good news. Consider the challenges: the unraveling violence of the Egyptian revolution, the 5,000 killed in Syria, climate change and the instability and disasters brought by extreme weather patterns and an ill-equipped global populace with inadequate leadership, the threat of random violence and terrorist activity–Norway, Belgium, India, the US, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq–and state and cultural violence against immigrants, women, refugees, the poor, GLBTQ persons, and people of color. So where is the hope? Well, in 2011, the fires of our hope were stoked by the global protest movements–the Arab Spring, the Indignados, Occupy Wall Street–of millions of people rising up to say: كفاية …Basta…Enough! Resistance was in the streets and occupations in city squares. A resounding “no” echoed around the world–what Bernard Harcourt has perceptively termed “political disobedience”–signifying contempt, dissatisfaction, and rejection of entrenched governments and status quo economics. Dictators were ousted in Egypt and Tunisia. Revolutionary fervor was sparked by nonviolent action in Libya, Syria and Yemen. South Korean activists are poised to possibly shutter the building of a controversial US naval base with profound geopolitical implications. Afghan youth are getting organized–an incredible feat considering all the challenges they face. Palestinian nonviolent resistance and the Free Gaza movement is growing as are Israeli protests for social justice. In the US, activists and organizers in Wisconsin and Ohio occupied their state capitals to protest budget cuts and GOP anti-unionism. Undocumented students–DREAMers–took it to the streets and Senators’ offices. Environmentalists, farmers, ranchers, students and citizens staged sit-ins at the White House to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline–whose fate is still TBD but the resistance is growing. And then there was Occupy Wall Street. The movement propelled American activism back into public purview and is proving to be the era where a generation of young people–equipped with the tools, knowledge and experience of the civil rights and anti-war generations–are cutting their teeth in nonviolent social change. We are telling ourselves that there is reason to hope because we incarnate it.

The protests of 2011 are the harbinger of what we’ve already known–what we’ve been waiting and working for–that neoliberalism’s carte blanche as signed by the Washington Consensus is on the way out. The days of political regimes that are not truly democratic (and, apparently, equitable) are–at the very least in ideological terms–numbered. In the 00s, there was an explosion of social commentary on globalization: Thomas Freidman, Naomi Klein, Paul Hawken, Vandana Shiva. Paul Kingsnorth, a British journalist, penned a book whose title has stayed with me: One No, Many Yeses. The catchy, chant-like title offers a simple way to reflect on the the historical moment we are experiencing. As symbolized by Time‘s “Person of the Year,” there is a global “no!” to anti-democratic governments and unfettered capitalism. But at the same time, that singular no of protest is united by the multitude of “yeses” whose global resonance signifies the arrival of a comprehensive vision of nonviolence.

This yes to nonviolence signals the awakening consciousness that summarily connects us to that which is most important in our lives and our communities: the desire to be connected, to live without fear, to be healthy and be in healthy relationships, to be free to have self-determining and mutually-supporting ways of living, working, parenting, learning, teaching, creating, and, yes, even dying. Never before have we witnessed the acute, raw, powerful desire for life in such a way that so many diverse peoples are willingly struggling for that way of being.

Read entire story at Nation of Change.

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Whale’s Being Slaughtered

Dear Gabriel,

Japanese whaling ships are closing in on whales in the Southern Ocean right now. They call their mission “science,” but no valid science is gathered from their hunts — it’s just a cover for their bloody activities.

It’s not science, it’s senseless killing, and it must end.

Make an urgent gift today to protect whales, the oceans, and our planet.

We’re only two days away from December 31 and so close to reaching our $125,000 goal. We need just 7 more donations from California to reach it and have the resources we need to save whales in the new year.

Whales are smart creatures — they know where they are and who they are. They feel loss and pain. They “talk” to each other. A growing body of evidence shows that whales are very similar to humans in intelligence and self-awareness. There is nothing scientific about killing nearly every whale you encounter and selling the meat for profit.

Commercial hunts by any name must end.

Please donate now to stop the killing and save whales from this deadly “science.”

With your help we’ll mobilize public support, run newspaper ads, lead a coalition of NGOs and pressure the Obama administration and the International Whaling Commission to close these deadly loopholes and put an end to commercial whaling once and for all.

