Message to Iraqi and Jordanian Children
Independence Day 2008
Sizzling burgers, fireworks and the beach could never replace the lasting memory and deep meaning for a small group of America’s youth in Laguna Beach, California. The young people that were to be hosted by the Iraqi Children’s Art Exchange and the Endangered Planet Foundation were soon to discover how The Art Miles Mural Project and the magic of mural making would transform them into “Messengers of Peace” and illustrate, once again the power of art could move and educate people.
Just a small distance away, perched on a hillside street a short distance away, a Laguna Beach Mom was discussing the significance of this day with her young son and went to her computer and typed in a few key words (Democracy, Peace, Iraq). To her amazement she discovered those words tumbled across her screen where she could see that right there in her own Earth Trustee City, a mural event was taking place. She saw that an intercultural mural painting session for youth and children was underway and children were invited to paint one half of a mural for Iraqi refugee children in Jordan. The Iraqi refugee children would paint the other half when famed Iraqi visiting artist Qais Al-Sindy would bring the mural to them. Their goal was to honor Queen Rania, an advocate of human rights and multiculturalism in Jordan and to see their mural join over 5,000 others in Egypt in 2010. Riveted by the story and concerned about holiday traffic, she and her son decided not to drive through traffic and instead, ran quickly down the hill to the foundation office.
Once at the Endangered Planet Gallery, she came upon a group of smiling sun tanned teens standing in front of a mural in progress. The teens had been asked to sketch their ideas and symbols of what represented America. Their sketches were strewn along the wall just outside the gallery and the discussion they shared about McDonald’s and Wal-Mart, hotdogs, jazz, the blues, eagles and diabetes and insulin, finally transitioned into a thoughtful representation of an indigenous symbol, a buffalo and an angel of peace. Bright cheery colors of happiness exploded on the canvas as the young people took instruction on mixing paint and textures onto the canvas. They became lost in thought and although light chatter persisted, the seriousness of what they were feeling and wanted to portray shone through as brightly as the late afternoon Laguna sunshine.
The boy and his Mom were transfixed, full of questions and drawn to the idea that their “hometown” was reaching out on America’s birthday to youth in a country that were victims of a conflict that our country was indelibly part of. For some of the Foundation members, it became a moment of truth, to see and understand how the power of art does indeed move and educate people, and as a young poet named Kristofor softly played a mellow guitar and later recited an original and special poem of PEACE, each of us felt the image of Laurel Burch’s “harmony around the sound” children enjoined by their hands, tug at our hearts.
The young Americans and Art Miles Master Muralist, Qais Al Sindy had indeed created their message of Peace—right there on America’s birthday, thinking of a time when Iraqi youth might someday be safe and secure, and are able to come together without fear and violence. Yes, we are all looking forward to the completion of the mural by the Iraqi, Jordanian and American children because we know that when the moment when the Mom and her son can look upon the finished canvas and remember this extraordinary experience—as will the children in Iraq, they will understand that it is they who are today and tomorrow’s messengers of PEACE.
Peace Fleece is not your typical yarn company.
Peter feels grateful that he can work at home on the farm with his family and at the same time have the opportunity to work overseas. To him, agriculture is a medium to bring people closer together.
Peace Fleece sells knitting yarns as well as knitting and felting accessories. Many of the people with whom Peace Fleece works overseas are in the midst of political, social or economic crisis and some are living in a war zone. Knitting is essential to the economic and emotional survival of these people. The Palestinian and Israeli shepherds from whose sheep come the Mid-East yarn, face terrorism on a daily basis. The Russian farmers and craftspeople with whom we work confront a daily dose of chaos and despair as well.
Fleece Supports Neve Shalom/Wahat al Salam
response to the intensifying conflicts in Israel, Peace Fleece
is choosing to support the very courageous village of Neve
Shalom/Wahat al Salam, through the sale of the kits shown below.
Most of the yarn is a blend of wool from Abul Abed's flock that
live next to NS/WAS and wool from the Maine Islands. Peace
Fleece is donating all materials and patterns for the kits.
Four times nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, Neve Shalom/Wahat al Salam ('Oasis of Peace' in Hebrew and Arabic) is a village in Israel established jointly by Jews and Palestinian Arabs of Israeli citizenship. The village is comprised of fifty families that live and work together on a hillside looking out towards the west and the Mediterranean Sea.
For a more detailed account with inspirational photos of the harrowing adventure carrying medicines on foot through mountains to clinics in the West Bank, please visit Neve Shalom/Wahat al Salam.
