Learn more about the IFOR’s first edition of its UN “introduction” program, where participants get to come and see how the internal structure of the UN works and how the fellowship participates in it.
A new conversation about migrants, led by migrants themselves
In November 2018 the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR), together with its Italian branch (MIR Italia), invited members, activists and interested fellow humans from over 40 different countries to join a «New Conversation about Migration» in Catania, Sicily. The conference, held on the weekend before the international Council of IFOR, had the primary objective of creating an open platform to talk with migrants, rather than simply talk about migration itself.
Therefore, the panels organized were focused primarily on the issues concerning migration causes, the individual experience of the journey and strategies of hospitality and interaction. Zaira Zafarana, IFOR UN Representative and member of MIR Italia, energetically coordinated and moderated the conference. The Conference conversations and contributions were simultaneously interpreted into English, Italian, French or Spanish to include as many participants as possible. By establishing a new way to converse and think about migration, the participants of the conference sought to develop a broader and more diverse perspective on the topic; to overcome the Eurocentric perspective often dominating the discourse on migration and integration politics in Europe.
Since the starting of the conference “migration” has been identified as a wider subject including different elements to be addressed. Many participants were puzzled yet intrigued by the diversity of migration patterns. For instance, most migrants worldwide are involved in internal migration within their region, moving to other cities or to neighboring countries. An idea that differs from the everyday understanding of South-North-immigration enforced by media. Throughout the conference 14 representatives openly shared their very personal and emotional experiences regarding their endeavors, as well as the life they left behind in their home country, often describing hopeless and painful pictures of degrading living-conditions.
Listening to these painful testimonies, hearing about the injustice and the inhumanity described, participants showed empathy, felt the disappointment about conditions lived and many were supremely moved. Nevertheless, the united efforts and strong will of people from all over the world, ambitiously advocating for peace, non-violence and solidarity, created a hopeful, energetic and confident atmosphere.
One noteworthy issue, among the already many compelling stories, was the alerting gap between the theoretical idea of human rights and their practical implementation. The experiences shared by the participating refugees and migrants demonstrated circumstances where their rights are not substantially protected and respected; instead the trend moves towards criminalizing migrants while people and organizations remain helping them.
Father Zerai, from the Habeshia Agency declared once again that: "The rights of the weak are not weak rights. The rights of the poor should not be poor rights.” Abdelfetah Mohammed an intercultural mediator migrated from Eritrea to Sicily gave a brief insight into his own story:
„I was moving from place to place for 11 years, which was not planned at all. I did not come straight to Italy. I moved when the violence became too dangerous … war is always waged against the people, therefore, living in conflict areas becomes unbearable. Most of the people flee within the region, since they hope to go back home as soon as the violence is over. No one wants to be a refugee.“
Another speaker was Junior Nzita Nsuami. He is a former child soldier from the Democratic Republic of Congo, founder of the organization "Paix pour les Enfants", and a goodwill ambassador for the UN campaign #enfantpassoldat. He has published an autobiography about his childhood experiences and because of death threats in DRC, Junior got asylum in Canada. Junior stated that children pay with their lives and lose their childhood while the European and US-American arms industry is profiting from wars fought in Africa and from child soldiers’ practice. He insisted that there is no positive war and that the only way to fight is in a non-violent and peaceful manner. Then, he concluded his speech with a forceful and urgent appeal towards the audience:
“The children pay the price of the weapons that Europe produces. I am African, but I would like to speak as a citizen of the world today. […] I urge you in Europe and in the USA: Stop with the gun production! You should know that in Africa we don´t have factories to produce weapons, they are all in Europe and the United States. Your factories will enrich themselves and your gross domestic product will rise. There are more than 300.000 child soldiers in the world – It’s enough! Nonviolence and education are the only ways for our world.”
During the Conference it became clear that the central problems connected to migration are war, global injustice and human rights violations, all brightly debated by the audience throughout the conference. The current situation in Europe was often criticized and the European Union’s credibility called into question, one crucial example being that although the EU declares respect for Human Rights and their promulgation as one of its core values, the political practice often is in contrast. The island of Sicily, where the conference took place, is a vivid example of these practices: FRONTEX, the agency for the "protection" of the European external borders, is based in Sicily. The restrictive European policy endangers migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees who are thus risking their lives in reaching out for help. It’s time to begin rethinking the entire concept of borders and belongingness in the Mediterranean; a more distinctive vision was proposed by Runbir Serkepkani from the “Christian Peacemaker Teams” in Greece:
“[The Mediterranean Sea] is militarized. We need to remember that the Mediterranean is a sea that is connecting hundreds of cultures, and languages, and people, all having a connected history. What’s happening is injustice and what’s happening needs to change. Mediterranean is not “Mare Nostrum” it’s “Mare Liberum” - it’s the “Sea of Liberty” and we need to remember that.”
