September 30 – October 3 more than a thousand people gathered at the Technishce Universität Berlin, Germany to discuss the most pressing challenges for peace in our time. The International Peace Bureau convened the "World Congress" in conjunction with its annual meeting. The Disarm! For a Climate of Peace gathering was supported by 50 international peace organizations including IFOR. Many IFOR members primarily from Europe and North America were in attendance. Topics of discussion included: opposition to NATO Expansion, Military Recourses and the Environment, the Impact of Climate Change on Peace and Security in Africa, the Nuclear-Climate Nexus and Sustainable Peace and many more.
On September 17-18 MIR/IFOR Madagascar (FIEFA) held its general assembly and elected new officers. The general assembly was held in Antananarivo. 11 people were elected to serve the board for the next 3 years from 2016 to 2019.
Patrick Rakotondranaly was elected president and Luciani Jos'oint was elected vice President. Other board members include Vololona Razafindrainibe, Ernest Razafindraibe, Michel Ravoavy, Jean Aimé Randriamiantrarivo, Alexandre Ramarosandratana, Jacques Tronchon, Suzette Marie Isabelle Razanamalalanandrasana, and Assina Feno.
The International Secretariat expresses congratulations to the members and new leadership of FIEFA. The IFOR community remains in solidarity with our members in Madagascar as the continue the work of nonviolence and peace.
During the 33rd Session of the Human Rights Council, IFOR Fellow Martina Lanza delivered the following statement about the situation facing young men who object to joining the fighting in Ukraine.
IFOR would like to draw the attention to the plight of young men everywhere in Ukraine who do not wish to become embroiled on either side of the ongoing armed conflict. Some face pressure to join separatist or anti-separatist militias; many more live under the threat of formal conscription into the Government armed forces, which they can avoid only by fleeing the country.
Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost, and millions of people have been displaced. This week during the opening week of the UN General Assembly, on Wednesday September 21, the International Day of Peace, IFOR is supporting the Global Day of Action and Prayer for Syria.
ACTION: Among those displaced by the war are millions of children. These children will not only need to grapple with the horror and trauma of war and displacement, their education has been disrupted which will also impact the rest of their lives. In addition to calling for an end to the war. IFOR is supporting the YOU PROMISED campaign launched by Theirworld, an effort to support the education of refugee children wherever they are.
On September 14, during the 33 Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, IFOR's Main Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Derek Brett, expressed concern for the situation of Human Rights in Turkey. In his statement, Brett noted that:
"Even before the massive detentions and new restrictions on the freedom of movement, assembly and expression which followed the attempted military coup, we were deeply concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in the country, and disturbed by the lack of attention which it has received in this Council. Our contacts on the ground report ongoing breaches of International Humanitarian Law and widespread human rights violations, particularly in the south-east of the country, including the targeting of civilians in military operations, extrajudicial executions, the demolition of towns and villages, leading to massive displacement, and the torture and long term detention of civilians, particularly in prisons in the cities of Urfa and Siverek."
IFOR called on the Turkish authorities to heed the repeated appeal for unfettered access to the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the staff of his office, particularly to the South – East of Turkey.
IFOR also hosted a side event for diplomats and others featuring Peri Hevi, a journalist who spoke about the human rights situation in Turkey after the election of June 2015 and Ramazan Baytar, independent activist who spoke about the coup attempt and the aftermath.
IFOR maintains contact with many human rights activists in Turkey, particularly conscientious objectors. Derek Brett spoke about the situation facing conscientious objectors during the side event hosted by IFOR.
IFOR's branches in the Northern Hemisphere along with the International Secretariat have been experiencing summer over the past months. Even before summer, our team at the International Secretariat fell behind on providing updates to the news section of IFOR's website. Here are some important happenings within IFOR in the past several months that we've missed:
Cultural Academy of Peace Celebrates Pearl Jubilee:
IFOR's Affiliate in Kerela, India celebrated the Pearl Jubilee. CAP's newsletter described "it is the Day we realized the impact of 30 years of our “commitment and service “to women and children especially those in crisis situation. The large number,of Social activists,professionals, secular and religious groups, Government representatives and our network Partners, almost 500, was indeed quite heartening. Many people have commended that it was an indicator of the acceptance of Cultural Academy’s mission."
