Theresa May – a conversion?

May 24, 2017

Mrs May, who travelled to Manchester yesterday, said: “We struggle to comprehend the warped and twisted mind that sees a room packed with young children not as a scene to cherish but an opportunity for carnage.” (Times)

She will now, presumably, stop selling arms and providing ‘intelligence’ & ‘logistical support’ to those who are killing hundreds of children and other civilians.

 

 

 


Pope Francis speaks from Assisi: “War . . . driven by greed for interests, money, resources, not religion”

September 21, 2016

 assisi

An annual World Day of Prayer event is held in the medieval town of Assisi in central Italy, to combat the persecution of peoples for their faiths and extremism ‘dressed up’ as religion.

Pope Francis has insisted that violence committed in the name of religion has nothing to do with God. During a trip to Poland in August he said “the world is at war,” but driven by greed for “interests, money, resources, not religion”.

During a private visit, he met faith leaders and victims of war to discuss growing religious fanaticism and escalating violence around the world.

pope-francis

The Times of Israel reported that he said there is no God of war and called on “all men and women of good will, of any religion, to pray for peace.”

The pope reminded the West that while it had suffered a string of deadly jihadist attacks, there were parts of the world where cities were being flattened by fighting, prisoners were tortured and families were starved to death:

“We are frightened… by some terrorist acts but this is nothing compared to what is happening in those countries, in those lands where day and night bombs fall,” he said at a morning mass at the Vatican: “As we pray today, it would be good if we all felt shame, shame that humans, our brothers and sisters, are capable of doing this.”

In the Piazza of Saint Francis, Assisi, Radio Vatican broadcast his appeal for peace: “Let us urge leaders of nations to defuse the causes of war: the lust for power and money, the greed of arms’ dealers, personal interests and vendettas for past wrongs.  We need a greater commitment to eradicating the underlying causes of conflicts: poverty, injustice and inequality, the exploitation of and contempt for human life”.

 

 

 


Responding to terrorism: a statement from Quakers in Britain

November 25, 2015

News Release: 24 November 2015

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C3000 logo 3 medium.

As Parliament prepares to debate next steps in Syria, Quakers in Britain have made this statement.

The attacks in Paris on 13 November were deeply shocking and our hearts continue to go out to those killed, injured, bereaved and traumatised.

It is human nature that the closer suffering comes to us, the more acutely we feel the pain and grief. But that experience should sensitise us to the suffering caused repeatedly by acts of war and violent crime in more distant places, including Beirut, Sinai, Bamako and Aleppo. It should strengthen our determination to build a safer world together.

Terrorism is a deliberate attempt to provoke fear, hatred, division and a state of war. War – especially war with the West – is what ISIS/Daesh wants. It confirms the image they project of the West as a colonialist ‘crusader’ power, which acts with impunity to impose its will overseas and especially against Muslims.

The military actions of Western nations recruit more people to the cause than they kill. Every bomb dropped is a recruitment poster for ISIS, a rallying point for the young, vulnerable and alienated. And every bomb dropped on Syrian cities drives yet more people to flee and seek refuge in safer countries.

Our political leaders seem determined that Britain should look strong on the world stage. Quakers in Britain believe our country should act with wisdom and far-sighted courage. A wisdom that rises above the temptation to respond to every problem with military might. A wisdom that looks back at our failures in Libya and Iraq and Afghanistan and learns from experience. The courage – and strength – to think through the likely consequences of actions to find a long term, lasting solution.

The courageous response of ordinary people who refuse to give up their way of life and refuse to be driven by fear is one that politicians could learn from.

Although there are no quick or easy answers, there are things we can do, all of us together, which will defeat the terrorists more assuredly than military action. Quakers in Britain commit to playing our part in these actions.

We can quieten ourselves and listen to the truth from deep within us that speaks of love, mutual respect, humanity and peace.

We can and will refuse to be divided. By bridge-building among faiths and within our local communities we can challenge and rise above the ideologies of hate and actively love our neighbour.

By welcoming refugees, we can not only meet the acute needs of those individuals but also undercut the narrative of those who seek to create fear and mistrust.

And we can ask our political leaders to:

  • Treat terrorist acts as crimes, not acts of war
  • Stop arming any of the parties fighting in Syria
  • Observe international law and apply it equally to all parties
  • Build cooperation among nations, strengthening those international institutions which contribute to peace
  • Export peace rather than war, so that we can create the conditions the world needs to address its most serious problems, including climate change.

The statement concludes with this extract from a statement made by Quakers in Britain in 1943 (Quaker Faith and Practice 24.09):

“True peace cannot be dictated, it can only be built in co-operation between all peoples. None of us, no nation, no citizen, is free from some responsibility for this.”