We’ve already been successful in dramatically reducing the market for whale meat to the point where the industry is shutting down. But operations like Japan’s are being propped up by government subsidies.

Right now is the time to tip the scales and completely end commercial whaling. Now’s our chance, and Gabriel, there’s not much time left.

For the whales,

Philip Radford
Greenpeace

Egyptian Blogger Speaks Out

From Nation of Change and Democracy Now
28 December 2011
Interview with Alaa Abdel Fattah

Democracy Now! speaks to Fattah about the Egyptian revolution’s ongoing struggle against the military regime and his ordeal in one of Egypt’s worst prisons.

Alaa Abdel Fattah, a prominent Egyptian revolutionary activist and blogger, has been released from prison after nearly two months behind bars. Fattah was ordered jailed by a military court on October 30 and summoned to face charges that included inciting violence — a charge he firmly denies. He refused to cooperate, rejecting the legitimacy of the military court who wanted to try him as a civilian. Democracy Now! speaks to Fattah about the Egyptian revolution’s ongoing struggle against the military regime and his ordeal in one of Egypt’s worst prisons, which prevented him from attending the birth of his first son. Fattah’s trial comes just as Egypt’s ousted leader, Hosni Mubarak, returns to a Cairo courtroom today to face charges over the deaths of 840 protesters during the uprising against his rule. “What comes next might be even tougher and even more difficult,” Fattah says, “but I don’t think that this revolution is going to end without really completely renegotiating the order of power in Egypt and across the Arab world.”

Read article and watch interview at Nation of Change.

Muslim’s Condemn Bombings

Muslim Leaders Condemn Christmas Day Bombings
27 December 2011

From Kunle Akogun, Damilola Oyedele in Abuja, John Shiklam in Kaduna, Tunde Sanni in Ibadan, Mohammed Aminu in Sokoto and Hammed Shittu in Ilorin.

The umbrella Islamic body for Muslims in the North, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), yesterday condemned the bombing of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State and another church in Jos, Plateau State, saying it is not in a religious war against Christians. Both incidents claimed the lives of over 40 persons.

But the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the 19 Northern states and FCT warned yesterday that the attacks may spark a religious war.

Secretary General of JNI, Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, while reacting to the bombings in a telephone interview with THISDAY, said Islam, as a religion, respects human lives and would do everything to preserve it.

“Human lives must be preserved and protected by all including security agencies; it is rather unfortunate that Nigerians are losing their lives to bomb blasts,” Aliyu said.

The Islamic body also tasked security agencies to fish out the perpetrators and bring them to justice, stressing that it is only when the culprits are fished out and punitive measures taken against them that it would serve as deterrent to others planning to carry out such nefarious activities.

In his reaction, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, who joined other Muslims in voicing condemnation against Boko Haram, said taking of human lives in the name of religion was strange in Islam.

The sultan, at the formal opening of Islamic Vacation Course (IVC) organised by Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN), B-Zone, said dispute could only be resolved through dialogue and not by violence or bloodbath.

He said Islam abhorred violence and called for unity among Muslims to address the challenges facing them.
“Violence is not part of the tenets of Islam and would never be allowed to tarnish the image of the religion,” the sultan said.
Chastising Boko Haram, another Islamic group, Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC), said “cold blooded murder of innocent worshippers” was “horrifying and sickening”.

In a statement by its Director of Media and Communications, Disu Kamor, MPAC described the perpetrators of the dastardly act as “criminal and devilish hate cultists bent on imposing their evil ideology on us”.

“On this occasion and in similar incidents, Nigerian Muslims and Muslims everywhere stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Christian brothers and sisters and we are determined to continue to work together to remove the mischief of those seeking to destroy peaceful co-existence and harmony. We feel the sorrow and share the grief of all that were affected by this tragedy – this evil attack is a crime committed against mankind,” MPAC added.

Also, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) said it is “shocked and petrified by this development”.
MURIC in a statement by Dr. Ishaq Akintola disagreed with Boko Haram, which had said it carried out the attack to avenge the killing of Muslims during the last Sallah.

He said: “The attackers cannot claim that they were revenging the attack on Muslims in Jos during the last Eid el-Fitr on August 30, 2011 which left many Muslims dead because Christians celebrating Christmas earlier on December 25, 2010 were the first to be killed in bomb explosions.

