Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Buddhist monks, nuns lead pro-democracy protests in Burma

Brothers and sisters,

What is our role as people of faith and conscience when concerns in society need to be addressed?

A major purpose of the Peace Witness Action List is to support the possibility that when our communities need it, we as people of faith will act.

We will act, rooted in our spirits and reaching out in connection our apparent opponents, but also faithful to the vision we've been given of a different order.

Here's a story from Burma -- Have you been following the news there this week?

Note the role of prayer and spiritual leadership in this story. What form will your spiritual leadership take?

peace + grace,
Matt Guynn
On Earth Peace

Buddhist monks, nuns lead pro-democracy protests in Burma

Print Email

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcast: 24/09/2007

Reporter: Karen Percy

For the seventh day straight, Bhuddist monks in Burma have taken to the streets to protest against the ruling military junta.


TONY JONES: Buddhist monks in Burma have taken to the streets for the seventh straight day to protest against the ruling military junta.

Tens of thousands of civilians have joined the demonstrations in what looks increasingly like a replay of the 1988 pro-democracy push.

Those protests ended in violence, but the monks say they are determined to keep these demonstrations peaceful.

Whether that happens depends largely on the ruling generals, who are facing their biggest threat in 20 years.

South East Asia correspondent Karen Percy.

KAREN PERCY: Day after day they�ve braved possible retaliation from the military junta. Tens of thousands of protesters have reportedly joined the monks on the streets of Rangoon and other cities across Burma, their demonstrations captured by secret cameras. The monks are determined to keep their protest peaceful. Prayer has been an important part of their actions which have centred on Rangoon's Shwedagon Pagoda, the country's spiritual heart.

SOE AUNG, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF THE UNION OF BURMA: In our country the monks are the highest moral authority of the society, and then when the monks take the leading role, you know, in the movement, then people would follow, you know, eventually.

KAREN PERCY: In a rare move, Buddhist nuns have also joined the action. Civilians held hands on the sidelines to provide protection for the monks who've been protesting for a week now. While ultimately they want an end to the military junta, they are prepared to negotiate.

They're demanding greater political freedoms and the release of political prisoners including their hero, Aung San Suu Kyi, who's been under house arrest for 12 of the past 18 years. On Saturday, marchers were able to gather outside her home. A teary-eyed Suu Kyi reportedly said little during her first contact with her supporters in more than four years.

SOE AUNG: She will not continue to keep quiet, my understanding is that she will do something to solve the situation. Given the limitation, what she can do is another question.

KAREN PERCY: Exile activists are watching events across the border with both hope and fear.

SOE AUNG: How the military would respond is we have to see, you know, in the future, in the coming days or weeks. But my request to the military regime is that this is a time that they should solve the problem in our country, especially the people suffering, not only the economics, but also the political situation. So that they should come to the dialogue.

KAREN PERCY: The military junta hasn't seen this kind of dissent in almost 20 years and so far it has not intervened.

SOE AUNG: The military government must know that they cannot last forever.

KAREN PERCY: But activists fear it won't be long before there's a repeat of the violent put-down of the 1988 pro-democracy movement. Karen Percy, Lateline.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Jena, Louisiana: Stand in solidarity with 6 black youth

Sisters, brothers, friends,

Are you aware of the situation in Jena, Louisiana? 

Please read on to find out about how six black youths are threatened with years in prison in a spiraling situation of race-based intimidation and injustice. Source: http://www.colorofchange.org/jena/main.html
        (The mission of Color of Change: ColorOfChange.org exists to strengthen Black America's political voice. Our goal is to empower our members­Black Americans and our allies­to make government more responsive to the concerns of Black Americans and to bring about positive political and social change for everyone."

Below the story, you will find background info, including several other media links, and several requests for action. 

Please consider visiting the Color of Change website, signing their petition, and then taking action next week.


