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.
Viewing entries in
Saturday, April 21st, a controversial law about the electoral code which was adopted at the beginning of last April, lead to trouble among the deputies of the House of Commons in Madagascar. Of the 152 deputies, 79 voted FOR and 73 AGAINST this law. The 73 deputies of the opposition denounced the abnormal way in which the law was passed, which they called fraudulent and corrupt. These 73 deputies decided to publicly denounce the actions of their colleagues in parliament before the population of the Capital (Antananarivo) on the 21st of April. The army forbid them access to the Main Square of Independence, where they planned to hold a public rally. The incident ended with violent clashes between the protestors and the army. Four people were killed and many were injured.
IFOR's branch in Madagascar issued a statement on April 22, 2018 responding to the crisis:
On April 14th, The United States, Britain, and France launched air strikes against Syria in retaliation for the suspected chemical weapons attack. The delegates to the EUFOR meeting held a silent circle in Turin's main square honoring the victims of war and making a stand for peace and nonviolence. They drafted and released the following statement in response to the air strikes:
IFOR's representatives to UNESCO participated in the 39th General Conference, held in Paris 30 October - 14 November 2017. The resolutions of the General Conference have just been published in January, 2018.
During the General Conference, IFOR's Main Representative to UNESCO, Maria Antonietta Malleo, delivered a much appreciated speech where she called called upon the global community to invest in peace building. Assessing the conditions of the world today, she said our priorities must be to:
- Move towards institutionalization of peace and human rights education.
- Confront the cultural aspects of contemporary violence.
- Implement knowledge-sharing on theory and practice of nonviolent conflict resolution
- Denounce a widening international trend to the criminalization of humanitarian action
To read the full text of her speech click here.
On April 8th, IFOR's branch in the United States issued a statement in response to U.S. military action in Syria. While acknowledging the horror of the chemical weapons attack on civilians, FOR called upon its members to contact the White House to express their disapproval of military response to the crisis in Syria. The statement calls upon the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. just days after the commemoration of his assassination and his famous statement against the Vietnam War one year earlier.
The statement says "The logic that a military strike, even a limited one, will deter and quell aggression from the Assad regime, or the armed resistance, or the movement of Al-Qaeda believed to be in Syria, is fundamentally flawed. In violent escalation, both sides respond in turn with their own escalation of use of arms and aggressive attacks. We are already seeing the rumbling of this in Russia’s pronouncement of the strike as “an act of aggression.” As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “For through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can't murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can't establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can't murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that.”
To read the full statement click here.
Amid escalating violence, IFOR's Branch in South Sudan, the Organization for Nonviolence and Development (ONAD) joined a coalition of organizations who have responded to the call for National Dialogue issued by South Sudan's President Salva Kiir Mayardit.
The coalition of organizations is known as "The Voluntary Civil Society Taskforce on Implementation of the Peace Agreement." It is a coalition of over 20 diverse and non-partisan South Sudanese civil society organizations and networks. The Taskforce is interested in genuine and full implementation of the Peace Agreement and a quick end to the suffering inflicted on innocent citizens of South Sudan by the political crises in the country.
January 15-20, IFOR’s International Coordinator visited South Sudan, at the invitation of the Organization for Nonviolence and Development (ONAD). ONAD has been a part of IFOR since 2006. The visit was primarily to express solidarity with ONAD and the South Sudanese people in this period of intense violence in the country. The IFOR International Committee (ICOM) has long sought to prioritize support for nonviolent movements in Africa. The most recent months of violence in South Sudan have caused global concerned that the country was teetering towards genocide. ICOM and the International Secretariat felt it critical to express support for ONAD and find ways to amplify their efforts in the country.
February 12, is international day against the use of child soldiers. The UN campaign #childrennotsoldiers (#enfantspassoldats) is being supported by several countries around the world. Through the work of it's Swiss Branch, IFOR began to work more closely with Junior Nzita, the goodwill ambassador for the UN campaign. Now Teenergy, a small company in Montreux, Switzerland specialized in documentary films, is finishing a 26-minute film on child soldiers and the real possibility of demobilization. Parallel to the production of the film is the development of a smartphone app by the University of Geneva. This app shall help child soldiers in process of demobilization. It is about to be used in a pilot project in Colombia. The films will be featured initially by TV5 monde in French and then in English and Spanish by other TV channels. It will be distributed free world wide through UN and various NGO channels including IFOR.
This project is called Away from Arms and IFOR is proud to be partnering with Junior Nzita and Teenergy to support the project and child soldiers around the world. IFOR is represented in the project by Hans Ulrich Gerber.
On February 12, 2017 there will be the launch of the project in Montreux Switzerland. The links below introduce the film and the event. Those near and far interested in this matter and willing to support the project are cordially invited to the event on February 12. We hope many will come and/or spread the word so it finds the necessary support to run over an initial period of 36 months.
- See here the invitation for February 12: https://vimeo.com/teenergy/invitation
- An introduction to the documentary film: https://vimeo.com/teenergy/soldat password: teenergy
Fellowship of Reconciliation Peace Presence, an effort supported by several branches of IFOR, is organizing the Longing for Peace International Delegation April 18 – 27, 2017.
FOR Peace Presence provides physical safety, political visibility and solidarity by accompanying communities and organizations that embrace active nonviolence to defend life, land and dignity.
Colombia is going through an historic but uncertain period. The results of four years of peace negotiations between the government and the FARC-a comprehensive agreement on five areas related to the conflict-was rejected by voters in October 2016 by the narrowest of margins. The Colombian Congress later approved the agreement on November 30th. Amid the hope of what the agreement means concerns about the future of implementation remain.
The delegation will meet with local human rights defenders; human rights and environmental NGOs' women peace leaders; young Conscientious Objectors; Afro-Colombian, indigenous and small scale farmer leaders; and displaced communities. The delegates will learn about the impacts of corporations, and how global demand for energy is devastating communities and destroying vital ecosystems.
For more information about FORPP or the delegation please visit their website here.
During the 33rd Session of the Human Rights Council, IFOR Fellow Martina Lanza delivered the following statement about Ukrainian Conscientious Objectors and 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 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. 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.”
—Moses Monday Executive Director
EUFOR – European Fellowship of Reconciliation
Wednesday 06.04.16 12:00AM
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.
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)."
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).
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.