Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Protest Forces Israel to Call Off Gaza Airstrike

Hello friends,

Here's the fascinating story of nonviolent defense of a home by Palestinians.  This is a tactic similar to that often used by Christian Peacemaker Teams to prevent or delay home demolition, but in this case it is a broader community response --

Here's a note from a mentor of mine, nonviolent activist George Lakey, who shared the article with me:
It's a great example of NV defense, though, innovative, and the kind of thing which, if I advocated as a US'er to some Palestinians I've known they would laugh it off as ridiculous because it wouldn't deter the IDF.
I love these spontaneous things that people come up with in the midst of struggle, even people basically committed to violent struggle, when they realize that (once again) nonviolent means are often more powerful than violent means.
Peace and grace,
Matt Guynn
On Earth Peace

November 19, 2006

Protest Forces Israel to Call Off Gaza Airstrike

JERUSALEM, Nov. 19 ­ Israel halted an airstrike against the house of a suspected Palestinian militant in Gaza late on Saturday, after the inhabitants ignored a telephoned warning and neighbors flocked to the house in numbers to prevent the bombing, the military said.

On Sunday, hundreds of Palestinians, including the prime minister from the militant faction Hamas, stayed around the house and on its balconies and the roof throughout the day. They declared a victory for “popular resistance” as Israel, under criticism for killing civilians in such strikes, called it another example of Palestinians using civilians to shield military activity.

“We see it as a cynical exploitation of our attempt to avoid harm to civilians,” said a spokesman for the Israeli military, who as is practice, spoke on condition of anonymity, “They are using them as human shields.”

But Palestinians celebrated it as a possibly potent new defense against air raids that Israel may find difficult to counter.

“We are so proud of this national stand,” Prime Minister Ismail Haniya said while visiting the house, in northern Gaza. “It’s the first step toward protecting our homes, the homes of our children.”

Israel said the house was being used by leaders of the militant group Popular Resistance Committees, which was active in firing off Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel. Last week, a 57-year-old Israeli woman from the nearby Israeli town of Sderot was killed by one of the rockets, and over the weekend, Israel carried out several small-scale operations against militants suspected of being involved firing them.

The military spokesman said the attack on the house was called off after a routine telephone warning from the military urging inhabitants to evacuate the house was ignored. “We didn’t want to harm civilians,” he said.

Israel has had an increasingly difficult time ending the rocket fire, the most contentious issue between Israel and Palestinian militants. Nearly two weeks ago, Israeli artillery fire killed 19 civilians in Beit Hanun, prompting a United Nations resolution to open a fact-finding mission into the incident.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel, during his weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, criticized the resolution as not sufficiently condemning the Palestinians’ rocket fire against Israeli civilians. He said Israel would not cooperate with any international inquiry.

Reprisals continued on Sunday. An 80-year-old Palestinian man was killed in Gaza City and a dozen others were wounded by an Israeli strike on a car carrying two Hamas militants. The Israeli spokesman said the militants were involved in making rockets.

On Sunday, the office of Defense Minister Amir Peretz of Israel said he called the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to ask him to help end the rocket fire.

Mr. Peretz lives in Sderot, the town hit hardest by the rockets. A member of his security detail was hit and had both legs severed by the same rocket that killed the Israeli woman last week.

Taghreed El-Khodary contributed reporting from Gaza City.

From Pit Bull to Peacemaker

Friends, I received the following reflection from Peacemaker Ministries, which you can find at They describe themselves in this way:
Peacemaker Ministries was founded in 1982 by a group of pastors, lawyers, and business people who wanted to encourage and assist Christians to respond to conflict biblically.  Since then we have developed educational resources, seminars, and conciliation training to help Christians learn how to serve God as peacemakers in the conflicts they encounter in everyday life.
Here's one testimony of Christian peace witness, which references their publication, The Peacemaker (you can find it at

Take care, and many blessings,

Matt Guynn
On Earth Peace

From Pit Bull to Peacemaker

Having just finished my first reading of The Peacemaker the prior evening, I had one pressing issue for the Lord as I knelt in prayer that morning: "Lord, do you want me to do more than apply these principles in my own life?"