“Nothing in the scriptures of Islam justifies this kind of attack. We therefore assert clearly, unequivocally and unambiguously that Boko Haram is not fighting for Nigerian Muslims.”

Similarly, the Chairman of the Sokoto State chapter of Izalat Bida’a Waikamtul Sunnah (JIBWIS), Sheikh Abubakar Usman Mabera, said the killing of innocent citizens, under any guise, is a case of murder and in contrast to Islamic teachings.

“Whoever takes the life of a fellow human being has committed evil irrespective of his religion – whether Christian or Muslim – and will pay for his sins. So, this is an act of terrorism which is against Islamic teachings,” he said.

Mabera, who frowned on the act, said: “Almighty Allah forbids the killing of a fellow human being. Whoever thinks that he is carrying out Jihad by destroying places of worship and killing innocent citizens is ignorant of Islam because the religion forbids that.”
The Muslim Congress frowned on the Madalla blast and said the continued killing of innocent Nigerians by the activities of Boko Haram is uncalled for and should be condemned by all Nigerians.

The Amir of the Congress, Mallam Abdulraheem Lukman, said in a statement that: “The endemic killings can best be described as inhuman, wicked, condemnable and totally unacceptable in civilised societies.

“The action is even more repulsive during the periods of celebrations and this is highly condemnable.”
CAN in the 19 Northern states and Abuja has warned that attacks on churches by Boko Haram are capable of igniting a religious war in the country.

But labour unions in the country have urged Christians not to retaliate the Christmas attacks on churches in Niger, Plateau and Yobe States which left scores of people dead.

The pan-Northern Nigeria group, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), also condemned the attacks yesterday, warning that they serve no good in the prevailing circumstances.

At a news conference in Kaduna yesterday, Secretary-General of Northern CAN, Elder Saidu Dogo, said the bombing of churches and killing of Christians was an invitation to religious war in Nigeria.
Dogo urged Islamic leaders to call the perpetrators of the dastardly act to order to avert confrontation, saying that no group should push the other to the wall to fan the ember of religious war.

He said if the authorities fail to track down those behind the killings of innocent Nigerians, “we shall henceforth in the midst of these provocations and wanton destruction of innocent lives and property be compelled to make our own efforts and arrangements to protect the lives of innocent Christians and peace-loving citizens of this country”.

While calling on Christians to be law abiding, he expressed the need for them to defend themselves whenever the need arises.
He called on the Muslim Umma and Ulamas in Nigeria “to live up to their responsibilities by calling to order, all Islamic sects in the country to have respect for human lives and stop these killings. For we fear that the situation may degenerate to a religious war and Nigeria may not be able to survive as one. Once again, enough is enough”.

“We appreciate the efforts of the Federal Government and its security agents in trying to curtail these attacks. However, we are piqued that the efforts of government are being undermined by the sponsors of the Islamic fundamentalists in the North.

“We are particularly disturbed that the perpetrators of these dastardly acts and their sponsors are well known to government and no serious or decisive actions have been taken to stem their nefarious activities.

“The Federal and state Governments of Niger, Plateau, Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna, Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and such other areas that these wanton destruction of lives and property have been or are being perpetrated, should arrest and bring to book all the perpetrators and their sponsors.

“Government at all levels should provide 24 hours security services to all churches, Christian religious institutions and organisations in the county, especially in the North.

“We are also calling on the federal and state governments to urgently stem these massacres of Christians and the destruction of their churches and property in the North. The attacks so far have proved that some Islamic fundamentalists want to exterminate Christianity in the Northern states. We are assuring all Christians that the church will not allow that to happen,” Dogo said.

The ACF, on its part, condemned the frequent explosions, saying the Christmas attacks were capable of diverting attention to religious crises that would serve no one good.

The forum, in a statement emailed to THISDAY by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Anthony Sani, urged Boko Haram to embrace dialogue in pursuit of the resolution of whatever grievances it had with the authorities, stressing that the bombings and killing of innocent Nigerians and destruction of property were misguided.

“The spate of bomb blasts on Christmas day, which were directed at places of worship across some parts of the North, is a serious source of concern to Arewa Consultative Forum, to Northern Leaders and to the good people of the North, indeed, to patriotic Nigerians.

