Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘Solidarity’

Muslims Protect Christians

Human chain formed to protect Christians during Lahore mass
By Web Desk / Aroosa Shaukat
Published: October 6, 2013
The Express Tribune

LAHORE: The Muslim and Christian communities came together during Sunday mass in a show of solidarity in Lahore.

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Hand in hand as many as 200-300 people formed a human chain outside the St Anthony’s Church adjacent to the District Police Lines at the Empress Road, in a show of solidarity with the victims of the Peshawar church attack two weeks back, which resulted in over a 100 deaths. The twin suicide attack on All Saints church occurred after Sunday mass ended and is believed to be the country’s deadliest attack on Christians.

Standing in the small courtyard of St Anthony’s Church, as Mufti Mohammad Farooq delivered a sermon quoting a few verses of the Holy Quran that preached tolerance and respect for other beliefs, Father Nasir Gulfam stepped right next to him after having conducted a two hour long Sunday service inside the church. The two men stood should to shoulder, hand in hand as part of the human chain that was formed outside the church not just as a show of solidarity but also to send out a message, ‘One Nation, One Blood’.

As part of an attempt to sensitize the public at large, the human chain was the second such event after a similar had been organized in Karachi last week outside the St Patrick’s Cathedral by an organization called Pakistan For All – a collective of citizens concerned about the growing attacks on minorities.

“Well the terrorists showed us what they do on Sundays. Here we are showing them what we do on Sundays. We unite,” said Mohammad Jibran Nasir, the organizer who made the calls for the event on social media.

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Flying in from Karachi for the human chain, Nasir and his group are out to advocate the need for interfaith harmony. “I see no reason why our politicians and our leaders should not come out of their houses, leave the luxury of their secure homes and stand in solidarity with the common man”, he said.

As the service concluded inside the church, the courtyard echoed with slogans of ‘Dehshut gardee murdabaad’ and ‘Muslim Maseehi ittehad zindabaad’ as members of the Sunday service emerged.

Led by Taimur Rahman, activist and member of the music band Laal, the congregation in the courtyard proceeded with sermons and chanting as the crowd increased in number.

Later, the congregation moved onto the street where they chanted slogans and formed the human chain, as police cordoned off the roads leading to the church to allow for the congregation to move.

Mariam Tariq who was attending the service along with her daughter also joined the chain. “We have lost so many of our loved ones over the past few years” said Tariq as she broke into tears.

See more photos at The Express Tribune with the International Herald Tribune.

Grateful To Be Alive & Free

Dear Gabriel,

Two months ago, I did not know if I would make it out of prison alive.

I live in Cameroon, where being gay is illegal. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people like me exist in constant fear of hate and violence.

Last year I was convicted of “homosexuality and attempted homosexuality” and thrown in Kondengui central prison in Yaounde, the capital city of Cameroon. In this hellish place, I was singled out for being gay and cruelly attacked on multiple occasions.

Today I am deeply grateful to be alive and a free man. Though my release from prison is provisional, I fear that without Amnesty International’s support I would still be there.

I am raising my voice for Amnesty, because Amnesty raised its voice for me. Please, stand together with me to defend human rights with Amnesty.

There are many more like me, unjustly imprisoned for who we are.

It is your solidarity that lifts us from despair.

In prison, when I received my first letters from Amnesty supporters, I knew that I belonged to a big family, a worldwide family. Your letters were a beacon of hope in that dark place.

You touched my heart. You never gave in.

My hope is that one day all LGBTI people will be able to walk free in Cameroon – indeed everywhere – holding our heads high, without any danger or discrimination.

Your support represents hope for all who suffer the indignities and pain of human rights abuses. I celebrate my freedom, but I will not rest until we are all truly free.

I ask you to give now, during Amnesty’s September Membership Drive, so that your gift will be matched and go even farther.