Matt Guynn
On Earth Peace ~ Church of the Brethren

Additional background:

From http://www.colorofchange.org/jena/message.html:

Last fall in Jena, Louisiana, the day after two Black high school students sat beneath the "white tree" on their campus, nooses were hung from the tree. When the superintendent dismissed the nooses as a "prank," more Black students sat under the tree in protest. The District Attorney then came to the school accompanied by the town's police and demanded that the students end their protest, telling them, "I can be your best friend or your worst enemy... I can take away your lives with a stroke of my pen."1
A series of white-on-black incidents of violence followed, and the DA did nothing. But when a white student was beaten up in a schoolyard fight, the DA responded by charging six black students with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

It's a story that reads like one from the Jim Crow era, when judges, lawyers and all-white juries used the justice system to keep blacks in "their place"--but it's happening today. The families of these young men are fighting back, but the odds are stacked against them. Together, we can make sure their story is told, that this becomes an issue for the Governor of Louisiana, and that justice is provided for the Jena 6. It starts now. Please add your voice:


The noose-hanging incident and the DA's visit to the school set the stage for everything that followed. Racial tension escalated over the next couple of months, and on November 30, the main academic building of Jena High School was burned down in an unsolved fire. Later the same weekend, a black student was beaten up by white students at a party. The next day, black students at a convenience store were threatened by a young white man with a shotgun. They wrestled the gun from him and ran away. While no charges were filed against the white man, the students were arrested for the theft of the gun.2

That Monday at school, a white student, who had been a vocal supporter of the students who hung the nooses, taunted the black student who was beaten up at the off-campus party and allegedly called several black students "nigger." After lunch, he was knocked down, punched and kicked by black students. He was taken to the hospital but was released and was well enough to go to a social event that evening.3

Six Black Jena High students, Robert Bailey (17), Theo Shaw (17), Carwin Jones (18), Bryant Purvis (17), Mychal Bell (16) and an unidentified minor, were expelled from school, arrested and charged with second-degree attempted murder. Bail was set so high -- between $70,000 and $138,000 -- that the boys were left in prison for months as families went deep into debt to release them.4

The first trial ended last month, and Mychal Bell, who has been in prison since December, was convicted of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery (both felonies) by an all-white jury in a trial where his public defender called no witnesses. During his trial, Mychal's parents were ordered not to speak to the media and the court prohibited protests from taking place near the courtroom or where the judge could see them.

Jena 6 Day of Action: September 20th, 2007


Thanks for your interest in the Jena 6 National Day of Action. We know thousands of us acting locally will have an enormous national impact. There are several actions you can take. Read the descriptions below and check all the ones that are interesting to you. Click submit, and we'll get back to you with everything you need to make it happen.


Early next week, we'll provide flyers that you can download and print that will give background on the Jena 6 case and actions folks can take to support the Jena 6. On the 20th, you can pass them out, set up a table in a public place, or post the flyers in local businesses or in other public places.

We'll also provide a quarter-sheet version of the flyer, so if you're wearing a Jena 6 t-shirt, you can have flyers in your pocket, ready to pass to everyone who asks about your shirt.

Phone Calls

On the 20th, you'll be able to use our call tool to make calls to Louisiana officials, stepping up pressure on the Governor and making it clear she needs to act now. You can make as few or many calls as you like. All you need is your computer and your phone­the tool provides you with the phone numbers and the call script.

Vigils, Rallies, & Meetups

One of the most powerful ways to take action is by organizing or participating in a rally, meet-up, or vigil. These events truly bring people together as a community, and they often attract local press which is great for making more people aware of the situation. Vigils could happen the evening of the 19th or the day of 20th. Rallies can happen before work, at lunchtime, or at the end of the workday. Easier to plan, but no less important, would be a meet-up, where you and others get together in a high traffic spot in your community to raise awareness and spread the word with flyers and/or to engage folks in writing postcards for the young men and their families.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

ENCOUNTERING RECRUITMENT: Sept 26 call for organizers

What is happening in your community to generate positive alternatives for youth attracted to the military?