One of the biggest lessons drawn from the Conference on Migration was to dissolve the Eurocentric perspective on migration, as well as the racist and post-colonial structures influencing the modes the issue has been discussed. Therefore, we should be listening to refugees and come together and talk with migrants as with people within sources like #OnTheMove in order to find appropriate and adequate solutions.
A thriving example of solidarity and integration was presented by Roberta Ferruti from ReCoSol - Rete dei Comuni Solidali (Network of Solidary Communities). She spoke about Riace where the Italian community took in and integrated refugees that stranded at their shore in 2003. Today the model is replicated in over 40 Italian communities and inspired projects in seven other European countries. Although Riace lost financial assistance by the government and faces financial and political difficulties the community fights for the project’s persistence. In this light, Ferruti insists that solidarity can never be a crime and advocates for civil resistance and if necessary civil disobedience to preserve human rights and human dignity.
During the two days Conference, there was a dinner shared at Misericordia Mosque, which gave way for encounters and interactions between participants to the conference and the local Muslim community of Catania. The Conference concluded with an inspiring and exciting concert, where participants, together with other locals, enjoyed the rhythmic beats of the migrant’s bands Jhonny’s Family Project and Ciauda and were dancing until late in the night.
For the Spanish version click here
For the French version click here
IFORs Branch Anando has been conducting valuable activities in service of the Rohingya Refugees since September 2017 and will continue to do so till September 2019. Anando has been distributing food items to the Rohingya Refugees, now Anando is distributing non-food items to the Rohingya refugees. Click through to read about the great work that Anando is doing in Cox’s Bazar.
The vice-president of MIR Italy and the IFOR Main Representative at the United Nations in Geneva participated in an Italian interview.
The vice-president of MIR Italy together with the IFOR Main Representative at the United Nations in Geneva participated in an Italian radio program last month. During the radio interview, the history and intent of IFOR, the meaning -and related initiatives- of nonviolence and conscientious objection were presented.
Conscientious objection to military service was acknowledged as a right in Italy by an Act dated December 15th 1972, following a lengthy national campaign carried out by movements and organizations incl. the Movimento Internazionale della Riconciliazione and the Movimento Nonviolento. Prior to that term, objectors were tried for 'disobedience' or because 'missing at draft call'. They were sentenced to many jail months, after serving which they would again be requested to enroll; on a renewed refusal, they would be again sentenced to jail, and so forth ..., their serving obligation supposed to cease no sooner than on getting 45 years old. Yet, after a few repeated such sentences, the military establishment, to get rid of such a nuisance, would discharge the convict by stating his 'unfitness' on the grounds of some fancy ailment.
During the radio interview some local initiatives concerning peace education were also described, such as the peace trails and the website www.discoverpeace.eu; as to national campaigns it was addressed also #nuclearban in favour of the UN ban on nuclear weapons, signed in New York on July 7th 2017, with the appeal to Italy to ratify the treaty.
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At the 3rd Preparatory Committee meeting for the 2020 Review Conference of the NPT at the UN HQ, the civil society was given an opportunity to address the meeting. On May 1, 2019, 16 speeches were delivered to the delegates by the civil society groups.
One of them was a joint statement on Korea from the PSPD (People's Solidarity for Partipatory Democracy), a prominent NGO in South Korea, and IFOR. Here is the statement, which has been endorsed by 40 civil society groups in the world, including the U.S., Canada, Japan, Germany, U.K., Bangladesh, etc
Scroll further down for French and Spanish
The bombings of hotels and churches on Easter Sunday in Colombo and other cities in Sri Lanka are a cause of great pain to IFOR, and we add our voice to the messages of solidarity from around the world in recent days. Churchgoing Sri Lankans cannot have expected to face any such situation on the holiest day in their calendar. Within the last six months, the three Abrahamic faiths have now suffered significant acts of violence: at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, USA, and at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. We are deeply concerned that the basic right to freedom of worship should come under attack on different continents in this fashion. IFOR sends its sincerest condolences to the families and friends of those killed, and wishes survivors a speedy physical and mental recovery. Violence in the name of God is not acceptable. We promise to continue to work for an increase in peace and for a nonviolent world in which people of all religious beliefs and none, can live in harmony.