God only knew the challenges I would face hauling logs from stands of timber in my own eyes on a more-or-less hourly basis.  Wasn't it a bit presumptuous to suppose I could help others in conflict?  As a lawyer, I worked daily to help "resolve" disputes through the judicial system.  But helping others resolve conflicts biblically?  That seemed too sacred a calling to even contemplate.  I purposed to wait on the Lord for an answer as long as it took.

Four hours later, I found myself thumbing through a completed client intake form and a stack of papers documenting an employment dispute. A potential new client fidgeted nervously on the other side of my desk.   Her grim countenance did not match the woman described in the glowing performance evaluations she had included in the stack.   She was a nurse, a "true servant, blessed with the gift of nurture," as one review described her.

I set down the stack of papers and met her stern gaze, still feeling a tinge of pride that the referring lawyer was one I had once faced in a hotly contested case.  

"Phil says you're a real pit bull in the courtroom," she said without a smile.  "That's why I'm here.  I want to teach them a lesson."

I couldn't bring myself to tell her that the "pit bull" she was describing was the "old me."  Almost involuntarily, however, I found myself revealing to her the "new me," even at the risk of losing a client.   I had no real choice.  The words on the papers I had just reviewed showed this woman to be a Christian.  Her letters were filled with Scripture and references to "what Jesus would do."   Likewise, her employer was a Christian hospital and several of her supervisors appeared to be sincere believers.

"I don't shy away from a good fight," I replied with a polite smile.  "But I always try to help clients count the costs before bringing a lawsuit."

"I thought these cases were handled on a contingent fee basis; I only pay your fees if we win."

"Yes, but there are other costs: Stress, distraction, time…"

"I'm ready to file," she interrupted.  "How long will it take?"

She was clearly in a "no nonsense" mood, so I got straight to the point:  "Have you considered what 1 Corinthians 6 has to say about filing this suit?"

The woman was visibly stunned.  Her "pit bull" was citing Scripture!

I pulled my only copy of The Peacemaker from my desk drawer and proceeded to share with her what God had been revealing to me.  To my shame, I did not give her my copy of the book (it had too many notes and markings to part with), but I did give her directions to the Christian bookstore, just a few blocks away.  I felt sure they had copies, as I had pulled mine from their well-stocked shelves only days before.   The woman promised to read the book before proceeding with her suit.  As she left my office, I prayed that she would.

She called me a few days later.  She sounded different, less burdened.  She had, indeed, read the book and just had to tell me what God had done for her.

"I have been a professing Christian for ten years," she explained, "but I met Jesus face-to-face in your office.   I wanted vengeance.  But He loved me enough to intervene and direct my feet right back to his word.  I'm not going to sue.  I love Him too much for that."

That was ten years ago.  Since that day when God so clearly answered my prayer, I have given away dozens of copies of The Peacemaker and have done what I can to promote biblical peacemaking in my practice and in my community.  It never ceases to amaze me when similar stories find their way back to me.  Conflicts really do bring opportunities to glorify God.

I thank God daily for Peacemaker Ministries and the good work they do around the world to bring reconciliation to people like that woman in my office-and to people like me.

Scott Cliff, Tigard, OR

December Counter-recruitment Networking Calls

Dear fellow shalom workers,

As you may know, military recruiters are active in most communities in the United States.  Reports show that they regularly exaggerate their offers and make subtly misleading agreements with young people.  There is a vibrant movement emerging to present positive alternatives to the militarization of youth -- just google "counter-recruitment" and you will see what I mean.

Every six to eight weeks, On Earth Peace sponsors a networking conference call for anyone working on truth-in-recruitment organizing, especially focused on supporting those working from the basis of Christian faith (though all are warmly welcomed to participate). 

You can see a basic introduction to this work here:

It's time for the next round of calls!