Attended Graduation of US Medical Students and
Delivered 90 Tons of Aid
"Our faith calls us to resist any law preventing us from our biblical mandate to love our neighbor."
More than 100 exhilarated members of Pastors for Peace returned to the US after spending eight days in Cuba, where they delivered 90 tons of humanitarian aid and attended the graduation of eight US students who completed medical school on full scholarship at the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana.
According to Rev. Lucius Walker, executive director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace, the group re-entered the US via Hidalgo,Texas on Saturday morning July 28, not knowing if they would face an increased level of harassment at the border. In previous years, federal agents have tried to intimidate the Caravan with threats of prosecution and seizure of humanitarian aid.
"Border agents spent a considerable amount of time searching luggage and questioning Caravan members." said Walker. "We were able to regain possession of the aid that was detained on our way into Mexico. However, we have not forgotten the situation in Maine where border officials seem to have an axe to grind over the issue of Cuba. Why else would they detain stethoscopes, a hospital breast milk pump and other medical aid bound for Cuba?"
The highlight of the Caravan's eight day stay in Cuba, was the graduation of the first class of US medical students at the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana. IFCO is the administrator of the scholarship program for US students. For more information about the program call the contacts listed above and see our website: www.ifconews.org .
"The medical school graduation was a tremendously powerful experience.
These young doctors are remarkable" said Rev. Thomas Smith of Pittsburgh. "They are committed to returning to medically underserved communities in the US where they are needed most. They will care for those who desperately need them with solid medical training and a deep sense of compassion," said Rev. Smith, who serves as board president of IFCO/Pastors for Peace.
More than 40 percent of the 18th Friendshipment Caravan was comprised of young people. During their stay in Cuba, they had many opportunities to meet with Cuban youth. The entire Caravan visited schools, senior centers and hospitals where they learned about the Cuban health care system.
Rev. Diane Baker of Houston noted "Our caravans are like water dropping onto a rock. The rock may seem impenetrable, but we just keep on keeping on -- because the water always wins."
Last year, more than 100 participants of the Pastors for Peace caravan received letters from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), threatening them with fines for traveling to Cuba. "We don't know what will await us this time," said IFCO board member Rev. Luis Barrios, "but we refuse to be intimidated from fulfilling our mission of humanitarian aid and fellowship."
Pastors for Peace is a project of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), a national ecumenical agency which has been working for social justice since 1967.
Photos and more information are available at www.pastorsforpeace.org . For the most up-to-date news about the Caravan go to our blog at: www.18thcubacaravan.blogspot.com
community capacity for peacebuilding worldwide
Global Peacebuilders project managed by Springboard Opportunities
Limited is going live soon. Comprising an innovative online
information-sharing portal, unique best practice catalogue and an
international conference located in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the
Global Peacebuilders project will connect researchers, academics,
practitioners and organisations working on peace and reconciliation,
conflict resolution and peacebuilding worldwide, and will provide a
platform for disseminating achievements and building capacity for the
While every conflict across the world is distinct, the underlying causes are often similar, and there is much to be gained by building bridges between practitioners and sharing in the positive work and successes that have taken place. Not only within the context of the island of Ireland, but also beyond, there is a need for a positive place in which all conflict resolution and peacebuilding organisations can come together, share strategy, build momentum and increase their capacity for transforming conflict and creating the conditions for sustainable peace.
Global Peacebuilders project will help build such a platform for
disseminating achievements and sharing strategies for the future.
Specifically, a fully-searchable 5-language online database of
individuals and organisations working in conflict resolution and
peacebuilding will be developed. The database will bring together
organisations from across the global north and south, and, stemming from
this, a comprehensive catalogue of best practice examples in conflict
resolution and peacebuilding from around the world will be produced.
building new relationships and spanning continental divides, the project
will enable organisations to ‘broaden their horizons’, offering
inspiration and strategic direction, and affording them a portal through
which to share and incorporate innovation and best practice. By offering
a solid support network for conflict resolution, reconciliation and
peacebuilding, Global Peacebuilders will help organisations to learn
from one another, increase confidence, build capacity and ultimately
make a more effective contribution towards stable and inclusive
societies across the world.
up and circulate
you, your organisation, or any organisation you know would be interested
in joining the online database of peacebuilding and conflict resolution
organisations, contributing your best practice examples, or simply
learning more about the Global Peacebuilders project, contact Sarah
Maitland, the Global Peacbuilders Project Coordinator on +44
(0)28 9031 5111, firstname.lastname@example.org
or www.springboard-opps.org. A
spirit of inclusivity, diversity and participation is at the very heart
of this project, so we would be delighted to hear from you!