“Source of concern not because past bombings were less serious but because those on the Christmas day are capable of diverting attention to religious crises that would serve no one, including the perpetrators, any good now and for a long time to come.
“Consequently, ACF calls on the perpetrators of violence to stop forthwith and avail themselves to due process of addressing perceived grievances that are in place.

“ACF also wishes to say killing of innocent Nigerians is not correct and offends God and many people’s sense of justice. This is because a good number of those who go to places of worship are not lettered in either Western or Islamic education.
“More so that Western education is not necessarily the cause of the collapse of national ideals, moral values and cause of indiscipline in the polity, since there are examples of Muslim countries and Christian countries with western education that are morally sound. Turkey belongs to the former and Nordic country of Norway belongs to the later.

“Nigerians of all faiths must therefore come together and confront corruption in all ramifications by inspiring cultural renaissance for collective good. Corruption in Nigeria is not an exclusive preserve of Western education but a national malaise that should be confronted by all, and not government alone. Enough of the bombings and killing of innocent Nigerians,” the ACF said.
The Trade Union Congress (TUC) warned that there are certain disgruntled elements in the polity who want to divide Nigeria along sectarian lines.

President General of the TUC, Comrade Peter Esele, in a telephone conversation with THISDAY in Abuja yesterday, appealed to Nigerians, especially Christians, to be calm and avoid being incited to reprisal.
He added that it was necessary for Nigerians to stay united at these critical moments and not to allow any plot that is aimed at dividing the country along religious or ethnic lines to succeed.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) called on the Federal Government to make the fight against crime and terrorism its priority rather than diverting the attention of Nigerians with its debate on the need to remove fuel subsidy.

It added that it is necessary that the root causes of insecurity – poverty and unemployment – be addressed as budgeting huge sums of money for security would not solve the problem.

In a statement yesterday, the Acting General Secretary of the NLC, Comrade Owei Lakemfa, condemned the attacks in strongest terms, describing the perpetrators as “terrorists whose minds are as blurred as their vision”.

He called on Nigerians not to be deterred by the terrorists or give up on building a peaceful and united country where the will of the people would prevail.

50 Years of AI

Dear Gabriel,

When it comes to defending human rights, there is no organization I trust more than Amnesty International.

That’s why I’m honored to join Patti Smith, the Dave Matthews Band, Adele, My Morning Jacket and a host of other artists for the upcoming tribute album Chimes of Freedom: Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International.

Amnesty understands that defending human rights requires vigilance, doggedness and a strong, global force for good. Right now Amnesty faces multiple, urgent human rights crises and needs your immediate financial support to tackle them head on.

Be part of the most successful, most honored global rights movement in history. Make a year end donation to Amnesty International today.

Here’s some of what we are up against:

Dozens of health professionals were arrested in March, apparently for treating wounded protestors in Bahrain. In September a military court found 20 of these doctors and health workers guilty of “inciting hatred of the regime” and “occupying the hospital by force.”

The verdict brought prison sentences of 5-15 years. The health professionals are currently appealing the convictions.

Journalists threatened in Russia. Little progress has been made to increase the safety of journalists and human rights defenders who have the courage to expose abuses in Russia.

At least three high profile attacks, including the abduction and murder of human rights defender Natalia Estemirova, remain unsolved and uninvestigated.

Crackdown on human rights lawyers in China. Lawyers that challenge the government in court are threatened with suspension, disbarment and even criminal punishment. Where threats fail, lawyers are labeled dissidents and targeted with state violence. Human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng has been forcibly disappeared for more than a year.

These assaults on human rights must not go unanswered. Don’t let the brave individuals I’ve highlighted become casualties of our silence and indifference.

Support human rights the world over by making a year end gift to Amnesty.

Your gift is tax-deductible and will be put to work immediately. A generous donor will even triple your gift – but you must donate before December 31st.

With Appreciation,

Sting



Sea Turtles Survive

Dear Gabriel,

Every North American sea turtle is at risk—but we can save them together

Donate now to win important protections for sea turtles and the oceans we share»

Have you ever had the chance to see a sea turtle in the wild?

It’s no surprise if you haven’t. Six different species of sea turtles live in North American waters, but thanks to disappearing nesting beaches and destructive fishing gear, every single one of them is listed by the federal government as being threatened or endangered with extinction.