Here are your choices:

(1) Wednesday, December 6th, at 6:00 pm EASTERN
(2) Thursday, December 7th, at 11:00 am EASTERN

Please reply to this e-mail to join this month's calls, which will feature (1) Christian theological reflection on counter-recruitment, (2) a chance to share and hear stories with other organizers around the country, and (3) highlights of recent resources and new developments in the truth-in-recruiting movement.  We welcome both those people who have been active for some time or for those just beginning to work in this area.

These networking calls are always a high-energy boost of cross-pollination, and include organizers from coast to coast.  Folks have already RSVPed for this round from Washington, DC; both Cincinnati and Columbus, OH; Brooklyn, NY; Claremont, CA; Richmond, IN; and El Paso, TX.

This time we're scheduling two conference calls for you to choose from, which will be limited to 8 persons each (not including the facilitators).  Don't panic!  If demand outpaces supply, we'll schedule another call -- and celebrate our abundance!  When you reply, please be sure to give the date and time you plan to participate. 

Can you join us on December 6th at 6:00 pm or December 7th at 11:00 am (both times Eastern)? 

We hope so!

Call Facilitators:

Matt Guynn
Coordinator of Peace Witness
On Earth Peace

Deb Oskin
Peace Minister
Living Peace Church of the Brethren

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Catholics, Methodists 'picket' with powdered milk packets


This item comes from UCAN, the Union of Catholic Asian News.


Matt Guynn
On Earth Peace

UCAN: Catholics, Methodists 'picket' with powdered milk packets

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (UCAN)  Wearing black "Stop Starvation" headbands, Catholic and Methodist priests and laypeople recently overran the main post office here to draw attention to what they called a "humanitarian crisis" in Jaffna.

On Nov. 8, about 150 members of Negombo People's Collective for a Political Solution, a church-based group, crowded the Colombo General Post Office, armed not with signs but with 400-gram packets of powdered infant formula.

Some protesters stood outside, while others mailed 500 packets of formula to Jaffna, about 300 kilometers (about 190 miles) north of Colombo.

Father Terrance Fernando told UCA News the protesters "picketed" the post office from 11 a.m.  until 1:30 p.m., when all the formula had been packed and sent.  The group included seven Catholic priests and three Methodist pastors.

Their aim, said the parish priest of St.  Anne's Church in Palangaturai, Negombo, was to "stop the starvation of Jaffna people." He called for people to "see the real humanitarian crisis." Negombo is a predominantly Catholic town about 30 kilometers (about 20 miles) north of the capital.

The main road to Jaffna, located on the peninsula at the northern tip of the island, has been closed due to fighting between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).  With the road closed, the only way to get supplies to Jaffna is by sea or air.

The prices of essential commodities there have shot up, according to Father Fernando, who expressed concern about the "hunger of the people."

His parishioners helped collect the infant formula to send to Jaffna "to tell the government that the lives of the people living there should return to normalcy soon," he said.  "And we wanted to respond to the appeal of the bishop of Jaffna."

Bishop Thomas Savundaranayagam of Jaffna appealed to President Mahinda Rajapaksa in a Nov.  2 letter to take quick action to remedy the increasing shortage of food and the plight of the people living on the Jaffna peninsula.  The bishop called on the president to open the road to the mainland and ensure adequate food for local people.

A layperson in Jaffna, Anthony Rasiah, told UCA News that food is expensive, with people having to pay 400 rupees (US$4) for a kilogram of rice and 500 rupees for 400 grams of infant formula.

The mailed packets of formula cost 150 rupees each, plus about seven rupees to mail.

They were sent to the bishop's house for Bishop Savundaranayagam to distribute among the needy, Freddy Gamage, one of the protesters, told UCA News.  "Sending this milk powder to north and the silent picket demonstrated our solidarity with the people living in North," he said.

Gamage added that the group is planning to send more formula and other dry rations to Jaffna during the coming weeks.

