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.
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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.
Stacey Mitchell of IFOR's International Committee joined leaders from FOR-USA in Charlottesville this weekend as they gathered with thousands to send a message of love in opposition to the expressions of hatred and bigotry that permeated the U.S. city. White Supremacists and Neo-Nazis gathered in Charlottesville to demonstrate their opposition to the removal of a statue honoring the general that lead the army of the Southern States during the U.S. Civil War.
Several national and international media outlets covered the events in Charlottesville and FOR-USA posted several images and videos to it's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FORUSA/
From June 6-23 IFOR's Representatives in Geneva attended the 35th Session of the UN Human Rights Council. IFOR's Representatives Derek Brett, Hans Ulrich Gerber and IFOR Fellow Martina Lanza worked with IFOR's members and contacts around the world to provide make oral statements, submit written statements and host side events during the council.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
The national council of the branch of IFOR in the Republic of Congo, Movement International de l Reconciliation Congo (MIR Congo) was held from 17 to 23 August 2015, the Séminaire Saint Gabriel de Dolisie. It coincided with the organization of the 5th Edition of the '' National Meeting of Initiatives of Peace '' under the theme: "Dare to dialogue and build peace among people and nations through non-violence and reconciliation." The following statement was released following the meeting :
IFOR Joins FOR England in supporting the Rowntree Charitable Trust
In recent weeks, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust has come under increased scrutiny by and pressure from British authorities due to it’s funding of a controversial organization in the United Kingdom. The JRCT is a Quaker organization that has a history of supporting peace and reconciliation including work supporting Conscientious Objection through IFOR and others. IFOR joined FOR England in a public letter expressing support for the Trust.
Learn More about the JRCT
Read the letter of support for the JRCT that was published in the Times.
100 Years of Peace Work
Reflecting on the violence of the past and addressing the challenges of today, approximately 150 delegates from IFOR member organizations across the globe gathered in Konstanz, Germany 100 years after the outbreak of World War I. World-renowned nonviolence experts, representatives from like-minded peace organizations, and members of the general public joined IFOR in mourning, celebrating, and envisioning the future.
Photos from the Centennial
All photos by Jérôme Peraya
Thanks to our sponsors for your generous support!
Gender sensitization, mediation & youth empowerment
Dr. Suseela Mathew from the FOR India facilitated the trainings and provided the following summary:
The following are a few photos from the trainings. The first was a program conducted for adolescent children in life skills and nonviolent peer mediation. About fifty girls and boys participated.
The second program was for physically challenged adolescent children to empower them to use the possibilities and opportunities available to them. Gender sensitization was another component of the training.