A process applied by public figures and the mainstream media to the Muslim community

February 27, 2015

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woolf institute logoDavid Bone is a former director of the Centre for the Study of Muslim-Jewish Relations at the Woolf Institute of Abrahamic Faiths in Cambridge. His reflection was broadcast on BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire on 8th February and published in the Friend, 27 February 2015.

Labels are a method of shorthand that we use to embrace a concept. They are very useful and very powerful.

However, the power of labels can also be misused and can be very dangerous. Under the Nazis in Germany we saw the word Jew come to be given extreme and negative connotations. To the German people being labelled a Jew was to be made an outcast and, ultimately, to be denied your humanity. In denying the Jews their humanity Adolf Hitler was able to legitimise the oppression and slaughter of millions of innocent human beings.

What we see today is the same process being applied by public figures and the mainstream media to the Muslim community.

Islam, a word rooted in the concept of peace – Salaam – is being persistently linked to acts of grotesque violence. It would sound farcical to talk about ‘peace terrorists’ yet we are hearing about ‘Islamic terrorists’ every minute of every day. This is deeply offensive to more than 1.7 billion Muslims across the globe and is an association that is only beneficial for Islamophobes and the depraved extremists that seek to justify their barbarism through some perverse interpretation of the faith.

This approach is only being used for Islam. When we watched the carnage in Bosnia we rightly didn’t talk about the Serbs as ‘Christianist extremists’, even though they crucified the imams and severed all but three of their fingers to represent the trinity. We didn’t because we recognised that this was not a ‘Christian’ problem. This was a problem of radical extremists hiding behind a pretence of religiosity.

The pope and the archbishop of Canterbury were never asked to account for and denounce the behaviour of those barbarians, yet we are constantly hearing calls for Muslim leaders to denounce ISIL, even after they have done so repeatedly and unreservedly.

We were all horrified to hear of the Jordanian pilot who was burned to death by ‘Islamic extremists’ – yet every established scholar of Islam across the globe, from every school of thought, agrees that such a barbaric act was wholly un-Islamic and forbidden by Shariah, which states that fire is so extreme that it is only permissible to God to use for punishment.

The impact of this on public perceptions is clear. Recently, research was publicised on terrorism in Europe. It revealed that less than half a percent of European terrorism was carried out by people who were Muslims, yet when I have asked people what their impression is, they consistently guess that it is seventy per cent or more because of the completely disproportionate coverage in the media and the emotive and bigoted language of our political leaders that promotes hatred and division.

As a community the way for us to truly combat radicalisation and extremism is to promote and ensure the mainstream understanding of the true followers of each faith.

David Bone

David Bone

The Qur’an states clearly that the sin of killing a single innocent person is equal to that of destroying the whole of humanity. It also acknowledges, in the same verses, that this is the same teaching given to Moses and Jesus uniting the Abrahamic faiths on this divine truth.

We need to work together to promote a true understanding of our own faith and that of the other faiths to build peace, understanding and a united community.


Imran Khan leads Gandhian non-violent resistance in Pakistan

September 20, 2012

Drones have been bombing the northern border areas of Pakistan, such as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) governed directly by the federal government.

Drone damage

In April & May sit-in protests halt NATO supplies

In April, Voice of America reported that Pakistanis opposed to U.S. drone strikes blocked a road used by the NATO alliance to deliver supplies to neighbouring Afghanistan. Imran Khan and several thousand supporters staged a two-day sit-in on the NATO supply route near the northwestern city of Peshawar.

In May, party workers blocked the port at the Jinnah Bridge in Karachi to protest against US drone strikes in the country’s tribal lands. The port brings in supplies for the NATO forces fighting against Taliban militants in Afghanistan. Agence France Presse reported that ‘cricket-hero-turned politician Khan’ said: “We’ll sit outside the port’s gate from Saturday afternoon to Sunday evening continuously to block the trucks carrying NATO supplies”.

In a developing unity, political parties and religious groups Sunni Tehrik, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, Jamaat Islami, Tehrik-e-Istaqlal and nationalist groups of Sindh extended their support and joined the sit-in.

A message to the demonstrators in Bradford five days ago

On Friday 14th September 2012, in the  UK, the BBC’s Look North reported that some 2,000 demonstrators gathered in Bradford’s Centenary Square to protest against US drone strikes in Pakistan. The Telegraph and Argus reported that organiser Shah Sher, said: “There is growing alarm against US drone attacks in civilian areas and British intelligence assistance with this lethal force. Such transfer of military force is unacceptable considering the moral justification for military intervention – to save civilian lives overseas.”

The University of Bradford’s Chancellor, Imran Khan, sent this video message from Pakistan to the protesters. It can be seen here:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxWLl6jk35g&feature=player_embedded

A peace march planned for October

A few months ago, as Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman, Imran Khan announced that a peace march towards Waziristan is being organised to protest against the attacks on Pakistani territory. Over 100,000 participants are expected. In August there were meetings with tribal delegations to prepare a detailed route and logistical plan. Imran Khan said:

“The tribesmen will themselves arrange security for the participants. I would take international media to let them know the quantum of destruction caused by drone attacks.The government should step down if it cannot protect the lives of common people. The U.S.-led war on terror is increasing terrorism and there is no end in sight. Killing innocent people in drone strikes and military operations will produce terrorists.