The Global Peacebuilders project is funded by the European Union’s Peace and Reconciliation Programme 2000-2006 under Measure 5.3 Developing Cross Border Reconciliation & Understanding and managed for the Special European Union Programmes Body by the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland.
Caracas we buried the coal phantom.
Venezuelan Minister of the Environment prohibits the opening of new
coal mines in the state of Zulia
Homo et Natura
Caracas, March 21, 2007 - By presidential decree, the Minister of the Environment, Yubiri Ortega de Carrizalez, announced yesterday before the Yukpa and Wayúu indigenous people of the Sierra de Perijá, the prohibition to open new coal mines in the state of Zulia. Additionally, by the same presidential mandate, it was rejected the expansion of the Guasare and Paso Diablo mines projected by Corpozulia and Caribozulia.
Chavez, by saying today that there will be no more coal mines in Zulia,
you are giving back hope for the future
to the Wayúu de Mara and Páez people, to the indigenous of
the Sierra de Perijá and to life itself. We are looking forward to
the decree that will forever prohibit this dark curse.
A Letter from Todd Bauer in Ixtahuacan, Guatemala
story that this letter tells is a vivid illustration of the premise set
forth by E.F. Schumacher in his book, Small is Beautiful, first
published in 1973 and every bit as valid today as it was then.
Receive cordial greetings from Ixtahuacàn. I hope y'all are well and don't have too much cabin fever at this point of the winter. If you do, remember that Spring is around the corner.
All is well here. It is the middle of dry season now. For those of you who live on the West Coast imagine July or August. For those of you who are the classic 4 seasons part of the country, it is probably difficult to imagine what our landscape looks like now but it's very dry. With the smallest careless action who are dealing with a wild fire.
At work we take advantage of this time to work in the nursery and the build rain water catchment systems in the countryside. Recently we had the opportunity of work with a campesino on a water related project. For those of you who remember a letter about the bicibomba, this project goes along the same theme but with a few differences.
The campesino is a woman who doesn't know how to ride a bike and didn't want to learn. Doña Catarina Domingo Hernàndez, resident of the La Vega Colotenango, is the mother of the wife who with her husband received one of the three trial bicibombas. Doña Catarina is a widower who has raised her children, 2 sons and 6 daughters, growing vegetables, mostly onions and wild greens. On her property there was a small spring where she year after year during the dry season who draw out bucket after bucket of water to irrigate her raised beds of veggies. After seeing the bicibomba at her daughter house, she decided to talk with the Pastoral Social agricultural promoter who has been accompanying her in her work for the last few years about the possibility of her own bicibomba but without the bici. The promoter talked with Jorge, who is in charge of such mini water projects. He then talked with me about the project and the Doña Catarina situation, both economic and her efforts to irrigate her garden beds. We went to visit her home to talk with her, test the spring and design the irrigation system. Talking with her and meeting her family, we decided to go ahead with the project.
The next day, the digging began to improve her existing spring/well. With a little luck on her part the water vein was discovered and the water quantity tripled in her well. The final storage size is about 4m² or 1000 gallons with a recharge of less than 24 hours. Water or the difficulty to irrigate is no longer the limiting factor. She is able to plant the amount of land that she and her daughters can cultivate.
After many long days, her irrigation system was up and run. In 20 minutes they can fill their 450 liter storage tank and begin the use the sprinklers. A few days later we could see the seedling germinating in the new area that she planted.
I hope you enjoyed this small success story. It's stories like Doña Catarina's that show us with a little assistance and hard work on the benefactors part positive changes in people's lives can occur. Many of her neighbors said to her how luck she is the have the well and this project. It's true that she was lucky to have a spring on her land but she has the determination to use her resources to survive and make a living. She told me that she has been struggling for years irrigation her veggies bucket by bucket, as a way to support her family. Now she will be able to plant more land and have a greater variety of crops which improves her family's diet while at the same time adding to her income.
mom Tina Richards just called me from the road on her way up to
when her son Corporal Cloy Richards reported for his third tour of duty
is a total victory for one Marine and military family – but Tina and
Cloy are well aware that many others are still in grave danger.