Les attentats perpétrés contre des hôtels et des églises le dimanche de Pâques à Colombo et dans d'autres villes du Sri Lanka sont une cause de grande douleur pour l’IFOR, et nous ajoutons notre voix aux messages de solidarité du monde entier de ces derniers jours. Les chrétiens srilankais ne peuvent pas s'avoir attendu à ce qu'une telle situation se produise le jour le plus saint de leur calendrier. Au cours des six derniers mois, les trois confessions abrahamiques ont subi des actes de violence notables: dans une synagogue à Pittsburgh, aux États-Unis, et dans des mosquées à Christchurch, en Nouvelle-Zélande. Nous sommes profondément préoccupés par le fait que le droit fondamental à la liberté de culte devrait être attaqué de la sorte sur différents continents. L'IFOR adresse ses plus sincères condoléances aux familles et aux amis des personnes décédées, et souhaite aux survivants un prompt rétablissement physique et mental. La violence au nom de Dieu n'est pas acceptable. Nous promettons de continuer à œuvrer en faveur d'une paix accrue et d'un monde nonviolent dans lequel des personnes de toutes croyances religieuses et aucune, pourront vivre en harmonie.
Los ataques a hoteles e iglesias el domingo de Pascua en Colombo y otras ciudades de Sri Lanka son una causa de gran dolor para el IFOR, y sumamos nuestra voz a los mensajes de solidaridad surgidos de todo el mundo en los últimos días. Los cristianos de Sri Lanka no pueden haber esperado que tal situación ocurriera en el día más sagrado de su calendario. En los últimos seis meses, las tres denominaciones abrahámicas han sufrido un acto de violencia significativo: en una sinagoga en Pittsburgh, Estados Unidos, y en mezquitas en Christchurch, Nueva Zelanda. Estamos profundamente preocupados de que el derecho fundamental a la libertad de culto deba ser atacado de esta manera en diferentes continentes. El IFOR hace llegar su más sincero pésame a las familias y los amigos de los fallecidos, y desea a los sobrevivientes una pronta recuperación física y mental. La violencia en nombre de Dios no es aceptable. Nos comprometemos a continuar trabajando por una mayor paz y un mundo noviolento en el que las personas de todas las religiones y de ninguna, puedan vivir en armonía.
Youth Empowerment Initiative
A project of the Fellowship of Reconciliation Zimbabwe
The economic and political environment in Zimbabwe has created a generation of unemployed youths many of whom even though qualified have no hope of ever finding employment. These youths are frustrated and some resort to drug and alcohol abuse and criminal activities.
This has led them to be taken advantage of and used as readily available tools of political and social violence.
The Fellowship of Reconciliation Zimbabwe through its Youth Empowerment Initiative project is set to empower 20 youths from 5 Youths Peace Clubs. (FOR-Zimbabwe runs Youths Peace Clubs as hubs for raising a young generation which believes in nonviolence as a way of life and a means of transformation)
The youths will be trained in specialized trades (garment making, carpentry, iron fabrication, chicken and fish farming) and will be empowered with skills in Active Nonviolence, Nonviolent Conflict Prevention, Nonviolent Conflict Resolution and Nonviolent Conflict Management over a period of 6 months.
Each Youths Peace Club has an average of 15 youths therefore close to 100 youths will directly benefit.
On full completion of the 6 months training, the youths will set up income generation projects in their respective Youths Peace Clubs and continue Peer Nonviolence Education within their communities and within their Peace Clubs.
The project will launch in the next few weeks, if you wish to contact for further information you can do so to Makios Phiri at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We wish to thank FoR England-Scotland for their support through their International Peacemakers’ Fund. Should you wish to support other projects like ours, please follow this link to donate to support us:
Read here IFOR’s statement on the New Zealand mosque attacks on the 15th of March.
Ifor is pleased to extend to all of you the invitation to join us in Geneva for the "Introduction to UN" week.
As we already proposed last year, this IFOR program is aimed to provide an opportunity to get to know more about IFOR work at UN and to find better ways to closely collaborate with branches.
Do not hesitate to contact us for questions.
During November 2018 the quadrennial IFOR council took place, before council the Migration conference ‘On the Move’ was held. After this week a press release was released to the public mentioning the appointment of Lotta Sjöström Becker, from Sweden as the new president of IFOR. Followed by some important actions and visits made by IFOR delegates from all over the world that were attending council during this week.
Read on to find out more!
The International Fellowship of Reconciliation is the world's oldest interfaith, pacifist movement, and its US branch is similarly the oldest of its kind in that country. As IFOR prepares to gather in Italy for its quadrennial Council, we learned with sadness of the murders of a worshipping Jewish community at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Clicca qui per la versione in Italiano.
