The Global Citizen: Prevent War
This Sunday, we honor the women in our lives that gave us life and shaped us into the people we are today. Daughters, mothers, and grandmothers, will receive flowers, candy, or breakfast in bed prepared by the kids.
But did you know that Mother’s Day was originally founded as a Women’s Day for peace and disarmament? In 1870, Julia Ward Howe, the author of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” advocated for the creation of Mother’s Day, dedicated to promoting “the amicable settlement of international questions, and the great and general interests of peace.”
We can cherish the women who nurtured, protected, and cared for us by sending a Mother’s Day card that honors the original spirit of the holiday. Click here to choose a free e-card that celebrates the special women in your life and commemorates women working for peace around the globe.
To women who work hard for peace around the world, around the house, around their communities and around their country -- thanks for all that you do!
Feel free to share our eCard or post it on a facebook wall (just right-click to save the image or the url):
Early this morning, Sudan has endorsed the African Union's "peace road map" to avoid an all-out war with South Sudan. This came after South Sudan had endorsed the AU's plan themselves. The AU's plan includes seven specific steps, including a deadline of this Tuesday to restart negotiations and a three-month grace period after that to agree upon a more concrete solution.
Just yesterday, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved a resolution that would take "appropriate measures," including nonmilitary sanctions, if Sudan and South Sudan did not resolve all outstanding issues, namely border disputes, uneven divisions of oil revenues, and the citizenship of Sudanese and South Sudan peoples. As previously mentioned, tensions have flared between the two nations just a few months after South Sudan's July 2011 independence, which followed a peace treaty signed in 2005.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir addressed a party rally in Khartoum last week, vowing to never compromise with the “poisonous insects” of South Sudan, using frightening rhetoric reminiscent of the Rwanda genocide.
Although neither Sudan, nor South Sudan, have declared war on the other, Sudan littered its neighbor with eight bombs following these hateful words. This violence has all been attributed to the disputed borders between the long-rivaling neighbors and unresolved issues over nearby oil reserves. Since April 10, when South Sudan took control of the oil-rich town of Heglig, the two nations have been, as many describe, on the brink of war.
Prompted by the recent violence that erupted, the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing yesterday to examine the current conflict and discuss possible policy options the United States and other nations should explore in order to avoid an all-out war in the region.
President Obama spoke this morning at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. to observe a Day of Remembrance for the victims of the Holocaust and announce the launch of a new Atrocities Prevention Board. Obama was introduced by author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. Both speakers gave moving testimony on the horrors of the Holocaust and how we can achieve the promise to "never again" allow such atrocities to occur.
Obama spoke to the need to more formally intervene to prevent mass atrocities and genocide, saying "national sovereignty is never a license to slaughter your own people." He said that "never again is a challenge to us all," adding that "remembrance without action changes nothing."
The President used the speech to outline several key actions the administration is taking to truly achieve the goal of "never again." Chief among these was the issuance of an executive order that allows for U.S. officials to impose sanctions against foreign nationals found to have used new technologies, including cell phone tracking and Internet monitoring, to help carry out grave human rights abuses. These sanctions will hopefully help address the repression of regimes, particularly Iran and Syria, who have used the internet to control and censor democracy and human rights activists.
President Obama released a statement over the weekend to the citizens of Sudan and South Sudan. South Sudan, nearing its one-year anniversary of independence from Sudan in June, has been disputing borders and control of important oil-rich regions with Sudan for several months. In recent weeks, disputes have turned increasingly violent.
President Obama's message was clear, that "conflict is not inevitable," and there is still time to lay down weapons and come back to the negotiating table. He called on Sudan "to halt all military actions, including aerial bombardments; give aid workers unfettered access to people in need; and end support for armed groups." He also requested that South Sudan "end its support for armed groups inside Sudan and cease its military actions across the border."