I wish happiness for you,
Jean-Claude Roger Mbede
FORMER PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE, CAMEROON

Pussy Riot Is Free

Dear Gabriel,

Facing 2 years in jail for singing a song criticizing President Putin in a church, a member of Pussy Riot gestured to the court and said in her show-trial’s closing statements, “Despite the fact that we are physically here, we are freer than everyone sitting across from us … We can say anything we want…”

Russia is steadily slipping into the grip of a new autocracy — clamping down on public protest, allegedly rigging elections, intimidating media, banning gay rights parades for 100 years, and even beating critics like chess master Garry Kasparov. But many Russian citizens remain defiant, and Pussy Riot’s eloquent bravery has galvanized the world’s solidarity. Now, our best chance to prove to Putin there is a price to pay for this repression lies with Europe.

The European Parliament is calling for an assets freeze and travel ban on Putin’s powerful inner circle who are accused of multiple crimes. Our community is spread across every corner of the world — if we can push the Europeans to act, it will not only hit Putin’s circle hard, as many bank and have homes in Europe, but also counter his anti-Western propaganda, showing him that the whole world is willing to stand up for a free Russia. Click below to support the sanctions and tell everyone:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/free_pussy_riot_free_russia_a/?bMPbqab&v=17285

Last week’s trial is about far more than three women and their 40-second ‘punk prayer’. When tens of thousands flooded the streets to protest rigged elections, the government threw organisers into jail for weeks. And in June Parliament effectively outlawed dissent by raising the fine for unsanctioned protest an astounding 150-fold, roughly the average Russian’s salary for a whole year.

Pussy Riot may be the most famous Russian activists right now, but their sentence is not the grossest injustice of Putin’s war on dissent. In 2009, anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who uncovered a massive tax fraud at the heart of Russia’s power dealers, died in jail — without a trial, on shaky charges, and with medical attention repeatedly denied. 60 of Russia’s elite have been under scrutiny for the case and its cover-up, and the sanctions the European Parliament is proposing are on this inner circle.

International attention to Russia’s crackdown is cresting right now, and the ‘Magnitsky sanctions’ are the best way to put the heat on Putin and help create breathing room for the suffocating democracy movement. Let’s give Europe’s leaders a global public mandate to adopt the sanctions. Sign the petition now and share this with everyone:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/free_pussy_riot_free_russia_a/?bMPbqab&v=17285

What happens in Russia matters to us all. Russia has blocked international coordination on Syria and other urgent global issues, and a Russian autocracy threatens the world we all want, wherever we are. The Russian people face a serious challenge, but we know that people-powered movements are the best cure for corruption and iron-fisted governments — and that international solidarity can help keep the flame of these movements alive. Let’s join together now to show Putin that the world will hold him to account and push for change until Russia is set free.

With hope,

Luis, David, Alice, Ricken, Lisa, Vilde, and the Avaaz team

Chen’s Family In Danger

Dear Gabriel,

Two months after a Houdini-like escape from house arrest in China, human rights activist Chen Guangcheng walks the sidewalks of New York a free man — thanks to sustained pressure from you and tens of thousands of other Amnesty activists worldwide. Now he urgently needs your help to protect his family back home, which is under threat from Chinese authorities.

I had the great honor of meeting Chen face-to-face last week at New York University, where the self-taught lawyer has taken up formal legal studies. He asked me to share the following message with you:

“When you get back to your office, please say thank you to members all around the world for their continued support and concern for my family. When the opportunity arises, I shall thank them in person.”

Chen received hundreds of messages of solidarity from activists like you after he was detained for exposing forced abortions and sterilizations in China. I’ll never forget how his face lit up when he recounted the encouragement he felt after receiving your handmade cards and handwritten letters.

Your letters provided Chen with the comfort of knowing that he wasn’t forgotten — and they put Chinese authorities on notice that Chen had Amnesty’s millions-strong global human rights movement in his corner.

Now he needs your help again. Chen warned before coming to the United States that Chinese officials would retaliate against his family – and they have. His nephew, Chen Kegui, has been detained and could face the death penalty. Chen Kegui claims he had to defend his family against an attack by plain-clothes local police in his home.

Urge authorities to guarantee that Chen Kegui is given a fair trial and to investigate local officials in Linyi county, Shangdong Province.

