Pope Francis: New Year Message

January 3, 2017

.

MESSAGE OF POPE FRANCIS

CELEBRATING THE FIFTIETH WORLD DAY OF PEACE

1 JANUARY 2017

 

When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promotors of nonviolent peacemaking. In the most local and ordinary situations and in the international order, may nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms.

While the last century knew the devastation of two deadly World Wars, the threat of nuclear war and a great number of other conflicts, today, sadly, we find ourselves engaged in a horrifying world war fought piecemeal. It is not easy to know if our world is presently more or less violent than in the past, or to know whether modern means of communications and greater mobility have made us more aware of violence, or, on the other hand, increasingly inured to it.

In any case, we know that this “piecemeal” violence, of different kinds and levels, causes great suffering: wars in different countries and continents; terrorism, organized crime and unforeseen acts of violence; the abuses suffered by migrants and victims of human trafficking; and the devastation of the environment. Where does this lead? Can violence achieve any goal of lasting value? Or does it merely lead to retaliation and a cycle of deadly conflicts that benefit only a few “warlords”?

Violence is not the cure for our broken world. Countering violence with violence leads at best to forced migrations and enormous suffering, because vast amounts of resources are diverted to military ends and away from the everyday needs of young people, families experiencing hardship, the elderly, the infirm and the great majority of people in our world. At worst, it can lead to the death, physical and spiritual, of many people, if not of all.

The family is the indispensable crucible in which spouses, parents and children, brothers and sisters, learn to communicate and to show generous concern for one another, and in which frictions and even conflicts have to be resolved not by force but by dialogue, respect, concern for the good of the other, mercy and forgiveness.[16] From within families, the joy of love spills out into the world and radiates to the whole of society.[17] An ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence between individuals and among peoples cannot be based on the logic of fear, violence and closed-mindedness, but on responsibility, respect and sincere dialogue. Hence, I plead for disarmament and for the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons: nuclear deterrence and the threat of mutual assured destruction are incapable of grounding such an ethics.[18] I plead with equal urgency for an end to domestic violence and to the abuse of women and children.

The Church has been involved in nonviolent peacebuilding strategies in many countries, engaging even the most violent parties in efforts to build a just and lasting peace.

I pledge the assistance of the Church in every effort to build peace through active and creative nonviolence. On 1 January 2017, the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development will begin its work. It will help the Church to promote in an ever more effective way “the inestimable goods of justice, peace, and the care of creation” and concern for “migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture”.[23] Every such response, however modest, helps to build a world free of violence, the first step towards justice and peace.

“All of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers”.[24] In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to building nonviolent communities that care for our common home. “Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace”.[25]

 

 

With thanks to the Selly Oak Friend who sent this saying, ‘You heard it here first’.

Source: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/peace/documents/papa-francesco_20161208_messaggio-l-giornata-mondiale-pace-2017.html

 

 

 


Co-operating to build up a new world, rather than fighting to destroy the old

December 22, 2016

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, healthcare exclusion and natural or man-made disasters.

msf-staff

In 2015 over 30,000, mostly local, doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, logistical experts, water and sanitation engineers and administrators provided medical aid in over 70 countries. Private donors provide about 90% of the organization’s funding, while corporate donations provide the rest.

Médecins Sans Frontières was created in 1971, after Biafra’s secession, by a small group of French doctors and journalists who believed that all people have the right to medical care regardless of race, religion, creed or political affiliation, and that the needs of these people outweigh respect for national borders. One of the co-founders of the organisation was Bernard Kouchner, later a high-ranking French politician.

In emergency situations where there is a lack of nutritious food, but not to the level of a true famine, protein-energy malnutrition is most common among young children. Marasmus, a form of calorie deficiency, is the most common form of childhood malnutrition and is characterised by severe wasting and often fatal weakening of the immune system. Kwashiorkor, a form of calorie and protein deficiency, is a more serious type of malnutrition in young children, and can negatively affect physical and mental development. Both types of malnutrition can make opportunistic infections fatal. In these situations, MSF sets up Therapeutic Feeding Centres for feeding and monitoring the children and other malnourished individuals.

Sanitation is an essential part of field missions, and it may include education of local medical staff in proper sterilisation techniques, sewage treatment projects, proper waste disposal, and education of the population in personal hygiene.

The Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines was initiated by MSF in 1999, as they often lacked effective drugs during field missions, to increase access to essential medicines in developing countries. Most diseases common in developing countries are no longer common in developed countries so pharmaceutical companies find that producing these drugs is unprofitable and may raise the price per treatment, decrease development of the drug (and new treatments) or even stop production of the drug.

Would they agree with the statement of the original Friends Ambulance Unit trainees issued in the 1939 training camp?