“Talks are the only solution to the problem in Waziristan and elsewhere. We will enter Waziristan with 100,000 people on October 6,” he told a news conference in Islamabad on August 30th.


Profile: Major-General Eustace D’Souza

November 10, 2010

In an earlier post Symon Hill’s words brought to mind the contribution of a valued colleague, Eustace D’Souza. Symon said that the government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) has missed the opportunity to address long-term security problems; ““We urgently need – for our own safety as much as for any other reason – a sustainable approach to security, which addresses the root causes of armed conflict around the world, including poverty, human rights abuses, climate change and competition over resources.” 

 Major-General Eustace D’Souza is a valued colleague. He points out that India has been the largest contributor to UN Peace-Keeping Forces.

Despite having two nuclear powered neighbours, Pakistan and China, which have instigated wars in Kashmir (1948, 1965, 1971), NEFA (China), Kargil, India has never undertaken a war against its neighbours.

Northern Siachen Glacier in Ladakh where the 4th Battalion Maratha Light Infantry served with great bravery in 1992 and thereafter

Now retired, he is writing on defence, economic and environmental issues in India for newpapers and different organisations, visits battalion colleagues in Kashmir each year and is called upon to take part in consultations with visiting delegations.

The Chinese connection is of particular interest to him and he has spoken out during these occasions – and in other public fora – about their invasion and occupation of Tibet.  

He became Secretary General of the World Wildlife Fund for India on his retirement and subsequently served two terms as Consultant for South Asia to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 

The creation of a structure for environmental protection within the Indian armed services (in the navy, army and air force) was promoted by him and today every unit has a specific environmental role to play.

In 2003 he gave the Michael Harbottle Memorial Lecture [One World Trust] in Parliament, with MP Malcolm Savidge in the chair. He described how the Indian military has a unique non-violent and productive role to play in protecting the environment, without deviating from their dedicated roles that now include International Peace Keeping/Building and Disaster Relief. 

The concept of ‘proper soldiering’ pioneered by Brigadier-General Michael Harbottle, was inspired by his meeting with Eustace D’Souza.

Though much of their work relates to the proper role of the soldier in true defence and keeping/ building peace, there was also a proposal to use  military skills, discipline and equipment in such crises and in environmental protection and regeneration.

Next post: Terrorism: the most serious threat to world peace


Terrorism: the most serious threat to world peace

November 10, 2010
 
Some years ago Major-General Eustace D’Souza asked:  

“What, in your opinion, is the most serious threat to world peace? Most believe it is the nuclear bomb. Others feel it is galloping environmental degradation or the overuse of nature’s bounty. Many say it is religious fundamentalism coupled with ethnic cleansing. Some think it is the threat posed to the affluent by refugees from poverty.

”It is most unlikely that the exclusive nuclear club will ever use a nuclear weapon in anger – neither will those countries on the fringe like India, Pakistan and Israel. The major danger is when these “dirty weapons” fall into the hands of highly motivated and fanatical terrorists. I believe the most serious threat to national and international security at present is that of terrorism – violence perpetrated by the individual or small group. 

“Motivating factors relate to the glaring economic injustice which world bodies have not addressed: 

  • economic deprivation
  • awareness created by the crude television portrayal of higher standards of living leading to consumerism and greed
  • abuse or neglect of human rights
  • the fomenting of fundamentalism
  • the undue influence of the arms lobby over the politicians on whom they depend for survival and the stoking of various types of conflicts to encourage the sale of weapons of mass destruction 

“Addressing terrorism: the four-fold path 

1]  the motivation for this threat to peace must be removed through spirituality 

2]  narcotics, the source of funding, must be eliminated and power gained to scrutinise and monitor bank accounts 

3]  supplies of  the ‘suitcase’ miniaturised nuclear bomb must be detected and  destroyed  

4]  the public must be made keenly aware of the threat to the earth’s life support system from 

  • nuclear, chemical and biological weapons
  • blatant consumerism
  • unfair sharing of the world’s resources
  • the shameful ‘rape’ of the environment. “

In recent years China ‘s claims to Indian border territory have increased tension and, though “since independence we have waged wars only in self defence after being attacked” , Major-General D’Souza ruefully says, ”Given India’s geo-strategic considerations, non-offensive defence can never ever be realistic.” 

In more cheerful vein, in July he wrote: “We are not interested in war. But good monsoons-YES.”

Advancing monsoon clouds near Nagercoil, India 

India’s Agriculture Ministry has declared 2010 a good monsoon year with a bumper harvest expected.