"It's encouraging to know there are people around the country facing the same things I am, and to hear how they are responding!" -- recent participant


On Earth Peace regularly sponsors national networking calls as an opportunity for networking and mutual support among those working on military recruitment in their communities (and all its related issues -- poverty, lack of opportunity).  These calls are a place to connect to a broader community of organizers, a place to receive a boost of inspiration and offer advice, and a place to provide each other with practical tips and spiritual support. 

"Clarifying Vision, Strength for the Journey: Setting Goals for the Fall"

This networking call for organizers responding to military recruitment
will take place on Wednesday, September 26, 1:00-2:30PM Eastern.
Contact mattguynn @ earthlink.net to reserve a spot!

Here's what you can expect:
  • A chance to share about your hopes and experiences with truth-in-recruiting organizing, with several others from around the country;
  • Christian theological and scriptural reflection on resisting recruitment and offering positive alternatives to youth;
  • Highlights of recent resources and new developments in the truth-in-recruiting movement;
  • Reflection on themes and common challenges that emerge from the call;
  • The introduction of a strategy tool to help make your organizing more powerful. In September's call, we will focus on using goal-setting and campaign-building as paths toward the most powerful fall possible for your organizing efforts.

Our calls are especially focused on supporting those working from the basis of Christian faith, although all are warmly welcomed to participate. On Earth Peace is the peace education and action agency of the Church of the Brethren.

There will be eight slots available for the call. We have found it best to limit the number of participants in order to deepen the sharing and conversation that can take place.

Please send an e-mail to mattguynn @ earthlink.net or call 503-775-1636 to reserve a slot for the next calls!

Call Facilitators:

Matt Guynn
Coordinator of Peace Witness, On Earth Peace
Portland, Oregon

Deb Oskin
Peace Minister, Living Peace Church of the Brethren
Columbus, Ohio


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 11 support call for International Day of Prayer for Peace organizers

Friends, sisters, brothers,

Hello and greetings in the spirit of Grace and Peace!  I hope that you are blessed with healing and power today.

EIGHTY (80) Church of the Brethren congregations, colleges, and communities, have signed up to sponsor prayer events as part of the September 21 International Day of Prayer for Peace.  I invite you to review the list at http://www.brethren.org/oepa/programs/peace-witness/prayforpeace.html On Earth Peace has been working with the Church of the Brethren General Board's Brethren Witness/Washington Office on this exciting campaign!

We have had two exciting support calls for folks working on events in their local communities.  Each call is a time to share your plans, get advice and support from others, and to pray and reflect together about how this activity fits into the larger context of Christian peace witness.   If you are planning an event for the week of Sept 21, can you join us?

Matt Guynn
coordinator of peace witness

for International Day of Prayer for Peace Organizers

Get a boost for your local plans, hear from organizers all over the country, pray together with others getting ready for September 21!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007
7:00 EASTERN/4:00 PACIFIC – Call will last 90 minutes.

September 21, 2007, is the International Day of Prayer for Peace.  Eighty Church of the Brethren congregations from coast to coast have committed to sponsor events as part of the International Day of Prayer for Peace, and fifty-seven more are in discernment.

YOU are invited to use the International Day of Prayer for Peace as a chance to pray publicly about violence in your community or the world and to ask God for vision and assistance in responding.

Organizers or individuals considering participating in the International Day of Prayer for Peace are invited to a conference call on Tuesday, Sept 11, 7:00PM Eastern, 4:00PM Pacific.

Here's what you can expect:
  • Hear stories and get ideas from others all over the country about their plans for a public prayer meeting about violence on or near Sept 21;
  • Share about your hopes and plans for your event;
  • Reflect together on challenges that organizers are experiencing and seek solutions;
  • Join in Christian theological and scriptural reflection on public witness.
  • Call facilitator: Matt Guynn, coordinator of peace witness, On Earth Peace

SEPTEMBER 11, 2007; 7:00 EASTERN/4:00 PACIFIC – The call will last 90 minutes.

To register: Send an e-mail to Mimi Copp, Grassroots Organizer for the IDOPP, at miminski@gmail.com