The event was held in on April 9th Ashir Bhavan, Ernakulam. It was a remarkable day as they simultaneously observed NIRBHAYA DAY, in memory of the deceased victims, and survivors of Sexual abuse. Cultural Academy runs Nirbhaya Home, a project of Kerala Government. The Residents of this Home as well as Shanthi Bhavan took active part in the celebration.
The Cultural Academy also hosted a one day workshop on ‘Gender Equity for Social Safety with Emphasis on Masculinity’ led by Dr. Suseela Mathew, an International Trainer on Gender and Conflict Management, on 30th July 2016 at Shantibhavan Auditorium, Ernakulam.
The Human Cost of the War on Drugs: April 19-21 there was a Special Session of the UN General Assembly on Drug Policy. The International Secretariat helped coordinate the involvement of FOR-USA and SERPAJ-AL.
FOR-USA participated in the Special Session in collaboration with the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference who had assembled an international collection of clergy to give voice the damage that the War on Drugs has caused on communities around the globe: religious leaders from the United States, El Salvador, Ukraine, Afghanistan, and the United Kingdom told of the horribly punitive and violent actions taken through the War on Drugs. SERPAJ-America Latina was represented by the presence of Carlos Martinez of SERPAJ-Chile.
FOR Peace Presence launches Longing For Peace Campaign: FOR Peace Presence represents the work of several members of the IFOR to protect communities and human rights defenders in Colombia. With the Peace Process negotiating an end to the armed conflict, there is a lot of work on a grassroots level that needs to be done to guarantee that implementation of the agreement and the continued physical and political space for communities and organizations to continue their essential work for peace as well as social, economic, cultural, and environmental justice.
In light of all this, FOR Peace Presence is organizing an interactive multimedia campaign titled Longing for Peace. The campaign is designed to coincide with the signing of the accords while highlighting the diverse voices and experiences of FORPP partners, members of Colombian civil society, and members of the international community as they share understandings of peace, hopes for a their country post-accord, and ongoing challenges to building lasting and meaningful peace. The campaign aims to broaden the physical and political space necessary for building peace and to recognize that peace is a process-oriented action, requiring ongoing and long-term participation at all levels.
IFOR's Beloved Communities Project Continues: Following the visit of Palestinian American lawyer and activist Ahmad Abuznaid, 20 May- 20 June, IFOR was pleased to welcome Dr. Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons as it's 5th speaker for the Beloved Communities Project. Dr. Simmons is a veteran of the U.S. Civil Rights and Black Power Movements. She is a Sufi muslim and a professor of Islamic Studies. She spoke to a variety of communities in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Brussels, Berlin and Budapest about Islam, nonviolence, feminism, the U.S. Black Freedom Struggle and many other topics.
IFOR & UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), Vienna: UNODA introduced a program called "Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education Partnership". July 5-6th, the "Women Higher Education for Peace Vienna Forum" was held. It included a "job fair" for women mainly from the Global South, to be involved more deeply in disarmament affairs and also job opportunities. IFOR is one of 6 NGOs from the Vienna UN Committee on Peace who were partners of the whole program -we were invited to participate in both the Forum and the job fair. IFOR was represented by Therese Kirchner, board member of IFOR Austria and IFOR's representative to the UN in Vienna, Pete Haemmerle participated in a short video clip on the work of the NGO Committee on Peace (including IFOR) in Vienna.
Much more work for peace was done by IFOR members around the world in the past several months. We will not be able to report them all here but these were some of the highlights we thought it was important to share.
IFOR's international leadership stands with it's branch in South Sudan, the Organization for Nonviolence and Development (ONAD), condemning the ongoing political violence in the capital city of Juba. We also call for the immediate release of the South Sudanese journalist Mr. Alfred Taban.