Some Catholic priests, nuns and Methodist pastors told UCA News they joined the demonstration to show their solidarity with and help people in the north, who they said face starvation.

The population in northern Sri Lanka and some eastern areas is predominantly Tamil, while Sinhalese, accounting for more than 70 percent of the population, form the majority in the rest of the country.

Up to 80,000 people have died and in the ethnic conflict going back to 1983.  Under pressure from the European Union, the United States, Japan and Norway, peace talks between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government were held in Geneva Oct.  28-29, but they collapsed without setting a date for further talks.  A cease-fire had held from February 2002, but fighting resumed in recent months.

Prayer service to tout nonviolence


Are there prayer services called for where you are related to an current issue of violence?   Do you have stories about prayer services or vigils you have planned?  Please send them to me for wider distribution!


Prayer service to tout nonviolence


Belleville (Illinois) News-Democrat
November 15, 2006

BELLEVILLE - A community prayer service will be held Sunday at St. Peter's Cathedral in downtown Belleville to call for nonviolence and reiterate the need for peaceful means of conflict resolution.

The event takes place in the wake of the killings of Henry and Delores Kahle, of Swansea, and the shooting of Belleville Police Sgt. Jon Brough, who remained in critical condition at St. Louis University Hospital on Tuesday.

"This will give our community an opportunity to show support for the families and friends who have suffered with the tragedies that have taken place in the last week," Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert said Tuesday in a statement. "We invite all members of the community to attend this service as we come together in prayer."

The interdenominational service will include presentations by Eckert, Judge Annette Eckert, Belleville Assistant Police Chief Bill Clay and members of a coalition of Belleville-area clergy leaders. The color guard and other members of the Belleville Police Department also will participate in the ceremony.

Donations for the Brough Family Trust Fund, which has been established through Commerce Bank, will be accepted at the service. The prayer service will begin at 3 p.m. Sunday and take place at 200 W. Harrison St.

Contact reporter Ashley Tusan Joyner at or 239-2562.

Food and Clothing, Cattle and Love

Dear friends,

This item may be of particular interest to members of the Church of the Brethren!

I know that many congregations are raising money for Heifer International during the Christmas season.  Is yours?   As you promote Heifer's work in your congregation, you may wish to order a copy of On Earth Peace's new documentary,  "Food and Clothing, Cattle and Love: Brethren Service in Europe after World War II."  The documentary covers the story of Brethren service in Europe after World War Two, and includes information on the Brethren roots of Heifer Project. 

The DVD includes presentations in three lengths, including a 3-minute music video incorporating live music from National Youth Conference 2006 (great for use in a worship service!).

More information below!


Food and Clothing, Cattle and Love:
Brethren Service in Europe after World War II

"They opened up their hearts, and tried to build bridges, and the bridge was Christ�s love."

The work of Brethren Service in Europe, following the devastation of World War II, is an example of the church at its best. In an outpouring of service backed financially by sacrificial giving, the Church of the Brethren came to the aid of neighbors in need. Following Jesus� example, Brethren Service crossed political boundaries to extend a helping hand.

For the first time, this story is available in DVD format, with photos and film footage from the years just after the Second World War. To suit the needs and interests of a variety of audiences, the story is told in three different styles and formats. 

Single copies: $10 + $3 shipping and handling.

To order, please call 410-635-8704, or e-mail

Friday, November 10, 2006

100 Niger Delta Militants Graduate From Non-Violence Programme

Thanks to the Pace e Bene Nonviolence News service referring me to this story!


100 Niger Delta Militants Graduate From Non-Violence Programme
November 6, 2006  

NIGERIA - In a bid to rid the Niger Delta region of violence and youth restivessness, over a hundred youths selected from the creeks in the region graduated from the Foundation for Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria (FEHN)'s 5th Non-Violence and Transformation programme held at Eko Tourist Resort Akodo weekend in Lagos.

Mr. Allen Enyema, Chairman of the foundation commended the youths for their participation in the programme as he enjoined them to utilise all they have learnt at the programme to impact positively as change agents in their different groups and communities in the Niger Delta region.