As each day passes, our call-to-action becomes more urgent. The court has switched Chen Kegui’s lawyers, calling into question whether he will have access to a fair trial.

Thank you for calling for the protection of Chen’s family today.

In Solidarity,

Suzanne Nossel
Executive Director
Amnesty International USA

Kites for Afghan Women

Dear Gabriel,

Last month, you and 18,000 other activists took action in support of Afghan women in advance of our “Shadow Summit” for Afghan Women’s Rights. You submitted messages of solidarity and support, and your words of encouragement soared far into the sky on the first day of the NATO summit in Chicago to let the world’s leaders know that we care about women’s rights.

They listened.

The Shadow Summit for Afghan Women’s Rights was a true testament to what AIUSA is capable of achieving when we all work together. At the very last minute, the government of Afghanistan invited three women to join the Afghan delegation at the NATO summit.

Amnesty International’s Shadow Summit speakers included prominent Afghan women’s rights leaders Afifa Azim, Manizha Naderi, Hasina Safi and Mahbouba Seraj, U.S. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, author of the best-seller “The Dressmaker of Khair Khana”, and Jerome McDonnell, host of Chicago Public Radio’s program “Worldview”, moderated the panel discussions. You can listen online to the first panel.

After the program, Shadow Summit participants headed out to Chicago’s Navy Pier with your messages and flew the kites in solidarity with Afghan women. To see pictures from the event, check out our album.

After the kite action, Mahbouba, Afifa and Hasina expressed their gratitude for Amnesty’s support in creating such a crucial opportunity to have their voices heard, and their hopes that we will all continue to work together to demand Afghan women’s political participation and representation as the transition unfolds – and beyond.

Afifa Azim, director and co-founder, Afghan Women’s Network, said:

“We want the world to know that the women of Afghanistan are not victims. They are active members of society and agents of change who worked very hard, even when it was underground, to make sure children were being educated and progress was being made. We cannot go back to the darkness and we expect to be heard as the new policies are being made. We are asking the U.S. and the international community to support us.”

We won’t give up on the fight for women’s human rights around the world. With your continued support, we know it is possible to achieve.

Thank you for taking action. Together we’re making a difference and we look forward to the next steps.

Cristina M. Finch
Policy and Advocacy Director, Women’s Human Rights
Amnesty International USA

Do I Have The Guts?

I know it works. Millions of people around the world have risked life and limb to make it happen. But I don’t know, when it comes down to it, if I have the courage or moral strength to do it myself. In country after country, against the world’s worst governments, tyrants, military invaders and dictators, people have put their lives on the line by confronting the violent use of repression, intimidation, torture and imprisonment with nonviolent weapons of non-cooperation, civil-disobedience, strikes, sit-ins, rallies, vigils, politics and boycotts.

The question is not whether nonviolence works, but why it hasn’t been acknowledged, advocated, taught and put into practice more often? No other form of conflict has created such long-lasting and peaceful results as that of nonviolence.

Nonviolence is far from a passive activity. It requires deep introspection, continual self-awareness, strategizing, commitment, patience and direct and in-direct action. People actually have less chance of getting killed by using nonviolent tactics than they do by using violence.

As seen throughout history, it is imperative that the means match the ends. If you want a peaceful society you can’t use violence to create it. If you desire less hatred, bigotry and vengeance in the world, you have to see it in yourself and practice removing it from your own life.

A Jewish man, known as Jesus of Nazareth, repeatedly and adamantly advocated love and nonviolence and was willing to suffer torture and death by the Romans for his beliefs. His actions and words have since influenced the lives of millions.

About five hundred years before Jesus, the Buddha of Gotama preached an end to the caste system in India and contrary to all rules, laws and expectations of his time, accepted students from all castes.

In 1905, an Eastern Orthodox priest led over 150,000 Russians to the capital to protest the government. That march led to the first popularly elected parliament in that nation’s history.

In the early 1930’s, Mahatmas Gandhi first called for mass civil disobedience against the British. His call for active Satyagraha (truth force) resulted in India’s democratic independence in 1947.