On July 13, 2016 ONAD released the following statement:
ONAD is disappointed with the recent eruption of armed violence in Juba the capital of the Republic of South Sudan. The fighting that erupted between forces loyal to the Sudan’s People Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in Government and Sudan’s People Liberation Movement/Army SPLM/A – in Opposition started since 7th to 11th July 2016. The organization is concerned that the conflict resulted to lose of lives, destruction and looting of properties. The violent conflict has further displaced thousands and inflicted significant suffering on the civil population at a time they are supposed to enjoy the peace dividends. While, ONAD appreciates the order and call for ceasefire by the President and the First Vice President, the organization calls for compliance of commanders, genuine political will and commitment to full implementation of the security arrangements and the whole Agreement on Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS). While the organization welcomes the quick response of the United Nations, African Union Commission and IGAD Council of Ministers on the recent deteriorating security situation in the country. ONAD is concerned with the IGAD Ministers recent call during their 56th Extraordinary Session demanding to establish an intervention brigade and increase the number of troops from the region to inter alia secure Juba.
“We do not believe having more troops will make Juba secure. More troops will only make civilians more insecure. Right now civilians need PEACE without weapons, more humanitarian and nonviolent protection responses." Says Moses Monday Executive Director. He added; ONAD wishes to take this opportunity to encourage regional and international community to rather pressure the political leadership to fully implement the peace agreement in letter and spirit.
April 19-26, IFOR brought the Palestinian-American community organizer, lawyer and activist, Ahmad Abuznaid, to the Netherlands and Belgium for a little over a week of events, meetings and exchanges. Ahmad joins, Anthony Grimes, Derecka Purnell and Nyle Fort as the fourth organizer from the United States who has participated in the project. Ahmad serves as the Chief Operating Officer of the Dream Defenders, an organization born in response to the killing of the unarmed American teenager Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch volunteer in 2012.
EUFOR – European Fellowship of Reconciliation
Wednesday 06.04.16 12:00AM
for the original press release please click here.
At a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, 25 representatives of the European branches of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) call for a ‘renewed vision of Europe’ based on Culture of Peace; not military might.
A new way of working in Europe is needed based on unity, solidarity and humanity to tackle 21st Century challenges.
The following areas in need of urgent and collective attention are:
· Recognize Refugees and Migrants as Citizens
· Disarmament and Abolish Nuclear Weapons and Arms Trade
· Promote Peace Education, Inter-faith Dialogue and Social Empowerment
The European Branches made the following statements:
“The European civil society has experienced on many occasions the power to transform conflicts through a firm stand for human rights, non-violence and human security. We want to build on this heritage of positive values."
“Refugees and migrants are making a statement with their feet on failed policy. Europe's efforts and resources should be spent tackling the root causes of their migration as well as accepting refugees and migrants as citizens.
“Europe is in a larger value crisis and it must act and shift resources away from arms expenditure, nuclear weapons, and military strategy.
“There is a further need to prioritize non-violent intervention in order to foster and create a Europe of solidarity.
“EUFOR calls on the people of Europe to exercise their cooperative responsibility on forming a Europe of hope not fear, and neighbors not strangers. Together we can change our communities and governments.
- · EUFOR brings together groups committed to faith-based non-violence.
- · The Fellowships started in 1914 with people who conscientiously objected to taking part in war because of their religious beliefs
- · EUFOR continues to work for non-violence, peace and reconciliation
- · EUFOR meeting (01.04.16) consisted of representatives from Wales, England, Scotland, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Netherlands, Austria and Belgium.
IFOR representatives in New York attended the Sixtieth Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. During the session, a diverse group of young feminist advocates, gathered working for gender, reproductive, economic, ecological and social justice and political transformation. IFOR's representative to the United Nations, Patricia Ackerman was among those present for this feminist caucus.
The caucus produced a statement addressing several areas of concern: youth participation, climate change and justice, sexual and reproductive rights and legal barriers, sexual and reproductive health services, education, comprehensive sexuality education, and gender based violence.
The full text of the statement can be found here.
The IFOR movement joins the many people around the world who continue to respond to the murder of human rights activist Berta Caceres. IFOR in Latin America (known as SERPAJ) released the following statement shortly after news broke of the Caceres assassination.