He also expressed his gratitude to Governor Victor Attah of Akwa Ibom State for single-handedly sponsoring over a hundred youths for the programme as he urges other states governors, not just South states because according to him "if all the 36 governors can sponsor at least 100 youths to such programme then we are talking of building a better future for our Nigerian youths and ridding our country of all other ethno-religious violence in every nook and cranny of the country.

At the flagging off of the programme, Governor Attah stated that employment and other good things of life could only come in a peaceful environment, saying it was possible to stop militancy in the Niger Delta and that it is not good to label the youths militants since they could be trained and counselled to lead responsible lives.

Attah, who has been disturbed by the rising tide of insecurity and restiveness in the region, decided to undertake the largest single sponsorship of youths of the region to the programme since its inception.

Millions for Millions


A couple of weeks ago I sent a story about Muhammad Yunus winning the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.  Here is an article from the New Yorker which provides a more in-depth look at what is involved with micro-credit.  You can also read the article online at

This story was referred to me by the pastor of a local Friends Meeting here in Richmond, IN.  Please continue sending items that you think would be of interest to others on the list! 

May we use our money and wealth with intention and for justice!


This year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner and some high-tech entrepreneurs are competing to provide credit to the world’s poor.
Issue of 2006-10-30
Posted 2006-10-23

Over the Labor Day weekend of 1995, a ponytailed, bearded young software engineer named Pierre Omidyar wrote a code that enabled people to buy and sell items on the Internet. In the first few weeks after the program was introduced, items ranging from a Maxx comic book to a 1952 Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn changed hands. That program eventually became eBay. Not long after the company went public, in 1998, Omidyar’s share of the stock offering was roughly ten billion dollars, and he became the richest thirty-two-year-old in the world. He found the experience slightly unsettling­he told friends that he had never planned to get rich­and he continued driving his Volkswagen Golf. With his wife, Pam, he started a foundation to give away large sums of money, but he was frustrated by the constraints and inefficiencies of the nonprofit world. Omidyar was searching for a way to change things on a grand scale, and, like many other highly successful young West Coast entrepreneurs, he became interested in a field called microfinance, or microcredit. In November, 2004, he and Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the co-founders of Google, and other leaders of the high-tech community gathered at the San Francisco home of the venture capitalist John Doerr for a weekend session with Muhammad Yunus, who is considered the godfather of microcredit.

Yunus, a silver-haired man of sixty-six with a round, luminous countenance, is a highly gifted interlocutor between the extremely poor in the developing world and the West, and for years he had been seen as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. (This December, he will go to Oslo to receive it.) During the famine of 1974 in Bangladesh, when the dying lined the doorsteps of the better-off in Dhaka, Yunus, an economics professor at Chittagong University, found the theories he was teaching maddeningly irrelevant; so he went into a neighboring village and began talking to the poor. He experimented with ways of helping them­initially, he lent twenty-seven dollars to a group of forty-two villagers­and before long he became convinced that he had a remedy for their condition: providing very small individual loans to the impoverished to start activities ranging from making bamboo stools to buying a dairy cow. In 1976, after local banks refused his entreaties to make the loans, he resolved to do it himself, and he founded the Grameen Bank.

Yunus is a mesmerizing salesman. In the eighties and early nineties, the Grameen Bank received close to a hundred and fifty million dollars in soft loans and grants; today, funded by savings deposits from borrowers and others, it essentially supports itself. It has disbursed more than $5.3 billion to nearly seven million borrowers who have no collateral; ninety-six per cent of them are groups of women, who meet once a week and, through incentives, help to insure their individual loan repayments. (Traditionally, Third World banks lend only to men. Yunus says that he developed the policy of lending mainly to women not only because they were more responsible about re-paying the loans but because families benefitted more when the women controlled the money.) To cover the high cost of servicing these small loans, borrowers pay interest rates of up to twenty per cent, and Grameen claims that it recovers ninety-eight per cent of the loans. Some of Grameen’s numbers have been challenged, but no one disputes Yunus’s assertion that, contrary to traditional banking doctrine, the poor can be reliable borrowers, even at high rates of interest. These days, Yunus raises money for the Grameen Foundation, a global nonprofit group that supports microcredit institutions around the world. Many are related to the Grameen Bank, but only loosely; Yunus believes in locally designed, run, and controlled institutions.