Sea turtles and the oceans that depend on them are in trouble – and we need your help if we’re going to save them. Give now to help reach our goal of $100,000 by the December 31st deadline.

Every year, sea turtle nests get crushed by people and cars. The baby turtles that hatch must get past a slew of predators in the air and water. And the precious few that make it into deeper waters and adulthood must somehow survive a gauntlet of fishing hooks and gear that kill thousands of turtles each year.

We can’t keep losing so many sea turtles. Not only are sea turtles a vital part of a healthy ocean ecosystem, they are some of the oldest living animals on our planet. Unless we do more to protect sea turtles now, our children and grandchildren may never get a chance to know these incredible creatures.

Thankfully, there is good news. Because of your financial support, Oceana has won many important victories, saving thousands of sea turtles and improving the health of our oceans.

Just this past summer, we took action to stop thousands of needless turtle deaths in the Gulf of Mexico. Our researchers uncovered shrimpers illegally using nets without turtle escape hatches. Without these escape hatches, sea turtles get trapped under water and drown to death. Your support allowed us to expose this crime against sea turtles and our oceans, and it will allow us to hold the government accountable for enforcing the law.

This kind of victory couldn’t have happened without your support. And if we’re going to build on that progress and win more, we’ll need your help once more.

Oceana is the largest organization in the world that takes a comprehensive approach to protecting sea turtles in every ocean at every stage of their life. We play a critical role by looking at how one fishery’s activities add to another’s, and at how protecting turtles in one ocean can impact the other side of the planet. Your contribution will fund our campaigns to protect areas sea turtles need in order to recover, and to hold the government accountable under the Endangered Species Act.

Be the reason we can save sea turtles today – and prevent an ocean with no turtles tomorrow. Make a tax-deductible donation to Oceana today.

For the oceans,
Tatiana Marshall
Oceana

Women of Egypt Protest

From McClatchy News Report by Mohannad Sabry
24 December 2011

Egypt’s women protest despite brutal military attacks.

Several army soldiers slapped, punched and kicked Mona Seif, hitting her with wooden batons while they dragged her inside the Cabinet Building shortly after they raided Tahrir Square. Minutes earlier she had been told to leave, but she refused unless they released a child she was protecting amid the violence.

“The army officer was infuriated when I told them to release the kid,” said Seif, a 25-year-old activist who leads the No Military Trials for Civilians movement. “He ordered the soldiers to take me where they will take the child.”

A young army officer in charge of the detention room continuously cursed at the female detainees.

“I am as old as your mother; have some respect for me,” said Khadiga, a woman in her 60s who sat on the floor beside Seif.

“The officer exploded when she said that. He kept slapping her over and over until she apologized,” said Seif. “I thought they distinguished between younger and older women. They don’t.”

“It’s a planned strategy,” she said. “… They want to scare off any girl thinking of joining a protest.”

Seif was detained around the same time that footage was taken of several army soldiers stripping and brutalizing another female protester, a video watched by millions worldwide.

This week, thousands of Egyptian women protested in Tahrir Square against military generals who silently watched their soldiers lead assaults on female protesters.

The female protest came despite an apology published on the official Facebook page of the ruling military council, a failed attempt to defuse public anger that backfired.

“The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces expresses its deepest regret to the great Egyptian women after the violations committed during the latest protests. The council affirms its respect and appreciation for Egyptian women and their right to demonstrate and participate positively in political life,” said the statement.

Maha el Samadouni, a 62-year-old female protester, refused to accept any apology.

“Our traditions define women as a red line that should never be crossed,” she said. “It’s an unprecedented crime in the history of Egypt. The only way to stop this is by making an example of those who committed such a crime.”

“Women came out wearing black to mourn the dignity of Egyptian women that was killed at the hands of the military,” added Samadouni. She described the ruling military as “liars who denied any responsibility.”

Despite the shock caused by video images showing horrific assaults by soldiers on protesters, some seemed to have little sympathy for the victims.

“I am totally against violence, yet I don’t think it was right for this girl to be on the street at 3 a.m.,” said Gen. Sameh Seif el Yazal, a retired military and intelligence officer who now leads a strategic research unit.

Read entire story at Nation of Change.

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