For the original statement in spanish click here.
El Servicio Paz y Justicia en América Latina, SERPAJ-AL, expresses their protest for the recent vile assassination of the Honduran indigenous leader Berta Caceres Flores, who was general coordinator of the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH).
Berta Caceres was a strong promotor of various campaigns against the construction of a hydroelectric dam meant to be built in the Rio Gualcarque, which is considered a sacred site for the Lenca ethnicity. Accomplishing with her constant campaigns that the powerful company Sinohydro, considered one of the biggest dam builders in the world, would withdraw their involvement in said project.
The project for the construction of the dam in the Gualcarque river, had the support of the International Financial Corporation, a member of the World Bank, who had strong economic investments in this ambitious project, which threatens the most of sacred places of the Lenca ethnicity.
Berta Caceres received the Goldman environmental award, for her activities in defense of human rigths, especially those concerning the right to a healthy environment, highest acknowledgement for those that promote the protection of both nature and the global environment, both such beloved by humankind.
In view of the monstrous consequences for humanity and the whole life on earth due to nuclear explosion IFOR urges for a ban on all nuclear weapons including possession, prohibition of use and final elimination of such weapons. It is the responsibility of all nuclear states to abandon the manufacturing and development of nuclear weapons, which may endanger their own population. In order to achieve these aims we recommend first an international treaty for a prohibition of use of such weapons then a comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons for a total elimination.
Lead by IFOR's main representative to the United Nations in New York, John Kim, IFOR along with the Center for Global Nonkilling sent the statement below to members of the UN Security Council as they prepare deliberations in response to recent actions of North Korea.
"As concerned NGOs accredited to the UN, we are writing to urge the Security Council to take positive measures to defuse the rising military tensions on the Korean Peninsula. In this regard, we would like to encourage the Security Council members to tackle the root causes of the continuing military tensions on the Korean Peninsula and act in such a manner “to prevent an aggravation of the situation” in Korea (Article 40, UN Charter), in “conformity with the principles of justice and international law” (Article 1 (1), UN Charter)."
Kristin Stoneking, Executive Director of the branch of IFOR in the United States (FOR-USA) met this week with the Policy Director of U.S. Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin.
Translated from original text in French
living together in brotherhood
In recent days, Paris and Saint-Denis has been the scene of violence that has dumbstruck us. These terrorist acts were claimed by the Islamic State, which is also responsible for numerous attacks like the one against the Russian Airbus above the Sinai or the one in Beirut the day before that of Paris.
In these times marked by collective emotion at the thought of all the victims of these deadly attacks, we call to resist the fear of the other, resentment and hatred and we want to oppose all forms of amalgam or revenge that could justify and cause racist, xenophobic and anti-Muslim acts.
Fight against terrorism and their preparation must be done in compliance with the individual and collective freedoms, strengthening the cohesion of our society through greater solidarity and fraternity.
But it seems essential to break the spiral of violence. Military interventions and wars, which are based on excessive militarization and maintain the lucrative arms trade, will not bring lasting and just solution to the ongoing conflict. They will only lead to more death, destruction, refugees and bring new acts of terrorism.
Our world needs to develop a culture of non-violence and peace, of dialogue and tolerance, to strengthen democracy and social justice, and justice between peoples. It is urgent to support and empower all those who are carriers of these values o that they can take action toward their fellow citizens and their leaders. This is the best way to work for the safety of all and to take care of our lives and of all those around us.
We believe that God calls us to a disarmed love for our brothers and sisters in humanity. We call upon all believers to join us on this active nonviolence way to lay, with all the inhabitants of our planet in danger, the foundations of a world where everyone can live with dignity in an insured peace and towards an appeased future.
Paris, November 19, 2015
war will not end terrorism, reconciliation will
The International Fellowship of Reconciliation expresses deep grief and sadness for the victims of the most recent terrorist attacks in Paris, France. As a global fellowship, we recognize and lament the fact that communities around the world have already been suffering from similarly appalling violence for years. As a community opposed to violence we find these acts reprehensible and the indiscriminate killing they represent abhorrent.