As microcredit has changed in the past thirty years, achieving broad recognition and even some early commercial success, Yunus has modified his methods, but he has never wavered from his goal. He insists that microcredit can lead to a world in which poverty has been extinguished and that eventually, as he puts it, there will be “poverty museums.” He told his audience at Doerr’s home that more than fifty per cent of the Grameen Bank’s borrowers who have been in the program for more than five years have risen out of poverty, according to a simple measurement system that he himself had devised. (To have graduated from poverty, a family must have, among other things, a house with a tin roof; clean drinking water; a sanitary latrine; warm clothes for winter and mosquito netting for summer; about seventy-five dollars in a savings account; and schooling for the children.)

At lunch, Janet McKinley, a Grameen Foundation donor who used to run a major mutual fund and retired at the age of forty-nine to concentrate on microfinance, told the group that in 1995 she had visited a small program run by the Vietnam Women’s Union, and saw how a loan of twenty dollars could change a woman’s life. Her companion, George Miller (now her husband), gave the union a five-year grant of a million dollars, enabling it to expand from five hundred women to ten thousand, so that the more successful participants could get bigger loans and hire other women. McKinley and Miller returned each year. “There was a woman who started out with a mud hut,” McKinley recalled. “When we came back, she had a three-room house with a cement floor, and the pigs were in the hut she had stayed in before.” When the women first came for loans, “they sat hunched, looking down into their laps. They would take the money and fold it into a hairpin behind their ears, looking so frightened­because, they said, they were afraid they couldn’t pay it back. Two or three years later, these same women were running businesses, and were often involved in politics in their village.” She continued, “Does everyone succeed? No. But it is the same in the investment business. You don’t want to take a lot of risk? Buy some ducks. But the more risk-taking borrowers will pool their loans and buy a baby water buffalo and rent it to men for farming. And then there are those who blow right past livestock and build a brick factory.”

That afternoon, the participants broke into discussion groups, and were given forty-five minutes to devise a solution to end world poverty. The entrepreneurs weren’t humbled by the challenge. “The inner graduate student in all these people came out,” Alex Counts, the Grameen Foundation’s president, said later. “They were all rushing up, taking turns at the whiteboard. And they took it so seriously!”

None, perhaps, more than Pierre Omidyar. Born in Paris to Iranian parents, Omidyar came to this country as a child in the nineteen-seventies, and viewed himself as a truly transformative capitalist. His purpose in creating the program for what became eBay was to create a perfect market, something realized only in economics textbooks, where buyers and sellers would all have equal access to information and opportunity. And microfinance, after all, was about equal access to capital.

Counts recalled that Omidyar, who is given to phrases like “Wow!” and “That’s neat!,” kept refining the numbers throughout the day. Omidyar was struck by Yunus’s statement that the poor are natural entrepreneurs, essentially because their business activities are a matter of survival. “By giving them the tools, you unleash the entrepreneurial instinct,” Omidyar told me. Janet McKinley said, “All these wealthy entrepreneurs loved it, because they say, ‘This woman is an entrepreneur­just smaller scale.’ ”

The event at Doerr’s home had been billed as a learning session, not a fund-raiser, but several participants insisted that they be given a chance to contribute. Alex Counts introduced an idea that had been discussed at the Grameen Foundation for some time: a guarantee fund. If the guests would each guarantee a certain amount of money, the combined pledged funds would constitute a letter of credit, which Grameen could present to banks in various countries to induce them to loan to local microfinance institutions­in larger amounts and at a lower rate than they otherwise would. The donors’ money could continue to work in their portfolios and would be called upon only if an institution defaulted on its loan. According to Counts, John Doerr declared that everyone should commit no less than 0.1 per cent of his net worth. “It was kind of awkward,” Counts recalled, “but finally some raised their hands and said they would do it.” Ultimately, nine people committed a total of thirty-one million dollars to the guarantee fund, which aims to reach fifty million dollars.