“We purpose to train ourselves as an efficient Unit to undertake ambulance and relief work in areas under both civilian and military control, and so, by working as a pacifist and civilian body where the need is greatest, to demonstrate the efficacy of co-operating to build up a new world rather than fighting to destroy the old”.

MSF UK

Lower Ground Floor, Chancery Exchange, 10 Furnival Street, London, EC4A 1AB | +44 (0)207 404 6600. English Charity Reg. No. 1026588

Get in touch on 0207 404 6600 or email uk.fundraising@london.msf.org

 

 

 


2016 top post: neutral or non-aggressive countries and states; most readers: American

December 16, 2016

c3-2-top-tenSource:  Neutrality [international relations] 

Austria (now a member of EU, see below): neutral country since 1955, maintain external independence and inviolability of borders (expressly modelled on the Swiss neutrality).

Costa Rica: neutral country since 1949, after abolishing its military.

Finland (now EU): military doctrine of competent, “credible” independent defence, not depending on any outside support, and the desire to remain outside international conflicts. In 2006, Finland’s neutrality was brought into question by Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen during the inauguration of the Finnish EU presidency.

Ireland (now EU): a traditional policy of military neutrality defined as non-membership of mutual defence alliances.

Japanconstitutionally forbidden from participating in wars, but maintains heavily-armed self-defence forces and a military alliance. Constitution recently modified in the face of vigorous public opposition, to permit Japan to come to the aid of its ally or allies.

Liechtenstein: since its army was dissolved in 1868.

Malta (now EU): policy of neutrality since 1980, guaranteed in a treaty with Italy concluded in 1983

Panama: neutral country since 1989

Sweden (now EU): has not fought a war since ending its involvement in the Napoleonic Wars in 1814 with a short war with Norway, making it the oldest neutral country in the world.

Switzerland: self-imposed, permanent, and armed, designed to ensure external security. Switzerland is the second oldest neutral country in the world; it has not fought a foreign war since its neutrality was established by the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

Turkmenistan: declared its permanent neutrality and had it formally recognised by the U.N. in 1995.

Ukraine: Declared policy of state non-alignment in 2010. We are now informed – see comment – that Ukraine has voted to drop non-aligned status and work towards NATO membership.

Vatican City: the Lateran Treaty signed in 1929 with Italy imposed that “The Pope was pledged to perpetual neutrality in international relations and to abstention from mediation in a controversy unless specifically requested by all parties” thus making Vatican City neutral since then.

 

 

 


The International Network of Museums for Peace: 9th conference Belfast, 10-13 April 2017

December 4, 2016

.

inmp-belfast

The International Network of Museums for Peace (INMP) is a worldwide network of peace museums, peace gardens and other peace related sites, centres and institutions that share the desire to build a global culture of peace.

The conference theme, “Cities as Living Museums for Peace”, will highlight Belfast’s social and political transformation from a divided, troubled city to a one which models peace consciousness through post conflict healing and reconciliation.

The 9th International Conference of Museums for Peace is co-hosted by Visit Belfast and Ulster University. Directors and curators of human rights and peace museums, peace educators, journalists, artists, musicians, architects, policy makers, researchers, scholars and students of history, museum studies, cultural memory studies, international relations, international ethics, and interdisciplinary subjects have been invited to participate.

Venues:

  • Ulster University, York St Campus
  • Stormont (Parliament Buildings)
  • Belfast City Hall

Topics will include new developments in museum studies (museology), and the changing roles of museums for peace in the global age. For example, what is the role of museums for peace in education; in post-conflict healing and reconciliation processes; in the nuclear disarmament movement; in clarifying contested memories and multiple historical interpretations; and in raising awareness about socially-sanctioned, structural violence?

This conference also marks the 25th anniversary of INMP.
More Information:
conference@museumsforpeace.org 
info@bespokenorthernireland.com

 

 

 


Democracy in action: Swiss people had a direct say in military procurement

November 21, 2016

.

Many people in Switzerland, a country which has not fought a war in 200 years, are convinced there is no military threat now, nor in the foreseeable future. Swiss voters therefore, in 2014, blocked the government’s $3.5 billion deal to replace its fleet of Northrop F-5 Tiger fighters with 22 Gripen fighter jets from Saab.

Vested commercial interests and the Swiss upper and lower houses of parliament backed the deal, mounting a campaign of expensive advertisements favour of buying the jets, but despite this public relations onslaught, Swiss Socialists, Greens and the Group for Switzerland without an Army secured a referendum by collecting the 50,000 signatures needed.

gripen2-graphic

Reuters reported that around 53.4% voted against the government’s proposal and twelve cantons rejected the creation of a fund for the acquisition – the no vote was especially strong in the west of the country.