As a multi-faith community we pray for and with the victims of this violence, the families who have lost loved ones, the medical and security personnel who are called upon to respond amid the chaos and the community as a whole who seek a way to move forward. As people from many faith traditions, we recognize how painful it is to experience such horrible things committed in the name of one’s faith and we express solidarity with our Muslim sisters and brothers around the world who have repeatedly denounced such acts as unrepresentative of Islam.
We express grave concern for the repeated calls for retribution and the extent to which governments and elected leaders have responded with more calls for war. The recent acts of terrorism do not exist in a vacuum, they exist within a global context of instability caused and exacerbated by ongoing war, clandestine operations, military and police repression, poverty and neglect.
We reject the notion that more war, more „merciless“ killing can produce a solution to the problem of terrorism. We do not ignore the need for security. Security is something that all human communities desire, and one person’s security must not come at the expense of others. IFOR remains committed to finding ways to discourage violence and build the beloved community. We are committed to finding ways to prevent young people from choosing violence as a means of forming or asserting their identity. We are committed to challenging war and the unjust structures that allow violent ideologies to flourish.
We express concern for Europe’s minority communities, some of whom are likely to experience harassment and ill treatment simply because of their perceived ethnicity or their faith. We call upon Europeans and people of conscience everywhere to resist the temptation to respond in fear to acts of terrorism and war. We call upon all countries to continue to be hospitable to war’s victims and those fleeing the violence of hunger and persistent poverty.
We invite all people of conscience to join with us in seeking a nonviolent solution to these pressing challenges of our time.
A PDF of the statement translated into French is available here.
A PDF of the statement translated into Spanish is available here.
During the Session, IFOR hosted a group of ten human rights activists from Mexico, Colombia, South Sudan, and Western Sahara, brought to Geneva through their partnership with the SweFOR, IFOR's Swedish branch.
Representing a variety of different organizations in countries facing similar yet distinct challenges to human rights, the activists experienced a week of training on the various ways in which the work of the United Nations in Geneva can help to protect human rights on the ground. They attended debates in the Human Rights Council and watched it adopt the Report on the review of a member state under the Universal Periodic Review; they met with staff of the High Commissioner's Office working with some of the Council's special procedures, and heard how these take up complaints about human rights violations sent to them by activists in country; they saw two of the ten “treaty bodies” - the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Committee on the Rights of the Child – questioning delegations from a “state party”. Some met with the World Council Churches – also based in Geneva – and the Lutheran World Federation; meanwhile the rest of the party met with other leading ngos – Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and also with UPR-Info and the CCPR Centre - ngos with the specific purpose of facilitating the access of in-country activists to specific UN procedures (the Universal Periodic Review and the Human Rights Committee, which oversees the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, respectively).
The IFOR Secretariat responding to requests from local activists has joined with local community organizer Omar Ba to launch the formation of a new IFOR group in Flanders. Omar Ba, a native of Senegal, and long time resident of Antwerp, Belgium is a well-known voice within Flanders on matters of multiculturalism and social inclusion.
Monday, 26 October 2015 seven activists connected to IFOR’s Belgian branch Agir Pour La Paix appeared in court to face criminal charges for their action on February 11, 2012 to denounce the presence of nuclear weapons on Belgian soil.
The courtroom in Mons was packed with supporters of the Bombspotters, including 3 members of IFOR Germany who traveled to show their support. The IFOR International Coordinator was also there to express solidarity with the Bombspotters. Over 50 Belgian and international organizations have expressed support for the Bombspotters and the importance of their act of civil disobedience.
Working closely with the IFOR members in the Netherlands and Belgium, the International Secretariat launched a new project to support the efforts of its members to encourage reconciliation in their societies by challenging racism, xenophobia, and other forms of discrimination and social alienation. The project seeks to promote nonviolence as a means of addressing the structural violence that these social ills represent. The name of the project is inspired by the phrase “Beloved Community” made popular by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who was a member of IFOR’s branch in the United States.