Omidyar, however, wasn’t among them. As much as he admired Yunus’s belief that anyone, provided the means, can become self-sufficient­even successful­he has a different idea about the future of microfinance. Yunus is now seen by Omidyar and many others as the archetypal founder, too wedded to his original vision. In recent years, younger and nimbler players have been taking microfinance­their preferred term­toward the idea of building a fully commercial, profit-making sector. This conflict, between pure do-gooders and profit-minded do-gooders, has come to define the current debate in the microfinance world.

To continue reading this story, please visit

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Nonviolence conference in Amman, Jordan

Dear friends,

In the midst of heartbreaking news of violence, there are seeds and signs of another possible reality.

Enjoy this story from yesterday's Christian Science Monitor!

Matt Guynn
On Earth Peace

HELENA COBBAN: Nonviolence can work wonders - even in the Middle East

The Christian Science Monitor
(Published: November 8, 2006)

AMMAN, Jordan (CSM) - It was an extraordinary gathering. For four days at the end of October, 60 people, most from the Middle East, came together here to discuss how concerted nonviolent action might defuse tensions and help bring peace to this war-blighted part of the world.

A distinguished scholar from India helped us engage closely with the teachings of Mohandas Gandhi, and a veteran African-American participant in the U.S. civil rights movement helped us explore the work of Martin Luther King Jr. We heard from Israeli and Palestinian activists about projects to restore wholeness and hope to communities burdened heavily with fear, violence, and foreign occupation. We learned about the quiet transformational work that Christian Peacemaker Teams have done in Iraq and the West Bank, and explored theories and practices of nonviolent action from around the world.

This assembly - a U.N.-sponsored leadership conference on nonviolence - brought together Israelis, Palestinians, Iraqis, Jordanians, Egyptians, and others from the Middle East. One-third of the participants came from farther afield - from Nepal, Uganda, Cameroon, Sri Lanka, Russia, South Africa, and elsewhere - and added a valuable global and comparative perspective to the mix.

We saw very secular Israeli activists engaging passionately with socially conservative (and very articulate) veiled women from Jordan and the Palestinian territories. Pro-peace Israeli rabbis in yarmulkes worked with Muslim teachers in flowing robes. There were Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, and secular peace activists, and veterans of nonviolent struggles in South Africa, Northern Ireland, and elsewhere.

On the final night, an Israeli rabbi and a young Arab woman sang a poem composed two hours earlier by a South African. It told of the dream of coexistence along the Jordan River.

How did this happen - at a time of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and deadly civil strife in Iraq?

It was a combination of hard work and serendipity (you could say grace).

Back in April, Jairam Reddy, the head of the Amman-based United Nations University International Leadership Institute (UNU-ILI) planned this course to coincide with the centennial of Gandhi's first nonviolent demonstration, undertaken in Dr. Reddy's native South Africa in September 1906. Then, the punishing 34-day war between Israel and Lebanon this July dealt a huge setback to Israel's already fragile peace movement. And between April and October, the violence in Iraq escalated.

But throughout that violence-racked summer, small groups in all those countries continued to believe in and practice the principles of nonviolence. Annemie De Winter, the regional representative of Germany's Friedrich Naumann Foundation, stayed in touch with many of them. She helped UNU-ILI to assemble the rich roster of in-region course participants. Reddy and his staff did the rest of the work. (Disclosure: I gave Reddy a small amount of consulting help on the project.) The Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington made a small but welcome financial donation. Then, given the talent, commitment, and flexibility of the group that assembled in Amman, the four days of work and learning flowed remarkably well.