Andreas Weibel of the Group for Switzerland without an Army, emphasises that only in Switzerland do people have a direct say in their country’s military procurement.

Two years later, however, as Flight Global records, a second effort will be made to  acquire these new fighter planes: defence minister Guy Parmelin has announced that a study into the acquisition of a new fighter will be submitted to parliament in 2017.

 

 

 


I can no longer wear any poppy

November 13, 2016

drone-killed-children

As the blog summarised here says: “The red poppy was intended as a symbol that demanded that a generation should never again be destroyed by war”. That intention is cruelly and repeatedly ignored by many politicians and corporates with a vested interest in the profits of preparing for war and don the red poppy.

The blogger continues:

“On another Armistice Day and with another sorry line of politicians trying desperately to look earnest as they lay poppy wreaths at the cenotaph, the passage of time means that there are no surviving veterans of the Great War and increasingly fewer survivors of the Second World War.

“There was a time when our politicians understood the consequence of war as some of them experienced the brutality of conflict at first hand. Now dead; they have been replaced by politicians who are happy to engage in war from a distance and only if their own children are definitely not sent away to fight and die or fight and be maimed both physically and mentally. The closest these new Whitehall warriors come to the carnage is signing the contract that furnishes dictators with cluster bombs and the delivery platforms to blow away women and children. Look into their eyes as they remember the fallen and look into their morality as they place profits from the arms trade above human life. (more…)

The blog ends:

“In Flanders fields the poppies grow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.”

“Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae died in France during late January 1918 after contracting cerebral meningitis brought on by pneumonia. The legend persists that upon completing the poem he crushed the page up and threw it away in disgust at the futility of war.

red-white-poppies

“We will never know what this man felt about his words being used to encourage others to hate and fight and die. With world governments now in the control of gangsters and idiots, the war to end all wars just became even more of a joke.

“A white poppy mourns everyone who died as a result of war and not just those carrying arms . . . the red poppy was intended as a symbol that demanded that a generation should never again be destroyed by war”.

 

 

 


Reinvigorate big power relationships or put an end to sabre-rattling?

November 4, 2016

lord2richardsReading more about General Richards – chief of the defence staff between 2010 and 2013 – gives rise to mixed reactions. In 2010 – to his credit – he said there was no desire to “open up another front” in the Middle East . . . an intelligence-led approach was the current strategy: “Clearly, the primary agencies dealing with this are our intelligence and security agencies. But the military are already helping with their [the Yemenis’] training. I don’t think we want to open up another front there and nor do the Yemenis want us to do that”.

Today the Times reports that General Richards said that Donald Trump would re-boot relations between Moscow and Washington, which are at a post-Cold War low.

By contrast, he thinks, Mrs Clinton would be more likely to set the West on a course for war if she pushed ahead with a safe zone for civilians in Syria: that might require US aircraft to shoot down the Russian fighter jets flying in support of the Assad regime.

Lord Richards, a cross-bench peer, told The Times this week that he believed the only way to prevent a further humanitarian catastrophe in the rebel-held east of Aleppo would be for the rebels to withdraw, removing any reason for Russian planes to attack.

In an interview with The House magazine, which appeared yesterday, he said: “In the Cold War era states coalesced and they had this understanding and it worked — even though there was a massive amount at stake, communications and mutual understanding between Russia and America wasn’t too bad . . . It’s non-state actors like Isis that are the biggest threat to our security. If countries and states could coalesce better to deal with these people — and I think Trump’s instinct is to go down that route — then I think there’s the case for saying that the world certainly won’t be any less safe. It’s that lack of understanding and empathy with each other as big power players that is a risk to us all at the moment. Therefore I think he would reinvigorate big power relationships, which might make the world ironically safer.”

The wisest words come from Dr Ian Davis (SIPRI):

dr-ian-davisDr Davis responded to a letter (FT: “How NATO can neuter Putin’s ‘shock and awe’”) by Dr Harlan Ullman, Senior Advisor, Atlantic Council, US. Dr Ullman acknowledged that Mr Putin “has no intent of starting a war or invading any Nato member”; nevertheless, he recommended turning a variant of shock and awe against Putin. Dr Davis saw this as both irrational and dangerous:

“[S]kilful mediation with Russia is needed in order to transform real antagonisms into pragmatic working relationships and practical agreements . . . The challenge is to see beyond historical positions and attempt to identify and then reframe key issues through careful dialogue. It will take significant effort, yet it may be possible to explore ways of moving beyond presumptions of strictly zero-sum, winner takes-all thinking in Russia-West relations. And put an end to the sabre-rattling of intrusive flights and large scale manoeuvres on both sides”.