Danish citizens refused to aid the Nazi war effort and forced the Germans to end blockades and curfews during their occupation of Denmark.

Without picking up a single gun Salvadoran’s forced their longtime military dictator into exile in 1944.

Martin Luther King, Jr., using many of the non-violent tactics of Gandhi, helped mobilize Americans to end racial segregation in the South and fight for civil rights nation wide.

Cesar Chavez peacefully rallied farm-workers to demand better working conditions for the men and women that harvest our countries food.

Laborers went on strike, won the right to organize and with the help of the Catholic Church and Solidarity, nonviolently brought down a totalitarian form of communism in Poland.

A group of mothers marched in the capitol of Argentina demanding to know the whereabouts of their abducted sons and grandsons. After years of being intimidated, tortured and imprisoned themselves, their persistence helped oust the countries military junta.

In the Philippines, in 1986, a coalition of citizens outraged with the government supported assassination of a returning exiled politician, massed to support his widow Corazin Aquino. After defying continued brutality, censorship and threats by the Armed Forces under Ferdinand Marcos, the people, with the help of The Church, struck at the conscience of military officers who eventually refused to follow Marcos’s orders.

South Africans waged a decades long nonviolent campaign to end Apartheid. Their actions eventually led to the freeing of Nelson Mandela and a democratically elected government in which every person’s vote had equal value.

Over 100,000 students in the Czech republic sat down in the streets demanding freedom. Their example set off a wave of protest that washed away totalitarian regimes in Hungary, Bulgaria, Mongolia and East Germany.

At the turn of the century the Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic was defeated and his security forces neutralized by a general strike and nonviolent uprising.

These examples are but a few of the many inspiring practical applications of nonviolence, but how does somebody become brave enough to do it? How does one get to the point where they are willing to risk losing their job, go to prison, be assaulted or killed? How do we stand up to evil without becoming like those we confront? How do we separate evil acts from the people perpetrating them and still stop their actions without demonizing them in the process?

I like to think that my life and what I am doing with it make a difference. I tell myself that working as a counselor, a writer and volunteering in prisons and overseas helps others. I believe raising healthy children, working with human rights organizations and using non-polluting energy for my car and home, all have an impact. Then again, they are all safe and convenient.

Sure, I’ve marched in protest rallies against different wars and been arrested for blocking nuclear weapons facilities, but I knew the worst thing that would happen would be a couple of hours in detention or an overnight stay in the slammer. If I faced the prospect of years in prison, large fines, torture, a criminal record or being exiled from my country and family would I have done the same thing? I doubt it. Am I willing to stop paying taxes, get fined and go to jail? No. Am I spending time organizing other citizens to insist on less military spending and greater humanitarian interventions around the world? Perhaps, a little. Am I fully putting my body and deeds where my heart and beliefs lead me? No.

The reality is that I pay others to protect me with violent means. By paying my taxes I pay for law enforcement and military personal to carry and use weapons to theoretically keep my family, community and nation out of harms way. The money I pay to our government helps research, design, produce and use weapons of mass destruction and military intimidation and violence.

If someone threatened my son, daughter or mate, I believe I have the guts to stand my ground and resolve the conflict nonviolently without striking back, but I’m not sure. And if someone threatened my neighbor or community, I doubt I would have the same brave resolve to “fight back”, as I would with my immediate family.

I like to see myself as an advocate for justice, peace and freedom, now I’m not so sure. The justice, peace and freedom I seek are made in the context of a comfortable way of life and don’t require me to go out of my way to achieve them or make any great sacrifices; yet, all of those who have preceded me have been willing to do just that. They all took a leap of faith. They saw that they were not separate from anyone else on this planet and what they and others do or don’t do, affects us all.

When it comes down to the nitty gritty and I have to practice what I preach, I hope I can make that leap. I hope my faith in non-violence and love carries me through any and all circumstances and situations. In reality, I won’t know until or if, it happens. It could be that everyone is scared, even petrified, when faced with harm, but they act anyway. Perhaps that is what courage is all
about.

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