I have supported many nongovernmental efforts for reconciliation and justice between Arabs and Israelis since the late 1980s, and I've seen this movement traverse times of hope and times of great setbacks. Considering the difficult conditions it had to confront, I was truly amazed at how successful the UNU-ILI gathering was.

Our gathering thrived because of the great human qualities and rich experience of the participants. It helped, too, that so many Middle Easterners can now see that violence - whether direct physical violence or the violence of oppressive systems - simply does not "work." So in key places, people have become more eager to seek alternatives.

The achievements of Gandhi's movement in India and of the (largely nonviolent) African National Congress in South Africa last century are solid examples of the effectiveness of nonviolent mass action that today's peacemakers embrace as instructive models. The teachings of Gandhi, Dr. King, and others do not try to avoid the big political problems that conflict- ridden or oppressed societies face. Instead, they seek to mobilize new, nonviolent human energies in order to resolve them.

Obviously, this movement toward nonviolent action in the Middle East is still in its infancy. In every country in the region, it is still vulnerable to the forces of violence. But in Amman in October, vital seeds were sown, and vital connections made. Now, we all need to work hard to nurture and strengthen this hopeful movement.

Helena Cobban is the author of "Amnesty after Atrocity? Healing Nations after Genocide and War Crimes."

Friday, November 03, 2006

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: We were the unlikeliest lot

Friends --

Here is a report from the recent Christian Peacemaker Teams Women's Delegation to the Democractic Republic of Congo. You can find relevant maps on our blog at, embedded in the item I sent previously announcing this delegation.

Matt Guynn
On Earth Peace

CPTnet ~
1 November 2006

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: We were the unlikeliest lot

by Unjin Lee
[The author is a member of a delegation to the Democratic Republic of Congo sponsored by Christian Peacemaker Teams. Delegates will return home 4 November 2006.]

"We were the unlikeliest lot and that is precisely why God has chosen us."
-Desmond Tutu

How can one put words to the trauma we have been witness to during these last six days in Eastern Congo? We are a delegation of eleven women, representing families and communities in Canada, Kenya, Colombia, Congo and the United States. For some of us, our knowledge of the sexual violence perpetrated against women in Congo began only a few months ago, through web research, magazine articles, and news specials on Frontline and CNN. For two women on our delegation, this trip is a homecoming, a reunion with their motherland, a response to the hurting needs of their own people. For one woman of our delegation, these two weeks traveling throughout the Eastern region of Congo with an international group of women is an intensely raw confirmation that what she has been living and experiencing within her own community of Uvira-violence that has been happening all over Congo since conflict tore into the country ten years ago.

What exactly have we heard?

Women in Congo are being systematically raped as a weapon of warfare. Rebel militia, most specifically, the Rwandese refugees in Interhamwe, perpetrating an organized, gruesome violence against women and children in Congo. Terrazita, a forty-two-year old woman from Bunia-Kiri shared her story with us: "I was raped by the Interhamwe. My husband and son were murdered in front of me. I was forced to live with the Interhamwe in the forest as their sex slave." After one year and three months, the Interhamwe let Terrazita go. She crawled to safety because she could no longer walk. Terrazita has lost her uterus due to the internal injuries caused by these rapes. She lives alone with twelve children, four of whom are fathered by Interhamwe. She feels an acute burden of shame and ostracism.

I am certain that each of us believed this time in Congo would be challenging, painful, traumatic. But these words are not enough to describe what we hear in the voices and see in the eyes of Congolese women. There is rage. There is fear. There is confusion and loss. But the overarching message these Congolese women convey to us through their voices, their faces is that they are survivors and they want peace in their land. Over and over, the consistent message from rural women in Uvira to educated women in the city of Bukavu, has been a plea for peace.

One woman we met from the village of Bunia-Kiri stood up and said to us, "All we are asking for is peace, so that we can look like you [our delegation] are looking-shiny and healthy. Please fight for us to have the dignity that you have, which is a dignity that we deserve."