November 2 & 3, 2018, IFOR will be hosting a conference about migration in Catania Sicily. “On The Move” will be a conversation about migration, its causes, the journey and strategies of welcome.
The conference is supported by the City of Catania and will be hosted at
Palazzo della Cultura, Via Vittorio Emanuele 121.
The conversation will be global in scope, featuring both local contributors and special guests from around the world. We will address the impact that war, climate change and global economic forces have had on people’s choices to leave their communities to seek safety and opportunity. We are prioritizing conversations led by people who have themselves migrated and who are participating in finding the solutions to the challenges migrants face.
The following organizations are contributing to the conversation:
“On The Move” will begin Friday morning, November 2, 2018 at 10:30 and it will end in the evening of Saturday, November 3, 2018 with a musical event by
To see a draft program for the conference click here
The conference precedes IFOR’s quadrennial international council that will be held from November 4-11 in Zafferana Etnea. IFOR has invited its members from 40 different countries and all delegates to the international council are invited to attend and participate in the conversation.
To Register Click Here
Conference participants are encouraged to find their own accommodation in Downtown Catania. The conference is free to the public but we do ask that those who are able consider making a contribution to support this effort.
the illustration was provided to IFOR by Anonima Fumetti
IFOR issued a statement expressing gratitude for the work of the Special Rapporteur for her steadfast reporting on human rights violations in Eritrea. It has not been an easy task, she has faced threats and dangers and nonetheless stayed true to her commitment of exposing human rights violations to the world.
IFOR’s Main Representative to the United Nations in Geneva made a statement warning of the dangers of businesses exploiting the procedures of of the Human Rights Council in order to advance their narrow interests. The concern was illustrated by a British corporate lawyer posing as an African NGO in order to deny well-documented human rights violations by her client, exploiting slave labor in Eritrea. Download statement here
During the 38th session of the Human Rights Council held in Geneva, IFOR organized a side event, co-sponsored by War Resisters International, focusing on the causes of migration from Eritrea and the struggles of Eritrean refugees.
The event was well attended and the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Eritrea, Ms. Sheila B. Keetharuth, offered a valuable contribution to the discussion.
Among the speakers was Father Mussie Zerai, a well known advocate for the rights of refugees and chairman of the Habeshia Agency. In addition to his participation on the panel, Father Zerai offered an additional statement calling on European governments to respond to migration in humane ways.
On June 12, the rescue ship Aquarius was prevented from docking in Italy after it had rescued migrants who were trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. The Aquarius is one of the ships operated by of SOS Mediterranee and is actively supported by IFOR and by our local branch MIR Italia. On June 25th, IFOR's Representatives in Geneva delivered the statement below about the humanitarian crisis during the 38th Session of the Human Rights Council.
During the 38th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, IFOR joined a group of organizations calling attention to the repeated violations of international law through the ongoing occupation of Western Sahara by the Kingdom of Morocco. The coalition of nongovernmental organizations submitted a report calling for the following:
- All High Contracting Parties to ensure that the Kingdom of Morocco respects the Fourth Geneva Convention in Western Sahara;
- The Kingdom of Morocco to fully respect the Fourth Geneva Convention in Western Sahara;
- The Kingdom of Morocco to fully respect the Human Rights of the Sahrawi people, including their right to self-determination and independence, in conformity with UNGA resolution 1514 (XV);
- The Kingdom of Morocco to fully respect the Principles of International Law, including the Principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples and the principle that States shall fulfil in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the Charter;
- The members of the Human Rights Council to create the mandate of Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights violations in the Occupied Territory of Western Sahara.
During the 38th session of the Human Rights Council IFOR delivered an oral statement addressed to the Human Rights Commissioner condemning the targeting of conscientious objectors in Turkey and Russia. IFOR maintains a connection to the Turkish Conscientious Objector’s Organization VR-DER Vicdani Ret Dernegi, through our partners, the European Bureau of Conscientious Objection, and War Resisters International. In 2016, VR-DER held an event in honour of those that have refused, on grounds of conscience, to be recruited into the armed forces,. This led to the co-Chair of the organisation being summoned to answer charges of “making propaganda for terror”. IFOR denounced this and similar aggression directed towards nonviolent movements by the Russian Federation.
Lithuania reintroduced conscription to military service in 2015 for males 19 years of age and older. Although the government provides alternative to service, IFOR submits a report to the Human Rights Committee expressing concern about the ways these alternatives are militaristic in nature. These alternatives illustrate the way government institutions often circumvent the international right to conscientious objection.