Tina is already working on helping other troops who should not be
deployed. One mom she talked to today has a son already deployed
who is suffering a serious case of diabetes.
down and 150,000 other soldiers to get back home.
to Tina, Cloy, WhyNotNews.org media and all the others who helped get
this justice and who are continuing to work until all our troops are
Eyewitness Account by Fernando Suarez del SolarEnglish translation by Jorge Mariscal
At 9.28 a.m., the military judge enters the courtroom where Agustin is seated with his lawyers. A few civilians and military personnel are there as well as representatives of Amnesty International and I.
The bailiff reads the charges and the prosecutor asks that the accused be found guilty of desertion, AWOL, disobeying orders, abandoning his unit. He asks for the maximum sentence of seven years.
The defense presents its case by claiming that the defendant is innocent, guilty only of AWOL and refusing to deploy to Iraq.
Witnesses are called for both sides. There is a recess for lunch at 12:30. The family is nervous and afraid of the unknown. The General Consul of Mexico appears and states that his government is present to lend support to a fellow citizen.
The trial is called back into session and the judge finds the accused guilty on all counts. At this moment, Helga begins to sob softly, the daughters cry without understanding what has happened, Agustin's mother weeps, and I shed a tear out of anger and impotence before such an injustice. But the real surprise has not yet taken place.
At 5:55 p.m., the judge asks Agustin to stand to hear the sentence. There is tension and fear in the faces of friends and family because the prosecutor has asked for the full seven year sentence and we know the minimum sentence is two years. The judge declares that the penalty will be eight months, and that given the time he has already spent in prison Agustin has to serve only 49 more days. He will be demoted to the rank of E-1 with a lower salary and discharged.
The dark skies parted for the family! Only 49 more days and Agustin would be able to embrace his family as a free man!!!
The expressions of the prosecutors showed frustration, anger, even hate. The expressions of friends and family showed joy because this signified one more defeat for the Bush administration.
As I approached Agustin to hug him, he said "Thank you Fernando for being here. Your presence gave me courage. I knew that having you here would help me to face adversity, you brought me luck, and imagine-- only three months and I will be with you, discussing the lies that led to this war."
I couldn't avoid crying and neither could he. We embraced, and I thought "Why could my son not be here to witness this victory? I would gladly exchange my life for that of my son. I would rather see him in prison for refusing to go to war than have to visit his grave." I left the courtroom, lit a cigarette, and began to weep--Agustin free; Jesus gone forever.
AGUSTIN AGUAYO: WE SALUTE YOUR COURAGE AND CONSCIENCE. THANK YOU
“Never doubt that a
small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has."
What about a small group of thoughtful, committed kids? What about a group of kids like this one?
Akash Mehta, of Flushing, New York, just turned nine-years-old. He celebrated his birthday in a traditional manner for kids all over the US; he had a sleepover. But Akash didn’t receive the usual birthday presents. His friends gave him a total of $490, which will be tripled by a challenge grant from the Unemployed Philosophers Guild. You see Akash is raising funds to help build a girl’s school in Afghanistan. How does a nine-year-old become involved in a such a project? Well, to hear Akash tell it, it’s because he wasn’t very good at washing dishes.
From Akash’s website:
Why I want to do this
mom is a co-founder of Women for Afghan Women (www.womenforafghanwomen.org
). She told him about how
the girls in the town of Herat, Afghanistan don’t have any classrooms.
The classrooms are reserved for the boys while the girls sit in
the fields or don’t go to school at all.
WAW has been raising money to build a school for the girls and
Akash decided that he wanted to get involved with this project.
You can read more about his efforts on the website. www.kidsforabetterfuture.org
Just raising funds for this project is apparently not enough for Akash. In January he will be meeting with some other kids with “great projects” to organize Kids for a Better Future.
“Kids for a Better
Future is an organization I am starting that lets kids try their best to
make the world a better place. It has not been built yet but I
have a meeting with a few kids who have great projects in January.
My hopes for Kids for a Better Future are Simple. I want Kids for a
Better Future to be an organization where kids have their own projects
which make the world a better place but we all help each other on our
various projects even though we each have our own”
Akash is asking anyone who can, to help out with the girl’s school project and his plea is from the heart, the heart of an extraordinary nine-year-old.
“My friends and I
have everything we need. We have a home, parents, lots of love, food, we
have so many things. But these girls don’t even have a school,
and most of them have very hard lives. Please help me bring a
school to these girls.
This is what I
promise to do:
Could a small group of thoughtful, committed kids change the world? If they’re anything like this one, I think so