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What began as a day of potential peace for the Syrian people quickly turned into continual despair. Both the Syrian government and anti-government demonstrators agreed to a peace plan, drafted by international envoy Kofi Annan and endorsed by the United Nations, which called for a ceasefire by tomorrow. In order for this plan to be effective, the Syrian government initially agreed to begin withdrawing its troops from Syrian cities, but Syrian President Bashar al-Assad demanded written guarantees that the demonstrators would disarm themselves before troops were removed from the city. Not only must demonstrators be forced to lay down their weapons, but the Syrian government also demanded that foreign states promise to cease all funding to the anti-government demonstrators. The Free Syrian Army (FSA), the primary anti-government resistance force, denied these unacceptable terms, which the government has used as an excuse to not withdraw their troops. On April 10th, when the ceasefire should've begun to take effect, Syrian activists report heavy artillery has not stopped and that at least 23 people have died. For now, the strongest possibility for peace is failing to resolve the Syrian conflict.
During the Indiana Genocide Prevent Summit I had the wonderful experience of watching the Sundance Film Festival award winning movie, Kinyarwanda and meeting its dynamic young director, Alrick Brown. This movie is a passionate investigation of genocide, reconciliation, love and religion that deserves to be viewed and discussed. Here's its synopsis:
"During the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the Mufti of Rwanda, the most respected Muslim leader in the country, issued a fatwa forbidding Muslims from participating in the killing of the Tutsi. As the country became a slaughterhouse, mosques became places of refuge where Muslims and Christians, Hutus and Tutsis came together to protect each other. Kinyarwanda is based on true accounts from survivors who took refuge at the Grand Mosque of Kigali and the Imams who opened their doors to give refuge to the Tutsi and to those Hutu who refused to participate in the killing.
GlobalSolutions.org organized the first ever Indiana Genocide Prevention Summit, held on Saturday, March 31, in Indianapolis. The summit brought organizations, students, teachers, genocide survivors, activists, and concerned citizens from across the state.
Indiana is seemingly far away from the killing fields of Syria, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is even farther away in time from the mass graves of Rwanda, Bosnia, or Auschwitz. At the Indiana Genocide Prevention Summit though, it was clear that many of us from Indiana had the power and bore the responsibility for genocide prevention.
We could either build a movement to engage our communities and our politicians in genocide prevention. Or let the words "Never Again" be meaningless once again.
Kizito Kalima, a Rwandan genocide survivor, told his story to a captivated audience. He was 14 when he escaped certain death during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. He eventually ended up in Indianapolis where he started the Global Genocide Prevention Alliance, an organization for survivors of genocide to have their voice heard.
The international community has failed in Syria. We have repeatedly missed opportunities to step in and stop the violence and conflict of President Bashar al-Assad's regime against peaceful protestors. As the situation deteriorates, the death toll increases and the violence rages on, the nonviolent opposition has increasingly taken up arms as their only option left to finally achieve their freedom and basic rights.
The Arab League is set to finalize a report later today on the group's month-long observer mission that is widely perceived to have done little more than literally observe violence (not surprising when the mission's leader, Sudan's General Mustafa al-Dabi, is himself accused of carrying out human rights violations). A former member of the mission told BBC news that the League's operation "worked for the Assad system and not to prevent the massacre of civilians." He added, "I witnessed crimes against humanity, and I was really shocked. I have seen houses destroyed, the bodies of murdered women and children, and families have a lack of food. I have seen bodies with marks of torture." The U.N. Security Council reported that more than 400 people were killed just during the mission's first ten days.
This year as we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s 83rd birthday, I’m struck by the vast difference between his beliefs and today’s “peace candidate”, Representative Ron Paul. In New Hampshire, Paul received 47 percent of the under 30 vote compared to 25 percent for Mitt Romney. It’s easy to understand Paul’s youth appeal. He would avoid “long and expensive land wars,” would immediately withdraw from Afghanistan, has railed against the draft and supports legalizing marijuana.
But let’s be clear: Ron Paul is no Martin Luther King. While Dr. King most likely would have supported Paul’s call for bringing troops home from Afghanistan, King’s understanding of what peace means is almost the opposite of Paul’s.
Paul’s vision of peace is based on individualism and isolationism. He believes that “the greatest chance for peace comes from a society respectful of individual liberty.” But there is a world of difference between being anti-war and pro-peace.
King believed that,
“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties … must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.”
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